Sunday, July 21, 2019

Never: 1) Trump 2) Look in the Mirror

Over on Twitter there's another iteration of "liberals are why we have Trump" that's getting a lot of praise from "never Trump" frauds like David French. Liberated from Twitter formatting, here's the gist of his argument:
One of the most frustrating things for a movement conservative is that it feels impossible to publicly make the [accurate] case that the reason we have Trump - the reason so many on the right embraced him despite all his obvious shortcomings, vulgarities, & inadequacies is because of the way the left has treated the right in this country for DECADES - without sounding like I am defending it. And I am not. I believe all at once that the right’s embracing of Trump is a by-product of the tyrannical and bad faith treatment perpetrated on the right culturally and politically and economically by the left, and at the same time that the right will deeply regret (deeply) its choice of Trump as the antidote.
Then he gets down to cases: Okay, Thing One? The word "guttural" does not mean what he thinks it means.

That aside, it's an interesting set of examples. Brett Kavanaugh was credibly accused of sexual assault and still wound up with a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. Romney actually said the things he was nailed for saying. Bork was rejected on a bipartisan vote because of the extremity of his positions (a point that his subsequent writing made all the more obvious). I had to google the thing about Ryan; it's an attack ad that's arguably unfair but undeniably hilarious...and no worse than any number of GOP attack ads over the years. And speaking of attack ads, his line about "their blame-America response to 9/11" is exactly the sort of dishonest smear we saw from Republicans throughout the Bush era. (I only recall two national political figures blaming 9/11 on America, and they weren't Democrats.)

So his beef with liberals is that they don't simply defer to conservatives on all matters. But the weakness (or outright falsity) of his examples illustrates the bogus nature of all conservative complaints. And even if we accept his whole argument, liberal attacks didn't elect Trump; the conservative response to those attacks did. So in arguing that liberals are responsible for Trump, he inadvertently makes a much truer point: what gave us Trump was in part the conservative culture of victimhood.

This is what fraudulent Never Trumpers like this guy and David French (who spends a lot of time sobbing about the mistreatment of Christians) will never understand: they bear as much responsibility for Trump as anyone.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Hakuna Potato

Warthog and suricate or meerkat from the photorealist Lion King that opened this week. Terrible as the cartoon was, this one has to be far worse. 
My kids were Disney-aged through the string of animated hits of what I guess were the Katzenberg years, Little Mermaid through Pocahontas, and I saw them all, some repeatedly, in addition to reading the book versions aloud, and mostly really hated them for various reasons, especially the disloyalty to the sources—they seemed to me to be working to destroy the sources, from Hans Christian Andersen to colonial history of Virginia, and replace them with perverted simulacra.

For instance in the case of Beauty and the Beast, Mme de Beaumont's Enlightenment fable of falling in love on grounds of moral affinity rather being distracted by the superficialities was transformed by changing the character of the Beast. In the original he is a Beast because of the completely arbitrary malice of a wicked fairy, but unfailingly kind, generous, and self-effacing, which is why the Beauty comes to love him and the enchantment is overcome. Disney makes him into a cruel person who is bestified by a very judgmental fairy, as deserved punishment, and he becomes handsome again because he's making an effort to be nicer. The moral of the story turns out to be that if you're ugly it's probably your fault because you were mean to some old lady, and serves you right.

But the one I hated the most was The Lion King, for really political reasons at first.

Its ultimate source is pretty clearly Hamlet, which shows you how insane Katzenberg had become at this point: the legitimate king murdered by his ambitious younger brother while the son and heir wanders in disconsolate exile until at last he returns, solves the crime thanks in part to a visit from his father's ghost, and, since this is a happy-ending show, successfully gets rid of his uncle and takes over the kingdom. Overlaying this and told mostly through the background art is a theory of sacred kingship so violently rightwing that I can't understand even now why it wasn't a scandal: that the health of the environment depends on the legitimacy of the monarch, so that while the usurper Scar is in power, the entire savannah becomes a desert and the animals starve, but the minute young Simba has fed Scar to the hyenas and mounts the kopje that serves the lion royals as a venue for public announcements to let everybody know that the primogeniture rule is back in place and he's king now, the life-giving rain begins to fall.

The initial worst aspect of this was that it was embedded in a kind of ecological theory that sounded as if it made some sense, the concept of The Circle of Life as King Mufasa teaches it to his son (the herbivores eat the grass, we lions eat the herbivores, and when we're dead the grass eats us) and the Elton John song (lyrics by Tim Rice). So that you're just about ready to accept that lion primogeniture is an important thing, and in the tremendous opening sequence of the cartoon, when all the animals from everywhere, thousands upon thousands, travel to the royal kopje for the presentation of the newborn prince Simba, held aloft by the male mandrill Rafiki who serves the lions as a kind of shaman or archbishop, and all kneel in silent adoration, you hardly pause to realize that they're worshiping the species that eats them. (I should say that it's extremely well done, and so, as you know, is Triumph of the Will.)

But on closer examination the thing was made much worse, by the fact that everything they were telling us about the Circle of Life on the Serengeti plain (where all the visuals came from) was a lie. Starting with the fact that lions don't have kings.

Good Strides

One of the most interesting things about this ghastly fiasco in which Trump demonstrates, as Gaiman suggests, that he would have a hard time convincing an impartial jury that he's a human, is that it wasn't supposed to happen—the president wasn't scheduled to play any role in the events as announced by the State Department:
On July 16 at 9:00 AM EDT, Secretary Pompeo will kick-off the first day of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom with brief remarks. Following the Secretary’s opening address, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback will deliver remarks on the need for increased partnerships in the fight to advance religious freedom. At 3:25 PM EDT, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and retired U.S. Representative Frank Wolf will participate in a discussion moderated by Ambassador Brownback on religious freedom challenges in China and the importance of bipartisan, whole-of-government approaches to defending religious freedom.
On July 17, Secretary Pompeo will present the Department of State’s first-ever International Religious Freedom Awards to individuals who have demonstrated an ongoing and relentless commitment to promoting religious freedom.
On July 18 at 8:55 AM EDT, Secretary Pompeo will deliver keynote remarks on the state of religious freedom around the world, advancements over the last year, and remaining work to be done. Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at 11:00 AM EDT, underscoring international religious freedom as a key U.S. foreign policy priority. At 1:00 PM EDT, White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will deliver opening remarks at the Luncheon for the Heads of Foreign Delegation.
So Trump or Mulvaney or Miller decided at the last minute to invite the award winners over to the Oval Office, presumably in the wake of his quarrel with the women of the congressional Squad and condemnation on Tuesday by the House of Representatives for the racism he showed,, so he could display himself being compassionate with women of color, as long as they're the right sort, thus proving that he wasn't a racist at all, before flying off to Greenville to address the Send Her Back rally.

Which backfired, as you'd expect, because he wasn't willing to do any sort of homework for it, and couldn't help revealing throughout that he had no idea what these people were about except that the things they had been though were "tough"—the transcript shows him using the word seven times, lastly by way of congratulating himself
So, you see, the world is a tough place.  And we’re making strides.  We’ve made some very good strides. 

More quotes (couldn't stop myself) at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Laugh's on Me

From video at Washington Post.
Well, I was asking the right question:

That's the new rule (borrowed from Hungary) requiring asylum applicants coming to the US from a third country (such as Mexico) to show proof that they've tried and failed to get asylum status in that third country or someplace they went before (Belize or Guatemala for nearly all of those coming through Mexico), the clear intent of which is to enable CPB to send them all back without hearing their claims, in other words a plan to stop the Mexican border crisis by enabling the government to reject everybody. It looked extremely serious to me; it looked as if it was going to end asylum in the US, not just at the Mexican border, and cooperation with the 1951 Geneva Convention altogether, forever.

It clearly violates US statute:

Is the new third country rule sound legally and from a policy perspective? First consider the law—specifically, the text and structure of the INA's detailed asylum provision, which by its terms allows "[a]ny alien" at a U.S. border to "apply for asylum" under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(1). Courts have read the asylum provision's reference to "any alien" broadly in the litigation over the administration’s asylum ban, which the new rule resembles. In the asylum ban lawsuit,  Judge Jay Bybee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit cited the breadth of this statutory language in declining to stay the district court's injunction against the asylum ban, which would have required a denial of asylum to foreign nationals who entered the United States at points along the southern border not officially designated to receive asylum seekers. Citing the asylum provision in the INA, Bybee noted that the statute expressly authorized claims by asylum seekers, "whether or not at a designated port of entry" (emphasis added).
That's a judge who got famous back in the day for sponsoring the view that the president was allowed to order torture during the War on Terror. If he thinks something exceeds the president's authority, it probably exceeds the president's authority.

So what I learn this morning, from a report originating on NPR, is that they actually haven't put the illegal new policy into effect, or rather they've only started "piloting" it, and they already know it's illegal. In the CNN version:
(CNN) - Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan on Thursday said a new asylum rule introduced earlier this week is in the "piloting" phase even as officials expect it to be blocked in court.
"Although the new federal regulation allows us to apply that all 2,000 miles along the southwest border, we're not going to do that. We're really piloting it in just one location," Morgan told NPR's All Things Considered. The regulation is being rolled out at two CBP stations in the Rio Grande Valley, he said.
Morgan appeared to acknowledge the rule could quickly be "enjoined" before it's implemented wider. "We're actually anticipating the ... regulation will be enjoined," he said. "And then we'll have to go from there, as unfortunately, many times, this happens."
Does that mean what I think it means? That if you're an asylum seeker in Texas looking for a CBP agent to surrender to there are a couple of agents who will tell you you're required to prove Mexico has already denied your application and the other ones won't? So that if you're in the El Paso region, say, running into an agent from Lordsburg might deport you immediately, while one from Clint could throw you into detention and one from El Paso proper could put you on a bus to your family in New Jersey or give you a court date six months down the line and tell you to go wait for it in Mexico? That they've just added another level of arbitrariness for the customers to be baffled by, until such time as a federal judge shuts it down, which should come any minute?

Yes, it's another chapter in the story of government by people desperate to keep the Emperor thinking he's in charge. It's Trumpy complaining that Congress won't rewrite asylum law and demanding that the henchmen come up with a workaround, and then them scrambling to find a move that will make him think he's being obeyed while changing the actual situation as little as possible.

It was another truly horrible idea, but it wasn't meant to be implemented. I guess the laugh's on me.

Cross posted at The Rectification of Names.


I'm out of here again. I'll be away until July 29, but the folks who kept you entertained and edified last weekend will be here, so stop by.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


The president is feigning contrition, as The New York Times reports:
President Trump on Thursday disavowed the “send her back” chant that broke out at his re-election rally Wednesday night when he railed against a Somali-born congresswoman, as Republicans in Congress tried to distance themselves and their party from the ugly refrain.

Mr. Trump said he “was not happy” with the chant and claimed that he had tried to cut it off, a claim contradicted by video of the event. Asked why he did not stop the chant, Mr. Trump said, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.” ...

“I was not happy with it,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday at the White House. “I disagree with it.”
The president is lying:
In fact, as the crowd roared “send her back,” Mr. Trump looked around and seemed to bask in the enthusiastic refrain.
He didn't speak for at least ten seconds as the crowd chanted.

A shrewd liar would have said he couldn't understand what the crowd was chanting. But Trump thinks he doesn't have to be shrewd, because his base loves him more every time he's accused of lying (or rabble-rousing, or racism).

Mainstream pundits and terrified Democrats fear that Trump will get away with this sort of thing indefinitely. Only Republicans seem to recognize that he's doing himself and his party damage:
Mr. Trump’s effort to distance himself from his own campaign rally reflected the misgivings of his allies. Republicans on Thursday pleaded privately with the White House to avoid allowing the party to be tied to the message embraced by the crowd in Greenville, N.C., even as they declined to criticize Mr. Trump....

“Those chants have no place in our party or our country,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, told reporters.

Those were almost the exact words used by Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, used earlier Thursday, when he repudiated the chant....
Have top Republicans really made Trump fearful of a repeat of this chant? It's possible. But I can't imagine Trump giving up on Omar and her fellow non-white female progressives in the House.

Trump won't even have to say anything critical about about Omar at his next rally -- the minute he mentions her name, the crowd will begin to chant, "Send her back!" The only way he can prevent that is not to name her at all. We'll know he got a good talking-to if he refrains from mentioning her altogether.

I can't see that happening. I imagine he'll say Omar's name, the chant will start, and with a mock-concerned look on his face and a barely concealed grin he'll tell the crowd, "No, no, no, we're not allowed to say that. We have to be politically correct." Everyone in attendance will know that what he really means is My handlers have fed me some P.C. bullshit about this, so I have to ask you to stop, but we all know that terror-loving bitch deserves it.

Or maybe he'll say, "There's a certain person (dramatic pause) whose name I'm not supposed to mention..." -- and soon the crowd will get the reference and start the chant, as Trump mock-protests.

I can't believe he'll give it up altogether. If he does, we'll know just how scared the Republicans are.


President Trump wants America to focus its attention on the allegedly radical, socialist, anti-Semitic policy positions of the four congresswomen known as the Squad. So how is Trump's attention-focusing project working out?

Let's look at some current headlines.

* AP: "Trump Leans On Issue of Race in Bid for a 2nd Term in 2020"

* Daily Beast: "Trump Rally Crowd Launches Into ‘Send Her Back’ Chant Over Ilhan Omar"

* Mediaite: "Trump Rally Crowd Chants ‘SEND HER BACK!’ as POTUS Tears Into Ilhan Omar"

* CNN: "'Send Her Back!' Chant Shows Trump's Ugly Plan to Get Reelected"

* New York Times:

What happened last night? At a rally, Trump attacked the members of the Squad, explaining why they're bad for America. What are we talking about today? Not the Squad. We're talking about Trump. We're talking about his supporters chanting "Send her back!" during Trump's attack on Ilhan Omar. We're talking about the racism, McCarthyism, and mob mentality of Trump and his base.

We're talking about Trump's racism for the fifth consecutive day.

A separate article in the Times tries to argue that the story of this week is Democratic failure, but this isn't what we're talking about -- in fact, it's all being buried by Trump's race-baiting:
But in recent days, thanks to Mr. Trump’s penchant for stirring up the hottest of political controversies and simmering divisions within their own ranks, House Democrats have not seemed to be able to get out of their own way. This week has been a case in point.

Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted a rush by Democratic leaders to press a resolution condemning him. The vote on the measure took place on Tuesday, and the floor debate devolved into an extraordinarily polarizing spectacle as Republicans and Democrats argued about whether it was appropriate for [Nancy] Pelosi to have branded the president’s tweets “racist.”

Then [Texas congressman Al] Green’s decision to force action on his impeachment resolution stretched the narrative into Wednesday, overshadowing marquee Democratic issues, including a vote this week to raise the minimum wage to $15 and one to repeal a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans.
But Democratic votes on bread-and-butter issues were being ignored even at times earlier this year when Trump wasn't trying to hog the spotlight. What's noteworthy right now is that the impeachment vote, which split the Democratic caucus, could have been today's lead story -- message: Dems are in disarray and Trump is triumphant -- but instead we're talking about the thuggish menace of Trump and his voters.

I see Republicans on TV desperately trying to argue that this is really all about the fear of socialism, but Trump just keeps making it personal -- it's all about attacking the members of the Squad, and it's all about sustaining his own pleasure in being the most important person in the news cycle.

Does this work on Trump's base the way he intends it to work? Sure. They're lying to themseves and insisting that the real issue is socialism or anti-Semitism or whatever. Race, they'll tell you, is the furthest thing from their minds. They're patriots, not a mob exulting in the idea of purging an undesirable. I'm sure they'd all tell you that.

But they were going to vote for Trump anyway. The rest of us are just being reminded every day of what Trump is like at his absolute worst.

A skilled demagogue could get out of his own way and let the anti-Squad talking points be the story. But Trump can't do that. He wants to be the center of attention. He wants to outrage his enemies and exult in the love of his mob.

He wants that too much. It's keeping him from getting his message out. All we're talking about is him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


If you're like me, you've encountered at least half a dozen variants of one particular bit of conventional wisdom, expressed here by Edward Luce of the Financial Times:
... there is method behind Mr Trump’s nastiness. His goal is to force Democrats to unite behind the so-called “Squad” of four non-white congresswomen, whose radicalism is not popular in the US heartlands. Most Americans are not socialist. Nor do they support paying reparations for slavery, or open borders. Most would probably be suspicious of a Green New Deal that aimed to abolish fossil fuels by 2030. These are the kinds of radical ideas Mr Trump wants to force Democrats to support.
See also Newt Gingrich, as quoted in the Washington Examiner:
... Gingrich said Trump wanted to raise the profile of his targets and to more closely link their socialist and anti-Israel policies with the Democratic Party.

"He wants the Democratic Party to identify with them," Gingrich said.

... Gingrich said uniting Democrats was the point.

"Pelosi in a sense was trying to draw a line and say, 'We are not them'. After Trump's tweet, she said, 'Oh, we really are them.' ..."
How do the people who say this believe Democrats think? Do they think an expression of solidarity for a fellow Democrat at a particular moment constitutes a pledge of undying loyalty?

That may be how the Republican Party operates right now in reference to Donald Trump. It's not how the Democratic Party operates. The Democratic Party isn't a personality cult.

In January, all the members of the Squad voted for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. It was moderates who voted against her. But now Pelosi is praising moderates and squabbling with progressives -- which didn't prevent her from conducting a vote to condemn Trump for his attacks on the Squad members, even though she'd previously pushed through a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry that was clearly a response to remarks from Squad member Ilhan Omar that had been condemned as insulting to Jews.

Allegiances shift, and that's reflected in the views of Democratic voters as well. How many of us cheered Pelosi when she outmaneuvered the president during the government shutdown, then began grumbling about her for bad-mouthing progressives and blocking impeachment efforts?

That's how Democrats are. We might act a tad culty in response to a president or presidential candidate, but that's not what's happening with the Squad. It's certainly not what's happening among Democratic officeholders. Republicans -- and observers who think the party head in the Oval Office is a genius -- clearly have the Democratic Party confused with the GOP and its Cult of Trump.


President Trump thought he was being a clever boy when he went to Twitter to tell the four members of "the Squad" to go back where they came from. On the New York Times op-ed page, there's widespread agreement that Trump was, in fact, pursuing a smart strategy.

Frank Bruni:
With his attack on the congresswomen ... he had specific goals. They’re all about the 2020 presidential campaign, which has now begun in full....

He wants to reframe it, so that he’s running not against whomever the Democrats wind up nominating but against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Against who they are individually. Against what they represent ideologically. Against what they telegraph about the demographic direction of the country and about a new distribution — a new sharing — of power.
Michelle Cottle:
Calling on these four women of color ... to “go back” to their home countries (though all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States), the president simultaneously denigrated them and elevated their political standing. In the process, he may well have hit upon the shiny new political foil that he has been searching for.

... If he wants a culture war, they will give him one, bringing the bellicose rhetoric and rallying their voters — and, yes, calling for his impeachment. Who better to fire up Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters?
Trump, using his sample set of one, thinks he knows everything there is to know about winning elections. We could write this off as Trumpian hubris, but much of the media suspects he's right. They think a base-only strategy could get him reelected.

Even I think that a base-only strategy might work. But it's one thing for Trump to fire up his base with the usual complaints about the media not giving him enough credit for the economy and Twitter using sinister algorithms to reduce the number of his followers. It's another thing for Trump to be this blatant in his racism. It doesn't work. Here's Bruni and Cottle's colleague Jamelle Bouie, in dialogue with Dave Weigel of The Washington Post:

The polls right now tell us that there's no benefit for Trump in this strategy. Reuters:
Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows.

The national survey ... showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm.

Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval - the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove - dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll.

Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.
And USA Today:
A clear majority of Americans say President Trump's tweets targeting four minority congresswomen were "un-American," according to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. But most Republicans say they agreed with his comments....

More than two-thirds of those aware of the controversy, 68%, called Trump's tweets offensive. Among Republicans alone, however, 57% said they agreed with tweets that told the congresswomen to go back to their "original" countries, and a third "strongly" agreed with them....

Independents by more than 2-1 said his tweets were "un-American." Three-fourths of the women polled called them offensive.
I'll repeat what I said yesterday: Trump can't possibly fire up his base more than he already has. They'll crawl through ground glass to vote for him. They're locked in. He's wasting energy selling them on a product they're already 100% certain to buy. It's not as if he can motivate them to vote for him more than once. But when he plays the race card this way, he motivates independents and women, including some who chose him in 2016, not to vote for him.

Trump's usual mode is barely concealed racism, but the Squad inspired him to dispense with even the tiny bit of deniability in his standard rhetoric. If he keeps up his vendetta against them in this way -- or if, perhaps, he's inspired to go full-on racist against, say, Kamala Harris if she's on the Democratic ticket -- I think he'll lose. The Squad may be the foil Trump wants, but what he wants might be the opposite of what he needs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


I didn't see this coming, though I probably should have:
Kellyanne Conway Snaps Back at Reporter: ‘What’s Your Ethnicity?’

When White House reporter Andrew Feinberg posed a question to Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday about the president’s racist tweets against the four congresswomen known as the “Squad,” he found himself taken aback by her response.

Feinberg, a reporter for the website, asked the White House counselor which countries President Donald Trump was referring to when he suggested Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—all U.S. citizens—should “go back” to where they came from.

Instead of answering that question, Conway asked him, “What’s your ethnicity?”

“Uh... why is that relevant?” Feinberg asked before Conway interrupted him to say, “Because I’m asking you a question.”

After Conway shares that her ancestors are from Ireland and Italy, the reporter said, “My ethnicity is not relevant to the question I’m asking you.”

Conway still would not answer Feinberg’s question, instead insisting that [the] question was relevant because Trump said “originally” from—he didn’t—and going on a rant about how “a lot of us are sick and tired in this country of America coming last” ...
It's not news that Conway would rather kneecap reporters than inform them of the truth. But she hasn't been in the habit of tossing ethnicity into the mix. That's been the president's specialty.

That, however, seems to be the Trump team's strategy for 2020: Everyone should become even more like Trump than they've been up to now. Everyone should scorch earth the way Trump does. Everyone should embrace Trump's obsessions, including his obsession with race.

A fair number of Americans voted for Trump in 2016 in the belief that he was putting on an act during the campaign and wouldn't be that bad as president. Unlike the diehards, these voters don't cheer every time Trump does something thuggish. They wish he wouldn't tweet. They wish he wouldn't set out to divide the country.

If everybody on Team Trump turns into Trump, those folks aren't going to be happy. I'm not saying they'll inevitably give the Democrats a landslide win. Maybe they just won't vote. I think Trump took the Electoral College last time because quite a few people who don't usually vote decided to vote for him. Can he win if they blow him off this time?

If you engender the kind of brand loyalty in certain customers that Trump has engendered in his most fervent supporters, maybe those customers will spend increasing amounts of money on your goods and services. But voting doesn't work like that. Every voter in the crazy base can vote only once. Whether he understands it or not, Trump has them. He can stop trying so hard to please them.

Because doing that is probably alienating his soft supporters. In 2020, he may well regret that.


The Washington Post Magazine has decided that Sebastian Gorka -- the Nazi-linked ex-Trump staffer who's now a talk-radio and cable demagogue -- was worthy of a soft, friendly feature interview. It starts out only mildly objectionable -- Gorka's first answer, to a question about his parents' emigration to Britain, starts as a story of oppression and then degenerates into a sort of wingnut Mad Lib.
If you’re the child of parents who suffered as children under a Nazi regime and fascist occupation, and as grown-ups your parents were then persecuted and imprisoned, my father tortured and imprisoned by the [Hungarian] communist dictatorship, it gives you an understanding that perhaps some Americans who are born here don’t have as deeply, and it’s the words of the great Ronald Reagan, that the loss of liberty, the extinction of liberty is always but one generation away. I realized that Reagan was right, that America is the shining city on the hill, and it’s the only nation in the history of mankind that was founded not as an accident of ethnicity or royal dynasty but was founded on the principle of individual liberty and freedom based upon the unalienable rights that we are granted by our creator. For me it was a love affair with what America stands for.
But soon we arrive at this:
Statistics show that more domestic attacks in the last decade have been committed by suspects inspired by ideologies associated with the right than by suspects inspired by radical Islamism, or by hatred coming from the left. Do you think we strike the right balance in our national vigilance?

I think if you read the article we posted about the falsification of data on white supremacist attacks in the United States at our website, there’s a sevenfold greater likelihood of you being attacked by a jihadi terrorist than by somebody from the right. I find the fact that all of these studies seem to measure the statistics the day after 9/11 — just happen to leave out the 3,000 people killed on that day — is so telling.
The link goes to Gorka's homepage, but the article he's citing compares apples and oranges. The article chides "the left-wing Anti-Defamation League" (ha!) for issuing
a report claiming that white supremacists “and other far-right extremists” were responsible for 59% of deaths in terror attacks in the United States in the year 2017. They noticeably keep their definition of “far-right” deliberately vague, later admitting that deaths caused exclusively by white supremacists made up just 52% (18 out of 34) of 2017’s terrorist fatalities.

The report added that this made 2017 the fifth-deadliest year of terrorist violence in the United States since 1970 – yet it isn’t difficult to guess the ideology responsible for the other four years that outrank 2017, which is probably why the ADL deliberately ignores the vast preponderance of jihadi attacks.
The ADL doesn't ignore jihadi attacks -- in fact, it acknowledges that the most deadly attack in 2017 was a jihadist vehicular attack on a bike path in Manhattan that killed eight people. Nevertheless, right-wing violence (which can include anti-government violence that isn't overtly white nationalist) is the leading cause of death by domestic terrorists year in and year out. (The 9/11 terrorists weren't domestic terrorists.) In fact, the percentage of domestic terror deaths caused by right-wingers was higher over the 2008-2017 period -- 71% -- than it was in 2017 alone.

And then there's this:
Who’s going to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and which of the Dems do you think would have the best chance against President Trump?

I think Joe Biden is probably going to be attacked even more viciously by the radical base, so Biden is going to be in trouble very soon as another old, rich white guy. I think if you look at the expression in her eyes, the glint in her eyes, the person who wants it the most, the person who’s probably going to fight the hardest, is Kamala Harris. So I think it’s maybe a toss-up between those two. When it comes to who’s going to be most effective against the president: none of them. I mean, when you’re running on a campaign of post-birth abortion, higher taxes, open borders, sanctuary and benefits for illegal aliens, voting rights for murderers and terrorists, I think none of the standing politicians on the left have a snowball’s chance.
Democrats don't support "post-birth abortion," as is made abundantly clear by this fact-check in ... The Washington Post. Nor do they support "open borders." Supporting what is in effect ordinary end-of-life care for terminally ill newborns, with the option of substituting palliative care for medical interventions that won't meaningfully extend life or contribute to its quality, is not the same as supporting "post-birth abortion." Supporting DACA and reasonable accommodations of migrants fleeing oppression is not the same as supporting "open borders."

But the Post Magazine just let Gorka lie like this -- no corrections, no footnotes. (Similar interviews in The New York Times Magazine have footnotes.) This is journalistic malpractice.


For the third straight day, President Trump is being bashed for racist tweets and remarks, while Trump's fellow Republicans are facing criticism for defending him or staying silent on the subject of his racism. It's a good moment for Democrats, but when it ends, they'll have to deal once again with the tensions between progressives and moderates that inspired Trump's Twitter rant on Sunday. Future Democratic disagreements are likely, and they'll inevitably be followed by "Democrats in disarray" stories in the mainstream media.

When the next cycle occurs, Democrats should use an old political cliché in their party's defense: We're arguing with one another because we're a big-tent party.

Before Trump ended the feuding between Nancy Pelosi and the progressives known as the Squad, that's what Pelosi should have said. It might even make sense for her to say it now. She could say,
Of course we have disagreements among ourselves -- we're a big-tent party, unlike the Republican Party, where if you disagree with the president you're subject to a Stalinist purge. We welcome a range of opinion. We argue, and sometimes it gets heated. But if you attack us, we're like family -- we'll defend one another. We won't throw our Democratic colleagues completely under the bus the way the president does whenever a fellow Republican criticizes him.
I'm so old I remember when progressive Democrats were accused of engaging in a Stalinist purge for running a primary challenger against Senator Joe Lieberman. A few years later, when the Tea Party started doing the same thing to Republican incumbents, it was treated as just good old American grassroots activism -- disconcerting for the incumbents, who were Beltway reporters' friends, and perhaps dangerous for the GOP, but certainly not totalitarian.

Now Trump makes any Republican who turns against him an unperson, yet no one calls that totalitarian. Democrats should. At the same time, they should portray their intramural arguing as a strength, not a weakness. The cliché is available to them. They should use it.

Monday, July 15, 2019


If you're like me, you think of the Democratic Party as well-meaning but ineffectual and hapless. To Rush Limbaugh, however, it's all-powerful, or nearly so. Were Democrats committing slow-motion suicide last week when a full-scale civil war broke out within the party? Was the party in the process of ruining its chances in 2020? Limbaugh doesn't think so, as he explained on the radio today:
One theory holds that the Democrats have this internecine war going, and that they’re self-destructing and you’ve got these young Squad members taking shots at Pelosi and that the Democrat Party is disunified and unraveling and then Trump comes along and unifies them....

There’s all kinds of people out there on our side saying, “Oh, my God. Trump did the worst thing he could do! He has unified the Democrats!” Folks, the Democrats are already unified against Trump. I don’t care about this circular firing squad they’ve got going on. They’re unified against Trump. When it comes to the 2020 election, there isn’t gonna be any circular fire squad. Now, there will be up until then, and who knows how much damage they’re gonna do to each other on the Democrat side in the interim.

But they’re always gonna be unified against Trump.

There’s nothing that’s gonna bust up that unity.
Many of us believe that our voters are extraordinarily fickle -- we have to beg and plead with them in order to keep them from migrating to the other side. Limbaugh assures us that that's nonsense:
People are living in fantasyland if you think that something can be done, that Trump could adopt a demeanor or behavior that might have some Democrats actually turn up to support him in 2020. Come on, folks. That’s simply not gonna happen.
And many of us also believe that Trump is skillfully manipulating the media with his racist tweets, which the media will retransmit in exactly the way Trump intended. Again, Limbaugh tells us that the deck is, in fact, stacked against his own party:
... I’m sorry, but if we haven’t learned by now that trying to tailor what we think and what we do and what we don’t do and what we don’t say we think and what policies and issues we do or do not put forward because of the media’s reaction to it, then we may as well surrender, we may as well just cave, because the media’s never gonna be on our side.
With his sense of hopeless and doom, Limbaugh almost sounds like a Democrat.

Well, not exactly, because he believes in the power of right-wing media to disseminate an alternate point of view. ("Trump did not mention race. Trump did not even mention color! Trump did not mention people of color! Trump did not tell anybody to go home!" he says.) And he believes, of course, that Trump is playing eleventy-billion-dimensional chess:
... I think Trump sees this rift developing between Pelosi and the Democrat leadership and these new communists on the left led by Cortez, and I think he wants them back together again. I don’t think Trump likes the rift. I think Trump wants the Democrat Party to become known as the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal socialism party. I think he wants to hang that label around all of them, and for that to happen they have to be unified.

In other words, Trump wants Pelosi and the Democrat leadership to adopt the socialism and communism of Cortez and her Squad and whoever else in her little movement is pushing it. That’s what Trump wants, ’cause that can’t lose. Trump cannot lose running against the Democrat Party, which is openly socialist, openly communist, led by young, aspiring anti-Americans. I don’t think he likes the rift. I think he wanted to [mend] the rift, he wanted ’em put back together again because he’s salivating running against the Democrat Party as a modern-day Communist Party or socialism party in America.

So he tweets what he tweets, and the results were totally predictable. And now the Democrats claim that their rift has been healed, and they’re out there claiming Trump has unified the Democrats. Trump really screwed up, they say. He really unified the Democrats. Well, what if that’s exactly what Trump wanted with the unification being that Cortez and her Squad will now define what the Democrat Party is?
Many of us think this moment of unity is just temporary, and we'll be feuding again, because we're Democrats and we're self-sabotaging -- but to Limbaugh, this is likely to be a permanent cessation of hostilities, because, after all, we're 100% united against Trump. (Me, I'm just holding my breath and waiting for Salon or Jacobin to publish the first piece titled "The Progressive Case for a Second Trump Term.") He thinks it's brilliant that Trump persuaded us to unite as commies, whereas I'm not even certain that the party will fully unite if Elizabeth Warren, who doesn't even call herself a socialist, is our nominee.

Limbaugh thinks Trump has pushed us permanently to the left. I don't think so. He believes we're a united anti-Trump force. I hope so, but I'm not betting the rent on it. And he thinks Trump can't get a break from the mainstream media. That's hilarious.


Great work from Yastreblyansky and Tom this weekend. I'll try to maintain the high standards, but it won't be easy.

While I was away, President Trump attacked four non-white progressive congresswomen on Twitter and told them to go back where they came from. (Three were born in America and the fourth is a naturalized citizen.) Some media reports said that the identity of his intended targets was unclear, but it really wasn't:

I'm fascinated by the number of conservatives who cringed when this happened, convinced that Trump had badly damaged himself and his party, while liberals cowered in fear, certain that Trump was playing a brilliant game of eleven-dimensional chess. Here's a post at RedState:
Democrats are collapsing in on themselves. All he has to do was sit back and not distract them. Instead he rips his shirt off and runs out on the battlefield screaming to be shot at. I know, 3-D chess and all that, but this just makes no sense....

All Trump has to do is play to his strengths, i.e. the economy and immigration, and he wins. But he just can’t stop stepping on his own feet. When your enemies are blasting each other, you don’t step in between them and beg to be shot in head. Yet, that’s exactly what Trump did here.

Instead of another week of AOC and Pelosi bad mouthing each other, we get a return to a unified Democrat front and multiple news cycles calling Republicans racists.

If Trump loses in 2020, it won’t be Paul Ryan’s fault, the Republican party’s fault, or the media’s fault. It’ll be a defeat that was wholly self-inflicted because he refused to practice any semblance of self-control when it comes to his personality.
And here's Mike Allen at Axios:
Conservatives who reluctantly support President Trump often try to pretend the daily outrage didn't happen, but yesterday's "go back" tweets were like his "both sides" comment on Charlottesville — a transgression that won't instantly fade, and can't be laughed off.

The bottom line: Trump is all-in on us-versus-them politics and does not care if he occasionally crosses the line into racism. Trump allies expect this to get worse, not better....

* "Republicans with a conscience are cringing," a Trump ally said. "He believes the more he puts 'The Squad' front and center, the better his re-election chances get."

* A former White House official tried to explain Trump for a couple of texts and then just said: "It's insane."
But in the same Mike Allen post, there's this:
* One influential Democrat told me Trump had achieved a tactical win — stoking both his own base and Dems' internal tensions: "His view is that he simply cannot go too far. The line doesn’t exist. ... I'm very worried."
And a liberal Bloomberg columnist tweets:

I think we'll come out of this week with most voters pretty much where they were a week ago. I don't think this will have the same impact as his Charlottesville remarks, which caused a drop in his poll numbers.

But I'm also thinking: If Trump is doing this now, 16 months before the election, how inflammatory will his rhetoric be by the fall of 2020? He thinks he's bulletproof. He thinks he's an expert on winning elections, based on a sample set of one, and is certain that this (rather than Russian interference of James Comey's incompetence) is what worked for him.

But it alienates suburban swing voters, especially women. There's been a very slight but perceptible uptick in his poll numbers lately, and it may coincide with Democrats dominating more of the news cycle of late. On Fox recently, Howard Kurtz discussed this thesis, which was advanced in a Megan McArdle op-ed in The Washington Post. Trump might have watched Kurtz and, instead of saying to himself, "Yes, if I just maintain a Rose Garden strategy I'll cruise to reelection," thought instead, "WAAAHHHH! THEY'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO ME!"

Keep it up, Mr. President.