Friday, January 24, 2020

LAMAR ALEXANDER WILL NOT SAVE US

A word of advice: Don't get your hopes up.
If you want to know how President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could play out, keep your eye on Lamar Alexander.

... Three GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, it would result in a 50-50 tie and likely be defeated. Unless Chief Justice John Roberts shocked Washington by wading in with a tie-break, Democrats need one more Republican to break ranks and upend GOP plans for a swift Trump acquittal.

That’s got both parties eagerly eyeing Alexander. He's a retiring defender of the Senate as an institution who's occasionally bucked his party, but he also counts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a longtime ally. He's more hesitant to criticize Trump than are some other Republicans, but he also has said it was "inappropriate" for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents.

... Democrats ... are holding out hope that Alexander will be their hero in the mold of the late Sen. John McCain, whose extraordinary vote derailed the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare. Though Alexander would never blindside McConnell the way McCain did, he is widely believed to be a Republican who could be receptive to Democrats’ message that the Senate needs to hear more evidence.
But CNN's Manu Raju is right: There won't be a 51-49 vote for witnesses. There will have to be more than 51 senators in favor.



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I can tell you, Chris that it's unlikely that there would just be four Senators who would break ranks, if they were to be enough, a majority vote, because no Republican Senator wants to be vote number 51.

If there is enough support in the Senate to subpoena document, subpoena witnesses, there is more likely going to be 53 or 54 votes. That means there would have to be more than four potentially, in order to move forward, maybe five, maybe six, maybe seven, maybe eight, to do just that.

And, at the moment, that is not in the realm of possibility. That could certainly change.

But talking to Republican Senators, people who are on the fence, people who are in Republican leadership, it is highly unlikely, at the moment that they will vote to subpoena witnesses and documents.

Now, that could change because some Members are still holding their cards pretty close to their vest.

Susan Collins has indicated that she would vote to subpoena most likely witnesses and documents, also Mitt Romney has indicated that he wants to subpoena, talk to John Bolton. Lisa Murkowski suggested an openness to it.

But who is the fourth? Who is the fifth? Who is the sixth Senator? Uncertain and unclear, at the moment.

People look at Lamar Alexander, for one, the Tennessee Republican. I've talked to him many times over the last several weeks, and he's taking it very careful, he's very cautious about it. He's a retiring institutionalist.

But he's also very close to Mitch McConnell. He's been critical of the House process too. And there's lot of skeptics that he would be vote number 51.

So, if you're going by the theory that you need to have about 53 Senators in order to move forward, getting the other two is on - who those other people are is unclear.

Even people like a Cory Gardner, who's up for re-election in Colorado, in a swing state, someone - one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country, he also needs the President's support in order to win reelection.

CUOMO: Right.

RAJU: He has been very circumspect about saying anything critical about the President so far.

So, a lot of questions about whether the Democrats can succeed because their goal right now....
It's not going to happen.

It was never going to happen. I told you on Sunday that Republican senators would inevitably respond to this trial by announcing that they were shocked, shocked, by the Democrats' behavior:
Much of the Senate GOP, along with the White House and the right-wing media, is about to declare that virtually everything the House managers do is a flagrant violation of law, common sense, and the Constitution. Once this happens, even alleged moderates such as Mitt Romney and Susan Collins will join in the fauxtrage -- and you can forget a successful vote to call witnesses or allow further documentary evidence to be considered. The plan is to say that the behavior of the Democrats was so out of bounds that the only way to conclude the process fairly is a vote to dismiss the charges -- and that will happen.
That's more or less what's going on now. We had this after the first day:
Sen. Susan Collins was “stunned” by Rep. Jerry Nadler’s late-night diatribe this week against what he deemed a “cover-up” by Senate Republicans for President Donald Trump — so much so that she wrote a note to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
And we had this:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was "offended" by House manager Jerry Nadler's comments this week that Republican senators would be involved in a cover-up if they did not agree to call former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial, one of her aides said Thursday.
And now we have this (admittedly from a non-moderate):



Besides complaints about boredom (“They’ve got about a one-hour presentation that they gave six hours on Tuesday and eight hours yesterday,” Senator Roy Blunt told The New York Times), Republican senators will say that the Democratic case was presented in an offensive manner. The moderates will suggest that they might have voted for witnesses if Democrats had been nicer. So there won't be witnesses.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

AXIOS: DONALD TRUMP INVENTED THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN!

One of my pet peeves is journalism that treats Donald Trump as America's greatest political genius. Yes, he won a campaign nobody thought he could win (including, reportedly, himself) -- but he needed help from James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and a Hillary-hating, email-obsessed mainstream media, and he still lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. An example of this kind of journalism is a piece posted at Axios this morning:
Mike Bloomberg copies Trump to beat Trump

To beat President Trump, Mike Bloomberg wants to be candidate Trump.

... The big picture: Bloomberg is no Trump, but is trying to beat the president at his own game.
How is Bloomberg trying to be Trump? Here's one of the Axios's examples:
Ubiquity: Trump forced himself into our lives with Twitter taunts and endless TV appearances. Bloomberg is buying his way into the minute-by-minute of our lives with TV ads.
But this isn't Bloomberg imitating Trump. This is Bloomberg imitating himself. He did the same thing in his three mayoral victories. Here's what The New York Times wrote after Bloomberg's first win, in 2001:
Sixty-eight million, nine hundred sixty-eight thousand, one hundred eighty-five dollars.

That's how much Michael R. Bloomberg spent from his personal fortune on the election that made him the mayor of New York City, according to documents his campaign filed yesterday with the city's Board of Elections. It breaks all records for spending in municipal elections by tens of millions of dollars.

It is just $2 million less than Ross Perot spent on his 1992 presidential campaign....

The Bloomberg campaign was the Rolls-Royce of campaigns. It spent more money on television advertisements and mailings in the last two weeks of the campaign than the [Mark] Green campaign spent on the whole race. The filings show that from Oct. 23 on, the Bloomberg campaign spent $8.4 million on television....
In his final mayoral race, in 2009, Bloomberg spent $102 million, "much of it on last-minute television and radio advertising," according to the Times.

What else, Axios?
Slogan power: ... Bloomberg's inner circle thought "Make America Great Again" was an effective slogan. Voilà, the Bloomberg slogan: "Mike Will Get It Done." The twist: "It" can mean beating Trump, enacting gun control as president, or whatever the voter imagines.
Newsflash: Donald Trump did not invent the political slogan. Bloomberg's inner circle is right to think that "Make America Great Again" was an effective slogan. But it wasn't the first political slogan in human history. And "Mike Will Get It Done" doesn't sound anything like "Make America Great Again."

What else?
It's all about brand, baby: Bloomberg, like Trump, has set up his campaign so his personal brand shines, win or lose. The former mayor is making plain he will spend up to $2 billion to win himself — or, if he loses, allocate some of that to the Democratic nominee and Bloomberg's pet causes. As a down payment, he's showering money on state and local parties to help them, up and down their tickets, regardless of who wins the primary.
But in 2016, Trump set up his campaign so his personal brand would shine outside electoral politics if he lost. He was going to use the campaign to sell his hotels and golf courses, and maybe a new TV channel. Bloomberg actually seems to want to elect Democrats even if he loses the nomination, because he seems to believe that's good for the country. (If Trump were forced off the ballot, I'm sure he wouldn't give a dime to downballot Republicans.) And on a personal level, Bloomberg and Trump are polar opposites this year: Bloomberg is trying to ingratiate himself with a party he knows is wary of him, while Trump assumes every Republican loves him and it's his prerogative to kick other people out of the party.

I'm not writing this because I'm a big fan of Mike Bloomberg -- I'm not. But it annoys me when all political strategy is described in reference to Trump, as if he's the Lebron James of politicking, based on his (checks notes) one electoral victory, which came with a huge asterisk.

DOES THE RIGHT EVEN NEED TO MAINTAIN A COVER-UP?

Here's the latest from Martin Longman:
The Republicans Struggle to Keep Their Base in a Bubble

Fox News broadcast the first two hours of the impeachment trial on Wednesday in a normal manner, but after that, they turned off the sound:
Starting with The Five, the network’s early evening roundtable commentary show, and continuing throughout the evening, Fox News broadcast portions of screen-in-screen video of the trial. But instead of playing the audio, network hosts provided the normal Trumpian spin. So while someone who just looked at the screen may have concluded Fox News was covering the trial, in fact it wasn’t covering it at all.
Their post-truth business model couldn’t withstand the House Managers’ methodical destruction of their viewers’ hero, so this is telling but not at all surprising....

Meanwhile, the president was so desperate to distract his base from hearing the truth that he set a personal tweeting record.
As he flew back to Washington on Air Force One, Trump stirred up a veritable Twitter storm as he tweeted and retweeted messages primarily about impeachment, particularly from his Republican defenders—a barrage that marked the most tweets of any day of his presidency, with 142 as of 10 p.m., according to Factba.se, a website that tracks Trump’s tweets and speeches.
Fox and the president want Americans to pay attention to anything other than the trial itself. At the same time, Republicans, as Greg Sargent notes, are determined to keep heretofore unrevealed truths from being exposed in the trial.
At one point [yesterday], [Adam] Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the team of House impeachment managers, asked GOP senators a question.

“The truth is going to come out,” Schiff said. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?”

... The truth, plainly, is that ... the fact that the votes on evidence and acquittal will come before any future revelations is a feature of doing it this way.

That’s because a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.
But is it? Would it really be more politically costly for Republicans to acquit if they had to do it following the disclosure of more information damaging to the president?

After all, Republican voters either don't believe that Trump is a criminal or believe he is one and don't care.
Seven in 10 Americans believe Donald Trump has definitely or probably done unethical things during his time in office or while he was running for president. And 63 percent think Trump has definitely or probably done things that are illegal. But only 51 percent believe the outcome of the Senate impeachment trial should be the president’s removal from office.

Those numbers come from a new in-depth survey by the Pew Research Center of 12,638 U.S. adults that was conducted from Jan. 6 to 19.

... 32 percent of Republicans say they think Trump has definitely or probably done things that broke the law....

But, but, but: Among the 1 in 3 Republicans who think Trump has likely done illegal things, 59 percent say he should remain in office. Another 38 percent say he should be removed.
So despite all the evidence we have so far, 68% of Republicans won't acknowledge that Trump has committed crimes -- and a majority of the remaining 32% believe he should remain president even though they think he has committed crimes.

So why are Fox and Trump even bothering to provide distractions from the presentation of evidence against Trump by House Democrats? Why the rejection of witnesses against the president? It seems likely that if GOP voters had been paying attention to the impeachment trial, or if more evidence were to emerge in the trial, those rank-and-file Republicans would be as unmoved as they are now.

But D.C. Republicans are clearly concerned. What this tells me is that they're less confident about Trump's reelection prospects than many Democrats are.

Ask a Democrat about 2020, and you'll be told: Yeah, Trump is unpopular, but Democratic voters will never unify, and there'll be voter suppression and Russian shenanigans. Even though the Democrat will probably beat Trump in the popular vote, Trump will likely get another Electoral College win.

Republicans clearly don't agree. It's obvious that even the most shocking revelation about Trump's Ukraine scandal will have only a minimal effect on his popularity among his base -- but Republicans aren't confident that he can spare very many defections. They probably also believe that Democrats could run the table and take the Senate if Trump is further discredited.

Personally, I believe that poll numbers would barely budge even if a smoking-gun audiotape were released in which a lawyer told Trump, "You can't put a freeze on the aid, Mr. President, because it's illegal," and Trump replied, "I don't care if it's illegal -- freeze the aid unless the Ukrainians help me take down Biden before the election." But Republicans apparently disagree.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

DOES IMPEACHMENT MAKE YOU WANT TO PAINT A SWASTIKA ON A SYNAGOGUE? ME EITHER.

According to a post on his website, Michael Savage, that well-known lover of humanity, is deeply concerned that impeachment is making people hate Jews.
There is vile anti-Semitism surrounding the impeachment proceeding and it is being riled up by anti-Semites in this country because of the Jewish names affiliated with it. Schiff, Nadler, Zelensky, Goldman... the list goes on.
So all the anti-Semites were chill until Jews started making trouble for Trump? If I don't know better, it would seem to me that Savage, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was blaming a certain group of Jews for the hatred directed at them. But he's a morally upright conservative, so he couldn't possibly be saying that, right?

Go on, Michael.
But this is not about the Jewish people. It is not about religion, but politics, and the like-minded groups working in unison.

We know about the deep state and those in the FBI and CIA who plotted against this president. Why? Because Trump dared to speak up and expose the new world order and those in our government trying to impose their will on our nation. For his honesty, the deep state actors will stop at nothing to undermine and overthrow President Trump.
Oh, okay -- the villains are the folks in the "deep state." So this is crypto-anti-Semitism disguised as a critique of actual anti-Semitism.
Many have noted how the attacks on Trump are similar to the Salem Witch Trials, and McCarthyism, but it bears a resemblance to another historical event. The crucifixion of Jesus.
Yeah, he went there.
... they were both falsely accused by those in power and turned over to a deep state to do their will. Today, the far reach of the Romans has been replaced by the new world order....

According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus is tried and condemned by the Sanhedrin, although not all members of the Sanhedrin were there and only Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus dissented from this decision.

Could we reason that their actions were similar to Adam Schiff’s star chamber where only a few were allowed to attend?
I'm struggling to remember the passage in the Gospels where dozens of members of the Sanhedrin were permitted to attend the trial of Jesus but pretended they weren't, then broke in and ordered pizza. Maybe I'm reading the wrong translation.
But we must not forget who first pushed for impeachment. Nancy Pelosi, a non-Jew who was using Jews to do her dirty work.
Yes, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler seem so reluctant to impeach Trump. Nancy forced them at gunpoint so Jews would be blamed!
Ultimately, Jesus was turned over to the Romans for crucifixion. The Romans were the deep state of the time. Pontius Pilate found no basis for this crucifixion, much like Bob Mueller found no collusion, but the deep state wanted their blood....

The Democrats and the deep state want to crucify Trump without a shred of evidence. This is history repeating itself....
It really is amazing that Savage is comparing Donald Trump to Jesus.
... I am not comparing Donald Trump to Jesus. Trump fights back, because there is no father for him to turn to. He knows the truth and fights against those trying to hide it. While Jesus fought for the souls of man, Trump is fighting for the basic rights of man under our Constitution, and for this he is vilified in much the same way as Jesus.
And Savage means this in a totally non-comparison kind of way.
And like the Romans of this time, a deep state is using Jews to conduct their deeds, knowing that they will be the ones to suffer the consequences. They will cause a rise in anti-Semitism, which is of no concern to the deep state actors. For the deep state, their only concern is preserving their way of life and trying to impose it on you. Whoever gets hurt in the process makes no difference as long as they are in control.
This is philo-Semitism for anti-Semites. The American right is really good at this sort of thing: creating propaganda that's ostensibly anti-anti-Semitic while it also spreads coded or uncoded anti-Semitic tropes.

I'll remind you that while he's somewhat past his peak, last year Michael Savage was named the second-most influential streaming talk show host by Talk Stream Live, just behind Rush Limbaugh and ahead of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and Dennis Prager. In 2017, Talkers Magazine reported that he had 7.5 million weekly listeners; he claims 10 million. There's a big audience for this crap.

WATCH DODDERING OLD GRANDPA TRUMP TURN INTO A THUG

We're all having a good laugh watching President Trump's conversation with CNBC's Joe Kernen in Davos:




But at the very end of that clip, watch Trump turn from a doddering old man into a Mafia don. Trump is talking about Elon Musk:
He’s going to be building a very big plant in the United States. He has to, because we help him, so he has to help us.
This is a threat. Maybe it's an empty threat, but it's meant as intimidation.

At Electrek.co, Fred Lambert notes that Musk appears to have no such plans:
Today, Donald Trump commented on Elon Musk and Tesla’s recent success on the stock market, and the US president ended his comments by saying that Tesla is going to “build a very big plant in the US.”

What is he talking about?

... Tesla recently started production at Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai, Tesla’s first vehicle factory outside the US, and also recently announced Gigafactory 4 in Germany.

... As far as his comment about a Tesla factory, I don’t think he knows anything we don’t, but he might be right.

Elon has talked about Tesla building another factory in the US on a few occasions before. He even specifically mentioned a tri-state area at one point.
But that was in 2017:



As for the "we help him" part, Lambert is puzzled:
... I don’t know what Trump means by helping them. I assume he means subsidies that Tesla received over the years, but as we previously reported, this was only a fraction of the subsidies that fossil-fuel companies have received from the US government over the years.

Also, Trump apparently recently intervened to stop the EV tax credit reform, which would have made it a lot fairer to early proponents of electrification like Tesla.

Therefore, he hasn’t been helping Tesla much lately.
Trump's just trying to strong-arm Musk, the way he tries to strong-arm trading partners or NATO allies or Amazon or AT&T. He may be your embarrassing old granddad who doesn't seem to know what century it is, but he's still a thug at heart.

THERE'S NO GOOD DEAL TO BE MADE

This seems naive:
... behind closed doors, a small group of Democratic senators and aides has begun ... sounding out colleagues on whether to back a witness deal that could lead to testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton or other administration officials with possible firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy, according to multiple Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.

These Democrats said they believe having Hunter — or possibly Joe Biden — testify could backfire on Trump and the GOP, giving Biden and the party a platform to strike back and paint Republicans and the White House as obsessed with trying to damage one of Trump’s 2020 presidential rivals.
Maybe a one-on-one deal -- uncensored public testimony from John Bolton for testimony from Joe Biden -- would work to Democrats' advantage. But that's why such a deal will never happen. Republicans will demand Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, the whistleblower -- and/or some of the people mentioned in this Wall Street Journal editorial:
There’s also former Obama energy czar Amos Hochstein, who raised concerns with Joe Biden and his aides about Hunter’s Ukrainian ties. And let’s hear from Chris Heinz, former secretary of state John Kerry’s stepson, who broke business ties with Hunter because his Burisma work was “unacceptable.”
Any attempt by Democrats to put chips on the table is likely to be met by Republicans upping the ante, with the result that, if a multi-witness deal goes through, either the Bidens or the impeachment process will be on trial, or possibly both. It's naive to believe that Susan Collins et al. truly want witnesses if the witness deal puts the president at risk (which a John Bolton-Joe Biden swap would, because Biden has a solid story -- he truly was sent to Ukraine to pressure the country to fire a prosecutor universally regarded as corrupt -- while Bolton's testimony really might not exonerate the president). Collins wants to be seen as fair, but not at the expense of her party or her president. Senate Republicans will declare any proposed deal that doesn't create an anti-Biden or anti-House Democrats distraction to be unfair; they'll vote no, with Collins and Mitt Romney on board.

So, sure, give it a try, but don't expect to get these folks to agree to a reasonable deal. It won't happen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

EXPANDING THE TRAVEL BAN? WHY NOW?

Strange timing, even for President Trump -- or maybe it's not so strange:
President Donald Trump may expand his controversial travel ban with an announcement expected as early as Monday, the three-year anniversary of the original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations.

The list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, but nations under consideration for new restrictions include Belarus, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to two people familiar with the matter.
And, of course, it's baffling from a foreign policy point of view:
The restrictions could apply only to certain government officials ... or certain types of visas.

Nonetheless, any new restrictions are likely to strain ties with the affected countries, some of which assist the U.S. on issues like fighting terrorism, and some of which Washington has been trying to court for strategic reasons.
But why now? Trump is being impeached. When Bill Clinton was on the verge of being impeached, his administration brought Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat together to negotiate what became known as the Wye River Memorandum. Trump is also running for reelection. When Richard Nixon was running for reelection, he initiated an opening to China. That's what you're supposed to do under these circumstances: attempt big, statesmanlike things that will be popular with a wide cross section of the public.

Instead -- just in time for his upcoming State of the Union address, which you'd think would also inspire Trump to reach for broadly popular policies -- we get an expansion of a policy that's always been divisive:
... there has never previously been a consensus on whether Americans approve or disapprove, with all polling done in February 2017 -- when the ban was first proposed -- split along party lines....

CNN's polling back in early 2017 found a majority opposed to the ban of "travel to the US for the next three months by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries," and suspension of "the US refugee program for four months while reducing the total number of refugees the US will accept this year" with 53% in opposition and 47% in favor....

An NBC/WSJ poll taken the same month found 44% saying the ban is necessary and 45% saying it is not.... Respondents were asked whether the temporary ban is necessary as a temporary "safeguard against terrorism" or whether it isn't necessary because "it goes against American principles." ...

A Quinnipiac poll conducted in February last year found a large majority approved of the court's decision to block President Trump's executive order on immigration, with 59% saying they approve and 38% disapproving. A telling statistic, it shows that many would rather a court stop this from continuing.

... people were split on whether the travel ban will make the US more or less safe. Quinnipiac's shows that divide with 37% saying more safe, 35% less safe, and a quarter saying it won't make a difference. CNN asked the question differently, not offering that the ban wouldn't make a difference as an explicit option. In that instance, 41% said it would make the country safer and 46% said it would make the country less safe. CBS found the two tied.
But in Trump's Fox News/Mar-a-Lago bubble, I assume everyone loves the travel ban, so this must seem like an excellent time for it.

I anticipate many similar moves from Trump between now and November. He apparently believes that people who are already willing to crawl through ground glass to vote for him will be even more willing if he gives them extra doses of MAGAtude over the next ten months. Has anyone explained to him that it's not like having a hotel or casino, where a really satisfied guest might decide to spend even more money? Does he realize that every deplorable can vote only once?

WHEN TRUMP DOES WHAT HILLARY JUST DID, THEY CALL IT A SUPERPOWER

I understand why Hillary Clinton might have felt she could freely criticize Bernie Sanders for a documentary series: The Clinton interviews for the series were presumably done a while back, when it might have seemed that Sanders would be treated by Democratic primary voters as yesterday's man, assuming he ran at all. But I don't understand why -- apart from being all out of fucks to give -- Clinton might have continued the attack in an interview conducted earlier this month for The Hollywood Reporter, a conversation in which she threw gasoline on the fire that would have started when the film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, then debuts on Hulu in March.
In the doc, you're brutally honest on Sanders: "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." That assessment still hold?

Yes, it does.

If he gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him?

I'm not going to go there yet. We're still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don't think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don't know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you're just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that's a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.
She's right about the worst of his supporters -- but please, not now.

And yet it's a mild form of the trash talk that many Very Smart People regard as Donald Trump's superpower. Imagine a parallel universe in which Hillary Clinton is president and Donald Trump is the candidate who almost beat her. He'd have spent the last three years talking this way about everyone who ever got crosswise with him, including many Republicans. He might be talking this way about a 2020 contender -- John Kasich, say, or Mitt Romney, or perhaps a Marco Rubio who'd spent the aftermath of Trump's defeat blaming his toxic personality for the 2016 loss. How would we react? We'd just shrug, because that's Trump. Even though, in this scenario, he'd have chosen not to run again, he might still have a devoted army of deplorables, possibly inspired by the TV channel he reportedly planned to start if he lost, and he could well be seen as a potential kingmaker whose endorsement was coveted and whose criticism was feared. And even if his influence was minimal, we'd just think it was more of the same from him, because that's his style.

But why is Clinton doing this? It doesn't seem to be her style There's another exchange in the interview that's not seen as controversial, even though it seems like a clear dig at Sanders:
Who do you hope sees this film and how does it impact them?

I really hope young people watch it. Especially young women because I want young women to have some idea of the arc of what we've all gone through over the past 50, 60 years because they have to save [women's rights]. They have to defend them against constant attacks. Some of those attacks are subtle, but some of them are pretty blatant. I'd also love for young men to watch it and go, "Oh, I didn't know that. My God, they burned her in effigy because she wanted universal health care? Whoa." I'd love for some of that to penetrate so that people understand that making change is hard and it doesn't happen overnight with a snap of the finger. I'd love for that to spark a conversation that could really inform how people think about politics and tough policies and maybe even this election.
Clinton tells "young people ... especially young women" that change "doesn't happen overnight with a snap of the finger." That's a shot a Sanders and his bases. Clinton has a point -- a Sanders general election victory won't instantly and effortlessly lead to the Revolution. On the other hand, I think she may be overly resentful of voters hoping for large structural changes. Clinton is, I think, an instinctual progressive (or was, at least, in her youth), but she and her husband learned compromise until compromise became a conditioned reflex for them, and they often seemed to do it preemptively. Realism, to the Clintons, means that you have to let Ricky Ray Rector die or sign the Defense of Marriage Act. I imagine Hillary resents Sanders and his base -- including young women she thought would be inclined to vote for her -- not just because of 2016 but because Sanders and his base don't appear to believe that politics requires compromise. Hillary and Bill seem to have compromised too often, but they're not wrong to think that Sanders tells his base that compromise can largely be avoided.

But it doesn't justify this sort of grudge-nursing. I don't think this will matter in November, no matter who's the nominee, but it's not helpful.

Monday, January 20, 2020

TWO FRONT-RUNNERS, TWO ENDORSEMENTS, TWO REBUKES

The decision by the New York Times editorial board to endorse two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination -- Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren -- is a cop-out, but it's also a double rebuke. Endorse Klobuchar and you're snubbing Joe Biden; endorse Warren and you're rejecting Bernie Sanders.

Or maybe it's not a snub so much as an opportunity for the ed board to demonstrate discriminating taste by choosing slightly more rarefied versions of what the hoi polloi are choosing.

This isn't quite right:



No -- it's actually an endorsement of RC Cola and Boylan Cane Cola, neither one a risky or obscure choice, but both different enough from the national-consensus Top Two to suggest connoisseurship and mild iconoclasm.

This endorsement feels like one of those "Who'll win the Oscars and who should win" columns. It implies that the Academy (i.e., the electorate) is about to make wrong picks, and here's the right one. Or more than one right one -- in the Times, such columns are usually written by a pair of film critics, their distinct alternate choices running in parallel down two columns of newsprint. There's no right answer. And that's the message of this endorsement: The voters are wrong, but sorry, there isn't a clear correct choice. That's not really helpful.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE ABOUT TO BE SHOCKED, SHOCKED

See if you grasp the very subtle talking point that's being imparted in this Breitbart story. I'll emphasize key passages, because otherwise it's so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is as of now including in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial rules a “kill switch” that effectively allows for the president’s legal team to seek an immediate verdict or dismissal of the case should Democrats engage in any shenanigans like they did in the House process....

In ... transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also named impeachment case managers—the Democrats who will present and manage the House’s case to the Senate—last week. They include House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). Both Schiff and Nadler were widely panned for the highly unfair process they ran in the House of Representatives, and many Senate Republicans do not trust them to refrain from playing games that seek to make the Senate trial unfair to the president as the highly partisan process in the House ended up.

Republicans on the House side, who were essentially powerless to stop the Democrats’ shenanigans since they are in the minority in the lower chamber, are warning Senate Republicans to be on the lookout for Schiff’s gamesmanship and that from his ilk.

“It’s incumbent upon the Senate to preserve the right of the President’s legal team to ask for a verdict or move to dismiss this sham impeachment anytime they see fit during the Senate trial,” a source close to House GOP leadership told Breitbart News. “Otherwise, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans risk allowing Adam Schiff and his conspiracy caucus to hijack and take control of the trial.”

... Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) ... has said that the rules package for the impeachment trial includes a measure that allows for the president’s legal team to quickly push for a summary judgment or dismissal at any time should things get wild.

... Hawley’s confirmation, first reported by Axios, that McConnell’s rules package at least as of now includes that motion to dismiss or seek a verdict would allow the president’s team to block any Democrat gamesmanship in the Senate trial.

... Hawley further confirmed this on Sunday, tweeting out a link to Swan’s piece and commenting that Trump’s legal team deserves this option, otherwise the “trial will become endless circus run by Adam Schiff” ...

... there will be one thing that is clear: If Schiff or the Democrats try anything untoward like they did in the House, the president and the Senate have the option to shut the whole thing down and blow it all up on them. That means Republicans hold the upper hand, and should things get crazy—while there are not currently enough votes to dismiss the trial or outright off the bat acquit Trump—after Democrat partisan gamesmanship there likely would be enough votes to dismiss the whole thing. Bad behavior, in a partisan way, from people such as Schiff and Nadler and other Democrats could drive more Republicans toward the motion to dismiss—the kill switch—if that ever becomes necessary.
I'll drop the sarcasm. This is such messaging overkill that there's no excuse for being surprised at the Republicans' next move -- although highly paid mainstream journalists and pundits will be surprised anyway. Much of the Senate GOP, along with the White House and the right-wing media, is about to declare that virtually everything the House managers do is a flagrant violation of law, common sense, and the Constitution. Once this happens, even alleged moderates such as Mitt Romney and Susan Collins will join in the fauxtrage -- and you can forget a successful vote to call witnesses or allow further documentary evidence to be considered. The plan is to say that the behavior of the Democrats was so out of bounds that the only way to conclude the process fairly is a vote to dismiss the charges -- and that will happen.

I haven't quoted every word of the Breitbart story, but these excerpts are representative -- the impropriety of what Democrats did in the House is presented as a given; not one example of an inappropriate act is cited. Republicans know that most Americans have no idea what's proper and what isn't under these circumstances. The GOP will take advantage of this ignorance to smear the Democrats -- unless a way is found to counter their phony protests. And I'm not sure what that would be.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

THEY CALL IT NEGATIVE PARTISANSHIP FOR A REASON

I want to be reassured by this study, which FiveThirtyEight told us about yesterday, but I don't think it offers much comfort.
Trump May Be Even More Unpopular Than His Approval Rating Shows

... does the standard presidential approval question actually capture what voters think of Trump’s job performance? There are several reasons it might not tell the full story.

... we ... have worked to develop a hopefully more nuanced approach to measuring presidential approval, where we ask respondents how favorably they feel toward Trump relative to other notable Republicans.

... respondents from both parties evaluate Trump in comparison to other Republicans, like former President George W. Bush, the late Sen. John McCain, McCain’s former running mate Sarah Palin, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President Ronald Reagan.

... in our measure, [Trump] is now ... rated less favorably than his vice president. He’s also essentially tied with Palin for the least favorable Republican on our list, which is notable because when respondents are asked the traditional favorability question, Palin’s numbers are even lower than Trump’s — in 2016, an ABC News-Washington Post poll found that just 30 percent of the public had a favorable impression of the former governor.
That's good, right? By this measure, he's about as popular as Sarah Palin. If Palin were running in 2020, we could easily beat her, couldn't we? So beating Trump should be a piece if cake!

Well, no, not really. The difference between Trump and Palin right now, or even Trump and Pence, is that Trump is, at this moment, the lead Republican fighting the holy war against the hated libs. Reagan and McCain are dead. Palin is essentially retired. Pence is in the arena, technically, but in this struggle, as in most things, he's a deer in the headlights.

Voters who aren't hardcore deplorables may be wary of Trump, but those who despise Democrats will still vote for him, because they believe he owns us with more frequency than anyone since Reagan. The people to whom that's the most important criterion in choosing a candidate, combined with people who think Trump is a genuinely great president (there's a lot overlap, of course), might add up to enough voters in enough to states to generate an Electoral College victory for him.

Trump doesn't have to be widely admired. He might win again because he hates the people roughly 46% of voters hate.

Friday, January 17, 2020

IN WHICH I NORMALIZE TRUMP, UP TO A POINT

A newly published excerpt from A Very Stable Genius, the forthcoming book by Washington Post reporters Carol Loennig and Philip Rucker, is inspiring a lot of discussion. You should read the excerpt even if you've read the most talked-about passage, which takes place in a disastrous foreign policy learning session set up for the ill-informed president at the Pentagon. Trump addresses the military officers who, in an act of futility, have tried to explain the nature of our global alliances and the history of our recent wars:
Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called “locker room talk,” this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. “How does the commander in chief say that?” one thought. “What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?”
The point of the excerpt isn't that Trump is ignorant. We knew that. It's that he's ignorant and doesn't feel the need either to be less ignorant or to trust better-informed and more experienced people to sweat the details. We know that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush came to the White House with large knowledge gaps, many of which were never really filled in. But they didn't seem to resent the knowledgeable -- they hired people who at least knew their subject areas and took advantage of that knowledge. (Some of those people had horrible judgment, but that's another story.)

Trump seems to spend the entire briefing waiting for a chance to inject the two or three drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar foreign policy ideas he's picked up in his seven decades on Earth. Idea #1: We're getting ripped off by our allies.
Trump’s first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection.

“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
Idea #2: Take the oil.
Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,” Trump boomed. “Where is the f---ing oil?”
Idea #3: The world is divided into winners and losers, and guess which one Trump is.
Trump unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a “loser war.” That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals. They all were sworn to obey their commander in chief’s commands, and here he was calling the war they had been fighting a loser war.

“You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
Our system anticipates that someone with very little expertise in this area will be empowered to tell people who know much more how they should pursue their jobs. It doesn't anticipate that the commander in chief will resent being taught things and will refuse to delegate detailed thinking to experts if he or she doesn't want to absorb the details. But that's Trump -- he's developed a genius-level understanding of everything, effortlessly, or so he tells everyone (including himself).

****

In response to the "dopes and babies" rant, Atrios writes:
I know that one "excuse" for Trump coverage is that he spews so much shit every day that no one thing can stick.... But some things are objectitudinal and nonpartisany and SUPPORTING THE TROOPS is one of them (whether or not it should be). If Obummer had said something like this, literally every single New York Times article about anything having to do with Obummer and the military would, by its 4th paragraph, inject something like "The president's relationship with the military has been strained after his comments..." and any time he was within 250 miles of a military base they would go interview a bunch of TROOPS so they could say how MAD MAD MAD they were at the guy. And those assignments wouldn't require Republicans pretending to be mad about it. They would just become part of the normal background. Obummer hates the military, the military hates Obummer.

But ... everyone's gonna put on their shocked faces for a day and then coverage will return to normal. And that's not normal.
Well, actually, it is normal. Trump is a Republican. Both conservatives and the mainstream media agree that a Republican can't insult the troops, by definition. Only Democrats (and people to the left of the Democrats) can insult the troops.

This is part of a larger problem that's plagued us over the past forty years. The world of politics has been incapable of reacting with sufficient outrage to Iran-contra, George W. Bush's post-9/11 toadying to the Saudis and Iraq War debacle, and Trump's Putin bootlicking because, performatively, Reagan, W, and Trump were all military-lovers and flag-wavers. The conventional wisdom is that right-wingers are correct: The telltale sign of disloyalty to America is insufficient jingoism. If you're a Republican, you're never a menace to America, even if you're actively doing it harm.

NEW! IMPROVED!

This tweet from a Los Angeles Times reporter is getting a lot of attention:



As I just said on Twitter, this doesn't surprise me. It's politics as lifehack. She's looking for One Weird Trick that will solve all of America's problems. Revolution! MAGA! A gay millennial! The only surprise is that she's not supporting Andrew Yang, the ultimate lifehack candidate.

Let me add that I understand people's hopes for an easy way out of our political rut. Republican game-theory politics -- the notion that any win for a Democratic president (or, now, for a Democratic Speaker of the House) is a loss for Republicans, so the only course of action is a denial of any possible "wins" -- leaves voters who aren't committed to either left or right thinking frustrated with all politicians. And ultimately, whether David Brooks believes it or not, we're in this mess because capitalists want all the money for themselves and a small upper caste of people who run their businesses -- they won't share the wealth, so the middle class is shrinking and very few people manage to move out of poverty. We have a right-wing party that distracts the Volk with Two-Minutes' Hates against Democrats and other real or imagined enemies while never trying to deliver for the people, and we have a liberal(ish) party that's constrained by the wealthy whenever it wants to do something effective for ordinary citizens.

So voters like Melissa want someone who looks new and different. One Twitter commenter responded, "Could also just be a frustration with establishment politicians." I could say with a sneer that Sanders is a career politician, that Buttigieg is, if not a politician with decades in office, then certainly the ultimate careerist establishmentarian, and that Trump is a millionaire real estate mogul's billionaire real estate mogul's son. But it's true -- they're all "different." Being
"different" is the brand identity they all share.

We need to keep trying to help ordinary citizens, even though the wealthy and powerful will resist. It means electing more progressives where we can, but it might at times mean electing moderate Democrats and working to push them to the left. (Republicans can't be pushed.) Meanwhile, Melissa and others like her will look for the "new." She's probably lost to us this year. Let's look for voters who aren't, and work both within and outside the system to make their lives better.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

THERE WILL NEVER BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR TRUMP'S ENABLERS

We won't have a press corps capable of reckoning with what the modern Republican Party has done to America until our journalists and pundits stop thinking the way Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein thinks about the impeachment of President Trump:
... the danger for Republicans is pretty obvious.... As someone said Wednesday evening on Twitter, Republican senators don’t even know what they’re covering up for, or at least what they would be covering up for if they follow the White House’s preference to rush through the Senate impeachment trial that starts next week and refuse to hear from relevant witnesses and collect relevant documents.

Some of those senators, to be sure, just don’t care. They’ve decided they can live with (both politically and ethically) any revelations that may come down the road — that no one who they care about will hold them accountable for burying important evidence, no matter what it turns out to be. Others may really be so fully inside the conservative information-feedback loop that they sincerely think that Trump is an honest, innocent man being railroaded by partisans; they may not even be aware of the considerable evidence to the contrary.

But for anyone else? As I said just 24 hours and a couple rounds of ugly revelations ago: “If new ugly details are still emerging, who’s to say that more won’t turn up later?”
I have news for Bernstein: Among Republican senators, there isn't "anyone else." There are some who believe Trump is being wrongly accused and others who have doubts about of his innocence but believe -- correctly -- that there will be no consequences for them if they ram through an acquittal, no matter what is ultimately revealed about him. They know that he'll retain the support of roughly 40% of the country no matter what he does, or what he's demonstrated to have already done. They know that GOP voter unity will save nearly all Republicans in red states and districts under any circumstances, as it saved downballot Republicans in the last year's Kentucky elections even as an unpopular Republican governor went down to defeat. They know that Republicans in swing states and districts have a good shot at survival if they appease moderate voters by making token gestures toward a fair trial in the Senate. And they know that Republicans bounce back quickly from even the worst defeats -- see the big gains in the midterms two years after Barry Goldwater's loss, or the Tea Party comeback two years after George W. Bush left office in disgrace.

Bernstein adds:
... Republican senators should factor into their considerations the institutional and personal self-interest they have in keeping constraints on the presidency in general and this president in particular. Allow him to treat impeachment as a joke, and both he and all future presidents will be more likely to treat the threat of future impeachments as minor inconveniences.
That's just silly. If Trump is easily acquitted and a future Republican president takes full advantage, congressional Republicans will be fine with that, too. On the other hand, if a future Democratic president thinks Trump's acquittal confers the ability to flout the law with impunity, he or she will be quickly restrained. Congressional Republicans (and the media) will exercise a blatant double standard. Behavior that was tolerated coming from Trump simply won't be tolerated from a Democrat.

The rot runs deep. People who get paid to write about politics ought to understand that.

TRUMP SMACKS PUERTO RICO AROUND AGAIN

While you were paying attention to Sanders/Warren and Lev Parnas, this story appeared:
The Trump administration imposed severe restrictions on Wednesday on billions of dollars in emergency relief to Puerto Rico, including blocking spending on the island’s electrical grid and suspending its $15-an-hour minimum wage for federally funded relief work.

The nearly $16 billion in funding, released while Puerto Ricans still sleep on the streets for fear of aftershocks from last week’s earthquake, is part of $20 billion that Congress allocated for disaster recovery and preparation more than a year ago, in response to the commonwealth being hit by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development had released only $1.5 billion of the congressional relief, citing concerns about political corruption. Of that, only $5 million has been allocated....

Puerto Rico will be barred from paying its $15-an-hour minimum wage to workers on federally funded projects. And none of the funds can be used on the electrical grid, although the Department of Housing and Urban Development has yet to release nearly $2 billion that was allocated for Puerto Rico’s electrical system.

White House officials acknowledged that rolling blackouts continue in Puerto Rico but insisted there was no need for new money.
In a better country, withholding nearly all of these congressionally approved funds for more than a year would be an impeachable offense. At the very least, outrage about Trump's treatment of Puerto Rico would be a prominent part of Democratic presidential candidates' stump speeches and debate talking points. Are the Democrats who don't think white voters can relate to the problems of Puerto Rico the same ones who think we'll be riveted by the problems of Ukraine? Most Americans, at least, can imagine what it's like to cope with natural disasters. It seems to me that the the suffering of Puerto Rico is more likely to inspire empathy than Ukraine's struggles to fend off Russian aggression, which is an experience foreign to most people in America.

I don't know why the president hates Puerto Rico as much as he does. I know that in his youth in the 1960s and 1970s, "Puerto Rican" was East Coast shorthand for all Hispanics. The racist stereotype of Puerto Ricans was that they were congenital criminals, and a large portion of the New York-area white population believed that. Here's a joke Jackie Mason told for years:
“I love the Puerto Rican people. I go to Puerto Rico every year just to visit my hubcaps.”
The joke doesn't appear in the following clip from Mason -- a supporter of Rudy Giuliani in his mayoral runs and later a Trump fan -- but I think it's precisely in sync with Trump's thoughts about Puerto Ricans:



Happy-go-lucky people who commit crimes and have never accomplished anything of value -- yup, that's what Trump thinks Puerto Ricans are like. Remember:
A [1991] book by John O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump’s criticism of a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump at first denied the remarks, but later said in a 1997 Playboy interview that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
Ugly stereotypes of Puerto Ricans complement that nicely.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

WE CAN CHECK THIS STUFF, BUT THEY DON'T CARE

Kayleigh McEnany is the national press secretary for President Trump's reelection campaign. Brad Parscale is Trump's chest-thumping campaign manager. This morning, McEnany was on Twitter amplifying a message from Parscale about the rally Trump staged last night as counterprogramming to the Democratic debate:



Parscale posts one of these after every Trump rally -- a breakdown of statistics about the rallygoers (information that, of course, we can't verify). Parscale's point is always some variation on the same message: Behold the mighty power of our campaign. We're attracting independents. We're attracting Democrats. We're attracting non-whites. We're attracting new voters. We are a juggernaut, and resistance is futile.

There's just one thing about the stat McEnany highlighted:
57.9% Were NOT Republicans (Yuge!)
Tell us why that's not really impressive, Wisconsin Elections Commission:
Wisconsin does not register voters by party preference or affiliation....
Tell us more, VoteSmart.org:
In Wisconsin, voters may choose which party’s ballot to vote, but this decision is private and does not register the voter with that party.
So of course 57.9% weren't Republicans -- no one registered to vote in Wisconsin is a registered Republican. Or a registered member of any other party.

I don't trust Parscale's boasts, but this one is clearly intended to deceive. Yes, Trump's campaign chief is dishonest -- try to contain your astonishment.

IN THE SANDERS-WARREN DISPUTE, BREITBART TAKES SIDES

There was a lackluster Democratic debate last night, which I tuned out well before the most viral moment -- not an exchange from the actual debate, but a few seconds of tension between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the immediate aftermath.
As candidates exchanged pleasantries and handshakes on stage, Elizabeth Warren approached Bernie Sanders, who stretched out his hand for her to shake. But Warren either didn’t see — or rebuffed him, and a tense exchange followed.

Warren gestured with her right hand, then clasped both hands together while addressing a seemingly surprised Sanders.

Warren kept speaking to Sanders, who nodded, then put his hands up as if to stop her. Both spoke, as Tom Steyer approached the pair. Then Sanders seemed to offer a few sentences before both turned their backs — Sanders a split second before Warren — and walked away.
This probably happened in less time than it took you to read the paragraphs above, but it's seen as a big deal, and the press wants to get to the bottom of it.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren "came to raise a concern" with Sen. Bernie Sanders after Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, according to Sanders's campaign manager, who briefly described a mysterious exchange that was captured on live television without sound.

"She came to raise a concern, and he said let's talk about that later," said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a brief interview with The Washington Post. Shakir declined to provide further details about the conversation, the video of which has been widely shared on social media.
Meanwhile, when I woke up, the hashtag #WarrenIsASnake was the top trending item on Twitter.

It's going to be a long year.

In this feud, I see that Breitbart is taking sides. Here's the site's lead story right now:



From the story:
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are infuriated by the results of the seventh Democrat presidential debate in Iowa because it appears that moderators favored Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the debate hosted by CNN on Tuesday.

The clearest example of bias cited by debate watchers was when CNN moderator Abby Phillips had the following exchange with Sanders and Warren:
Phillips: You’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman couldn’t win the election?

Bernie: Correct.

Phillips: Warren, what did you think when Sanders said a woman couldn’t win the election?

Warren: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie.
After the debate, Warren pointedly refused to shake Sen. Sanders’s hand, a puzzling move, as Warren tried to paint her relationship with the Vermont Senator as respectful and collegial....

Supporters also claim that CNN moderators focused more attention on demanding that Sen. Bernie Sanders explain how he plans to pay for his socialist programs, ignoring Warren’s proposals for similar programs.

Sanders’ campaign co-chair Nina Turner immediately pointed out CNN’s bias in a series of screenshots on Twitter.

Instead of rooting against both progressives, which is what you'd expect, the Breitbartniks clearly want to amplify the anger of Team Sanders, in the hope that this story will show up even in lefties' social media feeds, and thus generate the greatest possible amount of tension in the Democratic race, to Trump's benefit.

The only comfort I take in all this is knowing that an overwhelming majority of the electorate doesn't care about all of this. But the rest of us need to calm down and remember that the real enemy is the guy on the other ballot line in November.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

WHY, PERHAPS NAIVELY, I DESPISE THE SANDERS SUPERFANS BUT NOT SANDERS

I encounter a lot of people who can't stand Bernie Sanders and consider him a pestilence on the land. I resented him in 2016 for continuing to insist that the primary race was ongoing long after he had any chance of securing the nomination. But I resented Hillary Clinton for the same thing in 2008, and I got over it. That was a year when Democrats could better afford a threat to party unity -- Barack Obama was popular and a great campaigner, and he had successfully tied the extremely unpopular George W. Bush around John McCain's neck. in 2008, Democrats had the wind at their back. In 2016, they didn't. I've seen the numbers that say there were more Clinton supporters who refused to vote for Obama than Sanders supporters who refused to vote for Clinton. But the margin of error was smaller for Democrats.

Nevertheless, what Sanders did has never struck me as malicious. I know how naive that sounds, and my explanation probably doesn't make it seem less so. Sanders just comes off to me as an East Coast, New York metro area curmudgeon -- a guy who expects human interactions to involve a lot of unpleasant words and disputation, but also expects the bad feelings to pass, or to be shrugged off as just the way people relate to one another even though they're actually friends, colleagues, or allies. I look at Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani and I see New Yorkers of a different kind: They're really mean. They hate people. They're not joking, and they're not just venting. Sanders seems as if he's just venting. Larry David is absolutely the right person to play him.

But I think far too many of his allies do mean it when they attack anyone who isn't on board with Sanders. I think Sanders fails to recognize how toxic this is because he doesn't personally despise his opponents, and he misreads the utter disgust with which his most fervent supporters talk about opponents as just his own style of deeply expressed but not emotionally deep dissatisfaction.

Whether or not I'm right about this, Sanders does have some serious haters on his team.

I won't go through the list. If you're profoundly anti-Sanders, you know who they are. It's surfacing in the feud between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Here's the latest, from Politico:
The controversial talking points attacking Elizabeth Warren that Bernie Sanders' campaign deployed were given to teams in at least two early voting states on Friday, three Sanders campaign officials confirmed.

Volunteers and staffers used the script on Saturday while canvassing for votes, meaning the talking points were more official than what Sanders previously suggested after POLITICO reported on the language.

... volunteers were ... equipped with talking points for voters who said they were leaning toward other candidates. In Warren's case, they stated that the “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what” and that “she's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.”
Also disheartening is the Sanders staffer in the video below -- yes, it's from James O'Keefe, but it sure doesn't look deceptively edited. The staffer, an Iowa field organizer named Kyle Jurek, wants to put everyone in the not-pro-Sanders camp up against the wall, including Warren supporters and much of the Democratic Party. He's a callow armchair-radical dudebro who'd probably run in terror at the first sign of actual violence, but he's still a seriously toxic sonofabitch.

O'Keefe's headlines will give you a sense of what's in the video. This is no distortion:
* Kyle Jurek, Iowa Field Organizer, Sanders Campaign: “I’m Ready to Throw Down Now…The Billionaire Class. The F***ing Media, Pundits. Walk into MSNBC Studios, Drag Those M*****F***ers Out by Their Hair and Light Them on Fire in the Streets.

* Kyle Jurek Suggests That Liberal Democrats Should be Placed in Gulags or be Put to Death: “Liberals Get the F***ing Wall First.”

* Jurek: “Well, I’ll Tell You What in Cuba, What did They do to Reactionaries? You Want to Fight Against the Revolution, You’re Going to Die for it, M*****F***er.”

* Jurek Affirms That “Free Speech Has Repercussions…There Are Consequences for Your F***ing Actions…You Should Expect a Violent Reaction. And You Deserve a Violent Reaction.”

* Jurek Lambasts Elizabeth Warren, Suggests That Warren Does Not Deserve Support Solely Due to Being a Woman.

* Jurek: “Like F**k if We Can Beat Donald Trump, as Long as We Nominated a Woman. Like F***ing Idiot. Like What the F**k? The World is on Fire. This is an Emergency Situation, and You’re Hung Up on Vaginas.”



This isn't just a grumpy airing of grievances. This is bad.

I don't think Sanders grasps how toxic this is. Sanders is a grump. These people aren't grumps -- they're arrogant haters who think the world is divided into those who agree with them and those who aren't fit to live. Sanders seems to me as if he doesn't know the difference.

YOUR RIGHT-WING UNCLE ALREADY THINKS THE BURISMA HACK STORY IS A LIE

Here we go again.
... Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November....

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens....

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking....

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency.
Now the Russians will hold information genuinely damaging to Joe Biden's presidential campaign, which they'll leak if he wins the nomination. Or they won't find anything particularly incriminating on Hunter Biden or any other relevant subject, but they'll leak trivial matters that will be blown out of proportion by their pals on America's right, as well as by our mainstream media, and ridiculous catchphrases will take on sinister overtones, the way "spirit cooking" and "creamy risotto" did after the DNC hack during the 2016 campaign.

Or maybe America has grown up and won't care what's revealed. Maybe this is history repeating the second time as farce. That's probably too much to hope for, but it's possible.

Meanwhile, your right-wing uncle already doesn't believe this happened the way the Times said it happened. Here's how the story is being reported at Gateway Pundit:
Here We Go Again… What BS! – NY Times Claims ‘Russian Hackers From Military Unit GRU Successfully Targeted Burisma Holdings’

... The Burisma hack was carried out by Russian GRU officials which coincidentally were the same military officials who supposedly hacked into the DNC servers.

What a coincidence!

Of course we know this report from the Times and the Mueller report are both complete BS.

There is ZERO evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC servers — ZERO....

It looks like the Deep State intel community and Biden are already gearing up for the old ‘Russian interference’ excuse because they know Biden is going to lose in 2020.
Here's what Daily Caller commenters are saying:
Except... There is no credible proof Russians hacked the DNC servers in 2016.
No law enforcement agency ever examined the servers.

If Russians hacked Burisma, most likely it was at the request of Obama to cover himself and Biden.

****

Or, Hunter just gave the GRU his logins and passwords . See how simple this is?

****

I love that quote from the article - let me fix it: "phishing emails, which is the same method..." Most Hackers Use World-Wide. The article makes it sound specific to "evil Russian hackers," thus echoing dim talking points - intentionally or otherwise.

And as to the alleged hacking of the DNC servers itself - that report is from an anti-Russian Ukrainian-owned/run company which works for the Dem Party. The FBI was NOT ALLOWED to examine the DNC servers. And the transfer speeds of the files indicate it was an inside-job, downloaded off of their local area network - not "hacked" over the internet. So, again, this article is echoing Dim talking-points as if they were reality.

****

WHAT A CROCK!!!

This sure sounds like a VERY TALL TALE designed to provide cover for Joe Biden's Ukraine corruption. The MSM have got to do whatever they can to help his candidacy!!!

****

The owners of the company doing the analysis provided to the NYT are former Crowdstrike and NSA idiots...

****

Well, we knew the "Russians did it" hoax was going to play into this somehow. Are they going to claim that the Russians forced Burisma to hire the crackhead?

****

This story is false and a Dem plant. They are just saying this so when the damaging information about Hunter does come out they can say it’s Russian propaganda. The NY Times has zero credibility.

****

Oh brother, more Russia shlt the left will eat with a spoon.
So these are more facts 40% of America will never agree are facts. As I was saying, here we go again.

Monday, January 13, 2020

IS SUSAN COLLINS THE IVANKA TRUMP OF THE SENATE?

This CBS report plays on many anti-Trumpers' hopes for a deus ex machina that will drive the president from power, but I'm skeptical:
The White House is preparing for some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, which could get underway in the coming days.

Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a "wild card" and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an "institutionalist" who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it.

Last week, Collins said she was working with a "fairly small group" of GOP senators to allow new testimony, adding that her colleagues "should be completely open to calling witnesses." Romney has expressed an interest in hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify under subpoena. Murkowski said last week that the Senate should proceed as it did during the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.

Gardner and Alexander have both said the Senate trial should be fair and impartial. Paul has said the president should be able to call his own witnesses, including the whistleblower whose complaint about Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.
When I read this, my first thought was that this group of Republicans would make a great show of wanting witnesses, but they'd find fault with Democrats' list of proposed witnesses and never agree on any motion that can get 51 votes. However, I see that (according to a Hill story from last Friday) Democrats are "planning to offer multiple motions on specific witnesses, instead of one motion that covered their request writ large." So this group of Republicans will have to find another way to dodge testimony from the witnesses the Democrats want, while still getting Brownie points for centrism (particularly Collins and Gardner, who are in tough reelection fights in bluish states).

I assume Rand Paul will be the first to peel off -- if he doesn't get any of the witnesses the right wants (Joe Biden, Adam Schiff, and so on), he won't vote for the witnesses Democrats want. I'm not sure why others will reject the Democratic motions, but I'm sure they'll think of something.

Or, of course, this might be Susan Collins pulling an Ivanka Trump -- telling the eager-to-believe press that she's being a moderating influence when there's no real chance she can deliver on her promises. This story might just be too good to check. I don't see what's in it for Alexander, for instance, or Murkowski.

I assume the numbers will dwindle as we approach any votes on motions. If not, I assume Trump will play the executive privilege card and the witnesses won't testify.
A majority of senators could still vote to subpoena Bolton or another witness once the trial begins, though that would require four Republicans to side with all Democrats on the matter. And even then, as Trump affirmed Friday, he would likely invoke executive privilege, which could then lead to a protracted court battle that would last much longer than the Senate trial.
That may be the bait-and-switch Collins is counting on if she really is assembling a group of pro-witness Republicans: that she'll get credit among gullible Maine moderates for demanding a fair trial while Trump gets the blame for the lack of testimony.

It won't be a fair trial. No Republican wants such a thing to take place. It's all theater.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DEMOCRATS TRY TO SHOW THE VALUE OF VOTING DEMOCRATIC

In The New York Times, David Leonhardt makes an argument to which I'm sympathetic, although he distorts the facts to make it. Leonhardt's point is that Franklin Roosevelt won public support for his policies by creating big, visible programs -- something Democrats have forgotten how to do, but Republicans haven't.

I agree with what Leonhardt says about FDR. I think he's somewhat off base regarding modern Democrats, and almost entirely off base when he talks about modern Republicans.

Leonhardt writes:
In January 1937, near the end of Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as president, Life magazine published a map of the United States spread over two full pages. The headline read: “What President Roosevelt Did to the Map of the U.S. in Four Years with $6,500,000,000.”

Scattered around the map were dozens of small drawings, each showing a project funded by Roosevelt’s stimulus program. They included the Triborough Bridge, Manhattan’s Midtown tunnels, bridges on Cape Cod, schools in South Carolina, dorms at Texas Tech, the Kansas City Civic Auditorium, the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Grand Coulee Dam. A few of the drawings summarized broader projects, like “2 U.S. aircraft carriers” and “120 U.S. airports.”

Since taking office in 1933, Roosevelt hadn’t only rescued the country from the Great Depression. He had made sure that the country knew he had rescued it. His projects were big, tangible and unmistakably the work of the federal government. The projects changed how Americans thought about government.
Okay, sure. Fast-forward to today:
In recent decades, Democrats have too often forgotten this lesson. They have created technocratically elegant policies that quietly improve people’s lives, like tax credits or insurance subsidies. The problem with this approach is that it does little to build popular support for government action.
It's true that Barack Obama's stimulus program didn't come close to capturing the public imagination the way the New Deal did. But Obamacare? Really? Millions of people obtaining health insurance who previously couldn't -- Leonhardt thinks that's regarded as a bloodless, technocratic policy with no visceral appeal? I agree that the program is quite imperfect, and that many who receive subsidized private insurance aren't as enthusiastic as those quo qualify for expanded Medicaid. But America is now talking about universal health coverage as a necessary goal. That started with Obama, who got us close enough to universal coverage to make it seem attainable. Leonhardt shouldn't discount that.

As for Obama's stimulus, yes, too much of it was in the form of tax cuts and subsidies, but recall what happened when the Obama administration tried to make stimulus projects more visible:
July 14, 2010 -- As the midterm election season approaches, new road signs are popping up everywhere – millions of dollars worth of signs touting "The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act" and reminding passers-by that the program is "Putting America Back to Work."

On the road leading to Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC there's a 10' x 11' road sign touting a runway improvement project funded by the federal stimulus. The project cost nearly $15 million and has created 17 jobs, according to recovery.gov.

However, there's another number that caught the eye of ABC News: $10,000. That's how much money the Washington Airports Authority tells ABC News it spent to make and install the sign – a single sign – announcing that the project is "Funded by The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act" and is "Putting America Back to Work." The money for the sign was taken out of the budget for the runway improvement project.

ABC News has reached out to a number of states about spending on stimulus signs and learned the state of Illinois has spent $650,000 on about 950 signs and Pennsylvania has spent $157,000 on 70 signs. Other states, like Virginia, Vermont, and Arizona do not sanction any signs.

... some Republicans are crying foul. Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Earl Devaney, Chairman of the Recovery Act and Transparency and Accountability Board, requesting an investigation to "determine the scope and impact of the Obama administration's guidance" regarding signs to stimulus recipients.

Rep. Issa writes that the passage of the Stimulus Bill, "has provided an opportunity for the Obama administration to claim political credit for the various projects around the country that have been funded by this redistribution of taxpayer dollars."
Well, yes, that was the point -- to redistribute taxpayer dollars in order to keep people employed and prevent the economy from falling into depression. The Obama administration tried to showcase signs of tax dollars at work, but Republicans knew that they could minimize the popular appeal of those projects if they expressed enough fauxtrage about the signage. (Making and posting the signage also kept people working, of course.)

This is a mainstream news story. The response in the right-wing information sphere was a bit more heated:



The ABC story notes that subsequently disgraced congressman Aaron Schock attacked the Recovery Act logo on the sign as suspiciously reminiscent of Obama's 2008 campaign logo (because, I guess, they were both round, roundness apparently being a rare and peculiar aspect of logos). Schock's source for this claim was a mysterious constituent whose hobby, apparently, was opposition research.
Schock's office provided ABC News with administration guidance on stimulus signs sent to him from a constituent. The document, dated March of 2009, outlines the "General Guidelines for Emblem and Logo Applications." The Recovery Act logo which was provided not only looks oddly similar to the Obama logo from the 2008 campaign but its stated purpose, according to the document, is to act as "a symbol of President Obama's commitment to the American people to invest their tax dollars wisely and put Americans back to work."



It's impossible to tell them apart!

Leonhardt thinks Republicans are so much better at all this:
Republicans don’t suffer from this naïveté. Again and again, they push policies meant to affect politics, such as campaign-finance deregulation, voting restrictions and labor-union constraints. Republicans understand a concept that political scientists refer to as “policy feedback” — namely, that policy can influence politics in ways that make future policy changes more or less likely.
I think he's straining to prove his point. Campaign finance deregulation is wonky and technocratic, and therefore invisible to most voters. Voting restrictions are also invisible to the members of the GOP voter base, because they mostly affect other people. Labor union constraints are visible to active workers in unionized fields, but they affect those voters in a negative way. None of these examples prove Leonhardt's point.

What Republicans do that's highly visible is attack Democrats and presumed Democratic constituent groups: blacks, Hispanics, LGBT people, immigrants, environmentalists, college professors, Hollywood stars. Sometimes Republicans attack these groups with policy changes; other times, it's just rhetoric. Republican voters sometimes seem as if they don't care whether their lives are improved -- they just want their enemies' lives made worse.

Liberal tears are the GOP's Grand Coulee Dam. In that way, the GOP is much better at making the value of voting Republican clear. Democrats really do struggle to compete.