Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Could President Trump really be reasonably healthy, as his doctor insists he is? Sure, I guess. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones -- three years older than Trump -- is still alive and well, despite the years his past heroin and cocaine habits, his daily morning joint, his drinking and cigarette smoking, and eating habits that could be called Trumpian:

If you like your life, if you like yourself, and if you have gobs of money and some luck, maybe you can beat medical odds. It's counterintuitive that Trump might have healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels, but it's also counterintuitive that the slender, active, disciplined Barack Obama had borderline high cholesterol, according to his 2014 health assessment. There's a certain moralism that makes us want people's health to match their personal habits, but health doesn't always work that way. Richards is still here. Non-smoker Andy Kaufman died in his thirties of lung cancer.

I don't believe Trump is 6'3" and 239 pounds -- Sports Illustrated's photo comparisons of Trump to athletes reported to be of similar size make a mockery of that claim, as do other photo pairings.

Even Maggie Haberman wasn't buying the numbers.

Dr. Ronny Jacksion, the physician who conducted the exam, might be a decent man -- former Obama adviser David Axelrod describes him as a "very good guy and straight shooter" -- but I imagine that you're expected to be at least somewhat politic when you're a White House doctor. Jackson worked in the White House during the presidencies of Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom were younger and thinner than Trump, and both of whom enjoyed exercise. Now, with Trump, Jackson probably has more to be discreet about.

Trump does demand more dishonesty of the people around him than nearly anyone else. But I can also believe that most of what Jackson has told us is more or less accurate. I can believe that the cognitive test Trump took really shows that he's not suffering from dementia or pre-dementia. Many people think Trump is on the verge of full-blown Alzheimer's, but I've always had my doubts -- an alternate explanation is that he's mentally lazy and incurious, that the Diet Cokes rob him of sleep and that the lack of sleep robs him of mental sharpness, and that TV, Twitter, and a lack of reading have damaged his ability to concentrate and analyze. Plus, he's the boss, and he thinks that means he doesn't have to try very hard, because being the boss means you can pay people to work hard and think for you.

In short, Trump could be reasonably healthy, because disease has no morals.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


According to Politico's Annie Karni, people around President Trump believe he won't be impeached, but think he might not run again in 2020:
“There is no environment in which a Republican thinks Trump is going to be impeached,” explained [a] top Republican strategist. “But there’s a high degree of speculation that he doesn’t run — he doesn’t appear to be having fun, he’s old and angry. If he’s able to create his own fiction for why he’s leaving, why would he do this twice?”
Anyone who believes he'll bail is missing the obvious: Trump is obsessed with reelection. The fan worship during the 2016 campaign was an addictive drug for him, so much so that he's now trying to run a four-year reelection campaign. As Karni notes, he's already thinking about potential opponents:
Handicapping potential 2020 challengers — however premature the exercise is — has become a favorite pastime for the competitive president, who still regularly rehashes his shock win in the 2016 race.

“He’s always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’” said the Republican who heard the president’s assessment in December.
Being elected president was much more fun for him than being president is. Of course he wants to run again. Beating the odds in 2016 was so much fun, such a satisfying rebuke to his haters, that he'll absolutely want a second opportunity. I think he'd be delighted if he didn't have to wait three more years.

(It's true that by 2020 he might be suffering physical or mental impairments so severe he can't cover them up, or his legal troubles might be so great he'll want to bow out in order to minimize them. And while it's unlikely that there'll be 67 votes for a conviction in a Senate impeachment trial even after the upcoming midterms, Democrats could stage a 2018 blowout that will inspire Republicans to put a great deal of distance between themselves and Trump. But it's more likely that any impeachment or 25th Amendment move would fall short because of GOP loyalty to Trump.)

When it comes to 2020, the Trumpers are delusional:
One former White House official outlined a theory of the case that has gained some traction: Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent....
The tax cut is unpopular. Ending DACA is unpopular. Blowing up Obamacare is unpopular. In what world will "Trump’s policies ... continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign"? Obviously, only in the epistemically closed world of Trump rallies and the right-wing media.

The Trumpers see very few candidates who can beat Trump -- not Sanders (too old), not Warren (too lefty), not Gillibrand (no "mainstream appeal"). They worry about Oprah Winfrey and Joe Biden. Their belief that Trump's policies are popular but he isn't leads directly into fear of Biden:
... Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent — creating an opening for Biden, or someone like him, to recapture the loyalty of white Rust Belt Democrats who helped elect Trump in 2016.

“What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge,” said the former White House staffer.
The same policies? You mean racism? The wall? Huge tax cuts for the rich? Deregulation? Climate change denialism? Gutting Obamacare and CHIP? Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea? Alienation of all our foreign allies? Decimation of the State Department and other parts of the government? I'm ... uh, pretty sure that wouldn't be Joe Biden's platform.

I don't know what will happen in 2020. It's possible that Democrats won't find a truly inspiring presidential candidate. It's also possible that they won't need one because the public will be desperate for change.

Trump and his coterie seem to believe that they can win again despite terrible poll numbers, even though they're going to be running on Trump's unpopular first term and they're unlikely to face a candidate as widely maligned as Hillary Clinton. I like their overconfidence. I like the fact that they don't really believe the polls. I hope their unrealistic optimism doesn't subside until after the votes are counted in November 2020.


According to a story in The Washington Post, supporters of an immigration deal thought they had President Trump's support when they left for a White House meeting with him on Thursday. But after they arrived, they realized that the president had turned against the deal, under the influence of hardliners who'd also been invited to attend.
When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat’s efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides.

The president then asked if Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), his onetime foe turned ally, was on board, which Durbin affirmed. Trump invited the lawmakers to visit with him at noon, the people familiar with the call said.

But when they arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was “fired up” and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who seemed confident that the president was now aligned with them, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting.
We know that on issues he doesn't understand, the president often agrees with the last person who talked to him. It's clear that, in advance of this meeting, hardline staffers wanted Trump to be swayed by other hardliners, not by Durbin and Graham. So they invited hardliners to the meeting, as did Trump himself.
... some White House officials, including conservative adviser Stephen Miller, feared that Graham and Durbin would try to trick Trump into signing a bill that was damaging to him and would hurt him with his political base. As word trickled out Thursday morning on Capitol Hill that Durbin and Graham were heading over to the White House, legislative affairs director Marc Short began to make calls to lawmakers and shared many of Miller’s concerns.

Soon, Goodlatte, one of the more conservative House members on immigration, was headed to the White House. Trump also called House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and asked him to come, McCarthy said. Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Cotton were also invited to rush over.

In the late morning, before Durbin and Graham arrived, [chief of staff John] Kelly — who had already been briefed on the deal — talked to Trump to tell him that the proposal would probably not be good for his agenda, White House officials said. Kelly, a former secretary of homeland security, has taken an increasingly aggressive and influential role in the immigration negotiations, calling lawmakers and meeting with White House aides daily — more than he has on other topics. He has “very strong feelings,” in the words of one official.
What exactly did these hardliners say to Trump before the meeting? If they just made policy arguments, that's politics. But did they know that he regards certain countries as "shitholes"? Did they steer his thoughts in that direction?
Last Thursday was a critical moment in the stalled negotiations, revealing the president’s priorities even as the discussion fell apart.

Trump complained that there wasn’t enough money included in the deal for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also objected that Democratic proposals to adjust the visa lottery and federal policy for immigrants with temporary protected status were going to drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia, people familiar with the meeting said....

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was in the room and was largely stone-faced, not giving any visible reaction when Trump said “shithole countries” or when he said Haitians should not be part of any deal, White House advisers said.
It's quite possible that Trump's racism is so close to the surface that he doesn't need to be nudged in order to summon it up. But it also seems possible that before the meeting someone in the room pushed that particular button -- the supposed awfulness of African countries -- knowing that it would bring out Trump's racism. We have no evidence one way or another. But if the hardliners knew the president's prejudices, is it crazy toi think they'd try to tap into them?

Monday, January 15, 2018


In The Washington Post today, Robert Costa portrays House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as a Trump bootlicker, the kind of man who gives the president a jar containing just cherry and strawberry Starbursts because he's learned that the president prefers those particular flavors.

Also, we learn some more about the president's need to have information presented to him in visual form:
While at Camp David last weekend, McCarthy took up the task of explaining the obstacles facing Republicans ahead of the midterm elections in November, walking through the financial hurdles and bleak prospects in various races. He urged the president to do everything he could to raise money for vulnerable Republicans.

According to two people familiar with the presentation, Trump appreciated McCarthy’s use of pictures and charts rather than a memo.
We know from more than one media report that Trump wants his intelligence briefings to be full of pictures and maps. I can imagine that even for someone who reads more readily than Trump does, it might be easier to absorb complex geopolitical information by means of maps. And on other subjects -- the healthcare system, for instance -- it's possible that a flowchart or two might make the complexities easier to absorb.

But how difficult are the midterms to comprehend? A traditional memo on the midterms would probably be full of bullet points -- that's not good enough for Trump? He needs huge graphs with 64-point bold type before he can take in the fact that he's unpopular in many districts and states where Republican candidates are running for reelection?

We're told that McCarthy provided "a basic and 'foundational' presentation that explained midterm politics to Trump, in the words of one senior official." I know Trump was a political outsider before the 2016 campaign -- but he lives in America and has access to political news, doesn't he? Is the nature of the 2018 elections an arcane secret known only to experts? Can't anyone with a newspaper subscription or Internet connection understand the state of play and the stakes?

We knew Trump was an uninformed simpleton. This suggests just how little he really comprehends.


Whenever it's a slow news day, you can count on some mainstream-media outlet to run a story by a reporter who's ventured into a rural diner in a Trump state to find -- surprise! -- that blue-collar white Trump voters still love Trump. Whenever it's not a slow news day, especially if the big news item is Trump saying or doing something offensive, you can count on a mainstream reporter following up on the story by traveling to yet another diner, where more rural whites will confirm that Trump's latest outrage doesn't shake their faith in him, because they like the fact that he's not "politically correct."

So it's a surprise that Sabrina Tavernise actually interviewed some black people for a story that appears in The New York Times today. Of course, it's Martin Luther King Day -- a good day, unfortunately, for tokenism.

Tavernise's interviews were conducted at churches. I'd like to believe that this wasn't because she was afraid to go to any other place black people gather.

Tavernise focuses on one point made by her interviewees -- that they believe America is backsliding dangerously.
... after a disheartening week and an even more disheartening year, black Americans interviewed on Sunday said they were struggling to comprehend what was happening in a country that so recently had an African-American president.
But it's important to notice that the interviewees also said that they believe recent events reflect a past that never really went away.
“Donald Trump is America’s id,” said Pastor [William] Lamar [of Washington], whose 180-year-old church is five blocks from the White House. “He is as American as baseball and apple pie.”

... “I don’t know that he’s listening, and I don’t know that it matters,” [Reverend] Dr. [Raphael] Warnock [of Atlanta] said in an interview. “Even if Trump were to leave tomorrow, we still have to deal with the large segment of white evangelicals who voted for Trump. My battle is not so much with Trump as it is with Trumpism.”

[Sterling] Tucker [a 94-year-old Washington civil rights activist] said that perhaps the progress the civil rights movement had fought for had missed parts of the country. Maybe black progress had engendered more resistance than he had understood.

“We moved beyond a point, but we didn’t carry the country with us,” he said. Today he hears white people complain that their problems have been forgotten as political leaders focus on black misery. “White people are saying that what has happened is you took equality from some white people and gave it to black people,” he said. “That’s where we are right now, I think.”

... Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington ... noted that today’s problems were rooted early in the nation’s history, and observed that in contrast to Germany after the Holocaust, the American South has not been forced to fully confront the legacy of slavery and the Civil War.

“Corners of the country could put their hands in their pockets, whistle and quietly shuffle off, as if the history was never theirs,” he said.

But that history can rear its head. “We are in the grips of the revenge of an American conscience that’s never repented of its racist history,” he said. “Things that were left smoldering, embers have caught a bit of wind from our current president, and from time to time we are seeing flashes of fire.”
It would be nice if the mainstream media would interview non-white Americans more than once a year. They're "real Americans," too. We need to know that Trump opponents worry not just about Trump, but about many of the voters who are interviewed week after week in all those rural diners.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


There's a new CBS/YouGov poll with mostly bad news for President Trump:
... three in four Americans say the country is divided, six in 10 don't have much confidence in the U.S. political system and six in 10 say racial tensions have increased. The president's strongest backers believe things are going well, but his opponents -- who have grown increasingly opposed to the president over the year -- say things are not. Overall, the number of Americans who say having Donald Trump as president makes them feel "pessimistic" is higher than it was a year ago.
Here's one noteworthy result from the poll:

The wording of this question seems carefully designed to inspire enthusiastic yes answers from white voters -- but 64% of whites answered no. The same percentage of men also answered no.

Trump voters and current Trump supporters answer yes to this, as do evangelicals, Republicans, and conservatives -- but every other group says no. And what does that tell us?

It tells us either that 69% of Americans aren't "real Americans" or that the real "real Americans" are the people who don't feel that Trump is protecting their "culture and way of life."

If nearly 70% of voters answer no to this question, then the "culture and way of life" Trump is protecting belong to a small minority of Americans. They're not the norm. Those of us in the 69% no group are the norm.


As we approach the first anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration, it's clear that the administration has tightened the screws on a number of groups -- undocumented immigrants, Medicaid recipients, and so on -- but Trump isn't the full-blown Hitler some people expected. This Washington Post story helps explain why:
In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families.

Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.... Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.

His brief biography offers few clues that he would so quickly assume a leading role in the drug policy office.... Weyeneth’s only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.
Not only did he rise to this top position at the age of 23, he did so, the Post reports, despite lying on résumés he submitted to the government (he claimed he'd received a master's degree he doesn't have). Also, he spent some of his high school years working for a family firm that "was secretly processing illegal steroids from China as part of a conspiracy involving people from Virginia, California and elsewhere in the United States and one person in China, federal court records show."

So how did he get this high-level job?
Weyeneth’s ascent from a low-level post to deputy chief of staff is the result, in large part, of staff turnover and vacancies.

... nearly a year after [Trump's] inauguration, the drug policy office, known as ONDCP, lacks a permanent director. At least seven of his administration’s appointees have departed, office spokesman William Eason said. Among them was the general counsel and acting chief of staff, some of whose duties were assumed by Weyeneth....
Oh, and:
In October, Trump’s nominee to lead the office, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), withdrew from consideration after a joint investigation by The Post and 60 Minutes found he had sponsored legislation favoring opioid makers and curbing the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate abuses.
Think about this. The president has an attorney general who's promised to crack down on legalized marijuana. The ONDCP, if staffed by like-minded people, offers furthers opportunities for a "law and order" approach to drug use. If you're an authoritarian, why wouldn't you want the agency and the AG coordinating their efforts?

But if you're the Trumpers, you don't make this happen because so many other impulses are in conflict. Your instinct is to put pro-industry toadies in top positions, so you initially choose an industry lackey for the top ONDCP job. You want to prove you can run an administration without mastering any Washington skills, so you picked that toady without realizing he'd have a tough time being confirmed. Your chaotic approach inspires you to alienate staffers, and your blind hatred of government leads you to assume it doesn't matter whether you replace them, even though this could be an opportunity to put in smart, ruthless people who'll carry out your darkest plans. In the end, you wind up with a kid in a top position -- and then he can't survive a little scrutiny:
After being contacted by The Post about Weyeneth’s qualifications, and about inconsistencies on his résumés, an administration official said Weyeneth will return to the position he initially held in the agency, as a White House liaison for ONDCP, a job that typically involves working with outside interest groups. The official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that Weyeneth has been primarily performing administrative work, rather than making policy decisions, and that he had “assumed additional duties and an additional title following staff openings.”
The administration has harmed a lot of people and will harm more before it's gone, but if the Trumpers were single-minded, they could be far more thuggish than they've been. They have too many conflicting impulses and goals. I don't think they'll ever get this authoritarianism thing figured out.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


There's a lot going on in the news, but I'm in the middle of a couple of domestic repair situations that are eating up my time, so I can't post today. Maybe later tonight -- more likely tomorrow....

Friday, January 12, 2018


Jonathan Chait has wriiten an amusing post titled "David Brooks Picked a Bad Week to Say Trump ‘Runs a Normal, Good Meeting’":
Four days ago, David Brooks broke the news in the New York Times that President Trump is actually a sober-minded and competent public servant. “People who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised,” he reported. “They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.”

It is safe to say that this column has not aged well in the short time since its publication.
As Chait notes, shortly after the column ran, Trump tweeted his angry opposition to a surveillance bill that was actually supported by his administration, which reportedly led to a phone conversation in which Paul Ryan spent a half hour explaining to Trump the difference between domestic and foreign surveillance. Then came Trump's "shithole countries" remark and a disturbing Wall Street Journal interview. Left unmentioned by Chait was the midnight tweet in which Trump announced that he's canceling his trip to London, citing President Obama's "Bad deal" decision to move the U.S. embassy there (the move was actually initiated by George W. Bush).

But give David Brooks this much: He at least published his column before the alarming events of the latter half of this week. By contrast, this Marc Thiessen column went live this morning at 8:50 A.M. Eastern time, and no one -- not Thiessen and not his editors -- was sufficiently embarrassed by it to request that it be withdrawn:
In one key meeting, Trump destroyed his critics’ credibility

This week ... American television viewers were invited into the White House Cabinet Room, where for nearly an hour they watched as President Trump effectively led a bipartisan meeting in which he and congressional Democrats made real progress on immigration reform.

... The reason for the rare public display of presidential leadership was the release of a new book by New York media gossip columnist Michael Wolff that portrays Trump as mentally unfit to be president. Wolff describes Trump as being like a child who “could not really converse ... not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation.” In just 55 minutes, Trump completely discredited Wolff’s thesis.

In true reality-TV fashion, Trump let the American people watch as he conversed, shared information and held a “balanced back-and-forth conversation” with his most vehement critics. He was charming.... He was substantive.... And he challenged both sides to think bigger....

... If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an hour-long video of the president at work is worth more than 50,000 words of gossip and innuendo. Trump effectively asked the American people, “Who are you going to believe: Michael Wolff or your own lyin’ eyes?”

... the Wolff book has discredited Trump’s media critics who embraced Wolff’s conclusions that Trump did not have the mental capacity to be president.
Yes, Thiessen wanted us to believe as he finished the column and pressed SEND, no one ever again should say that Trump is too ignorant, too mentally impaired, or too emotionally unstable to be president, because that televised meeting put all such questions to rest, and nothing Trump does in the future could possibly raise those questions again.


Even more embarrassing, Thiessen ended his column by speculating on the future -- a future that, by 8:50 this morning, was already abundantly clear:
The president is now at a crossroads. It was he who let the media stay in the room for the meeting, and it worked. So, what does he do next? Does he build on this success by delivering a substantive bipartisan State of the Union address, and use the power and trappings of the presidency to expand his base of support? Or does he go back to the tactics that made those questioning his fitness for office seem even remotely credible?

His opponents have overreached and given him an opening. The question is: Will he seize it or squander it?
Everyone in the world knew the answer to this question by the time the column was posted. Thiessen should have begged his editors to give the column a quiet mercy killing.


In a meeting on immigration, President Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations as "shithole countries" -- and now some in the media want you to believe that he's received across-the-board condemnation.

This is from The New York Times:
... the president’s vulgar language on a delicate issue ... drew a backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, many of whom called Mr. Trump’s utterances unacceptable at best and plainly racist at worst.

Representative Mia Love, a Republican of Utah who is of Haitian descent, demanded an apology from the president, saying his comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”

“This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation,” Ms. Love went on in an emotional statement that noted her heritage and that said her parents “never took a thing” from the government while achieving the American dream. “The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

“As an American, I am ashamed of the president,” said Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois. “His comments are disappointing, unbelievable, but not surprising.” He added, we can now “say with 100 percent confidence that the president is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence.”

The reactions were extraordinary bipartisan rebukes to a sitting president...
And here's Scott Detrow on NPR's Morning Edition:
So there was broad condemnation. Many Democrats had reactions very similar to what Steny Hoyer, the #2 Democrat in the House, said. His quote was that "President Trump's comments are racist and a disgrace. They do not reflect our nation's values." Many Republicans critical as well. Utah Republican Mia Love, who has Haitian roots, put out a statement saying, "The president's comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values."
(Emphasis added.)

But the condemnation wasn't "broad" or truly "bipartisan." There are 292 Republicans in the House and Senate, I've found only these mild rebukes from white congressional Republicans:
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, ... called the reported comments "disappointing."

"If these comments are accurate, they are disappointing." Lankford said. "I would not talk about nations like this, because I believe the people of those countries are made in the image of God and have worth and human dignity."

... Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, said in response to the vulgar remark, "I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President's comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin."
Senator Tim Scott, who, like Representative Love, is black, also called the remark "disappointing":
Sen. Tim Scott, the only Republican African-American senator, said the President's comments are "disappointing."

"The American family was born from immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty and searching for a better future," the South Carolina senator said in a statement. "Our strength lies in our diversity, including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world. To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history."
Compare that to congressional Democrats, non-white and white:
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, tweeted: "America's president is a racist and this is the proof. His hateful rhetoric has no place in the @WhiteHouse. Every single Republican must denounce these comments now."

... Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, of California, also reacted on Twitter.

"@realDonaldTrump -- You would never call a predominantly white country a 'shithole' because you are unable to see people of color, American or otherwise, as equals," she wrote.
Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the president’s closed-door comments “yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views” and said they reinforced “the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again.’”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, described the comments as “the most odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy,” and argued that they would make it more difficult for the two parties to reach consensus on an immigration deal.

“It inflames and encourages the worst instinct and the basest dark side of immigration issues,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
The outrage is much greater on the Democratic side. That's to be expected -- but it's not what some are reporting. The difference in the parties' reactions should be part of the story.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I'm sure you already know that this happened today:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met yesterday.
That report is from The Washington Post. NBC confirms the story -- and notably, the White House doesn't call the report fake news:
The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.
In fact, according to a CNN reporter, they're apparently high-fiving in the West Wing.

Congress is getting close to a compromise on DACA and border security, and the president might go along with it, to the disgust of his base. Maybe White House staffers are hoping that this will keep him in the good graces of the base, even if he signs what base voters regard as an "amnesty" bill. (Right-wingers regard any immigration proposal that isn't exclusively punitive as "amnesty," which is the worst imaginable insult.)

We know we have an abhorrent president. This is a reminder that it isn't just him -- we have an abhorrent administration. And if, as is likely, condemnations from elected members of the Republican Party are rare or nonexistent, we have an abhorrent governing party, appealing to an abhorrent voter base. The rot goes deep.


Christopher Buskirk, editor of the pro-Trump website American Greatness, writes in a Washington Post op-ed that we shouldn't believe that silly old Michael Wolff book because the president, far from being a puppet manipulated by Svengalis such as Steve Bannon, is a political giant who's transforming American politics all on his own:
Accusations that Trump is being manipulated by his advisers — always wrong but nonetheless repeated so often as to take on the appearance of truth — must now cease. And so must the rhetorical conflation of Trump and Bannon. Trump must be seen as his own man and judged by his own words.

... with Bannon clearly out of Trump’s inner circle, there can be no whispers of a power structure outside the White House. Like Ronald Reagan, Trump keeps his own counsel. There is no Valerie Jarrett or Karl Rove. It’s just the president and his agenda.
So there isn't an adviser who can be called "Trump's brain"? I guess that's true -- there isn't an adviser who fills that role.

There are three:

Jonathan Chait explains:
During his morning Executive Time, President Trump took a well-deserved break from his long hours of document study to watch Fox News. The segment featured one of the talking heads urging Trump to oppose the House bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The president immediately tweeted out his alarmed confusion that the House was apparently on the verge of approving the very law the sinister Deep State had used to “tapp” his phones:

... The president’s alarm was unfortunate, since the Trump administration strongly supports reauthorization of this law. It has sent its highest-ranking security officials to lobby Congress for reauthorization, and reiterated its endorsement of the law as recently as last night.
So I guess there can be "whispers of a power structure outside the White House" after all -- or not whispers exactly, because anyone can see exactly where that power structure is by turning on the TV in the morning.

And as for Trump "keep[ing] his own counsel," consider what happened next:
Apparently somebody has explained the administration’s position to the president, who has followed up his old tweet opposing the House bill with a new one supporting it:

So first Trump proclaimed his enthusiastic agreement with a guest on his favorite TV show, then he expressed agreement with a staffer who'd gently explained to him that the guest on his favorite TV show was wrong. In each case, he declared himself in agreement with the last person who'd talked to him. Yeah, that's what keeping one's own counsel looks like, isn't it?


Joe Arpaio has announced that he's running for Senate in Arizona. After his announcement, he was quickly invited to do an interview on Fox & Friends that was about as hard-hitting as you'd expect:
These are the weakest interview questions you'll ever see....

Here are some of the verbatim questions that the folks at Fox and Friends elected to ask Arpaio....

1. “At 85, why do you want to do this?”

2. "How would you like to respond to Senator Flake"?

3. "With your long career as a sheriff, what part of that experience would be helpful in the U.S. Senate?"

4. "Do you think you would be using [your] experience—that it would be helpful to drain the swamp?"

5. "During the commercial, you said Donald Trump was a heroic figure to you, and he wants to drain the swamp. If you were in the Senate, would you do that as well?"
And as News Hounds notes, host Steve Doocy addressed Arpaio as if he'd already been elected:
After Doocy gave Arpaio an opening, which he took, to attack current (and retiring) Sen. Jeff Flake, Doocy closed the interview by saying enthusiastically, “Well, I tell you what: nobody’s got better name recognition down in Arizona than Senator Joe Arpaio.”

Yes, Doocy inadvertently spoke of Arpaio as though he were already a member of the U.S. Senate.

Watch the Freudian slip below....

But it wasn't just the right-wing media covering Arpaio. There he was on CNN last night:
Disgraced sheriff Joe Arpaio, just one day after announcing his bid for Senate, doubled down on claims that former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is “phony.”

In a Wednesday night interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN, Arpaio said there was “no doubt” Obama’s birth certificate is fake.

“We have the evidence,” he said. “I’m not going to go into all the details. It’s a phony document.”
And he was on NPR this morning -- arguing, among other things, that allowing Dreamers to stay in America rather than deporting them to dangerous countries they don't know is like forcing foreign countries to accept citizens of dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago:
But asked about the risks many could face going back to dangerous countries, places some of these DACA recipients have never been or where they don't speak the language, Arpaio pushed back.

"We have danger here, so should we deport all the people in Chicago with all the shooting and murder?" Arpaio asked. "If they want to get out and go to another country, should the other countries welcome them? I don't think they would."
As I type this, the Arpaio announcement and interview are the lead story at

As I pointed out on Tuesday, only 21% of Arizonans approve of President Trump's pardon of Arpaio, while half disapprove. Arpaio lost by double digits in his last race in Maricopa County, where Trump won. But on the right he may be seen as a hero/martyr now that he's out of office, and now that Trump has portrayed his conviction as an Obama-era frame-up -- a new poll shows he's in a statistical dead heat with the GOP establishment's preferred candidate for Jeff Flake's seat, Martha McSally, and he's beating the woman who used to be the talk radio crowd's preferred candidate, Kelli Ward. The poll shows that he'll shoot into the lead for the Republican nomination if Trump endorses him.

This is a valid point:

How much TV coverage waill Arpaio get relative to other candidates, both Republican and Democratic?

How did Trump win the presidency? He was helped immeasurably by the hours and hours of coverage he got on cable news, particularly CNN. And what was cable's excuse for the saturation coverage of Trump? That he's great television.

Well, an Arpaio interview is great television, too. So will he get a disproportionate share of the media attention, just like Trump, and not just on Fox (which will go into "no enemies on the right" mode and favor him over other Republican candidates), but on non-conservative outlets, national and local?

I still don't think this will be enough to make him the general election winner in Arizona. But it really might be enough to give him the primary win. And although the wind is at the Democrats' back in 2018, after 2016 I wouldn't make any large bets on the general. Even with Arpaio as a candidate, I wouldn't bet the house on Democrats in Arizona, a state where the "emerging Democratic majority" is always just about to emerge, but never quite does.