Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I understand that Donald Trump won in 2016 and therefore Nobody Knows Anything, but I know this: However diverting Marianne Williamson's debate performance may have been last night, she will be a non-factor in this race, and we can stop acting as if she's the next black swan in American politics. Does anyone remember the last round of debates, when she allegedly had a "moment" almost as "compelling" as last night's "moment"? Well, Real Clear Politics says she's getting 0.3% of the Democratic vote. That previous moment didn't do her much good.

The New York Times asked its op-ed writers to score last night's debaters. Maureen Dowd, a terrible judge of human character, gave Williamson a perfect score.
(10/10) — Sneer if you will, but a call for a little spiritual healing is in order in the unspiritual, racist, hate-filled era of Donald Trump. As Jaboukie Young-White, a “Daily Show” correspondent, tweeted, Williamson is about to be the first president to take the oath of office with her hand on a stack of Tarot cards. Debates are about the visceral, and Williamson has that down. Not since Admiral James Stockdale, a fan of the Stoic philosophers, opened the vice presidential debate in 1992 by asking “Who am I, why am I here?” has there been a line as arresting as this one by the philosopher of love: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”
I'm old enough to remember that Stockdale moment in the 1992 vice presidential debate (kids: ask your parents). It did not resonate with the public, except as a punch line (although many of us stopped snickering when we learned that Stockdale had been a tortured POW in Vietnam). The dated cultural reference is very on-brand for Dowd, but it tells us nothing about whether Williamson genuinely appeals to voters.

Bret Stephens, of all people, nails it:
(2/10) — She is to this debate what Jimmy "The Rent Is Too Damn High" McMillan was to a past New York City mayoral debate, except McMillan was right.
Exactly. McMillan, with leather gloves and amazing facial hair, ran for both mayor of New York City and governor of New York State based on one core principle: the rent is too damn high.

McMillan was compelling -- and his mantra was correct. He was remixed and portrayed on Saturday Night Live. But at the ballot box he won 0.89% of the vote in the 2010 governor's race and 0.18% in the 2013 mayor's race.

That's Williamson.

I don't care that full-time adult shitposter Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter that Williamson "is actually winning this thing," or that Lindsey Graham said she won the debate. These people are trolls. Even Democrats who aren't extremely online know better than to vote for a candidate who's being praised by Trump World.

Besides, when we talk about this race, what are we always talking about (other than the brief moments when we're talking about Williamson)? We're talking about whether we dare tiptoe out of the soft centrist cocoon of Bidenism to embrace a progressive like Elizabeth Warren, a moderate progressive like Kamala Harris, or even another centrist -- do we dare throw caution to the winds and throw in our lot with Amy Klobuchar? What if that's the fatal mistake that dooms us to four more years of Trump????

We're extraordinarily risk-averse, and yet some people believe we're going to tear off our clothes and hold prayer circles at the polls in honor of a spiritualist has-been whose last mega-bestseller was in the 1990s. I don't think so.

I can give you many other reasons why this won't happen -- in fact, I did, a month ago, after Williamson's previous debate "moment." The short version: Democrats, unlike Republicans, don't think a lack of basic knowledge is a sign of wisdom. Democrats aren't itching to pick a nominee who's deemed unsuitable just because it will piss off the establishment. Democrats, unlike Williamson, value science.

Williamson might experience a small bump in the polls. If so, it won't last. Trust me on this.


I don't want to belabor the points I made in my previous post, but I was frustrated during last night's debate when few of the candidates challenged the right-wing framing of the questions. Elizabeth Warren did so fleetingly a couple of times, as did Bernie Sanders, although he ultimately directed his ire at CNN's health-industry sponsors:

I think this was a missed opportunity for a breakout moment. I'm sure there'll be a similar opportunity in tonight's debate, when the same moderators, particularly Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, will use the same conservative frames to shape their questions.

When that happens, someone should do what Newt Gingrich did in a January 2012 Republican debate.
Gingrich was pressed by moderator John King to comment about recent interviews given by Gingrich's second ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, in which she said that Gingrich had requested an open relationship.

"I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that," Gingrich said, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.

"I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate," Gingrich added.

The former House Speaker went on to denounce the story as "false" and accuse the media of raising the issue to protect President Obama.

"I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," Gingrich said.

Gingrich was denying a tawdry (and, I assume, accurate) story about his marital history, and he attacked King in front of an audience of Republicans, who are conditioned to hate the non-Fox media. Democrats are dealing with a purely ideological bias against progressive ideas, and their base generally trusts the MSM.

Nevertheless, the contempt in last night's questioning was so obvious that a full-throated counterattack would have won a big round of applause.

Two days after that debate, Newt Gingrich beat Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary by 12 points. Immediately afterward, there was serious talk about the possibility that he might wrest the nomination from Mitt Romney.

Somebody, please: If Tapper gives you an opening, go for it. You'll be glad you did.


I largely agree with Joshua Holland's take on last night's debate:
If the first night of the second Democratic primary debate is remembered for anything, it will be for how poorly moderated and uninformative it was.... the moderators, eager to encourage the candidates to engage in heated exchanges that might go viral, were happy to assist them by framing the questions exactly the way a Republican pundit might....

The question that was asked over and over again, in slightly different formulations, was whether the Democrats had become “too extreme,” and were poised to hand the election to Donald Trump as a result.

[Jake] Tapper’s very first question, directed to Bernie Sanders, set the tone. “You support Medicare for all, which would eventually take private health insurance away from more than 150 million Americans, in exchange for government-sponsored health care for everyone.” He said. “Congressman Delaney just referred to it as bad policy. And previously, he has called the idea ‘political suicide that will just get President Trump re-elected.’ What do you say to Congressman Delaney?”

His second question, to Elizabeth Warren, was, “At the last debate, you said you’re, quote, ‘with Bernie on Medicare for all.’ Now, Senator Sanders has said that people in the middle class will pay more in taxes to help pay for Medicare for all, though that will be offset by the elimination of insurance premiums and other costs. Are you also, quote, ‘with Bernie’ on Medicare for all when it comes to raising taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for it?”

He then went on to ask almost all of the other candidates if they, too, supported “raising middle class taxes” to pay for expanding public healthcare. Later, Tapper offered this prompt: “I want to bring in Governor Bullock. We’re talking about whether Democrats are moving too far to the left to win the White House. President Trump won your home state of Montana by 20 points. How do you respond, sir?

Dana Bash was obsessed with the idea that a slew of Democratic policies might “encourage more illegal immigration.”
And on and on. Holland is correct when he notes that
There were no questions along these lines in the similarly crowded 2016 Republican debates, when the candidates debated dark conspiracy theories popular on Fox News and vied to be the most fervent deniers of anthropogenic climate change.
You can read the transcript of one of those Republican debates -- also with Jake Tapper as a moderator -- here. The questions don't have Democratic or liberal frames. Instead, there are a surprising number of questions about Common Core, which was a controversial topic within the Republican Party at the time.

But I disagree with Holland about the reason Tapper and the other moderators approached the questioning this way. I don't think it was because they were "eager to encourage the candidates to engage in heated exchanges that might go viral." It's correct to say, as Holland does elsewhere, that Tapper and the others "all but begged the candidates to rumble" -- but I don't think it was because the moderators believed a rumble would be good television.

So what was happening? Let's recall what the manistream media regarded as appropriate coverage of politicians in the pre-Trump era. The MSM embraced the notion of objectivity -- no editorializing unless a candidate was self-evidently loathsome, like David Duke. Quite often the press didn't live up to this standard, of course, but it was the ideal.

President Trump is loathsome and dangerous in many of the ways Duke was, and in many other ways Duke wasn't. I'm grateful to the mainstream media for recognizing this -- if too late to keep him out of office -- and for covering Trump accordingly much of the time.

But the mainstream press also considers progressives loathsome and dangerous. That's what we saw last night, especially from Tapper. Tapper clearly thinks the progressive agenda is as great a threat to our way of life as Nazism or Trump's assault on liberal democracy. I don't think this means Tapper is a conservative, necessarily -- but he does represent a consensus that progressive politics must be stopped by any means necessary. Call it the consensus of the neoliberal media.

Holland writes, "The moderators’ desire to pick fights appears to have made the candidates wary of doing so. Perhaps ironically, there few memorable moments." But creating memorable moments wasn't the point. Framing progressive Democrats as beyond-the-pale extremists was the point. Tapper believed he had a job to do, and he did it with ruthless efficiency.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


John Harris -- the founding editor of Politico and a one-time Mark Halperin collaborator -- believes, shockingly, that Democrats who are arguing in favor of bold progressive ideas might have found a formula for success:
Put a bunch of Democrats on the stage and they can’t help but go off the rails: They compete with each other to win the favor of liberal activists, and saddle themselves with unrealistic positions that could leave a nominee vulnerable in the general election.

That was a prevailing Washington media and political class narrative after the first round of Democratic debates in Miami a month ago.

But as Democratic contenders gather on the stage again this week, a competing analysis is gaining power: Going a bit off the rails may be an entirely reasonable track to victory.
Harris's source for this view is Stan Greenberg, of all people.
“Candidates who look like they are cautious, modulating, have their foot on the brake are missing the moment,” said veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg....

The moment, according to Greenberg’s polling and focus-group work, has left voters of all stripes clamoring for disruption....

This interpretation is notable for the source. Greenberg first drew wide notice a generation ago, with landmark work about how Ronald Reagan captured many working-class Democrats who believed their party’s liberalism was out of step with their lives. He is a veteran of the 1992 “war room” of Bill Clinton—who won two elections precisely by practicing a brand of defensive politics that required regular reassurance to voters that his activism didn’t mean he liked big government, disliked free enterprise or was sympathetic to 1960s-style radicalism.
But what Greenberg is finding now is that voters don't think Democrats are scary radicals:
For one thing, Greenberg said, voters properly see most of the Democratic positioning as about making broad statements of values and ideals—not millstone-around-the-neck commitments that eliminate their ability to maneuver as general election nominee or president.

What’s more, he said, recent focus groups conducted for the American Federation of Teachers by the Greenberg-linked Democracy Corps suggest that a historically damaging charge—that Democrats’ plans to expand government amount to “socialism”—is losing some of its potency.

The focus groups with white working class voters outside metropolitan areas in Maine, Nevada and Wisconsin show that Trump uses partisan insults so promiscuously that his rhetoric may be devalued—participants didn’t find the socialism allegation compelling.
(I'd add that Republican crazies have been crying "socialism" forever -- they thought Bill Clinton was a socialist. It gets old after a while.)

A new poll also reveals that views of the Democratic Party are relatively unchanged over the past few years:
But beyond the political viability of specific policies, there’s also a broader question: whether Democrats’ growing liberalism, or their increasingly visible debate over progressive issues, has actually redefined Americans’ image of the Democratic Party or their perceptions about how well the party’s values align with the mainstream.

So far, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, the answer is no. Views of the Democratic Party, in fact, haven’t really budged in more than four years. The share of Americans calling the Democrats “too extreme,” which stood at 41% in November 2014, now stands at an identical 41%, with only minimal fluctuation in the interim.

... Right now, both parties are about equally likely to be seen as “too extreme.”
But ... but ... the Squad! The first round of debates! The Trump tweets! Surely all that is making Americans believe that Democrats are dangerous radicals!

I don't see it. FiveThirtyEight's generic ballot polling average this year has been quite steady. (That's polling asking respondents whether they'd vote for the Democrat or the Republican in the next House contest, with no names attached.)

The first round of Democratic presidential debates took place on June 26 and 27. Donald Trump's Twitter attacks on four progressive congresswomen began on July 14.

Just before the debates, FiveThirtyEight said that Democrats were leading Republicans in the generic ballot polling by 5.9 points. Now, after the first debates and the Squad attacks, the margin is ... 5.6 points. That's effectively unchanged.

John Harris notes that certain moments in history make voters willing to consider politicians whose ideas are outside the perceived range of the acceptable:
When the ideological tides are moving in their favor, presidential candidates may not have to worry so much about their language, or pay an especially high cost for laying it on too thick.

The best illustration may come from an earlier swing of the cycle, when Ronald Reagan in 1980 dethroned a half-century of New Deal and Great Society dominance of American politics with a brand of free-market, pro-military conservatism that seemed radical at the time. Reagan, many analysts thought, would be doomed by such provocations as launching his general election campaign in Mississippi with favorable references to “states rights,” doubts about his commitment to Social Security, or disparaging environmental laws by saying trees and the Mt. Saint Helens volcano were causing more pollution than anything man-made. Instead, Reagan was seen as right on big questions about realigning the role of government and won 44 states against incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
Ross Douthat has expressed similar thoughts, imagining back in March that Bernie Sanders might be the left's Reagan: an older man, familiar to voters from a previous near-miss insurgent campaign, who can win an election by challenging the prevailing ideological orthodoxy.

Sanders doesn't look like the guy to do it this year (though who knows at this early stage in the race?), but maybe voters aren't as afraid of serious change as pundits believe they are.


Ricochet's Jon Gabriel isn't really part of the mainstream media, but here he's saying what many members of the MSM believe, even if it's partly a critique of their own colleagues:
Dems, Media Keep Handing the Narrative to Trump

OMG! Did you see what Trump tweeted?! Democrats, presidential candidates, and journalists losing their minds over the President’s Twitter feed is hardly new, but the past week has been illuminating. It also spells trouble for those trying to unseat him in 2020.

About a week ago, Trump attacked Ilhan Omar and the rest of her America-bashing squad with a rude “send her back” tweet. The next few days were dominated by screams of racist, misogynist, and Islamophobic. After the great Mueller fizzle, Trump blasted Baltimore as a rat- and crime-infested mess run by Democrats unwilling to improve it. Two more days screaming racist, un-American, and anti-urban. On Monday morning, Trump mocked Al Sharpton, leading to a day screaming racist, un-American, and anti-tracksuits-with-medallions.

There’s much to criticize about anyone, let alone a president, constantly flinging personal insults. It’s uncivil, tacky, and just not done. But, damn, if it isn’t politically effective.

What else has the political world talked about in the past week? Mueller and impeachment got 24 hours. Anyone discussing Kamala Harris? No. In fact, she’s lost her poll bump from the last debate. How about Biden? Haven’t seen him. Warren, Buttigieg, Beto? Nada....

What’s odd is that the Democrats and the media are helping Trump to control the news cycle. If Trump’s a rageaholic, the Beltway left are his enablers.
Gabriel insists that Trump dominating the news cycle equals Trump winning. That notion just goes unexamined in his piece. But is it true?

No, it isn't. Look at Trump's approval average at Real Clear Politics. On July 19, his disapproval number was 6.6 points higher than his approval number. Yesterday -- ten days later -- it was 9.9. That's a 50% increase in net disapproval in ten days.

Why isn't it working? Matt Drudge understands -- this morning he's featuring an AP story about Trump and female voters in the suburbs:
Suburban women recoil as Trump dives into racial politics

BROOKFIELD, Wis. (AP) — Carol Evans approves of Donald Trump’s immigration policy. She gives him credit for the strong economy. But the Republican from the affluent Milwaukee suburbs of Waukesha County, a GOP bedrock in the state, just can’t commit to voting for the president next year like she did in 2016.

“I just don’t like the way he talks about other people,” Evans, a 79-year-old retired data entry supervisor, said recently as she walked through a shopping mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin, days after Trump fired off a racist tweet at Democratic congresswomen....

In more than three dozen interviews by The Associated Press with women in critical suburbs, nearly all expressed dismay — or worse — at Trump’s racially polarizing insults and what was often described as unpresidential treatment of people. Even some who gave Trump credit for the economy or backed his crackdown on immigration acknowledged they were troubled or uncomfortable lining up behind the president.
Drudge highlights some quotes:

And there's this from The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, one of the few MSM pundits who resists the Trump's-an-evil-genius narrative:
Blue-collar white women are turning on Trump

... data provided to me by Quinnipiac does appear to suggest the possibility that this demographic is getting driven away from Trump.

The poll finds that among overall registered voters, 54 percent say they will “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2020, vs. 32 percent who definitely will, and 12 percent who will consider voting for him. Among non-college-educated whites, 45 percent said they will definitely vote for him, vs. 41 percent who say they will definitely not vote for him.

That last number seemed like a large percentage of non-college-educated whites who definitely won’t vote for Trump. So I asked Quinnipiac for a further breakdown, and here it is:

That’s striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women say they will definitely not vote for Trump. (It’s also worth noting the extreme depth of alienation from Trump among college-educated white women: More than 6 in 10 say they definitely won’t vote for him.)

... once again, per the data Quinnipiac sent me, [Trump's disapproval rate among blue-collar voters] is driven by women:

That’s also striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women disapprove of Trump. (And again, the depth of alienation among college-educated white women is really something to behold.)
Believers in Trump's political genius think he wins every time he riles up his base. But as I keep telling you, the people who love Trump -- a group that's disporoportionately male -- were already riled up. They can't vote for him more times that they were already planning to. And while there are plenty of women at Trump's rallies, he's alienating the ones who have been on the fence about him, and who may have supported him reluctantly in 2016.

Of course all those retired men in ball caps at rural Rust Belt diners love this divisive Trump rhetoric. But that's not proof that Trump is winning. There are two genders in Trumpistan. Someone should alert the media.

Monday, July 29, 2019


A few weeks ago I told you that Joe Biden wasn't in freefall, and now look what's happening:
Former Vice President Joseph Biden reverses his slump following the first Democratic presidential debate and now leads the pack with 34 percent of Democrats and independent voters who lean Democratic, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has 15 percent, with 12 percent for California Sen. Kamala Harris and 11 percent for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

This compares to results of a July 2 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll, showing Biden with 22 percent, Harris with 20 percent, Warren with 14 percent and Sanders with 13 percent.
Biden is up 12 points in less than a month. He has the support of a majority -- not a plurality -- of black voters: 53%. No one else is in double digits. He gets 25% of "very liberal" Democrats.

A bad debate did no long-term damage. His age doesn't seem to concern voters.

I know we're months away from the first contest, but while a shakeup in the standings is quite possible, it's far from inevitable. Remember: By this time four years ago, Donald Trump had taken the lead in the GOP presidential contest. Apart from a day or two in the fall of 2015, Trump never relinquished that lead. We have to seriously consider the possibility that Biden could lead this race from beginning to end.

Why would that happen? Here's my theory: The "liberal" media may be doing something similar to what the conservative press did during the 2016 primary contest, and in the years leading up to that contest. The right-wing media fed its audience on a steady diet of exaggerated and wholly manufactured outrages, until conservative voters were primed to vote for the closest thing they could get to The Onion's shrieking white-hot sphere of pure rage in 2016. Trump hated everything the conservative press's audience hated (because he was a consumer of the same press), and he built his campaign on little more than rage. He was the perfect candidate for the Limbaugh/Fox/Breitbart era.

What the mainstream media has been doing for months is priming swing voters to despise everything genuinely progressive. These voters aren't haters, but they're extremely susceptible to the argument that seriously left-wing ideas are beyond the pale. The media is now validating and valorizing centrists' hesitancy about progressives. It's helping to create a new archetypal voter: the sorta-liberal anti-progressive.

As a result, all criticism of Biden, even perfectly legitimate criticism, is seen by these sorta-liberals as part of a foolishly misguided effort to drive the Democratic Party left and thus, in their view, throw the 2020 election to Trump. It's giving Biden a degree of Teflon that's analogous to Trump's own: Every criticism of Biden makes his base want him more.

And because Democrats fear failure in a way Republicans don't, Biden also has a great deal of support among Democrats who are to the left of the sorta-liberals. Add up all those voters and he's in solid shape.

If the "liberal" media were genuinely progressive, it would be easier for a progressive nominee to get to the front of the pack. But the press is making that very difficult.

I'm not a Biden supporter, though obviously I'll be an enthusiastic voter in November 2020 if he's the nominee. Nevertheless, I think he's going to be extremely hard to beat in the primaries.


A round of applause for Yastreblyansky and Tom -- you did extraordinary work while I was away.

I'm writing on the third day of President Trump's racist Twitter assault on Baltimore congressman Elijah Cummings. I agree with those who say that Trump does not have a well-thought-out strategy in place. He doesn't calculate the odds of success first or pinpoint his attacks based on polling or a carefully crafted timeline -- he just goes with his gut, then continues to do whatever wins him media coverage and infuriates his enemies.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't a plan. If it exists, however, it isn't Trump's.

Is it Fox's plan? And if so, what's the endgame?

CNN's Brian Stelter is certain that the Cummings attack was inspired by Fox, specifically by Fox & Friends:
[Trump's] own rich history of tweeting about Fox suggests that he was set off by a segment on the 6 am hour of "Fox & Friends Weekend."

First the talk show played a recent video clip of Cummings questioning acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan about conditions at the border. Then co-host Jedediah Bila brought in a guest named Kimberly Klacik, who went to impoverished parts of West Baltimore and talked with residents and recorded videos of trashed lots and ruined rowhomes....

"There is a crisis at the border, but there's also a crisis in Baltimore," Klacik said. "And I don't think many people realized this, but Congressman Cummings represents the most dangerous district in America."

Speaking about her visit, she said, "There's abandoned rowhomes filled with trash, homeless addicts, empty needles that they have used and it's really right next door. It's attracting rodents, cockroaches, you name it."
It has also been suggested that Trump's earlier attack on four progressive non-white first-term congresswomen was inspired by a Fox & Friends segment:

I understand that Trump believes he can win reelection by driving base turnout. But it's nearly sixteen months before the election -- won't Trump run out of prominent non-white attack targets who are hated by his base long before November 2020? Trump is attacking Al Sharpton this morning -- Sharpton being the go-to punching bag for bigots who have run out of fresh racist ideas. Jesse Jackson will undoubtedly be a subject soon, and maybe Oprah Winfrey.

But is this building up to a renewed assault on Barack Obama? Will Fox try to steer Trump in that direction, possible urged on by Fox?

I see from the Washington Examiner that Congressman John Ratcliffe, Trump's pick to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, was on Fox (though not Fox & Friends) reminding us that William Barr's Justice Department has Obama in its sights:
“I think the first thing we need to do is make sure we don’t do what the Democrats have done," the Texas Republican told host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures. "They accused Donald Trump of a crime and then they try and reverse engineer a process to justify that accusation. So I’m not going to accuse any specific person of any specific crime, I just want there to be a fair process to get there. What I do know as a former federal prosecutor is that it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.” ...

“Now the things that Bob Mueller said he didn’t know about and his team clearly didn’t look at, those are things that would be fair for Bill Barr and the Department of Justice to look at. Because we know that things happened in the Obama administration that haven’t been answered. There’s been no accountability for that yet," Ratcliffe said.
Is that where this all leads? An "investigation of the investigators" makes Obama the ultimate target of Trump's racism, just as election season is heating up? Or will Trump continue to punch down -- which is much easier -- until something else distracts him?

We'll see.

It's about the RPM

How it's supposed to be: Gilroy Garlic Festival 2018.

I've never heard of a case that puts it in starker terms than this shooting spree in Gilroy, California (not too far from where I spent half my childhood in the suburbs of San Jose, which meant the story immediately grabbed me—we never went to the festival, but Gilroy's devotion to garlic was something that delighted us when we drove by on Highway 101 on the way to the beach or a camping trip):
At least three people are dead and 11 people are injured after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, according to law enforcement and medical officials.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the shooter was fatally shot by officers who engaged him within one minute of the shooting.
One minute! Police performance was obviously superb, but they couldn't stop him from shooting 14 people, killing at least three, including a six-year-old boy. That's because the shooter had a semiautomatic weapon, though reports aren't yet clear what kind. Maybe it used one of the illegal Glock conversion devices that ATF officers found a whole bunch of in Gilroy, as it happens, last May. One way or another, those were the rounds per minute that make such guns so much more dangerous in these episodes than other weapons might be, and that was the minute in which they take place.

That's why these weapons have to go. It's not a matter of the type, dear gun nuts, please don't try to engage me in a tech-and-terminology debate because I don't have the patience for it today, it's a matter of how many bullets it shoots in 60 seconds.

Cross-posted at The Rectifcation of Names.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Brooks sights the rare White Democrat

How White Opinion Columnists Moved Centerwards

Racial equity has become the defining issue of the moment.
David Brooks
Opinion Columnist
People are always changing their minds, day to day. But over the past 20-odd years one group has shifted to an astounding degree: highly educated white opinion columnists. I’m not sure I understand why this group has undergone such a transformation, but it has, and the effects are reshaping our politics.
The easiest way to describe the shift is to say that educated opinion columnists have moved steadily to the center. In 1994, only about a sixth of pundits who had gone to graduate school said they were neither liberal nor conservative but really appreciated the ideas on both sides and wished everybody would be more civil. In 2015, more than 50 percent did. In 1994, only 12 percent of pundits with college degrees said they were consistently neutral. Eleven years later, 47 percent did, according to the Pew Research Center.

Friday, July 26, 2019

For the Record: The Impeachment Agnostic

Update below:
Image by Simone Noronha/New York Times.

Update (via NBC): On the other hand, we may well have reached the point where we can stop agonizing. Pelosi said this morning that the process of deciding on impeachment has an end
“No, I’m not trying to run out the clock,” Pelosi said at her final weekly press conference before she departs Washington for the House’s six-week summer recess. Asked how long the Democrats’ court fight might take, Pelosi would not lay out a timeline. “We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed — not one day sooner,” she said....
“A decision will be made in a timely fashion,” she said, appearing to refer to the impeachment process. “This isn’t endless, and when we have the best, strongest possible case and that’s not endless either.”
And that it's connected to the House effort to learn more about Trump's finances, which the Mueller investigation left more or less uninvestigated. And she had some very apt praise for the eager beavers who have been complaining about her:
“Everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way,” she said. “Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage.
Minutes later, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler explained (what I've been saying all along) that the impeachment hearings have already started:
“Whether you call that an inquiry, or whatever you want to call that, that’s what we’ve been doing,” Nadler said, later adding that they have already been conducting one “in effect.” .... “I think too much has been made of the phrase 'impeachment inquiry,'” he said.
The Nadler committee has just filed suit to get the redacted grand jury material from the Mueller report, and strongly increased pressure on former White House counsel Don McGahn, probably the most effective witness to Trump's obstruction of justice, to testify in person and to provide documents.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Excellent News for John McCain


...yeah, I got nuthin. Which is okay, because comment would be superfluous.

Better Press Corps, Please (Mueller Edition)

Reactions to Mueller's testimony were all over the map, but at least there was consensus on the absolute worst tweet of the day: And there was dunking throughout the realm. Beyond the stupidity of focusing on "optics" in the middle of the most serious constitutional crisis since Watergate, I honestly have no idea what he was talking about. Call me naive, but if we're going to talk optics I kind of think Louie Gohmert bellowing QAnon-level conspiracy theories at Mueller (for example) was, you know, a little sub-optimal, optics-wise, for the Republicans. Especially on a day when Trump's response was spectacularly unhinged even by Trump standards: But it wasn't just Todd. There was, of course, the ever-reliable Maggie Haberman. And anyone browsing Memeorandum this morning can find headlines like "The Blockbuster That Wasn't: Mueller Disappoints the Democrats" and "Mueller's Labored Performance Was a Departure From His Once-Fabled Stamina" (both NYT). There were some good substantive pieces (here, e.g.), but mostly it was optics über alles--from the same people who allowed themselves to be spectacularly bamboozled by Trump's bagman in the DOJ.

For whatever it's worth, I think these takes are mostly wrong. I watched the hearings knowing more than the average American, but not having read the report, and thought the litany of obstructive acts (with Mueller confirming in each case that yes, Trump did that) was pretty effective. In particular, the exchanges with Jeffries and Lieu (the latter noted by Yastreblyansky yesterday) were pretty damning:
Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries sought to demonstrate the disconnect by walking Mueller through the three-prong test....

“Yes,” Mueller said, confirming the obstructive act....

“True,” Mueller said, confirming the nexus to an official proceeding....

Jeffries then moved on to the third element, corrupt intent, and Mueller once again effectively affirmed the point....

Mueller, seeing the trick, tried to cut it off....But by then, the point was made: Mueller himself had acknowledged all the ways that Trump’s behavior met all three prongs of the test for obstruction of justice.
I don't know any more than Chuck Todd what the average viewer thinks of this, but I would guess that anyone watching the hearing (and I hope to god a lot of people did) understood, maybe for the first time, the seriousness of Trump's malfeasance.

ETA: I agree with Yastreblyansky's take on how it went:
So my thought, as it went on, was that a good deal was being accomplished: that the Democrats were clearly laying out a sequence of high crimes and misdemeanors, the charges Mueller was unwilling to make himself (or even describe in any way, because of his bizarrely strict concept of his duty), showing that they were nevertheless all implicitly part of the Report, as Mueller was generally unable to deny.

And Then the Critics

Image via The Clyde Fitch Report.

The way I received it, listening to the Judiciary hearing on the radio (unlike Chuck Todd, I don't get to criticize the "optics", and I didn't listen to the Intelligence hearing at all, though I've got the transcript in an open tab and I'm working on it), Mueller had a pedagogical task I thought he was living up to pretty well, with the intense cooperation of the Democrats on the committee. Namely, he wasn't going to read us the Report ("Hey kids, it's story time!"). He was going to make us read it, or the committee members on our behalf, because that's what you need to do in this class: if the professor spoonfeeds you the material, you're not going to get it, you have to master it for yourself.

And Mueller really wants us to read the Report. "The Report speaks for itself," he keeps saying, like Dorothy insisting she just wants to go back to Kansas. He's aware, I think, that nobody has read it, but he's put so much into it that he doesn't have much left for himself.

So he wouldn't give them a lecture, he gave them a "recitation", or what's called a tutorial in UK, in which the congresscritters read it to him, and he signaled to what extent he thought they were getting it right:
NADLER: But the president still refused to sit for an interview by you or your team?
MUELLER: True. True.
NADLER: And did you also ask him to provide written answers to questions on the 10 possible episodes of obstruction of justice crimes involving him?
NADLER: Did he provide any answers to a single question about whether he engaged in obstruction of justice crimes?
MUELLER: I would have to check on that. I’m not certain.
That's hilarious: he doesn't want to rule it out, Trump may have inadvertently given a straight answer or two, but it couldn't have been very important.

And so it went through the morning, each representative offering a report on the assigned reading and getting the responses ("true", "I'll stick with what's in the report", and "I would not characterize it that way") and working to a conclusion that began in the later part of the proceedings to sound like a refrain:
RICHMOND: But, in fact, it’s completely appropriate for the president’s staff, especially his counsels, to take notes during a meeting correct?
MUELLER: I rely on the wording of the report.
RICHMOND: Well, thank you, Director Mueller, for your investigation into whether the president attempted to obstruct justice by ordering his White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to lie to protect the president and then to create a false record about it. It is clear that any other person who engaged in such conduct would be charged with a crime. We will continue our investigation. We will hold the president accountable because no one is above the law.
RASKIN: Could you read it out loud to everybody?
MUELLER: I would be happy to have you read it.
RASKIN: OK, very good, we’ll read it at the same time. The evidence concerning this sequence of events could support an inference that the president used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter the provision of information or to undermine Cohen’s credibility once Cohen began cooperating.
MUELLER: I believe that’s accurate.
RASKIN: OK. And in my view, if anyone else in America engaged in these actions, they would have been charged with witness tampering. We must enforce the principle in Congress that you emphasize so well in the last sentence of your report which is that in America, no person is so high as to be above the law. I yield back.
Also noteworthy that all the Democrats seemed to be managing their time particularly well and reaching a point of conclusion in their presentations. While the Republicans, rarely referring to the Report at all, making obscure references to peripheral figures like Joseph Mifsud or Lisa Page and the conspiracy theories current among the wingnuts that Mueller seemed not to have even heard of, couldn't seem to use their turns to do anything but sputter and murmur about some bad thing that they couldn't explain and was beside the point anyway.

So my thought, as it went on, was that a good deal was being accomplished: that the Democrats were clearly laying out a sequence of high crimes and misdemeanors, the charges Mueller was unwilling to make himself (or even describe in any way, because of his bizarrely strict concept of his duty), showing that they were nevertheless all implicitly part of the Report, as Mueller was generally unable to deny. Everybody got an A!

Then the TV critics came out and they didn't see it the way I saw it at all, from Chuck Todd
look, on the optics, this was a disaster. 
to the entire staff of Politico

flat Mueller performance

‘Bob Mueller is struggling’

Pelosi rebuffs Nadler on impeachment after Mueller flop

So the whole effort for the congresscritters to own the material is wasted on them (Twitter friend Cullen Martin said, "They wanted an Aaron Sorkin moment"), and possibly on Pelosi, too, though I continue to hope she's entirely focused on the budget and debt limit bill, which will pass the House today and then go to the White House for signature; once that's done, Trump's ability to blackmail the country by threatening shutdown or default will be curtailed until after November 2020, and her ability to fight him correspondingly enhanced. As to what they call "the American people", who knows, but I'm afraid Chuck Todd gets his way an awful lot of the time.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Loudest Thing Mueller Didn't Say

Image via NBC.

Rep. Ted Lieu during the first Judiciary session with Mueller this morning:
“I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked Mueller.
Mueller’s response was straightforward: “That is correct.”
And Mueller walking it back after the break:
“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said in his statement. “As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
Via Vox, which argues that it isn't a big deal:
It’s understandable why many have latched onto the Lieu moment. After all, it would be a massive admission by Mueller under oath. But it seems he was a bit imprecise in answering the lawmaker, or at least didn’t make his true feelings clear.
I totally disagree with that assessment; I think Lieu absolutely won a vital point here, and Mueller said as much. Not "what I said is not true" but "that is not the correct way to say it". And not the correct way to say it not because he doesn't believe that, but because it was not "as we say in the report".

What Lieu succeeded in doing is getting Mueller to say something that isn't in the report, to express his "true feelings" in violation of the constraints he's been imposing on himself since his formal statement of 29 May,
So beyond what I’ve said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress. And it’s for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well.
And saying something he very specifically didn't want to say, as prefigured in the statement he co-signed with Barr, released 30 May:

The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice.
Not that it isn't true, but that he's "not saying it". In contrast to Barr's categorical statement in his deceptive letter of 24 March, that

Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
So under questioning from Ted Lieu, he said it. And then turned around with the explanation that he had said it in an "incorrect" way and "corrected" it to make it agree with the official stance.

It's not so earthshakingly important in itself, but it's a kind of skeleton key to all the other things he's been carefully not saying that we've been reading between the lines, that he did have cases for coordination and conspiracy against people in the Trump campaign who were never charged, including Trump himself (just not quite strong enough to send to court), that he could have written an indictment against Trump for obstruction of justice, and that he does intend that Congress should take over the case of Trump himself with the tool it has, of impeachment. All these things he successfully didn't say today are the rest of the iceberg we glimpsed when he was responding to Lieu. The way we've been reading the report, as the basis of articles of impeachment, is the right way.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Welcome Boris!

I can't get over this. Shit happens on Twitter, especially when you're using a phone, and nobody proofreads everything they emit, but the particular stupidity of it is so irresistible. Via Kyle Griffin, who got the screenshot in time.

He's not going to be prime minister of the United Kingdom for long, some say (including UK journalist James Butler in an NYT op-ed), if Boris gets his way and lets the European separation work itself out on the no-deal plan, in which case Scotland really does become a lot more interested in independence from the 1707 union with England, and Northern Ireland could even be thinking about reuniting with the rest of the Irish island, both because Europe has done a lot more for them than England ever has, and people prefer to stay in it, so there won't be a United Kingdom any more. I can't speak to the United Kingston.

One of the less-known things Johnson has in common with Trump is a family history of pretending not to be German. As I was recalling a couple of weeks ago the Trumps, descended from the late 19th-century immigrant barber and Alaska brothelkeeper Friedrich Drumpf, started calling themselves Swedish after World War II, out of a sense that their many Jewish tenants would prefer not to have a German landlord, and Donald himself was still clinging to the story as late as 1990 ("My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . "). In the same way, Johnson's father's maternal grandmother was Baroness (or Freiin) Maria Luise von Pfeffel, renamed Marie Louise de Pfeffel around World War I because a French-looking name seemed nicer at the time.

You don't learn a lot bout the Pfeffels from this New York Post piece, but I liked the headline.

The Johnsons have the additional distinction of having pretended not to be Turkish, in that his grandfather, Wilfred Johnson, the Baroness's son-in-law, was born Osman Kemal, son of the Ottoman interior minister Ali Kemal, who was assassinated during the Turkish War of Independence in 1922.

It's a glitzier background than the Trumps had. I feel it's worth reminding people how Johnson earned his political stance as a "populist" and a scourge of untrammeled immigration.

I loved this:

Ever hear of a guy called Winston Churchill?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

For the Record: Where's My Article 2, Dude?

Via SamuraiDVD.

Trump has this thing he likes to say about Article 2 (to you and me, the section of the US Constitution that describes the qualifications for and duties of the presidency) that gets weirder and weirder, most recently:
Last week, I think I found the source of this
in an article of April 2018 by the unspeakable Hans von Spakowsky arguing that Trump had a constitutional right to fire Mueller if he wanted, and the very Fox segment he could have gotten it from
It seems clear that my initial speculation, that he doesn't in fact know what an Article 2 might be or where you'd look for one if you wanted it, that he sees it as something like the secret book everybody's looking for in a kungfu romance and he's trying to bluff everybody into thinking he's acquired it and could annihilate his enemies any time he chooses, looks more and more likely to be right.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.