Wednesday, January 31, 2018


With all the other news right now, you probably missed this:
White House chief of staff John Kelly, in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Radio, said the California teacher who has made headlines for bashing the military in a profane classroom rant should “go to hell” ....

“Well, I think the guy ought to go to hell,” Kelly, a retired Marine general, told host Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday in a post-State of the Union interview. “I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyle that we have fought for.”
Yes, the president had just delivered his State of the Union address, which you'd think the White House would want to be the main story, and there was Kelly giving an interview (on Fox News Radio) to Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends, the most Trump-friendly program on television with the possible exception of Sean Hannity's show. According to Fox, Kelly talked about the Nunes memo (which he promised would be released soon), the U.S. military campaign against ISIS (going great, Kelly says) ... and this teacher, "who has made headlines."

What -- you didn't notice the headlines? They were all over ... um, Fox News. But Fox tells us that the teacher was quickly dealt with:
The Southern California teacher facing a firestorm after he was recorded by a student bashing the military in a profane classroom rant has been placed on administrative leave and removed from all assignments he'd be given as a city councilman.

Gregory Salcido, the El Rancho High School teacher and elected Pico Rivera city councilman, will not be able to enter the classroom while school officials conduct an investigation into the recording, the Whittier Daily News reported late Monday....

His anti-military rant has also resulted in his removal from all Pico Rivera City Council committee assignments, CBS2 Los Angeles reported.
So what did Salcido say?
In the recordings, Salcido is heard asking students in his government class why they would want to serve in the military overseas.

“Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumbs‑‑‑s. They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people. They’re the lowest of our low.”
I understand why that would give offense. But the authorities have intervened. Also, it's a local story. It's certainly not worth the attention of the White House chief of staff.

Kilmeade would never do anything that ran counter to what the White House considers its best interests. He's essentially a part of Team Tump. That means that Team Trump wanted news of Kelly punching down to run today, of all days, at least in the right-wing press, because even the day after the State of the Union address, Team Trump and the right-wing media need to slake the mob's insatiable hunger for enemies -- even low-level, completely neutralized enemies. Because that's the whole point of conservatism now.


President Trump spoke for eighty minutes last night ... and nobody in the right-wing media appears to have any interest whatsoever in any policy position he articulated during his speech. The only concern on the right is whether liberals were angry or upset.

The train crash involving Republican members of Congress has now become the lead story at Fox News Insider, but below that, here are the headlines:

Opinions on the immigration proposal? On a possible infrastructure plan? On the economic boasting? Nobody at Fox cares, apparently. It's all about how awful Democrats are.

Same thing at Gateway Pundit, where the lead story is:

Apart from that, there isn't another mention of the State of the Union until you get to the #8 story on the front page -- and then the stories are either about triggered political enemies ("'I'm Gonna Go Curl Up in the Fetal Position': POTUS Trump’s SOTU Address Leaves CNN Commentator in Shambles"; "Democrats at SOTU Refuse to Applaud to: Record Low Unemployment, Employee Bonuses, National Anthem, Secure Border, Jerusalem...") or presumably delighted fans ("President Trump’s SOTU Speech a Huge Hit! Even the CNN Snap Poll Was Off the Charts!"; "POTUS TRUMP ROCKS TWITTER! 4.5 Million State of the Union Tweets During Speech Smashes Record").

Breitbart doesn't care about the speech's content either. Here's Breitbart's lead story:

And among Breitbart's "trending stories," there's only one that's about the State of the Union:
Why do right-wingers want control of the government when they have absolutely no interest in what it does?


The State of the Union address was last night, and I'm pleasantly surprised at the tone of mainstream coverage. Many of us have spent days anticipating that Trump would read a mostly reasonable-sounding speech off a Teleprompter and then the press would swoon, in anticipation of a pivot to bipartisanship and maturity that, of course, will never arrive. I think our complaints were heard in newsrooms, or maybe the red-meat parts of Trump's speech were just too divisive, or perhaps, after a year of Trump as president, the press has learned that any seemingly good behavior won't last. Whatever the reason, the coverage today is surprisingly skeptical.

Here's CNN's front page right now:

Here's the editorial-page lineup as it appears on the front page of the New York Times site:

Peter Baker's front-page analysis of the speech in the Times is wary:
When he took office, President Trump painted a bleak picture of a country ravaged by economic turmoil, a landscape of “American carnage,” as he so memorably put it. A year later, he presented the nation on Tuesday night with a different narrative, one of a booming economy and a “new American moment.”

The stock market has “smashed one record after another.” Retirement accounts have “gone through the roof.” Companies are “roaring back” to the United States. “We haven’t seen this in a long time,” he exulted from the rostrum of the House chamber as he delivered his first formal State of the Union address. “It’s all coming back.”

Never mind that in some fundamental ways the economy is growing no faster than it did at points during President Barack Obama’s second term. Mr. Trump is at heart a salesman, and he rarely lets details get in the way of a good story. And by some measures, he has managed to convince many Americans, especially corporate leaders, that the economy really is surging in a way it has not for years.

The challenge for Mr. Trump is that even as he sells the economy with the fervor of a real estate developer, he has not been able to sell himself. His approval ratings remain at historic depths, and effectively unchanged after a year in office. His success at passing tax cuts and the continued progress of the economy he inherited have not changed the dismal views that a sizable majority of Americans hold of their president.
At Politico, John Harris and Matthew Nussbaum suggest that they wish they could believe, but they know it's futile:
Think of it as the What-If Presidency.

What if he had not spent a year compulsively lashing his opponents and taking steel wool to the country’s cultural, ideological and racial wounds? What if a special prosecutor did not have his sights locked on the administration over possible electoral collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice?

And what if—perhaps the biggest stretch of all—Trump somehow brought to heel the impulsiveness and improvisation that define his politics and replaced these, even partly, with strategic purpose?

The 80 minutes Trump stood at the House Speaker’s lectern suggest an answer: He would be in a commanding position in American politics after one year in power, with his own party firmly locked down and Democrats on the defensive.

The speech also illuminated how well-positioned he would be to fortify his standing in the year ahead.
Is that true? Would a president who'd pushed through an agenda as conservative as Trump's but who wasn't like Trump be riding high in public opinion now? The press surely would have been more willing to sell that hypothetical president to us, and much of America might have been ready to buy.

But Trump is a tough sell:
Okay, now. Time to snap out of it.

The upbeat view of Trump’s potential ... requires willfully ignoring other political and psychological realities.

... The psychological reality, as many of the Republicans tied most closely to Trump well know, is that he could not stay in State of the Union mode—or stay away from Twitter tirades—if he tried.

Trump may have been disciplined during the State of the Union speech, said a senior GOP leadership aide on Capitol Hill – but, this person added, “None of that matters if he goes back and tweets crazy shit.”
The front page of the Washington Post site gives us this:
President Trump, whose first year in office saw near-constant turmoil and division, issued a call for unity in his address. But the tone was sharply at odds with the combative manner in which he has conducted his presidency — and the tension between Republicans and Democrats was evident as Trump spoke.
In the Post's lead story, the speech is already subsumed by other events:
President Trump’s call for unity ran headlong Wednesday into the divided politics of the moment, as Democrats redoubled criticism of his policies and apparent promises by Trump to release a controversial Republican memo alleging abuses by the Department of Justice.

Trump, speaking to Congress Tuesday night in his first State of the Union address, set an ambitious agenda and called for the two parties to come together to better serve the public. His remarks were sharply at odds with the combative manner in which Trump has conducted his presidency so far.

Walking off the House floor after his speech, Trump was caught on video telling Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) that he would “100 percent” release a classified GOP-drafted memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI.
The speech didn't work. Apart from the deplorables, the plutocrats, and the pols who gull the former on behalf of the latter, nobody fell for it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Here's something President Trump said in a lunch with correspondents today:
“I've really learned a lot,” the president said of his first year in office during a lunch with television correspondents ahead of his first State of the Union address. “You know, governing — when you're a businessperson, you don't have to worry about your heart, the heart. You really do what's best for almost purely monetary reasons. You know, you make your money. You competing against people. In many cases, you don't like them, you want to beat, and all that stuff.”

He continued: “So having a business background and a successful business background is great, but oftentimes you do things that you would never do in business because you have to also govern with heart.”
Did it really take him a year to learn that about governing? No, not really, because he gave the same answer to John Dickerson of CBS in late April:
JOHN DICKERSON: What's the difference between negotiating in Washington versus negotiating in business?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think the big difference is, for what we're doing here, Washington, you really need heart, because you're talking about a lot of people. Whereas business, you don't need so much heart. You want to make a good deal.
So did I miss the moments between the spring and now when Trump governed with heart? He'd clearly learned that heart is necessary for governing at least seven months ago. So where was the heart? Can you name any heart-driven moments in Trump's first year in office? I can't. I'm stumped.


NPR's Mara Liasson is often far less awful than you'd expect an ex-Foxer to be, but today, in a commentary on the state of America, she gave us some deep, deep bothsiderism:

Lamenting America's political "tribalism," Liasson said:
Tribalism is related to another problem in American politics: a blurring of the lines between opinion and fact, what the RAND Corporation in a recent study called "truth decay," whether it's liberals rejecting the safety of vaccines, conservatives rejecting evidence of Barack Obama's birth certificate, or conspiracy theories embraced at the highest levels of government.
Liasson is straining to keep this balanced: I've got one from the liberals, one from the conservatives, and one unspecified. Except, of course, the unspecified one refers to our Republican president, so it's two to one. And those liberal vaccine skeptics? I've been known to bash them, too, but liberals don't have a monopoly on vaccine trutherism.

Based on data released in 2014, here were the eleven states in which vaccine exemption rates for kindergartners exceeded 4%. Alex Berezow, writing Real Clear Science, appended each state's winning presidential candidate in 2012 and the candidate's margin of victory:

I see five blue states, four red states ... and two states, Wisconsin and Michigan, that were blue in 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016. So this is a bipartisan phenomenon. Also, one of the bluest states, California, passed a law in 2015 eliminating personal vaccine exemptions. Although parents who distrust vaccines are still finding a way around the law, vaccination rates reached an all-time high. That's how a liberal state dealt with its "truth decay" problem. Republicans dealt with theirs by choosing America's most famous birther as their presidential nominee and then electing him president.

(Washington State passed a similar law in 2012.)

More from Liasson:
If Democrats and Republicans can't agree on whether the planet is getting warmer or whether inner-city crime is going down, it's impossible to have a debate about solutions.
Do I have to explain what's wrong with this? According to Liasson, the problem is that the two parties can't agree -- not that Democrats believe the facts and Republicans believe fairy tales. The planet is warming -- that's objective fact. Democrats believe it. Republicans don't. Over the past couple of decades, inner-city crime has dropped dramatically, although there have been recent increases in some cities. Democrats acknowledge both the long-term pattern and the short-term reversals in some locales. Republicans cry "American carnage!" and claim that our cities are apocalyptic hellholes.

Liasson quotes William Galston of the Brookings Institution:
The percentage of Republicans who view Democrats as a threat to the Republic and vice versa has soared in recent years and now exceeds a majority in both tribes.
She says:
Many Republicans felt that way about Barack Obama. Many Democrats feel that way about Donald Trump.
But the Republicans who felt that way were wrong. After eight years of Obama, the Republic still stands. The damage they claimed to expect never materialized. It's impossible for any rational person to look back on the Obama presidency as an assault on America's laws and governing norms. The same can't be said about the Trump presidency.

Liasson ends with a note of hope:
Whether you're a woman or from an immigrant community running [for office] for the first time or a white working-class Trump supporter who voted for the first time two years ago, this renewed sense of civic responsibility is the first step to making the state of our politics less broken.
Yes, these people were clearly trying to make our politics "less broken":

I feel more optimistic already.


We'll get to read the Nunes memo soon:
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee ... voted Monday evening to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.

... Mr. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to try to block it from going public. The White House has repeatedly indicated that it wants the memo out....
I don't think Trump will okay the release of the memo today -- he won't want it to steal the spotlight from his State of the Union address. We all know what's going to expect: Trump will deliver a speech full of insincere bipartisanship and mainstream commentators will praise the address as mature and presidential. By tomorrow morning, or maybe the morning after that, Trump will be back in angry-crank-on-the-sofa mode, angrily banging out angry tweets based on his TV viewing.

That's the pattern every time Trump delivers a measured Teleprompter speech, though it's clear that this isn't effective for him -- he engenders some goodwill among skeptics, then immediately fritters it away. But I think he enjoys it. It must be a double dopamine rush for him: He's still on the high from being praised on CNN and Morning Joe and then, before that high wears off, he gets an extra jolt from rallying his base. It's like an ego speedball.

Usually Trump spoils the kumbaya mood with a gut-level attack on an enemy chosen on impulse (or based on whatever Fox happens to program). But this year he's scheduling the 180 -- he's going to approve the release of the Nunes memo right after the State of the Union. I don't know whether this was worked out in advance by his team and congressional Republicans, but it suggests that people other than Trump think these apparent wild mood swings on Trump's part are politrically effective. Aides and congressional allies seem to believe that the uptick in Trump's approval will inspire the public to say, Yes, our popular, admirable president thinks the release of this memo is a good thing, therefore it must be a truthful memo, and the accusations in it must be very damning.

I don't think that's how public opinion works in the Trump era -- he's still a very unpopular president -- but hey, we'll see.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Well, this was inevitable:
Former Gov. Chris Christie has landed a TV gig, NJ Advance Media has learned.

Christie has been hired as an occasional contributor to ABC News, according to sources familiar with the discussions....

Christie was chosen because he is close to the president and the players inside the White House, a source said. ABC News is gearing up coverage for the midterm elections in Washington, and value his perspective on Trump voters.
That's only part of the reason. He's also been hired because the New York-area chapter of the news media's boys' club still likes Christie's goombah style and assumes everyone else does. Also, like Newt Gingrich, Christie has mastered the art of being a right-wing asshole but an articulate-seeming one. The mainstream media loves that. The MSM also appreciates the fact that Christie, like Gingrich, expresses his disdain for the non-conservative press by trying to get exposure in it as often as humanly possible.

I told you last July that Christie would survive. Here's part of what I wrote at a moment that seemed like the last straw for New Jersey residents:
You may have concluded that Chris Christie, who was already America's most unpopular governor, is surely going to driven from public life after his most recent act of arrogance -- luxuriating on a state-run beach after allowing beaches and parks to be closed to the public for most of the Fourth of July weekend. But a Washington Post article by the usually reliable Robert Costa reminds us that the press is always willing to put in a kind word for Christie....

Start with Costa's headline:
Chris Christie flew close to the sun. Now, he sits under it, defiantly.
There it is -- the word "defiantly." You may think that Christie has humiliated himself with this beach appearance, but this suggests that he's standing tall and daring haters to hate.

Yes, Costa tells us that Christie's "prominent profile has all but drifted away following years of defeats and humiliations" -- but the undercurrent of admiration for Christie's bullheadedness is unmistakable:
Sporting floppy sandals and a baseball cap, Christie unapologetically lounged in the sun with his family at a state-owned beach house amid a statewide government shutdown that closed such beaches to the public. The scene — captured in airplane photographs snapped by the state’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger — again revealed the indifferent defiance that has both lifted and hobbled Christie’s political career.

... the pictures of him among the dunes at Island Beach State Park were a reflection of who he has always been: a flawed brawler who relishes the limelight and who deliberately ignores decorum.
(Emphasis added, here and throughout.)

Even a list of Christie's most offensive acts is introduced with a reference to his "swagger."
Similar stories of his swagger are legion. Christie used to take a 55-foot-long State Police helicopter to his son’s baseball games. He was asked to give the keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention but uttered only a few words about the party’s standard-bearer, Mitt Romney. Christie’s taste for luxury travel has been funded by foreign leaders and a casino magnate. And his time in the owner’s box cheering on his beloved Dallas Cowboys sparked a flurry of ethics questions.

Yet Christie has not been humbled by his waning support or inclined to keep a lower profile as he serves out his final months. Instead, he has been as dismissive and as unflinching as ever.
... Once he's out of office, he'll still be a frequent Sunday talk show guest, assuming he doesn't sign an exclusive commentary deal with Fox (although these days obnoxious Republicans are just as likely to wind up on MSNBC).... In a few years, his appalling record as governor will be memory-holed by the press and his party. We'll be reading stories titled "Chris Christie: Survivor." We'll be expected to forget that we ever hated him.
I got the network wrong, but I got a lot right.


Fox's Todd Starnes is getting some attention for this thoughtful, closely reasoned opinion piece:
If Pelosi brings 'Dreamers' to the State of the Union, Trump should bring ICE agents

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a number of other Democrats plan to fill the House gallery with illegal aliens when President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address on Tuesday.

ABC News reports at least 24 House Democrats plan to bring illegals -- the so-called "Dreamers" -- to watch the Tuesday night speech from the House gallery.

... Pelosi has decided to turn the U.S. Capitol into a sanctuary - a safe haven - for people who are living in our nation illegally.

In response, President Trump should fill the remainder of the House gallery with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Imagine the message he could send to the world if he directed ICE agents to arrest every illegal alien in the House chamber - live on national television.
Yes, imagine the reaction if there were arrests of young people whose desire to stay in America legally is endorsed by at least 70% of Americans.

But here's a line in the Starnes piece that makes me think:
The illegal aliens will be sitting in seats that in previous years were meant for brave military heroes, law-abiding taxpayers and America's best and brightest.
"America's best and brightest"? Let me remind you that in the Obama years, seats have also been reserved by Republicans for anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis (in 2016) and, three years earlier, for gun absolutist Ted Nugent, who attended the speech sixty days after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Which leads me to wonder: Who would get Republican invitations to a Hillary Clinton State of the Union address? I'm imagining a GOP in which the narrowly defeated Donald Trump (who probably still would not have conceded) is still the most popular figure among Republican voters, most of whom want him to avenge his loss in 2020. I'm imagining that he would have the spent the last year arguing on Twitter that the GOP Congress's many investigations of Hillary Clinton vindicate his attacks on her throughout 2016.

So who? Paula Jones? Juanita Broaddrick? Oh definitely. Who else? In honor of the #MeToo movement, probably a Harvey Weinstein victim or two, because that scandal would have been deemed a Clinton scandal first and foremost by Trump and congressional Republicans.

I'm sure there'd be a relative of a Benghazi victim (oh, wait, there already was one in 2014), and perhaps a relative of someone killed by an undocumented immigrant (whoops -- the mother of a teenager killed by MS-13 members on Long Island will attend at the president's invitation this year).

Or maybe no Republican would attend the speech. Susan Collins might have spent days publicly mulling it over, but in the end, yes, she'd join the boycott. Never mind -- I think that's what would have happened this year if Hillary were president.


Cue the righteous indignation:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may already have a Grammy to her name, but on Sunday night she jokingly auditioned for the role of narrator to "Fire and Fury," Michael Wolff's insider account of drama in President Donald Trump's White House.

"He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade," the former Democratic presidential candidate read from the book, before Grammy host James Corden told her she had the award "in the bag."

Along with Clinton, Corden's bit of searching for the best narrator of Wolff's book included Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, DJ Khaled and other stars.
It's really a very mild comedy bit.

But our U.N. ambassador decided to weigh in:

I don't remember Haley complaining about this in 2013:
Viewers who tuned in to watch the 47th Annual Country Music Association Awards, held Wednesday night in Nashville, might have confused the show with a roast of ObamaCare. Country music’s hottest stars had a bone to pick with the faulty website.

CMA Awards host Brad Paisley jokingly told his co-host Carrie Underwood that his back hurt and he needed to see a doctor. Underwood asked the singer if he had signed up for ObamaCare.

“ObamaCare, what’s that?” Paisley asked Underwood.

“Oh, it’s great!” Underwood quipped. “I started signing up last Thursday and I’m almost done!” The “Blown Away” singer proceeded to help her co-host sign up for ObamaCare and “join the six other people” who have reportedly signed up successfully for the healthcare service.

The routine had the Nashville audience clapping their hands to the tune of newly crowned entertainer of the year George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” but with the words changed to “ObamaCare by morning/ Why’s this taking so long?/ I’m going to end up with hemorrhoids/If I sit here ’til dawn.”

And, of course, no member of Obama's administration attacked the CMAs for that.

And no Democrat in public office is complaining about this:
Joy Villa turned up at the 60th Grammy Awards in a dress meant to make a statement. The singer wore a white wedding dress that she hand-painted with the image of a fetus surrounded by a rainbow paired with a purse that read "choose life."

... Villa, who made a name for herself at last year's Grammys with a "Make America Great Again" dress, paired her Pronovias dress with a tiara and sparkling jewlery.
Villa is a Fox favorite and is looking at a publicity-stunt run for Congress in Florida. (She grew up in California and now lives in New York, after stops in Seattle and Las Vegas, but if she wants to district-shop, hey, it's a free country.)

I know Haley is upset because Michael Wolff has insinuated -- not in the text of the book -- that someone is having an affair with the president right now, and the insinuation seems to point to her. I can understand why that would anger her. She's addressed that directly, and her outrage has been covered respectfully by the non-conservative press.

But that's not why people are reading the book. It's not why the book has driven so much conversation. The quoted material in the Grammy sketch didn't touch on any Trump sex rumors.

But I imagine that the next sound you'll hear is the right-wing media declaring that Hillary Clinton is part of a "war on women" because she read from a book by a guy who indirectly smeared our female UN ambassador (even though Clinton read a passage about burgers and Trump's alleged poisoning phobia). And the right-wing audience will believe it.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


I have a few random random thoughts about this Washington Post story:
On Wednesday, as Republicans were clamoring to make public a secret document they think will undercut the investigation into Russian meddling, President Trump made clear his desire: Release the memo.

Trump’s directive was at odds with his own Justice Department, which had warned that releasing the classified memo written by congressional Republicans would be “extraordinarily reckless” without an official review. Nevertheless, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly relayed the president’s view to Attorney General Jeff Sessions — although the decision to release the document ultimately lies with Congress.

Kelly and Sessions spoke twice that day — in person during a small-group afternoon meeting and over the phone later that evening — and Kelly conveyed Trump’s desire, a senior administration official said.
Do you think Trump discussed this at any length with anyone in his administration who has relevant expertise? I don't -- I think it's more likely that he discussed this with Mar-A-Lago guests, or the New York real estate moguls he chats with on his cell every day. Of course, the key advisers who had the most influence on this decision aren't named in the Post story -- Sean Hannity and the hosts of Fox & Friends. But maybe that just goes without saying now.

Do you think Trump has read the memo, or sought a chance to read it? I don't know the protocol on this, but it seems obvious to me that, say, Richard Nixon would have read the memo by now, either clandestinely or (if he'd been fortunate enough to have a bootlicker like Devin Nunes in charge of the House committee ostensibly investigating him) openly, by invitation. But I assume Trump is just like any other angry white guy on the couch watching Fox -- he knows this thing is dynamite, and he wants it out right now so true patriots like him can know the full measure of the Deep State's evil, but getting to read it now never occurs to him as a possibility.

The memo will, inevitably, be made public. Do you think Trump will even read it then? I doubt it -- the memo four whole pages, and probably includes few if any pictures. Also, it reportedly alludes to other documents to which Trump, as president, presumably has access, but which would bore and confuse him. Reading is hard! He'll never read it -- he'll declare it a smoking gun, but he'll never get through it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Maureen Dowd has returned from an extended absence and gives us a column praising Melania Trump. (There seems to be a lot of that going around on the New York Times op-ed page.) I'm not going to address Dowd's main points, which I'm sure will be dissected elsewhere. I just want to draw your attention to this passage:
Barack Obama was always calling to our better angels. Donald Trump is paying off porn stars and denigrating struggling countries that send minorities to the U.S. as “shitholes.” How did we drop so far and so fast from class to crass?
Really? Maureen Dowd now looks back on the presidency of Obama and is nostalgic for a man who "was always calling to our better angels"?

That's not exactly what she said in real time. Here's Dowd in October 2013, just after a Republican effort to defund Obamacare went down to defeat:
At his victory scold in the State Dining Room on Thursday, the president ... couldn’t resist taking a holier-than-thou tone toward his tail-between-their-legs Tea Party foes. He assumed his favorite role of the shining knight hectoring the benighted: Sir Lecturealot.

“All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict,” he sermonized....

Sir Lecturealot ... always manages to convey tedium at the idea that he actually has to persuade people to come along with him, given the fact that he feels he’s doing what’s right....

He thinks he can come down from above, de haut en bas, and play the great reconciler....
How did we drop so far and so fast from class to crass? One contributing factor was the tendency of people like Maureen Dowd to describe the last president as effete, aloof, uppity, above it all. Here she was in 2010:
Obama can connect with policy. He just can’t connect with the objects of policy. Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice.

He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed “bitter” during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.
Well, now we have a president who never addresses working-class voters, or anyone else, as if he's trying to appeal to their better angels. In fact, he unabashedly appeals to their worse angels. Maureen, you should be pleased. Isn't this what you wanted?


In The New York Times, Bret Stephens reviews the many conspiracy theories pro-Trump Republicans believe and notes something odd about the paranoia:
None of this would have surprised [Richard] Hofstadter, whose essay ["The Paranoid Style in American Politics"] traces the history of American paranoia from the Bavarian Illuminati and the Masons to New Dealers and Communists in the State Department....

Then again, Hofstadter might have been surprised to find that the party of conspiracy is also the party of government. The paranoid style, he noted, was typically a function of powerlessness. “Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed.”

Today, Republicans control every branch of government, and nearly every aspect of the Russia investigation. Robert Mueller, a Republican, was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another Republican, and a Trump appointee. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, supposedly accuses the F.B.I. of anti-Trump perfidies in a secret four-page memo, but he won’t share the memo with the director of the F.B.I. — who’s also a Trump appointee.

Even paranoids, it turns out, have friends.
But the Trump cult -- which is the bulk of the Republican Party -- doesn't really believe it's in power. The movement right rarely does. When George W. Bush had sky-high approval ratings and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, the right endlessly scoured the horizon looking for traitorous entertainers, college professors, and news executives, all of whom were believed to have the power to bring the entire GOP edifice tumbling down. (Bush ultimately managed that all by himself, with help from loyalists in his administration. They accomplished this not by undermining the Bush agenda, buty by implementing it. Their decisions in Iraq and financial oversight did them more harm than anything uttered by the Dixie Chicks.)

The Trumpers fear the same enemies, but they don't even trust fellow Republicans -- everyone's a RINO, including, at times, Trump himself. (I'm sure you noticed Breitbart referring to Trump as "Amnesty Don" this week, after the administration proposed a path to citizenship for Dreamers.) Everyone who's not a Republican is a member of the all-powerful "Deep State" (which somehow wasn't powerful enough to get Hillary Clinton elected), and anyone who is a Republican is potentially suspect. But why? Why this level of paranoia?

One reason is that Republicans succeeded electorally beyond their wildest dreams between 2010 and 2016 -- but they know their policy proposals, especially the economic ones, aren't good for ordinary citizens. So they're in the habit of maintaining voter loyalty by stoking fear: Elect Democrats and they'll take all your guns, unleash an "urban" crime spree that will spread to your exurb, empower terrorists who'll kill you in your beds, and drastically raise your taxes before you die that violent death. But Republicans run most of the country now. There's only one possible conclusion: Some of the enemies must be within. The paranoia has to escalate.

In addition, Republicans don't run everything. They don't control the cities or the coasts. The GOP has overwhelming power, but why doesn't it have absolute power? There must be a conspiracy!

Matt Yglesias says:

But Trump has to make noise, rail at enemies, and express paranoid suspicions on a daily basis. His base is conditioned to expect that after decades of GOP and right-media denunciations of the threatening lefty hordes and, now, the saboteurs disguised as Republicans.

Republicans rely on paranoia when they're in power because stoking paranoia is how they gained power. It's simple.

Friday, January 26, 2018


David Leonhardt of The New York Times is not a great admirer of White House counsel Don McGahn:
I would caution people not to lionize McGahn. He’s been involved in some of this administration’s seedier acts, including the nomination of unqualified federal-judge candidates, at least one of whom had personal ties to him. He also played a role in previous attempts by the White House to muck up the Russia investigation, including the firing of James Comey as the F.B.I. director.
And yet Leonhardt praises McGahn for resisting President Trump's demands for the dismissal of Robert Mueller:
But McGahn acted honorably and bravely when it mattered most. He flat-out refused an order from his boss, which is never easy, let alone when your boss is the president and the order deals with the most explosive subject in politics. He doesn’t deserve to be lionized, but he does deserve praise.
But Peter Beinart explains why McGahn seemed to act honorably:
More than perhaps anyone else in the Trump White House, he’s a longtime member, in good standing, of the Washington Republican establishment....

[In 2014,] he went to work at Jones Day, a prestigious law firm long known for its conservative leanings. McGahn’s wife served for many years as staff director of the House Financial Services Committee. Which helps explain why, when McGahn went to work for the Trump campaign, a Washington Post profile called him its “unofficial liaison to the Washington establishment.”

... Imagine trying to return to Jones Day—or some equivalent firm—after firing Robert Mueller. In the words of Norm Eisen, President Obama’s former ethics czar, who has tussled with McGahn for many years, “He didn’t want that personal baggage. What’s he going to do for a living, go live in a frat house with Steve Bannon and Dr. Price and Sean Spicer and people that can’t get a job?”
Leonhardt hopes that Republicans in Congress, like McGahn, will do the right thing if Mueller is threatened again:
Unfortunately, other Republicans may soon find themselves facing the same decision as McGahn did. Trump has recently been offering conciliatory words about the investigation, but there is every reason to think he is afraid of it — and willing to do almost anything to obstruct it. Here’s hoping other Republicans show the same courage as McGahn.
But congressional Republicans don't have the same career fears as McGahn -- they won't put their reputations at risk with their base voters if they run interference for Trump, and after passing the tax bill, they have no reason to fear that future employment if they leave Congress, as lobbyists and on corporate boards, will be denied them for that reason.

McGahn works in the White House -- if Mueller is let go, he can't pretend that the dismissal has nothing to do with him. But Republican members of Congress can evade responsibility. They can just say they're "deeply concerned" and do nothing to hold Trump accountable, and they won't suffer for it.

Jonathan Chait cites a January 11 news conference as an example of how Paul Ryan sidesteps questions about the president:
A reporter asked Ryan if he believed the president should cooperate with Robert Mueller if he wanted an interview. Ryan dispatched it very quickly: “I’ll defer to the White House on all those questions. This pertains to them, not this branch.”

That has been Ryan’s stance all along. All the icky stuff Trump does, the corruption and disdain for the rule of law, is Trump’s business. Ryan’s defenders have accepted this and woven it into the broader rationale for conservative acceptance of Trump’s presidency.
But Ryan quietly aids Trump:
In fact, there are things Ryan could do.... The House of Representatives could pass a bill to compel the release of Trump’s tax returns.... Democrats have repeatedly introduced bills to disclose the tax returns. Yet the House — Ryan’s House — has blocked every one....

And now, Trump and his allies are circulating absurd lies about the Department of Justice in order to enable the administration to avoid any accountability to the rule of law. The heart of this campaign is the chamber Ryan controls.
And yet even if Trump is indisputably exposed as a singularly corrupt traitor, Ryan and other congressional Republicans will avoid being held accountable. They're not in the White House. Their future employers -- voters, donors, lobbyists -- won't hold their behavior against them the way the D.C. establishment would have held Don McGahn's complicity in a Mueller dismissal against him. So we won't see any honorable acts from Republicans in Congress.


We learned this last night:
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive....

After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead....

Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
Why didn't Trump just do it? Why didn't he set off a Saturday night massacre if that's what it would have taken to rid himself of Mueller?

In a couple of ways, I think the threat-plus-subordinates'-rebuff is a power trip.

We've been told that Trump doesn't like to fire people himself -- he wants subordinates to do the work for him. (Remember, he got his ex-bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to deliver James Comey's pink slip.) Is Trump a softie? It seems more likely that he regards not having to do anything he doesn't enjoy as a perk of his success. I know he's out of shape, but I think he also ordered that golf cart for a 700-yard walk in Sicily because he could, because why should he walk when he doesn't like walking? Similarly, on his own golf courses, why should he leave his cart at the edge of the green and walk a few steps onto the green when he can violate golf protocol and just drive the cart onto the green? When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do what you want and not do what you don't want -- and Trump's view is that he should indulge his own whims whenever he possibly can, because that's what comes with his exalted status.

So why does this self-indulgent alpha male sometimes allow subordinates to talk him out of acting on his whims? I think that's also a power trip. He knows he's pushing limits. His impulses strike terror into the hearts of his aides. He could, if he chose, blow up everything -- what he wants to do must be incredibly powerful or his underlings wouldn't be so upset. That's how dominant a figure he is!

And then, magnanimously, he backs down. He deigns to take the advice of counsel. He chooses not to blow everything up. And he contents himself with the knowledge that he's so powerful he could have.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Donald Trump is not a good dealmaker, so someone else must have been the strategist behind this, which, I'm afraid, is politically shrewd:
President Trump’s immigration proposal to Congress will include a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants, White House officials said Thursday, more than twice the number of “dreamers” who were enrolled in a deferred action program Trump terminated last fall.
That's the headline everywhere. How do Mr. and Mrs. Heartland America read this and not think it's a generous offer, much more than the caricature of Trump as a right-wing bigot would have led one to expect?

The devil is in the details:
... everything else in the proposal—reportedly drafted by hardline nationalist Stephen Miller and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly—is in line with far-right thinking on immigration. Along with the demand for billions to pay for the border wall are calls to curb or completely eliminate legal forms of immigration, such as the visa lottery and so-called “chain migration” which allows members of the same extended family to immigrate to the U.S. (Ending the diversity visa lottery could reduce legal immigration to the U.S. by as much as 50%.) There are also several measures to increase immigration arrests and speed up deportation procedures.
Mr. and Mrs. Heartland live in a 95% white community. Let's say they're not bigots and they're among the large majority of Americans who want the Dreamers to stay. They also don't experience diversity firsthand, so they don't understand why we permit as much immigration as we do now -- every admission, as far as they're concerned is America extending a rare privilege, so why not cut the numbers back significantly? We don't owe any foreigners anything, do we?

The characterizations of this by progressives aren't going to make much sense to Mr. and Mrs. Heartland:
“We will oppose it. Most if not all Democrats will oppose it. Some Republicans will, too,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group. “We are not going to allow Stephen Miller to exploit a crisis that he and his boss created to take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty and enact his nativist wish list.” ...

Eddie Vale, a Democratic consultant working with a coalition of immigration groups, described the president’s proposal as an effort to sabotage bipartisan talks and win passage of “a white supremacist wish list.”
Well, maybe it'll be killed by the right:

In any event, it's a shrewder move than I expected from this White House.


This story is getting a lot of attention:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Missouri Courtland Sykes blasted “women’s rights” this week.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Sykes said that he had been asked if he “supports women’s rights.”

“I want to come home to a home cooked dinner every night at six,” Sykes said, referring to demands he makes of his girlfriend. “One that she fixes and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives.”

According to Sykes, feminists push an agenda that they “made up to suit their own nasty snake-filled heads.”

The candidate said that he hoped his daughters do not grow up to be “career obsessed banshees who forgo home life and children and the happiness of family to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she devils who shriek from the top of a thousand tall buildings they are [SIC] think they could have leaped in a single bound — had men not been ‘suppressing them.’ It’s just nuts.”
I'm seeing a lot of outrage, understandably:

But it's quite possible that this is an elaborate stunt. Back in October, shortly after Sykes declared his candidacy the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Missouri politicos had no idea who he is:
Five Republican party insiders had the same answer when asked about Sykes.

“I don’t know anything about him,” said Jeff Roe, a political consultant with Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies.

Four others gave the same answer: John Hancock, former chairman of the Missouri GOP; Pat Thomas, the current state party treasurer; Ed Martin, who heads an offshoot of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum; and Austin Chambers, a senior adviser to Gov. Eric Greitens.
In October, Sykes was using the same language about feminism that he's using now:
“Chanel (Rion), my fiancee, has given me orders to favor [women's] rights, so I’d better,” he said. “But Chanel knows that my obedience comes with a small price that she loves to pay anyway — I want to come home to a home-cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes.

“It’s exactly the kind of family dinner that I expect one day my future daughters will learn to make after they too become traditional homemakers and family wives — think Norman Rockwell here — and Gloria Steinham (sic) be damned.”
In his document, Sykes ...says it’s time for social programs implemented in the 20th century to “go away.” He wants to “stop Muslim immigration cold for now.” He wants to eliminate most U.S. laws. And he says those who work in advertising, lawmaking, law enforcement, lobbying and other fields are part of an industry that “employs millions who drink swamp juice every day.”
A local poli sci professor expressed some doubts:
The Post-Dispatch forwarded the statements to John Messmer, a political science professor at St. Louis Community College at Meramec....

“I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s not parody,” Messmer said. “It’s not something strategic done by the Democratic side or someone that’s looking to criticize the conservative or Republican position.

“I do hold back that .1 percent,” Messmer said. “This might be one of the greatest examples of political performance art I’ve ever seen.”
Daniel Hill of St. Louis's Riverfront Times posted this Sykes ad:

Hill's response suggests that he's more skeptical than Professor Messmer:
Just look at this fucking guy. The open collar. The "Blue Steel" gaze. The amber waves of grain, signifying his heartland roots with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Poe's Law tells us that, absent a winking look or a knowing smile, it is completely impossible to differentiate between a parody of extreme views and a sincere expression of that outlook. Sykes' campaign video for his run for Claire McCaskill's U.S. Senate seat, released September 26, might as well be a case study of that old internet adage.
Want more reasons to doubt that Sykes's candidacy is legit? The Post-Dispatch notes that his background is murky:
He has been a permanent resident of Missouri for less than a year. In an interview, he refused to talk about his business, a defense consulting firm. To illustrate his Missouri ties, he said his family vacationed in the Ozarks growing up — but he wouldn’t say where.

“Look, I’m not going to talk about family stuff,” he told the Post-Dispatch.
Sykes says he's the managing director of that defense consulting firm, the Talosorion Group, but the website for Talosorion lists only one company officer -- Sykes himself -- and provides no specific information about what the company does. The company has no Web presence otherwise -- there are no news stories about it.

The opening credits of a "mini-documentary" on Sykes's YouTube page say it was created by a company called Walk the Lion Productions, Inc., which has a Web page with no company information and no links -- there's just an email address and a logo claiming the company has offices in Boston, London, and Sydney. (The company was incorporated in Delaware in November, the day before the video was posted to YouTube.) The "documentary" is a defense of Roy Moore that openly calls the women who accused Moore of pedophilia "liars" and describes The Washington Post's reporting on the story as "cash for trash."

Maybe this guy is real. Maybe someone on the liberal/Democratic side wants to discover how gullible and feral Missouri GOP voters are -- remember, the last time Claire McCaskill was up for reelection in this increasingly red state, she ran an ad intended to encourage GOP primary voters to choose the least electable candidate, Todd Akin. (The ad did so by chiding Akin for positions hard-right voters heartily endorse.) Akin won the primary, then his candidacy imploded when he claimed that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely become pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Is someone trying to make a new Todd Akin from scratch, on McCaskill's behalf? Is this some other kind of performance art? I can't tell -- but I don't think it's legit.


CNN reports that demands for the release of Devin Nunes's secret memo about the FBI originated from some suspicious Twitter accounts:
The viral hashtag campaign #ReleaseTheMemo appears to have been driven at least in part by a swarm of Twitter accounts set up in the past week, a CNN analysis has found.

More than 1,000 accounts that were set up between Thursday -- when the hashtag first appeared -- and Sunday night have tweeted the hashtag. 460 of those were what are known as "egg accounts," accounts that don't even have a profile picture. About 200 of the accounts had sent only four or fewer tweets by Sunday night, with at least one of those featuring the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag.
Right now your thoughts are probably turning to Russia. A few days ago, Business Insider's Natasha Bertrand told us this:
#ReleaseTheMemo is the top-trending hashtag among Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, according to Hamilton 68, a website launched last year that says it tracks Russian propaganda in near-real time....

Bret Schafer, a communications coordinator at the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy who tracks the Hamilton 68 accounts, said he "certainly can't remember" the last time the researchers had seen a topic "promoted to this level" by the Russia-linked bots and trolls.
But then a Daily Beast report cast doubt on that story:
... a knowledgeable source says that Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.

In short, according to this source, who would not speak to The Daily Beast for attribution, the retweets are coming from inside the country.

The source pointed to influential American users on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., with his 2.49 million followers, pushing the hashtag forward. It’s become a favorite of far-right Republican congressmen, including Steve King, who claimed the still-secret memo shows the FBI was behaving “worse than Watergate” in one viral tweet. Mark Meadows called it an “absolutely shocking” display of “FISA abuses,” referring to a counterintelligence process.
There could be some truth in both the Business Insider and Daily Beast stories: Russians could be vigorously promoting the hashtag without being its main driver. Hamilton 68 might be measuring Twitter influence one way (number of accounts promoting the hashtag) and the "knowledgeable source" another (popularity of individual accounts using the hashtag). On the other hand, maybe the "knowledgeable source" is working on Twitter's behalf and is trying to spread the message that Twitter isn't failing to control bots -- Twitter would certainly want that message out there.

I wonder if Republicans are simply mastering Russian techniques and implementing them on their own. Yes, Russian-linked accounts are promoting the hashtag, but so are GOP-linked accounts -- some in the hands of prominent Republicans, but also others newly created in bulk by Republican operatives.

Which berings me to a Jonathan Chait post titled "Republicans Are Using the Russian Playbook on the FBI," even though it isn't primarily about social media:
Odds are, you don’t remember any of the particular revelations contained in the stolen emails from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. But when WikiLeaks published them two years ago, they created a furor....

What the episode showed was that, if hostile actors are allowed to peek into a vast trove of their target’s private thoughts, they can usually find something that sounds shady. This is exactly the method Republicans are now using to discredit the FBI....

When they hacked Democratic emails, Russians were counting on a gullible mainstream news media and an unprincipled right-wing echo chamber to transform a bunch of trivial internal communications into a pseudo-scandal by wrenching them from all context. It is ironic that the current Republican effort to dismiss the very real scandal that arose from those hacks is using the exact same method.
Or it's not ironic at all, if Republicans have simply refined their tradecraft based on careful observation of what worked for the Russians.

Think about what happens when a Stateside terrorist attack is committed by someone expressing jihadist views. We look for direct links to ISIS and Al Qaeda, and usually we don't find any. It's far more likely that the perpetrator was simply radicalized by what was available online. That may be more or less what's happened to the Republicans. They might not be working with the Russians. They might just be watching their work, taking copious notes, and implementing the methodology on their own.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Roy Edroso is puzzled by the right-wing war on the intelligence community:
... the real weirdness of the current situation is this: Conservative nonsense is usually at least based on the traditional values of the movement. Their Obama fantasies are based on their racism; their Hillary Clinton fetish, on their sexism; and their Soros-Alinsky-Frankfurt School shtick on the notion that the America dream cannot succumb to self-generated flaws because it has none, and can only be brought down by Satanic, foreign conspiracies.

But turning against the nation's intelligence agencies -- the guys who helped them fight, sometimes with extreme prejudice, the Communists, the hippies, the Black Panthers et alia -- that's not just a change in tactics; that's something like a psychotic break.
He quotes a recent Rush Limbaugh radio monologue that reaches new depths of paranoia, even for Rush:
What if the intel on the war in Iraq was another disinformation campaign, to damage another Republican president?...

What if the quote-unquote "intelligence community" misrepresented, on purpose, the degree to which Hussein had WMDs?...

What if Saddam weapons of mass destruction was also a false narrative designed to -- what, did it ultimately embarrass Bush? Did it weaken the US military? Did it -- whatever it did, I mean, it opened the doors for the Democrats to literally destroy his presidency in the second term, which is what they did.
In this monologue, Limbaugh said,
The Democrat Party is the Washington establishment, and the Washington establishment believes that Gore won the presidency, that the Florida recount aftermath was bogus and rigged, that James Baker did a better job than the Democrat people did in finding votes, the hanging chads.
And therefore ... the Democrat(ic) Deep State deliberately lied to Bush in order to enmesh Bush in a disastrous war, but the Democrat(ic) Deep State didn't have the juice to get the winner of the popular vote elected president? Oh, okay. (Of course, that's the right's take on the 2016 election, too.)

Edroso is about my age -- we were under-18s during the late '60s and early '70s -- so he remembers that the culture war then was between shorthairs and longhairs, people who wore white shirts and ties with gray suits and people who hoped they never would. The people at the intelligence agencies were solidly in the former category. How did they get lumped in with the hippies?

Well, we're all seen now as just one undifferentiated mass of experts, which is the worst thing you can be in the world in the opinion of the right. We went to college. We know stuff. We think most situations are nuanced and complicated. We believe that you can't run the world on gut feelings. I suppose the ex-hippies have switched over to believing in the rule of law. But in any case, we're not the ones who say, "If it feels good, do it." That's now the right's philosophy, except that it now refers to racism, sexism, homophobia, doxxing, sending Jewish reporters death threats with gas chamber photos, tweeting seizure-inducing images to liberal reporters who are epileptics, and so on.

The distrust of expertise has one exception: Corporate chieftains are still valorized on the right (maybe because their expertise is linked to their appetite for money, or maybe because right-wingers assume that plutocrats get rich solely on that appetite, along with, perhaps, some intuitive, non-fact-based genius for dealmaking, which is what they think Donald Trump has).

Right-wingers still value law and order -- they love ICE, they love the cops, they love the military. They apparently don't think the military and law enforcement require any knowledge or insight or strategy, just jingoism and machismo.

The intelligence agencies are now regarded as full of sinister eggheads. We're a long way from FBI G-men fighting gangsters with Tommy guns (or fighting the Black Panthers). That's what changed.


Greg Sargent reminds us of this moment in the DACA fight, from early 2017:
Almost exactly a year ago, Paul Ryan had a powerful, high-profile exchange with a young mother who was brought to this country illegally as a child. This “dreamer” mom was frightened and uncertain about what Donald Trump’s election meant for her future. At a CNN town hall, she asked Ryan whether people like her should be deported.

“No,” Ryan said reassuringly. He insisted that “I hope your future is here,” and that “I’m sure you’re a great contributor to [your] community.” Ryan told her not to worry about getting deported. He said: “We have to find a way to make sure that you can get right with the law.” He stressed that President Trump agrees.

The woman's name is Angelica Villalobos. She was on Lawrence O'Donnell's show again last night, with her young daughter.

She says in the clip that an older daughter is heading to college soon. She lives in Oklahoma City and works as an office manager at a tire shop. She's also a volunteer translator for her local school district and for the YMCA.

Why are we talking about DACA? DACA is an acronym. It's impersonal. Why aren't we talking about passing "Angelica's Law"? Why aren't Democrats making this woman the face of the problem?

Does she not seem like the ideal face of the problem, for some reason? Then find someone else. This is what Republicans do -- they personalize issues. Their anger about criminal aliens is focused on the death of Kate Steinle, even after (or in part because) a jury acquitted the undocumented immigrant on murder charges in connection with her death (the bullet that killed her ricocheted off the ground, so it was reasonable not to describe her death as premeditated murder). President Trump and other immigration hard-liners regularly invoke Steinle's name. A bill to criminalize reentry into the country by an undocumented immigrant is called Kate's Law. She's the face of anti-immigrant anger.

Republicans know how to personalize issues. They regularly focus on martyrs (Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Benghazi dead) or supervillains (right now, Christopher Steele, Robert Mueller, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page). Democrats do this less often, and haven't done it at all in the case of the Dreamers.

I mention Angelica Villalobos because choosing her gives Democrats the option of letting Paul Ryan make their case for them. See? It's not radical -- this guy agreed last year that this woman and her fellow Dreamers deserve help. I want that clip on TV ads all over America, while Ryan tries to block a deal because the ultras in his own party oppose it.

If not Villalobos, then who? A scholar? A soldier? A pillar of the community? Find someone. Republicans would.


I'm sure you already know about this:
Shortly after President Trump fired his FBI director in May, he summoned to the Oval Office the bureau’s acting director for a get-to-know-you meeting.

The two men exchanged pleasantries, but before long, Trump, according to several current and former U.S. officials, asked Andrew McCabe a pointed question: Whom did he vote for in the 2016 election?

McCabe said he didn’t vote....

Trump ... also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.
For Donald Trump, the political career of Andrew McCabe's wife was probably reason enough for deep suspicion. But on the fringes of Wingnuttia, the suspicion of McCabe goes deeper. Some believe that McCabe has some connection to the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

I learned this from a Free Republic thread that cites a May 2017 video by a self-styled journalist named George Webb.
Seth Rich’s murderer is Alpha Jalloh....

Jalloh hired three Ms-13s to kill Seth Rich. These same MS-13s were killed days later to shut them up for good.

McCabe is implicated because he let Jalloh go free from a group of car thieves. Jalloh was the only one set free which indicates he became ‘owned’ by McCabe.
Confused? Wrap your hat in tinfoil and allow this blogger to explain the contents of the video in more detail:
The journalist George Webb says that FBI's Andrew McCabe let Nigerian Alpha Mohammed Jalloh out of prison despite a history of serious crimes: instead of the projected twenty-year prison sentence, he alone was released after being arrested with twenty other people for carjacking. The release after only a few months was the first hint that twenty-seven year old Alpha Jalloh was coerced into being an FBI operative.

[Dept.Justice Loretta Lynch had the power to release Alpha Jalloh for Seth Rich's Set Up]

Two miles from the murder, FBI reported weapons stolen a couple hours before Seth Rich was shot. Were the bullets FBI? Was that theft a cover-up? ...

Webb linked Jalloh to the infamous Awan Brothers via their profusion of car dealerships.

Profits from fencing the stolen cars apparently flowed through Jalloh's hands into terrorist channels.
You may recognize the surname Awan. Imram Awan did IT work in Washington for 13 years. He was on the payroll of former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz when he was arrested at Dulles Airport and charged with bank fraud. It has been alleged that he and family members who worked with him were making unauthorized break-ins into congressional servers and accessing data. Also, some believe that the Awan family's car dealership was a money-laundering operation.
But there doesn't seem to be any real-world connection between the Awan car dealership (in Falls Church, Virginia) and the car theft ring (in New York and New Jersey) of which Alpha Jalloh was allegedly a part. That's where the story starts going deep into La-La Land.

Here's the George Webb video itself, if you want to waste fourteen minutes of your life:

As the Freeper notes, Webb also believes there's a New Zealand-based conspiracy to assassinate Trump, of which McCabe is a part.

Separately, there's this post from something called America First Media, which alleges that McCabe "ordered the Seth Rich File from the FBI CART division to never be seen." (CART is the FBI's Computer Analysis and Response Team.)

Does Trump believe any of this? Probably not -- it's too fringe-y (so far) even for Hannity or Fox & Friends. Will someone connected to him slip him a few of these crazy posts? Maybe if John Kelly gets fired and the information begins to flow again in the White House the way it used to when anyone could walk into Trump's office and hand him a printout. It's conceivable that one of Trump's sons is aware of these stories. In any case, your right-wing uncle will get around to them sooner or later, if he hasn't already.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Michael Wolff says Donald Trump doesn't like his job.
Author Michael Wolff said in a new interview that he believes President Trump does not want to be the president.

"There is nothing to indicate that ... Trump is going to find his footing as the president of the United States, that he's going to be able to put a staff around him ... that knows what they're doing and a staff that he listens to," Wolff told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation....

"In the end, I think that the real truth is he does not want to be the president — the president of the United States," Wolff said. "He wants to be, instead, Donald Trump."
Matt Drudge read this and leapt to the president's defense:
Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge said in a rare tweet Tuesday that President Trump loves his job and is “already talking about his 2020 re-election run.” ...

“Time to call out Michael Wolff and his fabricated bullshit!” Drudge tweeted. “I had dinner with the president a few weeks ago and he was in fine form. He was optimistic, engaged, on top of the world, loving the job. And already talking about his 2020 re-election run!!”
I don't know if either of these guys is telling the truth, but they both could be mostly correct. I'm sure Trump did tell Drudge that he's psyched about his reelection bid -- Trump has been running for reelection literally since the day he was inaugurated. It's been argued that this is a way for Trump to drum up money, but it's also obvious that nothing about being president could ever be as awesome for Trump as running for president was -- all those cheering deplorables, all that adulation. It's probably killing him that he has to wait a couple more years to run again.

Is he "optimistic, engaged, on top of the world, loving the job"? Who knows? Wolff spent time in the White House when Trump was stumbling through early days as president; if Drudge had dinner with him "a few weeks ago," it was probably when the Republicans had passed the tax cut bill. Trump probably thought he'd made that happen, just the way he now thinks he personally ended the shutdown.

But generally speaking? I judge from the reports on Trump's ever-expanding "executive time" in front of the TV and on his frustration at the restrictions imposed on him by chief of staff John Kelly, and I assume he's not having a lot of fun day to day. He clearly doesn't want to do the job as it's normally done. He seemed optimistic and engaged to Drudge when he wasn't in the office. He seemed miserable to Wolff when he was. I assume Wolff is closer to the truth.


Or to put it another way:


It's possible that the $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels came from the Trump campaign:
Did President Donald Trump’s campaign reimburse one of the president’s businesses for the cost of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels?

That’s a question that’s now being asked by the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has flagged a Trump campaign reimbursement filing that sent $130,888.33 in campaign funds to a limited liability corporation called Trump Tower Commercial....

According to the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen set up a separate LLC called Essential Consultants in October 2016 that he used as a vehicle to pay off Daniels in exchange for remaining silence about her past affair with the president....

Given that the payment made from the Trump campaign to Trump Tower Commercial LLC was for roughly the same amount that Essential Consultants LLC paid to Daniels — and given the fact that the payout occurred just one month after the 2016 presidential election ended — this transaction is sure to raise questions over whether campaign funds were used to cover the costs of paying off a porn star.
Is that really what happened? I don't know. But if it is, I'm sure the many deplorables who responded to all those Trump fund-raising emails would be fine with it.

We know the press loves interviewing Trump voters, so in the next round of rural diner interviews, Trump fans should be asked: Would it upset you to learn that the money you gave to the campaign was used to conceal an affair with a porn star? We can be fairly certain that they won't object on the basis of morality.

But wouldn't they have assumed that their hard-earned cash was being used for voter turnout, TV ads, and the like? Wouldn't they regard paying for a porn star's silence as an inappropriate diversion of funds?

I'm sure they wouldn't feel that way. I'm sure they'd just assume that Daniels was a sinister liar who threatened to derail Trump's campaign as part of a Deep State/George Soros campaign to keep the Swamp in power. I'm sure they'd say that, as a canny master of the Art of the Deal, Trump concluded that he had to write a check to Daniels because he was determined to Make America Great Again and that -- alas -- was the price he had to pay to make that happen.

Really, go to Hooterville and ask them. I bet that's what they'll tell you.


UPDATE: The Washington Post's Aaron Blake explains why the payment in question probably isn't related to the Daniels scandal. Oh well.