Tuesday, October 31, 2017

AFTER THE NEW YORK ATTACK, A RIGHT-WING THRILLER WRITER MOUTHS OFF -- AND GETS SCHOOLED

Brad Thor is a bestselling thriller writer and a self -proclaimed "conservatarian" (conservative libertarian). Less than two hours after the attack in Lower Manhattan that left eight people dead, Thor tried to use the incident toscore some points for his side. He tweeted this:



Thor boasts on his website that he's spoken at the Heritage Foundation "on the need for robust missile defense," that he's "been a keynote speaker for the National Tactical Officers Association annual conference," and that he " has served as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Unit." But that Analytic Red Cell Unit is less impressive than it sounds -- set up after 9/11, it actually consisted of (in the words of The Washington Post) "futurists, philosophers, software programmers, a pop musician and a thriller writer" and was supposed to "arrive at fresh insights" on how terrorists think. In other words, Thor was made a part of the group precisely because he wasn't an expert -- he was just a guy who makes up stories for a living. They're popular stories, to be sure, and they're infused with conservatism and shoot-'em-up action. I think that's why he got to address the Heritage Foundation and the National Tactical Officers Association.

A couple of people who actually know what they're talking about responded to Thor. First, here's Rita Konaev -- a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, with a focus on, as she puts it, "security, demography, & urban warfare." She tweeted:



And then there was Phillip Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Army officer:
Mr. Carter began his career as an Army officer, serving for several years in the active and reserve components as a military police and civil affairs officer. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-06, where he served as an embedded adviser with the Iraqi police in the Diyala province, and worked closely with the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Team.
He just wasn't having it:














Conservatives love these amateur-hero fantasies. They love to believe that their affinity for guns would magically empower them to save lives. Then reality strikes, and we get stories like this:
Guns and women got Dan Bilzerian where he is today — the “King of Instagram,” with nearly 23 million followers, a mansion full of guns and a hot tub full of women.

He lines his feed with photos of himself and women in the wilderness, playing with his arsenal of rifles, his biceps the size of their thighs....

“My greatest fear is that someone will break in & I won’t be able to decide what #gun to shoot them with,” he once wrote as a caption for a photo of his table of guns....

But ... in the real Las Vegas, the Instagram star found himself caught in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He saw a woman lying dead, he said.

He turned a camera on himself as he walked, short of breath, from the killing grounds, and at first resolved to live up to years of online bravado.

“Trying to go grab a gun,” he says in the clip. “I’m f—— headed back. … Saw a girl get shot in the face right next to me, her f—— brains hanging out.”

But in the next clip, which briefly appeared on Bilzerian’s Instagram account and has since been plastered over the Internet, he stands in front of police lights, looking slightly dazed.

“Um, they got one of the guys,” he says, no gun in sight, all fury gone from his voice. “I’m headed back. I don’t think there’s much I can do.”

So he went home, leaving fans to wonder whether one of Instagram’s most formidable stars was something different in real life.
Spare us the manly bravado. It's not helping.

MORAL HAZARD IS A HELL OF A DRUG

Ezra Klein and David Frum believe that Republicans in Congress are overwhelmed by paralysis and cowardice in the face of a dangerous Donald Trump presidency, and that they'll regret their failure to act as a check on Trump.

Frum addresses the following to a "run-of-the-mill senator":
If you keep quiet today, you are putting yourself in jeopardy. Events are about to start moving very fast, and if you miss this moment, you will find yourself carried along by those events to places where it is not healthy for you to travel.

Here’s your problem, senator: The Trump political and legal strategy is about to get very radical.

... Trump is likely to adopt a self-defense based on huge assertions of arbitrary power. “A president cannot obstruct justice through the exercise of his constitutional and discretionary authority over executive-branch officials like Mr. Comey.” Those words appeared in a Wall Street Journal op-ed posted Sunday afternoon by two well-known Republican lawyers. They are about to become the official White House position—and when they do, you’ll find yourself with little maneuvering room to prevent them from becoming your position as well. You will have to haul that position along with you into the 2018 elections, or (even more dangerously) the elections in 2020 or 2022, by which time even more of this scandal will have come to light.
The argument made by the authors of that Wall Street Journal op-ed is summed up by Jonathan Chait this way:
They argue that the president can order any prosecutor or law-enforcement official to halt any investigation or criminal proceeding. What if the president hired some goons to break into and bug the opposing party’s headquarters? He could order the Department of Justice and FBI not to investigate and fire them if they did. What if he hired some goons to beat up or kill reporters or the opposing party? Same answer. The president, they argue, has unlimited right to protect himself and his allies from law enforcement as he sees fit.
Frum asks: Are Republicans in Congress prepared to yoke themselves to this idea?

My response is: Hey, why not? Why should any congressional Republican be concerned about "haul[ing] that position" into upcoming election cycles? How many voters do you think there are who've pulled levers for Republicans in the past but won't do so in response to this abuse of power? How many will even see it as an abuse? How many regarded it as abuse of power when the George W. Bush administration defended torture and indefinite detention using the unitary executive theory?

Ezra Klein writes that Republicans know how dangerous Trump is:
In back rooms and background briefings, they are more caustic and despairing even than liberals; they are not ignorant of the threat Trump represents, nor of the dangers his impulsiveness poses.
In response, Klein tells us, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell
could have endorsed one of the bipartisan bills to ensure Trump can’t fire Mueller to end the investigation.

Such a move would allow self-preservation as well as courage — if Trump does fire Mueller, it will cause a political crisis on a scale not seen since Watergate, and that will be far more of a distraction from tax reform. But ... congressional Republicans have lost sight that they, too, have an interest in the political system’s fundamental stability, and in telegraphing what behavior will and will not be acceptable from the president.
Again, why would an elected Republican care about "the political system’s fundamental stability"? As long as the system is stable enough to reliably elect Republicans, why should we expect them to express concern?

Klein talks to members of Congress; I don't. But I don't buy the notion that congressional Republicans are worried about the stability of the Republic. They don't want Trump to start a nuclear war, and they'd like him to offer some constructive help as they try to pass more tax cuts -- I'm certain that's most of what they're concerned about. Oh, and he should stop tweeting, and maybe suck up to Putin a little less.

If Trump fires Mueller, asserting that the president can do whatever he wants with regard to a law enforcement official, we won't have a "political crisis" as long as Republicans refuse to acknowledge that there is one. Therefore, they'll just remain silent and wait for the moment to pass. The corrosive effect on America won't concern them, because how does it hurt them? How does it hurt their voters? How does it hurt their donors?



MURDOCH IS ALL IN FOR A PRESIDENT HE LOATHES

Politico notes that Rupert Murdoch's media properties -- even the ones that have sometimes criticized President Trump -- are now unified in their demand for an end to Robert Mueller's investigation:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has in the past been a stern critic of Donald Trump, but in recent days has come under fire for pieces that critics say shift attention away from the president — with many people, including former staffers, left to wonder why.

After having generally avoided Trump’s efforts to de-legitimize democratic institutions, the Journal last week wrote an editorial calling for special counsel Robert Mueller to resign and featured a contributor op-ed Sunday afternoon that said Trump should issue a blanket pardon in the Russian scandal, including of himself.

The Journal has also called for an investigation into Democratic Party collusion with Russia....

On October 28, the [New York] Post also ran an op-ed calling for Mueller’s resignation....
The Journal editorial page has been far to the right for years, but it hasn't always been pro-Trump:
It has often been tough on Trump, including in March, when it scorched him in an editorial titled, “A President’s Credibility.” The editorial called Trump “his own worst political enemy,” and said, “Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.”
Historically, the Journal editorial page has been much more supportive of immigration than the Trump administration is now, from a corporatist/libertarian point of view. In 1984, a Journal op-ed proposed a one-sentence constitutional amendment: "There shall be open borders." In 2008, Jason Riley, an editorial board member, published a book tirled Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders.

So there ought to be some limits to the page's Trump partisanship. But these days there don't seem to be any.

Is Rupert Murdoch nudging his editors? Yes, in all likelihood, if only subtly:
... one former senior Wall Street Journal editor ... said it’s difficult to tell exactly how Murdoch exerts his influence over the Journal.

“It’s like mumbled phone conversations with [editor in chief] Gerry Baker or other conversations that you wouldn’t really know about,” he said. “I think he puts his thumb on a lot of things or makes it known that he didn’t like certain stories or that kind of thing. But it was never like, oh this happened because Rupert Murdoch wanted it to or didn’t happen because Rupert Murdoch didn’t want it to.”

Another former Journal staffer said that Murdoch’s influence is often felt in subtle ways. “The thing about Murdoch is that it’s never a situation where Rupert Murdoch comes into the 10 o’clock news meeting and says I want this on the front page. He has his proxies who intuitively understand what he wants,” he said.
Which is odd because, if we're to believe Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman, who's written about Fox News for years, Murdoch doesn't even like or respect Trump. Here's Sherman in a recent interview with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:
And Rupert Murdoch, who privately loathes Donald Trump—I think it’s a little bit of a false narrative that’s been out there in the press that Murdoch and Trump have forged this bromance. I think this is purely a business decision.

You think actually “loathes”? That’s a strong word.

I know from my reporting that people who have been in private settings with Murdoch say that he makes dismissive comments of Trump and tells him to stop tweeting, which is something that Trump will be doing till his last dying breath. Yeah, this is not a close, personal relationship. This is, from my reporting, a business relationship, and Murdoch was smart enough to know that the audience [Roger] Ailes had assembled [at Fox News] are die-hard Trump voters, so it doesn’t make sense really to shift the network ideologically.
So Murdoch, who "loathes" Trump, nudges his editors, some of whom also have contempt for Trump, and the result is that they're urging the president to put America in a state of constitutional crisis.

With Fox, I get it -- Fox's core audience has been primed by twenty years of Fox propaganda to believe that every Republican officeholder is the victim of an evil liberal juggernaut. But you'd think some of the New York Post's readers would be moderate or even liberal, and that many of the Journal's readers would at least prefer a textbook conservative like Mike Pence to Trump. But I guess Murdoch sees his competition now as Breitbart and InfoWars, not CNN and The New York Times, so his media properties have to toe the crazy party line.

Murdoch doesn't care what he's doing to America. When you're as rich and powerful as Murdoch, you assume that nothing bad is going to happen to you, or to others of your elite caste, if the forces you're helping to unleash -- white nationalism, presidential lawlessness -- do serious damage to the country. You'll be fine. If America burns, you'll just decamp to some other pleasant spot on the globe. So you do it anyway, on behalf of a man you consider contemptible, because it's profitable.

Monday, October 30, 2017

LEWANDOWSKI: IT WAS THE FBI'S JOB TO VET TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN STAFF FOR HIM!

I've seen a lot of bad takes on Indictment Monday, but here's one of the worst: Corey Lewandowski believes that the Trump campaign had no responsibility to vet Paul Manafort before hiring him, because the FBI should have done the vetting on the campaign's behalf.

Gateway Pundit has the quote (and thinks this makes perfect sense):
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski went on Varney and Co. to discuss the arrests this morning.

Lewandowski lashed out at the corrupt FBI for hiding information on Manafort from candidate Trump before he came on campaign.
Lewandowski said this to Charles Payne:
And let me ask you this Charles, if the public reports are true and there was a time that Paul Manafort was under a FISA warrant before coming to the Trump campaign why is it that the FBI never reached out to me as a campaign manager, never reached out to Donald Trump to say look you might want to pause for a second and take a look before you take this guy on as a volunteer to hunt delegates for you. They never did that. He was under a FISA warrant supposedly before and after his tenure at the campaign. And the FBI never notified the leading presidential candidate for a major Republican Party race? Never notified him of a potential problem? This is a problem with the FBI if you ask me.



Lewandowski is seriously arguing that a campaign for president of the United States shouldn't have to perform due diligence on a major hire -- it's up to the FBI to do that. As if there wasn't enough publicly available information that would suggest that Manafort was a shady character, assuming your campaign thinks shadiness is a dealbreaker.

ON UNFIT PRESIDENTS AND SUNK COSTS

Matt Yglesias believes President Trump will fire Robert Mueller soon, and he holds out little hope that Republicans in Congress will do anything in response.
... if he fires Mueller, most of them will react by trying to lay low until the storm passes, plugging away at tax cuts and deregulation before working together hand in hand to try to win in 2018 and stave off the Democratic House majority that could bring real accountability and oversight to the table.
But he thinks a handful of Republicans have the power to prevent Mueller's firing.
Sens. Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and John McCain have all voiced clear concerns about the impact of the Trump administration on the long-term health of American democracy. Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who unlike those three are planning to run for reelection, have both shown clear comfort outlining political personae that are distinct from the national party. Sen. Lindsey Graham really fits neither of those buckets, but earlier personally averred that firing Mueller would be a disaster.

Three or five or six senators isn’t a lot.

But it is enough to take a stand and forestall disaster.
Really? How?
... if three or four Republican senators were to say loudly and clearly that firing Mueller would induce them to hold up significant aspects of the GOP legislative agenda until the investigation can be restored, that would make all the difference in the world. Critically, it’s important to say that before Trump actually fires Mueller. If statements come while Mueller is still in his job, that gives the business community, the GOP leadership, and other critical actors reason to lean on Trump to not fire Mueller — since firing Mueller would throw a wrench in the works of the legislative agenda.
But Republicans are refusing to stand up to Trump precisely because they want his signature on bills advancing the GOP agenda. They like the agenda a lot more than they like Trump. If they threaten the agenda, it's not going to be seen as a principled stand against an unfit president. It's going to be seen as a stand against the agenda. Trump cultists will hate them for defying Trump. Everyone else in the GOP orbit, particularly the business community, will hate them for holding up the tax cuts.

Moreover, once the GOP threw in its lot with Trump and he went on to govern in defiance of many laws and norms, Republicans needed a significant percentage of the public to believe that, despite the harsh criticism to which he's subjected, Trump is really fit to serve. Even the most dissatisfied Never Trump Republicans, Flake and Corker, won't go so far as to say that Trump is creating a constitutional crisis. They're still Republicans. They don't want to damage the Republican brand. They know their party has too much invested in him. They believe that if he goes down, the party will go down with him.

Yglesias is right to say that Republicans will do nothing in response to Mueller's dismissal. He's silly to float an unimaginable alternate scenario.

DEMOCRATS IN 2020 WILL PROBABLY BE RUNNING AGAINST THE MEDIA AGAIN

I know you're not going to care about this post once Robert Mueller's indictments go public, but last night I was reading Lisa Miller's New York magazine story about John Kasich's eagerness to run for president in 2020 and I want to make a few points.

You may be thinking that Democrats have an excellent shot at victory in 2020. But what Miller writes about Kasich is a reminder that Democrats will probably face considerable hostility from the "liberal" media.

Kasich might run as an independent, or he might run as a Republican primary challenger to Trump -- he hasn't decided. Early in the story, Miller writes:
A third-party run is optimal if the major-party candidates represent ideological extremes.
What does she mean by that? Further on, she elaborates:
Practically speaking, “moderate” is a winning stance only if Kasich runs as an Independent against candidates who represent the furthest, most motivated flanks of their parties: Trump on the right and someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren on the left.... And it doesn’t work if the Democrats put up another centrist like Joe Biden, who has Kasich’s blue-collar authenticity — but with more charisma, more star power, whiter teeth, and a lot more name recognition.
Kasich talks about Biden:
Biden, he told me, “is very effective. He’s an old lunch-bucket Democrat. He’s a day at the mill and a shot and a beer and we’re going to give everybody a chance. You may be struggling, and it costs too much for your kids to go to college, but your kids are going to be something. I don’t know if the party wants it, because they’re so far left now, dominated by a handful of elites that drive them harder and harder left. If you’re a Democrat and you want to win, you have to figure out how to go around those gatekeepers.”
I'm afraid this is going to be the conventional wisdom in 2020, and it's maddening, because what is the message of Warren or Sanders -- or any of the other allegedly far-left, elitist potential Democratic candidates -- if it isn't "we’re going to give everybody a chance"? The Democratic aspirants' message is precisely "You may be struggling, and it costs too much for your kids to go to college, but your kids are going to be something" -- or at least "your kids are going to be something" if the rich don't get to keep all the money in America for themselves.

What makes this even more infuriating is that, near the end of the story, Miller acknowledges that Kasich, a former congressman who was part of Newt Gingrich's insurgent army in the 1990s, is not really a moderate himself:
Certain of his innovations, taken from the conservative playbook, have had dubious effects. Kasich is a strong proponent of charter schools (and for-profit prisons), but he presides over a public-education system that dropped in Education Week’s national rankings from fifth place in 2010 to 22nd in 2016. In 2011, Kasich endorsed the gutting of government unions (though it later failed a ballot referendum), and last year he signed a bill into law that bans all abortions after 20 weeks — and then boasted that he didn’t sign the law that banned abortion after an audible fetal heartbeat.

His is, in fact, a rather conventional conservative résumé. That he’s able to market himself as a moderate signals just how immoderate the right has become.
But this is how it's going to be in 2020: If Trump is challenged by any #NeverTrump Republican -- Kasich, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake -- the press will declare that challenger a centrist, regardless of the challenger's ideology or record. And the Democratic candidate -- unless it's Biden or Andrew Cuomo or Pelosi-bashing congressman Seth Moulton -- will be declared a far-left elitist extremist, even if the only evidence of extremism is support for single-payer health care. This is the narrative the press wants to write in 2020: extremism on both sides. As in 2016, but for somewhat different reasons, the Democratic candidate might find that the media is a tougher opponent than Trump.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

CONGRATULATIONS, DEPLORABLES -- YOU'RE GETTING JEB BUSH'S TAX PLAN

The New York Times profiles Justin Muzinich, a top aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and a principal architect of the GOP tax plan. Trump is, as we all know, a great friend of the forgotten white working class and a foe of coastal elitists, so Muzinich has blue-collar bona fides -- right?

No -- he attended "the elite Groton School in Massachusetts," "holds an M.B.A. from Harvard and a law degree from Yale," and is a "former investment banker and hedge fund manager."
He fits the mold of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers, Mr. Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, both of whom made a career on Wall Street. While not a Goldman Sachs alumnus, as they are, he brings an extensive background from the world of finance, having been a banker at Morgan Stanley and the president of Muzinich & Co., an international investment firm founded by his father.
But he's steered clear of all those awful establishment Republicans -- right?

Again, no.
His most notable prior experience in the world of policy came while working on the campaign of one of Mr. Trump’s arch rivals: Jeb Bush.

Mr. Bush first learned of Mr. Muzinich because of his work as an informal adviser to the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, another nemesis of Mr. Trump.
In fact, Muzinich put together a tax plan for Jeb's campaign, and that plan bears a striking resemblance to the Trump/GOP plan:
One of the earliest iterations of the tax framework unveiled by Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans last month was the one that Mr. Muzinich drafted for Mr. Bush in 2015. Like the current plan, that one would have collapsed the personal income tax brackets from seven to three and lowered the rates. It would have doubled the standard deduction, reduced the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, and switched the United States to a “territorial” tax system, as the current plan would also do.
So good job, deplorables -- you hated Jeb Bush so much that you nominated and then elected the rival who hated him the most -- then that rival borrowed Jeb's tax plan, because he's also a Republican corporatist hack, just like Jeb.

NO, ROGER STONE HAS NOT BEEN BANNED FROM TWITTER

It's being reported -- erroneously -- that Twitter has banned Roger Stone.
Roger Stone has been banned from Twitter permanently after a vulgar meltdown Friday aimed at CNN reporters, which included threats, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The close friend and former adviser to Donald Trump went on a tirade after CNN reported Robert Mueller approved the first charges into his investigation on the Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential election.

... a source with direct knowledge of the situation told THR the suspension is permanent.
It's true that Stone's main account, @RogerJStoneJr, has been suspended, apparently in response to this:



But Stone's other account, @StoneColdTuth, is still up and running. Until now, that account has existed mostly to re-transmit offensive, sophomoric right-wing memes.



But Stone now seems to be using it the way he used his main account: to taunt and threaten his enemies. (Today, they're the people who suspended his main account.)





(Okay, that last one is also sophomoric.)

The account retweeted this:



Stone isn't really banned until @StoneColdTruth is shut down. I strongly suspect that he'll soon post something ban-worthy there, daring Twitter to make him a martyr again.

****

ALSO: As BuzzFeed notes, Stone also maintains the account @STONEFLIK, which is linked to the recent documentary about him, Get Me Roger Stone. That account is not only still active but has a 280-character limit, a gift Twitter has bestowed only on a few select accounts.



So this "ban" is a joke.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

HAVE A NICE CRACK-UP, REPUBLICANS

Robert Mueller's first arrests are expected to happen Monday, but the pro-Trump right is focused on persuading America that Uranium One and the Fusion GPS dossier are the real Russia scandal. You'd think it would be harder for the Trumpers to argue that the dossier was the product of a vast left-wing conspiracy now that we've learned that the conservative Washington Free Beacon first hired Fusion GPS to do anti-Trump research, with funding from a billionaire GOP donor:
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor, first hired the research firm that months later produced for Democrats the salacious dossier describing ties between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government, the website said on Friday.

The Free Beacon, funded in large part by the New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, hired the firm, Fusion GPS, in 2015 to unearth damaging information about several Republican presidential candidates, including Mr. Trump. But The Free Beacon told the firm to stop doing research on Mr. Trump in May 2016, as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican nomination.
But to hardcore Trumpers, Singer is an enemy, too. Here's Breitbart:



Singer’s involvement in the dossier, and opposition research on Trump more generally, comports with a years-long pattern of advocacy for mass immigration, massive funding of establishment GOP candidates, and antagonism towards the populist-nationalist movement.

Along with George Soros and the left-wing Ford Foundation, Singer gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the pro-open borders National Immigration Forum (NIF). The NIF later set up and funded the sham grassroots Christian group “Evangelical Immigration Table” to create the illusion of widespread conservative Christian support for mass third-world immigration. As Breitbart News uncovered, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) never was an independent legal entity and existed only as a front for the NIF. Singer directly funded the effort, as Breitbart News and USA Today reported at the time.

This did not stop establishment Republicans, including the editors of the once-definitive conservative publication National Review, from latching onto the EIT as a genuine font of anti-Trump grassroots activism.

The Wall Street hedge-fund billionaire Singer was an early – and significant – backer of “Gang of Eight” amnesty ringleader Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the 2016 campaign. This support made good on the two men’s years-long relationship based, in large part, on their mutual belief in the most recent major campaign for amnesty for illegal aliens and massive immigration increases in 2013.

As Breitbart News’s Julia Hahn reported in 2015, Singer and Rubio’s other wealthy backers stood to benefit significantly from the massive flow of low-skill, low-wage labor that would result from the Gang of Eight bill or its post-2016 successor.
Trump pal Roger Stone identified Singer as the GOP moneyman in a video he posted to YouTube on Wednesday.



In a Gateway Pundit interview, he claimed this as a scoop -- and took a shot at Singer and one of his allies:
You predicted some of this before anybody else.

Well, I have impeccable sources. In fact, I have a rock solid force who told me the original financier of the dirty dossier was Paul Singer, and it was facilitated by his greasy, neocon henchman, Dan Senor....
So the enemies list includes Singer, Rubio, National Review, Senor ... anyone else?

Yup:





(Donnelly is an anti-immigrant zealot who's seeking the support of Steve Bannon and the Mercers as he mounts a challenge to GOP congressman Paul Cook in California.)

Maybe it won't add up to much, but I'm watching the Republican-on-Republican combat and I'm rooting for injuries.

Friday, October 27, 2017

RUSSIAN TROLLS ALLEGEDLY MADE A FAKE HILLARY SEX TAPE, WHICH IS GOOD NEWS FOR TRUMP

The Daily Beast's Kate Navadski reports on an interview with a Russian Internet troll:
A Russian-government-backed “troll factory” hired a black man and a Hillary Clinton look-alike to make a sex tape, according to the first former employee of the factory’s American division to go on the record.

Alan Baskaev worked for the troll factory, also known as the Internet Research Agency, for about six months, he told the independent Russian television channel TV Rain.

... Once, Baskaev recalled, Russian propaganda-makers thought they hit the “sensation” jackpot with a fake video of a black man and a woman who looked like Hillary Clinton having sex.

“Do you understand... no one will believe that,” Baskaev said.
We don't get to see the alleged phony Hillary sex tape -- but we can watch a fake video Baskaev says his troll factory created.
Another time, he recalled, “our idiots” made a video that supposedly featured an African-American soldier shooting a Quran. But, Baskaev laughs, the man turned out to have an African accent. (Comments on the YouTube page for that video are in Russian, mocking the failed piece of propaganda.)
The YouTube page for that video is here. It's not plausible at all.



This is excellent news for Donald Trump. I don't know whether there really is a Trump sex tape, as Christopher Steele's dossier claims, but if it exists and might someday be released, it's now certain to be dismissed by the Trump cult (and by nearly every Republican officeholder and right-wing pundit) as a troll-factory fabrication, however legitimate it may appear. Those folks were always going to describe any kompromat on Trump as fake news -- even a high-res video of someone who is clearly Donald Trump would have been shrugged off as a clever fabrication -- but now they can say they have proof these things are faked! So this interview may have come at a very convenient time for Trump.




ROY MOORE WILL SAY AND DO APPALLING THINGS AS A SENATOR AND IT WON'T HURT THE GOP AT ALL

Jonah Goldberg disapproves of Roy Moore, in part because he thinks liberals will be able to use Moore's extremism to tar the entire Republican Party:
Republican Roy Moore ... threatens to provide conservatism’s critics with precisely the caricature they crave.

He is a twice-disgraced former judge who believes 9/11 was divine retribution for our sins and an anti-Muslim bigot who can’t quite bring himself to rule out the death penalty for homosexuals. But he won the Alabama Senate primary anyway, largely on the grounds that he was the most anti-establishment candidate. To Alabama primary voters, his extremism is apparently proof that he won’t “sell out.”
Erick Erickson also believes that Moore will shame the GOP. But he's endorsed Moore because -- after the election of Trump, whom he loathes -- he hopes Moore will shame the GOP.
Roy Moore, who has won statewide election in Alabama in the past, seems intent on just making crap up and pissing people off to win. He is embarrassing himself and does not know it and embarrassing people who work for him and does not care. He will, as Jonah rightly notes, be an embarrassment for the GOP and used by the left to caricature conservatives. He also, for a former Chief Justice, doesn’t seem to know jack about the constitution.

Of course, I suspect Moore does know. He just does not care....

If [the GOP establishment] won’t learn, they can and should have Moore. He is, if you will, the parental equivalent of catching your kid smoking then making your kid smoke a pack of cigarettes in one sitting to ensure they never do it again.
But when has a member of the House or Senate ever embarrassed the party enough to do it real harm? Republicans have been the more powerful congressional party for most of the past quarter century. In that time, a lot of high-profile Republican bigots and throwbacks have held office -- Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Jesse Helms -- and voters who didn't share the extremism of those officeholders continued to vote Republican anyway, in the belief that those figures were unrepresentative of the otherwise nice, rational, right-centrist GOP. Sure, young people and non-whites turned against the GOP, on the belief that the throwbacks really were representative of the party as a whole -- but it wasn't hard to use gerrymandering and voter suppression to limit the GOP skeptics' electoral participation. (They already voted in lower numbers than the older whites who always gave the GOP the benefit of the doubt.) The GOP kept winning, at all levels except the presidency -- and the Electoral College kept them competitive there.

If Moore wins his race, he'll make headlines -- but every Sunday morning there'll be "serious" Republicans with furrowed brows and acceptably conservative views on the Sunday talk shows, and the GOP's brand won't change.

I don't want to live in a country where this happens, but there'll need to be a total purge of non-lunatics from the Republican Party before much America realizes that there's anything wrong with it. Roy Moore's election won't make a bit of difference.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

DO YOU THINK HALPERIN HARASSED ANY OF HIS CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE INTERNS?

The most grotesque Mark Halperin story to emerge so far involves Dianna May, formerly Dianna Goldberg, who, The Washington Post tells us, was a young ABC News researcher in the mid-1990s. She asked Halperin for help on a story. He invited her to his office -- then demanded that she sit on his lap. She complied. He was sexually aroused. This happened several more times to her.

May is the seventh woman who's claimed to be a Halperin harassment victim. CNN quoted five unnamed women, and a sixth, reporter Emily Miller, identified herself as a Halperin victim on Twitter.

I keep thinking back to a moment in 2006 when Halperin, while promoting The Way to Win, a book he wrote with John Harris, appeared on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and attempted to ingratiate himself with Hewitt and his audience by denouncing mainstream journalism as infested with liberal bias and proclaiming himself unbiased. Near the end of the interview, there was this exchange:
HH: ... The media keeps hiring from the Harvard Crimson. It keeps self-perpetuating from self-elected elites.

MH: Can I introduce you to my interns from Bob Jones University?

HH: I’m glad that you have one. They must feel like a stranger in a strange world.

MH: No, because within my unit, we’re all about being fair and non-partisan.
Halperin had one or more interns from the famous evangelical school, or at least he claimed he did. So did he ever sexually assault one of those Christian interns?

I'm not sure whether the exposure of Halperin is news in Christian conservative circles, which means that victims among those interns might not be speaking up now. But I hope an enterprising reporter tries to track some of them down to ask what they experienced.

REPUBLICANS: ALWAYS THE VICTIMS, WHETHER OR NOT THEY'RE IN POWER

Paul Waldman says that Republicans are putting Hillary Clinton in the dock again because they would have preferred a Hillary Clinton presidency:
They were so excited about what these years were going to be like with a Republican Congress and Clinton in the White House. She would give them purpose and focus, the idea of vexing her and catching her in multitudinous crimes would be the thing that got them jumping out of bed in the morning....

Subpoenas would fall upon her administration like a righteous hurricane of justice, exposing every bit of malfeasance and misconduct to be found. "Even before we get to Day One, we've got two years' worth of material already lined up," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), then the chair of the House Oversight Committee, two weeks before the 2016 election.

But then she lost, to the surprise of Democrats and Republicans alike. For his part, Chaffetz quit just a few months into the new Congress, despite having just been re-elected himself. What was the point of being there if he couldn't be Inspector Javert to Clinton's Jean Valjean, Captain Ahab to her white whale?

You might say, "What about enacting all that conservative legislation you've been waiting so long to pass and have a Republican president sign?" But that hasn't quite worked out, and it turns out that being in the opposition was just more fun than having a president of your own party.
I'm sure they're not enjoying power as much as they expected -- but I can't believe they'd want to give it up. I think they're going after Hillary again (and James Comey, and Christopher Steele) because Republicans always need a powerful enemy to complain about, both when they're out of power and when they run everything.

As I've said many times on this blog, right-wingers always have to portray themselves as victims of dangerous foes who allegedly have all the real power. In George W. Bush's first term, when Republicans also ran everything, the enemies were Dan Rather and the Dixie Chicks, college professors and Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore and French people. Even when Bush had Rushmore-worthy approval ratings and Republicans could act at will, they had to portray themselves at besieged by the liberal media and minority Democrats in Congress. Republicans will never acknowledge that they're in power. They feel compelled to portray themselves as a banned underground movement fighting the power and defiantly sticking it to the man.

Or, in this case, the woman. If Hillary and her husband didn't exist, Republicans would probably be telling us that they're under the thumb of the all-powerful Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley -- or the Obamas. (Remember a couple of months ago when were told there was an Obama "shadow government" looking to undermine President Trump?)

GOP voters love this. It jibes with how they feel about their own lives in America. They're besieged! They have to press 1 for English! There's a Muslim guy in Congress! Those two New Black Panthers were standing in front of the polling place nine years ago! Self-pity is a key part of the GOP brand.

AND BY "ELITIST" WE BASICALLY MEAN "DEMOCRAT"

In The New York Times, Nate Cohn writes that some potential Democratic candidates for House seats currently held by Republicans are just too ... elitist.
The enthusiasm among well-educated Democrats and the relative lack of success recruiting established politicians in working-class areas has occasionally led to an odd mismatch: affluent, liberal types running in working-class districts. Take Josh Harder, who worked for a San Francisco venture capital firm but is now running in California’s typically competitive 10th District in the Central Valley, or ex-Obama administration officials like Elissa Slotkin, Lauren Baer and Andy Kim, who are running in middle-class districts in Michigan, Florida and New Jersey.
Yes, if you were a little-known mid-level functionary in the Obama White House, you wear the scarlet E of elitism. There's no way you can run successfully for Congress against a member of a party that has nominated wealthy plutocrat scions in six of the last eight presidential cycles, all of whom claimed to be champions of ordinary Americans.

Meanwhile, Laura Ingraham is set to make her debut as a Fox News prime-time host. Fox News Insider quotes her:
"Heartland America, you have a champion," Ingraham said. "Working class Americans, I came from you, and whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, your voice will be heard. Your values, your patriotism, your straightforward approach to issues, your demand for the truth will have a hearing on this show."
She said something similar to The New York Times:
Ms. Ingraham said in an interview with The New York Times that she wants to represent “the working-class, populist sensibility that is the beating heart of the Republican Party right now.”
Laura Ingraham is a Dartmouth graduate. After law school, when she was still in her twenties, she worked in the Reagan White House. She went on to clerk for Clarence Thomas, then took a job at the white-shoe law firm Skadden Arps.

But she's a working-class hero.

Yes, she's the grandchild of immigrants. Yes, her mother worked as a maid. But Mike Dukakis was the son of immigrants, and in the 1988 presidential campaign, blueblood George H.W. Bush portrayed Dukakis as an elitist whose ideas were "born in Harvard Yard's boutique," which makes no sense but sounds prissy and above-it-all. Bush claimed to love pork rinds and campaigned with Loretta Lynn, and he won.

I realize that Democrats have lost elections because of demographic mismatches -- Sean Eldridge, the husband of wealthy Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, wasn't the right candidate in 2014 for an economically struggling House district in upstate New York. But it's an uphill climb for Democrats no matter who runs. Rob Quist, a cowboy-hat-wearing third-generation Montanan, lost a special House election earlier this year to Greg Gianforte, a tech executive who arrived in Montana by way of San Diego, the Philadelphia suburbs, and New Jersey. Dick Cheney's daughter Liz, who grew up in northern Virginia and lived there until 2012, won Wyoming's at-large House seat in 2016, defeating Democrat Ryan Greene, a former roustabout and pipe welder who grew up in Wyoming and now runs his family's energy services company there.

Wherever "authenticity" is valued, Democrats are at a disadvantage, because both right-wing messaging and mainstream-media reporting depict Democrats as "inauthentic" by definition, no matter what their background. Joe Biden is an exception, as is Bill Clinton, and kinda-sorta-Democrat Bernie Sanders also seems exempt. Maybe Democrats ought to try harder to challenge Republicans' "authenticity," and possibly figure out a way to be as brazen as Republicans in asserting their own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

THE GOP CONGRESS'S VERSION OF "SHOOT SOMEBODY ON FIFTH AVENUE"

Congressional Republicans apparently believe that they'll do well in the 2018 midterms if they pass legislation voters hate, a strategy Jonathan Chait thinks is insane:
Republicans have been chanting relentlessly for months that they must pass a tax reform or else lose their majority. The Republican tax plan is, in fact, comprehensively unpopular. Only 28 percent of the public supports it....

Yet somehow Republicans have convinced themselves that their popularity depends upon passing this unpopular plan that would carry out unpopular goals....

Paul Ryan is promising to oppose a bipartisan plan to make insurance payments that are needed to hold down premiums. They will therefore cause insurance premiums to rise dramatically and immediately for several million customers. The public overwhelmingly wants Republicans to make Obamacare work rather than scuttle it, but Republicans instead appear fixated on the prospect that voters will punish them for violating their promise to repeal the law.

Last night’s vote to prevent suing fraudulent banks seems almost designed to seed Democratic campaign ads.... Banks mislead their customers with jacked-up rates or hidden fees in the tiny print. They also insert into the tiny print a clause denying customers the right to sue for fraud, forcing them instead into arbitration that limits their ability to recover damages. Almost every Republicans in both chambers voted to overturn a rule preventing this.
It's clear why Republicans want to pass these bills -- they worship the rich and want to hand them as much money as possible, while also cutting regulations that affect the rich. In return, they hope the rich won't be as stingy with campaign contributions as they've been lately.

You might imagine that the extra plutocrat cash on hand won't be enough to offset the disillusionment of voters who'll hate these bills. Congressional Republicans appear not to be worried -- and I fear they may be right.

They think the majority of white voters will turn out for them no matter what they do, as long as they do something consistent with their liberal-bashing, anti-tax, anti-big government rhetoric. I suspect that's a reasonable assumption. White people in much of America seem willing to vote Republican no matter how off-putting GOP behavior becomes. We saw this in 2016, when even the Access Hollywood tape didn't discourage the GOP base from voting for Trump. I think there'll be some dropoff in the Republican vote, but I think Republican voters will turn out no matter what -- they always do -- and Democrats will beat them only if they have an increase in off-year turnout.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said,
I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.
The GOP Congress equivalent of that is:
I could stand on the floor of the House or Senate and vote for legislation that kills or gouges millions of Americans, including my own voters, and I wouldn't lose any of them, because I'm from the party of guns and standing for the national anthem and hating Nancy Pelosi, and whatever I do that's consistent with that will be acceptable to my base. So I absolutely should do this, because the people who might abandon me are the wealthy donors who are demanding that I do it.
Is this rational? We'll find out in 2018.

CALLUM BORCHERS HAS NO IDEA HOW RIGHT-WINGERS THINK

Under the headline "Flake and Corker Feel Liberated to Speak Their Minds. That Should Terrify Trump," Callum Borchers of The Washington Post writes this about President Trump and Senator Jeff Flake:
As one of the most authentically conservative members of Congress, Flake has a level of moral authority rivaled by few others. He is the rightful ideological heir to Barry Goldwater, whose namesake institute Flake led before being elected to the House in 2000.

There is a very clear contrast between the president and the senator: Trump was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. While he was defending partial-birth abortion, supporting an assault-weapons ban and filling Nancy Pelosi’s campaign coffers, Flake was proving his conservative bona fides by leading the charge to kill earmarks, voting against Medicare Part D despite arm-twisting from George W. Bush himself and speaking out against deficit spending by his own party. House GOP leaders even removed Flake from a choice slot on the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 as retaliation for his criticism.

This part of his background makes it hard for anyone to credibly argue that Flake speaking out against Trump is anything but principled.
None of this impresses right-wingers. They don't care about what you did for conservatism five years ago. They care about how many liberals you made cry today. And on that score, Trump is the truer conservative by far. Flake is the worst imaginable RINO.

If you upset liberals, right-wingers don't care about your party affiliation. Some of their favorite commentators -- Tammy Bruce, Camille Paglia, Pat Caddell, Doug Schoen, Harlan Hill -- still claim to be Democrats, or were Democrats for years. Every right-winger's favorite past president, Ronald Reagan, was a Democrat until a few years before he first ran for office as a Republican. During the Bush years, the right loved Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman, because he was a tireless cheerleader for George W. Bush's Iraq War.

In the past 24 hours, Flake has voted with his party to deny defrauded bank customers access to the courts, and summarily rejected the notion of impeaching President Trump. But that doesn't matter to conservatives. He's saying some things that have elicited liberals' praise and given liberals hope. That's unforgivable. So no right-winger thinks he has "moral authority."

WAS IT REALLY TRUMP WHO DROVE FLAKE OUT OF THE SENATE?

President Trump is getting a lot of credit for making officeholders like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake unwelcome in the Republican Party -- but Flake, at least, was unpopular in his home state of Arizona long before Trump came along.

Erick Erickson thinks it's because Flake, a very right-wing member of the House a decade ago, stopped being conservatively correct.
Going all the way back to 2005, Flake had a consistently conservative record on fiscal issues. He was one of the very few congressmen supported by the Club [for Growth] with a lifetime 100% score. He literally was the candidate people pointed to as the model Club For Growth candidate.

But once in the Senate he gave all the fiscal conservatives the middle finger.

In 2013, the Club For Growth’s model candidate had an 84% score on their score card, below Mitch McConnell.

In 2014, Flake went up to 90%, but was still outperformed by porkers like Chuck Grassley who had a 91% score that year but, unlike Flake, an 80% life time score. In fact, seven senators with lifetime scores lower than Jeff Flake’s outperformed Flake on the Club’s scorecard that year.

2015 was an improvement for Flake, who went up to 93%, but in 2016 his score was just 84%.
Really -- an 84% rating from a right-wing group is a sign of unforgivable apostasy? Well, this is the GOP we're talking about, so sure. (Erickson goes on to note that Flake's Heritage Foundation numbers dropped from 97% to 59%.)

But didn't Flake's opinion-poll numbers start to drop only when he began criticizing Trump? No, that's not the case. Flake's Senate term began in January 2013, and by March 2014, more than a year before Trump announced his candidacy, Flake had a 27% job approval rating in Arizona, according to Public Policy Polling. Disapproval was 47%. A couple of months before that, as the Arizona Republic reported, a Susquehanna poll showed him with 30% approval and 57% disapproval.

Why? According to the Republic, Flake was doing things to alienate his right-wing, Tea Party base (which jibes with what Erickson writes) while not winning converts among liberals and moderates:
When Jeff Flake moved from the House to the Senate a year ago, many observers expected the longtime fiscal hawk to fall in with hard-line conservatives such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In fact, Flake, R-Ariz., charted a more moderate path over the past 12 months, one that at times has enraged his supporters and surprised his critics but also left him in the middle of an uncomfortable crossfire between the right and the left.

Flake distanced himself from his past support of comprehensive immigration reform during his bitter 2012 GOP primary. But, once elected, he wasted no time joining the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that wrote last year’s Senate-passed bill, which included a pathway to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the United States.

Flake’s vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, drew accusations from social conservatives that he had broken a campaign promise.

His rejection of the “tea party”-sanctioned strategy to try to defund President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law riled the Senate Conservatives Fund, an influential group that helped elect him to the Senate. And his opposition to a bipartisan compromise on background checks for gun purchases drew outrage from the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Throughout his Senate career, Flake has been far too conservative to appeal to non-Republicans -- for example, his Planned Parenthood rating is 0% most years -- but while he's a Kochite (he has a 98% lifetime score from Americans for Prosperity), he's unwilling to vote in lockstep on every last conservative hot-button issue, particularly immigration, so he's seen as a RINO. This was true long before Trump came along.

Once Flake started criticizing Trump, his fate was sealed -- by this summer, according to Public Policy Polling, he had an approval rating in Arizona of only 18%, and he seemed likely to lose a Republican primary in a blowout. But being a right-winger 85% or 90% of the time would have been a tough sell no matter what -- it's too much for non-conservatives, yet it's not enough for conservatives. That's not Trump's doing -- it's the nature of the right. Deviations from orthodoxy are not allowed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

HERE'S WHY JEFF FLAKE'S SPEECH WON'T CHANGE ANY MINDS

Arizona senator Jeff Flake, a critic of President Trump who's been polling miserably and was up for reelection in 2018, announced today that he won't run next year, then attacked the president in a speech on the Senate floor.

And even though Washington insiders are predicting that speech will wind up in the history books, it won't make any difference. It certainly won't change any pro-Trump minds.

That's for a simple reason: Trump supporters are angry Fox News/talk radio Republicans, which means that they believe every accusation Flake leveled at Trump has already been proven ... with regard to President Obama.

Some examples from Flake's speech:
We must never regard as "normal" the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.
From the beginning of Obama's presidency, Republicans were told that he was a dictator. They were told that he violated democratic norms by appointing "czars" (even though presidents before him had done the same thing). They thought Obamacare was totalitarian. They thought Obama's IRS abused conservative groups. They thought he flouted the law when he chose not to deport Dreamers.
We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country
Every Republican thinks that Obama was the most divisive president in recent memory.
... the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency....
Personal attacks? Obama said mean things about Fox News a couple of times. Threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions? See what I said about democratic norms above. Flagrant disregard for truth? Obama said if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor! Decency? Obama invited rappers to the White House!
When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do -- because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum -- when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.
It's now an article of faith on the right that establishment Republicans are part of the same hydra-headed beast as Democrats -- they're all consciously endeavoring to destroy America. To these voters, "remain silent and fail to act" describes what Republicans did with regard to Obama -- they were too timid to neutralize him because they wanted to stay in the good graces of the elitist swamp creatures who run everything.
When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society.
That's what Republican voters think Obama did. He blamed George W. Bush for the economy he inherited. He blamed white people for being racist. He blamed Christians for being anti-gay. Blame, blame, blme -- to the right, that's all Obama ever did.
Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question....

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.
To the right, Obama -- anti-colonialist, Muslim, Marxist -- is the president who deliberately set out to destroy America's influence in the world.

And on and on. This is what right-wing voters believe. They can't possibly take in Flake's message about Trump because they believe Obama was as destructive a president as we believe Trump is.

So this was a fine speech, but it was preaching to the choir. No one else was listening.

IF NOT LEGISLATION, THEN INVESTIGATION?

There they go again:
Two more Republican-led congressional committees will probe the Obama administration’s decision to approve the sale of American uranium production capability to a Russian state-run energy conglomerate, a key GOP lawmaker announced Tuesday.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he’d be linking up with the House Oversight panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). The Senate Judiciary Committee has already said it would investigate the uranium deal.
Also:
The chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on Tuesday announced a joint investigation into how the FBI handled last year's probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of State.

"Decisions made by the Department of Justice in 2016 have led to a host of outstanding questions that must be answered," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement.
Last week, I noted that there'd been a surge in Trump-inspired donations to the Republican National Committee, which is vastly outraising its Democratic counterpart. But as Martin Longman has pointed out a couple of times, I was just looking at the central party operations -- at the congressional level, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is outraising National Republican Congressional Committee, and a significant number of Democratic challengers are outraising vulnerable House Republicans.

Would-be donors to Republican members of Congress are angry because Obamacare is still in place and large tax cuts haven't been enacted. The GOP Congress wants to cut taxes, but cuts for the rich were apparently going to be paid for in part by limits on the tax deductibility of 401(k)'s. Now, however, President Trump has declared opposition to 401(k) changes, and that puts the tax cut bill in doubt. What to do?

Maybe congressional Republicans are chasing Fox News Antichrists like the Clintons and Comey because they want to provide cover for their president as Robert Mueller's probe closes in on him -- that's what a lot of folks seem to think. But maybe congressional Republicans also want to throw something, anything, at their donors that might be interpreted as an accomplishment. If they can't pass bills, they can at least launch of a few witch hunts.

Will it work for the Republicans as a whole? Maybe not. But I bet the principal inquisitors will have no trouble motivating donors -- and voters.

WHY DO CONSERVATIVES REVERE POUTY NARCISSISTS LIKE O'REILLY AND TRUMP?

Bill O'Reilly's Non-Apology Tour is Trumpian in some ways, though not in others. O'Reilly is much better than Trump at remembering and reciting carefully crafted talking points: He's been in the news business 43 years and worked for 12 different companies and no one's ever lodged a sexual harassment claim against him; the number and cost of his sexual harassment settlements are reported incorrectly in The New York Times, though he's legally forbidden to correct the errors; and so on. I don't think Trump could sit down and work out talking points this well constructed, not even with expert help, nor could he remember them accurately. Trump's approach is to form a grudge, then tell the world about it repeatedly for days until something else irritates him and he's on to a new grudge. Occasionally he circles back to an old grudge and the cycle repeats. O'Reilly is much more calculating.

But the self-pity is similar, as is the narcissism. In the same way that Trump and his handlers have tried to make him the true victim of the Niger incident because his conversation with the wife of a slain soldier has been criticized, O'Reilly has declared himself the true victim of his own acts of sexual harassment.

He's sulky. He sounds wounded. Go listen to the episode of the New York Times podcast in which reporters Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt discuss their recent O'Reilly interview with host Michael Barbaro, and play clips from the interview. Steel and Schmidt wrote the two big Times stories about O'Reilly's harassment cases; O'Reilly asked to speak to them, then went into his sullen, menacing martyr act as soon as they arrived, as the reporters recount on the podcast:
SCHMIDT: It was pretty clear from the moment that he walked in the room that this was not going to be a normal interview. The handshake was sort of muted, it was a very sort of quick sort of handshake, and he quickly retreated back to the other side of the room and sat down.

STEEL: We -- Mike and I sat on one side of the table and he sits on the other, in between his two lawyers, and O'Reilly kind of leans back in his chair and crosses his legs and puts his hands -- he kind of clasps them on top of his stomach.

SCHMIDT: He had a very angry look on his face. He was staring directly at me. He wouldn't even look at Emily.

BARBARO: The entire time?

STEEL: At some points he did, but for most of the time he either wasn't looking at us or he would look at Mike.

SCHMIDT: So, we're sitting on one side, he's on the other, I look up to sort of start talking and he's staring directly at me as harshly or as strongly as anyone's ever looked at me.
You've got to listen to the podcast, because after all this drama, O'Reilly insists that the Times reports are erroneous, he just sound so hurt. He sounds traumatized. He's the one who's suffered abuse.

By the final O'Reilly clip played on the podcast, which came at the end of the interview, his self-pity and wrath were in full force, and he was using his teenage children as human shields, as he's done repeatedly in recent days:



"We have physical proof that this is bullshit. Bullshit. Okay? So it's on you if you want to destroy my children further," O'Reilly told Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt in the interview last week, a few days before the story about the $32 million settlement came out.

In the interview, O'Reilly repeatedly brought up his children, who have been the subject of a long-running custody battle.

"Why don't you be human beings for once?" O'Reilly said to the Times reporters. "This is horrible. It's horrible what I went through. Horrible what my family went through."
He also tried to hide behind the family of a fellow Fox sex harasser, Eric Bolling:
Bolling was pushed out of Fox in September after HuffPo reported that he had sent “explicit photos” to female co-workers. Bolling’s 19-year-old son died shortly after his father left the network. The death was reportedly an accident, though O’Reilly seemed to suggest otherwise: “I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper,” he told the Times. “Eric Bolling’s son is dead. He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.”
(Bolling strenuously objected to this and O'Reilly subsequently apologized.)

O'Reilly has also grumbled about God, and compared himself to the family of a murdered woman:
"You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I'm mad at him," O'Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, "No Spin News." "I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn't happen. I can't explain it to you. Yeah, I'm mad at him."

He then said that he derives perspective from the tribulations of others, including Kate Steinle, a woman who was allegedly shot by an undocumented immigrant who has been the subject of numerous O'Reilly commentaries.
On Glenn Beck's radio show, O'Reilly talked as if his kids are at imminent risk of death:
“This is dishonest in the extreme and it's frustrating, but unless I want another seven or eight years of litigation that puts my children in the 'kill zone,' I have to maintain my discipline.”
This isn't Trumpian in its specifics -- Trump is too much of a solipsist to compare his suffering to other people's, and he's so indifferent to most members of his family that he never thinks of using them as human shields, even the kids he likes. But the self-pity is the same.

Why do conservatives like this kind of whining, from both O'Reilly and Trump? I think it's because it's epic whining -- it's whining by a large, consequential public figure who shares their views. (O'Reilly also said on Beck's show that he's the victim of a vast liberal media conspiracy to destroy his career.) I think conservatives look at O'Reilly or Trump and think: He's doing my whining for me. I watch TV all day and whine about all the enemies I have, in America and around the world. Now here's this guy with clout who's whining the same things I whine. Maybe he can get results!

O'Reilly and Trump are what rank-and-file conservatives think they could be if their complaints and self-pity had the attention of the world. On the right, that's what makes a hero.


Monday, October 23, 2017

THOSE NICE HEARTLANDERS IN DINERS ARE TOTALLY COOL WITH TRUMP ATTACKING MIYESHIA JOHNSON

Myeshia Johnson spoke to George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America today and didn't seem angry. She just seemed to be in pain:
Nineteen days after her husband’s death and two days after his wrenching burial, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson said she has “nothing to say” to President Trump, whose condolence call pulled the grieving widow into the center of a national controversy.

“Very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse,” Myeshia Johnson told “Good Morning America” about her conversation with the president.
When I watch the interview, I certainly don't see an angry woman with an agenda. She's just grieving, and understandably upset -- she doesn't know why it took two days recover her husband's body, she doesn't know why she wasn't allowed to see the body -- and her recollection of the call by President Trump has the ring of plain truth:



GS: The president...

MJ: Yes the President, said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway. And it made me cry cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name. The only way he remembered my husband's name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David. I heard him stumblin' on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name. And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier. He did what it take other people like five years to do in three years. So imagine if my husband was here now. It took my husband three years to make E-5 -- it takes other soldiers five to six years just to make E-5. So if he was here now he woulda been on his way to bein' the E-6 or E-7. My husband had high hopes in the military career.

GS: What did you say to the President? MJ: I didn’t say anything I just listened

GS: But you were upset when you got off the phone?

MJ: Oh very, very upset and hurt. Very it made me cry even worse.
And yet Trump thinks he's winning. Some journalists have noted that, which led to this bit of press criticism:



I disagree with the criticism. This is a story -- but the focus of the story should be on the part of America where Trump's attack on a Gold Star wife is actually playing well. Why is it playing well?

There are one-word answers to that. Racism. Sexism. (Charles Blow touches on both in this New York Times column.) But what are the specifics? What do Trump voters -- our neighbors -- think when they watch something like this take place? What do they say to one another?

Reporters file endless stories about older white voters in heartland diners who say partisan but more or less civil things about Trump. The message is that they're decent people who happen to be passionate conservatives or populists or what-have-you. But go into a Breitbart comments section or a Free Republic thread or some other conservative gathering place and you see the Trump message when it's not dressed up for company.

In this Free Republic thread, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson is the principal villain, but not the only one. Because she likes cowboy hats, she's called a "rodeo clown." Because an organization she heads set up a Gofundme page for Sergeant Johnson's two small kids (and one on the way), she's dismissed a gold digger. But Mrs. Johnson and her family aren't spared. And there are other ugly responses.

Here are some comments from the thread:
“Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated, what she said was 100 percent correct,” said Johnson.

“Why would we fabricate something like that?” she later added.

https://www.gofundme.com/sgt-la-david-johnson-scholarship

****

Wow. Nearly $700,000.00 on the Go Fund Me page. This whole spectacle is bringing in loads of cash, unlike other Gold Star wives.

****

Money, money, money!!!!!!!!!

****

Why indeed? Why did you just happen to have the rodeo clown riding with you?

The husband made the sacrifice, and yes he knew the risks.

The family and the rodeo clown are engaging in an old democrat and muslim tradition of parading the corpse for political gain.

****

So you make a fortune purely by fighting with Trump over your dead husband. And some of us understand that what we are observing here is pure racist and political hatred.

****

I watched the interview with the widow. It is telling that she stated that she said nothing back to the president...as in he called, he made his condolence statement, and there was no feedback.

Sounds like it was a very awkward call...Trump made a call to a widow who has strong partisan feelings about him...and after he was done talking, well that was that. Very different from the other call from months ago that has been made public.

As far as remembering the name goes...there is no way Trump makes this call without a sheet of paper in front of him, with the highlights of the soldier's life, with his name right on top.

Sadly, this woman comes across as a combination of shell shocked and coached...and its really just sad.
(Let me interrupt here to say that you can watch the interview above. You'll notice that Mrs. Johnson doesn't utter a single partisan word.)
Is she related to the famous Trayvon Martin witness?

“No SIR!”

****

She is lying.
Further, she is about to be EXPOSED by lots of people who are going to be digging at her past.

****

Why are the blacks the only ones bitching.
Its like this guy La whats his name was the only one in Niger.

****

..."shoulda picked our own cotton..." Keeps running through my mind....

****

Left unsaid is that both Mrs. Johnson and empty-barrel Congressperson Wilson had to be stupid not to understand the context of what the president said. The proof is that they took his compliment of the soldier’s bravery as insensitivity; that is, if they’re being truthful.

****

This is why the media has to be taken on, on a daily basis. 9.9 out of 10 gold star families say Trump has been respectful and kind. But the media always finds one victim and uses them by portraying them as a majority. They have the megaphone to do this. Anyone remember the MSM trying to pimp the “Jersey Girls” as speaking for all 9/11 families in an effort to destroy Bush?

Despite other families releasing audio or coming forward to say Trump was gracious, the media ignores it. They got to this woman. Right now they are trying to get to the other three as well. And the cynicism is staggering. The media hates the military and privately celebrates each and every death as an opportunity to do what they are doing now.

Heaped on top of this all is the effort to destroy a four star marine general while insulating that rodeo clown from all criticism under an umbrella of racism. I would be angry but for the fact that rodeo clown has become the face of the democrat party. If that is the face they want, then have at it.

This is absolutely disgusting at this point. I say again the media must be destroyed and it must be made personal. Bannon should add the MSM to his list and get to them. He should make public every aspect of their lives. Where their children go to school, what they eat, drive and where they live. Make them pay the way they make anyone who disagrees with them pay.

I would say make John McCain pay as well but fate has intervened.

****

What kind of a creep who is a recent widow would bring in a dimwitted Congresswoman to eaves drop on a “personal” conversation with our President?

This woman is dripping with fury NOT at the Communist Maobama who sent her there, but at TRUMP! Sick stuff, just like at the Wellstone funeral.

****

Frederica Wilson is also a particularly nasty race hustler. Read her Trayvon Martin speech. If you know the facts of the Martin case [you being a full bore Leftist, that’s doubtful] you will notice the degree to which Wilson misrepresented the case in order to stoke racial hatred.

****

I also think that if he used the phrase “he knew what he signed up for...” or some version of that, she was too ignorant to understand the context. Anyone who has spoken to an ignorant person of color has had this experience. One can never underestimate the thin skin of dumb people!
Everyone who criticizes Trump is evil -- and is part of a hydra-headed conspiracy of evil. It's the family and the congresswoman and black people in general (you know how stupid they can be) and the media and Muslims and Trayvon Martin's family and even John McCain.

These are grievance collectors who are able to do one-stop shopping for new grievances (and the airing of old ones) every day on talk radio or Fox. Their hatred for everyone who's not on their side is so great that it's all but impossible to share a political system with them anymore. That's the story that needs reporting.