Saturday, November 30, 2019


I'm concerned about this.
As Democrats in Congress push to impeach him, President Trump has toured a manufacturing plant in Texas, boasted about economic gains and signed numerous bills. He served turkey to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and grieved with the families of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

And next week, Trump is scheduled to jet to London to meet with European allies and be received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II.

... he and his aides ... have staged photo opportunities and public events designed to showcase the president on the job — a strategy one year out from the election to convince the American people that he is hard at work for them at the same time that Democrats are trying to remove him from office....

Trump is taking a page out of the Clinton playbook. Then-President Bill Clinton survived his 1998 impeachment in part because the economy was roaring and because he appeared to many voters to be relentlessly focused on doing the business of the American people.

... Clinton’s experience has been instructive to Trump, who recently met in the Oval Office with former Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who counseled the president to focus on governing and travel frequently.
Will all the turbulence in the Democratic race, and with the mainstream media given negative coverage to every leading Democrat except Pete Buttigieg, who has minimal non-white support, I've been concerned about the election, but I've been comforted by the fact that Trump seems to be campaigning in a way that's guaranteed not to expand his voter base. All he wants to do is toss red meat to his most hardcore supporters. He's not accomplishing anything that might impress swing voters, and he's not moderating his tone. His campaign seems determined to find new deplorables who rarely vote instead of reaching out to the middle. The Trump campaign might be right to believe that there are a lot of non-voters to be reached, and some observers seem to agree with him...

But I'm thinking about a poll story I read last week:
By 74 to 19 percent, the American public said they would rather their preferred candidate win the 2020 presidential election than their favorite team win the Super Bowl or World Series.

However, 28 percent of males said they would rather see their favorite team win the championship than have their favorite candidate win the 2020 presidential election – while 64 percent said they would prefer their favorite candidate to win. Another 8 percent said they did not know or had no opinion....

These are the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll....

The more education the respondents had, the more strongly they felt about the election results. For those with less than a high school education, 55 percent said they would prefer their favorite “presidential candidate to win,” while 31 percent said they would prefer their team to win (14 percent did not know/had no opinion).
I assume the non-college men who care more about their favorite team are the guys the Trump campaign is trying to get polling places. Good luck with that.

Trump likes the base-only strategy because it means he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't enjoy. He likes fighting with people. He likes watching Fox News. He likes going before crowds of adoring fans and regaling them with stories of fights he's having because of things he saw on Fox News. He likes being cheered by those crowds for picking those fights, then he likes going on Fox News and telling the hosts there about the same fights. For Trump, that and golf add up to a complete life.

Trump could reach moderates, but the most effective way to do it would be to do things he doesn't like doing. He'd have to compromise. He'd have to swallow his pride and work with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. He'd have to abandon lines in the sand he and his followers have drawn. Oh, and he'd have to learn about legislation. That's hard work!

But Mark Penn may have found a way that Trump can reach moderates without doing anything he doesn't feel like doing. Trump likes being a ceremonial president. He doesn't want to work hard, but he's eager to be seen as someone who's hard at work.

So he visits the troops. He tours factories. He signs bills, although the bills aren't exactly paradigm-shifting.
Lacking a bevy of big achievements of late, Trump has striven to make a show of whatever he can. On Monday, he invited journalists into the Oval Office to observe him signing the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.

The law revises criminal penalties for creating or distributing videos or images depicting animal torture. The bill did not require much of a lift — it passed the House by voice vote and the Senate by unanimous consent — but the president celebrated its passage nonetheless.

“This is something that should’ve happened a long time ago and it didn’t,” Trump said. “I ask the same question I asked for another bill that we just signed: Why hasn’t this happened a long time ago? And I give you the same answer: because Trump wasn’t president.”
And, yes, he boasts that big things are happening because he's in charge.

In the impeachment year of 1998, the Clinton administration made serious efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland and the Israelis and Palestinians. Trump's big accomplishment this month has been to claim credit for a "new" Apple factory where Mac Pros have actually been built since 2013.

Nevertheless, low-information moderate voters might fall for this. Let's hope not.

Friday, November 29, 2019


There's new polling from The New York Times today, and it actually contains good news for progressives:
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to tax the assets of America’s wealthiest individuals continues to draw broad support from voters, across party, gender and educational lines. Only one slice of the electorate opposes it staunchly: Republican men with college degrees....

Overall, 63% of respondents said they support the wealth tax, including 55% of independents and 57% of Republicans. (Democratic support is 77%.)

And Medicare for All also gets high marks, though there's more of a partisan skew: Only 28% of Republicans back it, but there's support from 64% of independents and 81% of Republicans.

So why are Elizabeth Warren's poll numbers plummeting?

There are several possible explanations. Perhaps voters support for Medicare for All, but only if there's the option of keeping private insurance. Perhaps they don't like Warren's funding mechanism.

Or perhaps many of her ex-supporters still like her and her plans, but they assume they have to put away childish things, close their eyes and think of Bugtussle -- in other words, they have to vote the way they assume a grizzled retiree in a ball cap sitting in a rural diner will want to vote.

This Times poll is done in conjunction with SurveyMonkey, not with Siena College, the Times's partner on the paper's last round of polling -- the one that continues to be cited by pundits who have "Democrats are doomed" confirmation bias.

Although the polls don't ask the same questions and it's possible that broad support for Warren's best-known positions doesn't translate to support for her candidacy, it also seems reasonable to assume that the Times's polling partners have arrived at very different, not particularly compatible results. It would be nice if that were noted in the paper's write-up of the new poll. (We are told in the current story that less educated voters are less likely to regard Warren as the strongest candidate on the economy, although she's at or near the top with every group apart from those who never attended college.)

In a better world, poll numbers like these would put pressure on moderates to declare that they're going to soak the rich too. Maybe Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg wouldn't endorse big structural changes like the ones Warren and Bernie Sanders are proposing, but they'd be jacking up their proposed tax rates for the 1%.

But we don't live in that world. This poll won't generate any enduring narratives. Only anti-progressive polls do that.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


I understand Ross Douthat's argument for why Bill Clinton survived impeachment while Richard Nixon was compelled to resign with impeachment and Senate conviction likely:
... the simplest explanation is that Nixon didn’t survive because his second term featured a series of economic shocks — summarized on Twitter by the political theorist Jacob Levy as “an oil crisis, a stock market crash, stagflation and recession” — while Clinton’s second term was the most recent peak of American power, pride and optimism. In a given impeachment debate, under this theory, neither the nature of the crimes nor the state of the political parties matter as much as whether an embattled president is seen as presiding over stability or crisis, over good times or potential ruin.
Douthat (b. 1979) is understating the case. Consider what had happened in the ten years prior to the first Watergate hearings in 1973: the assassinations of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King; a growing quagmire in Vietnam, accompanied by a protest movement that sometimes turned violent (and sometimes had violence directed at it, as at Kent State); unrest in the cities; a youth culture that was experimenting with drugs, sex, odd clothes and hairstyles and music, and rejection of traditional values; Woodstock; Altamont; Charles Manson; Patty Hearst's kidnapping (which took place six months before Nixon resigned) ... cue that Buffalo Springfield song.

And yet with all that going on -- hey, how much worse could things get if there's another national crisis? -- support for Nixon's impeachment and removal remained under 40% for months after the start of the Watergate hearings.

Whereas now, according to FiveThirtyEight ...

Douthat makes the case for the times being too good for a successful impeachment:
... one reason Trump managed to get elected was that the waning years of Barack Obama’s second term felt chaotic and dangerous across multiple fronts — with the rise of the Islamic State, the Russian seizure of Crimea and the Ukrainian quasi-war, a modest increase in crime and a series of terrorist attacks domestically, and a version of the child migrant crisis that has recurred under Trump.

... the late-Obama-era crime increase appears to have subsided, campuses and cities have been relatively calm, Russia’s aggression has given way to stalemate, the Islamic State’s defeat has been mostly completed and Islamist terrorism has grown more sporadic than in the period that gave us Charlie Hebdo, San Bernardino and much more. Meanwhile the economy has grown steadily, leaving a majority of Americans in their best financial position since the days when Clinton survived impeachment.

... These are voters who dislike Trump but give him some grudging credit for the solid economy and the absence of new foreign wars, voters who don’t support his policies but don’t share the educated-liberal revulsion at his style, and voters whose reluctant support is contingent on Trumpian chaos seeming confined to Washington.
AP found some voters in Wisconsin who sound like this:
“He’s probably guilty of something. ... I thought he might run into problems because it’s just the way he is,” said Scott Davis, a 67-year-old landscaper from Sturtevant, a manufacturing town that’s a key base for Republican votes in the county.

But Davis said his business has flourished, and he lauded Trump’s handling of the economy. Controversies or not, Davis said he sees no reason not to support the president in 2020.

“In a lot of ways, (Trump’s) not suited to be president, but he’s done a lot of good for the country,” Davis said. “I would probably vote for him again, just because of the economy.”

David Titus, a 68-year-old retired banker from just outside Racine, said Trump “runs his mouth too much,” but he’s still satisfied with the president’s performance.

“I like what he’s done. I don’t like the way he’s doing it,” he said.
But Yastreblyansky has the counterargument:
... I think the crisis is here. We're in the middle of a foreign-policy catastrophe brought on, precisely, by Trump's corruption and the narcissism that leads him to base decisions on who flatters him the best, the paralyzing of international organizations and projects as the US becomes unable to participate in them, the increasing effrontery of bad actors in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, and others who have Trump's number and use it, and so on. I think we're in a terrible economic situation as well even though the favorite indicators don't show it, with the agricultural and manufacturing economy collapsing under the Trump tariff wars while our imports don't slow down, but who knows how long that takes. We should all be worried about the increasingly uniform Republican rejection of climate science and every form of health and safety regulation, to say nothing of the encouragement of white nationalism with an actual Nazi writing his speeches threatening the civic peace.
And in addition to all that, what about the "deaths of despair" Douthat's ideological soul mate David Brooks is always writing about? What about opioids and health care insecurity and the loss of good union jobs with good benefits? What about economic immobility, something Brooks also writes a lot about because he can blame it on the upper middle class hogging all the good schools? What about gun violence? What about (to take a concern that doesn't affect white people in rural diners) police brutality?

If a sense of national malaise is needed before Americans are ready to impeach, why wouldn't all this be enough?

Oh, wait -- half of America actually does want Trump removed from office. It's just Republicans in the Senate (and the minority of voters who elect them) who don't.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


The Atlantic's Elaina Plott reports that many Republicans wish Rudy Giuliani would go away.
Over the past week, I asked multiple GOP officials when, if ever, they thought President Donald Trump would publicly distance himself from his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is at the center of the House impeachment inquiry. Their responses were eerily similar: “Can it be two years ago?” asked one White House official who, like others, requested anonymity in order to be candid. “Ideally three years ago,” responded a senior House GOP aide. Finally, a senior Senate GOP aide: “Can he do it yesterday?”

... Republicans—whether stationed in the White House or Congress, whether sympathetic to Reagan-era conservatism or its present-day iteration—agree on one thing: Giuliani has got to go.
Yet they don't believe Giuliani is going away -- Trump appreciates his friendship and his loyalty too much.

I mocked Giuliani in my last post, but it could be argued that he's actually helping Trump right now.

I'm reading the inevitable wave of articles suggesting that a week of public impeachment hearings hasn't changed public opinion. It's not just that pro-Trump voters don't believe the allegations against the president -- it's also that voters in the middle have been successfully bamboozled, and are now in a state of confusion, like this voter AP found in Wisconsin.
Nicole Morrison, a 36-year-old nurse who can’t see herself voting for Trump in 2020, had a [negative] review [of the hearings].

“There’s so much information that sometimes it’s hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors,” she said. “So I just don’t pay attention to it.”
As Democrats try to explain why the president should be impeached, no one has been working harder to devise counternarratives. Much of the public now thinks there are two equally plausible stories of Ukraine-related corruption, either of which could be true, and in one of which Trump and Giuliani are brave crime fighters. Rudy isn't solely responsible for this state of affairs, but he deserves a lot of the credit (or blame).

In addition, Giuliani's criminality may actually be helping Trump. Remember, the Ukraine story was supposed to be uncomplicated, linear, and therefore easy for the public to understand. Giuliani just keeps making it more complicated.
President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, negotiated this year to represent Ukraine’s top prosecutor for at least $200,000 during the same months that Giuliani was working with the prosecutor to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The people said that Giuliani began negotiations with Ukraine’s [then-]top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, about a possible agreement in February. In the agreement, Giuliani’s company would receive payment to represent Lutsenko as the Ukrainian sought to recover assets he believed had been stolen from the government in Kyiv, those familiar with the discussions said.
As Rudolph W. Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about President Trump’s political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials, documents reviewed by The New York Times show.

Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals were finalized. But the documents indicate that while he was pushing Mr. Trump’s agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Mr. Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.
And that's just today. I know that for anyone who's following the twists and turns of Ukrainegate with relative ease, it would seem obvious that any suggestion of criminality in Trump's circle casts Trump himself in a bad light.

But I don't think it works that way for undecided low-information voters in the middle. They just see a puzzling story with an ungainly cast of characters, many of them with tongue-twister Slavic names, and now it's becoming more puzzling and more ungainly. They see international men of mystery doing business with other international men of mystery -- who can tell what's sleazy and what isn't? Please note that Trump's own business dealings have been repeatedly shown to be sleazy and corrupt, and the public doesn't care. Please also note that even the success Republicans are having in promoting their smears of the Biden family aren't hurting Joe Biden's poll numbers much at all, so it may just be that the public expects a certain level of corruption from public figures.

I realize this a contrarian take. I don't expect you to agree with it. All I can say is please don't underestimate the difficulty voters in the middle are having making sense of the Ukraine story, and please don't assume that everyone finds it fun or compelling to follow. It's a muddle for a lot of people, and Giuliani is working hard to keep it that way.


Politico Playbook reports:
AS OF RIGHT NOW, people close to President DONALD TRUMP on the White House staff and on Capitol Hill do not believe he will send a lawyer to participate in next week’s Judiciary impeachment hearings, as is his right.

THIS COMES AFTER WEEKS OF COMPLAINING that the process was rigged against him because he didn’t have representation.
Here is a simple, easy-to-pass test of the Democratic Party's sense of theater -- but I fear Democrats won't pass it. It's a one-question test, and I'll tell you the correct answer: If the White House gripes for weeks about not having representation in impeachment proceedings, then passes up the opportunity to send a lawyer to the Judiciary Committee, supply an empty chair for the lawyer and make sure it's on camera.

This is not complicated. When the Politico report is telling us that "TRUMP’S ALLIES think that the president is winning the process argument -- that impeachment is rigged, crooked, etc. -- and he should continue to sit it out," you should make clear that the complaint is phony. While you're at it, put a big, easy-to-read placard in front of the empty chair that says COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT.

And as a bonus, you might throw Trump off his game by shaming into sending a lawyer. And who might that be?
... BTW: Who is the president’s attorney, if he decides to send one? Would it be Rudy Giuliani? White House counsel Pat Cipollone?
Oh pleasepleasepleaseplease, let it be Rudy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


I'd like to report a murder.
Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s support has fallen off a cliff in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, as former Vice President Joe Biden has retaken the lead since last month and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has leapfrogged into second place.

The latest poll, released Tuesday, shows Warren dropping from 28 percent in late October — which gave her a sizable lead over Biden and the rest of the field — to third place with just 14 percent....

A look inside the Q poll’s crosstabs show that Warren lost 14 points with black voters, and now polls at six percent with that group to Biden’s 43 percent. But Warren also lost 15 points with white voters, while Mayor Pete gained 10 points with whites.

This result caps off a bad month-and-a-half that has seen Warren’s national poll numbers steadily slipping.
It will be argued that Warren brought this on herself by releasing a detailed Medicare for All plan that immediately drew criticism. I'd say that her alternative was to not release that plan and be hounded by shrill cries of "WHERE'S WARREN'S PLAN? WHAT'S SHE HIDING?"

What really happened is that rich Democratic donors saw Warren's rise (and Biden's decline) and decided that it Would. Not. Stand. They're not going to pay significantly more in taxes! Who does Warren think she is? So they sent up the bat signal to the many, many elite-media journalists and pundits who are receptive to their views. As if by magic, every discussion of the Democratic race now turned on the question of whether persuadable centrist voters are so allergic to Medicare for All that they'll instantly flee into the arms of Donald Trump a second time. All the talk was about "electability" and about how scary middle-of-the-road voters find progressives to be. This (plus that one damn New York Times/Siena poll showing all the Democratic front-runners struggling against Trump) put the fear of God into much of the Democratic electorate. Like a high school girl rumored to have been involved in a baroque sex act, Warren was now seen by many as a pariah because they assumed other people saw her as a pariah.

Warren's campaign might not be dead. It might just be on life support -- she could cheat death again, as she did after she released her DNA results. Maybe this was just an attempted murder. But now we know that the Warren will have to beat one extra opponent in order to become president: the plutocratic wing of her own party. And they don't mess around.


Democrats and other Trump critics just spent a week praising impeachment witnesses, including Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, and now President Trump finds some government workers he thinks are heroes.
If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.

... Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.
There's the real contrast between our two nations: Yes, it's rural versus urban/suburban, and yes it's blue collar versus white collar, but it's also whether you feel inclined to cheer on midlevel career civil diplomats and deskbound military personnel who use brainwork to help keep America safe ... or whether your heroes are action-movie clichés come to life, "bad boys" who "don't play by the rules" because not playing by the rules is perceived as the only way to avoid apocalyptic consequences.

If that's your worldview, then Bill Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch, and Fiona Hill aren't admirable people -- they're the cliché "bureaucrats" who try to prevent the lone-wolf hero from doing what he and everyone in the theater know is the right thing.

Vindman is a tougher case -- he's a wounded, decorated soldier. That's why the right had to rhetorically emasculate him -- recall the American Greatness piece I wrote about after Vindman's testimony, in which he was called "Lt. Col. Polly PrissyPants" and described as a "prissy little princess" and a "butt-hurt" "little snitch" who "sassed" Devin Nunes and was offered a job in the Ukraininan government because he had "an 'open for business' sign flashing" (I'll leave it up to you to imagine what exactly the American Greatness's Liz Sheld wanted you to think Vindman had left "open").

I don't know how many Americans will respond to Trump's war criminals. I continue to believe that it's a mistake for Trump to put so much effort into selling himself to voters who already love him and are certain to vote for him. But he knows what his fans like -- and it's the exact opposite of what you heard from the witnesses last week.

Monday, November 25, 2019


Because it is so dogmatically left-wing, The New York Times has decided to give over several column inches to promoting certain Republicans' fantasies of a younger Trump in Congress.
Could Donald Jr. or Lara Trump Run for Office in New York, and Win?

In some Republican circles, the notion of President Trump’s children running for political office is not only a parlor game — it’s a matter of finding the right opportunity for the right Trump.

Could that opportunity exist in blue New York? And could it happen now?

Some state Republicans are eager to give it a try. With Representative Peter King, a Republican, not seeking re-election on Long Island next year, the circumstance may never be better for a younger Trump to run.

But which one?
We learn that the Club for Growth has polled Republican support in the district for a run by Lara Trump, the wife of Trump's second son, Eric.
The buzz around a potential junior Trump candidacy heightened last week, when a poll surfaced in New York that showed Lara Trump winning by more than 30 points in a hypothetical Republican primary for Mr. King’s seat.

The poll, conducted this month and paid for by an influential conservative anti-tax group, the Club for Growth, was picked up by the right-wing site, Breitbart, and quickly gained steam.

“Word spread rapidly about the poll,” said John Jay LaValle, the former chair of the Suffolk County Republican Party and a Trump surrogate in 2016. “I have not heard one person say a negative thing about it.”
This happened even though there's no evidence that Lara Trump is interested in running for that seat. She doesn't even live in the district.
David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth, acknowledged that Ms. Trump had nothing to do with the poll; he said the committee’s intent was to show Ms. Trump how popular she was in order to lure her into the open race.

Ms. Trump hails from North Carolina and now lives in Manhattan. She is not currently a candidate on Long Island, or anywhere else.
The poll, we learn from Breitbart, pits her against Rick Lazio, who's thinking of running but is best known as a loser -- he lost a Senate race to Hillary Clinton in 2000 and lost a 2010 gubernatorial primary to the Trump-like Carl Paladino (Paladino was subsequently trounced by Andrew Cuomo after the public learned about his penchant for racist, sexist, and pornographic email forwards.)

But quite a few other Republicans are running or considering a run. They may not have famous names, but they have local roots. One declared candidate is Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, a local councilwoman who's also a former TV news personality, and who's best known on Long Island for having refused Billy Joel's marriage proposal a number of years back. (I suppose that could make her almost as much of a celebrity on Long Island as Lara Trump.)

But although Lara Trump denies interest in the race in a way that leaves her wiggle room ("'While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump,' Ms. Trump said in a statement"), she still doesn't seem interested. Meanwhile, there's really no evidence that her brother-in-law Don Jr. is interested in the race, yet he's discussed as a possible candidate as well, for little apparent reason:
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s elder son and the member of the family who is most naturally fluent in the language of the Republican base, has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for office.

He attracts a younger contingent of Republicans to events, organizers say, and has demonstrated his ability to raise big money for congressional candidates on Long Island....

The children are popular among party activists in New York, so much so that Republican fund-raisers practically swoon over the idea of getting one of them to headline an event. Donald Trump Jr., has been particularly prolific and lucrative, making several trips this year to Long Island.

“They’ve been extremely helpful to the local party,” Mr. LaValle said of the president’s family. “They’re certainly a known commodity here.”

... Mr. Trump has repeatedly been floated by supporters as a potential future candidate for president, and, much less realistically, for New York City mayor, a tall order given the city’s strong Democratic base and its intense dislike for the president.

“Listen, I don’t ever rule anything out,” Mr. Trump said on “CBS This Morning” this month when asked about his political future. He declined to comment for this article.

A year earlier, he told The New York Times that he loved “the intensity of campaigning,” but admitted that he was less sure how much he “would love aspects of the actual job.”
(Or any other "actual job," I suppose.)

Only at the end of the Times story are we reminded that the winner of the Republican primary in this district isn't a guaranteed general election winner:
At the same time, the political window for Lara Trump or any other Trump relative to run in a place like Long Island may be closing. Democrats now outnumber Republicans among registered voters, making gains in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

And the Trump name is almost equally galvanizing among Democrats as it is magnetic among Republicans, and a local race involving one of them could draw big money from activist donors from both parties.
No -- the problem isn't just "activist donors." It's anti-Trump voters who'll flock to the polls to prevent another Trump from winning office.

The district has a Cook Political Report rating of R+3. It reliably elected Peter King for many years, and also gave Donald Trump its vote in 2016 -- but it also voted twice for Barack Obama. Maybe running a candidate with the most polarizing name possible isn't a great idea in this district. (The Club for Growth apparently didn't poll a general election.)

But Republicans like the idea, and the Times has chosen to promote it, for whatever reason.


One reason a lot of observers think impeachment is a flop for Democrats is that a recent Emerson College poll showed that support for impeachment is now underwater. The poll, conducted November 17-20 and published November 21, showed that support for impeachment had declined from 48%-44% in October to 43%-45% now. The poll also showed Trump with a net-positive job approval rating: 48% approval, 47% disapproval. And it showed Trump trailing Joe Biden by only 2 in a head-to-head match-up; Trump tied Elizabeth Warren, trailed Bernie Sanders by 1, and beat Pete Buttigieg by 4.

Bad news all around. But at least one number in the poll breakdown is awfully suspicious, though you have to look at the Excel data file to spot it.

You won't be surprised to learn that the only other pollster that's ever shown Trump with a net-positive job approval rating over the past two and a half years -- Rasmussen -- has recently found Trump to have a 34% approval rating among black voters.

No rational person takes that seriously, right? It's Rasmussen.

But here's the Emerson data:

Sorry -- it's just not possible that 34.5% of black voters regard Trump favorably.

It's possible that the number is up since 2016 -- according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 10% of blacks have a "very favorable" opinion of Trump and 8% have a "somewhat favorable" opinion. Combined disapproval is 77% (64% strong, 13% somewhat). By comparison, total black disapproval in the Emerson poll is only 58.7%.

In an October Quinnipiac poll, black approval of Trump was 10%. Disapproval was 88%. A November Gallup poll had Trump approval among all non-whites at 21%, and disapproval at 74%.

So I don't buy these Emerson numbers.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Mike Bloomberg is in.
Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Sunday that he would run for president in 2020, bringing his enormous wealth and eclectic political biography into the tumultuous Democratic primary and seeking to win over skeptical liberal voters by presenting himself as a multibillion-dollar threat to President Trump.
His introductory video is centrist and generic, but it's compelling:

The candidate himself? Not so much. He's old, short, uncharismatic, and nasal-voiced. And when you go to YouTube to find a recent Bloomberg speech, what turns up? Bloomberg giving an address to the Harvard Business School Class of 2019.

Yeah, that's a great look for someone trying to take on Donald Trump as a candidate of the people.

But can't Bloomberg just buy his way to the nomination, or at least to top-tier status? Well, he did win three elections as mayor of New York. But the first one was a fluke. The liberal city was ready for a Democrat after eight years of Rudy Giuliani. Then -- on Primary Day -- the 9/11 attacks happened.

Voting was suspended. The primary was rescheduled for September 25. Bloomberg won the Republican primary easily, but the Democratic primary was close. There was a runoff on October 11.

Mark Green emerged the winner, after three rounds of voting. And for a while it looked as if he might be elected easily. In an October 24 Quinnipiac poll, Green led Bloomberg 51%-35%.

But on October 28, Giuliani -- who by then had abandoned his effort to extend his own mayoral term by a few months -- endorsed Bloomberg. Giuliani, who prior to 9/11 had worn out his welcome in the city, even among white voters, was now winning praise again after the attacks.

Giuliani's endorsement and $74 million in campaign spending got Blooomberg a win. But he won by only 2.4% -- 35,000 votes out of more than 1.4 million votes cast.

Bloomberg won big in 2005 -- 58%-39% over Fernando Ferrer. (He spent $85 million in that race.) But in 2009 he had another close call. This time, he spent $102 million -- fourteen times what was spent by his opponent, Bill Thompson. And yet he won by only 4.4%.

None of Bloomberg's opponents had passionate followings. Even in a Democratic city, they were regarded as mediocre party hacks. No one would have ever stood in line for hours to take a selfie with any of them. No one would have ever devised a corny-viral dance step on their behalf.

A series of events over which Bloomberg had no control led to his first campaign win. He outspent three uncompelling opponents and barely beat two of them. He's not going to be able to win this nomination just by writing a lot of fat checks.


One more point: Bloomberg probably won in 2009 in part because the popular new Democratic president, Barack Obama, refused to give Bill Thompson more than a lukewarm endorsement -- the endorsement was, in the words of The New York Times, "delivered in the conditional tense, without using the name of the candidate, and coming from a presidential spokesman."
“The president is the leader of the Democratic Party, and as that would support the Democratic nominee.”
Obama assumed Bloomberg would win easily and wanted to stay on his good side. Bloomberg, for his part, rewarded Obama by sandbagging him a few months later on the issue of New York City trials for 9/11 prisoners held at Guantanamo.
The Obama administration on Wednesday lost its most prominent backer of the plan to try the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the trial should not be held in New York City.

The mayor’s reversal was a political blow to the White House’s efforts to resolve a landmark terror case a few blocks from where Al Qaeda hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Center, a trial that the president saw as an important demonstration of American justice.
This dovetailed nicely with GOP demands that no trials be held on U.S. soil at all. If you're angry about the fact that Gitmo is still open, Mike Bloomberg deserves a considerable amount of the blame.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


We're learning more and more about the corruption of the president, his associates, and his enablers. There's this:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had several phone calls with President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, toward the end of March, weeks before U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was unceremoniously recalled from her post, according to documents released under court order late Friday.
And this:
A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani tells CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

The attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, represents Lev Parnas, the recently indicted Soviet-born American who worked with Giuliani to push claims of Democratic corruption in Ukraine. Bondy said that Parnas was told directly by the former Ukrainian official that he met last year in Vienna with Rep. Devin Nunes.

"Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December," said Bondy.

Shokin was ousted from his position in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including then-vice president Biden, over concerns that Shokin was not pursuing corruption cases.
And ... well, I'm sure you've been following all the twists and turns, as the story becomes more and more complex.

But we were originally told that pursuing the Ukraine allegations was politically shrewd because the story was easy for Americans to understand: Trump holds up foreign aid meant to counter Russian aggression, conditioning it on Ukrainian assistance for his campaign. Simple.

But it's becoming complicated. If you like following timelines and ever-evolving casts of characters, it's fun. But do most Americans enjoy that sort of thing? Do they have the time or energy or inclination to keep all the dots connected in their heads? Especially when most young and middle-aged people don't fear Russia the way we oldsters were trained to do in the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. It's been thirty years since the main narrative of American foreign policy was that U.S. citizens need to fear a country of white people. The threat Yovanovitch and Vindman and Hill have worked so hard to combat seems remote.

But it's the complexity of the story that I think is responsible for recent declines in support for impeachment -- that and the fact that the hearings, despite moments of drama, presented the facts in a meandering way.

Meanwhile, here's the Republican approach to all this, or at least one approach:
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, is organizing an effort to allow the American public to send Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) lumps of coal for Christmas.

A not-yet-announced website reads, “Adam Schiff is on the naughty list this year for leading a sham impeachment!”

People can send Schiff a lump of coal by donating to Walker’s re-election campaign. Donation amounts can be as little as $10, though a $30 donation gets them a T-shirt with Schiff emblazoned on the front as the Grinch. “You’re a mean one Mr. Schiff,” the green T-shirts say.

Saul Alinsky was a lefty, but Republicans love his Rules for Radicals, especially the final rule:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
That's what they're doing to Adam Schiff. It's simple -- it's primitive -- so it's not hard to understand.

Republicans caricature Trump's opponents with the phrase "Orange Man Bad." They think that's the message of all our criticism of the president. But it's pure projection. Their message about our side is always "Schiff Bad!" "Hillary Bad!" "Pelosi Bad!" "AOC Bad!" Our message, as a rule, comes with paragraphs of supporting material, and links and footnotes and chronologies and a lengthy cast of characters.

We'll see whether Democrats can get this case down to a nice, tight, compact presentation of facts. But we'll never keep it as simple, stupid -- or, simply, as stupid -- as Republicans will.

Friday, November 22, 2019


Josh Marshall reproduces an email from a former assistant U.S. attorney who thinks Democrats have found a way to compel testimony from reluctant witnesses in the impeachment process.
I’m a former federal corruption AUSA and also a former DOJ attorney. Let me tell you why I think the House isn’t going to court over the failure of Bolton, Pompeo, etc. to appear for testimony.

If the House were to go to the District Court, any ruling would eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court. The earliest any decision would come is next spring or early summer.

If the House impeaches the president, the impeachment will be conducted no later than January, and occur under the Senate’s impeachment rules.

The rules provide that the House managers can issue subpoenas to anyone, presumably including Bolton and Mulvaney. A senator could object that the testimony is irrelevant or covered by privilege. Rule VII provides that a ruling on such questions will usually be made by the Presiding Officer – the Chief Justice, unless he refers the decision to the full Senate....

I think it is likely that testimony from Mulvaney would be compelled – at least as far as his public statements, and that Bolton and others would be ordered to testify – at least as to some matters. Additional documentary evidence would likely be compelled, as well....

Chief Justice Roberts will make straight rulings on the evidence and the power of the Senate to compel testimony. That’s the best outcome the House can want.
Why does the attorney say this? Because, according to the facts and the rules, Roberts should do this? That strikes me as absurdly naive.

The attorney writes,
While a majority of the Senate could vote to overturn the Chief Justice’s ruling, any evidentiary/privilege ruling by him would have a presumption that it was correct. As a political matter, it would be difficult for many Republican senators to vote to overturn an evidentiary ruling by the Chief that is based on the law.
Why would it be difficult? The GOP right now is an organized crime family. There are severe penalties for disloyalty -- not death, but certainly political death. A few GOP senators might vote against dismissal of the impeachment before a trial can be held -- but if that happens, given the nature of today's GOP, it will be regarded as an act of tremendous bravery on the part of the dissenters (maybe Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Gardner, and/or a few others). They'll congratulate themselves for it and find it absurd to imagine that a commitment to justice requires them to do even more defiance of White House wishes. So of course they'll vote to overturn any rulings by the chief justice that go against the president's wishes.

Marshall writes,
A majority of the Senate can also overrule [the chief justice's] rulings. But that means owning overruling a Chief Justice strongly identified as a conservative and a Republican.
But as anyone who spends time in Wingnuttia knows, Roberts isn't "strongly identified as a conservative and a Republican" by movement conservatives and MAGA fans. There were right-wing calls to impeach Roberts when he provided the fifth vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act in 2012. There was more impeachment talk on the right when Roberts sided with the Court's liberals and refused to allow a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

Roberts may side with liberals on occasion, but he isn't our friend. He won't endanger Republicans in the Senate by allowing them to lose control of this trial. I think he'll rule for executive privilege down the line. (He can always do a 180 when there's a Democrat in the White House.) And if he does rule against the White House, gang loyalty on the part of Senate Republicans will ensure that he's swiftly overruled.


I'm seeing a lot of Fiona-mania in the media today. I admire Fiona Hill, too, but I don't believe anything she said yesterday moved the needle. I'm reminded of previous moments when a certain class of Americans -- my class -- thought forthright women were changing the American political conversation. Sally Yates. Wendy Davis. Sandra Fluke. It was assumed that all Americans recognized their heroic acts of speaking truth to power. But eventually it became clear that only liberal America was moved. Those women courageously stood up to the powerful, but the powerful prevailed. Nothing changed.

More generally, I'd say nothing was changed by these impeachment hearings. I'm glad the press is reporting the witnesses' statements as solid confirmation of the case against the president -- that might tip a few people into the anti-Trump camp. But I agree with Ryan Broderick's must-read BuzzFeed piece on the competition between our two impeachment narratives: The right-wing narrative is winning in much of America.
But there are two impeachment hearings unfolding in the nation's capital. One, carried out by the Democrats, is designed to ascertain the truth as to whether Trump sought a "quid pro quo" deal with Ukraine to get the country to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 presidential election in exchange for aid money. The other, being carried out simultaneously by the Republicans, is quite different. Instead of trying to learn the truth, it seeks to create not just a counternarrative but a completely separate reality.

Each round of GOP questioning is not meant to interrogate the witnesses, ... but instead to create moments that can be flipped into Fox News segments, shared as bite-size Facebook posts, or dropped into 4chan threads. Their alternate universe — built from baseless online conspiracy theories and reading the tea leaves of Trump’s Twitter feed — dominates Fox News and Facebook. And the Republicans’ strategy, as confusing and bizarre as it may seem to those on the outside, is working....

Here’s TrumpWorld’s version of the impeachment narrative: Claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election were part of a hoax orchestrated by the Democrats to cover up their own collusion with Ukraine to block Trump’s presidential campaign. A 2017 Politico story written by Kenneth Vogel and Ukraine-based reporter David Stern and a series of articles by John Solomon in the Hill earlier this year prove this, Trump’s defenders say. The depositions for the impeachment inquiry were conducted in a basement of the Capitol building “like some kind of strange cult,” in the words of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, to continue that cover-up. Every witness who testifies to the contrary, like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman or Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, is spreading unreliable hearsay. Democrats are playing dirty by hiding the whistleblower.
Throughout the hearings, Democrats carefully -- and often dully -- built a meticulous case for the president's guilt. Republicans countered by histrionically describing a conspiracy to cover up the truth and railroad the president. Their story was just more visceral. To the faithful, the GOP committee members described yet another liberal stab in the back. To the undecided, the GOP worked hard to establish reasonable doubt.

Democrats made their case on the facts and the law, but I fear that Republicans won over quite a bit of the populace. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks, but I don't feel as good about this week as I imagine a lot of you do.

Thursday, November 21, 2019


A Politco headline reads, "White House Backs Full Senate Trial If House Impeaches Trump," but I question the meaning of "White House" and "Full" in this context.
Top White House officials and Senate Republicans agreed that a full trial should be conducted if the House impeaches President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

A group of Republican senators met Thursday morning with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner to discuss impeachment strategy.

Two attendees said that the White House wants the Senate to hold a trial of some length and not immediately dismiss any articles of impeachment with the GOP's majority, as some Republicans have suggested.
"A trial of some length" is not necessarily the same as a full trial -- Republicans don't appear to want a trial that's very lengthy. Here's what The Washington Post is reporting:
A group of Republican senators and senior White House officials met privately Thursday to map out a strategy for a potential impeachment trial of President Trump....

... one prominent scenario discussed, according to officials, was a trial that would last for roughly two weeks, which several Senate Republicans view as the ideal option because they believe it would be long enough to have credence without dragging on too long.

... [Some Senate Republicans] have toyed with a more drawn-out trial that has the potential to scramble the schedules of a half-dozen Democratic senators who are running for president but would be jurors in an impeachment trial.
So a two-week trial isn't meant to be a full trial -- it's merely meant to look like one. The process could theoretically go on much longer, but Republicans want to do just the bare minimum that will let them seem fair.

A complicating factor is that not everyone in the White House agrees with what Politico describes as the White House view. One prominent figure in the White House who doesn't seem happy with the idea of even a two-week trial is, um, the president, according to the Post.
But even a two-week trial could run counter to what Trump has expressed privately. The president is “miserable” about the ongoing impeachment inquiry and has pushed to dismiss the proceedings right away, according to people familiar with Trump’s sentiments.
But unfortunately for Trump...
“I don’t want them to believe there’s an ability to dismiss the case before it’s heard,” [Senator Lindsey] Graham said Thursday following the meeting with Cipollone. “I think most everybody agreed, there’s not 51 votes to dismiss it before the managers get to call the case.”
An earlier Politico story notes that Trump himself has been holding White House meetings with GOP senators, including (in a separate meeting today) Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. It seems likely that Romney, Collins, and at least one other Senate Republican think they're profiles in courage because, while they'll almost certainly vote to acquit, they're insisting on a perfunctory trial before casting their party-line votes.

A two-week trial seems like the least lib-owning option. A quick dismissal would be the ultimate bird-flip to Democrats. By contrast, in a long trial Republicans could wallow in every lunatic idea that ever crawled out of the right-wing fever swamps. That's what Charlie Pierce expects, and I'm sure it's what a lot of Republicans want:
In the majority, they will out the whistleblower. They will call Hunter Biden and very likely his old man. They will call all the litany of public servants who have haunted the minds of Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. The trial will be a mess, and, if you don’t believe me, take a look at what Congressman Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah, had to say on Thursday.
... So I'm talking to my colleagues in the Senate, these are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First, you have to hear from the whistleblower....

Who did he get his information from? Did he have the classification and the clearances to get that information. What's his relationship with Vice President Biden. Who has he shared that information with, including some members of the committee here. I think our own chairman [Adam Schiff] needs to be called. What interactions did he or his staff have with the whistleblower? Did they help to coordinate or in any way facilitate the complaint? Did they coordinate and facilitate council, what about Hunter Biden, how did he get his job? What did he do to earn his salary, and here's the key to this, look if he goes there and makes money, knock yourself out. I don't care, but I want to know did he have officials or conversations with government officials and was government policy changed at a particularly high level because of some of those? Devin Archer, former board member from Burisma, Alexandria Chalupa, provided anti-Trump information to the DNC and hardship, Nelly Orr from Fusion GPS who helped create the ridiculous Steele dossier.
But how can you fit the House managers' case and all that lunacy into two weeks? Especially when the president thinks having a trial at all will bring him shame, and many of his allies just want the whole thing shut down immediately?

As impeachment moves to the Senate, I think the president will become more and more agitated about the prospect of holding a trial at all. I think he'll demand a swift dismissal, and right-wing media will echo that sentiment. MAGA Nation will decide that any Republican who even supports going through the motions of a trial is a RINO who needs to be crushed in a primary. Mitch McConnell might get to conduct a trial with the patina of fairness. But I wouldn't count on it.


Last week, I told you about a New York Times column in which Roger Cohen introduced readers to Chuck Hardwick, a retired pharmaceutical executive and former leader of what was then the Republican majority in the New Jersey state assembly. Hardwick, 78, dislikes Donald Trump ... somewhat; he "admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China 'stealing its way to prosperity,' his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition," but he has qualms about Trump's temperament. Cohen offered up Hardwick as the emblematic persuadable voter, and excoriated Democrats for not seeking to choose precisely the kind of nominee Hardwick wants. (Hardwick likes Mike Bloomberg.)

Cohen, unsurprisingly, received a lot of criticism for this column. He responded the way Times op-ed writers always respond when chastised from the left: In his follow-up column, he doubled down and insisted that his critics are narrow-minded bigots.

Cohen writes:
At 78, Hardwick’s easy to stereotype as just another old white guy. That unhappy state of privileged irrelevance is of course compounded, in the same exercise in caricature, by a successful career in pharmaceuticals — that industry being uniformly evil.

Here were some readers’ comments on the column. Hardwick is “an oligarch, glad to have the world tilted in favor of the ultrarich.” He’s a man who “made big money in Big Pharma.” Like other “old white ex-big pharma executive men” who voted Trump, Hardwick is among those who have “disqualified themselves as either too prejudiced, and/or too incompetent to judge who the next president should be.” In the same vein: “Anyone who can still be undecided on Trump is neither sane nor moderate.” Hardwick is a “plutocrat who is only interested in maintaining his power and his fortune.”
I am shocked, shocked, to learn that people sometimes use intemperate language in an online comments section.

Cohen argues that the commenters are stereotyping Hardwick, and refuse to learn the first thing about him.
Still, I find the almost complete inability of opponents of Trump to grapple with who supports him and why to be deeply alarming. We are talking about tens of millions of such supporters. This failure, this abandonment of curiosity, this rampant intolerance, this blindness, increases the likelihood of Trump’s re-election.
"Abandonment of curiosity" about Trump supporters? Seriously? These are people who read The New York Times, which sends a reporter out into the wilds of Michigan or Pennsylvania every ten days or so to determine whether Trump supporters in diners still love Trump. (Spoiler alert: They do.) Anyone who's still subscribing to the Times after plowing through dozens of these articles can't be said to have no "curiosity" about the other side.

Cohen tells us, scoldingly, that Hardwick's success in life came after a rough childhood.
Hardwick’s is very much an American story. He was born in rural Kentucky, where his father, Joseph, was a grocery store manager. His mother, who was manic-depressive and underwent electroconvulsive therapy, died when he was 5. His dad eventually remarried and borrowed heavily to open a truck-stop restaurant in Burnside, Ky., on a busy highway. The restaurant failed. It took years to pay off the loans.

Hardwick’s father moved the family to Akron, Ohio. Wonder Bread hired Joseph as a bakery worker. He was 50. He was happy because you had to have 15 years of experience to qualify for the pension plan, so he would just qualify if he retired at 65.

“We had no car and he walked to work every day for 15 years,” Hardwick told me. “He was crushed in an elevator accident when I was in the eighth grade and he didn’t work for over a year. I dropped off the basketball team and got a paper route delivering The Akron Beacon Journal and essentially became self-supporting. I also gave money to the family from the $15 a week which I earned, good for a kid in the mid-1950s.”

Hardwick’s break came when Wonder Bread supported a new program at Florida State University that granted degrees in baking science and management, and chose to jump-start it with scholarships to four children of employees. Hardwick was one of those children. He eventually earned an M.B.A. in marketing, worked for two years for Wonder Bread and joined Pfizer in 1966. Over almost four decades, he rose to the highest echelons of the company.

The American dream? Looks pretty like it to me.
"It's very much an American story." I'd say it very much used to be an American story -- a kid from Nowheresville who manages to make it into the white-collar world without several generations of college in his family history. Who manages to do that now? Who goes through this much strife today without periods of homelessness and crippling debt? Where are the factory jobs with defined-benefit pensions? Where are the paper routes when there are no newspapers anymore?

And even back then, what happened to the bakers' kids who weren't among the fortunate few to get the scholarships?

But what truly galls Cohen is the name-calling:
Plutocrat? Oligarch? Big Pharma? I don’t think such labels help. I don’t think they tell you anything about the human being so labeled. If there’s one sure route to a second Trump term, it’s more of the liberal contempt that produced the “deplorables.” It’s more of the knee-jerk stereotyping that denies that Trump supporters have reasons for thinking as they do. We know exactly how that movie ended in 2016.
Around the time this column was posted, a feature story on the front page of the right-wing site American Greatness was Dennis Prager's "Does the Left Hate America?" (Spoiler alert: The answer was yes.) In another piece titled "The Left’s Raising and Glorifying of Cain," we were told:
Aversion to God and infatuation with criminals. Those twin traits aren’t common to every "progressive." But in America, as in Canada, they are common enough to have made a comfortable home for themselves on the Left.
Today at the same site, Sebastian Gorka warns "decent, old-school Democrats" that
the party they have a traditional, atavistic familiarity with no longer exists and is in fact run by radicals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), extremists who hate America, and unreconstructed socialists or communists like Senators Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who want levels government control over the economy which far exceed anything the USSR ever envisaged.
But it's okay for right-wingers to use intemperate language. No one ever says they might be driving away persuadable voters. No one ever they might be hurting America. Only our side is subject to this sort of scolding.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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


UPDATE: There he goes again.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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