Monday, April 30, 2018

MAGA NATION WILL BELIEVE ANYTHING

In the comments to my post about Michelle Wolf and the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a troll made a claim I'd previously seen on Twitter:



Wolf was arrested for bestiality? Not only is this boob-bait for morons, it's the most transparently fake boob-bait imaginable.

Snopes explains:
We ... came across an image of purported newspaper clipping from July 2015 reported that Wolf had pled guilty to bestiality charges:



... This image was created with a fake newspaper clip generator which allows users to make their own realistic headlines in just a few minutes. The user simply picks a name for a fake newspaper, a title for a fake news article, and writes a brief piece of text, and then the web site generates a passable image of a vintage newspaper clipping.

Here’s a look at the template:

How stupid do you have to be to fall for this? Unfortunately for America, not too stupid to vote.

MISSOURI REPUBLICANS STILL LIKE ERIC GREITENS

This seems like good news:
A new poll out Monday offers more evidence that the scandals plaguing Gov. Eric Greitens may be dragging down Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in his neck-and-neck U.S. Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Fifty-four percent of Missouri voters want Greitens out of office, according to an Emerson College survey. His approval rating has fallen to just 33 percent, compared to 46 percent who disapprove of his job performance....

McCaskill and Hawley, who is well ahead in the GOP primary and widely expected to become the nominee, are tied with 45 percent of the vote each. Eleven percent of voters are undecided.
I'm pleased that Greitens's numbers are down, but if you go to the Emerson polling site and download the poll's results and crosstabs, you'll see that while the governor's overall numbers are down, his numbers among Republicans are still in positive territory. Greitens's job approval rating is still 53% with members of his own party, while only 21% disapprove (26% chose "neutral or no opinion"). Among Republicans, 55% think he should remain in office, while 21% think he should resign and 6% think he should be impeached (15% have no opinion).

A brief reminder of what we know about Greitens.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens initiated a physically aggressive unwanted sexual encounter with his hairdresser and threatened to distribute a partially nude photo of her if she spoke about it, according to testimony from the woman released Wednesday by a House investigatory committee.

The graphic report details multiple instances in which the woman said Greitens spanked, slapped, grabbed, shoved and called her derogatory names during a series of sexual encounters as he was preparing to run for office in 2015....

The report, signed by all five Republicans and two Democrats on the committee, describes the woman’s testimony as credible and notes that Greitens has so far declined to testify or provide documents to the panel. It also outlines instances where the Republican governor’s public comments appear to run counter to some of her allegations.

The special House investigation was initiated shortly after Greitens was indicted in February on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for taking a nonconsensual photo of the partially nude woman and transmitting it in a way that could be accessed by a computer. The woman told the committee that Greitens took the photo after manipulating her into a compromising position during an unwanted sexual encounter and that he told her “everyone will know what a little whore you are” if she told anyone about him.
More than half of Missouri Republicans have no problem with Greitens remaining on the job. Oh well -- at least the number's slightly lower than the 57% Republican approval in the previous poll conducted in the state.


DWEEB VS. FLAKE: WELCOME TO A PREVIEW OF HOW THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA WILL COVER DEMOCRATS IN 2020

The New York Times has a story today about the top Democratic candidates in the Ohio governor's race. The first thing the story's author, Matt Flegenheimer, wants you to know about the candidate leading in the latest poll, Richard Cordray, is that he's dull:
Richard Cordray speaks softly and carries a big stack: lime-green index cards, pressed into his shirt pocket, near enough for any sudden onset of note-taking.

A former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he has been endorsed in his bid for Ohio governor by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has told him he needs to learn how to brag more. “I am pretty good at getting back people’s money,” Mr. Cordray managed before an outdoor crowd of dozens here recently. Polite applause followed. He is trying.
The first thing Flegenheimer wants you to know about Cordray's principal opponent, Dennis Kucinich, is that he's a weirdo:
Dennis Kucinich speaks until someone interrupts him — and even this is often insufficient — and carries a bag of vegan groceries heavy enough to sink his right arm like a weight-bearing scale of justice.
Did Flegenheimer say Cordray was dull? No, really, Flegenheimer says: Cordray is seriously dull:
“He’s unassuming,” Ms. Warren said in an interview, recalling Mr. Cordray’s habit of wandering his office without shoes when pressed for a humanizing detail. “But he’s a fighter.”

... In conversations with voters, many framed their preferences as a matter of temperament as much as vision. “He’s not a hell-raiser,” Matt Rado, 34, said of Mr. Cordray, for whom he plans to vote anyway. “It would be nice to see some more passion.”

Even playful flourishes from Mr. Cordray seem intended to evoke a certain hyper-diligence. His campaign literature cites his five “Jeopardy” championships in the 1980s. In a past race, he rewarded dedicated volunteers with DVD copies of his triumph.

He is said to enjoy a good parade — “I’ve always been a parade-ophile,” he allowed....
And Kucinich is seriously flaky:
Mr. Kucinich is, as ever, a less traditional case — Cleveland’s ubiquitous thrower of bombs, shaker of hands and enemy of animal products, now entering his second half-century in politics.

“Strange Political Amalgam in Ambitious Young Man,” read a 1972 headline about him in The Akron Beacon Journal.

“He defends Trump, sees UFOs,” read another from The Cincinnati Enquirer in March, alluding to Mr. Kucinich’s recent career as a Fox News pundit and his claim to have seen an unidentified flying object at the home of a friend, the actress Shirley MacLaine. “Can Kucinich win?”

... Discussing his campaign over a vegan veggie burger and coconut water — “I like it right out of the coconut. Have you ever had it?” he asked the waitress, who had not — Mr. Kucinich set off on a consumption strategy that confounded even his wife, seated beside him: He cut around the bun with a knife and fork to eat only the patty, waited several minutes, then returned to the bun on its own, again with a knife and fork.

“There’s no method,” he confirmed.

“Just madness,” Mrs. Kucinich said.
These may be accurate characterizations of the candidates' personalities, but there are serious problems in Ohio and the rest of America right now, and the story barely touches on them. The following passage appears in the story not to get across Cordray's positions, but to reinforce -- again -- Flegenheimer's sense that Cordray is dull:
There is talk of task forces and pension protections, of government “being a force for good” again. He can appear most animated condemning an “ongoing war on local communities” from budget-slashing state officials. And, like Mr. Kucinich, he has proposed making community college free for all Ohioans.
We're told that Cordray used to have an A rating from the NRA. (We aren't told his current position on guns.) We're informed that Kucinich used to be anti-abortion (and aren't told what his specific views on abortion are now).

We're never told how these candidates differ from the Republican front-runners. We're never told what Ohioans think are the most important issues, and where they stand on those issues. We're just told, in effect, that Cordray wears a pocket protector and Kucinich wears love beads, or maybe a tinfoil hat.

I point this out because this is how the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will be covered. Candidate A is dull. Candidate B is a nutjob. Candidate C is a scold. Candidate D has an unpleasant resting bitch face.

The press dislikes the excesses of the modern GOP -- until it's time for a Democrat to run. This year is not 1992 or 2008, when the Dems found Kennedyesque superstars with that magic combination of sharp-wittedness and just enough youthful bro attitude.

It shouldn't matter. To the voters, maybe it won't matter -- they'll just want to get rid of Trump by any means necessary, and they won't care about the press's desperate longing for a Democratic Big Man on Campus. (I categorically rule out the possibility that the media will ever be enraptured by a Democratic woman.)

So be ready: The press won't like any Democrat who runs for president in 2020. We'll have to beat the GOP and the media.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

MICHELLE WOLF, THE MEDIA, AND THE DEMOCRATS' CHANCES IN 2020

Whether or not you liked Michelle Wolf's comedy routine at last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner, give her credit for this: The president held one of his Nuremberg rallies last night, but everyone in the media is talking about Wolf's jokes instead. She upstaged Donald Trump! The press found her more fascinating! Since 2015, how many people have been able to say that?

Of course, the attention was mostly negative:
Chatter online among journalists ... after the event was full of criticism for comedian Michelle Wolf, who was the evening's headliner....

As the Washington Post's Paul Farhi wrote, Wolf's remarks "swerved from raunchy to downright nasty."

... Politico said Wolf's performance "was a risque and uneven routine at first met with laughs but often greeted by awkward silence."

... The criticism was joined by some well-known political journalists who sounded off both about Wolf's remarks and the nature of the event more broadly.
On Twitter, Mika Brzezinski and Maggie Haberman chastised Wolf for joking about Sarah Huckabee Sanders's looks -- which, as Wolf pointed out (correctly), she hadn't actually done.



An AP reporter summed up the consensus view of media figures:



But they watched, and they harrumphed. They ignored Trump last night.

And this brings me to 2020. I still think it's quite possible that Donald Trump will survive to the next election, and if he does, I think it's 99% certain that he'll run again. (It's 100% certain that he wants to run again, because he wants to win again, just for the satisfaction of showing us that he can.) In the last election, the Democrats had two candidates who, in the eyes of at least some voters, were rock stars: Hillary Clinton has a passionate following, and Bernie Sanders developed one over the course of the campaign. Yet it was Trump whose speeches were repeatedly carried on cable television unedited. It didn't matter how many delegates Clinton won or how much passion Bernie stirred up -- Trump was the media's main focus.

In 2020, isn't that likely to be true all over again?

Who's going to be regarded as better television than Trump? Who's going to be seen as a better story? Kirsten Gillibrand? Deval Patrick? In 2016 we had the first female nominee and a youth mini-revolution, but nobody in the media cared -- Trump got all the press.

Since Trump descended that escalator in 2015, no one's managed to upstage him -- except a comedian who was as harsh and vulgar as he is.

Clinton aide Philippe Reines told us last month that the Democrats should run someone in 2020 who'll get down and dirty the way Trump does, who'll be as brazen and uncensored. Last night suggests that he has a point -- except that nearly all the coverage of Michelle Wolf is negative.

So you can't seize attention from Trump except by being Trump, but if you are Trump, they'll slam you. You can't win.

I thought Wolf's routine had some weak spots, but was very funny much of the time. It was mean, but I enjoyed the meanness, which was aimed at privileged people who ought to have thick skins. Here's the video -- judge for yourself.



Wolf was especially tough on Trump, but she also said this to the journalists:
You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn't sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He's helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you're profiting off of him....
This was a setup to her final jokes, but she was serious -- and she was making a point Trump himself made late last year:
In an on-the-record interview with the New York Times ... Trump said that the press will “let me win” in 2020 because, he believes, it is completely dependent on him for traffic, circulation, ratings, and so on.

“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” Trump said.

“Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win,” he continued, adding that “eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”
I hope Trump loses in 2020 because the country is well and truly sick of him and everything he represents. But I agree with him and with Wolf: The press won't be sick of him. The press thinks he's more exciting than everyone else in politics. The press will undoubtedly lavish coverage on him and largely ignore his opponent, who will probably be running a serious, thoughtful campaign aimed at emotional adults.

Unless the candidate takes some pointers from Michelle Wolf -- in which case the press will whack the candidate's knuckles.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

DELETE ANYTHING YOU DAMN PLEASE

Some celebrities are being criticized for their political views and the op-ed page of The New York Times is on it.



Out of context, the line seems like an echo of white nationalist rhetoric -- liberal critics shouldn't "delete" right-wing celebrities the way Jews and others should not "replace" white Christians in America. Does the writer of the op-ed regard audience disaffection with these performers as eliminationism?

In fact, the author is Liel Leibovitz, a Tel Aviv-raised writer for Tablet magazine, and his principal concern is that bad choices in assembling a personal media library might impoverish one's soul. Be careful -- it happened to him!
Growing up in Tel Aviv, I would often grow enamored of a band, a writer or a filmmaker only to discover that my new celebrity crush was, to put it mildly, not a big fan of my country. At first, I resolved to disavow anyone whose politics I found reprehensible. I tossed aside those Brian Eno CDs, convincing myself that I had no business enjoying the music, no matter how entrancing, of someone who was calling for a boycott of Israel. I bored roommates at the time with endless rants against a musician for speaking his mind.

Even at my most indignant, something nagged. After all, the thing that angered me about Eno was the very same thing that made me love him in the first place, namely his ability to express deep emotions candidly for others to consider.
He extends this argument to Kanye West:
Listen to Kanye’s 2010 masterpiece, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and you’ll hear an artist not only wrestling with all of his demons — “No one man should have all that power / The clock’s ticking, I just count the hours” — but sharing a flute of bubbly with them once he realizes the wrestling match is one he could never win.

Anyone who has marveled at Kanye’s ability to unmoor himself from reality in pursuit of his music should have no trouble understanding the mind-set that unleashed his latest tweetstorm.
Some artists' demons, of course, lead them straight into the underwear of children or unwilling adults -- should we follow those artists wherever their demons lead?

And why should we feel the obligation? We live in a Satyricon banquet of media excess. There's so much music to stream, so much televison to binge-watch -- why can't we cast a few people aside if their ideas offend us?

Please notice that we're not trying to ban any of these people. There's pressure on the sponsors of Hannity and Ingraham and Breitbart, but there's never been a sponsor boycott of Roseanne's show or Tim Allen's. No one is trying to take away Shania Twain's right to make music, or Kanye's -- in fact, Kanye is blowing up social media right now with a new pro-Trump song that's available only as a rip from a top L.A. radio station. No one's boycotting the station and the station isn't boycotting Kanye.

Who at this moment is being culturally banished for right-wing political opinions? Who's being banished the way Sinead O'Connor and the Dixie Chicks were banished for offending good, decent culturally conservative Americans? Give me a name. Even Ted Nugent goes on tour whenever he likes.

Give liberals a break -- we have every right as individuals to reject entertainers and artists who've pissed us off, and there's more than enough entertainment and art to ensure that our precious souls aren't culturally impoverished.

Friday, April 27, 2018

DEMOCRATS COULD NEVER GET AWAY WITH WHAT PAUL RYAN JUST DID

Jonathan Chait misses the point:
Firing the House Chaplain for Dissing Tax Cuts Is Fine

Suppose Democrats were running the House of Representatives, and before they passed a health-care bill, the House chaplain delivered a prayer asking members to safeguard the free market and the bountiful prosperity it provides. And suppose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the chaplain not to insert political comments into his remarks, but the chaplain kept doing it, and Pelosi fired him. Would you be outraged?

I would not, and neither, I suspect, would any liberals. Yet the firing of House Chaplain Patrick Conroy for inserting subtle political messaging into his prayers has set off a small wave of liberal indignation.

... the House chaplain is not like a tenured faculty post at a university, which has some implicit protection for the right to give controversial political remarks. If you have a House chaplain — which I don’t even favor in the first place — you have no obligation to let them use the perch to push their own political values.

... Ryan’s beliefs about taxes may be horrid, but he has no obligation to let the House chaplain deliver subtle rebukes to his ideology.
But in mirror-image circumstances, Nancy Pelosi would be obligated to let the chaplain use the perch to push conservative values, if that's what the chaplain decided to do. If she didn't allow that, she'd be pilloried by the right-wing media as a jackbooted enforcer of liberal orthodoxy and an enemy of the Christian faith. Within days, mainstream-media op-ed columnists would turn on Pelosi, explaining that this hostility to heartland values is why Democrats lose so many elections.

Before we go further, go watch the prayer that caused all the fuss, courtesy of Roll Call. It's not very long. (I'd embed it, but it's auto-play.) Here's a complete transcript:
God of the universe, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Bless the members of this assembly as they set upon the work of these hours, of these days. Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner, and to carry their responsibilities steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great nation. As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans. May your blessing, O God, be with them and with us all this day and every day to come, and may all we do be done for your greater honor and glory, amen.
If there's politicization, it's a very small part of an otherwise anodyne prayer.

Dismissal of a chaplain by Pelosi in response to one prayer would be treated as an attack on the chaplain's religious faith, because that's what happens every time a Democrat is less than deferential to Christianity. Democrats and liberals are routinely accused of "anti-religious bigotry," of "Christian shaming," and of "treating people of faith like criminals." Pelosi couldn't possibly fire a chaplain without exposing herself to such accusations.

The dismissal would be a round-the-clock story on Fox for days -- or however long it took for the chaplain to be reinstated -- and even after he got his job back, the incident would be added to the right's permanent collection of grievances. So why shouldn't Democrats express their anger now?

EVERY FOX VIEWER KNEW EXACTLY WHICH "SAILOR" TRUMP WAS REFERRING TO IN THAT TWEET

A couple of hours ago, the president of the United States tweeted this:



Many of his critics thought the last two words of the tweet -- "Remember sailor!" -- were a sign that Trump is losing his mind, but every Fox viewer knew exactly what he meant:
Donald Trump appears to have compared the FBI director he fired to the Navy sailor who was jailed—and then pardoned by the president—for taking photographs inside top-secret areas of a nuclear submarine. Former sailor Kristian Saucier was jailed for the unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information, but Trump pardoned him in March. Trump previously compared Saucier’s case to the scandal over Hillary Clinton’s private email server, questioning why the sailor was sent to prison but Clinton was not.
Fox has run many sympathetic stories about Saucier. This is from January 2017:
The mother of jailed former U.S. Navy sailor Christian Saucier joined "Fox & Friends" Thursday to continue her mission to have President Donald Trump pardon her son.

Saucier is currently serving one year in federal prison for taking six photographs of a classified area of a submarine, at a time when cellphones were allowed on submarines.

Kathleen Saucier, Christian's mother, said she has had a renewed hope of a pardon for her son since the election of Trump....

Kathleen said her son lost his phone that contained the photos, which were then retrieved by the military.
A 2016 Politico story describes the events of this case somewhat differently:
Prosecutors allege that Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier used a cellphone camera to take photos in the classified engine room of the nuclear submarine where he worked as a mechanic, the USS Alexandria, then destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card after learning he was under investigation.

... To some, the comparison to Clinton’s case may appear strained. Clinton has said none of the information on her server was marked classified at the time. In many cases, it was marked as unclassified when sent to her by people in the State Department more familiar with the issues involved.

By contrast, sailors are trained early on that the engine compartment of a nuclear sub is a restricted area and that much information relating to the sub’s nuclear reactors is classified.
It should be noted that there's no evidence Saucier attempted to disseminate the photos. Many sympathizers believe he received an unduly harsh sentence.

Kathleen Saucier also appeared on Fox & Friends on March 2 of this year. President Trump pardoned her son a week later.

In the 2016 vice presidential debate, Mike Pence alluded to what he described as disparate treatment of servicemembers and civilians with regard to the mishandling of classified information, though he didn't mention Saucier by name. Kathleen Saucier followed up with a post to the Facebook page of the conservative blog Chicks on the Right:



The right is full of grievance collectors, one of whom is the Grievance Collector in Chief who sent that tweet this morning. This is what conservatism is right now: a movement for the airing of resentments and the pursuit of revenge for those resentments. Saucier has been pardoned. The case is resolved. But the anger hasn't been quelled, nor will it ever be. Right-wingers never stop being angry about anything they've ever been angry about. That's how they sustain tribal solidarity. That's why they always vote Republican.

They'll never change. We just have to outvote them.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

TRUMP TELLS US WHAT HE THINKS THE SWAMP IS (HINT: NOT CORRUPTION)

President Trump said a lot of crazy stuff in this morning's Fox & Friends interview-- go to The Washington Post for an annotated transcript. Other commentators are discussing the most extreme statements -- but I want to point out the way Trump used the word "swamp" in the interview. Recently I've been pointing out that while you and I might think "swamp" is shorthand for "corrupt practices in Washington," that's not what Trumpers mean by "swamp" at all. Now Trump himself has proven that.

Here's what Trump said this morning about his appointment of Dr. Ronny Jackson to be the head of the Veterans Administration, just as it was being revealed that Jackson had withdrawn from consideration:
TRUMP: You know, these are all false accusations that were made. These are false and they're trying to destroy a man. By the way, I did say welcome to Washington. Welcome to the swamp. Welcome to the world of politics.
To Trump, that's the swamp -- not people who are corrupt but, rather, people who say bad things about one of his appointees. The swamp is everyone who's not loyal to Trump.

He uses the word later in the interview, at a moment when he's asked to give himself a grade as president, though he's distracted by his own anger at the Russia investigation:
TRUMP: Look, I'm fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seated people — drained the swamp — that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me, and they're not bringing up real charges against the other side. So we have a phony deal going on and it's a cloud over my head. And I've been able to do — to really escape that cloud because the message now everyone knows — it's a fix, okay. It's a witch hunt, and they know that, and I've been able to message it. I would give myself an A+.
Again, the swamp isn't corrupt people -- it's "deep-seated people." It's anybody who was in government before Trump was and who is loyal to anything -- governing norms, the rule of law -- other than Trump himself.

This is the same definition used by Trump's base: the swamp is the president's enemies. No one in the Trump administration can be part of the swamp -- not Jared Kushner, not Scott Pruitt, not Trump himself -- because the swamp is defined as whatever is not Trump or Trump-positive. That's why the Trump base will never care about Trump administration corruption.

IF THE PEE TAPE EVER TURNS UP, TRUMPERS WILL NEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT'S REAL

On the radio yesterday, Rush Limbaugh discussed reports that Donald Trump consorted with prostitutes in Moscow in 2015. What Limbaugh said was posted on his website under the headline "Don’t Be Surprised If They Fabricate a Golden Showers Tape." That pretty much tells you what every conservative will believe if video of the alleged encounter ever surfaces.
RUSH: No, I’ll tell you why I think they’re gonna find a pee tape, because I think this is where this kind of stuff heads. They’re desperate. Nothing — they’ve got no evidence for anything. And now they’ve got a guy who worked at the USA pageant who said, “You know what? Wait a minute. I do remember Trump spent the night in Moscow.”

Trump has previously said he didn’t have enough time in Moscow to spend an overnight. Some guy from a pageant, “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” out of the blue, first time we’ve heard, “I think, yeah, Trump did spend the night.” That opens the door.
Last July, Bloomberg reporters concluded that Trump wasn't telling the truth about not staying overnight in Moscow, based on a careful examination of flight records, contemporaneous social media posts, and news reports. A more recent examination of the flight records confirms Bloomberg's earlier assertions. But Limbaugh's audience will continue to believe that the only basis for this assertion is what pageant host Thomas Roberts recently said.

(UPDATE: And now Trump has admitted he stayed overnight in Moscow, in a Fox & Friends interview this morning.)

More from Limbaugh:
... What’s the allegation? That he hired some prostitutes to come and pee on the bed that Obama and Michelle had slept in.

Don’t be surprised if they come up with what they claim is a tape of it. How easy would it be to say that somebody in the GRU, the modern incarnation of the KGB, leaked it? None of this rest of this is true. None of the rest of this is legitimate. On a TV show coming up on Sunday night on CBS, only on their streaming network, CBS All Access, they’re actually gonna have a couple of prostitutes who peed on the bed show up at this fictional law firm and hire these lawyers to represent them. They’re gonna present on a TV show that it happened and that Trump is out trying to silence these women and they need lawyers to help ’em out.

Hollywood, movies, books, TV, they’re all-in on this hatred.
The CBS All Access series The Good Fight does have a pee-tape story line, but from what series co-creator Robert King says in this Daily Beast story, it's being played for laughs, to some extent at the Democrats' expense.
A future episode will find a Russian woman who comes to the law firm worried about being deported, citing reasonable fear should she return to Russia. She also claims to be one of the women who was involved in the notorious (alleged) golden showers tape at the Ritz Carlton Moscow. The idea, of course, is you don’t know whether to believe her, yet the firm still tortures itself over its duty to prevent her deportation against its desire to find the pee tape!

“It’s a little bit like Raiders of the Lost Ark, where you’re chasing this tape like it’s the Holy Grail,” Robert King says. “It’s satirizing the Democrats’ instinct of, if we just got that one piece of evidence, like The Apprentice tape that had him saying the N-word, then we’d be winning. But you already have him paying off a porn star three weeks after the birth of his son. I don’t know if there is a tape that will take down this president.”
Limbaugh continues:
Look at what they’re destroying. Look at what they are corrupting. The law! The law now applies to some, but not others. James Comey should have already been indicted, for crying out loud. James Comey broke the law in his July 5th press conference. He assumed the role of attorney general. As the FBI director, it’s not his call who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t. Yet he made it his call. That’s not legal! Not to mention proper. Nor is this book in the midst of a so-called investigation.
Limbaugh apparently believes it was illegal for Comey to publish a memoir while the Mueller investigation is ongoing. I'm sure his audience thinks that's correct.
And now even Drive-By lawyers are saying, “Man, Comey could well be indicted.” No. That’s the point. Comey isn’t gonna be indicted. Niether is Hillary! This is my exact point! The legal system is not going after the people who actually have broken law and we know that they did. They’re not going after Hillary Clinton. The people that lied to a FISA judge, we think maybe the FISA judge was in on it. We don’t know. Whatever, they’re not being pursued! The law is not applying equally here. That is a huge deal, folks.
Everyone is lying except Trump and Trump loyalists. It's a Conspiracy So Vast.

So there's no possible way these people will believe the pee tape. The guy from The Good Fight is right.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

STICKING WITH AN UNQUALIFIED ABUSIVE DRUNK TO OWN THE LIBS

Coming from President Trump, this isn't surprising, I guess -- but what's the reasoning behind it? What does it accomplish for him?
The White House rallied around Ronny L. Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs late Tuesday as the president’s doctor was besieged by accusations that he improperly dispensed drugs, created a hostile workplace and became intoxicated on duty.

The administration’s decision to fight on in defense of the nomination came hours after President Trump publicly suggested that Jackson should consider pulling out because of the “abuse” he was facing. But by late afternoon, Trump had huddled with Jackson, and White House aides vowed to fight the charges.

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Trump had said earlier when asked about Jackson’s nomination during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “It’s too ugly, and it’s too disgusting.”

Trump added: “I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians? ... If I was him ... I wouldn’t do it.”
What will Trump get out of continuing to fight this battle? More bad headlines, and quite possibly a Senate vote to reject Jackson. And for what? It's not as if Jackson is a committed right-wing warrior in the mold of Scott Pruitt, someone Trump defends because he believes in privatization and climate-change denial. Trump wants privatization at the VA, but surely there are others in the conserv-o-sphere who are true believers in the dogma and who not only have more relevant administrative experience than Jackson but also have fewer personal skeletons in the closet. Why not just dump Jackson and be done with it?

At least in part, I think it's because fighting is central to Republican ideology, especially in the Trump era. Past administrations, even Republican ones, would have bailed on a guy like Jackson, because the shame of his misdeeds and the failure of his nomination would rub off on the president.

But this president doesn't care -- not only is he personally beyond shame, but he gains esteem in the eyes of his base every time he won't give up a fight, regardless of whether he's right. The fight is the point. It doesn't matter what's revealed about Jackson. We could find out that he killed someone with an ill-advised prescription and it wouldn't give Trumpers pause, because they just want Trump to crush his enemies.

It isn't only Trump who's like this. Consider Missouri governor Eric Greitens.
Gov. Eric Greitens, who faces two felony charges in St. Louis and mounting legal troubles, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association prayer breakfast on Wednesday.
You're the governor and you've been accused of rape, blackmail, and campaign fraud. Do you resign? Do you at least hunker down and keep a low profile? Not if you're Greitens. You stay in your job, defy the accusers, and pray with cops, as if you're the embodiment of moral rectitude. And while Greitens's job approval rating is down to 37%, 57% of Republicans still approve of him.

Keeping the respect of Rage Party voters may not save Greitens's job, or Trump's, but that's the strategy the two of them are following and they're sticking to it.

****

Or an alternate theory: Trump is sticking with Jackson because Jackson is too dumb to quit and Trump is too cowardly to fire him (or too lazy to restart the candidate search).

I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: TO THE TRUMPERS, "THE SWAMP" ISN'T CORRUPTION -- IT'S US

Many newspeople are putting this story by Glenn Thrush of The New York Times into the wrong frame:
Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
Thrush's Times colleague Trip Gabriel tweets:


The Daily Beast headline is "DRAIN THE SWAMP? Report: Mick Mulvaney Encouraged Pay-to-Play With Lobbyists." A photo of Mulvaney that accompanies New York magazine's write-up is captioned "It’s simple: Keep filling the swamp."

But as I regularly tell you, the Trumpers don't believe that "draining the swamp" means eliminating corruption -- to them, "draining the swamp" means eliminating their enemies.

Elsewhere in the article, Thrush writes:
In his remarks, Mr. Mulvaney also announced a series of moves intended to reduce the [CFPB]’s power....

Such moves include cutting public access to the bureau’s database of consumer complaints, which the agency had used to help guide its investigations.

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” he said.
To Trumpers, that's the swamp. It's the Obama-era people who decided that the complaints should be posted and the holdovers who continue to take those complaints seriously, as well as the ordinary Americans who file the complaints and those of us who want the bureau to function as it did prior to Trump's inauguration.

the Trumpers believe that Mulvaney is a very effective swamp-drainer -- and by their definition he is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THERE ARE REASONS TO WORRY ABOUT 2020

I think Paul Campos is right:
Trump has a very good chance of getting re-elected, by which I mean the probability of that happening is high enough that it should be considered its own independent ongoing crisis, that should be a non-stop focus of efforts to stop it from happening.
As Campos notes, "Since the days of Grover Cleveland, only once has a party won the White House and not held it for at least eight years" (the Democrats lost the 1980 election after barely winning the 1976 election). That's a reminder that even if Trump is driven from office, a substitute GOP nominee could very well win.

Campos adds:
... I’ll make a bold prediction: It will turn out that, miraculously, Democrats will nominate [a] “flawed” candidate in 2020....

This candidate will turn out to have said and done things that raise “troubling questions” in the minds, loosely speaking, of the elite media in general and the pundit class in particular, because of the iron rule of American politics that Both Sides Do It and the Truth No Doubt Lies Somewhere in the Middle.

When it’s pointed out that these “scandals” add up in seriousness to .1% of whatever happened in the Trump administration yesterday afternoon, the Village Elders will reply that this only emphasizes that the difference between Trump and the Flawed Democrat is one of degree, not kind.

Also, Flawed Democrat will have a lot of trouble connecting with voters, meaning older white people in deep red states. This failure will be attributed to Flawed Democrat’s taste in food, music, and/or couture. (If Flawed Democrat is a woman, her hair will come under extreme scrutiny, because that’s only fair given the media’s unfair tendency to occasionally mention the fact that Trump appears to have a recently deceased marmot on top of his head, so this is Totally Not Sexist.)
I'll go further: If the next Democratic nominee is a woman, she's likely to be a woman who doesn't act "nice," meaning she'll be someone who doesn't smile all the time and who sometimes says things that make people (i.e., GOP voters and older white male pundits) uncomfortable. Political leaders are supposed to act serious and sometimes say uncomfortable things -- but Democratic women are deemed uniquely unnatural when they act that way. Warren, Gillibrand, Harris -- the boys on the bus aren't going to like any of them.

Also, the nominee, whether male or female, is likely to be too far to the left for the pundit class -- definitely too far left on economics (in discussing economics, pundits believe it's always 1992), and probably too left-wing on social issues (the same people who are now singing the praises of the Parkland kids will get the vapors if the 2020 Democratic nominee backs any aspect of the kids' agenda -- what will old men in rural Pennsylvania diners think?).

And then there's this, which I think extends to pretty much any Democratic nominee:



I feel good about this year's state and local elections. I feel good about the congressional midterms. Winning the 2020 presidential election is going to be the hardest lift.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON, STOP DIGGING

In his recent Wall Street Journal piece about his dismissal by The Atlantic, Kevin Williamson complained that no journalist ever asked him to explain his position on the proper penalty for abortion in a hypothetical America in which abortion was criminalized. So New York magazine's Ed Kilgore asked him, twice -- and never got a straight answer, only some high-toned libs-are-evil invective, along these lines:
People on the pro-choice side seek to shift the conversation to the question of the specifics of criminal sanction for obvious and shallow rhetorical purposes — because that’s an easy way to whip up emotional hysteria, preempting meaningful discourse rather than enabling it. The obviousness and stupidity of that gambit should be fairly obvious to any reasonably intelligent and fair-minded adult, but those are in unfortunately short supply.
After Kilgore, published the non-response, Williamson should have slunk away quietly, his "no lib journalist would dare to ask me" gambit having blown up in his face. But he's back for more. Today he has a piece for The Weekly Standard piece -- yes, for a guy who's being "silenced" by liberal fascism, he sure does get published a lot -- in which he reopens the question and specifically attempts to take down Kilgore, failing spectacularly.
Ed Kilgore, a dreary partisan dolt in the employ of New York magazine...
I guess this is some of the "great prose" for which we should all cherish Williamson, according to Bret Stephens.
Ed Kilgore, a dreary partisan dolt in the employ of New York magazine, thought he saw an opening, and sent me a one-question inquiry: “What is your ‘public policy recommendation’ on appropriate punishment for women having abortions in a hypothetical criminalized abortion regime?” As any reasonably intelligent person will immediately detect, that question isn’t actually a question; it is a rhetorical stratagem in the shape of a question, deployed for the purpose of lame partisan point-scoring in the form of blocks of texts shaped like journalism.
Why is it a rhetorical stratagem rather than a question? Supporters of criminalizing abortion seek a world in which, um, abortion is criminalized. If someone is proposing that a currently legal act should be criminalized, it's reasonable to ask for more details on how this criminalization would be played out in practice. If I say AR-15s should be banned, you have every right to ask whether those that are currently in citizens' possession will be confiscated. I ought to have an answer for that, even if it's not what I want to talk about when I talk about AR-15s. But if you're on the right, being asked to answer an uncomfortable question is a moral outrage, even if you just complained that no one ever asked you to answer it.
It isn’t discourse, but a facsimile of it, the journalistic equivalent of the Gem├╝tlichkeit Spamwich created by Lisa Dziadulewicz of Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Just not quite right.
I guess Jonah Goldberg came first in the "Guest-Write a Sentence in a Tendentious Kevin Williamson Essay!" raffle. (That sandwich is a real thing, by the way; recipe here.)
It is, as I have noted, a dishonest strategy, because the question cannot be intelligently answered in a single sentence or two.... Try to summarize it in sound-bite form and you’ll produce something that is easy to caricature—which is, of course, the point of asking the question.
Fine, except that Kilgore didn't ask Williamson to answer the question "in a single sentence or two." This whole thing started with a Williamson tweet, but Kilgore isn't asking for an answer in tweet form. He sent an email. Presumably he wanted an emailable answer. You can easily email a an answer that's longer than two sentences.

Williamson answered with the you-want-a-piece-of-me? rhetoric quoted above, adding:
As noted, my original observations on this subject, including the Infamous Tweet, speak to the very dishonesty and stupidity of the stratagem upon which you are here relying. I can’t believe that you are in fact unaware of my opposition to capital punishment.
I'm sure Kilgore was fully aware of that. He was also aware of Williamson tweets in which hanging was recommended, followed by a podcast in which hanging as the only logically consistent punishment for a woman who has an abortion was discussed at great length by Williamson. So, um, which is it, Kev? That was the question.

Williamson writes:
That, in turn, gave New York magazine the opportunity to write the headline Kilgore wanted to write: “Kevin Williamson Won’t Tell Me What He Thinks Should Happen to Women Who Have Abortions.”
I've read Kilgore for years. I'm sure he would have published a straight answer.
But that isn’t the whole truth, either. I made a great effort to tell him—and his editor, Adam Moss.

What you will not read about at New York magazine is the fact that I offered them a full account of my views on the subject, in the form of an essay on exactly how I think we should go about dealing with the legal prohibition of abortion. (In the interest of making this easier for New York magazine, I offered this at no charge, something I almost never do. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” as Dr. Johnson observed.) Why take one or two sentences, filtered through the unreliable sensibility of a hostile columnist, when you could have the whole thing? Because, as New York editor Adam Moss told me, that is “as much on the subject of your views on this matter as we want to publish.”

And there you have it.
This isn't a response to Kilgore's question -- this is a writer's pitch. Williamson, who clearly craves "liberal media" validation, just lost a sweet gig at a top "liberal media" outlet. At this point, he was pitching another "liberal media" outlet, offering to do a piece free (in exchange for a byline), at which point he'd be seen as a hero who maneuvered his way into a patch of column inches in enemy territory. What he wouldn't do was send an answer to the question he was asked without this arrangement in place.

If he was so determined to get his point across, and if he didn't care about being paid, why didn't he just write the piece anyway and send it to Kilgore (and Moss as well)? Then he could tell the world that, no he hadn't answered the question in "sound-bite form," but yes, he'd answered the hell out of it.

He could still do that. The Journal would probably publish his reply. So would the Standard. So, I imagine, would many other publications, many of them not conservative.

But he'd rather grumble that he's being subjected to censorship and calumnies, because that's much more important to conservative pundits than advancing their policy arguments.

HOW MANY PEOPLE EVEN KNOW THE "MEN'S RIGHTS" MOVEMENT EXISTS?

We don't know the motive for the van attack in Toronto that killed nine people yesterday, but we're being told this about the man charged in the attack:
Speculation surfaced Monday night around a Facebook post associated with the same name and the same photo as the one that appears on [Alek] Minassian's LinkedIn profile....

The post referred to the "Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger." Rodger was the 22-year-old California man responsible for a deadly rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six people dead and a dozen more injured.

In a video posted ahead of that 2014 attack, Rodger raged about a number of women turning down his advances, rendering men like him "incels," a term used by some groups to mean "involuntarily celibate."
Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, Florida, posted praise for Rodger in a YouTube comments section ("Elliot rodger will not be forgotten"). Other mass killers and would-be killers have praised Rodger or connected their rage directly to their sexual frustrations.

But awareness of the "men's rights" movement has never broken through. Stories and op-eds about the phenomenon are rare in the mainstream media. There's a useful blog, We Hunted the Mammoth, that's devoted to these guys, and there's discussion of them at feminist sites. We heard about the movement after the Rodger incident and during Gamergate. But none of this seems to have penetrated.

This is an ideology like jihadism or white separatism, but we're not having a national debate about whether it's the fault of late capitalism or the removal of prayer from the schools or what-have-you. We're not talking about it at all, even though it's a subculture with bizarre beliefs and secret code words that would lend itself very well to journalistic explainers. I'd say the lack of discussion is because the subculture participants are mostly white men, but that's true of the neo-Nazis, and we seem able to talk about them. Maybe the problem is that many of these guys are socioeconomically similar to the white men who run newsrooms. In any case, we need to talk about them more. I bet many people you know don't even realize that this subculture exists.

Monday, April 23, 2018

KEEP TELLING YOURSELF THAT REPUBLICANS WILL REJECT TRUMPIAN EXTREMISM IN 2020

Today Greg Sargent notes that appeals to authoritarianism are showing up in quite a few GOP campaigns this year.
... in West Virginia, GOP Senate primary candidate Don Blankenship is running an ad that says: “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary ... Lock her up!”

... The GOP Senate candidate in Tennessee ... echoes Trump’s attacks on African American football players protesting systemic racism and police brutality: “I stand when the president walks in the room. And yes, I stand when I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'”

... in the Indiana Senate GOP primary, Mike Braun, the candidate who is most vocally emphasizing Trump’s messages — on trade, the Washington “swamp” and “amnesty” — appears to be gaining the advantage. Braun’s ads basically recast true conservatism as Trumpism in its incarnation as populist anti-establishment ethno-nationalism.

... one of the Indiana GOP Senate candidates has bashed “Crooked Hillary Clinton,” and all three have cast aspersions on the Mueller probe. One called it a “fishing expedition,” and another claimed: “Nothing’s been turned up except that Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here.”
Meanwhile, AP reports that a top target of 2018 Republican candidates is likely to be Hillary Clinton:
With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP's most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide. The strategy ... has popped up in races in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota....

"I promise you that you'll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She's a very powerful motivator," said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall....

The national GOP [is] running digital ads featuring Clinton's comments — and her image — to attack the 10 Democratic Senate candidates running for re-election in states Trump carried.

"She's called you 'deplorable.' Now, she's called you 'backwards,'" said one ad that targeted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"If Bill Nelson had his way, Hillary Clinton would be president," the ad continued. "Florida won't forget."
If this is what's going on in 2018, why are centrist pundits still harboring fantasies of a Republican "return to normalcy" in 2020?

Yesterday I quoted an op-ed by Joe Scarborough in which he foresaw a Republican rejection of Donald Trump in 2020. I didn't quote the end of the op-ed:
Which brings us to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The former South Carolina governor announced last Sunday that the United States would impose additional sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Haley’s declaration enraged Trump, despite the inconvenient fact she was only following White House policy and GOP talking points. Still, the president went behind his ambassador’s back to assure the Russians he would kill any future sanctions. Other White House officials played down Haley’s remarks, describing America’s representative at the United Nations as “confused.”

Haley’s response to the charge was as sharp as it was telling.

“With all due respect, I do not get confused.”

With those nine words, the ambassador declared that, unlike most other members of Trump’s Cabinet, she would not allow herself to be humiliated by a political day trader, whose fitful 15 minutes of fame will come to a close long before a new president takes the oath of office in 2021.

Still, another scenario came to mind this week: How wonderful would it be for our daughters to see this woman — this daughter of immigrants — take a debate stage to coldly cut the Donald down to size, revealing to the world once and for all that this bloated emperor has no clothes?

What a sight that would be.
Even if we accept the notion that a Haley candidacy would represent a refreshing return to moderate conservatism, why are we imagining that Trumpism is going to die in the next two years? I'm going to keep saying it: If Trump falls between now and the next presidential election, GOP voters will want a candidate who will avenge his downfall, and who'll give them the emotional payoff they get from Trump. That's not going to be Haley, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, or John Kasich.

Trumpism isn't receding in the GOP -- it's increasing. This year's Senate and House candidates are more like Trump than the ones in 2016. The voter outrage these candidates are stirring up won't go away, even if some of the Trumpy candidates get their clocks cleaned in November -- remember that many of them won't, because they'll be running in deep red states or districts.

After that, either Trump will consolidate power, which will make Trumpism the winning play for 2020 candidates, or he'll remain under siege, possibly until he falls, which will increase Republican voters' taste for vengeance.

No, we can't purge the GOP of Trumpism between now and the next presidential election. We'll have to defeat the GOP extremists repeatedly before they finally -- I hope -- retreat to the margins.


WHAT TRAVIS REINKING'S FATHER WAS ALLOWED TO DO IS EVERYTHING THAT'S WRONG WITH THE GUN CULTURE

You probably know this about the man suspected of shooting up a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people:
Months before the man suspected of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House on Sunday became the target of a manhunt, authorities arrested him for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns.

Among the four weapons they took from Travis Reinking was the AR-15 semi­automatic rifle that police say he used in the Waffle House on Sunday. Two of the other weapons — a long gun and a handgun — are missing from Reinking’s apartment, and as of Sunday evening, Reinking was still at large.
And you probably know this:
... Reinking's father was present when ... deputies came to confiscate the guns, [Tazewell County sheriff Robert M.] Huston said. The father had a valid state authorization card and asked the police if he could keep the weapons. Deputies gave Reinking's father the weapons, Huston said.

"He was allowed to do that after he assured deputies he would keep them secure and away from Travis," Huston said, referring to Reinking's father.

Huston and Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said they believe Reinking's father returned the weapons to Reinking.
It's bad enough that Jeffrey Reinking, the father of Travis, returned the guns to him after that White House incident. But it wasn't the only troubling incident that should have concerned Jeffrey Reinking. There was this:
In June 2017, police records state Reinking threatened someone with an AR-15 while wearing a pink dress. After threatening the man, Reinking drove to a public pool and dove in before exposing himself to others at the pool, according to the reports.
And this, in May 2017:
In one police report from Tazewell, County, labeled suicide by firearm, the police report says that authorities were advised that Travis Reinking was allegedly “delusional and believed the famous entertainer Taylor Swift, was harassing him via stalking and hacking his phone.” He believed “everyone including his own family and the police are involved.”

His mother, father, and grandmother “were worried about Travis” so they called emergency services, the report states. “They stated Travis has been having these delusions since August 2014,” according to the report. Travis was accused of being “hostile towards police and does not recognize police authority. Travis also possesses several firearms.”

... Travis’ family “advised Travis made comments about killing himself earlier in the day. They also advised he owns and had access to many firearms at his residence,” reports allege.

Travis returned, and, reports say, police responded and allege he stated that “Taylor hacked his Netflix account and told him to meet her at the Dairy Queen.” He went into further detail of the delusion. He was taken for evaluation.
And yet:
When police contacted Reinking's father, the father said "awhile back he took 3 rifles and a hand gun away and locked them up when Travis was having problems. (The father) wanted to move out of state so he gave them back to (Travis)...” the reports state.
Jeffrey Reinking thought this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do -- and of course he did, because this is hearltand America, and in heartland America the bar for being permanently deprived of guns, the most precious commodities in life, is extraordinarily high. This is what the American gun culture believes: Except for a handful of people who've been convicted of horrible crimes, firearms are always good to own. This, of course, applies only to people who look like Us, not Them. But if you're a heartland white American and you haven't killed anyone yet, of course it's fine for you to possess firearms -- even if you've been delusional and suicidal, even if you've broken the security perimeter at the White House, even if you've threatened someone at a public pool with an assault weapon.

And there seems to have been no law preventing Jeffrey Reinking from doing this. The authorities apparently got no more than a spoken agreement that he'd keep the guns away from his son. There probably isn't a law under which he could be charged and convicted. Could he be successfully sued? In gun-loving America, it's doubtful.

That's the gun culture, too. The gun culture doesn't want there to be laws that scare firearm owners into erring on the side of caution.

I imagine that we'd find a way to punish Jeffrey Reinking if his name were Muhanmmad. But I'm assuming that nothing will happen to him -- and that the gun community will block any efforts to change the laws so that people who are grossly negligent in this way are held accountable when relatives maim or kill.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

IF TRUMP SURVIVES TO 2020, THEY'LL ALL COME AROUND -- PROBABLY EVEN MITT

A few days ago, CNN ran a story about the reluctance of many Republicans to say they'll endorse Donald Trump in 2020. In a column for The Washington Post on Friday, Joe Scarborough seized on this:
... these ... morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.

“Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party. Alexander is not the only GOP senator to offer up tortured answers to this simple question.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Tex.) refused to answer, explaining that he had not given the question much thought because things could change in the time before the 2020 campaign revs up.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.) spent four days grasping for an answer to a question he called “unfair” before finally saying he didn’t want to “make news.”
Scarborough thinks this is a sign that Trump won't run in 2020.
It’s becoming clear that Trump will not be running for president in 2020....

Now, even Trump’s most steadfast allies are quietly admitting that the Southern District of New York’s investigation poses an existential threat to his future, both politically and legally.
No, that's not what they're quietly admitting. They're quietly admitting that Trump's downfall might happen between now and 2020. They know it's a serious possibility, and they don't want a statement of support to appear in print or on tape now, one that can be used against them in the future, when Trump is a pariah.

But they also don't have the courage to say that they oppose the president, because they're certain he'll survive until November 2018 and it's a serious possibility that he'll survive until November 2020.

Mitt Romney -- who was forced into a Senate primary yesterday when hard-liners in the Utah GOP refused to endorse his candidacy -- has joined them in bet-hedging.
Mitt Romney said Saturday that he could not yet commit to supporting Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign....

"I will make that decision down the road," Romney ... said in an interview with CNN.... "As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I'll want to know what's in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah."

"So I'm not a cheap date," he said.
But if Trump isn't driven from office and mounts a reelection bid, most if not all of them will come around. Even the first Republican to say he intends to primary Trump -- thriller writer Brad Thor -- will probably endorse him in the end:
Conservative author and commentator Brad Thor took to Twitter Saturday to announce he would challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020.

The New York Times bestselling author of the popular Scot Harvath series of spy thrillers was a vociferous critic of Trump’s during the 2016 primaries and has continued speaking out against the president’s leadership style.
Yup, Thor was a Never Trumper during the 2016 primaries as well -- so much so that he got his buddy Glenn Beck suspended from satellite radio for a time after making comments that some interpreted as a call for the assassination of Trump.
SirusXM satellite radio has suspended conservative talk show host Glenn Beck for comments he made last week that have been interpreted as potentially advocating the harm of presumptive Republican presidential nominee and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

During a May 25 interview on “The Glenn Beck Program,” Beck agreed with a comment made by New York Times bestselling thriller author Brad Thor:

“I am about to suggest something very bad,” Thor said. “... With the feckless, spineless Congress we have, who will stand in the way of Donald Trump overstepping his constitutional authority as president? If Congress won’t remove him from office, what patriot will step up and do that if, if, he oversteps his mandate as president, his constitutional-granted authority, I should say, as president,” Thor said, according to CNN. “If he oversteps that, how do we get him out of office? And I don’t think there is a legal means available. I think it will be a terrible, terrible position the American people will be in to get Trump out of office because you won’t be able to do it through Congress.”

“I would agree with you on that,” Beck responded.
But even Thor came around to Trump at the time of the convention, if only reluctantly.
Brad Thor, who has been in the #NeverTrump camp since the beginning and is a respected conservative author, came to this realization on Tuesday, throwing his support behind Mr. Trump. It wasn’t a pretty endorsement, but it was an endorsement all the same.

“Yesterday, Dr. [Hugh] Hewitt tried (yet again) to help guide America to the best (and only) option available to us. I lost a lot of sleep last night reading and then re-reading his words. I awoke this morning with a more nuanced view. Drug #1 (Hillary Clinton) will kill us — no question. Drug #2 (Donald Trump) might kill us, but it also might: A) Slow the cancer, or even B) Cure the cancer,” Mr. Thor wrote in HotAir.com....

“It’s a lot to hope for, I know, but hope is all we have left. We have exhausted every other avenue. Make no mistake — I believe one hundred percent in standing on principle. Principle, in this case though, will not cure cancer. Sadly, that crappy clinic south of the border is starting to look like our only option,” he wrote.
Thor is anti-Trump again, but he has no political experience, and he's not going to beat Trump in a primary -- nor is anyone else -- because the GOP base loves Trump and will continue to love Trump as long as he's in office and out of prison (and maybe even if those things are no longer true). So after Thor crashes and burns -- in Iowa or New Hampshire or on Super Tuesday, if he runs at all -- he'll endorse the winner, because, in his opinion, the Democrat will be so evil he'll have no choice.

But won't Romney be a holdout again? By that time he'll almost certainly have survived his primary and a general election, coasting to victory in both. He won't be up for reelection until 2024. Why should he worry about endorsing Trump?

Because this time around it's highly likely that the Democratic nominee will be a person no one regards as a centrist. It will probably be someone who talks a lot more like Bernie Sanders (it could even be Bernie Sanders) and a lot less like 1990s Bill Clinton. Never Trump Republicans who want to maintain political viability will be horrified by all the left-wing talk -- free college! $15 minimum wage! Marijuana leglaization! Rolling back the Trump tax cuts on the wealthy! Medicare for All, or at least a Medicare or Medicaid buy-in! It's all socialism!

(And yes, I know: Hillary Clinton ran on a platform that was quite progressive. But for whatever reason, nobody believed her. They'll believe the 2020 Democratic nominee.)

In addition, if Trump survives, this time around the skeptics will believe that he can win (which he can). So they won't dare oppose him this time if he's the nominee.

If Trump's still around, they'll fold. Just wait.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A THEORY ABOUT THAT JACK JOHNSON TWEET

Out of nowhere, the president tweeted this today:



Jack Johnson was the first black man to be world heavyweight boxing champion. His fights against white boxers led to deadly riots. He had relationships with a number of white women, several of whom he married. He was ultimately arrested on trumped-up charges that he violated the Mann Act, which prohibited transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, even though the alleged violations took place before the law was passed. He was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to a year and a day in prison; he fled the country for several years, then ultimately returned and served time in Leavenworth.

So why this all of a sudden? Maggie Haberman thinks she knows why:



Early today, I tweeted a different theory:



I don't know which of these theories makes more sense -- or maybe we're both right.

I don't understand why Trump would need to wave his pardon power in front of people's noses -- maybe it's a case of Trump thinking, "Many people don't know that I can pardon anyone who's committed a federal crime," meaning he only recently learned that. Whatever he thinks, we actually do understand that he can try to hinder the Mueller investigation by issuing pardons. But I'm sure he doesn't know that people understand that.

I'm having second thoughts about my theory, because how often has Trump cared whether people think he appears altruistic? But this could be a rare instance of that. And he might want to pretend not to be a racist. (The racists I've ever encountered have been fine with black people who are athletes, because, y'know, that's what black people are supposed to do.)

There's this, too:



Yup -- Trump is president of the United States, but he really wants us to be impressed by the fact that he's friends with Sylvester Stallone.

I'm in favor of this pardon, so I hope no one tells Trump this:
Johnson's great-great niece wants President Trump to clear the champion's name with a posthumous pardon. And she has the backing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has supported a Johnson pardon since 2004.

"Jack Johnson was a boxing legend and pioneer whose career and reputation were ruined by a racially charged conviction more than a century ago," McCain said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Johnson's imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a stain on our national honor."
If Trump finds out McCain's in favor of this, he'll never do it -- although maybe the fact that President Obama chose not to pardon Johnson coungts more than the fact that McCain is in favor of the pardon.

WHO NEEDS THE ALT-RIGHT WHEN THERE'S ORDINARY AMERICAN RACISM?

The Washington Post reports that the alt-right may have passed its peak.
Eight months after a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in the death of a counterprotester, the loose collection of disaffected young white men known as the alt-right is in disarray.

The problems have been mounting: lawsuits and arrests, fundraising difficulties, tepid recruitment, widespread infighting, fierce counterprotests, and banishment from social media platforms. Taken together, they’ve exhausted even some of the staunchest members.

One of the movement’s biggest groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, dissolved in March. Andrew Anglin, founder of the Daily Stormer, the largest alt-right website, has gone into hiding, chased by a harassment lawsuit. And Richard Spencer, the alt-right’s most public figure, canceled a college speaking tour and was abandoned by his attorney last month.
I read this story shortly after I read Jamil Smith's "Where Can We Be Black?," which was just published in Rolling Stone:
African Americans are often made to feel as though we are uninvited guests in our own country. We are excluded from environments great and small, at times by force.... This exclusion is the very root of racial discrimination, and of the social penalties that whiteness exacts upon blackness....

After missing his bus last Thursday, Brennan Walker, a 14-year-old student in Rochester Hills, Michigan, tried to walk to school. His mother had taken his phone away, and soon, Walker was lost. He ended up doing what most Americans would think is safe to do: knock on a neighbor's door and ask for help and directions. But that same act cost Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell their lives – and it almost cost Walker his. He told local reporters that after a white woman in the house behaved as if she thought Walker was trying to break in, a white man, Jeffrey Ziegler, came downstairs with a gun. Walker took off running. He only heard the gunshot that meant to take his life before escaping, later hiding and crying.

... By now, many of us have seen the viral video shot by [Starbucks] customer Melissa DePino, showing ... Philadelphia police officers confronting and arresting ... two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who had been waiting peacefully.... There was no reason to charge the men with anything but "waiting while black" ...
These are just two recent incidents. Similar incidents happen every week. Occasionally there are consequences -- Ziegler is now charged with felony assault and the Starbucks manager has lost her job. More often, there are no ultimate consequences for the people who do these things.

So why do American racists need the alt-right? Membership in the alt-right means marginalization -- but there's plenty of opportunity to be racist in America without joining a racist movement. And many Americans don't insist on a white ethno-state -- they just want the racial pecking order regularly reinforced. So they're satisfied with ordinary American racism.

Just as mid-century American workers contended themselves with a somewhat generous social safety net while rejecting out-and-out socialism, twenty-first-century heartland whites are rejecting racist movements because there's considerable opportunity to be racist in America without them.

Friday, April 20, 2018

WHO ARE YOU GONNA BELIEVE, ME OR MY LYING WORDS?

Kevin Williamson has written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled "When the Twitter Mob Came for Me." Fellow conservative pundit Noah Rothman is getting the drubbing he deserves for his response to the piece:



Best wisecrack so far:



All this on a day when we're learning that another Russian journalist has died under suspicious circumstances:
A Russian investigative journalist who wrote about the deaths of mercenaries in Syria has died in hospital after falling from his fifth-floor flat.

Maxim Borodin was found badly injured by neighbours in Yekaterinburg and taken to hospital, where he later died.

... a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.

Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a "principled, honest journalist" and said Borodin had contacted him at five o'clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was "someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing".
Oh, but Borodin never faced a "Twitter mob," so what did he know about courage?

In Williamson's piece, he seems to argue that not just a professional opinion-monger's tweets but his extended discursions in podcasts are to be ignored, because they're not really speech acts.
I was fired [by The Atlantic] on April 5.

... The problem was a six-word, four-year-old tweet on abortion and capital punishment and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: “I have hanging more in mind.”

... The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions.
If Williamson wasn't asked what he really thinks, perhaps it's because he already told us what he thinks. When you're a professional journalist-slash-pundit and you choose to tweet, you tweet as a professional journalist-slash-pundit. When you do a podcast in which you revise and extend the words in your writing, you do that as a professional journalist-slash-pundit. (And please note that, in the podcast, Williamson's elaboration on the tweets went on for several minutes, in which he pointedly disagreed with fellow conservative Charles C.W. Cooke's suggestion that it might be appropriate to have variable punishments for different kinds of murder, which is what both agree abortion is.)

The point of Williamson's Journal op-ed seems to be that a writer deserves a mulligan for anything he says in a podcast, even at great length, and even if the podcast is expressly intended to be an auditory elaboration of his writing, and also that, of course, a writer really deserves a mulligan for tweets, which don't count as his opinions even if the whole point of his having a Twitter account is to spread those opinions through social media. Hey, you can't know what a guy thinks just from what he types in short form and says at great length in non-print long form -- that doesn't count!

Sorry, Kevin, that still doesn't make sense. You had your say, and you're justifiably paying for it.