Wednesday, November 20, 2019

UNDER PRESSURE, TRUMP BREAKS OUT THE NORMAN VINCENT PEALE




Trump embeds this in the usual insults -- of the press, of Adam Schiff, of Nancy Pelosi ...



But it really feels as if Trump is breaking out the Power of Positive Thinking again.
Donald Trump is a self-help apostle. He always has tried to create his own reality by saying what he wants to be true. Where many see failure, Trump sees only success, and expresses it out loud, again and again....

This is ... Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking,” the utterly American belief in self above all else and the conviction that thoughts can be causative, that basic assertion can lead to actual achievement....

“Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”

... The Power of Positive Thinking, his defining work and wild bestseller ... came out in 1952. It offered chapters such as “Believe in Yourself,” “Expect the Best and Get It” and “I Don’t Believe in Defeat.” “Whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought,” he wrote. “Actually,” Peale once said, “it is an affront to God when you have a low opinion of yourself.”
Both Trump and his father were Peale fans.

I don't know if he's reverting to this because he's anxious or because Fox News has him convinced that he's winning, but to me it's not very persuasive. However, I'm not the target market. With his base, Trump gets a lot of mileage out of acting aggrieved, so in the clip above he blends grievance and forced positivity. To me it's an awkward mix, but his fans regard him as both all-powerful and relentlessly besieged, so it'll probably keep the faithful on his side for the foreseeable future.

****

UPDATE: There he goes again.

"REAL" AMERICANS OFTEN PREFER PHONY TOUGHNESS TO THE REAL THING

This is how critics of President Trump see Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman:
No West Wing writer nor Democratic consultant could dream up a better “star witness” for the House’s impeachment inquiry. A top National Security Council adviser on Eastern Europe, Vindman is a Ukrainian-American immigrant whose gratitude for the nation that offered his family refuge from Soviet oppression is so great, he dedicated his entire adult life to its defense (and has the Purple Heart to prove it). He’s that rare breed of neo–cold warrior, whose faith in the U.S. as a guarantor of global freedom and disdain for the Kremlin as the mother of all tyrannies, is rooted in personal experience, not Tom Clancy novels. So Vindman can, with incontrovertible sincerity, end his opening statement by reassuring his immigrant father, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
By contrast, your right-wing relatives see Vindman as a big girl.
Lt. Col. Polly PrissyPants Speaks His Truth

On yesterday’s marathon episode of ImpeachmentTV, we were introduced to prissy little princess Lt. Col. Vindman on the NSC....

Vindman testified that he was upset and thought Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president was “wrong” so he went outside his chain of command to the NSC lawyers like a little snitch. He also made it clear he was butt-hurt that the president, who he has never spoken to directly, did not follow Vindman’s idea of proper protocol with his INTERAGENCY CONSENSUS talking points.

Vindman sassed Rep. Devin Nunes for not using his proper title of “Lt. Col.” We also learned that Princess Vindman was offered the position of Ukrainian Defense Minister three times by the Ukrainians. Three times. Let me suggest that people don’t extend offers like that unless you have an “open for business” sign flashing.
That's from a piece by Liz Spayd Sheld at American Greatness, and if you don't like the insinuation, maybe you should bring it up the next time AG's editor, Chris Buskirk, appears as a commentator on NPR or the New York Times op-ed page.

I watched parts of Vindman's testimony, and it was obvious to me that even though he was wounded by an IED outside Fallujah and is now risking both his career and his family's personal safety, much of America was likely to regard him as far less brave and tough than Congressman Jim Jordan, who isn't a tough guy but puts more effort into acting the part.

Right-wingers, in particular, have long preferred performative toughness to the real thing. They loved it when World War II noncombatant Ronald Reagan saluted his military guards (a practice he invented and that had no basis in American tradition). They loved Vietnam noncombatant George W. Bush's flight suit stunt just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. They love Trump's flashes of militarism (and overlook his plans for ceding global power to Russia and China).

They despise not only Democrat John Kerry, a Purple Heart winner, but John McCain, who spent years in a brutal POW camp. They're indifferent to the military service of George Bush the Elder and Bob Dole -- Reagan and Trump not only are much bigger Republican heroes but are regarded as far tougher and braver, as was Bush the Younger throughout his first term.

It's obvious to me why House Republicans moved Jim Jordan onto the Intelligence Committee: He's obnoxious, boorish, and full of himself. He has the affect of a cop who wants to mess with your head after pulling you over for a busted taillight. He's every jock-sniffing high school teacher who ever sided with the tough kids because he agreed with them that the kid they were picking on is a pathetic loser.

For much of America, that's real toughness, not what Vindland has displayed all his life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

LIES AND THE ANONYMOUS LYING LIARS WHO BACK UP THE LIAR'S LIES

Hey, Stephanie -- pics or it didn't happen.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed on Tuesday that departing former aides to President Barack Obama left notes saying "you will fail" and "you aren't going to make it" for the incoming staff of Donald Trump.

Former Obama aides quickly denied Grisham's claim, reacting to a tweet from a CNN reporter that Grisham had said during an earlier radio interview, "Every office was filled with Obama books and we had notes left behind that said 'you will fail,' 'you aren't going to make it.'"
At the Daily Mail, Republican apparatchik David Martosko writes:
Stephanie Grisham told a Virginia radio host at the White House on Tuesday about finding the notes, and office cabinets brimming with Obama-authored books.

'We came into the White House—I'll tell you something, every office was filled with Obama books. And we had notes left behind that said "You will fail," "You aren't going to make it." And in the press office, there was a big note taped to a door that said, "You will fail",' Grisham said.

'And they had filled, they had filled the—' Grisham continued, before cutting herself off.

She told DailyMail.com after the broadcast that Obama aides had left cabinets in the press office 'filled' with books by President Obama. And one particular 'You will fail' note, she said, was taped to the inside of one of those cabinet doors.
Obama staffers called this out as a lie, and produced copies of very nice notes they left behind (while Grisham produced no evidence whatsoever):
One senior Obama aide who once held Grisham's job wrote to his successor that he was rooting for him, according to a photograph obtained by NBC News. Obama White House press secretary Josh Earnest left a note for Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, telling him that his selection by Trump for the role was "a credit to your skills and work ethic."

“And, because your work is essential to the success of our democracy, it is not hard for me to set aside my political views, and genuinely root for you to success in this role,” Earnest wrote.
Also:



But Martosko claims to have witnesses who back up Grisham's story.
Former former West Wing aides, all of whom came to the White House at the beginning of the Trump administration, told DailyMail.com after the broadcast first created a buzz on Twitter that they recalled hearing about it on day one.

'It was a mess that first week,' one recalled Tuesday. 'Yeah, there were mean notes left in odd places. One in a deputy press secretary's office, one inside a desk drawer in upper press, another on a bathroom mirror. They were all about how we were doomed to failure.'

Asked why no one saved photos of the notes, another aide who worked in the West Wing at the time said the staff was frantically trying to adjust to their new offices and new roles, and 'it didn't make the top 20 list of things we were thinking about.'

A third said after this story was first published: 'Those notes definitely happened. They even left us Russian vodka in the cabinet.'

'They were trolling us from the minute we got there. It was definitely just ridiculous. We were trying to find the bathroom, and we get these notes saying "You will fail," and "You're not going to make it".'
Who are these people? Do they really exist? Please note that all of the quotes are anonymous. If this really happened, why wouldn't any of these people allow Martosko to use their names?

And never mind the obvious point: that the Trumpers aren't exactly shrinking violets and are a highly unlikely to have refrained from mentioning this for three years out of a sense of gentility and decorum.

Grisham ultimately did a walkback, albeit with a new swipe at her critics:
Grisham clarified to NBC News that she didn't mean to suggest that the notes were left in every White House office, only in a press area.

"I'm not sure where her office was, and I certainly wasn't implying every office had that issue," Grisham wrote, referring to Rice's office. "In fact, I had a lovely note left for me in the East Wing, and I tracked the woman down and thanked her. I was talking specifically about our experience in the lower press office — nowhere else. I don't know why everyone is so sensitive!"
Oh, I see: not wanting to be publicly slandered is being "sensitive."

Martosko's story includes this quote from Grisham's radio interview:
'I fully intend when we leave in, you know, six years—I fully intend to leave a note in my [succeessor's] drawer, you know, saying, "Good luck to you",' Grisham said. 'I don't care if it's a Dem or a Republican. You're serving your country. It's the highest honor in the world.'
I'm sure that's the biggest lie of all. So much of Republicans' toxic partisanship is projection that I imagine the most graceless presidential transition of all time will be from the Trumpers to the next president, assuming he or she is a Democrat. These folks really will leave obnoxious notes in drawers, and sabotage office equipment (as Clintonites were reported to have done before George W. Bush's team moved in). I don't think any Trump books will be left behind, but I bet there'll be lots and lots of dank Trump memes printed up at maximum size and posted throughout the White House.

Members of the Biden/Warren/Buttigieg administration: Expect to see massive copies of this, and worse, hanging in your offices on January 20, 2021.

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT RIDICULOUS IMPEACHMENT!

There's a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll on impeachment, and NPR's spin is that it's a big waste of time.
Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Say Impeachment Hearings Won't Change Their Minds

The country is witnessing one of only a handful of times in its history that Congress has gone through with public hearings on whether to impeach a president. And yet, the overwhelming majority of Americans across parties say nothing they hear in the inquiry will change their minds on impeachment, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
An "overwhelming majority" can't be swayed? You mean, 90% or more of Americans are dug in?

No, not exactly.
... 65% of Americans say they can't imagine any information or circumstances during the impeachment inquiry where they might change their minds about their position on impeachment. Just 30% say, yes, it's possible.
So NPR wants to imply that this is pointless because all of America is stuck in partisan bubbles, even though nearly a third of Americans are persuadable, including nearly 4 in 10 independents?



I guess we can't let the facts ruin a good narrative.

I said it last week and I'll say it again: Remember Trump's 2016 margin of victory in key states.
Michigan: 0.23%

Pennsylvania: 0.72%

Wisconsin: 0.77%

Florida: 1.20%
It wouldn't take much persuasion to change the outcome in 2020.

****

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is doing what it regularly does -- selling its spin to the media as straight news -- and both Politico and Axios have taken the bait to varying degrees. The headline of Politico's story, "Trump Backers Test How to Eke Out a Post-Impeachment Victory," suggests that the campaign knows that the candidate is in trouble, but Politico's reporter, Gabby Orr, who retransmits a lot of the campaign's spin, mostly tees it up the way the campaign wants it teed up.
“It’s a waste of money.” “To say you don’t support it means you don’t think any president should be investigated for any problems.” “I’m not a Trump supporter by all means, but I totally disagree with what they’re doing.”

Those were among the reactions to the first week of public impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump when a group of swing voters agreed to provide their candid feedback to a pollster in Pittsburgh last Thursday. Their responses came during one of 18 focus groups conducted by America First Action since late October....
Notice that we get one quote favorable to impeachment, lest you think Orr has been fed nothing but data favorable to the Trump side -- although the other two quotes are anti-. In fact, the raw material Orr got to see was screened by the campaign.
(A POLITICO reporter viewed video clips and readouts that were pre-selected from more than 30 hours of footage gathered from the sessions — including some that contained anti-Trump comments from participants, who were all disclosed only with first names and last initials.)
So maybe we're getting a representative sample -- or maybe we're getting the most pro-Trump responses, with just enough anti-Trump response to keep it plausible. For instance:
In a focus group conducted after House Democrats took their impeachment inquiry public, participants were asked if they thought Trump should be impeached. Not a single person raised their hand, including a woman who later expressed broad disgust with the president’s behavior.
Yes, but you said there were 18 focus groups. What was the response to this question in the other 17?

We get a lot of reactions like this:
“I don’t like everything that he says. I think he’s an ass. I think he can be a sexist. I think he degrades women in how he talks to them, and African Americans, and everyone else. But at least he’s being up front with us,” said Jennifer S., a Clinton voter from Pennsylvania.

Others described the impeachment process as “a waste of time” or too complicated to digest. Two people in the Pittsburgh group perceived impeachment as an admission by Democrats that their party lacks electable candidates heading into the 2020 presidential contest....

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of stuff that I do not agree with around Donald Trump, but at the same time ... I feel as though the Democratic party — none of the people who are running are strong enough to take him on. That’s the problem,” said Tosha L., another Clinton voter.
The campaign did allow Orr to see pro-Elizabeth Warren and pro-Joe Biden statements from respondents (as well as one statement favorable to Tulsi Gabbard), but the spin is clear:
When participants were asked to weigh in on Trump, one clear theme emerged: the substance of his presidency was far more palatable than his governing style. It’s a trend consistently captured in polling of the 2020 race — particularly among suburban women who have recoiled at the president’s inflammatory race-related rhetoric, coarse language and trademark bravado — and one that his campaign team is no longer attempting to conceal.

“We recognize that 11 months out from the election, we are not going to get these voters to think that the president is a teddy bear,” said the America First official, adding that the super PAC’s goal is not “to rehab the president’s image.”

Instead of making next year’s election a personality contest, the president’s political team plans to overwhelm critical swing voters and independents with information about both his accomplishments and the positions embraced by the Democratic primary field.

“It’s going to be substance over style and we believe on the substance points, it’s a clear winner and that will overcome the president’s style,” the official said.
In fact, the campaign's message -- as seen in an ad run during the World Series -- is that Trump's alleged accomplishments are the result of his unpalatable personality. "He's no Mr. Nice Guy," the ad says, "but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington."



Orr never explicitly says that the preponderance of focus-group evidence shows that swing voters oppose the impeachment process. An Axios story just says that flatly, offering no more evidence than the campaign's word:
The pro-Trump group America First says focus groups show that suburban swing voters — even some who strongly dislike President Trump — remain skeptical about impeachment.

Why it matters: These early findings will help shape Republican messaging about impeachment and Trump's top Democratic rivals.

The big takeaway from impeachment so far is that swing voters think Trump did things they don't like — but nothing impeachable, said Wes Anderson, co-founder of OnMessage Inc. and one of the pollsters who conducted the focus groups.
So there you go: Impeachment could still conceivably change a lot of minds, but Republicans are doing what they always do -- arguing that Democrats are at odds with what the American people want -- while the elite media is arguing that what Democrats are doing is not so much wrong as pointless. Let's hope Democrats and the impeachment process itself continue to counter the right and centrist spin.

Monday, November 18, 2019

SO WHAT FAST FOOD WILL RIGHTIES EAT NOW TO SIGNAL WINGNUT WOKENESS?

Uh-oh ... Chick-fil-A did something conservatively incorrect.

'

The linked article, from National Review, says that Chick-fil-A "has stopped donations to several Christian organizations." But Christian isn't the point, as this story from the real estate news site Bisnow makes clear:
Beginning next year, Chick-fil-A will move away from its current philanthropic structure, Bisnow has learned. After donating to more than 300 charitable organizations this year, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain will instead focus on three initiatives with one accompanying charity each: education, homelessness and hunger.

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos said in an interview with Bisnow. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

The new initiative will no longer include donating to organizations like the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, Chick-fil-A says, all of which sparked criticism in the past from the LGBT community due to the organizations’ stances on homosexuality.
The story tells us that this is happening "as Chick-fil-A expands globally and into more liberal parts of the U.S. ... The company is ... months from opening its first location in Boston, where the late Mayor Thomas Menino pledged to ban the company from opening within city limits after Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy voiced his opposition to gay marriage in 2012."

A neighborhood news site in Manhattan recently reported that "“guys with Chick fil A file folders [were] scoping out" a location on Manhattan's famously liberal Upper West Side. (Donald Trump won less than 19% of the vote in this congressional district.) There are gayer neighborhoods -- Chelsea, the West Village -- and I'd be surprised if Chick-fil-A will try to open any stores in either of those locations. But if an Upper West Side store works, then Chick-fil-A would seem to be well on its way to erasing its current reputation. (I can report that a Chick-fil-A location in the West Fifties on E0i0ghth Avenue is already drawing a lot of office workers.)

If right-wingers react to Chick-fil-A's retreat from wingnut wokeness by no longer using the chain's chicken sandwiches to engage in conservative virtue signaling, what fast food will they use as a replacement? It might be tough to find a substitute. When GOP legislators bum-rushed the first phase of impeachment hearings in the House secure facility, they ate some Chick-fil-A...



... but mostly they ate pizza from We, the Pizza, a restaurant run by former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn -- which was also the source of the pizza ordered by Democrats for their 2016 gun control sit-in on the House floor.

Both parties ordered from the same pizza place? Really? Was there no Papa John's nearby? Well, I'm sure the food at We, the Pizza is a lot better. Virtue-signaling can be exhausting at times. Especially if you're hungry.

STOP BEING SURPRISED AT ELISE STEFANIK'S EMBRACE OF THE FAR RIGHT

Elise Stefanik, a GOP congresswoman from upstate New York, used to have a reputation as an aisle-crosser -- on her House website, you can still find a press release announcing the fact that she was named one of the most bipartisan members of Congress in 2017.

But at last week's impeachment hearings, she pulled a cheap stunt: Ranking Republican Devin Nunes tried to yield some of his questioning time to her during a phase of the hearing when, according to rules, Nunes and chairman Adam Schiff could yield time only to committee lawyers. Her stunt has made her a GOP star (though it also led to a fundraising boost for Tedra Cobb, the Democrat who hopes to defeat her in 2020).

Now I see that Stefanik has been photographed with Laura Loomer, an anti-Muslim bigot and conspiracy theorist who's running for Congress in Florida.

Some think this is a sign of long-term trouble for the Republican Party:



But why would that be? In 2016, Donald Trump proved that conspiratorialism, hatemongering, and white nationalism can lead to victory at the polls. His presidency has proved that these things are compatible with tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of large corporations, total resistance to gun control, opposition to abortion and gay rights, and the seating of many Federalist Society judges. That's all establishment Republicans care about.

There's been a slight downtick in suburban support for Republicans, but GOP gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky and Louisiana didn't lose by that much. The increased crazification of the GOP hasn't made the party uncompetitive at all.

And if Stefanik's embrace of Trumpism and the racist fringe ever does become a liability, I'm sure she can just shake the Etch-a-Sketch and declare herself an establishmentarian again whenever it suits her; she'll be fully embraced by the political mainstream. Steve Scalise once addressed an organization run by David Duke; that didn't prevent him from becoming House minority whip. Kevin McCarthy met with a group of birthers during Barack Obama's presidency; he's since become the Republican leader in the House.

Stefanik can pull back from the edge whenever she chooses, and she'll get a do-over. Or she can stay on the fringe and still count on the votes of Republican voters who claim to reject fringe thinking. And if she loses her reelection bid in 2020, I'm sure she can always get a job at Fox News.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

IS TRUMP'S BIZARRE SENSE OF SHAME PREVENTING HIM FROM TAKING POLITICAL ADVANTAGE OF A HEALTH SCARE?

You don't have to be conspiracy-minded to be skeptical of this official story.
President Trump underwent a two-hour doctor’s examination on Saturday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which the White House said was part of a routine annual physical and included lab work.

The appointment was not on the president’s schedule, in contrast to a previous physical that Mr. Trump had in February, also at Walter Reed outside Washington.

In a statement, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump, 73, was taking advantage of a free weekend to begin portions of his annual physical, and was anticipating a busy schedule in 2020. She did not specify what types of tests Mr. Trump had.
To state the obvious, most of the president's weekends are free -- all he does is play golf, watch TV, and tweet -- and who gets a three-month head start on part of a physical?

The unofficial story makes much more sense. Here's Jonathan Wacrow, a sometime CNN analyst who used to work for the Secret Service:



And there's this:



Heavy.com tells us,
According to an article on him by the University of Maine, Vernon used to work at the VA in the position of “coordinator and cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation therapist with the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service.”
So it's easy to imagine that Vernon has contacts at Walter Reed.

The White House is insisting that nothing is wrong, even though an NBC reporter tells us this:



A different White House would acknowledge that last night's visit was for a health complaint. But Trump can't bear the thought that people might believe he is what he is: an overweight, inactive 73-year-old man who's not as healthy as he was when he was 35. He refuses to wear his glasses in front of people. He won't abandon that ridiculous sculpted combover and the fake tan. He clearly writes superlatives into the reports of his own medical check-ups.

But this is politically self-sabotaging. Bernie Sanders just had a heart attack and his poll numbers have actually improved in Iowa and New Hampshire. Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981 and his approval rating climbed by 11 points in the Washington Post/ABC poll.

Trump could play a cardiac scare for sympathy, but he can't bear the idea. He regularly insists that he has "good genes," and he apparently believes that people with "good genes" don't have health problems, even at 73. At the very least, he doesn't think he can be seen as having even ordinary, manageable health problems -- the public would regard him as weak.

For once in his life, Trump could allow himself to be seen as vulnerable. I think his poll numbers would go up. I think many Americans -- and not just Trump superfans -- would accept the argument that Trump's critics had hounded him to a state of poor health.

But he'd rather live in his eugenicist fantasy world. We won't learn about his health until something serious happens to him, and maybe not even then.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

DANGER! DEMOCRATS ARE AT SERIOUS RISK OF LOSING THE VOTE OF THIS LIFELONG REPUBLICAN!

In an opinion section that employs David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Frank Bruni, Thomas Friedman, and Ross Douthat, it can be hard to concoct a "Democrats are doomed!" argument that really stands out. But Roger Cohen of The New York Times has given it his best shot. Here's Cohen's thesis: Democrats are in deep trouble unless they find a way to win over upper-middle-class older white men who have been members of the Republican Party all their lives.
Chuck Hardwick, lifelong Republican, former Pfizer executive, now retired in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not without misgivings. He’d met him in the 1980s and noted a “consuming ego.” Still, elections are about choices, and he disliked the “scheming” Clintons. He was mad at the media for first mocking Trump during the primaries and then turning on him as nominee.
So Hardwick has been a Republican all his life and was an executive in the pharmaceutical industry and is so plugged in that he once had a chance to meet Trump personally. Hardwick's adjective for Bill and Hillary Clinton is "scheming" and he thinks Trump was treated badly by the media. (Translation: Like many white male septuagenarians, he watches Fox every day.)
Three years later, Hardwick, 78, whose political career included a stint as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly....
So not only is he a lifelong Republican, he was a top Republican officeholder. (Cohen doesn't mention the fact that Hardwick was in such good standing in the GOP that he ran for governor as a Republican in 1989 and finished a strong third, with 21% of the vote. The winner of that primary, Jim Coulter, got 29%. Later, Hardwick briefly lived in New York City and served in the administration of Rudy Giuliani.)
Three years later, Hardwick ... is unsure how he will vote in November 2020. Trump confounds him. He admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China “stealing its way to prosperity,” his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition.

“But if I was on a board that had hired Trump as C.E.O.,” Hardwick tells me, “I’d have to say to him: ‘You’ve got good traits but you can’t manage people. You’re fired.’”
You know what the technical term is for people who like Trump's corporate tax cuts and his "revitalizing impact on American ambition"? Republican voters. (And yes, "American ambition" was at such a low ebb during the Obama years. Wouldn't you agree, Jeff Bezos? How about you, Mark Zuckerberg?)
... Hardwick views the impeachment inquiry as a “damaging distraction.” Trump’s reduction of a large European state, Ukraine, to a potential source of dirt on leading Democratic candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, was “not good but not worthy of impeachment.”
(Many American voters, even those who aren't lifelong Republicans, like to find a middle ground on issues they don't really understand. On impeachment, Republicans are working hard to occupy both the right and middle positions, and are having some success -- "Trump is a great president who's done nothing wrong and is the victim of a coup" being the rightmost position, while "Trump did something that's bad but not impeachable" is the center position. This is a problem Democrats need to address, and I'm not sure what the solution is.)
The broader issues, for him, are Trump’s “inept, clumsy and provocative” style on issues like immigration (even if he is right to take it on); his utter fiscal irresponsibility; and a sense that a second term of Trump tantrums “would do great damage to the Republic.”
But not as much damage to the Republic as a tax increase on the rich, amirite?
For Hardwick, Elizabeth Warren is not a choice. He likes her American story, her humble beginnings, her quick mind, but thinks she’s too far left on economic policy for the country to accept.
Yup, I'm right.

And Cohen agrees with Hardwick:
That’s probably right. When you want to make the United States more like Europe, you always run the risk of destroying what makes America unique: its hustle and unrelenting creative churn. America was born in contradistinction to Europe not as an extension of it. That identity is nonnegotiable.
Yes, America was an ennui-ridden nation with no hustle and creative churn back when our top marginal tax rates were in the 90s, which was ... (checks notes) ... during the Eisenhower years. Rock and roll, huge cars with tail fins ... so French.
Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who has made active preparations to enter the Democratic primary, gives Hardwick a serious option to reject Trump. “I like him — no-nonsense, stable, clear-thinking, data-driven, he would do a good job and keep the economy moving. He looks better to me every day.” Anyone else? “I would not rule out voting for Biden.”
Hardwick is a voter who says he disapproves of Trump -- somewhat! -- but clearly expects Democrats to impress him, primarily by exhibiting Trump traits Hardwick approves of. Surely there are 2016 Trump voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida (not to mention Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, and so on) who are thoroughly disgusted with Trump and require much less cosseting (and embracing of right-wing talking points) before they'll vote Democratic this time (or at least stay home). Right? Why must Democrats prostrate themselves before voters like this one?

Friday, November 15, 2019

THE REAL WITNESS INTIMIDATION WAS OUTSOURCED TO BOTS AND TRUMP'S SON

Is this intimidation? It's certainly trash talk:
House Democrats are calling Donald Trump’s decision to attack Marie Yovanovitch mid-hearing on Friday a blatant example of witness intimidation, further building the case to charge the president with obstruction in potential articles of impeachment....

“What you saw today — witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters during a brief pause in the hearing.

“Once again, going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her but to chill others who may come forward,” Schiff added. “We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously.”
Trump tweeted:



It's a warning -- prostrate yourself before the God Emperor or incur his wrath -- though it could be argued that Yovanovitch's early termination as ambassador to Ukraine already sent that message.

More intimidating, I think, was this:
The phrase “I hired Donald Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch" trended on Twitter on Friday morning as Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, testified in front of the impeachment inquiry held by the House Intelligence Committee. And while it may have seemed like a spontaneous outcry from the president's supporters, the phrase has spread at a rate consistent with the coordinated inauthentic behavior expected from a network of bots or sock puppet accounts....

A representative for Twitter told BuzzFeed News that the company was looking into whether the activity was coordinated. Later in the day, several accounts in BuzzFeed News’ data set were suspended.



As well as this:



Is that obstruction of justice on the part of Junior, or on the part of spammers who quite possibly have direct ties to Trumpworld? You decide:
18 U.S.C. § 1503 defines "obstruction of justice" as an act that "corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice."
(Emphasis added.)
Someone obstructs justice when that person has a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding. For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, that person must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but that person must know (1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and (2) there must be a connection between the endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the person must have knowledge of this connection.

§ 1503 applies only to federal judicial proceedings. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1505, however, a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal administrative agency.
But this feels worse than witness intimidation. It seems Khmer Rouge-y: Junior and the spammers don't just seem angry at the witnesses because they've exposed Trump's misdeeds. They clearly believe that these people were worthy of being purged before Trump's inauguration, just because (in Junior's words) they're "career government bureaucrats." They regard that alone as a firing offense.

They want to purge everyone with expertise. They don't want to replace them with people who are similarly skilled but corrupt -- they want to replace them with unskilled hacks, or with no one at all. It's not just corruption -- it's nihilism.

QUITE A FEW ELITE JOURNALISTS DESCRIBE THE IMPEACHMENT FIGHT THE SAME WAY THE DEPLORABLES DO

President Trump's biggest fans see impeachment this way: A powerful permanent government -- call it "the swamp" or "the deep state" -- doesn't like the president and is determined that its way of doing business must always prevail. The swamp creatures insist on this because they have a highly developed sense of entitlement. They think they were bred to rule, and Donald Trump wasn't.

Some members of the elite media appear to agree.

A couple of days ago, in The New York Times, Mark Leibovich wrote this:
In a sense, seriousness itself stood trial on Wednesday as William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a top State Department official, strode into the velvet-draped hearing room just after 10 a.m.

... [Taylor] and the bow-tied Mr. Kent presented as traditionalists of an ilk distinct from any Trumpian vintage. With his wire-rimmed glasses and up-arrow eyebrows, Mr. Taylor in particular resembled a prep-school headmaster, tough but fair and near impossible to discredit.

In pursuing an impeachment inquiry, Democrats were not only asserting authority over a president they believe had run amok. They were also showcasing career diplomats who embodied so-called permanent Washington — the quiet norms that President Trump has so thoroughly rejected to the delight of so many of his supporters.
This is accompanied by a tight shot of George Kent's tastefully clad upper torso.



The caption reads:
Mr. Kent wearing a bowtie and pocket square. He and Mr. Taylor presented as traditionalists of an ilk distinct from any Trumpian vintage.
In other words: These are men of breeding. Trump is an unlettered ruffian. Such men must not be allowed to run the government.

Trump is unlettered (despite a fairly elite education) and a ruffian. But the two aren't inextricably linked. There are many good, decent people who read as little as Trump does, and there are terrible people who know how to wear a pocket square (cough Roger Stone cough). Trump's voter base sees the impeachment battle precisely the same way: It's the well-bred versus the barbarians, and we're rooting for the barbarians.

We see a variant of this worldview in an overwritten Washington Post op-ed by Jon Meacham, Walter Isaacson, and Evan Thomas (talk about your Establishment elitists).
Geography, Napoleon is reputed to have remarked, is destiny, and this axiom came to our minds this week as we watched two very different but neighboring universes collide before the House Intelligence Committee. The ramrod-straight William B. Taylor Jr. and the bow-tied George Kent, two diplomats from the largely WASP ethos of the post-World War II foreign policy establishment, one headquartered at places such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ imposing Harold Pratt House at 68th Street and Park Avenue, found themselves bearing noble witness amid an impeachment imbroglio that may be best understood by an appreciation of the wilder mores of midtown Manhattan.

Only a few blocks away from the portrait-lined walls and genteel cocktails of the Council lies the real center of gravity in the politics of 2019: the gilded Trump Tower, built on the fluid morals and cutthroat deal-making of New York real estate. The Tower sits cheek-by-jowl (the image is chosen purposely) with the Grand Havana Room, a cigar club frequented by Rudy Giuliani, atop a Fifth Avenue building owned by the family of Jared Kushner. Walk a bit farther south — you don’t even need a Town Car — and you reach Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., home of Fox News and the New York Post....

To Trump’s critics and defenders of constitutional norms, the Republican narrative that the president’s threats to deny security assistance to Ukraine was just the kind of thing tough guys do (and, after getting caught, he didn’t do it!), suggested that tabloid hyperbole, Fox News arcana and New York hardball had replaced the real world.
That's how the deplorables see it, too. They know that if they were elites, they wouldn't want to be knowledge elites -- people who understand global affairs and quietly, responsibly try to influence them. They'd want to be strutting bigwigs who smoke smelly cigars and regard themselves as street toughs and thumb-breakers.

But this battle isn't just between Foreign Service professionals and Trump. Most of America wants Trump to go, and the vast majority of us have no idea how to tie a bow tie. This isn't class versus class. It's good versus evil.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

OF ALL THE TERRIBLE IDEAS FOR TRYING TO GET OF TRUMP, THIS ONE MIGHT BE THE LEAST TERRIBLE

Most of America wants President Trump out of office, but impeachment is unlikely to lead to a conviction, and there's a good chance that Trump could win (or "win") the 2020 election. The workarounds aren't much better: Removal via the 25th Amendment requires the support of a majority of Trump's Cabinet plus, ultimately, a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress (impeachment can at least be done in the House by majority vote, although conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate). Juleanna Glover, writing for Politico, has proposed a secret ballot in the Senate, which she says might result in enough votes to convict. (Trust me, it won't.)

These ideas are unworkable -- but here's one, from Bloomberg's Thomas Geoghegan, that's almost workable:
There’s another way to dislodge President Donald Trump from the White House. Instead of impeachment, Congress could remove him by statute....

Here’s how the process might work: The House of Representatives could begin with articles of impeachment, to put Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” on the record.

But then instead of transmitting them to the U.S. Senate, the House would pass and send a bill instead. The preamble would recite the grounds adopted for impeachment, and then take note of Trump’s denials and his claim of innocence. That’s how documents settling legal disputes are often drafted.

Then would come the operative clause: Trump would agree to resign within 30 days of enactment in return for a broad grant of immunity from future criminal prosecution and civil liability for himself and his family, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It would cover events and disputes that took place during Trump’s term in office and just before (consistent with statutes of limitation), and bind both federal and state authorities. Perhaps a more limited immunity grant could also be extended to his attorneys, counselors and chiefs of staff, at least with respect to matters pertaining to the impeachment....

Unlike the impeachment process, which requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate for removal from office, a normal bill could pass by simple majority. If that sounds unfair, remember that Trump would have to consent, and agree not to veto the measure.
Could this happen the way Geoghegan describes it? Absolutely not. Obviously, Trump would love to avoid all future lawsuits and prosecutions, but it's at least equally important to him to avoid shame. To Trump, avoiding shame is one of the most important goals in life. He'd rather fight a hundred legal battles than acknowledge culpability once.

So this couldn't be done openly. All the provisions would have to be tucked into a bill in such a way that they avoid public scrutiny. Maybe they could be slipped into a thousand-page budget resolution at the last minute, or included in a piece of intelligence legislation that's kept secret from the public.

Trump's departure would need to appear totally voluntary, and there would have to be no obvious connection between the departure and the quiet resolution of all pending cases against him and his family, as well as all ongoing investigations.

Trump would never agree to say he was leaving office for health reasons -- he may be an overweight 73-year-old, but he'll continue to insist that he's the healthiest man alive. (Anything less would be shameful.) He wouldn't agree to pretend that he was leaving office to tend to a (fake-)sick family member -- what, a Trump having a middle-aged wife or young child with a serious illness? That would suggest he'd married someone (or fathered someone) with bad genes! Unacceptable!

So how would you get him to agree to leave office? In addition to ending his legal battles, you'd have to flatter him. You'd have to invent a title -- King of America? -- and say that he's not being kicked out, he's being promoted, to a position created especially for him, because he's just so awesome. It would be a purely ceremonial position, of course -- he'd have nothing to do with running the government, and he'd be required to do nothing for the country except play golf, watch TV, and tweet (you know, exactly what he does all day now). He might understand that this all part of the ruse, but if you can convince him that what's happening to him is perceived by the public as a promotion, he might go for it.

It's possible that he'd drive a hard bargain. Other sweeteners that might be necessary could include renaming buildings for him, holding a military parade for him (with tanks driving down Pennsylvania Avenue this time!), and celebrating his "promotion" on a prime-time TV special in which Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, AOC, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and others lavish him with praise.

It might be worth it, just to get him the hell out of there.

ELI LAKE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND HOW RANK-AND-FILE RIGHT-WINGERS THINK

This Eli Lake argument is clever, but it's wrong.
Trump’s Best Defense on Impeachment Undermines His Case for Re-Election

Insubordinate bureaucrats may save him from being removed from office, but they also show him to be a weak president.
Lake writes:
The best defense of President Donald Trump on the first day of the House’s public impeachment hearings came from Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican. She cited “the two most important facts” for Americans trying to understand the inquiry into the president withholding military assistance to Ukraine unless it investigated former Vice President Joe Biden: “No. 1, Ukraine received the aid,” she said. “No. 2, there was in fact no investigation into Biden.”

Stefanik’s defense is ... dangerous because it reveals Trump’s weakness as a leader.

... Donald Trump has been saved from himself time and again by the insubordination of his own government.

Just look at the second part of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, where he documents how Trump ordered subordinates to fire him, only to have his orders ignored. Or see Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, where he reports how Gary Cohn, then Trump’s economic adviser, literally snatched papers off the president’s desk to prevent him from pulling out of trade deals.

... Even when Trump gets his way on policies opposed by his advisers, they often find a way to mitigate his initial decisions. A few weeks after Trump made the sudden decision in October to remove remaining U.S. forces from northern Syria, he ordered many of them back to secure oil fields once controlled by Islamic State.

... Stefanik’s defense is an effective rebuttal in the context of impeachment. In the context of a re-election campaign, it’s damning.
Lake really doesn't understand how Trump fans view their hero -- or, for that matter, what these voters have believed about American politics for decades.

To his fans, President Trump is both powerful and besieged. Sure, they believe he smites his enemies on a daily basis, but they also believe that his enemies are extraordinarily powerful supervillains who never relent in their campaign to sabotage his presidency (and to sabotage all the good things in America, like the Second Amendment and the Wall). Trump's fans don't regard him as too weak to deal with a few subversive aides, or a handful of Foreign Service officers reluctant to do his bidding. What they see is Trump fighting everyone in the "Deep State," everyone in the media, everyone in academia, George Soros, the European Union, the Clintons, the Bidens, the gays, the climate-change hoaxsters (i.e., the people who believe climate change exists) -- he's fighting "the swamp" in all its bubbling, oozing horror. He's up against the most powerful league of evildoers in human history, worse than any cartel of malefactors in any comic-book universe, and his ability to defeat any of them at any time is a feat of superhuman strength.

Right-wing voters have been this way for decades. Nixon, Reagan, Gingrich, George W. Bush -- no matter how much power they had, there was always a sinister cabal of establishmentarians threatening to bring them down. Nixon was simultaneously a tough law-and-order man and an incessant whiner about the forces arrayed against him, and his base didn't see a contradiction.

That's even more true of Trump. His wins are a sign of his strength, and his failures are also a sign of his strength, because we see how fiendishly powerful his enemies are. As long as he's still president, he's still a superhero.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

IT'S THE STREAMING WARS, BUT POLITICAL

What the hell?
Former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts told senior Democrats Wednesday that he will enter the presidential race, according to two party officials....

He has missed the filing deadlines in two states, Alabama and Arkansas, so he begins at a disadvantage should the primary evolve into a marathon where every delegate is crucial. And he’s already started to draw fire from liberal critics for his current post at Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Senator Mitt Romney of Utah co-founded and led, and that Democrats assailed Mr. Romney for when he ran for president in 2012.

There is also the more fundamental question of whether there’s even an opening for a new candidate. Polls of Democratic voters indicate that they’re mostly satisfied with what’s still an unusually large field of contenders.
On the subject of Patrick's Bain Capital ties, Axios's Dan Primack writes:
There is unconfirmed speculation that Patrick was awakened in his suburban Boston home last night, by the sounds of champagne corks popping at Elizabeth Warren's campaign headquarters.
Really, plutocrats? You're terrified that Warren might be the nominee, so you urge Mike Bloomberg and Deval Patrick to get in the race -- and you're probably among the "many, many, many people" urging Hillary Clinton to jump in as well?

This is crazy. It reminds me of the streaming wars -- company after company is announcing a big new video streaming service, and while some are going to thrive, others are sure to bomb. (Will there really be a market for Peacock or Quibi?)

But this is how top executives think: Why not jump into a crowded field? What's the downside of oversaturating the market? If you're the executive responsible for one of the flops, the worst-case scenario is that you'll lose your job and get an eight-figure golden parachute. So why not?

That kind of thinking seems to be making the fat cats want to urge every business-friendly Democrat into the race. Good luck with that, guys.

IS THIS WORTH DOING?



I'd take a 3 or 4 percent change in opinion. Recall President Trump's margin of victory in key states:
Michigan: 0.23%

Pennsylvania: 0.72%

Wisconsin: 0.77%

Florida: 1.20%
That's why I favor anything that sheds light on Trump's unfitness to serve: these impeachment hearings, the Anonymous book (the author may be a coward, but if one voter is persuaded that Trump shouldn't be president, then the book was a service to the country), the pursuit of Trump's financial and charitable irregularities in state court, revelations of Trump's sexual predation (a book was published last month with 43 new stories of sexual misconduct on Trump's part, although the media's response was crickets) -- whatever is available needs to be deployed.

This isn't 1973-74. The president's support will not collapse, even if emoluments and obstruction of justice are worked into the impeachment. Altogether, I'm guessing that the multiple Trump scandals can move the needle by a point or so at most. But a point or so is worth it.

GOP VOTERS DON'T BELIEVE THERE WERE ANY ACTUAL AMERICANS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR NEARLY THIRTY YEARS

Frank Bruni makes an obvious point:
... this week, as several longtime civil servants testify at the inquiry’s first public hearings, a ... narrative demands notice....

That story is the collision of a president who has absolutely no regard for professionalism and those who try to embody it....

I mean William Taylor, America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, who is, tellingly, the first impeachment witness to testify on live television....

He’s a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran with a half-century career that’s devoid of obvious partisanship and entirely about the public good.... He’s a creature of duty and discipline and earnestly accrued knowledge — all precious commodities that are worthless in Trump’s eyes. In other words, he’s a true professional, and it was as such that he recoiled from what Trump, Rudy Giuliani and the wretched rest of them were up to.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, has a diplomatic résumé that’s three decades long and includes three ambassadorships, an unusual feat.... [Trump and Rudy Giuliani] quibbled with her professionalism, which had no place in their schemes....

It’s the professionals who keep pushing back at [Trump], whether at the Federal Reserve, the Birmingham, Ala., office of the National Weather Service or the State Department, which is where Taylor, Yovanovitch and this week’s other impeachment witness, George Kent, worked.
Steve Bannon spent only a year in Trump's orbit -- he took over the presidential campaign in August 2016 and left his White House position in August 2017 -- but he injected a massive dose of poison into our national narrative. Trump's habit of lashing out at anyone who prevents him from getting what he wants is infantile and instinctual, but Bannon gave Trump a framework for understanding his frustrations: The president wasn't merely battling with the bureaucracy, he was fighting a sinister force that needs to be eliminated from government, alternately known as "the administrative state" and "the deep state." With the help of Breitbart, Fox News, and other right-wing media outlets, Bannon spread this idea widely and made it mainstream on the right.

Now it's regarded as perfectly reasonable to question the patriotism of literally every person who's ever served in the federal government since the days of Saint Reagan. None of them can be trusted. All of them -- even the wounded veterans, or the ones who were loyal to Republican presidents lionized at the time by GOP voters -- are seen as evil.

This isn't completely new. For years, Republican voters have agreed that expertise is suspect and simple patriotic intuition is far superior. They've responded favorably to denunciations of "career politicians." They've made heroes of thin-résuméd, poorly informed presidents: Reagan, Trump, first-term George W. Bush.

But Reagan and W didn't launch all-out assaults on the very notion of expertise and experience at lower levels of government. W fired U.S. attorneys who wouldn't pursue mythical cases of Democratic voter fraud, and his team in Iraq tried to run the country after the overthrow of Saddam using unqualified young right-wing ideologues from America. But there was no publicly declared all-out war on expertise in government. Career diplomats and bureaucrats mostly continued to serve quietly and without incident. What's happening now is new.

Today, the average Republican voter believes that every long-serving underling in the government is a traitor. That's dangerous. Steve Bannon seems like a clownish has-been now, but he did a lot of damage before his downfall.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I DON'T TRUST THE SUPREME COURT ON GUNS

This seems like good news, but I'm skeptical:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request from the gun industry intended to block a lawsuit from families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.

The decision lets stand a groundbreaking ruling from the Connecticut Supreme Court that said the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle can be sued and potentially held liable for the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the ruling, without comment from any individual justice.
A conservative court should have blocked this lawsuit, right? The fact that it allowed the suit to proceed is a good sign. Right?

I'm not so sure.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found a narrow exception in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which since 2005 has made it almost impossible to sue gun manufacturers for what users do with guns.
The narrow state court decision limited liability for gunmakers based on how they advertise their firearms.... In its ruling, the court said companies that market military-style guns to civilians as a way of killing enemies could be violating state fair-trade laws....

Remington had convinced a lower court that federal law prevented the families’ lawsuit. But Connecticut’s high court said that the law had exceptions and that one of them was meant for state consumer protection laws.
Here's why I think the Federalist Five didn't step in to shut down the suit. They're all partisan Republicans. They don't want the Sandy Hook families to win, ultimately. But they wouldn't object to a plaintiff's win in state court. That would anger and infuriate pro-gun voters and inspire them to vote Republican in greater numbers.

And then the case itself could come to the High Court. If I'm estimating the timing correctly, the Connecticut Supreme Court will probably rule on this sometime next year -- and if Remington loses and appeals the case, the U.S. Supreme Court could take it up in time for a ruling after the 2020 election. An anti-gun decision headed to a Supreme Court that -- omigod -- could be remade by Warren/Biden/Buttigieg would really drive gun-lover turnout on Donald Trump's behalf.

Then, assuming either Trump has won or a new Democratic president hasn't managed to replace a conservative Supreme Court justice, the case will go to the five Federalists and they'll rule in Remington's favor -- and possibly further restrict the already narrow exception to the blanket ban on lawsuits against gun makers. Win-win!

Am I being too cynical? I don't think so.

A NEW SCHEME FOR REMOVING TRUMP FROM OFFICE IS ALMOST AS IMPLAUSIBLE AS THE 25TH AMENDMENT

At Politico, Juleana Glover -- an establishment Republican who's worked for Jeb and George W. Bush, among others -- proposes the latest hack meant to remove President Trump from office without requiring any courage or political risk on the part of Senate Republicans:
By most everyone’s judgment, the Senate will not vote to remove President Donald Trump from office if the House impeaches him. But what if senators could vote on impeachment by secret ballot? If they didn’t have to face backlash from constituents or the media or the president himself, who knows how many Republican senators would vote to remove?
(Recall that former Republican senator Jeff Flake has said that 30 or even 35 Republicans in the Senate might vote to impeach if they could cast their ballots secretly. Republican strategist Mike Murphy's estimate is 30.)
A secret impeachment ballot might sound crazy, but it’s actually quite possible. In fact, it would take only three senators to allow for that possibility.

... [Mitch] McConnell and his fellow Republicans are ... likely to dictate the rules [for a Senate impeachment trial] with little input from Democrats.

But, according to current Senate procedure, McConnell will still need a simple majority—51 of the 53 Senate Republicans—to support any resolution outlining rules governing the trial. That means that if only three Republican senators were to break from the caucus, they could block any rule they didn’t like. (Vice President Mike Pence can’t break ties in impeachment matters.) Those three senators, in turn, could demand a secret ballot and condition their approval of the rest of the rules on getting one.
The usual argument follows: that it's possible to get three votes for a secret ballot from the pool of retiring Republican senators and/or Trump skeptics (Romney, Murkowski). Then GOP senators could blithely vote to convict, secure in the knowledge that...

... that what? That the right-wing media won't unmask the heretics? That the party's Trump-mad voters won't blame all Senate Republicans for allow the God Emperor to be deposed?

There's no doubt in my mind that the right-wing media would proclaim this to be the collective responsibility of deep state GOP saboteurs and weak-willed Republicans who stayed technically loyal to Dear Leader but didn't try hard enough to stop the subterfuge. This would become the stab in the back against which all other stabs in the back are measured.

I know it makes the political establishment crazy, but there isn't a cost-free solution to this problem. If there really are enough Republicans to convict, they have to accept consequences for voting against the wishes of the Trump superfans in their states. For senators in deep red states, that means defying a majority of their own voters.

If they want Trump out, they have to commit career suicide. It's that simple. And that's why it will never happen.

Monday, November 11, 2019

IT WOULDN'T MATTER IF BLOOMBERG BOUGHT FOX NEWS

Over the weekend, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin listed several ways Mike Bloomberg can spend his money that would be more useful to society than a futile presidential run. At the top of Rubin's list was this:
First, buy Fox News. I’m entirely serious. It is a journalistic toxic-waste dump that has misinformed millions of Americans, damaged our civic culture, spread xenophobia and insulated an unfit president from scrutiny. Certainly there is some price the Murdochs would accept for the Fox News empire. (They’ve already sold the entertainment portion of the company). Imagine a smart, fact-based cable TV news giant that adhered to journalistic standards and featured (and separated) smart conservative commentary, clearly labeled as opinion. It could spend the first six months simply running stories to correct past errors and bogus conspiracy theories. Getting more Americans back to looking at the same set of facts might be the best contribution Bloomberg could possibly make to American democracy.
Others are having similar thoughts:



It's a nice fantasy. But would a country without Fox News be a country without Fox-style news?

Please note that this is already happening:
In the midst of closing a merger between CBS and Viacom, Shari Redstone is quietly exploring a plan to launch a conservative TV outlet meant to square off with the Fox News Channel, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter....

Redstone has approached current and former Fox News personalities about such a plan, sources say, and she has spoken with former NBC News host Megyn Kelly.

... a Redstone spokesperson confirms that she quietly visited President Donald Trump in the White House recently.... Redstone plays her personal politics close to the vest but shortly after Trump’s election she told THR, "He's always been very good to me and a tremendous supporter of me personally."
Imagine if the available talent pool wasn't just Kelly (and Bill O'Reilly) but all of Fox's current and former opinion-show hosts. It's hard to believe someone with deep pockets wouldn't build a Fox 2.0 out of that. No one's tried to pump big money into the Fox wannabes -- One America News Network, Newsmax TV -- and Sinclair hasn't taken Fox on directly. But that would change fast if Fox suddenly weren't there.

A few years ago, I might have said that the Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes formula can't be duplicated -- Ailes, in particular, had an evil genius for putting what he wanted to see on the screen. But Ailes has been gone for years, as have several of his stars (O'Reilly, Kelly, Glenn Beck), and Fox just keeps going, with new management and new demagogues to replace the old ones. It's a formula now, one that can be easily reproduced. It would be.

NIKKI HALEY'S BET ISN'T AUDACIOUS

David Frum doesn't really get it.



Frum notes that Haley has been critical of Trump in the past.
After Donald Trump gloated over a burglary at the home of the late Representative Elijah Cummings in Baltimore, Haley tweeted, “This is so unnecessary.” The dissents, however, were always circumspect, and never touched on the central scandals of the administration. Haley left her possibilities open for future decision.
That's the audacious part. Putting any daylight between yourself and Trump is risky in the modern -- and, yes, future -- GOP.

Now she seems to have made up her mind: As The Washington Post notes, she's siding with Trump and revealing that two prominent White House figures tried unsuccessfully to recruit her for an anti-Trump plot.
Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly sought to recruit her to work around and subvert Trump, but she refused, Haley writes in a new book, “With All Due Respect” ...

“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote.

“It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley wrote of the views the two men held.
Frum notes that Haley sat for an interview with the Post, in which she's mildly critical of Trump on Ukraine but is firmly opposed to impeachment. She says:
So, do I think it’s not good practice to talk to foreign governments about investigating Americans? Yes. Do I think the president did something that warrants impeachment? No, because the aid flowed.

And, in turn, the Ukrainians didn’t follow up with the investigation ...
Frum writes:
... she’s making the same bet on the 2024 future being placed by [Mike] Pence, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, by senators such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and by governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida: There is no percentage in even whispering a criticism of anything Trump says or does. On some issues, such as the sellout of the Kurds, it is permissible to assert a diverging position—but even then, there must be no direct or even indirect criticism of Trump. He is the party’s great unquestionable.
Yeah, and? Why is that "audacious"?

In fact, she's running more of a risk by expressing mild criticism of Trump at all on some occasions. The reaction to Haley's memoir and book tour is positive, if warily so, over at Free Republic, my usual bellwether for rank-and-file GOP thinking:
Haley has been a pleasant surprise. She has her detractors here but on balance she sits comfortably on the positive side of the ledger.

****

She just went up 10 points in my book. I think she was excellent at the UN, the best I've ever seen.

****

Not completely sold on her but this certainly adds positive Mark’s to my opinion of her.

****

Haley’s stock keeps going up.

I know she had the flag incident as Governor, which could have been bad advice. But based on her U.N. performance, she’s exactly the kind of fighter we need.
Though there are detractors:
And we should believe her because...?

****

So, she quit when by her own statements, the president needed her the most?

I don’t know....

****

There are reasons to disbelieve Nikki Haley. She has too much baggage. She lied about removing the battle flag. During that enormous flood in her state, she lied about her whereabouts - she took off. She has lied about her religion - there is the photo of her and hubby at the feet of her guru. And who can forget her response to Obama’s State of the Union address

****

She smells the way the wind blows - towards re-election. Another opportunist.
That's why I say the risk is her bet-hedging. There's far less risk in being a diehard Trump supporter.

What will happen to those who back Trump unreservedly if the nation eventually arrives at a consensus opinion that Trump's presidency was indefensible? A young Senator Bob Dole tirelessly defended Richard Nixon during his battle to save his presidency -- and although Dole barely survived his next election, he went on to be regarded by the Washington establishment as a wise statesman worthy of the presidency. The defenders of the disgraced George W. Bush haven't been forced into retirement, even though Bush is denounced by the left and the current Republican president. (The Obamas and Ellen DeGeneres still treat him well, and his paintings have quite a few admirers.)

With her occasional criticism of Trump, Haley is hoping she'll be in the establishment's good graces if Trump falls -- but she doesn't need the establishment to win the GOP nomination, any more than Trump did, and pursuing its favor undoubtedly hurts her with the base. (The party will rally around whoever wins the nomination, just the way it did in 2016.)

Incidentally, Haley's book is likely to be a hit -- it's currently #12 on Amazon's bestseller list -- but it's not the biggest book on the list by a Republican. That honor goes to the #3 book: Triggered by Donald Trump Jr. (#1 is A Warning by Anonymous.)

Maybe that's a preview of the 2024 GOP presidential race.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

MAYBE THE TRUMP REELECTION CAMPAIGN IS GOING ABOUT THIS ALL WRONG

There's an op-ed in The New York Times today by Liz Mair, a right-wing Trump critic. Reviewing the results of this week's Kentucky gubernatorial contest, Mair notes that the president seem to be very weak as a "closer" for Republican candidates in tight races. One paragraph in her op-ed stood out for me.
On the eve of the election, President Trump descended on Kentucky for a pro-Bevin rally. Between the available public polling and the Trump campaign’s own data coming out of that rally, the rally should have pushed Mr. Bevin to re-election. But it didn’t.
The link in that paragraph goes to this tweet, from Trump's campaign manager.



Parscale posts a tweet like that after every Trump rally..



The goal, clearly, is to acquire contact information from people who never or rarely vote, or who might not otherwise be identified as potential Trump voters (perhaps because they're registered Democrats), then bombard them with targeted ads and get-out-the-vote efforts until they show up at the polls.

Smart observers, like the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman, think this has the potential to work.



But what if it doesn't work?

Obviously, it was Matt Bevin's campaign and not Trump's that had the job of turning those rally attendees into Bevin voters. It's quite possible that they were never going to be Bevin voters because their attendance means they like Trump -- it doesn't necessarily mean they like Bevin. And the Trump campaign's plan -- to harvest the data and court these infrequent voters over a long period of time -- isn't the same strategy as holding an Election Eve rally and hoping the enthusiasm generated will result in a vote the next day.

But you'd think the rally would have had some positive impact on Bevin's numbers. Apparently it didn't. It's quite possible that there are a lot of MAGA-heads who want to go to a big MAGA pseudo-rock concert and wallow in MAGA-tude, but simply aren't in the habit of voting.

Lots of Americans aren't in the habit of voting. Maybe Parscale's brilliant plan to turn non-voters into voters will work. But what if the Trump team can't get more than a handful of these people out to the polls because they just don't do voting?

It's clear that the Trump campaign has no intention of trying to broaden Trump's appeal to voters in the ideological middle. Everything will be about reaching people who like Trump just the way he is. I'm sure there are millions of voting-eligible adults who can theoretically be brought to the polls on Trump's behalf.

But if they don't care about voting -- or if they don't bother to vote because they believe no "real American" could possibly dislike Trump and Trump is clearly on his way to a landslide victory (a message they'll hear if they're fans of the right-wing media) -- then Trump is screwed.

Let's hope.