Thursday, January 31, 2019


ABC's Rick Klein writes:
Howard Schultz may or may not run for president, as he has told the world repeatedly this week.

But the former Starbucks CEO has already managed to do something that almost no one other than President Donald Trump has done in two years' time: drive a sustained debate on both policy and politics.
At the same time, the Wall Street Journal editorial page tells us this:
The way progressives are denouncing Howard Schultz, you’d think he is Donald Trump’s first cousin. The former Starbucks CEO said Sunday he might run for President as an independent in 2020, and Democrats have since been shrieking like teenagers at a horror movie. They seem to fear a policy debate, which is exactly why a Schultz candidacy could be good for the country, including Democrats.
So which is it? Is Schultz generating a policy debate or being bullied and censored so there won't be one? Both things can't be true. He's practically the only subject being discussed in the political press, so if Democrats are silencing him, they're not doing a very good job of it. (Odd how the victims of liberal fascism invariably spend hours in the public eye telling us at great length how awful it is that they're being silenced.)

Here's one problem with both of these arguments: Democrats have been trying to have multiple sustained debates about policy and politics. On the subject of politics, what is H.R. 1, the first bill introduced in the newly Democratic House, but an attempt to kickstart a debate about the nature of our politics? It addresses voting rights, gerrymandering, lobbying, money in the electoral process, and much more that's central to questions about how our government runs. Congressional Republicans don't like it, which is what you'd expect, but the mainstream media doesn't want to talk about it, which you'd think would not be the case if pundits are so concerned about the inability to have a sustained debate of our politics.

Beyond that, Democrats have been trying to have sustained policy debates on a host of subjects: health care, inequality, climate change, infrastructure, the cost of education -- the list goes on. The president and other Republicans won't engage Democrats on these subjects, but no one chastises the GOP for being afraid to debate. Democrats who manage to start discussions -- as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did when she called for an increase in the top marginal tax rate -- aren't praised.

But are Democrats afraid to have the specific discussion Schultz wants to have with them? Harrumphing pundits want you to think so. But if that's the case, why aren't Democrats attacking Mike Bloomberg, who plans to run in the party's primaries on precisely the same economic ideas Howard Schultz is expressing? Why aren't Democrats working feverishly to prevent John Hickenlooper, Terry McAuliffe, and even Joe Biden from entering the presidential race with their moderate, gradualist ideas?

If one didn't know better, one might conclude that Democrats are telling the truth when they say they're afraid of a split in the anti-Trump vote in November 2020, and aren't afraid at all of a debate on the issues. One might also conclude that the media doesn't consider it a real debate until a conservative or right-centrist weighs in. Under those circumstances, liberals and progressives can't start or sustain debates because nothing we say is acknowledged. It's only a debate when someone lectures us.


Maybe you haven't noticed, but this week, for the first time in a couple of years, the highest-profile anti-Democratic troll in America hasn't been Donald Trump. Trump has owned that title since he declared his candidacy for the presidency, but Howard Schultz has stolen Trump's crown, and it's not clear when, if ever, he'll relinquish it. Schultz has been trolling Democrats relentlessly this week. Trump, by contrast, doesn't seem to be trying very hard.

We know that Trump is cheering Schultz on:

Trump thinks Schultz's candidacy is good for his reelection prospects. That's the conventional wisdom, although some observers -- Nate Silver, BooMan -- think Schultz actually threatens Trump, because he could take votes from affluent suburban voters who dislike Trump but might vote for the president in a two-person race if the Democrat is very economically progressive.

But if the media -- which is full of precisely the kinds of socially moderate, economically conservative white males Schultz appeals to -- continues to give the coffee guy an inordinate amount of attention, Trump is going to be very impatient. Trump may eventually come to regard Schultz as a threat, especially if polling shows Schultz hurting Trump in a three-way race. (I don't know whether polling will ever show that, and it's not at all obvious that Trump will believe such polling if it exists -- he tends to believe only good polling news.)

I think Schultz should seriously consider running as a Republican in any case. Far more than Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, or Ben Sasse, Schultz has demonstrated a skill at doing something that's critically important to GOP voters: he Annoys The Libs. This week, he's annoyed us more than Trump has.

Imagine if 2019 brings more indictments, a Mueller report that implicates Trump, impeachment hearings, and possibly a recession or other unsettling developments. Imagine if Trump is weakened, even in the eyes of his base. Imagine if his punches stop landing.

Some GOP voters will want a new lib-owner. Will they go for a social moderate who claims to have been a lifelong Democrat, and whose positions on quite a few issues are far to their left? Well, they went for an occasionally war-skeptical, formerly pro-choice ex-Democrat in 2016, didn't they?

Of course, in order to compete in the Republican primaries, Schultz would presumably have to, y'know, run against Trump. Or maybe he wouldn't. It's common for candidates in presidential primaries to spend most of their time attacking an anticipated general-election opponent. Schultz is already doing that to the Democrats. Why not just keep doing it in Republican primaries?

I don't think Schultz could beat Trump in the primaries. However, I think he could put more of a scare into Trump than the usual run of milquetoast #NeverTrumpers. The reason is obvious: Schultz does Trump's act almost as well as Trump does.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Much of the right has gone to Defcon-1 fauxtrage because of remarks made by Virginia's Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, on a radio show today:
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was accused by prominent Republicans on Wednesday of supporting infanticide because of comments he made about late-term abortions in which the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

The Democratic governor and pediatric neurologist was defending efforts to loosen abortion restrictions during a radio interview on WTOP-FM when described a hypothetical situation where a severely deformed newborn infant could be left to die.

Northam said that if a woman were to desire an abortion as she's going into labor, the baby would be "resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue" between doctors and the mother.
The self-righteousness is off the charts. Ben Sasse: "I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.” Marco Rubio: "I never thought I would see the day America had government officials who openly support legal infanticide." Gateway Pundit: "SHOCK: Democrat Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Endorses the Murder of Babies — AFTER THEY ARE BORN!"

We expect ideologues to go for the jugular and the gutter press to go for the gutter. But how was this story handled by the "responsible" right-wing media?

Let's look at this piece from National Review. The headline? It's inflammatory: "Virginia Governor Defends Letting Infants Die." Hey, but at least NR isn't accusing him of openly sanctioning murder!

Here's how NR quotes Northam's statement:
“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved,” Northam said. “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physician — more than one physician, by the way — and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s non-viable.”

... he went on to say something even more heinous.

“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” he continued. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Now watch the clip of Northam's remarks:

Let me give you a revised transcript of what Northam said. It's not greatly revised -- I'll highlight the key difference:
“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved. When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians — more than one physician, by the way — and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s non-viable.

So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Oopsie! NR left out those five words that make clear that Northam is talking about what happens in the case of a fetus that is non-viable or severely deformed.

Northam subsequently issued a statement to that effect:
No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor’s comments were limited to actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor. Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith....
Yes, well, pretty much everything right-wingers say is in bad faith, isn't it? The same people who've pretending in recent days that they don't know the difference between a 70% tax rate on the ten millionth dollar of income and a 70% tax rate on all income are now pretending that they believe Northam wants to make it legal to murder live, healthy babies. Deceiving people for partisan advantage is just what they do.


Ordinarily I wouldn't have paid any attention to this bit of hackwork from PJ Media's Roger L. Simon, but it came with an endorsement from its subject, Howard Schultz:

What is it that Schultz likes about the piece? Does the "lifelong Democrat" enjoy the Democrat-bashing, including the racist swipe at Elizabeth Warren? (Thoughtful!)
Elections are often a reaction to the previous one. America will be searching for a calm, level-headed voice. That, we know, is not Trump, nor is it the hard-left candidate that could well, in fact likely will, win the Democratic nomination. Current frontrunner Kamala Harris is far from reassuring. She's a shrill (see the Kavanaugh hearings) quasi-socialist promising pie in the sky -- Medicare-for-all, debt-free college, guaranteed pre-K, minimum basic income, confiscatory taxes -- and she's just getting started. Bernie and others will soon be following suit. Fauxcahontas already has, competing in a game of socialist one-upmanship. Even supposedly centrist Biden is playing along. Who will win the approval of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Too bad she's too young to run.

The cost of all this, the actual numbers, if they ever even publish any, will be stratospheric. The national debt will reach the moon and beyond. Maybe Alpha Centauri. If this nonsense were all enacted, the stock market would plunge, unemployment would soar, incomes would plummet, and we'd be headed for a global Depression. It's that stupid.

And Howard Schultz knows it.
Simon, by the way, may be correct when he says that "America will be searching for a calm, level-headed voice" after four years of Donald Trump -- but why would that "calm, level-headed voice" be Schultz's? Now that he's spent a few days on the hot seat, I have to conclude that it's Schultz who's the shrill, emotional, volatile candidate in the race to succeed Trump. I can't think of a Democrat who's as flustered and defensive and snappish under pressure as Schultz is. This basically sums it up:

Maybe this is the bit in Simon's piece that Schultz really likes:
Schultz's policies would end up being much closer to Trump's than to the Democratic opposition. He would want to increase taxes, but only a smidge, so as not to disrupt the economy. He opposes Medicare for all as far too expensive. He would be for a strong defense, at least relatively. He would be middle-of-the-road on immigration, where many Americans are. He would be Trump-lite, a palatable Donald that many of the media could swallow because he wouldn't insult them for being liars (even though they are) or say outrageous (though often accurate) things for them to deliberately misinterpret.
Is that what Schultz is endorsing? Simon's claim that he'd be "Trump-lite"? Schultz wants us to be assured that his policies would be more Republican than Democratic?

I'm not so sure about the "lite" part. Schultz is already in the habit of attacking everyone who disagrees with him -- his favorite insult seems to be "un-American" -- and he's slagging one critic, Elizabeth Warren, by saying she once asked him for a campaign contribution, which is pure Trump. (Trump in an August 2015 debate: "Most of the people on stage, I've given to, a lot of money.")

Most likely what grabbed Schultz's attention was Simon's insistence that Schultz can win. Schultz calls it "a thoughtful analysis," but "analysis" is giving it way too much credit:
And, of course, [Schultz] has plenty of money to run -- in every county, as he says.

Could this, of all things, spell victory? It never did for John Anderson, Ralph Nader, or Russ [sic] Perot, not even close. But Schultz has more going for him. He is, if anything, a more successful businessman than Trump with plenty of economic acumen. And his business, unlike Perot's, is known to all Americans. Moreover, it is a symbol of the "cool" sophisticated life to which much of modern America aspires, like it or not. Schultz took the Greenwich Village coffee shop and put it into every suburban mall in the country, making it less scary and more bourgeois in the process. What soccer mom doesn't love her latte?
Wait -- what? Americans like the "sophisticated life"? I thought real Americans had dirt under their fingernails and got their joe at rural Pennsylvania diners, never doffing their Carhartt jackets and MAGA hats.

This still doesn't explain why Schultz has the potential to earn a greater number of electoral votes than Russ -- er, Ross Perot, who won exactly zero. But good to know that Schultz is linking pieces calling him a would-be Trump. As the saying more or less goes, when people retweet explanations of who they are, believe them.


UPDATE: Schultz has deleted the tweet.


Rashaad Thomas, an opinion contributor to The Arizona Republic who's also a poet, is being accused of hypersensitivity for writing this:
Phoenix restaurant says this is a photo of coal miners. But I see offensive blackface

A few weeks ago, I attended a holiday party at a downtown Phoenix restaurant. I walked around to view the photographs on the wall.

Then a photograph caught my attention.

Friends said, “It’s coal miners at a pub after work.” It was a photograph of coal miners with blackened faces. I asked a Latinx and white woman for their opinion. They said it looked like coal miners at a pub after work. Then they stepped back, frowned and said it’s men in blackface.

I asked the waitress to speak with a manager. Instead, I spoke with a white restaurant owner. I explained to him why the photograph was offensive....

A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, “Whites Only.” It says people like me are not welcome.
Here's the photo:

Erick Erickson's reaction to this is predictable: "Progressive Poet Gets Triggered by Old Photo of Coal Miners." Glenn Reynolds, eloquent as usual, responds to Thomas's headline with "THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE A PATHETIC, ATTENTION-SEEKING IDIOT WHO DOESN’T CARE ABOUT FACTS."

Reynolds, of course, doesn't explain what the "facts" are in this case. So let me offer a few facts that might be of interest.

In 2014, there was a momentary controversy when David Cameron, then Britain's prime minister, posed for a photo with Morris dancers in blackface, part of a group of dancers known as Foxs Morris:

As a story in The Independent noted,
Foxs is part of the Border Morris tradition also followed in Herefordshire and Shropshire, and in neighbouring Wales....

Border Morris, as well as the East Anglian Molly dancers, and the Britannia Coconut clog dancers of Lancashire, use blackface. “From time to time, we do get people asking why, and they’re always very happy with the explanation and we smile and move on,” Finn says. “Sometimes we direct them to the available text, like the Border Morris page on Wikipedia.”

But that page reveals an unclear history and various explanations. “The most popular one is that it is a disguise that allowed impoverished 16th-century farm workers who were unable to earn money during harsh winters to go out and do a bit of begging and not be recognised for who they were,” Finn says.

But the other theories are more problematic. One traces the word “morris” to Moorish, and suggests the earliest performers were mimicking North African dancers. Studies of varying academic weight separately link the rise of Border Morris to that of American minstrel shows that launched the blacking-up-for-laughs craze of the 19th century.

According to these accounts, the minstrel shows that became ubiquitous in village halls across Britain began to influence other traditions. Morris dancers adopted “Not for Joe,” a song that mentioned “niggers” and the Wild West, while morris dancing is recorded to have been referred to colloquially as “going niggering”.
This page says that Border Morris "was the favored form danced by the coal miners of the Welsh/English border."

The photo that offended Rashaad Thomas is now located in Arizona, but it's probably a British photo. There's an ad on the wall for Burton Ale, a British IPA made by Bass & Co.

Here's another image of modern Border Morris dancers in blackface, from the Border Morris Wikipedia page. It's captioned "Silurian Border Morris Men, Church Lane, Ledbury, Boxing Day 1996."

Those don't look like men who just happened to emerge from a long day in the mines.

And a recent New York Times story reminds us that the Mary Poppins books and movies include some unfortunate references to blackface:
One of the more indelible images from the 1964 film is of Mary Poppins blacking up. When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker. Then she leads the children on a dancing exploration of London rooftops with Dick Van Dyke’s sooty chimney sweep, Bert.

This might seem like an innocuous comic scene if Travers’s novels didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature. “Don’t touch me, you black heathen,” a housemaid screams in “Mary Poppins Opens the Door” (1943), as a sweep reaches out his darkened hand. When he tries to approach the cook, she threatens to quit: “If that Hottentot goes into the chimney, I shall go out the door,” she says, using an archaic slur for black South Africans that recurs on page and screen.

The 1964 film replays this racial panic in a farcical key. When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps step in time on a roof, a naval buffoon, Admiral Boom, shouts, “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!”
(There are other racially charged moments in the original Poppins books, including a couple of references to "pickaninnies.")

So I think it's quite possible that the photo of soot-covered men in the Phoenix bar was meant to be, among other things, a racial joke. You may still think it's hypersensitivity, but there are some facts on Rashaad Thomas's side.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Some ignorant jamoke in the Democratic Party thinks this is a good idea:
At least one House Democrat has been privately urging members of the New York delegation to recruit a local politician from the Bronx or Queens to challenge [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez.

“What I have recommended to the New York delegation is that you find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson,” the Democratic lawmaker, who requested anonymity, told The Hill. “You’ve got numerous council people and state legislators who’ve been waiting 20 years for that seat. I’m sure they can find numerous people who want that seat in that district.”
Do you know what happens if Ocasio-Cortez is primaried? Remember, she's admired nationwide, so she'll immediately begin fund-raising on a massive scale. She'll have the potential to raise Beto-level money, all of it in small donations. She also has star power and -- to put it mildly -- the hacks and wannabes who make up the Democratic Party's bench here in the city generally have about as much charisma as a vending-machine sandwich on white bread.

Do you know what else happens if Ocasio-Cortez is primaried? The Democratic Party -- in a presidential election year -- sends the message to young (and not-so-young) progressives that it doesn't welcome them in its ranks. What a smart thing to do in a year when the president absolutely has to be defeated. You think Hillary Clinton giving Wall Street speeches was an unforced error? This could potentially be even bigger.

Look, I get it: Many in the Democratic Party don't want to have a huge fight with the plutocracy. The Democrats who don't have the chops to raise money the way Beto did need that sweet, sweet corporate cash. Democrats seem to have the wind at their backs right now, with even the high muckamucks of capitalism beginning to realize that Donald Trump is a menace -- but it's clear that the corpocracy would still rather have Trump and the end of America as we know it than a tax uptick that threatens the purchase of that third yacht. I understand that mainstream Democrats don't want to risk rubbing the Masters of the Universe the wrong way.

But economic progressivism is here to stay. It's in the DemocratIc tent now, and according to the polls it's quite popular.

Much of the public is receptive to both hardcore progressive messages and sincere reformist gradualism -- but the old status quo has got to go. So seriously, hacks, don't even think about challenging AOC. And don't think about redistricting her out of Congress, as someone suggested on Twitter this morning -- if you do that, she'll just move a couple of subway stops away (NYC is densely populated and the districts are physically compact), at which point she'll jut take out another incumbent. You don't want that, do you?


It's temting to believe that Donald Trump is doomed when the numbers are as bad as the ones in a new ABC/Washington Post poll:
A third of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents oppose President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination to a second term and 56 percent of all adults said they wouldn’t consider voting for him....

Thirty-two percent of Republicans and Republican leaning-independents said they’d like the party to nominate someone other than Trump as the GOP candidate for president in 2020.

Among mainline Republicans -- excluding independents who lean toward the party -- 27 percent want someone other than Trump. Opposition to Trump runs as high as 41 percent of women, 42 percent of independents and 49 percent of moderates within the ranks of Republicans and GOP leaners.

We're told that the "wouldn’t consider voting for him" number is "signficantly higher" than what Barack Obama faced in his first term, but Obama's worst number was quite high, and his support within his own party was more tentative:
Opposition to a second Trump term is significantly higher than former President Barack Obama encountered, peaking at 46 percent in Oct. 2011. Trump’s support in his base is more solid, with 70 percent of Republicans who said they’ll definitely vote for him, compared with 58 percent of Democrats for Obama in 2011.
In late November 2010, a Marist poll found that 48% of voters would "definitely" vote against Obama. (Mitt Romney would go on to win 47% of the vote.) In a Quinnipiac poll from November 2010, 49% of voters said that Obama had not earned reelection, while 43% said he had.

On the subject of a primary challenge, the 32% number among Republicans right now seems high, but the number for Obama was 27% in that November 2010 Quinnipiac poll. In September 2010, Gallup found that 37% of Democrats would back Hillary Clinton over Obama in a 2012 primary (52% backed Obama). And here's an odd item for the time capsule: an April 2010 NPR story speculating on possible primary challengers to Obama. Names included Clinton, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich(!), Mike Bloomberg, Harold Ford(!), and Claire McCaskill.

It's possible that Trump's support will continue to weaken, especially after we learn what Robert Mueller knows. But for now, he's at 65%-32% within his party, so the nomination seems locked up at this moment. And his general election numbers aren't much bleaker than those of Obama at his lowest point. (Remember, in the short term Trump's numbers are likely to rise now that the shutdown is over, unless he starts another one.)

And, of course, the possibility of a three-way race might mean that Trump can win even if 56% of voters vote against him. (He needed only 46% of the vote last time, in a race that had no third-party billionaire, so a ceiling of 44% in 2020 might be enough for him.) Don't rule out a second victory for Trump just yet.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Staggering insight from a meeting of great minds:

Zito said this to Hewitt on his radio show today. Media Matters has the transcript. These two are the Lennon and McCartney of wrongheadedness.
HUGH HEWITT​ (HOST)​: ​You've written great pieces in the Post and the ​Washington Examiner, Salena. I want to focus on whether or not, again, you mention Beltway elites miss stories. I ​think they are missing​ ​Howard Schultz, ​and I think they are missing Venezuelan Spring, and they don't understand Americans always rally to freedom. And they don't understand that Howard Schultz represents something new​ and different, and maybe not the last war that they're fighting. What​'s​ ​your reaction? To both.

SALENA ZITO​ (NEW YORK POST)​: I absolutely agree. ​I absolutely agree. Yesterday, ​I ​just ​retweeted his announcement ​about running,​ saying that he was considering a run, and the amount of people on the left, not the right, because I think people on the right get it because they were drawn to someone outside of political​ sort of​ orthodoxy, they were so dismissive of his chances. And not even chances, but why would you run, nobody wants anyone​ that's​ outside of politics,​ so​ you'd never stand a chance. I'm like, my God, you still don't get Trump, let alone someone else​?​
Nobody on the left is dismissive of Schultz's chances because he's "outside of political​ ... orthodoxy" -- he actually isn't, of course. (Deficit hawks with liberal ideas on social issues? They're a dime a dozen in the commentariat.) If he's unorthodox, it's because he's not a politician -- but we all know that non-politicians (Donald Trump, Mike Bloomberg, Rick Scott) can win elections, especially if they're billionaires. Many of us believe Oprah Winfrey would be competitive in the Democratic primaries if she were serious about running.

If we think Schultz will "never stand a chance," it's because (as I've pointed out recently) no third-party presidential candidate has won even a single state since 1968, and the only two third-party candidates to win states in any election since 1924 were the segregationists Strom Thurmond (1948) and George Wallace (1968).

We've told you exactly why we're angry at Schultz: because we believe he'll take far more votes from the Democrat than from Trump and could potentially help Trump win reelection. We're not worried about our party. The party can survive that. We're worried about the country, which might not.
HEWITT: They're so threatened by Schultz. ​Now, Democrats -- ​he's threatening​ in​ the way that Trump threatened the ​Republican establishment, Schultz threatens the Dem​ocratic​ establishment, ​and ​they​'re so threatened that they​ won't admit​ the information in that​ there​ i​s a path for someone like this.
He doesn't threaten the Democratic establishment for the simple reason that -- ideologically at least -- there is no Democratic establishment. This past year was, perhaps, the Democratic Party's equivalent of the GOP's Trump apocalypse, or at least of the first year of the Tea Party -- but Democrats, an assortment of gradualists, socialists, and people vaguely in the middle, didn't fight so much as agree to let a hundred flowers bloom. We backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and we backed Abigail Spanberger. We rooted for Andrew Gillum and for Gretchen Whitmer -- and hell, many of us were sad when Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill lost. The Democratic Party has moved to the left, and that's a good thing, but it's still a fairly capacious tent. We could accommodate Schultz, although this year we'd reject him if he were running in the primaries. He's the one who's threatened by us, not the other way around.

In any case, what Democrats are doing right now is working. We've moved to the left (as has the country, on many issues, in the wake of the Great Recession), but without imposing a rigid orthodoxy. This worked well in 2018. If it's ripe for disruption, why did it connect with the public last November?

And now here's my favorite bit:
​HEWITT: ... I don't know how much of the Republican Party is up for grabs, ​but it's got to be 25​ percent​​. And I don't know how much of the Democratic Party is up for grabs if they go left, but it's got to be 25 percent.

​ZITO: I agree.​

​HEWITT: ​That leaves Schultz with 50​ percent​ and the other ​two​ with 25​ percent​.
Math is hard! Sorry, but if one party represents half the country and you have the potential to grab a quarter of it, and the other party represents the other half of the country and you have the potential to grab a quarter of it as well, you don't add a quarter and a quarter and say you could potentially control a half. That's not how numbers work, as any reasonably proficient schoolchild could tell you. If you believe these cockamamie estimates, Schultz threatens to seize a quarter of the electorate overall -- that is, unless Hewitt and Zito are arguing that there's a big chunk of independents and he's going to win 100% of them (a prediction as wildly unrealistic as the 25% prediction -- remember Ross Perot in '92 won only 19% of the vote, and he's the strongest third-party candidate in terms of overall vote totals in the past century).
ZITO: Yes, absolutely. And ​you know ​you're absolutely right, it is sort of threatening their tribe, if you will. You know, threatening their existence. And it's incredibly dismissive, and I think it's sort of dangerous in the sense that they're unable to accept change. And ​I​ think that's funny because they made fun of the people that supported Trump​,​ because they believed that they were unable to accept change. And I thought they were the ones ​that were most willing to welcome it.

​HEWITT: Absolutely.

​ZITO: It is different.

HEWITT: Yeah, disrupt.
What's puzzling to me is that the two Trump cheerleaders seem to believe that the Donald "disrupted" the GOP, yet a quarter of the GOP is still open to disruption by Schultz. Is that really what they believe? That Trump hasn't become the God Emperor whose status as party head the voters will defend to the death? Do Hewitt and Zito believe GOP voters want to live in a state of perpetual revolution, imagining themselves Maoists or tech bros? They delighted as Trump led a revolution and now they'd be delighted if someone led a revolution against him? (I guess all the evidence that the Trumpers are a personality cult that mercilessly polices the GOP for apostasy should be taken seriously but not literally.)

By contrast, we Democrats are portrayed as just a bunch of stick-in-the-muds defending a sclerotic establishment -- except that we're the folks who voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago and now root for wealth taxes and Medicare for All. We're the ones stuck in a rut?

On most issues, Trump actually is the hidebound Republican establishment. He's working from the establishment's list of judges. He passed the establishment's tax cut. He's submitted Cabinet agencies to regulatory capture just the way a Bush would have.

Hewitt and Zito accuse Democrats of fighting "the last war," but "the last war" for Democrats was an intraparty Bernie-Hillary fight that seems to have been resolved in favor of more progressivism with a unified front in order to take on Trump. The real last war is the D.C.'s establishment's search for a deficit hawk with benign social views who'll magically gull the populace into accepting lass, thus leading the ruling class to a post-entitlement paradise. That war is lost -- even Trump says he doesn't want to cut Medicare and Social Security, and though that doesn't mean he won't, it does mean that neither party's voters want this. Only the centrist elites do -- oh, and also Hugh Hewitt and Salena Zito, those phony champions of the working class.


Howard Schultz has crunched the numbers, and by "crunching the numbers" I mean he's developed a hunch about what the electorate wants that's not based on evidence at all:
“We have a broken political system with both parties basically in business to preserve their own ideology without a recognition and responsibility to represent the interests of the American people,” Mr. Schultz said in [last night's 60 Minutes] interview.

“Republicans and Democrats alike — who no longer see themselves as part of the far extreme of the far right and the far left — are looking for a home,” he added.
Dave Weigel has the best answer to that:

Right. So who are these disaffected Democrats "who no longer see themselves as part of the far extreme of ... the far left" and "are looking for a home"? Schultz seems to be saying it's just his gut instinct that they're out there -- but an aide tells Axios's Mike Allen that the numbers back Schultz up.
A Schultz adviser tells me his team sees opportunity in "the most moderate population the country's ever had," with so many "disengaged and disenchanted."

In the latest Gallup data, 39% of people see themselves as independents, 34% as Ds and 25% as Rs.
But that's data on party affiliation. It's not data on ideology. In fact, the percentage of Americans who call themselves moderate has been dropping over the past quarter century. I guess Schultz's people never looked at these Gallup numbers.

And given the polling Weigel cites, it's hard not to conclude that many Americans who say they're moderate are actually liberal (or at least are supporters of many progressive ideas), and that even some Republicans share a number of views with progressives, especially on economics, taxation, and inequality.

So if the general public doesn't think progressive ideas are too extreme, who are these people Schultz cites who are desperate for an alternative to Trumpism and progressivism? Maybe it's these folks:
NEW YORK — Top Wall Street executives would love to be rid of President Donald Trump. But they are getting panicked about the prospect of an ultraliberal Democratic nominee bent on raising taxes and slapping regulations on their firms.

The result is a kind of nervous paralysis of executives pining for a centrist nominee like Michael Bloomberg while realizing such an outcome is unlikely from a party veering sharply to the left.

... “I’m a socially liberal, fiscally conservative centrist who would love to vote for a rational Democrat and get Trump out of the White House,” said the CEO of one of the nation’s largest banks, who, like a dozen other executives interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name for fear of angering a volatile president. “Personally, I’d love to see Bloomberg run and get the nomination. I’ve just never thought he could get the nomination the way the primary process works.”

... Bankers’ biggest fear: The nomination goes to an anti-Wall Street crusader like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Sanders. “It can’t be Warren and it can’t be Sanders,” said the CEO of another giant bank. “It has to be someone centrist and someone who can win.”
I guess we've identified Howard Schultz's desperate American moderates: They're Wall Street bankers.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Once again the question arises: Where does President Trump get the idea that human traffickers routinely bind up women with duct tape? Vox's Dara Linds reports:
It’s become a staple of President Donald Trump’s riffs on the horrors of the US-Mexico border, something he knows by heart so well that he doesn’t even need it scripted on a teleprompter: Human traffickers gag women with tape so they can’t even breathe before packing them into vans and driving them across the border illegally.

But two weeks after Trump had started talking about tape-gagged women — when a January 17 Washington Post article had questioned the claim — a top Border Patrol official had to email agents to ask if they had “any information” that the claim was actually true.

The email, shown to Vox by a source within Border Patrol, was sent as a “request for information” by an assistant Border Patrol chief, apparently on behalf of the office of Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan (referred to internally as “C-1”). It asked agents to reply within less than two hours with “any information (in any format)” regarding claims of tape-gagged women — and even linked to the Post article “for further info.”

Vox’s source indicated that they and others in their sector hadn’t heard anything that would back up Trump’s claims, but wasn’t sure if agents in other sectors had provided information.
No one can find the source of these stories in news archives. Experts say that trafficking victims are more likely to be lured to their intended destinations through deceit than by force.

And as Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star notes, these tales are accompanied by very specific -- though contradictory -- information about how traffickers drive.

But the duct tape -- where does that come from? An urban legend? A movie? Trump's twisted fantasies?

I wonder if someone at the White House is showing Trump stock footage and insisting to Trump that it's real. I found this at Shutterstock:

Here's a sample of the clip:

Doesn't look like documentary footage to me, but do you thinks it's believable enough to fool the president?

Hey, it might be.


Frank Bruni has found a potential presidential candidate he could enthusiastically support. Here's the problem: She's not running and no one except Bruni thinks she should run:
I did it. I found a significantly accomplished, defensibly qualified Democratic officeholder who isn’t flirting with — and hasn’t fantasized about — a presidential run in 2020....

Her name is Gina Raimondo. She’s the governor of [Rhode Island]. She just began her second term after being re-elected by a margin of more than 15 percentage points, and you would think that this commanding victory plus her youth (she’s 47), her working-class background, her educational pedigree (Harvard, Rhodes scholar, Yale Law), her role as the chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association and her situation far from the nation’s swampy and unpopular capital would start chatter about a move there. But no. Crickets.

The most obvious reason? Her relationship to the Democratic Party of the moment. Both stylistically and substantively, she’s out of sync with it.

She can’t tweet worth a damn and the same goes for Instagram. She winces at talk of a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent and cringes at the growing use of “corporatist” as a slur against Democratic politicians deemed too cozy with business interests. She thinks that big companies often need to be prodded forcefully to do right by their employees, but that it’s bad policy and bad politics to paint them as the enemy.
Oh yes, it's politically suicidal to bash corporations and talk about soaking the rich, isn't it?:

Raimondo is not just a corporate-friendly centrist, she's a former venture capitalist, something Bruni doesn't mention as he tries to imagine her running for president in a better version of our times. On the other hand, there's some nuance in her worldview. Bruni writes:
[Raimondo] acknowledged that “the system we have today is totally broken.” She cited grotesque income inequality. She noted that too many Americans have no economic security and no prospects for achieving it.

“But I fall in the camp of: Let’s fix it,” she said. “Let’s embrace business to come to the table. Someone needs to make the case that it’s in the best interest of businesses and wealthy people to be better corporate citizens. Pay for health care. Help people get their college degree. Pay for job training.”

Along those lines, she recently proposed that companies doing business in Rhode Island be taxed up to $1,500 annually for every employee who is enrolled in Medicaid because he or she can’t get health insurance through a company-sponsored plan. “I hope that they’re embarrassed,” she said.

But, she added, “Where I think we are at risk is if all we do is beat up and crap on businesses.”
It's easy to imagine one of the lefties Bruni hates so much proposing precisely this tax on business, and Bruni railing against it because it's a radical, confiscatory attack on capital.

Raimondo is trying to steer a middle course, but the reason no one is touting her for president isn't just that she's centrist (or that she doesn't tweet, which isn't a reason at all). Here's what Bruni's own paper told us last September, when she won a tough primary.
... Rhode Island’s frail economy has been a persistent political challenge for Ms. Raimondo, who has pledged in her campaigns to help restore the state’s economic vitality.

Rhode Island struggled longer than most states to shake off the effects of the last recession, at times recording the highest employment rate in the nation. Ms. Raimondo had a good run where Fortune 500 companies and other firms announced plans to locate or expand in Rhode Island. The unemployment rate has declined fairly steadily during her term, now standing at 4.1 percent, slightly above the national average. But some Democrats and Republicans have argued that she should have done more to improve the economy and the wages of state residents.

Ms. Raimondo has also been haunted by her overhaul of the pension system. The stringent measures she took years ago as state treasurer, including eliminating cost-of-living increases and moving workers into different retirement accounts, earned her the enduring enmity of many of the state’s powerful unions, and some are still angry about it.

And she oversaw the bungled start of a new $364-million computer system that failed in its goal of helping residents sign up for food stamps and health benefits.
Bruni acknowledges some this, but he makes her win seem bigger than it was. Yes, she won the general election by more than 15 points -- but she managed only 52% of the vote, in a very Democratic state. (Minor-party candidates got nearly 10% of the vote.) By contrast, a Democratic senator who was up for reelection, Sheldon Whitehouse, got 61% of the vote, and two incumbent Democrats in the House did even better.

Raimondo just isn't very popular in her home state, even though she won reelection -- Morning Consult surveys consistently rank her as one of the least popular governors in America.

But Bruni is trying to make the facts fit the theory (what voters really want is Third Way corporatist centrism, plus lousy social media skills). In the Raimondo column, Bruni says that "there’s no political priority higher than limiting Trump to one term." But Raimondo has a peculiar plan for attaining that goal, a plan Bruni enthusiastically endorses: "it might be a serious tactical mistake, she added, to nominate any candidate who seems to be at war with capitalism itself or entertains the idea of a guaranteed minimum income."

In fact, the one person who poses the greatest threat to the Democrats is someone who thinks very much along the lines of Raimondo and Bruni, and who is actually serious about running: Howard Schultz, the ex-Starbucks CEO. A top priority for him is reining in Medicare and Social Security, which he'll tell us even as he reminds us what a benevolent capitalist he was. Schultz would seem to be Bruni's ideal candidate -- but because he's planning to run independent, he might peel off just enough moderate voters to throw the election to Trump. Sorry, Frank: The policies you love may reelect the president you hate.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


I'm savoring the headline of the column posted Monday by Townhall's Kurt Schlichter:

Yeah, Trump really had Nancy Pelosi on the run:
Nancy Pelosi made the mistake of buying her own hype and thinking she could go troll-to-troll against him. Big mistake. She thought she could high-hat him by kinda/sorta rescinding her State of the Union address invitation. “Take that!” sneered the mainstream media, pretending that her concern for security during the shutdown was the motivation and not her terror at the thought of the President having a huge audience hear him explain why the Democrat position of letting murderers, rapists, drug dealers and welfare cheats flood into our unprotected country is a bad idea.

So, Trump waits until she and the rest of her pals are on a bus ready to jet off to party in Europe with a fig leaf stopover in Afghanistan and then he pulls the plug. We get delightful footage of dejected ugly Americans filing off the bus, their boondoggle delayed until they do their damn job. Glorious.
Whoa, that sure finished her off, didn't it? After that, she barely had the strength to double down on her State of the Union refusal while maintaining a unified and unbreakable caucus even as an air travel meltdown erupted just before the Super Bowl. Trump really crushed her, didn't he?

We all know what really happened, but Schlichter's not spending a lot of time licking his wounds. He has a fallback position: Hey, think of all the times Trump didn't fold like a cheap suit!

So we lost this round? So what? We’ve lost before, and we’ll lose again. This is for the long-haul folks. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no magic wand where one term of Vitamin D cures a century of progressive pathology.

Trump’s instincts have been right all along. We doubted he could win. He did. We doubted he would actually remake the courts. He has. We doubted he’d fight for the wall, but he did, and he paid a price. Who else would have withstood the heat this long? Who would have even picked the fight?
So, on the shutdown, "Trump always wins!" is now "Trump really deserves an A for effort!"

Besides, ending the shutdown wasn't a retreat, it was Alinskyan strategy!
I’m not ready to even accept that we’ve lost the battle – let’s see what happens in three weeks. But what was the better plan for the shutdown skirmish? Keep it going? Friday morning was bringing reports of airport shutdowns. That might have made it real to the Normals. See, we political types were watching and caring, while they weren’t. But it looked like they were about to start. Maybe Trump’s instincts, which you have to admit have been remarkable ... told him it was time to cut his losses. Remember Alinsky Rule No. 7?

“A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”

Did any of you see any indication at all that the shutdown tactic was about to deliver us victory, that it was not becoming a drag? Me neither. Cut your losses. Pull back here, counter-attack there.
And the counterattack is ... what exactly, Kurt?

We’ve been attacking for two years, racking up conservative triumphs you’ve never experienced unless you were one of us who was of age during the Reagan years. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – what other GOP president would have held course and made them happen?
The correct answer: literally every Republican candidate who ran in 2016, because they all would have been working from ther same Federalist Society list.

(Some of the others might have bailed on Brett Kavanaugh -- though it's hard to say; remember that it was the now reputedly wussy George H.W. Bush who stuck it out with Clarence Thomas. But even if another GOP president had withdrawn Kavanaugh's nomination, he or she would have realized that Fed Society judges are like slices of pie in the old Automat -- remove one and the next one's virtually identical. Under any of those would-be presidents, the court would be indistinguishable from the current court.)
Trump’s remaking the courts and rebuilding our military. He gutted Obamacare and Obama’s regulations.
Yup, and that's exactly what every other 2016 Republican would have done, with a lot less drama.
... Remember that in the days before the shutdown truce, we had won a huge victory over the garbage mainstream media by exposing their lies about the Covington kids and the drum-banging Frigidaireborne ranger. Buzzfeed first had its lies about the president exposed and then had to make massive lay-offs. HuffPo Opinion died. Even the SWAT raid on Roger Stone turned out to have zilch to do with collusion, as usual.
And all that is Trump's doing? Roger Stone gets arrested on national TV and it's a win because he wasn't arrested for being handed a suitcase full of rubles by Vladimir Putin personally? Trump is personally responsible for the economics of digital media?

(And I'm as baffled by "Frigidaireborne ranger" as you are.)

I dunno Kurt -- I think you and your readers all need to clap louder. But nice try.

Friday, January 25, 2019


I'm not the kind of person who concludes that every outrageous Donald Trump word or deed is an attempt to distract us from bad news. I'm skeptical of this theory because even in the rare moments when there hasn't been a recent wave of bad press for him, Trump does and says horrible, offensive things. Doing and saying horrible, offensive things is his way of life. It isn't all intended as a news-cycle smokescreen -- Trump just likes being a dick. Being a dick is what he does.

But when there's really bad news for him in the Russia investigation -- arrests, indictments, law enforcement raids -- he really does seem desperate to alter the news cycle as quickly as possible. That's why I give Robert Mueller credit for the temporary reopening of the government (without a penny for the wall): Yes, Trump's polls are terrible right now; yes, federal workers missed a second paycheck today; yes, inbound service at one of Trump's hometown airports was halted temporarily today because there weren't enough air traffic controllers -- but I'm sure Trump wanted Roger Stone's arrest not to be leading the news cycle, and this was the most effective way for him to ensure a change in the media's lead story.

However, it's only a three-week reprieve -- we'll probably go right back to shutdown mode at the end of it. We may need another arrest to reopen the government after we get to February 15 without a deal he's willing to sign.


As I'm sure you know, Roger Stone was arrested this morning.
Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump, was arrested in the special counsel’s Russia investigation in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home on Friday and was charged with lying to Congress and obstructing the probe....

The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release. Some of those false statements were made to the House intelligence committee, according to the indictment.
Which means that, at Fox & Friends, this isn't really an indictment at all, because Stone is charged with "process crimes," which totally aren't crimes at all. ("Just process crimes" has been a favorite right-wing talking point for a few months now.)

Steve Doocy shrieks "Where is the Russia collusion?" in this clip, and "But there is no Russia collusion" in the one below:

In this second clip, Dan Bongino says:
Couple of takeaways from this: As you just accurately stated, this is another process crime, where the Mueller investigation -- the result of the investigation has produced the crime. As a result of the investigation, we have this witness -- alleged witness tampering and failure to produce documents.
Oh, is that all? Stone didn't cooperate? Aren't these the same people who in other circumstances demand unquestioning respect for law enforcement? When a black man winds up dead in a ditch after being pulled over for a busted taillight, aren't these the folks who say it's the dead man's fault because when the cops stop you, you should do everything you're ordered to do?

More from Bongino:
There is no evidence of a predicate crime outside of the investigation itself.
Right -- there's more smoke than in a California forest during a statewide emergency, but there's no fire.
Secondly, what leaps out to me here is, Roger Stone is no flight risk at all. He's one of the most recognizable people in this entire investigation. Why would you hit his door at six o'clock in the morning to arrest him with the FBI and not allow him to turn himself in?
Seriously? Roger Stone isn't a flight risk? You can't imagine this guy disappearing and turning up some island that has no U.S. extradition treaty, lounging on the beach with a pina colada in his hand? I think border agents would help sneak him out of the country just knowing he's a loyal Trumper. He's recognizable to politics junkies, but he's not George freaking Clooney -- most of America has no idea what he looks like. And he's such a couture-loving fop that all he'd have to do is put on a gray hoodie and a pair of dad jeans and even people who know what he looks like wouldn't recognize him.
Well, the answer, I think is pretty obvious. We've seen this with Mueller before. Whenever there's some major revelation about the corruption involved in the initiation of this case -- which happened last night on this network, with the Catherine Herridge report -- next thing you know, Mueller, magically, the next day, something happens.
Yes, they really believe this. Last night, Fox "Chief Intelligence correspondent" Catherine Herridge had the eighty thousandth right-wing story intended to discredit the Russia investigation by invoking the Christopher Steele dossier, which, on the right, is believed to be utterly fake. It appears under two headlines at the Fox site: "New Questions Over Role Anti-Trump Dossier Played in Securing Carter Page Surveillance Warrant" and "Investigators Had '50/50' Chance of Securing FISA Warrant for Trump Aide without Dossier: Testimony."

As far as I can tell, this report didn't even go viral on the right -- yet Bongino is insisting that Mueller coordinated an entire FBI raid between last evening's Fox prime time and six this morning just to distract America from this devastating non-viral story.

Nuts. Absolutely nuts. But at least a third of America believes this is the gospel truth.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


John Kasich? Jeff Flake? Mitt Romney? Larry Hogan? Forget it -- none of those guys has even a tiny chance of beating Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primaries.

Is there anyone who might? I said this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago:

And now look what's happening:
A political action committee that pushes for stricter immigration controls said Thursday it is launching a campaign to draft conservative writer Ann Coulter to challenge President Trump.

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has been among those most critical of Mr. Trump’s latest immigration proposal that includes temporary legal status for some 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” now protected by the Obama-era DACA program.

ALIPAC, which had been a backer of Mr. Trump’s in the 2016 election, says it’s lost faith and is now seeking a new champion.

“I hope Ann Coulter will give serious consideration to running against Trump in the primary and run on a MAGA platform offering conservative voters a pledge to keep her promises ... unlike Trump!” said William Gheen, president of ALIPAC.

He said he hoped such a bid would at least convince Mr. Trump to worry about his base voters as he prepared for re-election, and perhaps force him to abandon his latest immigration plans.
ALIPAC broke with Trump in the spring of 2017, at a time when he seemed to be softening on DACA, but the group endorsed him early in 2016 (when the primaries were still under way). And Coulter, of course, was once so delighted with Trump that she wrote an entire book called In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Obviously, this is just one very far right PAC making an unsolicited plea to Coulter. There's no evidence that Coulter would agree to do this or that the GOP electorate would go along. But that's partly because much of the GOP base thinks Trump is shrewdly practicing the Art of the Deal and will eventually win. If he doesn't...?

I'm convinced that this is the only kind of challenge that could possibly work. The GOP electorate went all in for Trump in 2016. It's been all in ever since. Why would these voters suddenly decide to back a candidate who thinks they've been idiots for the past two years plus?

Also, why do we believe that a Fox-addled, ever more enraged Republican electorate will suddenly crave a Kumbaya candidate in 2020? Remember that Trump didn't come out of nowhere. Republican voters came close to nominating Newt Gingrich and then Rick Santorum in 2012 (and the man they did pick, Mitt Romney, was really angry as a candidate, even if no one remembers that). A primary process that ended with John McCain's nomination in 2008 didn't thrill the base, but Sarah Palin being added to the ticket sure did. And there were a lot of Tea Party extremists on a lot of ballots from 2010 through 2014, many of whom won. And it's still the case that there's nothing any GOP officeholder fears more than a primary challenge from the right. So why on earth would Republican voters suddenly decide that their next standard-bearer should be, say, a moderate Maryland governor who's well liked in his blue state?

The GOP electorate still wants a non-diverse, intolerant America. The electorate also wants to bathe daily in a deep pool of liberal tears. Thus, sure, there may not be much call for a primary challenger right now, but if Trump fails to get the wall, a Coulter candidacy, or a bid by someone from the same wing of the party -- possibly another media loudmouth -- is much more plausible than a #NeverTrumper challenge.


UPDATE: And yes, I know -- over the weekend I noted that Trumpers were sticking with Trump and rejecting Coulter. But that's because they think he's playing 11-dimensional chess and will get the wall in the end. But if they ever stop believing that....


Nancy Pelosi sent President Trump a letter yesterday making clear that she was serious about postponing the State of the Union address until after the government shutdown is over. Trump can't conceive of any woman hanging this tough against him -- or maybe he can't conceive of anyone, male or female, doing so -- so, according to CNN, he was caught flat-footed:
White House officials had believed Pelosi wanted only to postpone Trump's State of the Union for political reasons after she sent a letter to him last week asking him to delay the address until after the partial government shutdown ended. The plan from administration officials was to call her bluff by pressing forward with plans to deliver the speech, including a new letter on Wednesday that they hoped would force her hand. In that letter, Trump said he was planning on coming to the House chamber to deliver his address on Tuesday as planned, as he had been assured by Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security officials that there would be no problem providing security for the speech. Pelosi had initially cited security concerns as a reason to delay the speech.
So he wasn't prepared for the possibility that Pelosi might preempt his power move? Gosh, I thought we were told Trump was playing chess, not checkers.


Since Pelosi's initial rebuff, I've assumed that Trump would force the issue in the House chamber, or find an alternate venue for the speech, a decision that would inevitably be praised by right-wing media figures (as well as many mainstream journalists, who'd scold Pelosi for trashing tradition). There were alternate-venue fantasies on the right:

The White House pursued non-traditional approaches to the speech, CNN tells us, but nothing seemed quite right:
White House officials were hesitant to hold a campaign-style rally because they thought it wasn't formal enough to look like the traditional speech. Officials also recognized that it's harder to keep Trump on message during a rally, where he often feeds off the crowd, versus a more formal address. Officials noted that television networks rarely carry the rallies live.

The message Trump planned to deliver at the Capitol -- even one shaped around the shutdown -- would be much more tamped down than the President's usual rhetoric at a rally, where he often deviates from the script and works off the crowd.

It would also include other topic areas, like the economy and foreign policy, that might be hard to include in a speech on the border or in a political venue. And officials believe they have a positive message on both of those areas that they want to break through.

Some officials believed a rally would be seen as just another campaign speech, which they acknowledge people have started to tune out.
So the president blinked, writing on Twitter that he's not looking for an

Pelosi understood something I should have understood about Trump, because it's not exactly a secret:
... Trump harbors a very specific kind of class anxiety that’s rooted in the topography of his native New York City.

Though he was born into a wealthy family, ... Trump grew up in Queens—a pleasant but unfashionable borough whose residents were sometimes dismissed by snooty Manhattanites as “bridge-and-tunnel people.” From a young age, he was acutely aware of the cultural, and physical, chasm that separated himself from the city’s aristocracy. In several interviews and speeches over the years, he has recalled gazing anxiously across the East River toward Manhattan, desperate to make a name for himself among the New York elite....

In Trump’s version of the story, he eventually achieved his dream by crossing the river, conquering the island, and triumphantly erecting an eponymous skyscraper in the middle of town as a monument to his greatness.

In truth, though, the city’s ruling class never did warm to his arrival, and they greeted every one of his ensuing accomplishments with a collective sneer. To them, it didn’t matter how many buildings he built, or books he sold, or tabloid covers he appeared on—Trump was a vulgar self-promoter, a new-money rube, a walking assault on good taste and manners. He was, in short, not one of them. And he knew it.

... In many ways, Trump still seems like he’s on that journey—convinced that there’s some destination he can reach, some victory he can achieve, that will finally silence the din of elite ridicule and win him entry into their ranks.
An alternate venue for the State of the Union address would have been like an alternate borough in lieu of Manhattan -- it just wouldn't have been the same for Trump. He wants entrée into the innermost sanctum of power, and being turned away is primal for him.

Nancy knew that. Good for her.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Chris Hayes is right: This is the most aggrieved the right has felt since the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and the most energized. There's a belief that left-leaners and the mainstream media ruined the lives of the Covington Catholic boys (even though they're now folk heroes on the right) just the way there was a belief that we ruined Kavanaugh's life (even though he's now quietly sitting on the Supreme Court with lifetime tenure).

The right, meanwhile, believes it has "Kavanaughed" the narrative. That's true for much of the press: As Adam Serwer notes, there's been a media overcorrection -- first the kids were condemned, then, as more video footage emerged, they were declared to be 100% blameless, as media figures began beating themselves up for believing what they saw in the first video.
... the narrative shifted entirely in the other direction: It wasn’t the teenagers who were misbehaving; they were reacting to a circuslike atmosphere in which they were being taunted with insults by an extremist faction of the Black Hebrew Israelites in Washington, D.C.
But there's a backlash to the backlash: Many on the left aren't willing to write off our first impressions of the kids. This happened with Kavanaugh, too: Conservatives believed that the difficulty of corroborating the stories Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, and the emergence of a dubious accusation midwived by Michael Avenatti, meant that they'd won the case beyond a reasonable doubt -- Kavanaugh was self-evidently innocent and only an angry fringe believed otherwise. They didn't grasp that Ford's accusation still seems extremely plausible to many of us, and that in the hearings he seemed like a volatile rage monster who might well be capable of what he'd been accused of.

In other words, they thought they'd won a total victory, and they hadn't. They thought they'd saved the midterms for the GOP, and they hadn't -- it's possible that they saved a Senate seat or two by appealing to the naked rage of right-leaning voters, but Democrats won the House, many governorships, and hundreds of state legislative seats. Kavanaughing in that case meant thoroughly discrediting our side as unfit to govern; in fact, the opposite happened.

They think they're Kavanaughing this narrative. They're right that much of the media is successfully Kavanaughed, but I think it will be hard to sell the "You libs and journalists ruined Nick Sandmann's life" line when Sandmann is being cooed over by Savannah Guthrie on the Today show. But let them declare victory, if that's what they want to believe. We're the ones who are pissed off now.


Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has announced that he's running for president. I've had serious doubts about Buttigieg's presidential prospects -- he's 37 years old, he's openly gay, he has a surname most people can't spell or pronounce ("Buddah - judge," we're told), and he's the mayor of a city of 100,000 people. But the laudatory pieces keep piling up -- here's one from last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine ("Could Pete Buttigieg Become the First Millennial President?"), here's one in The Atlantic ("Pete Buttigieg Thinks All the 2020 Democrats Are Too Old: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has announced his candidacy, promising 'intergenerational justice'").

There's some excitement among Democratic voters about Beto O'Rourke, and I'm not ruling him out either, but I'm skeptical because I know why he's got buzz: He's not just eloquent, charismatic, and inspirational, he's a handsome straight young white guy with all those attributes. But 2008 proved that you don't have to check all those boxes to get bumped up a grade or two -- just being young and male and maybe a tad more self-confident than everyone else can get you there. Barack Obama got there even though he's black. The fact that Buttigieg doesn't have Obama's or O'Rourke's cheekbones and the fact that he's not straight don't seem to matter -- he has Many Ideas, and he wants you to know he has Many Ideas, and that, plus the fact that he's reportedly a pretty good speaker, has the press captivated.

I don't mean to sound resentful -- maybe he really is the one we've been waiting for -- but I know that no woman with a lot of ideas riding on a sense of unquenchable self-confidence would have her cocksureness validated this way by the media. The coverage of Kamala Harris has been okay, but the press isn't agog. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar (assuming she runs) have had mediocre-to-hostile coverage. None are being asked what they understand about the electorate that the other candidates don't. None is expected to have an overarching theory of American politics, which journalists will listen to with rapt attention. That's just for guys.

Also, I'm still stuck on this incident from the Post profile. It's 2018 and Buttigieg is in Virginia campaigning for Jennifer Wexton, who would go on to beat Barbara Comstock for a House seat:
Earlier in the day, Buttigieg had told me how much he relishes coming into an environment like this, where “nobody knows me from Adam,” and seeing what happens when he starts speaking. “Sometimes you can watch people as you go up to the podium and they’re like, ‘What’s the deal with this guy?’ And then it’s, ‘Okay, he’s up there, he can talk.’ If it’s going right, I love to watch the faces then: Partly I like to study them to see what’s working and not, what to cut out next time or maybe expand. But there’s this look, when you know you really have them. It’s hard to describe, but it’s unmistakable.”

... Standing in front of a big fireplace and a huge TV showing the Redskins game on mute, Buttigieg is in his element, opening with some banter about where he’s from — “You might know us for our football team” — before segueing into the message he’s honing for 2020. “It’s very important for people in communities like mine to know there’s a formula for moving forward that isn’t resentment, that isn’t nostalgia,” he says, recounting his first campaign for mayor. “We didn’t go around saying we’re going to make South Bend great again.” The folks laugh heartily at the implicit dig at Trump. “I didn’t go around thumping my chest saying I alone can fix it. We came together and identified problem-solvers to get things done and actually change the trajectory of our future.”

I’m watching the faces he’s watching, seeing folks whisper low to their spouses: Who is this guy again?

“We’re finding a whole new vocabulary for why people should vote,” Buttigieg is saying. “We’re reclaiming some territory that our party, in my opinion, foolishly left to the other side. Like freedom, right? The so-called Freedom Caucus, as you know, has the most fanatical members of Congress. But they don’t seem to know that you’re not free if you can’t change jobs because you’ll lose your health care. And that you’re not free if you can’t sue a credit-card company that’s ripping you off. And you’re certainly not free if somebody you’ve never met gets to tell you who you can and can’t marry based on their interpretation of their religion.”

There’s one little hitch in the performance, when he praises Wexton for being in the minority in the state assembly and still passing four pieces of major legislation. (“Actually, it’s 40,” she says, interjecting with a smile but an unmistakable note of sharpness.) Buttigieg plays it off laughingly, saying he’s so much more impressed with her now, since “in our legislature back home, four bills for a Democrat would be quite a feat,” and hands over the mic to the candidate, who smiles a bit warily, looking like she knows she’s been upstaged.

When Wexton finishes her spiel, Buttigieg is mobbed by wine-sipping admirers. It takes [Buttigieg aide Matt] McKenna a bit of elbowing and sorry-ing to push his way near enough to start nudging his man out the door; there’s another crowd of tony Democrats waiting on the other side of Fairfax County. Buttigieg grips and grins his way out the door, feeling that feeling. As we bustle out to the SUV, he looks over at me and says, “Yep. You saw that, right?”
So it's good that Buttigieg upstaged the candidate? We're supposed to admire him for that?

Yes, we are. The press (and yes, the author of this profile is male) has a mancrush on Buttigieg. I'll reserve judgment.