Thursday, April 19, 2018

TED CRUZ HUMILIATED HIMSELF ON TRUMP'S BEHALF BECAUSE HE FEARS BETO O'ROURKE

Ted Cruz has been widely mocked for lavishing praise on Donald Trump as part of Time magazine's annual Time 100 list:
President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans....
Thank you, Ted. You have 95 words to go (I won't repeat them here), but you already have the highest score ever recorded in Wingnut Mad Libs. I think we can stop the competition now.

Why is Cruz humiliating himself this way after Trump insulted his wife's looks and suggested that his father was in on the Kennedy assassination? I think he's afraid of the Democratic challenger he'll face in November, Beto O'Rourke.

I don't think the just-released Quinnipiac poll that shows O'Rourke trailing Cruz by just 3 points was a factor -- that poll, I'm sure, was published long after Cruz agreed to abase himself for Time. I think he's concerned with nationwide polling for the past several months, and the results of recent special elections, and the surprisingly high turnout by Democrats in Texas primaries last month.

As an incumbent Republican in Texas, Cruz should be headed for an easy victory, based on past elections. But Democratic voters this year are motivated. Are Republican voters?

Cruz is assuming that if they're motivated at all, it's by love of Trump. They're probably motivated to give money only to candidates who love Trump. So after his (temporary) resistance to Trump in 2016, Cruz really needs to establish his bona fides if he wants enthusiastic base support.

It's a double-edged sword, given the fact that Trump is surprisingly unpopular in Texas. (He's underwater in Texas according to that Quinnipiac poll, with 43% approval and 52% disapproval, and a January Gallup poll had even worse numbers for Trump in Texas: 39% approval, 54% disapproval.)

But Cruz is making the bet most Republicans make -- that motivating the base is more important than offending everyone else. So he grovels.

Or maybe he grovels because he thinks he's going to lose in November. Hey, there are sure to be some openings in the Trump administration in 2019, right?

IF IT'S CONCLUSIVELY DEMONSTRATED THAT TRUMP IS A CRIMINAL, REPUBLICANS WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH IT

The Wall Street Journal quotes a Trump lawyer saying that Michael Cohen is likely to flip:
One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges.

Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump....

Speaking from his experience as a prosecutor, he said even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Mr. Goldberg said.
Jonathan Chait finds this curious.
... as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.
Chait has a similar response to a quote from voluble Trump loyalist Anthony Scaramucci:
Asked today by Katy Tur if “there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,” Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.”

You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong?
Chait is right -- in politics, if you're defending an officeholder under investigation, you're supposed to say that that officeholder wouldn't dream of violating the law. These guys have let the mask slip.

But for supporters of the contemporary Republican Party, I don't think that matters. Either they don't believe that their heroes are guilty or they believe that their heroes were found guilty through a "witch hunt" conducted by the liberal Deep State.

Look around. Don Blankenship, who spent a year in federal prison after an accident in one of his coal mines killed 29 miners, might win the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia. Rick Scott, whose company oversaw what was at the time the largest Medicare fraud in history, has won two terms as Florida governor and could defeat an incumbent senator this year. Staten Island's Michael Grimm, a convicted felon, is running a credible race to unseat the Republican who took his old congressional seat. Missouri governor Eric Greitens, accused of rape, blackmail, and campaign fraud, still has a 41% approval rating in his state.

I think we're rapidly approaching the point at which being an accused criminal, or even a convicted one, will be a selling point in the eyes of the GOP electorate. Republicans will dine out on their convictions the way Jay-Z regularly invokes his drug-dealing past or Lenny Bruce boasted of his arrest record. The Deep State man can't bust our movement! MAGA!

Incontrovertible evidence of Trump's criminality may emerge soon. It might drive him from office. But I don't believe it will lower his poll numbers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LET'S TURN THE WHOLE WORLD INTO A FREE-FIRE ZONE

The Washington Post reports that buying weapons in Europe is becoming easier:
... an international group of researchers is warning that the firearms trade that enabled militants to obtain ... assault rifles [for the 2015 Paris attacks] is, in fact, still expanding. Militants determined to strike European targets are among the groups and individuals benefiting the most from what the researchers are describing as an “arms race.”

The study, funded by the European Commission and due to be released Wednesday as part of the Studying the Acquisition of illicit Firearms by Terrorists in Europe (SAFTE) project, warns “the increased availability of firearms has contributed to arms races between criminal groups” across the European Union.

... Legal firearms sales are much more tightly regulated in Europe than in the United States, so weapons are often smuggled from the western Balkans into the borderless Schengen area that includes countries such as France, Germany and Italy.
And what's America doing as weapons become easier to obtain in Europe? This:
U.S. gunmakers are on the verge of getting something they’ve wanted for a very long time: a streamlined process for exporting their handguns and rifles, including AR-15 assault-style weapons that have been the focus of national debate.

Under a long-awaited rule the Trump administration is expected to propose within weeks, a large number of commercially available rifles and handguns would move off a munitions list controlled by the State Department and onto a different one at the business-friendly Commerce Department....

Opponents of relaxing the export rules argue that decision could come back to haunt the United States if the weapons end up in the wrong hands.
Ya think?

More:
The proposal under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has yet to be made public, but experts fear it will lead to less oversight of commercial sales of assault weapons like submachine guns and flame throwers to foreign buyers....
Oh, but ... but ... deregulation!
The State Department said it is shifting responsibility to Commerce for approving exports of nonmilitary firearms and ammunition that are already commercially available — those under Categories I, II and III on the U.S. Munitions List. The goal is to reduce regulatory burdens on manufacturers and exporters....

In shifting oversight, exporters and manufacturers, including small gunsmiths, would no longer have to register with the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and pay the $2,250 annual registration fee.
Yes, gun crime in Europe may increase, as might the deadliest forms of terrorism -- but think of the poor small gunsmiths! What about their needs?

And if our firearms really do begin to saturate countries where guns used to be rare, every American right-winger will just say, "HAW HAW HAW I THOUGHT THEY HAD GUN CONTROL THERE!"

THE RUBES WON'T REALIZE THEY'RE GULLED ANYTIME SOON

Yastreblyansky agrees with The New Yorker's Adam Davidson that we're in the end stages of the Trump presidency. He doesn't think impeachment is coming any time soon, even after what he expects to be an "extremely damning" report from Robert Mueller on obstruction of justice. But he does expect there to be a steady decline in Tump voters' enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, the figure of Trump himself gets less and less impressive, as we've seen this week from the ridiculousness-cum-criminality of Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and above all Cohen the feared gangster, with his implosion and defeat by Kimba Wood and WTF Hannity?!??!; after who knows what foreign policy failures, and no Wall, no Muslim Ban, no transgender ban, troops in Syria, the tax law incomprehensible but people notice they're not rich, and the coal industry dying, and NAFTA renegotiated in a way that nobody can differentiate from the way it used to be and talk about the TPP as well and we're talking 2006, the year after Katrina and the evident failure of the Iraq campaign to accomplish anything, and the clarity with which the entirely population was beginning to see the hollowness of W Bush. Trump's base still won't desert him, exactly, no doubt, but there will be discouragement in the ranks, diminished expectations, weeping Alex Joneses, fewer interviews with The New York Times, and their turnout will be very bad.
I don't see it -- not before the midterms, and probably not for a couple of years after that.

I've believed for a while that the deplorables will lose faith in Trump eventually, but it will take about as long as it took George W. Bush's voters to lose faith in him -- about six years. Yes, I know -- that means only after Trump is (God help us) reelected (something I still think is possible no matter what Mueller turns up). I certainly don't think disillusionment among Trump voters will settle in before this November.

The economy isn't weak. White kids from red America (mostly) aren't dying (or being humiliated) in a futile war. The coal industry isn't dying any faster than it was pre-Trump. There's been no effort (yet) to privatize Social Security and Medicare. The front-loaded tax cuts for the hoi polloi won't turn into tax increases for years.

Also, Trump hasn't run for reelection yet. Part of what makes right-wing voters rally around their heroes is the joy of elections -- they may think that what they want is a set of policies, but what they want even more is just to watch their heroes kick our asses at the ballot box, something they're certain Trump will do again. After the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein, there wasn't much that Bush could do for Republican voters except humiliate a Democrat in an election; following that, it was all downhill for him. No matter how disappointed the deplorables are with Trump, he still offers them the hope of another round of liberal tears in November 2020. Remember that they think no electoral victory ever induced more of those tears than Trump's win in 2016. They absolutely won't forgo the possibility of a repeat, even if Democrats rout Republicans this year. (If a rout happens, it'll be blamed on GOP candidates who are insufficiently Trumpesque -- the base will never believe it was Trump's fault.)

It's possible that a massive rout by the Democrats plus evidence of blatant criminality from Mueller will change the calculus. (This assumes that Mueller will get to finish his work, when it's not at all clear he'll even survive this week.) It could happen -- but it's not going to change the Trump diehards' minds. It might tell Republican officeholders that being a Trump end-timer is politically perilous. (Right now they think it's perilous for them not to be loyal to Trump.) But I believe Trump voters aren't going anywhere -- not until a second term, if there is one.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE A TRUMP PRIMARY CHALLENGE HAPPEN. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

As you probably know, Nikki Haley won't take the blame.
President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing.

It was not the first time Mr. Trump has yelled at the television over something he saw Ms. Haley saying. This time, however, the divergence has spilled into public in a remarkable display of discord that stems not just from competing views of Russia but from larger questions of political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty.

The rift erupted into open conflict on Tuesday when a White House official blamed Ms. Haley’s statement about sanctions on “momentary confusion.” That prompted her to fire back, saying that she did not “get confused.”
Anti-Trump GOP strategist Steve Schmidt responded by tweeting this:



Oh, please. Haley may have impressed some Trump critics, but the base isn't having it. Here's a sample of the response at Free Republic:
Neocon Nikki is going to show Trump who is the boss. And he can forget about pulling our troops out because the queen bee says we're not leaving Syria until the mission is complete and since she says the mission includes keeping an eye on Iran, that mission will never be complete.

****

There is our girl Ikki. The real arrogant, non team player knows all.

Bad pick POTUS. She thinks she runs all foreign policy. Does maddog answer to her?

****

FIRE HER!

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Don’t get ahead of the boss, lest the boss fire your happy a$$.

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I read this article and I do not like this woman. She will be a problem. She was a #nevertrumper and picking her was a mistake.

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Ikki is always confused. She has no respect for American history and culture.
Read that last one again if you think the Indian-American Haley has a chance of winning a Republican presidential primary.

She's defied the God Emperor. I don't know if she'll be fired, but the party's voter base will never respect her. Stop imaging an anti-Trump future for the GOP. It won't happen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

BARBARA BUSH IS DEAD, AND THE BREITBARTNIKS ARE APPROPRIATELY SOLEMN* (*just kidding)

Barbara Bush has died, and among Breitbart commenters, her passing has inspired a period of solemn reflection:
I was hoping she would outlive the Hillda-beast Clinton. Mrs. Bush had more class in her pinky toenail than Clinton and moochelle could have in a lifetime.

****

REPUBLICAN FIRST LADIES are nothing but class who know their place in History.

DONKEY First Ladies act like JackAsses consumed with HATE.

Yes, all the Bush's are still BITTER that Little Jeb didn't win.

****

Republicans know their place and ride off into the Sunset. Democrats have an ego that demands the never-ending spotlight. We'll never get rid of Bill, Obama, and their First Hags.

****

And then there's Al Gore and the Gaffe o' Matic Biden.

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She loved Hillary you jack2$$.

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The Hillda-beast husband don't even love the Hillda-beast, I think Mrs. Bush was just being nice.

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Go blow the progressive Allah Obama's husband Mike

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The entire Bush family voted for Hillary.

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Yup, and why I no longer care for this family and any members. They are pretenders. They are supporters of the deep state that is crushing our country.

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They pretty much have said so. The Clintons and Bushes were very close. Why? How could anybody embrace Hillary or Bill? I figure we know nothing about the extent of the corruption with the Clintons. These families love to portray how much they love the US and how saintly they are. It simply is not true. I am sick of putting these families on pedestals.

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I predict 2018 will claim Bush 1 and Carter, McCain most likely as well.

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The Reaper is right on McCain's trail.

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Nah...The Demons in Hell are working hard to keep the Reaper away from McCain.

After all, there is so much more Evil he can do if kept alive.

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Please let McCain be next.

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3 of the most destructive forces in U.S. history.

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Read"Trance-Formation of America" about the CIA mind control program, MK-Ultra to see what kind of scoundrel Bush Sr. is.

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He was accused of actually being a coward and there has been a great deal of suspicion around his service and his service, for one, She hated conservatives like the whole clan, and the whole family loves the Clinton's, they even voted for the witch, so stop with the load.

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Let us not forget the fathers very suspicious association with the Kennedy assassination and his CIA involvement.

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GHW was having breakfast with Senior bin Laden in NYC on 9/11. They watched the twin towers fall, while they were gnoshing on parboiled baby foreskins, then pulled off the greatest bond heist in history....

There is only the Color Purple Mil.Gov UniParty, a fraudulent arm of the criminal Fed Bank. Too late now. USA Inc no longer exists. We are dead busted hillbilly broke. By 2020 we will have gone the way of USSR.

And it all began with GHWs Gramm-Lurch-Bliley Bankster Bill, pushed through by Gingrich's Contract on American's.

Massive unmatched Fed financial crimes, and when this s'show blows, it will become the greatest Christian Holocaust in human history.

****

She was the matriarch of a family that gave us George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. I'm not too fond of anybody with that track record. Since the Bush family is full of weak males who are easily pushed around, I understand why the left would have a certain affection.

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They were and are a open border family....F them!

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YOU MOM GAY
Yeah, they're just moved to tears right now.

LAWYERS ARE TRUMP'S SUBSTITUTE FOR COMPETENCE

The point Gwenda Blair is trying to make in this Politico piece is that Donald Trump has always relied on thuggish lawyers to strong-arm those who get in his way, which is obviously true. She thinks this M.O. isn't working for Trump in Washington:
... whenever Trump has seen anything that he thinks poses the slightest risk to his business or his reputation, he has sicced a lawyer on the offending party. Often such threats arrive in the form of a letter on heavy, cream-colored stationery, adorned with an embossed gold T and declaring that unless the addressee ceases and desists from all objectionable behavior, the Trump Organization intends to pursue said person to the full extent of the law, i.e., sue his or her pants off. I know. I got one of those missives when I published my book.

Sometimes, as in my case, the threat is all that happens. Other times, an actual lawsuit ensues.... According to an ongoing USA Today tally, as of April 2018, the Trump Organization has been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits, far more than any other real estate developer—or any president, for that matter.

Apparently, after entering the White House, Trump felt entitled to the same robust legal protection that he enjoyed in his 26th floor office at Trump Tower. But things haven’t worked out that way.
But I think Trump has relied on lawyers for more than muscle. Alongside his older daughter and his adult sons, lawyers have functioned as Trump's brain. Blair writes:
Most business executives tend to be lawyer-dependent, but for the better part of 50 years, lawyers have done everything for Trump except have his children. They have finagled unprecedented tax abatements, kept him going through multiple corporate bankruptcies (and out of personal bankruptcy), protected his finances from public scrutiny. They are so entwined with every aspect of his public and private life, it is unimaginable that Trump could have gotten anywhere close to where he is today without them....

Sometimes things have gone badly for Trump—his football venture failed, and in an ensuing lawsuit, he received only a humiliating $3 in damages. But even when his ventures have tanked (Trump Air, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, his casinos, the Plaza Hotel, Trump Soho Hotel, and a string of never-opened Trump-branded ventures in Argentina, Brazil and Canada, among other places), to all appearances, lawyers have kept him solvent.
What your Trump-loving relatives don't understand about Trump is that he has only the vaguest notion of how to do the things he wants done. His lawyers understand the details. He doesn't. Trump knows the victories he wants, and he expects his lawyers to wrest them from the other affected parties. They find a way (or fail to), and he looks like a killer (at least when he wins). But he has no idea how it happens. And now his job every day is to do things he understands even less than he understood the nuts and bolts of the real estate business. Aren't we lucky?

ATTENTION MUST ALWAYS BE PAID PRIMARILY TO REPUBLICANS

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but my takeaway from NPR's write-up of its latest poll is that NPR believes the opinions of Republicans matter more than what the rest of us think, or what the country overall thinks.



Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on how they see special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to President Trump's campaign, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Overall, the former FBI director's favorability ratings have dropped over the past month as Trump and other Republicans have ratcheted up their attacks on Mueller and his ongoing probe. There's been a net-negative swing of 11 points over the past month, with 32 percent of all Americans holding a favorable view toward Mueller, 30 percent viewing him unfavorably, and a 38 percent plurality still not knowing enough to have an opinion.

Among Democrats, though, Mueller's favorability is at 56 percent, with just 19 percent viewing him unfavorably and a quarter unsure. But nearly half of all Republicans hold an unfavorable view of the Justice Department special counsel — up from 30 percent last month — with only 16 percent viewing him favorably and another 35 percent undecided.
But these numbers aren't a huge swing if you look back a few months. Right now, Mueller's favorable/unfavorable numbers are 32%-30%; in January, they were 29%/29%. So they've improved slightly since then. The numbers weren't very different in February (33%/27%). March's numbers seem anomalous (33%/20%). But in every poll, the largest group is respondents is the "unsure" group, and the disapprovers are very much in the minority.
A 45 percent plurality of all Americans believe Mueller's investigation is fair — a seven-point net drop from March — while 30 percent believe it is unfair and just over a quarter are undecided.

But again, the Mueller probe is being seen through an increasingly partisan lens by Americans. For the first time, a majority (55 percent) of Republicans say his investigation is unfair, with just 22 percent calling it fair — which is a 17 point swing since last month. Almost three-fourths of Democrats say Mueller's investigation is being handled fairly, a five-point net uptick since last month, along with almost half of independents — though there's a nine-point net drop.
But again, the Americans who think the probe is unfair are a minority -- 30%.
Even with GOP frustrations, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) say Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation, while almost a quarter think he should be fired and 20 percent are undecided. Among all adults polled, 65 percent say Mueller should be retained, 15 percent want him terminated, and 20 percent aren't sure.
The key statistic here is that "let Mueller finish" beats "dump Mueller" by 50 points -- but to NPR the key question seems to be "What do Republicans think?" As it turns out, even they want Mueller to finish. So efforts by the White House and right-wing media to tarnish the investigation aren't really working. Why isn't that even part of NPR's lede?
There have also been big changes in how the public views the FBI — driven by a surge in Republican distrust, the poll shows....

Overall, there's been an 18-point increase in Americans who believe the FBI is biased against Trump in the past two months. This month, 61 percent said that the FBI was just trying to do its job while 31 percent said they believed the nation's chief law enforcement arm was biased against the Trump administration. Back in February, 71 percent of Americans polled said they believed the FBI was acting within its bounds, while 23 percent thought the agency was biased against the GOP White House.

That swing has been due to rising Republican anger. For the first time, a 56-percent majority of Republicans say the FBI is biased against the president, with just 34 percent saying it's only doing its job. That's a 16-point swing against the FBI among the GOP, when just fewer than half of Republicans said in February that the FBI was biased but 43 percent still thought it was doing its job.
Actually, there hasn't "been an 18-point increase in Americans who believe the FBI is biased against Trump' -- there's been an 18-point swing in net belief in NPR bias. And the important thing to note is that Americans overwhelmingly believe the FBI is doing the right thing.

There's still support for Mueller's work. That's the bottom line. There's fear of Russian interference in the 2018 elections -- we're told that "55 percent" of respondents "say Russian interference come November is likely or very likely," but "Republicans overwhelmingly don't believe that is a possibility." The message of the numbers is that the delegitimization of Mueller hasn't succeeded -- but that's not what NPR tells us.

Monday, April 16, 2018

IN TRUMP WORLD, IS THERE ANYONE LEFT UNCORRUPTED?

James Comey compares President Trump to a mobster, and Brian Beutler thinks it's an apt comparison.
“I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us ‘amica nostra’—friend of ours. To draw us in,” Comey writes. “As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump had made it a ‘thing of ours.’”

... Comey’s epiphany is timely. Trump’s political method mixes mass tribalism with the kind of mob-like conscription of notionally ethical elite individuals that Comey describes in his book. He used this method to co-opt and compromise Republicans in Congress during the election, and has used it as president to avoid congressional oversight and to discredit law enforcement officers investigating him. Those who resist his recruitment efforts, like Comey and a handful of elected GOP officials, get fired, or attacked, or driven out of political life.
I'd say that Trump isn't exactly like a mobster -- mobsters compel loyalty by threatening physical violence, not loss of tribal membership. Trump won't have that anonymous congressman killed if he starts denouncing Trump publicly the way he did privately to Erick Erickson -- he'll just see to it that the GOP electorate withdraws its support and ruins the congressman's career, with a lot of help from the right-wing media.

Beutler believes that Trump could terrorize major figures in D.C. for years to come.
And with the rule of law closing in on him from multiple directions now, he will use the same method in an attempt to save his presidency, even if it means permanently corrupting the political system of the United States....

What we know to a near certainty is that as the heat increases, Trump will try to enlist more and more people into “this thing of his” as his only means of political survival—and perhaps as his only means of sparing those friends of his from justice.

He will extort support from the ranks of Republican officialdom, which may already be too tainted by allegiance to Trump to credibly sever ties with its criminal leader.

Most corrosively, he will conscript more and more of his supporters into the ethical netherworld of Trumpism, convincing millions of Americans to scoff at ethics and law, and serve instead as a human-political shield around him, so that he can’t be removed from office. This process would serve to normalize his gangster ethic across large swaths of the country, among a radicalized pro-Trump cohort that will be around to poison civic life in America long after Trump has exited the stage.
The only part of this I disagree with is the part about "conscript[ing] more and more of his supporters into the ethical netherworld of Trumpism." Who's left to conscript? Who hasn't been conscripted already? Haven't all his supporters, including the entire Republican congressional delegation, made it clear that, in their opinion, nothing Trump can do would cross an ethical red line? Isn't their terror at the possibility of losing the deplorables' support absolute and unwavering?

This is why, when I see McClatchy's claim that Robert Mueller has proof Michael Cohen went to Prague in 2016, I can't agree with BooMan:
If Michael Cohen went to Prague, then Donald Trump will be impeached, convicted, and removed from office, assuming he doesn’t resign.

... the central accusation of the Steele Dossier is that Cohen was the Trump’s campaign’s main contact with the Russians after Paul Manafort was fired, and that he went to Prague because Moscow would have been too obvious. While there, he colluded with the Russians on a host of issues, including on how to compensate Romanian hackers, how to manage the fallout from the Manafort flameout and how to explain Carter Page’s recent trip to Moscow....

If he was in Prague, he was there for the reasons the Steele dossier said he was there. And if that is the case, then the case for collusion is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Yeah, and so? Why does that guarantee impeachment and conviction? Do you think even open-and-shut evidence of collusion will deter the Trump cult? Cohen went to Prague on his own volition. Evidence that Cohen went to Prague was falsely generated by the Deep State. What's wrong with Cohen talking to people? Define "hacker." And isn't that Seth Rich murder still unsolved? And hey, do we really want to undergo a painful constitutional crisis, a mere twenty or so years after the last impeachment?

There's no chance of 67 votes to convict an impeached Trump no matter what he's done, unless perhaps the Republicans have suffered a midterm blowout so overwhelming it exceeds their most pessimistic scenarios. The Republican survivors of 2018 will have to believe they can't possibly get through another election cycle if they stand by Trump -- that's the only way they'll have the courage to leave the Mob.

But GOP voters will never abandon Trump, and gerrymandering and clustering mean that Republicans will stick with what their voters want. So Beutler is right that Trumpist corruption is probably with us at least until 2020, because everyone Trump needs in his "ethical netherworld" is already there.

LIBERALS ARE DOING TO JAMES COMEY WHAT COMEY DID TO HILLARY CLINTON (updated)

Even before his interview with George Stephanopoulos aired, the knives were out for James Comey, and not just at the White House or the Republican National Committee. "James Comey Is No Hero," wrote Charlie Pierce. "James Comey Is No Hero," wrote Adam Serwer. Today, Ryan Cooper writes, "James Comey Is Not a Hero."

I get it. Nate Silver has long argued that Comey's announcement of another dive into the Hillary Clinton email muck in late October 2016 cost Clinton the election, and I find Silver's case persuasive. Comey had previously wagged a scolding finger at Clinton, while never breathing a word about investigations of possible treason in Trump World. Also, in the published excerpts from his book and his Stephanopoulos interview, Comey really does come off as self-regarding and overly impressed with his own integrity.

But I keep thinking about the aphorism made famous by James Carville: When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil. I don't know if President Trump is actually drowning, but he's in deep waters, and his swimming skills are doubtful. Here's James Comey with some sort of weighty object. Why try to prevent him from tossing it into the water? On Twitter yesterday, Trump referred to Comey's "badly reviewed book." I think he was referring to the criticism of Comey in the so-called liberal media.

I know how conservatives would respond if the parties were reversed. They wouldn't worry about the past. The enemy of their enemy would be their friend, even if they used to despise him. I remember how much the right used to hate Julian Assange, but all that was forgotten once he put a target on Hillary Clinton's back.

Is that good? Is it moral? No, but it's effective.

I acknowledge Comey's deep character flaws. I'm angry at him for tipping the election to Trump in the last days. But at this moment I'm inclined to cede him the floor, because of the damage he's doing to Trump.

I think some on the left look at Comey the way Comey (unforgivably) looked at Hillary Clinton during the campaign. He says now that he was certain she'd win, and after her victory he didn't want the public to believe the FBI had gone easy on her. Similarly, I suspect many liberals believe that Trump will inevitably be forced out of office -- the corruption is so obvious, impeachment or resignation so inevitable, that there's no harm in attacking someone who's now a Trump antagonist.

I don't believe Trump's downfall is inevitable. I still think it's quite possible that he'll serve two terms, like our last three presidents. So if Comey is hurling a heavy object into the water, I'm inclined to step back and let him get in a good throw.

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UPDATE: This is on the front page at FoxNews.com right now:



Nice work, folks.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

WHY WE'RE NOT AT THE END STAGE OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY

The New Yorker's Adam Davidson reported from Iraq shortly after the U.S. military overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also covered the financial world as the 2008 crashed approached. He argues that the collapse of the Trump presidency is now as inevitable as those failures.
There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded.

... I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud....
And on and on. Right now, the public may not understand how deep the rot goes, as most Americans didn't understand the impending calamities in Iraq and global finance, but Davidson is certain that will change.
It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time....

I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace.... It took a long time for the nation to accept that [the problems in Iraq and the financial markets] were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.
But here's the difference: The Iraq War and the financial meltdown affected rank-and-file Republican voters personally. In heartland red America from 2003 on, voters lost children and spouses in what they came to realize was a poorly run war premised on falsehoods. A few years later, the financial crisis cost many of them their jobs and their savings.

Liberals turned against the Iraq War early, some before it began, others as it became obvious that the war was started on false premises and conducted with more bluster than forethought. Liberals were also critical of the Bush administration's rejection of financial oversight long before that see-no-evil approach ended in calamity.

But that's liberals for you: We object to policy decisions that don't personally affect us (or at least haven't affected us yet). We worry about problems before they happen -- how long have we been talking about climate change? We care about the treatment of groups we don't belong to. We object to inequities even when we're on the more favored side.

Conservatives are different. They practice the politics of "what's in it for me?" and rarely game out the long-term consequences. They couldn't imagine how the Iraq War or lack of financial oversight could cause problems because the problems hadn't happened yet -- certainly not to themselves. (Similarly, they can't understand why it's a big deal that Russia interfered in our last presidential election -- their guy won, so what's the problem?)

Conservative voters are never going to care about Trump's corruption because it has no negative impact on them. They haven't lost any money as a result of his dealings in Brazil or Azerbaijan, so why does any of it matter?

It may not literally be true that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes, but he could certainly fleece someone there, or be fleeced, and his voters wouldn't care, because it's irrelevant to them.

****

... And along comes Fox's Greg Gutfeld to confirm my thesis.



... Trump's like a Mafia boss? File that under "Duh." ... The fact is, he's a billionaire real estate developer in New York City. You think he never had to deal with actual Mafia bosses? Why do you think he's the way he is now? Sorry, when America hears Comey whine that Trump is like a Mafia boss, they go, "No shit, Sherlock. That's why we like him." ... He may be a Mafia boss, but he's our Mafia boss.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

THE DOG WON'T STAY WAGGED

President Trump is afraid to do more in response to the recent Syrian chemical weapons attack than give the Assad government and its allies a love tap:
Mr. Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Mr. Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.
Trump and his partners agree on this course of relative restraint:
After Trump finished his seven-minute address, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron made separate announcements of British and French participation, stressing that the strikes were limited to Syrian regime chemical facilities, and had no wider goals....

Highlighting the limited nature of the raids – and the desire to avoid a dangerous escalation – the US defence secretary, James Mattis, said: “Right now this is a one-time shot”. The French defence minister, Florence Parly, said Moscow had been warned by France and its allies about the strikes beforehand.
On the ground, despite reports of some civilian casulaties, it's clear that the attack could have been worse:
In Damascus, there was defiance and relief as residents jolted awake by explosions at around 4 a.m. realized the strikes would be limited....

The strikes had been flagged so far in advance that Syria and its allies had plenty of notice to evacuate the likely targets of civilians and assets, possibly also including key components of the chemical weapons program, leaving it unclear how much of an impact they would have.

“Thank God this was less than we had feared. We were scared of a bigger assault that could be devastating, but we are happy it was limited and less powerful,” said Mayda Kumejian, a Damascus resident contacted by telephone. She described being jolted awake by explosions and the sound of jets roaring overhead.

“This strike is only muscle flexing by Trump to show his power,” she said. “Assad’s regime is much stronger now.”
That's what's been set in motion overseas -- a limited response that has been carefully constructed not to be overly offensive to its targets, and that came and went in an eyeblink.

Now look at America. It's insane here. The news cycle churns several times a day. We never know when there'll be a surprising new development in Robert Mueller's investigation or when Trump will fire someone or insult someone or incriminate himself in a tweet or on-camera rant.

So if you think Trump is wagging the dog (or "wagging the Prague") in order to drive bad domestic news out of the headlines, remember that it can't work for very long. On one hand, he and his partners don't want an attack on Syria that's sustained, which means that a week from now much of America literally won't remember that these strikes happened. On the other hand, big news happens so fast here that there'll probably be a dozen or more extra-bold red-siren headlines over the next several days -- many of them the result of Trump banishing the memory of this bombardment with his own words and deeds. If he were smart, he'd make a concerted effort not to drive the Syria news off the front pages with his own actions. But he's not smart. He'll probably step on his own story by creating another story, and then another and another. And if he doesn't, someone else -- Mueller, James Comey, a mass shooter -- undoubtedly will.

Wag the dog? Maybe -- but if so, the dog won't stay wagged.

Friday, April 13, 2018

THE RIGHT TRIES TO EMASCULATE JAMES COMEY

Conservatives can't drown out James Comey, so a couple of them are trying to take his man card.

Here's Chris Wallace, allegedly one of the non-ideologues at Fox News:
Wallace opened by stating he “may be the only person in America who hasn’t” received a copy of the book — set to be released next week — before saying he is surprised at “how little new there is in the book.” ...

“The other thing that surprises me, frankly, is how bitchy the book is,” Wallace sassed. “Comey goes out of his way to say the president isn’t as tall as he thought he was. He checked out the size of his hands the first time they shook hands, that he noticed that the president seemed to have little white half moons under his eyes, maybe he had sun-tanning goggles that he wore.”

“One could argue that by getting into the kind of political food fight that James Comey has done more damage to his own reputation than he has to President Trump’s.”
And then there's PJ Media's Stephen Kruiser, who writes:
Depending on your feelings towards President Trump, the excerpts promise either a bombshell of a memoir that will cripple this presidency (just like Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" was supposed to four months ago) or a pettiness-filled journal that seems as if it were written by an adolescent who had just been turned down for prom.
I guess just calling Comey a fag is still considered a bridge too far for the right-wing commentariat, at least outside social media, though Kruiser adds:
Personally, I think Comey has morphed into a David Hogg for the older crowd -- perpetually emo and always ready with an essentially empty quip designed to stir up maximum liberal passion.
"Emo"? I guess Comey will be a "soy boy" next.

WHY DOES TRUMP BELIEVE HE COULD SURVIVE MURDER BUT NOT PEEING PROSTITUTES?

I understand why Donald Trump rails against the Robert Mueller investigation for examining possible collusion between his campaign and the Russians. I understand why Trump is upset about investigations into his business dealings and possible obstruction of justice. There are serious consequences for Trump, his family, and his associates if more wrongdoing is conclusively demonstrated.

But why is he so worked up about the pee tape?
The nation’s intelligence chiefs had just finished briefing Donald Trump on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election when FBI Director James B. Comey stayed behind to discuss some especially sensitive material: a “widely circulated” intelligence dossier containing unconfirmed allegations that Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

... Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director.
I'd be embarrassed if I were videotaped engaging in that kind of activity and the tape leaked. I assume you would, too.

But this is Donald Trump we're talking about. This is a guy who'd survived the Access Hollywood tape and won a presidential election shortly before he had all these fearful conversations with Comey about the pee tape. This is a guy who'd said that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes -- and he was probably right. So why doesn't he feel the same way about this tape?

If it emerges, can't he just claim it's a fake? Won't 40% of Americans, including a majority of whites, either believe him or think it doesn't matter?

Didn't Bill Clinton's reputation survive sexual scandals, at least until recently? Didn't David Vitter -- whose experiences with prostitutes were rumored to be similar to what's alleged about Trump -- win reelection after the scandal broke? (And now he may get to watch his extremist wife -- yes, they're still married -- join the federal bench.) Anthony Weiner briefly led in New York mayoral polls after his first of wave of sexual revelations. Missouri governor and alleged rapist and blackmailer Eric Greitens is embattled, but his poll numbers are slightly better than Trump's -- 40%/39% approval/disapproval according to Morning Consult, 41%/47% according to Mason-Dixon.

I think there's something beyond fear of prosecution here (could Trump even be prosecuted for the pee tape?). I think this taps into a visceral source of shame for Trump. Remember, this is a guy who changes his own bedsheets at the White House, according to Michael Wolff's book.

It's possible that Trump believes that the entire edifice of his corruption will come crashing down if the tape is unearthed. But although I think it's connected to his unsavory dealings, I don't think it's central. I think Trump just believes a revelation of this kind would be shameful. I think it reaches into an area of his psyche where his usual shamelessness fails him.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A RIGHT-WING HOT TAKE ON COMEY'S BOOK I'M EXPECTING

In Philip Rucker's Washington Post write-up of James Comey's book, this passage jumps out at me:
After one week as president, Trump invited Comey to dinner. Comey describes the scene on Jan. 27: The table in the Green Room was set for two. The president marveled at the fancy handwriting on the four-course menu placards and seemed unaware of the term calligrapher.
We know that conservatives are going to go after Comey's book with everything they've got. This suggests to me how at least some of them will go after him.

They're going to attack him as an elitist snob. Also consider this, from AP's story about the book:
The 6-foot-8 Comey describes Trump as shorter than he expected with a “too long” tie and “bright white half-moons” under his eyes that he suggests came from tanning goggles. He also says he made a conscious effort to check the president’s hand size, saying it was “smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
Comey criticizes for Trump for apparently not knowing what a calligrapher is. He criticizes the length of Trump's ties. He mocks his hands and his personal grooming.

Right-wing pundits are going to write this up with this message: When Comey mocks Trump, he's mocking you, Trump supporters. He looks down on Trump. He considers Trump his inferior. He thinks Trump is stupid and tacky and we can assume he thinks you're stupid and tacky.

I personally believe that a guy who either doesn't know what a calligrapher is or is surprised to see calligraphy on a menu card at a White House dinner is too ignorant, too unworldly, to be president. What else has gone completely over his head in 71 years on this earth?

But the right will say that this contempt is the elite's revenge on an honorable man of the people. The GOP is a party of grievance collectors, and this will be one more grievance.

IT WON'T EXACTLY BE THE STREISAND EFFECT -- SHOULD WE CALL IT THE TRUMP EFFECT?

In a column addressed to President Trump, Matt Bai -- for effect -- urges the firing of Robert Mueller:
This isn’t hard. Look at all the people you’ve already fired. Priebus, Flynn, Tillerson, Price, McMaster — the list goes on....

So ... Reprise Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Find your Robert Bork.
Bai recommends this course of action because he thinks it will be good for the country:
... here’s the thing, Mr. President: All these responsible people frantically warning of a constitutional crisis if you do this — they’re afraid. They don’t think the institutions of American democracy and jurisprudence are strong enough now to withstand the assault. They think the Republican Party you’ve annexed will prostrate itself in your presence, as it has for the entire last year.

... They fear that Americans are so angry at the system, so dimwitted and disillusioned, that we’ll accept anything that comes disguised as anti-elitism.

They worry that you’ll win, and America’s claim to being a nation of laws will be lost.

I don’t. If I’m being straight with you, I think firing Mueller is your Waterloo. And this kind of clear-cut crisis may be exactly what we need.

I think there are more than enough Republicans who genuinely believe in the bedrock principles of American government (and, not for nothing, who can see what your leadership is about to do to them in the midterm elections), and a solid majority of patriotic voters who won’t stand by and watch another president try to strong-arm the judicial system.

I think trying to shut down the special counsel and seize control of the Justice Department will be the thing that brings this entire Legoland of an administration crashing down on itself.

So enough bluster, Mr. President. It’s time to walk the walk.
I think Bai is extraordinarily naive. If I were a betting man, I'd say that not only will Trump's poll numbers not decline if he fires Mueller, they may actually go up, as rage-junkie Republican voters rally to the president and eagerly take pollsters' calls in order to talk about how awesome they now believe he is. Sure, I think the majority of Americans will be horrified, but they're horrified now. The intensity of the outrage will increase, but the raw numbers won't change much. My guess: After a week Trump's polling will be essentially unchanged, and Republicans in Congress will be sitting on their hands. (Perhaps some will say they're very concerned.)

But Bai does make one interesting point:
... if you’re going to stop him, what better time to do it than now, just as Jim Comey’s big memoir hits the virtual shelves? You don’t need me to tell you what getting rid of Mueller would do to the Comey Sanctification Tour. This is what you’re better at than anyone alive — commandeering the news cycle.
When I read that, I thought: Trump's really going to do that, isn't he? Not fire Mueller (in all likelihood), but fire someone -- probably Rod Rosenstein -- just as Comey's publicity tour is getting under way.

Comey's book will be on sale Tuesday, but, hey, it's just a book -- Trump doesn't read books, so this date won't mean much to him. The event he'll want to upstage is Comey's publicity tour, much of which will place on TV. TV is Trump's lifeblood.

The big event is the upcoming prime-time interview with George Stephanopoulos, which will air on Sunday night. SoI'm betting that Trump, in addition to his many rage tweets over the weekend, will fire Rosenstein (and, who knows, maybe Jeff Sessions) on Sunday, shortly before the interview's airtime.

Will that will steal Comey's thunder? Of course not. It will just draw more attention to Comey's book. That's obvious to anyone but Trump.

If I'm right, this won't be the Streisand effect -- an explosion of interest in information a famous person wants to suppress, because the suppression efforts draws increased attention to the information. It'll be a uniquely Trumpian effect -- his efforts to distract from something he doesn't want us to notice makes us pay attention even more.

Maybe he's not stupid enough to do this -- but he was stupid enough to fire Comey in the first place, so why not?

THE RNC'S ANTI-COMEY SPIN DOCTORS ARE DOING IT WRONG

CNN reports on the Republican National Committee's effort to spin the forthcoming James Comey memoir -- which doesn't seem very smart to me:
The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation's former top law enforcement official as "Lyin' Comey" through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.

"Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing," Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to CNN.
The RNC doesn't seem to understand which voters it's targeting or what will appeal to them. First, not only is "Lyin' Comey" this effort's brand, but the site is lyincomey.com. The phrase, obviously, is like something from a Trump tweet -- and even many Trump fans don't particularly like his tweeting, while people on the left and center find it appalling.

So right away this alienates all but the most rabid deplorables. However, the first thing you see on the home page is a rotating series of quotes from Democrats -- Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Hillary Clinton -- criticizing Comey.



So ... the site is aimed at Democrats? But the quoted Democrats seem to have been chosen not for the high level of respect they have among Democratic voters, or among non-Republican voters. These aren't the four most admired Dems in America. They seem to have been chosen because they're the Democrats most hated by Republicans.

And a second or two after you hit this page with quotes from Democrats, you get this pop-up:



So the site is aimed at Republicans? In that case, why rotate through a series of quotes from Democrats, especially Democrats who are particularly hated by Republicans?

Is it because you want Republicans telling Democrats at backyard barbecues that their politicians are hypocrites? Politically engaged Democrats already have complex feelings about Comey -- we think he reprehensibly helped sink Clinton's campaign, then we think he was canned by Trump for trying to do the responsible thing. So why should we care if Democrats attacked him once? None of those Democrats would deny it. We're all capable of having more than one thought about Comey at the same time. We disapprove of some of his actions and not others.

And what will voters in the middle think? They'll think that of course Democrats were angry at Comey when he hurt their candidate and of course we're not angry when he's targeting the other side. That's politics.

Comey has undoubtedly worked hard on an explanation of why he believes he did the right thing with respect to both Clinton and Trump. I'm sure he'll persuade a few people, especially people with no strong loyalties to either party.

This site? It won't persuade anyone. But at least the RNC can tell Trump it's trying.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

IMPEACHMENT BEFORE THE MIDTERMS? NAHHH, WON'T HAPPEN.

Over at the Resurgent, Erick Erickson reproduces what he claims is an extended rant from a publicly pro-Trump Republican congressman who secretly wishes the president would just quit.
"It's like Forrest Gump won the presidency, but an evil, really f*cking stupid Forrest Gump....

"I say a lot of shit on TV defending him.... But honestly, I wish the motherf*cker would just go away. We're going to lose the House, lose the Senate, and lose a bunch of states because of him. All his supporters will blame us for what we have or have not done, but he hasn't led. He wakes up in the morning, sh*ts all over Twitter, sh*ts all over us, sh*ts all over his staff, then hits golf balls. F*ck him. Of course, I can't say that in public or I'd get run out of town."
Erickson tells us that the unnamed congressman is a typical Republican.
He was never a die hard Trump supporter. He supported him in the general and never expected him to win. But he did. So the congressman, whose district Trump won, has been a regular supporter on Fox News and elsewhere defending the President. He is happy to be quoted, so long as I don't name him. He says he just needs to vent.
The congressman -- who, Erickson says, "has been a regular supporter on Fox News and elsewhere defending the President" -- is quoted as saying he believes there could be a vote on impeachment before November, and that many Republicans would be in favor. Once members of the House Judiciary Committee get through their primaries, he says, they might vote to dump Trump.
"Judiciary is stacked with a bunch of people who can win re-election so long as they don't piss off Trump voters in the primary. But if we get to summer and most of the primaries are over, they just might pull the trigger if the President fires Mueller. The sh*t will hit the fan if that happens and I'd vote to impeach him myself. Most of us would, I think. Hell, all the Democrats would and you only need a majority in the House. If we're going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherf**ker. Take him out with us and let Mike [Pence] take over. At least then we could sleep well at night," he said....
That's a cheery thought, but I don't buy it.

I can believe that a number of Republicans think Trump is an idiot and blame him for the trouble they're in. Some might suppose that they have nothing to lose -- they're in tough races, a Democratic wave is coming, and a lot of them are at serious risk of being defeated.

But not all of them -- and that's why they won't consider impeaching him, however disgusted with him they may be. As soon as there's so much as a rumor that Judiciary Committee Republicans are weighing articles of impeachment, the right-wing noise machine will be cranked up to supersonic decibel levels. It will be made clear that any Republican who votes for impeachment -- in committee or in the full House -- will be persona non grata in the party forevermore. If impeachment does clear the House as a whole thanks to Republican votes, GOP base voters, who love Trump, will blame the entire Republican Party, even those who voted no. Many longtime GOP voters will boycott the GOP in November -- hell, some may boycott the GOP forever. Trump is a god to the base -- and if he fires Mueller, the base will probably worship him even more.

The congressman is ready for President Pence ("You know having Mike as President would really piss off all the right people, too. They think they hate Trump. Mike is competent"). But the base isn't. Base voters love Trump because he constantly attacks their enemies, which is what these voters want most from any Republican. Pence can't compare. It doesn't matter that he might be far more capable of getting the GOP agenda enacted. It doesn't matter that he'd be harder to beat in 2020. The base vastly prefers Trump. If Republicans vote to impeach him, they'll do it at their peril.

I think most Republicans in Congress know that. If they don't, they'll hear it from their voters if this notion is ever seriously considered.

HERE'S WHY I HOPE PAUL RYAN CASHES IN BIG TIME

Paul Ryan is leaving Congress, and he's going out with a sob story, of course:
Growing emotional at points, Mr. Ryan said family considerations weighed heavily on his retirement, explaining that his daughter was 13 when he became speaker and he did not want to be a remote figure in her teenage years.
Partly through surrogates, Ryan was also trying to make us feel sorry for him back in December, when rumors of a possible retirement first surfaced. At the time, Politico told us this:
Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics," and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest.
It's always about him. This is from a 2014 National Journal profile:
“I’M NOT GO­ING TO be in Con­gress 10 years from now,” Ry­an tells me one Septem­ber af­ter­noon. “I can be defin­it­ive about that.”

“You won’t be in Con­gress in 10 years?”

“No. God, no. I’ve already been there 16 years. I don’t want to be a ca­reer guy. Even though I’ve been there a long time, where you could already say that...” He stops him­self. “It’s just, I don’t want to spend my adult life in Con­gress.”

... This is a per­son who ... found his 55-year-old fath­er dead, and who knows that neither his grand­fath­er nor his great-grand­fath­er lived to see 60.

... “I think mor­tal­ity weighs on him,” says Bill Ben­nett, the former Edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary and drug czar who has grown in­to something of a polit­ic­al fath­er fig­ure to Ryan. “That’s the first ques­tion the doc­tor asks: ‘How old was your fath­er when he died? How old was your grand­fath­er?’"
I lost my father at a young age, but I haven't spent my adult life playing the dead-dad card for sympathy, so I don't want to hear it from Ryan, nor do I want to hear about how devoted he is to his family.



But this stuff works. It works on mainstream-media journalists, at least. It's the kind of thing that used to work on the public, at least before voters in one of our major political parties decided they prefer candidates who are rage monsters rather than (real or ersatz) Boy Scouts with heart-tugging backstories.

I bring this up because I worry that Axios's Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen are right:
Ryan, 48, ... has long harbored presidential ambitions. Friends say he could make another run in the future.
Which is why I hope he cashes in in a major way. I hope the fat cats he's helped to enrich in his political career enable him to make so much money for so little work once he's out of Congress that he can't imagine giving it up to run for office again.

But I worry. I worry that, just to keep his name before the public, he'll combine his cash grab with sober-minded appearances on Sunday talk shows and Morning Joe and op-ed pages. (I don't think we'll see him on the New York Times op-ed page or at The Atlantic -- the editors there are looking for "edgy," and he's anything but. I'm guessing The Washington Post, next to Gerson, Thiessen, and Ed Rogers, or The Wall Street Journal, alongside Karl Rove.) I worry that he'll also be seen engaging in some earnest-seeming, Catholic-flavored charitable enterprise that will make him appear soulful and empathetic.

If that's what we see him doing (in a very public way), watch out: he's running. Remember, he'll still be in his fifties in 2024 and 2028. If he ever wants to run for president, he has years to consider it. And who could possibly have more plutocrat backing?

That's why I hope the money is so great that he seizes it with both fists and never looks back.

I DON'T THINK THE DEPLORABLES WANT WAR

President Trump is signaling that he's working on a military strike in Syria ... and I don't think it's going over well with his base. Here's a comment at Gateway Pundit:



When a Republican president can't get a right-winger with an eagle avatar and the screen name "Eaglized" to back an upcoming use of U.S. military force ... that's trouble.

More from those comments:
Has anyone taken poll to ask see how many Americans believe this false flag

****

Mattis said in February that there was no proof that Assad committed the last 2 gas attacks. The timing of this attack is simply too suspicious to take at face value.

****

And Assad - as horrible as he supposedly is - has zero motive, when he has all but won the wat against ISIS. ISIS would be the beneficiary of our attack, wouldn't they?

****

Dumb as rock Democrats (civilians and the Reps in Congress) and war mongering RINOs in government.
(Were the last fifty years of American politics just a dream? Now if you support military action by a GOP president, you're a "RINO.")
Fox did a poll on twitter about how many people thought we should get involved more in Syria. Over like 11 hours is was over 65% stay out. Then within 10 minutes like 50,000 bots votes were added to switch the vote the other way.

****

Do not go to war, President Trump.

You need Congressional Approval for such matters and WE THE PEOPLE do not consent!

****

Amen...don't do it DJT...you're being goaded. NOTHING is what it seems in that part of the world. Not the world's policeman...remember that??

****

If Trump lets the globalists con him again with the ridiculously same tactic of gas-bombing-without-proof, we are all done for! No one 'wins' a nuclear war!

****

Sen. Lindsey Graham and all of the rest of the swamp are calling for war.
No greater confirmation exists, that we must avoid war in Syria.

****

No! No! No! President Trump said 'let someone else handle it!'!! STICK TO YOUR GUT PLAN PRESIDENT TRUMP!! Pull us out of there! All this was garnered to get us in a war..... When the dems/rinos/republicans all agree, something's amiss!!

STOP IT PRESIDENT TRUMP! GET US OUT!

****

... Get us out, protect OUR bordes and let the ME handle that schitt over there!
Of course, the president himself doesn't seem to know what he wants.



Poor guy! He hired John Bolton away from Fox for his hawkishness, and now the people who are still on Fox -- Tucker Carlsion, Tomi Lahren -- are telling him to turn the other cheek. Very confusing! And so he's issuing threats to Vladimir Putin and sweet-talking him at the same time.



That's a fairly accurate summary of our policy toward Russia right now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

IN THE RIGHT-WING PARALLEL UNIVERSE, FACEBOOK IS BAD, BUT NOT FOR ANY OF THE REASONS YOU THINK IT IS

If you're a normal American, this is what you think was the point of today's Senate hearing featuring Marc Zuckerberg:
Mr. Zuckerberg’s appearance, his first before Congress, turned into something of a pointed gripe session, with senators attacking Facebook for failing to protect users’ data and stop Russian election interference, and raising questions about whether Facebook should be more heavily regulated....

Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, zeroed in on the central issue of the hearing, asking Mr. Zuckerberg whether he would be comfortable sharing aloud the name of the hotel he stayed in on Monday night, or whether he would be comfortable sharing the names of the people he has messaged this week.

“No. I would probably not choose to do that publicly here,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

“I think that may be what this is all about,” Mr. Durbin said. “Your right to privacy. The limits of your right to privacy. And how much you give away in modern America in the name of, quote, connecting people around the world.”
But if you're a right-winger, this is what you think is Facebook's greatest sin:



Your hero right now is Ted Cruz.



Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ... asked several times whether Facebook is a neutral forum or whether it is simply engaging in its First Amendment right to political speech.

"There are a great many Americans who I think are deeply concerned that Facebook and other tech companies are [engaging in] a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship," Cruz said.

Cruz said there have been instances where conservative or right-leaning thoughts or pages have been suppressed.

He mentioned posts about the IRS scandal in which former employee Lois Lerner was accused of targeting conservative groups for additional review, posts about Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), radio host Glenn Beck, and the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
Yes, that's the burning issue right now, in 2018 -- alleged suppression of posts about Lois Lerner, Mitt Romney, and Glenn Beck.

As for all the issues the rest of us care about -- flagrant violations of our privacy, subversion of democracy -- well, the fuss over all that is just a liberal plot, according to the right.
On [Fox's] "Outnumbered," Lisa Boothe said she thinks this entire controversy is a bunch of "baloney."

"The only reason this is an issue is because Facebook got caught up in Trump's orbit, which anyone that gets caught up in his orbit gets destroyed by the mainstream media and those on the left," Boothe said.
Really, this is what they think. Right-wingers don't seem to live on the same planet as the rest of us.

TRUMP'S UNPREMEDITATED AUTHORITARIANISM

I'm really struck by this passage from Gabriel Sherman's latest Vanity Fair post about President Trump:
There have been times during Robert Mueller’s investigation—Mueller’s subpoenaing of Trump business records, for instance—when White House advisers worried Trump seemed on the verge of triggering a constitutional crisis by firing Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The stunning Cohen raid is another one of these moments. “He’s sitting there bitching and moaning. He’s brooding and doesn’t have a plan,” a Republican close to the White House said last night. “I could see him having a total meltdown and saying, ‘Fuck it, I’m firing all of them,’” a Trump friend told me. “This is very dry tinder. If someone strikes a match to it, you could see it catching fire,” added a former official.
(Emphasis added.)

We know Trump has no respect for the rule of law or the laws or norms of governing in America, so it's frightening that he might set off a Saturday Night Massacre -- but what kind of authoritarian doesn't have a plan at a moment like this? The Michael Cohen raid may have been a surprise, but Trump has never appeared to have a thought-out approach to the investigation, and the focus in the White House seems to be primarily on how to manage the president emotionally so he doesn't do something rash on impulse.

This isn't how effective authoritarians operate. It's how a child operates.

The 71-year-old president is said to be emotionally at sea because former surrogate parents, one of whom is less than half his age, aren't around to pacify him:
In the past, Trump’s impulses could be tempered by the calming presence of loyal aides like Hope Hicks and longtime security chief Keith Schiller. But both Hicks and Schiller are gone, leaving Trump to operate largely unchecked.
This is echoed by Mike Allen at Axios:
* Until now, when storms hit, Trump could turn to Hope Hicks to explain things to him, suggest wording, simmer him down. With her departure from the White House, we saw the president working out his fury in real time.

* [A] source continued: "This is the first crisis post-Hope Hicks. ... This was different: I've never seen him like this before. ... This is the president you're going to see more of from here on out: unvarnished, untethered."
Trump may do something extremely reckless and dangerous to America, but if so, he's going to do it not out of a combination of calculation and ruthlessness, but because he has a massive amount of adult power but the impulse control of a five-year-old. If there's anything he's actually worked out in his infantile mind, it's how to manipulate aides into being his pseudo-parents. He really has a well-honed talent for that.

Except now he has no substitute parents in place to mollify him. So he's going to wing it. It's unplanned authoritarianism. Trump isn't a schemer. He's just driven by pure childlike id.

NEEDY, RAGE-FILLED TRUMP IS THE PERFECT CANDIDATE FOR CONSERVATIVES NOW

David Brooks is feeling a despair you may actually share -- he wonders why the anti-Trump movement has been so unsuccessful in persuading Trump supporters to abandon the president:
Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president....

We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.

... Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is complete. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans now have a positive impression of the man. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 59 percent of Republicans consider themselves more a supporter of Trump than of the Republican Party.
This column appears at a moment when Trump is particularly under siege, reduced to plaintive howls after an FBI raid on his attorney Michael Cohen.




I believe Trump remains popular precisely because he's under siege. The more he's attacked -- by liberals and the Resistance, by anti-Trumpers on the right, by law enforcement -- the more his sense of grievance inspires fellow-feeling in the deplorables, who also feel sorry for themselves because everyone doesn't defer to them.

How does Trump connect with his base? I'm thinking of a passage in Jon Smith's review of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which appears in the Dublin Review of Books..
Trump is that strangest of creatures: a confidence man with no confidence. Following the appointment of John Kelly as his second chief of staff, he keeps asking people if the taciturn general likes him. During a speech at the CIA not long after his inauguration, he asks: “Did everybody like my speech? You had to like it.” Not since Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman has a man been so obsessed with being well-liked....

What Trump fails to understand is that you can’t please all the people all the time. In his eyes, says Wolff, “he was the winner and now expected to be the object of awe, fascination, and favour. He expected this to be binary: a hostile media would turn into a fannish one.” He does not realise the downside of playing to the prejudices of the right-wing media, his natural gallery: “what conservative media elevated, liberal media would necessarily take down ... [he] was desperately wounded by his treatment in the mainstream media. He obsessed on every slight until it was overtaken by the next slight.”
Trump unrealistically expects universal adulation, fails to get it, and cries out in anguish. Past presidents, most of whom were emotional adults, knew they'd be attacked and tried to appear above the fray, not just reveling in the admiration of their supporters but ignoring, or appearing to ignore, their antagonists and critics. Trump can't do that because he's so emotionally needy -- when he's under attack, the attack is completely distracting to him.

And that's precisely what resonates with his admirers. They wouldn't want the Reagan of "Morning in America" and the 49-state landslide; they certainly wouldn't want a Barack Obama, who tried to remain presidential even as antagonists endeavored to drag him down. Trump happens to have a whiny, aggrieved personality, and that suits heartland white voters perfectly. They feel sorry for themselves, and they like a president who feels the same way about himself.

Every attack on Trump resurfaces his sense of grievance, and that strengthens the bond between Trump and his base. So no wonder the anti-Trump movement is failing. Attacks are nutrients to the Trumpers.

Monday, April 09, 2018

JAMES BENNET, JEFFREY GOLDBERG, HERE'S A POTENTIAL NEW HIRE FOR YOU

I should be blogging about the Michael Cohen story, but I found myself distracted by this, from The Washington Post:
A conservative commentator at a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned television station in St. Louis has resigned after a statement he made threatening to sexually assault David Hogg drew harsh criticism and sparked the beginnings of an advertiser boycott.

Jamie Allman, who hosts a nightly news show on KDNL, a Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate in St. Louis, as well as a morning FM radio show, wrote on Twitter that he was “hanging out getting ready,” to sexually assault David Hogg with “a hot poker.”

... Advertisers, including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, St. Louis health center Palm Health, and local real estate office The Gellman Team, announced they would stop advertising on Allman’s shows, spurred on by activists who took to social media to highlight the commentator’s remarks, as well as Democratic state lawmaker Stacey Newman and others.
The Post wouldn't reproduce the tweet or quote it in full, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times have it:



The Riverfront Times also notes that Stacey Newman called out Allman "for his support of failed Parkway School Board candidate and self-described 'Confederate' Jeanie Ames." She's a piece of work:
Critics have circulated screenshots of past tweets they claim prove that Ames is a racist and unfit for the school board. And even today, in the bio of her personal Twitter, Ames self-identifies as a "Confederate" (in addition to a "Constitutionalist," "Free Market Capitalist" and other less incendiary descriptions).

Those tweets include a comparison of Michelle Obama to a "giant rat" [and] one that showed a Crusader-era knight kneeling, sword in hand, with the words "Anti-Islam" superimposed over the knight in red. The image also contained a caption: "To be opposed to evil is to be opposed to Islam! Let the crusade begin! Ban Islam in America!"



Oh, and there was this one:



Yes, Allman defended her.



The Washington Post story also notes that Allman "has defended Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican who is awaiting trial on felony invasion of privacy charge after prosecutors said he tried to blackmail a former paramour with an illicit photo." Naturally.

This guy seems like a perfect hire for The Atlantic or the New York Times op-ed page, don't you think? And if you disagree, why do you hate diversity of ideas?