Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Jackpot And The Threat

As always in Trumpistan, the Bad and Terrible comes at you so fast and in such volume that it can be hard to keep up.  As we've processed the Twelve Days of Mueller, certain nuggets have slipped through the cracks.  One of the biggest is probably the AMI/National Enquirer story.

The Enquirer was basically Trump's media shield.  They would buy up damaging stories - and the exclusive rights to publish them - and stick them in a safe somewhere.  In other words, there is a trove of damaging Trump stories, and Mueller has them. Now we have a former editor, who presumably has seen most of those documents, who claims that there is outright evidence of criminal activity by Jared and Ivanka.

When we look around the Trump Clan, there has always been a desperate effort by certain media voices to normalize them whenever possible.  Don, Jr. and Eric were hopeless from the start, but efforts to make Ivanka, Jared and Melania somehow less complicit in the awfulness of Trumpistan are falling apart.  Melania is a Birther, an awful woman with cruelty stitched into her DNA.  But let's look at Ivanka and Jared.

These two are the Michael Corleones of this saga.  They are well scrubbed: boarding schools and Ivy League degrees.  They don't tweet semi-literate screeds in an Adderall fueled rage at 4:30AM.  They are quiet, respectable...and absolutely crooked and incompetent, too.  Jared has failed upwards and likely turned his privileged position in the White House into outright graft.  A lot of the sucking up to Prince Muhammad bin Salman has been Jared's doing.  Perhaps calling them Michael Corleone is too generous, since at least Michael was competent.

What seems inevitable in all this is that as the walls collapse around Trump, they will take his children with him.  I dunno, maybe Tiffany escapes.  Everything Fred Trump built and illegally siphoned to his son and that has been built for Fred's grandchildren will whither away.  That's fine.

My worry is that imagine if Trump had been more like Ivanka. What if he had been more Choate/Georgetown/UPenn and less Queens slumlord?  What if he had not tweeted so much?  What if he had buried the cruelty better?  What if he hadn't praised the Charlottesville Nazis, but simply issued a banal statement and then done nothing to counter the rise of RW extremism?

It is hard to separate Trump's politics from his policies.  But the GOP has, for years, been thumping the base with shit it doesn't really believe - abortion, for instance - in order to pursue the goals it does - stripping away everything possible from the working classes of the country to give to the rich.  Someone will come along and whisper all the parts that Trump shouts. He or she will be slick and say the right thing at parties or before the press.  Tom Cotton seems a likely candidate, Harvard with a Bronze Star, devoid of empathy or kindness, nakedly Machiavellian. 

And the press will fall for it.  And 49% of strategically dispersed Americans will fall for it.  Probably not in 2020 or 2024, while the lingering stench of Trumpistan still lingers over the body politic.  But sooner rather than later, someone will be Trump without the vulgarity; without the catalog of easily defined crimes.

That day scares the shit out of me.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Democrats

Here are two stories that I find really interesting.

First, New Jersey Democrats thought they would steal a page from Wisconsin Republicans and gerrymander the hell out of their districts.  When people - including prominent Democrats - objected, they withdrew the plan.

Second, Andrew Cuomo is a fairly lame politician by most standards. He's a bit tone deaf on certain issues and slow to realize the change that is coming to Left of Center politics.  However, he appears to have taken to heart the primary challenge he got from Cynthia Nixon and is embracing a lot of interesting proposals.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to push forward assaults on democracy.

Simplifying things, one party is capable of being shamed and convinced, and one party isn't.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Ostrich Caucus

Republicans are being asked about Trump's criminality, and they are burying their heads in the sand.  This, in many ways, is a continuation of the Fox News effect.  The Republican Party, as I have often stated, is a comfortable opposition party, but can't handle actual governance. This is because they fundamentally have come to believe that government should do the very least possible. That's nice as a theory from the 1700s, but it's insufficient for the modern world.

Ensconced in their comfortable ideological and informational bubble, they have not had to deal with unpleasant facts.  Trump himself might be the best example of this.  He never knew that being President meant being responsible for both his actions and the governance of the country.

But facts have an unwelcome way of making themselves felt.

The Senate GOP can run from the microphones as much as they want, but the public facts are already incredibly damning.  That dynamic will only get worse as the Democrats gain subpoena power.

Keep asking.  They can only evade the truth for so long.

UPDATE: Similar point.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Today In The Republican War On Democracy

Two-thirds of Florida voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that restores voting rights to certain felons who have completed the terms of their sentences.  It is an extraordinary measure that could have major implications in a state that always seems to vote 51-49 on just about anything.  Given how many minorities are living under felony drug possession convictions, this has the possibility of changing the nature of Florida elections.

Now - in a move that should shock exactly no one - the Republican governor and Secretary of State are talking about not implementing the amendment until the legislature weighs in.  The point of the referendum was to remove the legislature from the equation.  As someone in the article says, it should be self-executing.

Ultimately, as so often is the case in our modern republic, the courts will have to weigh in so that American citizens can vote.  Of course, Republicans have been stacking the courts with ideologues.

It's Florida.  It's elections.

Did anyone think this would be easy?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Art Of The Dull

Jon Chait has a nice take on how the Democrats masterfully managed to exploit the subtle cracks in Mr. Masterful Negotiator.

I'm not sure we can overstate the potential damage Trump is doing that we can't even see right now.  He is an emotional toddler and a fundamentally stupid man in early/mid stages of cognitive decline. What we saw in that Oval Office meeting was the Live-TV version of what the Russians and Chinese and Saudis and many other countries have known all along.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

You're Out Of Your Depth, Donnie

Yesterday's surreal press availability with Trump, Pelosi and Schumer in the Oval Office was a master class in just what a simpering dumbfuck the President of the United States is.

First, let's enjoy the spectacle of a man whose understanding of Congress never extended beyond Schoolhouse Rock trying to lecture Nancy Freaking Pelosi on counting votes.  No Speaker in my lifetime has been a better vote whip than Nancy Freaking Pelosi.  Mansplaining?  Mansplaining

Second, if reports are accurate (and they usually are), Trump left the meeting in a huff, threw his little notecards from his tiny little hands, threatened to call another press conference and then backed down.  I've been saying for years that the modern GOP is a sustained tantrum against the 21st century.  Trump is the Toddler in Chief throwing hissy fits whenever he gets challenged and has to eat his carrots before he gets pudding.

Third, Trump has been attacked at a remove for the past two years.  Protests, the White House Press Corps, talking heads on CNN...all of these have been a little bit removed or buffered by the respect we accord the President as Head of State.  Foreign leaders have not called Trump out on his dumbassedness, because they realize that on some fundamental level, they have to work with him.  Like it or not, they have to find a way to appease the man-baby.  Pelosi and Schumer are under no such obligation.  They have demonstrated what the next two years will be like for Trump.

We know that Trump is a raging narcissist and that narcissists are fundamentally fragile egos who build lies around themselves to hide from the howling wound inside them.  As a "reality TV" star, Trump has never really been exposed to actual reality.  That was the subtext of the Access Hollywood tape, that he can "get away with anything." The Presidency is stripping every layer of lie that bare.  But it is going to get exponentially worse when Democrats get the gavels in January.  This was only a taste of what can be expected. 

Of course, you have the typical display of abject craven surrender from GOP "leaders" in the Congress, so much of this will degenerate into a partisan feud, when it should be seen as an effort to preserve American rule of law and democracy.  (Though it's an open question whether the Republican Party cares about that anymore.)  As Trump accumulates psychic wounds, how will that manifest in actions? 

That's profoundly scary to contemplate.

Impressive

One constant of the Bush Years was the unfailingly poor ability of Bill Kristol to predict future events.  An avowed and consistent Never Trumper, Kristol has since come around to evidence-based thinking.

Megan McCardle has now taken on the mantle of World's Worst Pundit. Her argument - if you want to dignify it with the label - is that Democrats are the ones really in jeopardy because of Mueller's probe.

Yup.

Democrats.

McCardle, as is her practice, twists every available fact into a substantial enough pretzel to fit her preconceptions.  Queen of the Hot Takes, she has decided that if everything we know to be true wasn't true, that would really mean what it means.  She "argues" that the Clinton Impeachment was kinda sketchy (true) and therefore the Trump Impeachment would be kinda sketchy (false equivalency).  Her assertion is that Mueller might not have enough evidence to warrant impeachment.

Let's see what we ALREADY KNOW.  Trump directed his lawyer to engage in campaign finance violations in terms of his hush money to various mistresses.  He then orchestrated a cover-up of those violations.  We know that he has charged Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Konstantin Kilminik, George Papadopolous and Michael Flynn.  Gates, Cohen and Flynn have been singing like canaries.  We have reason to believe he's circling in on evidence of physical meetings between Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi and others with Julian Assange, the cutout used by Russia to influence the election.

In McCardle's mind, this is terrible news for Democrats.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Going Swimmingly

Brexit is going well.  Yesterday, a Labour MP grabbed the ceremonial mace that represents Royal authority and tried to leave the Commons.  This would have effectively shut down the House of Commons until it was returned.  It's....bonkers, but there you have it.

This is the best metaphor for what is going on in Britain right now.

Basically, everyone know Brexit is a slowly unfolding disaster, but no one in power has the courage to do anything about it.

Given Trump's trade wars, rising interest rates, stagnant wages and the overall business cycle, I think we are on the verge of another recession.  A Hard Brexit could be the match that lights the bonfire.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Woocoodanode

Robby Mook makes a point I've been trying to make for some time now.  These "revelations" from Mueller are not really revelations at all.  They add, perhaps, some more evidence to the already heaping piles of evidence of what Democrats were saying in 2016: Russia wanted Trump to win, Trump wanted Russian help, they conspired together to help him win.  As Mook points out, this was the consensus of the cyber-intelligence community.  As we also know, Mitch McConnell - arguably a worse human being than Donald Trump - effectively blocked the report from the DNI that would have shared this information with the voting public

We knew all this in 2016.

As Mook points out, we have been fucked over by "Both Sides" journalism. There was an example this weekend of how persistent and pervasive "Both Sides" is.  Chuck Todd, the spirit of Both Sides made flesh to walk amongst us, was reporting on the unprecedented efforts by Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan to strip a newly elected Democratic governor of much of his power.  He concluded by saying that Democrats have done the same thing when they have been in the same situation.  This is bullshit.  The only time I can remember anything similar was when a Democratic governor took in North Carolina two years ago.  This is part of a concerted effort by Republicans to thwart democracy, because they are losing the support of a majority of voters.  There is no Democratic equivalent.

Back in 2016, any accusation against Trump had to be balanced by an accusation against Clinton.  If Trump was on tape bragging about sexual assault, what about Clinton's emails?  If Trump was apparently in cahoots with Wikileaks, what about Uranium One?  If Trump defrauded Trump University students and contractors, while using his charity as a slush fund, what about the Clinton Foundation.

Look, I've engaged in Both Sides when I teach.  I get the impulse to be impartial, to try not to take sides.  But the past two years, I've given up.  Yes, I reach for a John Kasich or John McCain or Lisa Murkowski to try and show "not all Republicans."  I try and make a case for Burkean Conservatism, because there's real merit there.  But there is no way to look at Trump and McConnell's Republican Party, remain objective and say: "Both Sides."

The depressing fact is that American liberals have been right far more often than they have been wrong.  Right about Iraq.  Right about tax cuts.  Right about deregulation.  Right about Trump.  History has shown this to be true.  And we are right about income inequality and global warming, too.

But it won't matter, as long as everything is framed as a binary story where each side is given value because of the nature of American journalism.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Damage

We know the following:

- Trump is very credibly accused of campaign finance crimes.
- Trump is very credibly accused of conspiring to cover up those campaign finance crimes.
- Trump is very credibly accused of conspiring to work with a foreign power to influence elections.
- Trump is very credibly accused of conspiring to cover up those crimes.

We also know the following:

- The Republicans will do absolutely nothing about it.

Back in the 1840s and 1850s, Northern abolitionists made the argument that slavery was a moral abomination.  It wasn't simply that slavery was incompatible with American ideals or disadvantaged white labor, it was that slave holding was a sin and slaveholders sinners.  In response, the slaveholding South made arguments that slavery was actually a morally positive institution, because slavery elevated the slaves. Take a moment to think about what you have to convince yourself of, if you want to prove that slavery was good for the slave.

That's where the modern GOP is. Trump will be credibly accused of a multitude of crimes, as will the people around him and his family.  The GOP - in order to defend the indefensible - will twist itself into knots to justify Trump's behavior.

The damage to our politics will last longer than Trump's hold on the Oval Office.

You Have To Laugh, To Keep From Crying

Trump crime movies.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Yeah...So

Much of what Mueller has been dribbling out the last few days is what those of us who cared to try and follow these threads have known all along.  Russia helped the Trump campaign in many different ways.  As (I think) Josh Marshall pointed out, the dumbest and worst explanation always is the right one - Trump's Razor. 

What Mueller is doing to putting the evidence into the record.  And, yes, this is the biggest scandal in the history of the presidency.  And the Russia stuff is only part of it.  There's emoluments.  There's various garden variety scandals up and down the administration that feels like the Harding Administration.  Typically, the Unholy Trinity of Presidential Scandals consists of Grant (the Whiskey Ring, Fisk and Gould), Harding (Teapot Dome, the Veteran's Department scandal) and Nixon (Watergate, Agnew). Watergate is obviously the most damaging, because of its abuse of power.

Trump has likely blown through all of those.  He has the base corruption of the Whiskey Ring and Teapot Dome, the abuse of power and cover-up of Nixon.  He combines it with monumental stupidity.  Grant and Harding were, at least, personally honest.  They trusted people around them far more than they should have.  Nixon was personally involved in the corruption, but he at least had native intelligence and enough respect for the Republican Party to step down when asked.

Trump has none of these things.  He is all the worst of Grant and Harding, trusting figures like Stephen Miller, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort.  He has the personal involvement of Nixon, without the intelligence to understand that there are in fact limits on his power.

So, this is the most corrupt, scandalous administration in history.  The response by the GOP - both its voters and its elected officials - is a resounding...so, what?

It's not just Trump.

It never has been.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Government By Dow Jones

Donald Trump now owns ten of the worst twenty single day declines in the history of the stock market.  This has all happened since the 2017 tax cut that funneled massive amounts of wealth to the stock market class.

Be skeptical of the claims that Wall Street is fundamentally the same as Main Street.  If anything, the volatility of the stock market is likely because large amounts of capital are flowing into and out of stocks with no regard to the underlying value of a company or the health of the economy.

However...massive inequality is not healthy for the economy.  Trade wars are not healthy for the economy.  Economic expansions always end.

We will be in a recession by 2020.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Read This Thread

Tom Nichols on the disaster that Trump spells for his most ardent supporters.

Unamerican

What is going on in Wisconsin and Michigan should surprise no one who has watched the modern GOP evolve into what is fundamentally an un-American party.  The GOP has basically decided that elections only count when their candidate wins, and if fraud happens to keep a Republican in office, so be it.  Their concern for electoral fraud extends as far as their own electoral gains.  They have gerrymandered Wisconsin so profoundly that Democrats won 190,000 more votes in state assembly elections and Republicans wound up with a super-majority of seats.

If American democracy - such as it is - depends on an accurate counting of votes in order to determine whom the people desire to govern them, then the GOP can safely be described as a party that no longer believes this.  They want to rule, and if that includes turning a blind eye to Russian interference in our elections, then they will do that.  Even if it includes elevating literally the worst person in our nation's history to the highest office in the land and then protecting him from legitimate consequences...

How can we describe the GOP as anything but an authoritarian party in the service of plutocrats and white nationalists?