Friday, May 31, 2019


The president thinks he could appeal an impeachment to the Supreme Court. That's not how it works.
Asked during a Q&A session with reporters whether he’s concerned about getting impeached, Trump said, “I can’t imagine the courts allowing it.”

... There’s just one problem. As Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic explained last month when Trump posted tweets suggesting he’d appeal his impeachment to the Supreme Court, the courts have nothing to do with it. Impeachment is a congressional process:
[W]ithout a dramatic change in the underlying case law, Trump’s suggestion of appealing an impeachment conviction to the Supreme Court is genuinely absurd. The Constitution establishes that “[t]he House ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that “[t]he Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”
Trump, it's said, got this idea from an Alan Dershowitz book titled The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump. In it, Dershowitz writes:
“[w]ere a president to announce that he refused to accept the actions of the Senate in voting for his removal ... and that he would not leave office unless the Supreme Court affirmed his removal, the people might well agree with him.”
Dershowitz continues to push this argument in an op-ed in The Hill, asserting that Supreme Court justices have argued for judicial intervention in impeachment.
Two former, well-respected justices of the Supreme Court first suggested that the judiciary may indeed have a role in reining in Congress were it to exceed its constitutional authority. Justice Byron White, a John F. Kennedy appointee, put it this way:

“Finally, as applied to the special case of the President, the majority argument merely points out that, were the Senate to convict the President without any kind of trial, a Constitutional crisis might well result. It hardly follows that the Court ought to refrain from upholding the Constitution in all impeachment cases. Nor does it follow that, in cases of presidential impeachment, the Justices ought to abandon their constitutional responsibility because the Senate has precipitated a crisis.["]

Justice David Souter, a George H. W. Bush-appointee, echoed his predecessor: “If the Senate were to act in a manner seriously threatening the integrity of its results ... judicial interference might well be appropriate.”
Notice that White says the Supreme Court might intervene if a president were to be impeached "without any kind of trial" in the Senate. Why is that relevant, Alan? No one is proposing that. No is proposing an impeachment or trial that violates the Constitution.

Dershowitz carefully edits Souter's assertion:
“If the Senate were to act in a manner seriously threatening the integrity of its results ... judicial interference might well be appropriate.”
Here's what Souter actually wrote, as quoted by Justia's Vikram David Amar:
“If the Senate were to act in a manner seriously threatening the integrity of its results, convicting, say, upon a coin-toss, or upon a summary determination that an officer of the United States was simply a ‘bad guy,’ ... judicial interference might well be appropriate.”
Again, Souter is describing a set of circumstances no one is proposing: a conviction of Trump in the Senate without a formal Senate trial.

Souter was writing about the case of a federal judge, Walter Nixon, who'd been convicted of perjury but who refused to step down from the bench. He was impeached in the House. When his case went to the Senate, a committee was appointed to review testimony and other evidence. It reported to the full Senate, which then voted to remove Judge Nixon from office.

Nixon appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that he hadn't had a proper Senate trial. The Court ruled against him unanimously. And while Dershowitz would have you believe that the Court was itching to second-guess an impeachment trial, the truth is exactly the opposite:
... the Court observed that the “parties do not offer evidence of a single word in the history of the Constitutional Convention or in contemporary commentary that even alludes to the possibility of judicial review in the context of the impeachment power.”

The Court also remarked that “judicial review would be inconsistent with [the Framers’] insistence that our system be one of checks and balances.... Judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for the purposes of judicial review, ... would eviscerate the ‘important political check’ placed on the Judiciary by the Framers.... Nixon’s argument would place final reviewing authority with respect to impeachments in the hands of the same body that the impeachment process is meant to regulate.”
Do I trust the Roberts Court to respect this precedent? No. But Dershowitz is arguing that the Court has hinted in the past at overruling impeachments. In fact, it has been careful to reject judicial review, except in hypothetical extraordinary cicumstances. Even White and Souter didn't suggest that the Supreme Court should intervene unless a particular impeachment were handled in a way that was a mockery of the process laid out in the Constitution.

Dershowitz's op-ed is in support of his argument that an impeachment and conviction of Trump could be overturned if it happened "without evidence of 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'" But it's well established that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense. (One of the two articles of impeachment in Bill Clinton's case charged Clinton with obstruction of justice.) I know that the president's bootlickers believe he's pure as the driven snow, but the Mueller report makes clear that that's not the case.

This is the kind of bamboozlement we can expect if there's an impeachment. A conviction is the Senate is nearly unimaginable, but if it were to happen, we can expect Trump to refuse to step down, with Dershowitz leading the crowd of yahoos rooting Trump on.


I went to Free Republic and Breitbart to find out how President Trump's proposed tariffs on Mexico are going over with the right-wing rank-and-file. I didn't expect much criticism of Trump and I didn't find much -- but I thought the reaction might be along the lines of "These are the sacrifices we need to make to show the bastards we mean business." Instead, the commenters seem to assume that what Trump is doing will cause pain only for the other guys, not for us, and it would be great to inflict even more pain, none of which could possibly have any bad repercussions for us. Here are few typical comments:
Put the tariff money into electrifying the Wall or doubling its height and depth.


Put a tariff on the illegal alien roaches too, watch how fast the Dems send them back, after they vote Dem of course


I’d love to see him implement my immigration plan....

1. Stop all foreign aid to Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala. Stop the money, you have their attention. Nothing gets a politicians attention quicker than money, or absence of it..

2. Stop all tourist traffic into Mexico on a temporary basis, in the interest of public safety, Americans are in danger south of the border. Stop all border traffic entirely if necessary.

3. Put the military at the border, shoulder to shoulder, from Laredo to the Pacific shore.

4. Impose a 30% fee on all monetary wire transfers to anywhere south of Texas.

5. Tell Mexico to stop illegal immigration AND shut down the drug cartels and we’ll talk about getting their foreign aid back. Oh, and by the way, pay for the wall.

I give it 6 months and you won’t be able to get a mouse across the border without papers. Mexico will probably build the wall for us...


Put a bounty on illegals, $100.00 a head, to repatriate them back to their country of origin.

If they come back again, put them on a plane and fly them to the most southern part of South America. It worked in the 1950's like a charm.
Bill Clinton said it: “When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.” That may not be universally true, but it's obviously true of right-wingers. They like police brutality because they think the alternative is lawlessness. A decade and a half ago, the backed a stupid war in Iraq because it seemed preferable to sanctions, inspections, and vigilance.

Trump understands that show sof strength play well with his base. So does that mean we should expect him to start a war, especially as the 2020 election approaches?

Maybe not. Remember the top story in America 24 hours ago: that Trump aides had ordered the U.S.S. John S. McCain to make itself scarce during the president's visit to Japan. What does that tell you about Trump?

I think it tells you that Trump will always be reluctant to start a shooting war -- not because he wisely believes that military force should be a last resort for American foreign policy, but because he can't bear to be upstaged by anyone who's shown bravery in combat.

Trump wants to be the tough guy, so he'll keep trying to build the wall and he'll keep imposing tariffs -- tariffs are part of business, and even though Trump doesn't understand how they work, he's perceived, for some reason, as the toughest guy in the business world.

But if he starts a war, he may be afraid that he won't be perceived as the toughest guy. The dead and wounded will seem tougher. They'll upstage him. Nothing pains Trump more than being upstaged.

Trump might overcome this -- it's also easy to imagine him plunging us into a suicidally absurd military conflict. But this might be how he really thinks. If so, he'll continue to be strong and wrong on trade and immigration, while shying away from war because other people will seem like the tough guys.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Phelim McAleer, an Irish documentary film maker who was one of the producers of the anti-abortion docudrama Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer, has a new project in the works -- but it's suffered a setback:
The Washington D.C. theater originally set to host a one-night-only performance of Phelim McAleer’s FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers, starring Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson, has canceled the production due to “threats of violence.” ...

FBI Lovebirds is based on the anti-Trump text messages — to be read verbatim by the cast — of FBI attorney Lisa Page and former FBI agent Peter Strzok. Earlier this month, McAleer announced that the production starring the two politically conservative actors would be performed at the Mead on June 13, and then shown on YouTube.

After the announcement of the crowd-funded project, Swanson retweeted what she called a tweeted death threat that read, at least in part, “Have the Capitol Steps open, lock the doors, and set the theater on fire.” The threat was subsequently quoted by McAleer in a fundraising letter in which he called theater “the most leftist of all the arts.”
The death threat seems real, if not particularly plausible. It's from a legitimate-seeming lefty account called @sponson.

I have to condemn @sponson -- I don't approve of even flippant death threats. But the threat also was a bonanza for McAleer, who immediately began using it for fundraising purposes:
A day after pro-Trump actors Kristy Swanson and Dean Cain retweeted what Swanson described as a “death threat” over their involvement in writer-producer Phelim McAleer’s planned performance piece FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers, McAleer is using the tweets for fundraising.

Calling theater “the most leftist of all the arts,” McAleer writes in his fundraising pitch today: “It is shocking! They claim to love the arts and the Hollywood left is always giving awards congratulating themselves about how brave they are, but no one from the left or Hollywood has condemned this death threat to artists and their audience – just for telling the truth.” ...

McLeer’s Indiegogo page today reports that the project has raised $13,285, from 172 backers, 13% of its $95,000 fixed goal with 27 days left to go.
(The account is now up to $46,894, nearly half of the goal.)

The statement from the theater in question cites not only the threat of violence but other unnamed "details" about the production:
... In an email obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, a representative of Studio Theatre, a group of four venues that includes the Mead, acknowledged accepting a 25 percent deposit from McAleer but says it will nonetheless be canceling the performance.

“Media reports have made us aware of undisclosed details about the event and Studio has become aware of the threats of violence made surrounding it which raise legitimate safety and security concerns,” reads the email.
What are these "undisclosed details about the event" that were reported in the media? Maybe this, from Politico?
The same documentary filmmakers who convinced the White House to host a recent screening of an anti-abortion movie have planned a live stage reading next month based on thousands of anti-Trump text messages....

And they’re hoping President Donald Trump will attend.

“We’re lobbying the White House hard,” said a person directly involved with the production. “We are being told the president loves the idea of exposing this.”
Imagine you're a tiny theater in a liberal city. You've rented out one of your stages for a night to a group of right-wingers hoping to do a tendentious play. But now suddenly you read that the president of the United States might show up. The Secret Service will need to run roughshod over your venue and it's going to be known in the future as a site of MAGA propaganda.

I'd want to cancel, too.

Meanwhile, this is great publicity for McAleer and his crew. A story posted at a few hours ago notes that Swanson was on Fox & Friends this morning. If you talk to your right-wing relatives this weekend, I'm sure they'll know all about this.

On the right, victimization is always good business.


On Twitter this morning, President Trump admitted that Russia helped him win. Eileen Sullivan of The New York Times reports:
President Trump tweeted on Thursday that Russia helped “me to get elected,” and then quickly retracted the idea.

“No, Russia did not help me get elected,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for Colorado Springs. “I got me elected.” He spoke less than an hour after his Twitter post.

The original comment, a clause in one of several Twitter posts this morning, is an extraordinary admission from Mr. Trump....

Yes, it is an extraordinary admission. So how are right-wingers explaining it away?

* Kevin Williamson, National Review: Trump is too stupid to use the English language correctly.
It seems to me that the New York Times and Eileen Sullivan are being willfully tendentious here.... In the context of the tweet — and keeping in mind that the president is not exactly what you would call a master of the English language—it seems clear enough that Trump here is responding to and rejecting the claim that Russia helped him get elected, not confessing the fact that Russia helped him get elected.
Translation: Only angry liberal partisans would pay no attention to what Trump actually said!

* Twitchy: Oops -- it was a "typo"!
Everyone retweeting President Trump’s typo saying he admitted Russia helped him win the election knows that’s not what he meant

President Trump tweeted earlier this morning that “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected” and now liberal blue-checks are positively giddy that this typo is really the president finally admitting that Russia did indeed help him win in 2016....
No, no, no. These are typos:

("Muller" instead of "Mueller" could also be a typo, or Gingrich might simply be unable to spell Mueller's name correctly. But "iut" and "boith" are clearly the result of un-proofread fat-fingering, as is "Trumpo," unless you think Newt is engaged in Joycean wordplay comparing the president to one of the Marx Brothers.)

* Breitbart: It all depends on what the meaning of "it" is.
The awkwardly worded phrase “Russia helping me to get elected” is being treated as a confession, a Freudian slip that reveals the president’s true state of mind — though he also called the idea “a crime that didn’t exist,” and a “false accusation” in the same tweets, suggesting that Trump was simply rejecting the allegations about collusion as a whole.
But here are Trump's words:
And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media,.....

....say he fought back against this phony crime that didn’t exist, this horrendous false accusation, and he shouldn’t fight back, he should just sit back and take it. Could this be Obstruction? No, Mueller didn’t find Obstruction either. Presidential Harassment!
Trump writes, "It was crime that didn't exist," then, referring to himself in the third person, asserts that Democrats and the media "say he fought back against this phony crime that didn’t exist, this horrendous false accusation." So the "crime that didn't exist" is what Trump regards as a "false accusation" against himself.

Sorry -- whether he meant to or not, Trump fessed up. Deal with it, wingers.


Will there be many angry progressives crying "Fraud!" after the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee is chosen? Fox News wants you to think so:
Sanders supporters fearful DNC now backing Biden like it backed Clinton: report

Some supporters of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders say they are seeing a repeat of the Democratic National Committee’s 2016 treatment of their candidate, according to a report.

These Sanders supporters claim the DNC leadership is giving preferential treatment to 2020 frontrunner Joe Biden, after the former vice president's surge in the polls, just as they did Hillary Clinton three years ago, the Washington Times reported.
The Washington Times story cited by Fox quotes a few Bernieites who are already prepared to accuse the Democratic Party of cheating:
“The mainstream media and the DNC are colluding against the American people. That’s what it feels like. It’s the same thing all over again,” said Massachusetts neuroscientist Laurie Cestnick, a Sanders supporter who founded Occupy DNC to protest the nomination of Mrs. Clinton at the party’s 2016 convention in Philadelphia....

“People are becoming more upset and becoming more firm behind Bernie due to mainstream media not covering a lot of his events and the strong push for Biden,” Ms. Cestnick said. “Is 2016 going to happen all over again? It is sure feeling like it. But I tell you, they are going to see a fight like they have never seen before.” ...

Larry Snider, president of Our Revolution Jacksonville ... is less than enthusiastic about the Democratic Party establishment and what he sees as their allies in the news media.

“I expect the DNC to do the same thing they did in 2016,” Mr. Snider said.

South Carolina state Rep. Terry Alexander, who was a Sanders delegate in 2016 and is backing him again for 2020, said the party establishment is still leery of Mr. Sanders....

“I really hope the DNC is better than that. I hope the DNC will let this thing play out for the people. What happened in 2016, they wanted to dominate, they wanted to be in charge, they wanted to dictate and we got slammed, the Democratic Party got slammed,” Mr. Alexander said.
Is this a widespread belief among Sanders supporters? There's no way of knowing, but I suspect that Fox and The Washington Times would like it to be widespread. This is the divide-and-conquer strategy of the Russians in 2016, but it doesn't appear as if America's conservative media is waiting for cues from overseas.

A month ago, the president was making the fraud argument:
The Democratic Party is again trying to manipulate its presidential primary elections, President Donald Trump suggested in a two-part tweet on Saturday night.

“The Democratic National Committee, sometimes referred to as the DNC, is again working its magic in its quest to destroy Crazy Bernie Sanders....,” the president began, following those remarks with: “....for the more traditional, but not very bright, Sleepy Joe Biden. Here we go again Bernie, but this time please show a little more anger and indignation when you get screwed!“
Last week I found a right-wing troll (whom I misidentified as a bot) retweeting the doctored "drunk Nancy Pelosi" video. At the time, he was using the screen name Bernie Will Be Cheated.

I'm sure there'll be a "Bernie was cheated again" contingent if Sanders loses again, though I don't know how large it will be. Talking Points Memo found a few wary Bernieites last month in early primary and caucus states:
It was hard to miss Cheri Pichone’s excitement about Bernie Sanders’ second presidential run. She showed up to a recent Iowa rally decked out in Sanders gear, complete with a figurine of the Vermont senator and progressive icon.

But underneath her exuberance, the 36-year-old was still mad about the last Democratic primary, when Sanders’ bid for the presidency fell short to Hillary Clinton.

“They cheated,” she said, directing much of her anger at the Democratic National Committee. The party establishment, she lamented, was “actively working against us.”

Pichone voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016 and said she may vote for a third party again if Sanders doesn’t clinch the nomination....

Nicholas Shaw, a 39-year-old from Concord, New Hampshire, spent his recent birthday watching Sanders speak. Like Pichone, he said he wouldn’t support the Democratic nominee if it’s anyone other than Sanders.

“If they steal it from him again, I’ll go independent or something other than that,” he said. “The Democratic Party’s on their last edge of me if they kind of try to screw him again.”

Even in South Carolina, where Sanders lost momentum after a 47-point drubbing from Clinton, some supporters are still smarting over a process they believe was rigged.

“Lost might be a stretch,” said Tom Amon, of Summerville, when asked how he felt about Sanders’ ability to perform better in South Carolina than he did in the 2016 primary. “It was stolen from him.”
I could give Fox and The Washington Times the benefit of the doubt and say that they're merely reporting on this phenomenon the way TPM was in April, and that they have no desire to put a thumb on the scale. But I'm suspicious. We'll see how the coverage develops.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


Here's the lead story at Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit right now:
Robert Mueller Drops Bomb on Trump — “If We Had Confidence President Did Not Commit a Crime We Would Have Said So”

Controversial Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a statement this morning at 11 AM Eastern.

It was Mueller’s first public statement in two years.

Mueller blames the Russians for influencing the elections.

Mueller accused Russia of working with Wikileaks to damage the Hillary Clinton campaign by releasing truthful emails between her campaign staff.

Mueller then said,

“If we had confidence the president DID NOT commit a crime we would have said so. We did not however make a determination if the president did commit a crime.”
(Emphasis in original.)

In the hermetically sealed world of one of the most slavishly pro-Trump websites, this is apparently news. Until now, it seems, Gateway Pundit's readers were unaware of the fact that Mueller, on page 8 of Volume 2 of his report, said, "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."

This is why Mueller needs to testify publicly before Congress. It's why we need impeachment hearings. Many Americans aren't even aware of this much-cited assertion in the Mueller report. Journalists and pundits have cited it, in print and occasionally on broadcast news. Members of Congress have cited it in interviews. But Mueller said it today in a high-profile public statement and now a Trumpist propaganda site can no longer pretend that the report is 448 pages of "no collusion, no obstruction."

There might be other ways to highlight the allegations in the report -- but something needs to be done. A brief public statement by the special counsel pierced the bubble at Gateway Pundit. What could hearings accomplish?


Mitch McConnell is up for reelection next year and half the people in his state disapprove of him. If he were a Democrat, he'd be desperately tacking toward the center, seeking some elusive common ground. But he's a Republican, so he wants to be seen as a cackling sadist, rubbing Democrats' faces in their inability to thwart him.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday if a Supreme Court vacancy occurs during next year's presidential election, he would work to confirm a nominee appointed by President Donald Trump.

That's a move that is in sharp contrast to his decision to block President Barack Obama's nominee to the high court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016....

Speaking at a Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky, McConnell was asked by an attendee, "Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?"

The leader took a long sip of what appeared to be iced tea before announcing with a smile, "Oh, we'd fill it," triggering loud laughter from the audience.
Of course, McConnell's position now isn't "in sharp contrast" to his position in 2016. His position then was that Republicans should win all the time, and that norms and precedents are for losers, as is a system of democratic governance in which people from different parties acknowledge one another's legitimacy. That's still his position.

Was this a spontaneous response to an unexpected question or a planned response to a plant? I don't know, but either way, McConnell is sending a message: He's not Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi has been fighting members of her own party who want to impeach President Trump. Even when Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican gadfly, is being praised in his GOP district for declaring that Trump deserves impeachment, Pelosi shies away.

Pelosi is worried that impeachment will scare the swing voters who elected a Democratic House in 2018. McConnell is not worried that being a smirking partisan bully will scare the voters who've given him a majority.

They're playing to different bases, of course. McConnell's is full of partisan rage addicts. Nationwide, Pelosi's really is more moderate.

But you might get more respect if you stand up for yourself. McConnell sure as hell does that. Well, Nancy?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Here's a debate I got into on Twitter today. You probably won't agree with my take.

In the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that a Connecticut law banning contraception violated the right to privacy in marriage. It's true that conservatives don't like the idea that there's a constitutional right to privacy, which isn't explicit in the Constitution. But even though conservatives in a number of American states have proposed laws that could be read to outlaw some birth control methods as abortifacients, and even though conservatives attacked the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, I don't think they want to open the door to outright bans on all forms of birth control. That would inconvenience white heterosexual men, including rich white heterosexual men, many of whom are conservative. They like sex. They want the option of keeping it consequence-free for themselves.

I know -- in that case, why a right-wing movement to ban abortion? For rich conservatives, if a wife, daughter, or mistress needs to jet off to another state (or perhaps, in a few years, another country) to get an abortion, that's an occasional inconvenience. The need to go underground to get birth control would be an ongoing inconvenience. Men in power mostly associate with women who can compel them to pay child support; no powerful white guy needs that worry hanging over his head all the time.

Rank-and-file male conservatives also assume they'll continue to have access to contraception, even deep in the Bible Belt; the war against the sexual revolution has been lost, and the right-wing elite knows it. Sure, many of rank-and-file white conservative men would like abortion accessible, too, but they've been taught to believe that unintended pregnancy is their fault, or the woman's fault -- but take all hope of preventing pregnancy away from them and they'll get cranky. E As a result, no one is seriously trying to do this, even in the reddest states. They know there'd be hell to pay.

The right, for all the zealousness of its efforts to overturn decades of social progress, has abandoned a number of cultural crusades in recent years. For the most part, it's stopped trying to curb porn. Also, it's been a long time since there's been a wave of attacks on art or popular culture like the ones I recall from the late 20th century. Remember Robert Mapplethorpe? Karen Finley? "Sensation," the art exhibit then-mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to have removed from the Brooklyn Museum? Remember Ice-T's "Cop Killer"? Or 2 Live Crew's obscenity trial? The right doesn't seem to care anymore. The right hasn't seriously pursued "backward masking" on a heavy metal song in a generation.

White guys would be upset if there were no more porn. They'd be upset if metal and rap were censored. Gun advocates frequently try to blame violent video games for mass shootings, but no one seriously goes after games -- again, white guys would be furious.

I think contraception falls in the same category. I don't think it's going away, no matter how successful the assault on abortion is.


ALSO: In case ypou've forgotten, Republicans in 2016 attacked the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate from what appeared to be the left in 2015 -- they advocated allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter. The proposal, which Donald Trump endorsed in 2016, would actually have made birth control more expensive for many women, because over-the-counter drugs aren't covered by health insurance. But the proposal didn't spark any outrage on the right.


Mitch "Law Unto Himself" McConnell is apparently worried enough about a possible impeachment of President Trump that he's spreading word of his plans to choke off the process once it reaches his personal fiefdom. The Hill reports:
GOP senators say that if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump they will quickly quash them in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broad authority to set the parameters of a trial.

While McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment, which require 67 votes — or a two-thirds majority — to convict the president, he and his Republican colleagues have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials.

“I think it would be disposed of very quickly,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The story says that "McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment," but I'm surprised that he and his henchmen aren't questioning the need to hold a trial at all if the House impeaches. The wording of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution is:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.
It doesn't expressly say that the Senate must try anyone who's impeached by the House. I could imagine McConnell proclaiming that the Senate has the right to review the House's case and simply dismiss it -- Merrick Garlanding impeachment, you could call it.

But I think McConnell wants to have a process just so it can be a humiliation for Democrats. I'm imagining the entire trial being something like this procedural vote during the debate over Alabama's new abortion law:

The Senate trial starts, ten minutes later it's over. Justice is served! Trump wins!

Okay, maybe it wouldn't be quite that bad. The good news is that, as the Constitution mandates, the presiding officer won't be a member of the Senate majority. The bad news is that it will be Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts.

Even if Roberts tries to make the process appear fair, he can be overruled by a simple majority of the rubber-stamp Senate:
Under the Senate manual’s rules for impeachment trials, the presiding officer — likely Roberts — would rule on all questions of evidence, but any senator could ask for a formal vote to appeal a decision. Under the Senate rules, it takes a majority to sustain or overrule a ruling from the presiding officer.

Democrats would need to persuade at least four Republicans to break with McConnell in order to bring in any witnesses or exhibits he decides to block.

That would mean winning over moderates like Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) or vulnerable senators in swing states, namely Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.).
By all rights, Susan Collins should be listed as one of those vulnerable senators, although she seems to be covered in multiple coats of Teflon. Hell, Mitch McConnell, who has the highest disapproval rating of any senator in his or her home state, and who's up for reelection in 2020, ought to be at least slightly vulnerable, although he's from Kentucky, which will almost certainly reelect him.

But that's the point. Many Democrats don't want to impeach because they believe, correctly, that they can't possibly get a conviction in the Senate. But they can highlight the heavy-handed behavior of Mitch McConnell and the rest of his crew of lackeys, among whom are potentially vulnerable incumbents who'll have to run in a presidential election year in which the majority of Americans won't want the incumbent Republican president reelected. So maybe it would be good for Democrats if the American public gets to watch McConnell & Co. run an outrageous kangaroo-court proceeding.

This assumes, of course, that Democrats can frame the issue correctly -- they have to make the case that the charges against Trump require serious consideration, and that a procedure that's a mockery of justice is an outrage. I'm not sure Democrats have the messaging skills to pull that off. But if they can do it -- if they can highlight McConnell's efforts to quash evidence and prevent witnesses from testifying, all while zipping through the process and, probably, conducting it in the middle of the night or over a holiday weekend -- then maybe they can run on that injustice as much as on Trump's unfitness for office in 2020.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Because Donald Trump will say anything to get what he wants, and what he wants is to be reelected in 2020, he's now attacking Joe Biden from the left on the 1994 crime bill.

Trump doesn't like the word "superpredator"? Funny, he didn't have a problem with this passage from a book he published in 2000, The America We Deserve:

What else did Trump have to say in that book?

Trump's ghostwriter was trying to soften Trump's image -- it wasn't that many years ago that Trump had taken out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News calling for the death penalty in the case of the Central Park Five (who were later determined to be innocent of the rape, assault, and attempted murder charges on which they were convicted). Trump had had plans to run for president on Ross Perot's ballot line in 2000, and back then he apparently believed it was a bad idea to try to run for president while appearing to be an overt racist.

So he decided to focus a passage in The America We Deserve on the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas. Byrd was a black man and his murderers were white supremacists. But this story was used to make the case that not only is capital punishment a swell idea, but lethal injection is too good for murderers:

The racial consciousness is totally fake; the opinions on crime and punishment are real. Trump wanted criminals treated worse than they were treated after the 1994 crime bill passed. He still does.


Last week, social-media-savvy ratfuckers posted footage of Nancy Pelosi that had been doctored to make it appear as if she was drunk and slurring her words. President Trump and many other prominent Republicans spread the footage or alluded to it -- but the subterfuge was noted and widely reported by the media.

Ahhh, but that discrediting of the footage was all part of the plan, says Charlie Warzel of The New York Times:
Mainstream media outlets, in an effort to debunk the viral clips, linked to the video or reposted portions of it themselves, side-by-side with the un-doctored footage of the House speaker. YouTube removed the video, but only after it amassed thousands of views. Twitter and Facebook did not remove the video (Facebook eventually added “fact check” links to the clips). Journalists and pundits debated the social networks’ decisions to leave the video up, while others lamented the rise of political misinformation, filter bubbles, the future of “deepfake” videos and the internet’s penchant to warp reality.

Whether repeating the lie or attempting to knock it down, the dominant political narrative of the past two days has focused squarely on Speaker Pelosi’s health. And the video views continue to climb....

The mainstream media, designed to document controversy and separate fact from fiction, picked up the story with the best of intentions. Media discussions and stories arguing over whether Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should remove the video were an effort to hold the platforms accountable, while political pieces highlighted the abnormality of a presidential administration and political party spreading such brazen propaganda. The press identified a story, fact-checked and pointed audiences at the truth. Straight out of the journalism school handbooks.

But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t bring a handbook to an information war. The distribution mechanics, rules and terms of service of Facebook’s platform — and the rest of social media — are no match for professional propagandists, trolls, charlatans, political operatives and hostile foreign actors looking to sow division and blur the lines of reality.
Really? I agree that the footage has spread the way it was intended to spread. I agree that millions of people now believe that Nancy Pelosi is a brain-damaged drunk.

But I wonder if the number of people who believe Pelosi is a brain-damaged drunk is any greater than the number of people who, prior to the release of the doctored footage, believed that Pelosi is a psychotic socialist witch. Did the footage persuade anyone who wasn't already persuaded?

Unlike phony stories of Hillary Clinton's extremely bad health, which were spread during the 2016 campaign largely by a supermarket tabloid, this ratfuck was identified and debunked rapidly. The Hillary rumors remained under the radar throughout the fall of 2016, seen by many voters but never identified as a serious attempt at disinformation.

I understand what Warzel is trying to say, but I think he's falling into a common trap for those whose job it is to explain tech to the not particularly tech-aware: He ascribes superpowers to digital bad actors. He has some reason to do that: Left to their own devices, these people can wreak a lot of havoc, manipulating us in ways we don't understand. We certainly learned that in 2016, because most of the truly insidious disiniformation was spread digitally.

But the 2016 ratfucks had a significant impact because their power weren't understood in real time. They generally weren't identified until after the election; the Pelosi ratfuck, by contrast, was caught right away.

Warzel writes:
... the press has few answers for how to cover propaganda in an online ecosystem that is designed to spread hoaxes. The heart of the reporting process breaks down when your adversaries’ only goal is to hijack attention.
What he's saying, in other words, is that there's no such thing as bad publicity for a ratfuck.

But that's not true. This time, the press caught the bastards red-handed, and now it's widely known that the Pelosi footage is fake. The press does know how to deal with this kind of hoax: pounce quickly and debunk it prominently.

We're in trouble when the press fails to do this. But if the press puts in the effort, at least some of the ratfucks can be un-fucked.

Sunday, May 26, 2019


Ross Douthat writes essentially the same column his colleague Bret Stephens wrote a day earlier: Trumpism is triumphant worldwide, therefore liberalism is in serious trouble. The only difference is that Stephens believes Trump will win in 2020, while Douthat thinks "Trump remains eminently beatable" -- but only because of his own personal flaws, not his illiberal ideology.

Stephens, as I noted in my last post, thinks liberalism would stand a chance if liberals weren't so damn liberal -- they should be more like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton! Douthat's position is a variation on that theme, but he puts it in terms of rigid allegiance to a range of liberal ideas:
... on our op-ed podcast, The Argument, ... my colleague and co-host David Leonhardt interviewed Pete Buttigieg, the Midwestern mayor running for president with promises to build bridges between the heartland and the coasts. Leonhardt pressed Buttigieg on whether that bridge-building might include compromise on any social issues, and the answer seemed to be “no” — in part because Mayor Pete argued that on abortion and guns and immigration most middle Americans already agree with Democrats, that the liberal position is already the common ground.

The strategic flaw in this reading of the liberal situation is that politics isn’t about casually held opinions on a wide range of topics, but focused prioritization of specifics. As the Democratic data analyst David Shor has noted, you can take a cluster of nine Democratic positions that each poll over 50 percent individually, and find that only 18 percent of Americans agree with all of them. And a single strong, focused disagreement can be enough to turn a voter against liberalism, especially if liberals seem uncompromising on that issue.

Here's what Shor points out:

But why is it that "a single strong, focused disagreement can be enough to turn a voter against liberalism, especially if liberals seem uncompromising on that issue"? The same doesn't seem to be true of conservatism.

Approximately 90% of all Americans, including an overwhelming majority of Republicans, support background checks for all gun sales. Republicans are, as Douthat puts it, uncompromising on that issue. A recent poll showed that 67% of all Americans oppose the overturn of Roe v. Wade, including nearly half of all Republicans. Republicans are relentless in their efforts to undermine Roe. Polls show that approximately 70% of Americans -- including, in some surveys, a majority of Republicans -- support tax increases on the wealthy. The Republican Party cuts taxes on the rich whenever it can. President Trump's wall is opposed by 60% of Americans, and 81% of Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Republicans won back the presidency by becoming more ideologically extreme on immigration.

Douthat believes that liberals need to compromise on guns (or abortion or climate change, or some other issue or set of issues), because support for liberalism is extremely fragile. He probably has a point. But for some reason, Republicans don't need to do that -- in fact, Republicans can support a range of unpopular policies and never suffer for it at the ballot box.

Why is this? I think in part it's because Republicans -- and other conservative/white nationalist parties worldwide -- are much better at hijacking the symbols of patriotism. They have stronger branding because they're shameless about waving the flag and defining both the members of the tribe and the enemies of the tribe. There's a clear "us" and "them," and these parties hammer home the message that they're on "our" side (even when they aren't).

Liberal parties -- and, in Europe these days, some established conservative parties -- struggle to find a non-white-nationalist equivalent to this. In America, Democrats don't marshal patriotic symbols the way, for instance, FDR's National Recovery Administration did:

The pre-Trump GOP seized the flag in the Nixon years and has never let it go, and now America's party of white nationalism is the party seen for years as the party of patriotism.

Democrats shouldn't need to make compromises and tradeoffs in a desperate attempt to retain voters -- Republicans never do this. Democrats need to find a way to get large numbers of people to rally around the idea of being Democrats.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


Bret Stephens, a liberal basher and Trump critic, believes the president will be reelected next year, based on international precedent, and you can see why he'd think so:
More than 600 million Indians cast their ballots over the past six weeks in the largest democratic election in the world. Donald Trump won.

A week ago, several million Australians went to the polls in another touchstone election. Trump won.

Citizens of European Union member states are voting in elections for the mostly toothless, but symbolically significant, European Parliament. Here, too, Trumpism will mark its territory.

Legislative elections in the Philippines this month, which further cemented the rule of Rodrigo Duterte, were another win for Trumpism. Ditto for Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election in Israel last month, the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil last October, and Italy’s elevation of Matteo Salvini several months before that.

If past is prologue, expect the Trumpiest Tory — Boris Johnson — to succeed Theresa May as prime minister of Britain, too.
Stephens means, of course, that Trump-like figures triumphed, or are likely to triumph, in all of these elections. So why not Trump himself in 2020?

Naturally, Stephens blames liberalism:
The common thread here isn’t just right-wing populism. It’s contempt for the ideology of them before us: of the immigrant before the native-born; of the global or transnational interest before the national or local one; of racial or ethnic or sexual minorities before the majority; of the transgressive before the normal. It’s a revolt against the people who say: Pay an immediate and visible price for a long-term and invisible good. It’s hatred of those who think they can define that good, while expecting someone else to pay for it.

When protests erupted last year in France over Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise gas prices for the sake of the climate, one gilets jaunes slogan captured the core complaint: “Macron is concerned with the end of the world,” it went, while “we are concerned with the end of the month.”
But in democracies we regularly require that citizens pay a short-term price for a long-term good defined by those in power. Somehow America survived the sacrifices needed to fight World War II and the Cold War without electing a Trump. And the president who put "minorities before the majority" by enfranchising Southern blacks was rewarded in the short term: Lyndon Johnson won a massive landslide in 1964.

Stephens recognizes flaws in his argument, but dismisses them:
You may ... think that conservatives are even guiltier than liberals and progressives of them-before-us politics: the 1-percenters before the 99 percent; the big corporations before the little guy, and so on.
Well, yes.
But the left has the deeper problem. That’s partly because it self-consciously approaches politics as a struggle against selfishness, and partly because it has invested itself so deeply, and increasingly inflexibly, on issues such as climate change or immigration. Whatever else might be said about this, it’s a recipe for nonstop political defeat leavened only by a sensation of moral superiority.
But Hillary Clinton didn't run on a promise to enact the Green New Deal or abolish ICE, and she still lost Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. And Democrats mostly ran in 2018 on expanding access to health care, which is not "politics as a struggle against selfishness." Democrats are also arguing for relief from the high costs of education -- again, not an anti-selfishness policy position. In fact, most conservatives argue that the Democratic message is "free stuff"; Stephens thinks it's exact opposite. Either way, Democrats are bad. Trump, of course, is asking Americans to sacrifice for his trade wars, and his supporters are fully on board.

Is there a way out for opponents of illiberalism? Stephens thinks so:
It needn’t be this way. The most successful left-of-center leaders of the past 30 years were Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. They believed in the benefits of free markets, the importance of law and order, the superiority of Western values, and a healthy respect for the moral reflexes of ordinary people. Within that framework, they were able to achieve important liberal victories.

Political blunders and personal shortcomings? Many. But neither man would ever have been bested by someone like Trump.
"Neither man would ever have been bested by someone like Trump"? So why was Bill Clinton's wife, with Bill as a top adviser, bested by Trump?

Here's the real problem: Citizens of America and other Western countries tolerated some sacrifices demanded by elites for the greater good because those elites managed to provide a fairly decent life for most people, while giving them reason to hope that their children would have a bright future. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton may be Stephens's model liberals, but because they did little to reverse Thatcherism and Reaganism, they kept us on the glide path to the hypercapitalist, radically unequal present, where life is good for the few who can get cushy jobs steering the global economy and is not so good for everyone else. If liberalism can now wrest sacrifices from the people who haven't lost ground in the past few decades, it can survive and pursue the kinds of projects Stephens believes are sure to be unpopular. But that's a tall order -- the rich and powerful won't give up what they've got without a fight to the death. And if liberals can't get the rich to sacrifice, then the world really will look more or less the way Stephens describes it, and illiberalism will continue to win.

Friday, May 24, 2019


Mediaite reports:
Fox & Friends did the right thing Friday morning in swiftly correcting the record after Fox Nation hosts and frequent Fox News guests Diamond & Silk made remarkably disparaging remarks about Speaker Nancy Pelosi....

Co-host Steve Doocy ... not[ed] that Trump has finally given Pelosi a nickname, “calling her Crazy Nancy.”

Lynnette “Diamond Hardaway” answered with “Well, listen, we are all questioning her mental capacity.” Rochelle “Silk” Richardson followed up with “She always looks like she is a nonfunctioning alcoholic and she slurs her words and rambling over her words. What I don’t understand this lady is almost 80 years old, one of the most powerful women in the world.”
Or as Contemptor's Gary Legum put it:
Fox News “personalities” Diamond & Silk forced Fox & Friends into a rare correction Friday morning.

... they launched a couple of smears of Pelosi that appear to be based on a video that was deceptively edited to make it appear the Speaker was slurring her words and couldn’t speak in complete sentences.

“She can’t even form a complete sentence without looking perplexed and confused,” said Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway, to a rousing “Uh-huh” of agreement from Rochelle “Silk” Richardson.
Here's the segment:

First of all, it's obvious that Doocy fed Diamond & Silk the reference to "Crazy Nancy" so they could talk about the video, and about how drunk and unstable Pelosi allegedly looked. They were allowed to go on at great length about this.

Contemptor's Legum picks up the story:
Sometime after the segment ended, Doocy issued a correction. Having not known what Diamond and Silk were talking about with Pelosi, he looked on and read the headline of a story there to the audience...
Here's what Doocy said:
During the Diamond and Silk segment they mentioned Nancy Pelosi. I was unfamiliar with what they were talking about. I’m looking at There's a story: ”Manipulated videos of Nancy Pelosi edited to falsely depict her as drunk spread on social media. And according to a report from The Washington Post, experts believe the original video was slowed down to 75% from the original and that her pitch was also manipulated in order to present her under the influence." Not a real video. It’s doctored.

Oh, please. Fox & Friends did not do "the right thing" in this case, and it was not "forced ... into a rare correction."

To believe that, you have to believe that none of the hosts went into this morning's show aware of the debunking of this videos, which was a huge story last night and into this morning. How plausible is that? These people are deceivers, but they're not idiots. They knew the video was fake, but they also know this kind of thing is catnip to their audience. They were determined to put out a segment taking it seriously, but left that job to rodeo clowns Diamond & Silk. Then, after a while, there was Doocy saying he's shocked, shocked, that it's a put-up job -- thus assuaging the fears of all those mainstream advertisers who don't want to put their product son Fox if they think it's turning into InfoWars.

This is good cop/bad cop. It's not Fox being responsible.


Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders want to damp down the impeachment talk, largely because they fear it will hurt Democrats in 2020 if they're seen as being obsessed with bringing down the president.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, as Peter Baker of The New York Times notes, there's this guy:
The idea was to talk about relief for farmers hurt by tariffs, with a couple of them standing behind him in cowboy hats. But it did not take long on Thursday for President Trump to go off on “Crazy Nancy” and “Crying Chuck” and “treason” and the effort to “take me down.”

The last time a president was threatened with impeachment, he made a point of not talking about it. This one cannot stop talking about it. Where Bill Clinton tried to appear above the mud fight, leaving it to aides and allies to wage the battle for him, Mr. Trump is determined to get down into the mud himself and wrestle with his enemies at every turn.

... out of strategic calculation or personal obsession, or both, the president has engaged in the battle with Congress so intensely that he has made it the all-consuming preoccupation of his presidency.
The president's fixer, Attorney General William Barr, has been given unilateral power to declassify documents, even over the objections of other agencies of the government -- all in order to more effectively "investigate the investigators" who looked into the misdeeds of Trump and his associates. And all agencies have been ordered to cooperate with this counter-investigation.

Trump isn't afraid to be seen as fixated on this, just as he isn't afraid to be seen as abandoning efforts to actually pass some legislation. After he walked out of the infrastructure meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, smart people said that the walkout would make it clear to the American public that Democrats are serious about governing and Trump isn't, but all that is in danger of being forgotten as the Trumpers cite doctored videos suggesting that Pelosi is a drunk, while Pelosi makes disparaging statements about the president. The Pelosi-Trump beef is what we're talking about. Infrastructure, the subject of the aborted meeting, has been forgotten.

And Trump is fine with that. Democrats fear being seen as unserious about governance. Trump doesn't care.

I'll grant that Democrats probably have a point -- Trump's poll numbers aren't very good, and most of the country doesn't want him reelected. It would probably be good for Trump to seem more serious, and it would be good for Democrats to focus on legislation.

But I'm told that Democrats have been focusing on legislation:

My response to Klain:

Get the word out. Talk about the bills on TV. Do targeted ads online describing the legislation. End each ad with a scary two-shot of Trump and Mitch McConnell, the men responsible for digging the grave where all these bills are buried.

Or just keep focusing on bringing down the president. Trump doesn't think focusing on the fight will hurt him in next year's elections. Maybe Democrats shouldn't either.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


The Party of Ideas is spreading thoughtful critiques again:
Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media....

The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup," was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, has been viewed more than 1.4 million times, been shared more than 32,000 times, and garnered 16,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.” ...

“There is no question that the video has been slowed to alter Pelosi’s voice,” said Hany Farid, a computer-science professor and digital-forensics expert at University of California, Berkeley.
This story, from The Washington Post, makes note of several similar fake videos that have had a wide viewership recently. It's clear who posted them, but it's not clear who created them.

Is it the Russians? What I've been thinking for some time is: Who needs the Russians? They've shown us -- and by "us" I mean the Republican Party -- what works. They've demonstrated what riles Americans up. They've demonstrated that a distortion of the truth can be ludicrous while going extremely viral.

This video and similar recent videos could have been Russian productions -- but anyone can learn to do this stuff. Russians have brought this virus to America, just as they've brought it to many other countries; Americans are perfectly capable of transmitting it now. The Russians can now interfere with American politics (and the 2020 election) without ever lifting a finger themselves.


A few days ago, I compared support for servicemembers accused of war crimes to support for cops accused of police brutality. Right-wingers routinely rally around accused cops, so why shouldn't we expect widespread conservative support for accused members of the military?

I've been thinking that a difference between bad servicemembers and bad cops is that in the military culture it's appropriate to distance yourself from bad actors, whereas cops invariably circle the wagons to protect one another. A story in The New York Times today suggests that the military's culture is sometimes no more honorable than cop culture:
Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.

Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action.

Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation.

But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report.

The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”

The platoon members eventually forced the referral of their concerns to authorities outside the SEALs, and Chief Gallagher now faces a court-martial, with his trial set to begin May 28.

But the account of the March 2018 meeting and myriad other details in the 439-page report paint a disturbing picture of a subculture within the SEALs that prized aggression, even when it crossed the line, and that protected wrongdoers.

According to the investigation report, the troop commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, said in the meeting that while the SEALs were free to report the killings, the Navy might not look kindly on rank-and-file team members making allegations against a chief. Their careers could be sidetracked, he said, and their elite status revoked; referring to the eagle-and-trident badges worn by SEALs, he said the Navy “will pull your birds.”

The enlisted aide, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, warned them that the “frag radius” — the area damaged by an explosion — from a war-crime investigation of Chief Gallagher could be wide enough to take down a lot of other SEALs as well, the report said.
President Trump has had Gallagher released from the brig and moved to "less restrictive confinement" as he awaits trial. Trump wants to pardon Gallagher and other servicemembers accused or convicted of crimes.

Some of Trump's extreme acts won't necessarily be imitated by other Republicans in the future -- but I think embracing war criminals will. No one in the GOP's target demographic questions the virtue of cops no matter how unarmed civilians cops kill, and no matter how many unjustified beatdowns by cops are caught on cellphone video. Nothing ever shakes heartland white America's faith in the cops, even the very cops responsible for these acts of brutality. So why wouldn't those Americans treat war criminals the same way?

Also, the GOP needs to distinguish itself from the Democratic Party on the issue of support for the military. Democratic politicans and voters now routinely express strong support for the troops. More and more Democratic candidates are veterans. In recent years, it's become difficult to patriot-bait Democrats on this issue.

So support for war criminals will become the GOP's way of distinguishing itself from the other party: You say you support the troops, but do you support these troops? No, I didn't think so.

Eventually, it will be deemed unpatriotic to expect servicemembers to respect their own code of conduct. Only peacenik America-hating liberals will do that.

This may degrade the culture of the military, but hey, there are elections to win, and that's what's most important, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


As Washington Monthly's Nancy LeTourneau notes, this morning's tantrum by President Trump seemed awfully scripted:
Trump was scheduled to meet with Democratic leaders at the White House on Wednesday morning to continue their discussion about infrastructure.
But just before the meeting, Nancy Pelosi, fresh from a confab with her caucus on the subject of impeachment, accused the president of engaging in a cover-up. After that:
When Democratic leaders arrived at the White House, Trump walked into the room, went on a five-minute rant about ongoing investigations, and then walked out. He proceeded to the Rose Garden where he held a supposedly impromptu press conference, refusing to govern until Democrats stopped their investigations. They claim that it was Pelosi’s remarks about a cover-up that triggered it all.
But if this was a spontaneous reaction to Pelosi's words this morning, why had it already been teed up by the White House staff, with a tendentious placard?

Trump just didn't have a plan the Democrats would accept. (His alleged plan was said to include $1 trillion in budget cuts, which means there's no way Democrats would accept it, and the White House can't promise any cooperation from Republicans, who have no interest in any infrastructure plan.) That's Chuck Schumer's theory, at least:

LeTourneau writes:
That fits with my assumption that Democrats entered these discussions about infrastructure knowing that Trump would either back out or fail to rally his own party around the issue. Whenever Trump fails, his response is to lie, deflect, and blame. Because he was failing on infrastructure, he decided to blame the investigations being carried out by Democrats.
I'm not sure that's really what happened -- but if it is, then Pelosi should mess with Trump's head by becoming very interested in a Trump promise from a couple of days ago:
President Donald Trump previewed the release of a “great healthcare plan” in four weeks, in an interview Monday with a local Pennsylvania media station.

“We’re coming up with a great healthcare plan that if we win back the house, keep the Senate, keep the presidency, we’re going to have fantastic health care,” Trump said. “And the plan is coming out over the next four weeks.”

The president spoke with WBRE reporter Andy Mehalshick in Pennsylvania following a rally in Lycoming County.

Trump vowed that his plan would take care of previous-existing conditions, and would be better than Obamacare.
Trump is as likely to emerge in the next four weeks with an actual healthcare plan as he is to get through War and Peace, or even a three-page briefing memo with no pictures. But Pelosi should seize on this and say she really, really doesn't want to be at an impasse with Trump, and doesn't want Americans to wait until 2021 if Trump has a really great healthcare plan, so could he keep her apprised of how the plan is coming along? She should bring it up every day.

Some Democrats and progressives will freak out if she does that. I understand. But it's fine, because there will be no plan. Pelosi won't be offering to compromise because it's vaporware, so there's nothing to compromise on. Or if she shames Trump into cobbling something together, it will undoubtedly be worse than the last healthcare plan Republicans floated, or exactly as terrible, so rejecting it will be easy and pain-free.

Why the hell not? Embarrass him. Pretend to take his empty promises seriously.


A couple of days ago, during a Pennsylvania rally, President Trump tried out a ridiculous new line of attack on Joe Biden:
“He's not from Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “I guess he was born here, but he left you folks. He left you for another state. Remember that, please....He left you for another state, and he didn't take care of you, because he didn't take care of your jobs. He let other countries come in and rip off America. That doesn't happen anymore."
It's ridiculous because Biden left the state with his family when he was ten years old. That's not a difficult fact to unearth -- it's right there on Biden's Wikipedia page. (I know Trump doesn't know how to use a Web browser, but surely someone who works for him does.)

Yesterday Biden fired back:
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday responded to President Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine his ties to Pennsylvania by playing up his connection to another key voting bloc: the working class.

“Yesterday, Trump tried to attack me at his campaign rally by saying I abandoned Pennsylvania. I’ve never forgotten where I came from,” Biden, the Democratic primary front-runner, wrote on Twitter.


I have a couple of thoughts about this.

First this was a terrible, embarrassing gaffe on the president's part -- or at least it should have been seen that way. In reality, the next time we get a "news analysis" of Trump's attack rhetoric, we'll be told, as we always are, that he's awesomely brilliant at demeaning nicknames and other insults. We'll be told that every critic and potential 2020 opponent fears the mighty power of Trump's putdowns. And it's not true. In this case, Trump faceplanted. No one quotes his "Alfred E. Neuman" insult for Pete Buttigieg. No one outside the right-wing fever swamps has picked up on catchphrases Trump loves and regularly repeats, such as "presidential harassment," or "18 angry Democrats" for the Mueller team.

So, as I've said a few times here, maybe Trump isn't really good at this. But no pundit will ever question his skills.

My other thought is that, while I don't appreciate Joe Biden's "fever will break" notion of Trump as an aberration, I'm grateful that he takes the fight to Trump. I hope he's inspired other 2020 Democrats to do the same.

Before Biden entered the race, the conventional wisdom was that Democratic presidential hopefuls shouldn't focus on Trump -- they should talk about issues, because that's what worked for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.

But there's a difference between the midterms and the 2020 presidential election: the midterm Democrats weren't running for Trump's job. The 2020 hopefuls are literally running to defeat Trump. Maybe Biden is leading, at least in part, because, more than the other candidates, he seems ready to confront the guy he's running against. Maybe the other candidates took the wrong lesson from the midterms.