Monday, January 23, 2017

MAYBE TRUMP IS JUST TRYING TO MAINTAIN HIS PERSONAL PARTISAN BUBBLE (updated)

CBS is reporting that President Trump brought his own cheering section to CIA headquarters on Saturday:
U.S. government sources tell CBS News that there is a sense of unease in the intelligence community after President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday.

An official said the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse” and described the visit as “uncomfortable.”

Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.
This was part of a pattern of dishonesty on the administration's part over the weekend -- see also the fights with the press over crowd size, and the insistence by Kellyanne Conway that lies and exaggerations are merely "alternative facts."

It's easy to see this as not just brazen but sinister. In a piece for The New Republic titled "Donald Trump Is Becoming an Authoritarian Leader Before Our Very Eyes," Jeet Heer writes:
The purpose of the Trump administration’s lies is not necessarily to deceive, but to separate the believers from the disbelievers -- for the purpose of rewarding the former and punishing the latter. As chess champion Garry Kasparov, an expert in authoritarianism as an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeted on Saturday:


But -- so far, at least -- this isn't Putin's Russia. Dissenting news outlets aren't being shut down; dissenting journalists aren't being murdered. Maybe we're really about to descend into the twilight, but for now the press is challenging Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, and leakers within the government are still telling reporters things Trump doesn't want them to say. It's not totalitarianism yet.

Is totalitarian control Trump's real goal? I think he's content with the notion that if enough people (46%, say) accept his version of the facts, then he can dominate the rest of us. That worked for him until Election Day (or maybe Inauguration Day). We'll see what he does when it stops working.

I also think Trump just wants to maintain a bubble in which the news is all good for him. Maybe the cheering section at CIA headquarters was meant to manufacture consent, but it also seems possible that it was meant to reassure Trump that, yes, he is loved. Maybe the lies about crowd size were directed less at us than at him.

We keep being told that, in the social media age, we no longer have a common reality, and instead have retreated to partisan demimondes where we and our ideological soul mates hear only opinions (and assertions) with which we agree. I think Twitter-junkie Trump could be an extreme example of this. At all times he apparently needs to be in a gated information enclave in which the political issue he cares most about -- the excellence of Donald Trump -- is discussed only in the most favorable terms. As we learned from Politico today,
One person who frequently talks to Trump said aides ... have to control information that may infuriate him. He gets bored and likes to watch TV, this person said, so it is important to minimize that.
Maybe Trump isn't trying to be a dictator. Maybe he just wants to make all the stuff on TV that infuriates him simply go away.

****

UPDATE: As I was saying....

THE FAILED TRUMP PRESIDENCY

I admit it's way too early to use the phrase "the failed Trump presidency." He's been in office only since Friday. I just like the headline. I hope someone in the Trump White House sees it. I hope Trump sees it.

In The New York Times, we have this, under the headline "Rocky First Weekend for Trump Troubles Even His Top Aides":
To the extent that there was a plan to take advantage of the first days of his administration, when a president is usually at his maximum leverage, Mr. Trump threw it aside with a decision to lash out about crowd sizes at his swearing in and to rewrite the history of his dealings with intelligence agencies.

The lack of discipline troubled even senior members of Mr. Trump’s circle, some of whom had urged him not to indulge his simmering resentment at what he saw as unfair news coverage. Instead, Mr. Trump chose to listen to other aides who shared his outrage and desire to punch back. By the end of the weekend, he and his team were scrambling to get back on script.
Notice the reference to "some of" Trump's top people urging him not to indulge his resentment, while "other aides ... shared his outrage and desire to punch back"? The spinners on this story were obviously from the Reince Priebus wing of the White House. They think the Steve Bannon crowd urged Trump to indulge his worst instincts.

A Politico story has the headline "Trump Struggles to Shake His Erratic Campaign Habits" -- which is inaccurate, because he's obviously not making the slightest effort to change those habits. But that's a headline problem. The story tells us that backers of Trump's bomb-throwing style think he's still winning:
That Donald Trump chose to spend the first 48 hours of his presidency feuding with the news media over crowd sizes, crowing about his win in front of a wall of killed CIA agents, spreading inaccurate information and firing off tweets didn't shock his supporters or critics.

But it showed two likely hallmarks of the Trump administration, according to interviews with people involved in and close to his government.

First, his team will be very combative, even when the facts are not on their side, trusting that their political base dislikes the news media and will believe them no matter what. Sometimes, they are likely to muddy the water or throw a hand grenade into a political debate just to change the headlines.

"What you're seeing with the press secretary is what the administration is going to do, they are going to challenge the press," said Rep. Tom Reed, a New York Republican on Trump's executive committee. "A lot of people in the Beltway forget that the news media doesn't have much credibility. This is the way he ran his campaign, and it worked."
On the other hand:
Several people who are close to Trump were aghast by the briefing. "It's surreal. We finally have the White House, and it's this," one GOP strategist close to Trump's top aides said.
In the Politico story we get a lot of advice on the delicate art of making Trump behave:
One person who frequently talks to Trump said aides have to push back privately against his worst impulses in the White House, like the news conference idea, and have to control information that may infuriate him. He gets bored and likes to watch TV, this person said, so it is important to minimize that.

This person said that a number of people close to him don't like saying no -- but that it has to be done.

"You can't do it in front of everyone," this person said. "He's never going to admit he's wrong in front of everyone. You have to pull him aside and tell him why he's wrong, and then you can get him to go along with you. These people don't know how to get him to do what they need him to do."
And:
"Most of the people around him are new to him. One of the things they don't understand about him is he likes pushback. They are not giving him the pushback he needs when he's giving advice. He's a strong guy. He's intimidating to a lot of people," said Christopher Ruddy, a Trump friend who talks to him often and is the CEO of Newsmax. "If he doesn't have people who can tell him no, this is not going to go very well."
I think people in the Reince Priebus wing are engaging in pushback. They stood by as the bomb-thrower wing (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller) wrote the inaugural speech, but they've persuaded Trump to dole out the executive orders gradually and in an order that pleases the GOP establishment more than the Trump base. I think the Priebus wing isn't pushing back on tone, or is pushing back and is being rebuffed by Trump and the bomb-throwers. Maybe some aides fear challenging Trump, but more likely it's that Trump gets affirmation from his bomb-thrower wing when he indulges his rage.

I don't think this is going to change. I think Trump's mostly going to govern as a Paul Ryan Republican and behave as a Breitbart Republican. Will that work for him? I doubt it. He's going to continue to seem like the spoiled brat of the campaign who wasn't liked even by some of his own voters. And he's not going to deliver for ordinary people. I think this is a formula for sustained unpopularity, except within the Trump base, which won't abandon him for years. (It took more than a term for George W. Bush's base to abandon him.) But we'll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

THE ANTI-TRUMP RESISTANCE IS STRONG -- AND TRUMP MAY BE WEAK

I was amazed at the size and energy of the anti-Trump outpouring yesterday. However, I've seen movements before that were big, energetic, and global, but struggled to attain their goals. We don't even have to go back to the prolonged battle to stop the Vietnam War -- we didn't prevent the Iraq War (although I think we eventually turned much of America against it, as well as one of our major parties), and in the 1980s the nuclear freeze movement didn't succeed at all.

Reagan-era protest is an interesting comparison because the president then, as now, styled himself as a radical, yet he didn't have a great depth of policy knowledge. But the difference between Reagan and Trump is that Reagan's people were generally pros who know how to stay on a course once it was set. Trump doesn't have a lot of appointees in place, and the advisers he's chosen are clearly at odds with one another on a lot of issues. They don't seem to know how presidenting works. For Trump's first full day as president, they watched him go to CIA headquarters and deliver a bizarre and inappropriate speech. In the press secretary's first interaction with the press, he lied about Trump's inaugural crowd size. Reagan's people, by contrast, were masters at crafting lines of the day and experts at pressuring the media to portray Reagan in just the way that was most advantageous to him.

I don't want to be overconfident. I assume the Trumpers will get better at this, and they have the power of unified GOP government. But this New York Times story suggests not that the wheels are coming off the bus, but that they haven't even found a bus with all its wheels, or decided who'll drive it once it's ready, or even settled on the use of a bus at all:
President Trump plans to take executive action on a nearly daily basis for a month to unravel his predecessor’s legacy and begin enacting his own agenda, his aides say....

But in a reflection of the improvisational style that helped fuel his rise, he has made few, if any, firm decisions about which orders he wants to make, or in which order. That is a striking break from past presidents, who have entered office with detailed plans for rolling out a series of executive actions that set a tone for their presidencies and send a clear message about their agendas.

It was plain that Mr. Trump had devised no such strategy by his first day in office, as advisers expressed doubt until the last moments about whether he would issue any directives on Friday. “It’s going to be a game-day decision,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that afternoon.

Then, around 7 p.m., reporters were suddenly summoned to the Oval Office. After sprinting from the briefing room, they watched Mr. Trump sign a directive to federal agencies to begin scaling back parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“There are a number that are being looked at, but it’s just a question of which ones he feels like doing, and when,” Mr. Spicer had said of executive orders earlier on Friday. In recent days, he had said that Mr. Trump’s top aides were still deciding on the “sequencing” of the unilateral actions.
I continue to think that there's a battle for Trump's brain, and it's being fought between the GOP establishmentarians (Reince Priebus, Mike Pence) and the populist/nationalist bomb-throwers (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miler), with Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner moving between the two camps as it suits them. This Politico story, which I've cited before, is a guide to the internal battles.

Yesterday I mocked James Hohmann of The Washington Post for asserting that the inaugural address suggested that Trump will challenge Republicans as well as Democrats. I now see that this is conventional wisdom -- Hohmann's colleague Dan Balz wrote something very similar, as did Jonathan Martin of the Times. Martin writes:
One topic has dominated conversations among elected Republicans since President Trump’s stunning victory: Will he actually pursue his campaign agenda of big-government nationalism, all but obliterating the liberal-conservative distinctions that have defined America’s political parties for a century?
But Martin, to his credit, recognizes the pull of the establishmentarians, although I think he underestimates it:
... some of his advisers suggested that he would slip back into a more conventional Republican approach....

As in his campaign, he faces an array of obstacles {including] advisers who hope to nudge him back toward conventional Republicanism....
I suspect that the establishment cabal is in charge, mostly because they actually know how to knuckle down and get to work. They know how to sweat the details. I don't just think Trump is incapable of that, I think Bannon is, too.

The executive orders we've had so far -- raising the price of a home purchase, attacking but not gutting Obamacare, freezing regulations -- are pure GOP establishmentarianism. If, like most insider journalists, you think Trump's popular appeal comes from his deviations from GOP orthodoxy, you should be wondering why there's been no grand gesture toward building the wall or getting a massive infrastructure plan under way. This, for instance, has a lot more Paul Ryan than Donald Trump in it:



So there's an internal battle that's making the administration seem halting and indecisive. No one is stepping in to prevent Trump or one of his subordinates from looking like an idiot. (Also on TV this morning, Conway described Spicer's lies about the inaugural crowd size as "alternative facts," an Orwellianism that's already leading the trends on Twitter.) And as advisers fight among themselves, the non-populists seem to be winning.

We might beat these bastards, or it might be that they'll just beat themselves.

FULL TRANSCRIPT: TRUMP SAID "I" 101 TIMES IN CIA SPEECH, DIDN'T SAY "AMERICA" ONCE

While millions of people were gathering to protest his presidency yesterday, Donald Trump went to CIA headquarters and delivered remarks that would be considered bizarre and rambling if they weren't just like every campaign speech he gave that didn't involve a Teleprompter.
What Trump delivered Saturday was a campaign-style, stream-of-consciousness airing of grievances -- at the Senate for delaying confirmation of his nominees; at critics for questioning whether he is smart and vigorous; and at journalists, whom he called “the most dishonest human beings on earth” and accused of lying about the size of his inauguration crowd.

Trump claimed falsely that the crowd for his swearing-in stretched down the National Mall to the Washington Monument and totaled more than 1 million people. It did not.
Trump offended some intelligence officers by ranting and raving in front of a wall that memorializes CIA operatives killed in the line of duty.
“That was one of the more disconcerting speeches I’ve seen,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official who was not present for the Trump speech but watched it by video. “He could have kept it very simple and said, ‘I’m here to build some bridges.’ But he spent 10 seconds on that and the rest was on the crowd size,” the official said, referring to Trump’s repeated complaints that the media had undercounted the turnout for his inauguration.

Referring to Trump’s use of the CIA memorial wall as a backdrop, the official said, “People are going to think that was offensive.”
But I want to respond to a meme that spread on the right after Trump's inaugural address. The Townhall headline sums it up:
Full Transcript: Trump Said "America," "You," and "We" 106 Times in Speech, Said "I" Three Times
During the last presidency, right-wingers became obsessed with how often Barack Obama used first-person pronouns in his speeches and remarks. So it's not surprising that this card would be played. Given the fact that the inaugural address was coauthored by Steve Bannon, who until recently was part of the right-wing media that liked to pounce on Obama for this sort of thing, I assume that speech was written with this in mind. I assume the goal was to minimize the number of times Trump said "I," so conservatives could boast about that.

Well, no speechwriter seems to have worked on Trump's rambling remarks yesterday at CIA headquarters. He was winging it. And the numbers are in:
* Trump used the word "I" 101 times. He used the word "my" seven times and "me" seven times.

* Trump didn't use the word "America" even once.
I'm not even counting the number of times he used the words "we" and "our" to refer to his administration (or, more appallingly, his campaign, which he's still boasting about, even while standing before a wall honoring the CIA's dead).

Here's the transcript, from the blog Lawfare, via C-SPAN. Read it and -- I mean this literally -- weep.
Thank you.

Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop. Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter].

I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.

But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody.

And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate it what you ‘ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very. very few people could do the job you people do.

And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.

But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, -- but, all of it -- but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter]

But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] Alight? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.

We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.

We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice [applause]

Radical Islamic terrorism - and I said it yesterday - has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.

And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.

You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people.

And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.

And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]

And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince. He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success.

So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day. Sunny Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me. You know, he was one of the three.

Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis - fantastic guy - and General Kelly got approved [applause]

And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect ... they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well... but you ... We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally -- I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? -- Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.

And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person. [laughter] [pointing at Mike Pompeo] And I recognized immediately,

So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run.

People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.

When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy."

You will be getting a total star. You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem. And I just .... [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see.

And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of -- if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important.

You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing.

And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction? Boy does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so ... quickly.

And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know what? When I was young, And when I was ... of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young."

You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign. Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches -- speeches -- in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.

I feel young.

But when I was young -- and I think we’re all sort of young -- when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars.

At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war”.

And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.

The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” - you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong.

And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.

Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil.

But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance.

But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil. I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems -- we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated -- to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.

So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]

And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday, the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause]

We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.

I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was.... It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.

In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left - it poured.

But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.

And I turn on, with my steak ... and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.

Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.

So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill. Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally.

And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.

So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year.

I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.

So Zeke - Zeke - from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like -- was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?

So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting. I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back.

We may have to get you a larger room. [laughter, applause] We may have to get you a larger room.

And maybe - maybe - it’ll be built by somebody that knows how to build and we won’t have columns [laughter] You understand that? We’d get rid of the columns.

I just wanted to really say that I love you. I respect you. There’s nobody that I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again. And you’re going to be leading the charge.

So thank you all very much. Thank you, beautiful. Thank you all very much.

Have a good day.

I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Thank you.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

TODAY IN "JAMES HOHMANN IS AN IDIOT"

James Hohmann of The Washington Post is still telling us that Donald Trump is not really a Republican or a conservative:
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump completed his hostile takeover of the Republican Party last July, and on Friday he completed his hostile, if temporary, takeover of Washington.

In some significant ways, Trump is more like a corporate raider of the 1980s, when he came of age, than a typical politician of 2017.

... the guy who ended the Bush dynasty and then vanquished the Clinton machine, in a period of 17 months, put “the establishment” of both parties on notice once more.
Hohmann is one of those people who still thinks Trump is as much a Democrat as he is a Republican, and he found someone (unnamed) who agrees with him:
-- The last time a Republican was president, Trump was still a registered Democrat. His improbable success should be viewed mainly as the triumph of an independent populist who used the splintered GOP as a vehicle to win power.

A veteran Democratic operative told me recently that he believes, if Trump had decided in Sept. 2009 that he wanted to stay in their party and pandered accordingly with a similarly protectionist and isolationist us-versus-them message, he would have defeated Hillary for the nomination in 2016. This person, it should be noted, spent last year working on Clinton’s behalf.
Really? The same Trump who called Mexicans rapists and said that every black person in America lives in a crime-infested hellhole? The same one who at one point called for criminal charges against women who have abortions, and who insulted women a hundred other ways?

I think the protectionism could have had considerable appeal to some Democratic voters. But Trump is still an ignorant hatemonger and buffoon, and that's what he would have been if he'd run as a Democrat. Remember, this isn't an untestable hypothetical: Democratic voters actually got to choose between Trump and Clinton in November, and only 8% voted for Trump.

This really misses the point: Trump is a creature of the right-wing media. He regularly watches Fox. He gets all his ideas from "the shows." "The shows" on Fox focus on pushing right-wingers' hot buttons, and Trump is one of those right-wingers. He may have been a Democrat a few years ago, but that's because he was New York-based businessman and the Democratic Party is the one you want to be able to influence if you're doing business in the state.
-- Just as Trump figured out a way to co-opt the conservative movement, Republicans in Washington (from K Street to the Capitol) are now trying to co-opt him and the Trumpist movement. In many cases, the Trump-GOP relationship can be symbiotic. But the inaugural address hinted pretty strongly at the fundamental divergence between the two sides over the virtue of free trade, the value of immigration, the size of government, the role the state should play in people’s personal lives and America’s place in the world.
Obviously, there are differences between Trump and the GOP on trade. Immigration? When George W. Bush couldn't get immigration reform passed, what party does Hohmann think his opponents were in?

The size of government? Trump is at odds with the GOP on that? Did Hohmann read this story from a couple of days ago?
Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.
The Heritage Foundation helped prepare this budget blueprint. The Heritage Foundation helped put together Trump's Supreme Court short list. The Heritage Foundation helped devise Trump's budget-busting plans for the military:
Drawing heavily on a military spending blueprint created by Washington's right-wing Heritage Foundation, Trump called for tens of thousands of additional troops; a Navy of 350 ships (the current goal is 308); a significantly larger Air Force; an anti-missile, space-based Star Wars-style program of Reaganesque proportions; and an acceleration of the Pentagon's $1 trillion "modernization" program for the nuclear arsenal (now considered a three-decade-long project).

Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that, if Trump faithfully follows the Heritage Foundation's proposal, he could add more than $900 billion to the Pentagon's budget over the next decade.
Is the Heritage Foundation not Republican? Is it not part of the conservative movement? Did huge increases in military spending and huge cuts to domestic programs stop being top items on the Republican wish list when I wasn't looking?

Which gets to another assertion Hohmann makes:
Trump explicitly wants America to scale backs its footprint overseas. His inaugural address constitutes a wholesale repudiation of the post-World War II, bipartisan Washington consensus that the U.S. has a duty to be engaged in the world.
Well, yes and no. As Jessica Mathews writes in The New York Review of Books:
Like many realists, Trump thinks America does too much in the world and cares too much about others’ quarrels, suggesting that he will pull back its international engagements.... On the other hand, “Make America Great Again” suggests a highly engaged superpower with the clout and the will to dictate events. We’ll “take their oil,” build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it, and “take out” terrorists’ families regardless of international law. We’ll force China to accept changed terms of trade, and if that causes a trade war, “who the hell cares.” We should “greatly expand” our nuclear forces and welcome the resulting arms race because “we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
She also notes that Trump's top foreign policy adviser is not exactly an isolationist:
In The Field of Fight, coauthored with Michael Ledeen, [General Michael] Flynn asserts that the United States is facing an “international alliance of evil countries and movements that is working to destroy us.” This “working coalition,” centered on Iran, also includes North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Cooperation among these countries derives from the shared hatred of the United States, which “binds together jihadis, Communists, and garden-variety tyrants.” No evidence is offered in support of this bizarre fantasy.

The United States must “energize every element of national power in a cohesive synchronized manner -- similar to the effort during World War II” to fight this new “global war.” ...

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn writes, have been fought in a “half-assed” manner, with “token” forces and without the resolution “to crush our enemies.” To win we have to destroy all ISIS and al-Qaeda bases, conquer the terrorities they hold, return them to local control, and then, somehow, “insist on good governance.”
Wow, that's so at odds with conventional Republican thinking!

Trump is a Republican. Full stop. It's not complicated, James.

Friday, January 20, 2017

TRUMP, DAY ONE: WORDS, NOT DEEDS? (updated)

It was obvious that Donald Trump was going to do something provocative just after being sworn in as president, but didn't you think his provocation would be a bit less ... verbal? Here's a guy who could have whomped us with a couple dozen executive orders, all of which would have the force of law, but instead his big provocation was this:
As Donald Trump was sworn in Friday, the White House website got a major makeover. One of the casualties in the reset: any mention of the need to fight climate change.

The original White House page dedicated to the problem of climate change and former President Barack Obama's policies to address it is now a broken link: "The requested page '/energy/climate-change' could not be found."

Instead, the White House website features Trump's energy talking points from the campaign. The page -- titled, "An America First Energy Plan" -- makes no mention of climate change, other than to say, "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years."

.... Here's the new page....
Also this:
The moment Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States at noon on Friday, the LGBT, ... health care, and civil liberties pages disappeared from the website of the brand new Trump White House.

... the changes occurred at noon, when the Obama administration turned over the official White House website, whitehouse.gov, to the Trump team.

The White House’s official LGBT page, WhiteHouse.gov/LGBT, now either redirects to a splash page encouraging visitors to sign up for updates from President Trump, or displays as a broken link stating: “The requested page ‘/lgbt’ could not be found.”
And this:
The new White House website went live following Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, and it contained a bracing message implicitly directed to supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement: Your kind is not welcome in Trump's America.

“The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” reads a page on the website titled "Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community." It continues: “President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.”

In case it wasn’t clear who and what the Trump administration blames for this “anti-police atmosphere,” the website clarified: “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”
This is disturbing -- but so far it's just words, not deeds. I expected more from the big tough guy.

To me this reeks of Steve Bannon, who probably thinks even laws are less important than trying to seize control of "the culture," which is pretty much what you'd expect Andrew Breitbart's successor to think.

As for why Trump didn't come roaring out of the gate with provocative deeds, I question whether he actually knows where he stands on many issues -- he knows that on every issue he agrees with somebody he's seen on Fox, but sometimes they disagree. What's a president to do?

I also think the establishmentarians in the battle for Trump's brain are trying to steer him away from Buchananite populism and toward traditional Kochite Republicanism. This Politico story sees a battle with, on one side, Bannon and another bomb-thrower, adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller, and, on the other, establishmentarians Reince Priebus and Mike Pence:
Two senior transition officials said the “two Steves” have pushed for Trump to use a “shock and awe” strategy of issued multiple executive orders on Day One, but lost out to other factions pushing for meting out a “drip drip drip” of executive actions almost daily over the first month.

Priebus and Pence represent the Washington GOP establishment, pushing for discipline and traditional conservatism in the new administration. “It’s going to be a combination of Reince and Pence’s job to figure out the policy pieces that fit,” said a senior Trump adviser, “and Bannon and Miller making sure the campaign’s promises are in the bills.”
This feels like a stall tactic to prevent Trump from doing anything that would deviate greatly from traditional Kochism.

And on another subject, there's been some violence in anti-Trump protests in D.C. today. Why isn't Trump grandstanding? As a New Yorker, I can tell you that if Rudy Giuliani had just been inaugurated today and this were happening, he'd be before the cameras threatening to rain unshirted hell down on the non-peaceful activists, and it wouldn't matter how many inaugural balls he was scheduled to attend. What's up, Donnie? Maybe you'll threaten to send them to Gitmo tomorrow, but why aren't you pouncing on this today? I thought you were a tough guy.

****

UPDATE: Apparently I spoke too soon, though this is somewhat murky:
President Trump signed an executive order late Friday giving federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the Affordable Care Act, which might include enforcement of the penalty for people who fail to carry the health insurance that the law requires of most Americans.

The executive order, signed in the Oval Office as one of the new president’s first actions, directs agencies to grant relief to all constituencies affected by the sprawling 2010 health-care law: consumers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, states and others. It does not describe specific federal rules to be softened or lifted, but it appears to give room for agencies to eliminate an array of ACA taxes and requirements.

However, some of these are embedded in the law, so it is unclear what latitude the executive branch will have....

“Potentially the biggest effect of this order could be widespread waivers from the individual mandate, which would likely create chaos in the individual insurance market,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, he said, the order suggests that insurers may have new flexibility on the benefits they must provide.

“This doesn’t grant any new powers to federal agencies, but it sends a clear signal that they should use whatever authority they have to scale back regulations and penalties. The Trump administration is looking to unwind the ACA, not necessarily waiting for Congress,” Levitt said.
And:
Also late Friday, Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, issued an executive memorandum ordering a freeze on regulations for all government agencies.
As I noted in the previous post, Kellyanne Conway said the administration's early focus would be on Obamacare, regulations, and taxes. So the next thing will be, I suppose, the beginning of an effort to wipe out a lot of taxes affected businesses and the rich, disguised as a tax cut for everybody (or maybe everybody other than the poor -- they need to have "skin in the game," don't you know). Stay tuned.

****

UPDATE: Vox's Sarah Kliff notes that the Obamacare executive order, as written, signals an intent to dismantle the law, but doesn't claim a right on Trump's part to just unilaterally declare provisions of the law null and void. Small comfort, I guess, but it's something.

TODAY IN "JOE SCARBOROUGH IS AN IDIOT"

Joe Scarborough thinks we have a new president who's a radical populist, or something like that:
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," called President Donald Trump's inaugural address a "primal scream aimed at Washington, DC."

"Donald Trump's speech was not an inaugural address," Scarborough tweeted after Trump's speech Friday. "It was a primal scream aimed at Washington, DC."

He said in a subsequent tweet: "[CNN's] Jake Tapper said Donald Trump's speech was the most radical inaugural address he's ever heard. I agree. It was unlike any that preceded it."
And I'll admit that the speech sounded populist:
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families....

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work -- rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.
Sounds as if Trump is going to be laser-focused on helping the little guy, right? Um...





Feel the populism!

Daniel Larison says,
Trump presented everything in very broad strokes and gave us no sense of what he considers to be his priorities at the start of his presidency. If Trump and his advisers know what they are, they don’t seem to be interested in telling us about them.
But Kellyanne Conway has been very disciplined in explaining what the top priorities are. Here's Conway today on CBS This Morning:
“But also he's somebody who has said what he wants to do. I think you've got a five or six-point plan in short order. Repealing and replacing Obama care, regulatory relief, tax reform.”
And here's Conway on ABC's Good Morning America:
"He's made very clear that his priorities are to repeal and replace Obamacare and also to bring some regulatory relief and tax reform," the senior adviser said on "GMA" this morning.
So basically his top priorities are ... the same as Paul Ryan's and Mitch McConnell's: tax and regulation cuts for billionaires, plus Obamacare repeal to make the teabaggers-turned-deplorables cheer even as many of them lose insurance. So much for "radical." So much for "a primal scream aimed at Washington, DC." Trump's message -- or at least the message of the Trump administration, which the new president may not be detail-oriented enough to understand -- is "whatever the conservative establishment wants." I expect that to continue to be the message, with sporadic interruptions for even worse messages.

AN EARLY OPPORTUNITY FOR TRUMP TO CHEAT PEOPLE?

In a few hours, Donald Trump will be sworn in as president, and he's already mooching off the previous administration:
Mr. Trump will be sworn in at noon Eastern time on Friday, but his team was still scrambling to fill key administration posts when he got here on Thursday, announcing last-minute plans to retain 50 essential State Department and national security officials currently working in the Obama administration to ensure “continuity of government,” according to Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary....

In all, Mr. Trump has named only 29 of his 660 executive department appointments, according to the Partnership for Public Service, which has been tracking the process. That is a pace far slower than recent predecessors....
I respect the fact that these Obama holdovers are putting country over party. But I hope they're aware that they're going to be working for this guy:



I think there's a serious risk that Trump will stiff these holdovers, even though they're not paid out of his money. And if he does stiff them, I'm sure his administration will declare that he's within his legal rights to do so.

Maybe this won't happen. Maybe Trump and his underlings would need to understand the bureaucracy better than they do in order to stiff the Obamaites who've agreed to stay on. But at the very least, I'm sure Trump will want to stiff them. I think they shouldn't count on a continuing paycheck.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

CBS PIZZAGATE TRUTHER SURE IS FOND OF HIS FORMER(?) EMPLOYER -- RT

The Daily Beast's Ben Collins reports:
News anchor Ben Swann aired a six-minute “investigation” into Pizzagate in America’s ninth-largest TV market on Tuesday night.

“Media is telling you the entire story is a hoax or fake news, but what does that even mean?” Swann asked on the 11 p.m. newscast of Atlanta’s CBS affiliate. He was referring to the debunked conspiracy theory spread by 4chan and InfoWars that Clinton campaign chief John Podesta is connected to a child sex ring in the basement of a pizza shop that has no basement.



This isn't the first dubious report Swann has done for the Atlanta CBS affiliate:
Last month, in a CBS 46 “Reality Check” segment that went viral on Facebook, Swann asked “If (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad is Committing Genocide in Aleppo, Why Are People Celebrating in the Streets?” The segment has garnered over 67,000 shares on Facebook alone.
And he carried this conspiratorialism over from an earlier job:
In his last job at Russian state-TV outfit Russia Today in 2015, he reported that “any credible evidence does not seem to exist” that Russia shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, simply that it “fit the narrative the U.S. administration was hoping for.” On his own YouTube channel he said he had “major problems with the theory” that the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were each conducted by “lone gunmen.”

“There’s a good reason to question this whole narrative: There’s been no evidence so far provided by police, other than what they’ve told us,” he said in his Sandy Hook truther video.
The Beast story refers to RT as Swann's "former employer." (Media Matters notes that he got the Atlanta CBS gig in June 2015.) But there's something curious about this. If you go to Swann's personal page, ben-swann.com, or to his benswanncommentary page on Facebook, you'll see that literally every entry ends with the following:
Read Full Article at RT.com
RT - Daily news
Links are included. If Swann is no longer cashing an RT paycheck, he's awfully nice to the people who are totally no longer employing him.

Swann also has a hell of a lot of stories about Vladimir Putin at ben-swann.com, including stories with headlines such as "Putin: Russian military not threatening anybody, we are protecting our borders" and "Putin demonized for thwarting neocon plan for global domination."

Swann posts a lot of dodgy material at his Truth in Media site. Here's a September 11 truther post titled "More Americans Are 'Rethinking' 9/11?" Here are several posts that are skeptical about vaccines. The Beast story tells us that Truth in Media
shares a contact phone number with a prominent member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a tax-exempt 527 political committee....

The phone number listed under the contact section on Truth in Media’s website belongs to Joshua Cook, who previously used the same number as a contact for South Carolina’s Republican Liberty Caucus in the political organization’s press releases....

Cook was the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Liberty Caucus as recently as 2014, and he is currently listed as a committee member on RLC’s national website. Cook has written more than 500 articles on Truth in Media’s website since Swann founded it in 2013, while serving as RLC’s South Carolina chairman or national committee member.

In 2013, the Republican Liberty Caucus posted an interview with Swann on its website titled “RLC Joins Forces with Ben Swann’s Truth in Media Project.”
Swann also did a vaccine truther segment for a previous employer, RBN, which employed Swann as a radio host. RBN's site still hosts this video:



Media Matters tells us this about RBN:
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center profiled RBN and its owner, John Stadtmiller, as part of a series on the anti-government Patriot movement. SPLC reported that RBN’s “talk radio fare is peppered with warnings about enslavement by a one-world government” and highlighted that RBN broadcasted a show hosted by “Michael Collins Piper, who has written copiously for the anti-Semitic American Free Press and its predecessor, The Spotlight, as well as The Barnes Review, a Holocaust denial journal.” ...

The Anti-Defamation League also criticized RBN in 2010, stating that it “regularly features programs hosted by anti-Semites.” ...

In 2014, when Swann joined RBN, his colleagues included several anti-Semite radio hosts.

During Swann’s tenure, the station broadcasted The American Freedom Party Report w/ James Kelso. SPLC calls Kelso “David Duke’s former right-hand man” and describes the American Freedom Party as “a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule.”

RBN also broadcasted Current Issues w/ Dr. Hesham Tillawi. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a televised version of his radio show “has become a megaphone for Holocaust deniers and white supremacists seeking to broadcast their hatred and anti-Semitism into American homes. Tillawi has hosted a ‘who’s who’ of American anti-Semites on his show, including David Duke, Willis Carto, Edgar J. Steele, Mark Weber and Bradley Smith.”

Remember all this when your right-wing Facebook friends start hectoring you to watch Swann's report.

TRUMP'S INAUGURAL FACE: "VIVID TANGELO" IS AT 8-TO-1

I just received an email from the Irish online bookmaker Paddy Power:
History will be made tomorrow, as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Mischievous bookmaker Paddy Power have priced up a variety of specials for the Washington event -- including what colour the new President will be at his inauguration.

The bookie makes lighter tones Tiger’s Eye and Deep Saffron its 6/1 favourites with Mango Tango leading the chasing pack at 7/1.

Further down in the betting is Vivid Tangelo and Cool Copper at 8/1 while Mahogany props up the betting at 18/1.

Paddy Power are also betting on what will be the first Trump-ism uttered by the tycoon during his speech.
This is legit:



Bet here:



At the same page, you can also bet on Trump's tie color, Melania's dress color, celebrity attendees, and "Which of these words/phrases will Trump say 1st?" "Make America great again" is the prohibitive favorite, though there are surprisingly long odds (75/1) on "bigly." And there are some real longshots:



There's more on the "Donald Trump Specials" page:



Significantly more optimistic that Trump will be out before his term expires than I am -- but we can dream, can't we?

It should be noted that Paddy Power declared Hillary Clinton the inner of the election before it took place, and paid money to bettors who chose her -- and then had to pay out even more to Trump bettors after the polls closed.

But the bookmaker carries on. And by the way, in early wagering, Tom Brady, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kanye West are all deemed more likely to win the 2020 presidential election than Jill Stein.

THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL

On Inauguration Day 2009, Barack and Michelle Obama's first dance as president and first lady was to Beyonce singing the Etta James classic "At Last."



"At last my love has coming around...." It's a heartfelt love song.

I'm not sure what song George and Laura Bush chose for their first dance after Bush's inauguration -- you can hear it staring at 1:09 in the video below -- but it sounds like a sentimental old love song.



And BuzzFeed says,
... in 1993, the soft rock band Ambrosia performed “Biggest Part of Me” for President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Cheesy 1980s soft-rock, but, yes, it's a love song ("You're the biggest part of me").

So what about Donald and Melania Trump's first dance?
In his first dance as commander in chief, President-elect Trump will take the dance floor with Melania to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "My Way," according to a source with knowledge of the official inaugural balls.
For that first post-inaugural dance with his wife, Trump chose a song that's basically about loving ... oneself. Perfect.

Oh, and:
The Washington Examiner has learned that Trump plans to take the floor as the 45th president at the Liberty Ball just as Nashville-based jazz singer Erin Boehme delivers opening song "Mack the Knife," which will be live broadcast for tens of millions of Americans to watch on TV.

Three Nashville, Tenn., artists, including Boehme, will sing the famous Sinatra song as Trump takes his first dance with his wife at the first scheduled ball.
Wikipedia, tell us about "Mack the Knife":
"Mack the Knife" or "The Ballad of Mack the Knife", originally "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera....

A moritat (from mori meaning "deadly" and tat meaning "deed") is a medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels. In The Threepenny Opera, the moritat singer with his street organ introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, or Mack the Knife, a character based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister, and has been transformed into a modern anti-hero.

The play opens with the moritat singer comparing Macheath (unfavorably) with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.
Even more appropriate for Trump.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ED ROGERS, THE GENTEEL TRUMP

Donald Trump, a political neophyte, is a crude man who says nasty, hateful things about people he doesn't like, particularly if they're not white or male. A good example is his ongoing feud with congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis.

Ed Rogers, a veteran Republican operative, is a man who's regarded as civilized and well-mannered. Over at The Washington Post today, he joined Trump in the Lewis pile-on -- but politely.
John Lewis: A predictable partisan

I have watched the back-and-forth between President-elect Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) over the past couple of days and I am saddened by what it reveals. I think the entire exchange says more about Lewis than it does about Trump.
Okay, here it comes -- but first, some pro forma praise for Lewis:
To state the obvious, Lewis is an American icon. He was on the front lines of the American civil rights war. His bravery cannot be questioned.
Obviously, this is just a set-up for what's coming:
But that’s the romanticized Lewis of long ago -- this week, the pedantic, partisan Lewis that lives today was on display.
"Romanticized"? That implies that people who praise Lewis for his actions in the civil rights years are creating a sentimentalized version of the truth about what Lewis did. Rogers, having just praised Lewis, suggests that he himself is exaggerating the reality of those years to create a good story. That's absurd. The violence was real. Lewis's bravery was real. The cause was unquestionably right.

But maybe Rogers doesn't really know what "romanticized" means. He also calls Lewis "pedantic," which doesn't seem like the right word either, and which he apparently chose because it has a negative connotation and begins with the same letter as "partisan." (Rogers comes from the "repeal and replace" party. Republicans love alliteration.)
Lewis has taken something precious, something bigger than just himself, and spoiled it.
Some of us would say that a man who insulted and bullied his way through a presidential campaign, who threatened to jail his opponent, and who'll take office on Friday because of skulduggery by partisan FBI agents and a foreign government is the one who spoiled the inaugural. But I'm sure Rogers wouldn't concede that.
His behavior deprives the rest of us of the leadership he could provide and that we so desperately need. After a certain point, heroism is bigger than the person who performed in the moment. To contribute to the greater good, strength of character must endure, which in today’s case would mean rising above his obvious dislike of the president-elect and being among the voices calling for cooperation.
You know, in emulation of Trump, who's always so cooperative.
Lewis has exhausted his ability to speak outside of a partisan context. According to the CQ voting record rankings, Lewis voted with his party 99 percent of the time in 2015. And, Bloomberg’s profile of Lewis describes him as having “one of the most liberal and party-line voting records in Congress.” What a waste.
A party unity score of 99% sounds awfully high, but what Rogers doesn't want you to know is that the average party unity score for House Republicans was 92% in 2013 and 91% in 2014 (the most recent years I can find). Democrats have high party-unity scores these days as well.

In 2014, Senator Jeff Sessions had a party-unity score of 97. Does Rogers think Sessions "has exhausted his ability to speak outside of a partisan context"? No -- he praised the attorney general-designate after his confirmation hearing last week, writing that he "comported [himself] in a graceful and respectful way" and adding that "we are in good hands" with him. He didn't write, "What a waste."
... It’s too bad Lewis has squandered his potential. Just think about what could have happened if he had taken the opposite approach with Trump. What if he had been among the first to say that he would shake the new president’s hand, would work with him and would challenge Trump to meet him halfway on some of the key issues we face?
Plenty of Democrats said that in the aftermath of the election. Chuck Schumer said that. Bernie Sanders said that. And Trump's Cabinet picks made clear that he is in no mood to compromise. He clearly wants to dismantle as many Democratic accomplishments as possible. He seeks no middle ground. (What Republican in recent years ever has?) We know "what could have happened" because we know what did happen after Trump won.
If Lewis had taken this approach, there would be pressure on Trump and the leverage of Lewis’s legend might be contributing toward something good.
Ed, apparently you haven't made the acquaintance of any Republican base voters lately. They don't like Lewis. They don't regard him as having any "leverage." Conciliatory words from Lewis wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference, because Trump knows which voters got him to where he is, and they want to see people like Lewis rebuffed.
Instead, he is lost among the pack of usual suspects, the malcontent Democrats who won’t get anything done.
You guys control the whole damn government, Ed. You'll fully control the Supreme Court soon because of an outrageous decision to blockade a sitting president's High Court pick for nearly a year. You intend to use end-arounds like reconciliation to diminish Democratic power even more.You're like the school bully who trips a kid in the hallway and then mocks him for being clumsy.

You had a chance to praise John Lewis sincerely and to show that some things are more important to you than partisan hackery. You failed. You're no better than Trump on this -- you just use slightly less inflammatory words.

DONALD TRUMP: OWNED BY THE MAINSTREAM GOP

At their new gig at Axios, ex-Politico writers Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei score an interview with Donald Trump and demonstrate that he's not always the party-smashing tough guy he plays on TV:
On Twitter and in public, Donald Trump remains an uncompromising mix of bluster and bombast. Behind the scenes, he's confronting, and in some cases succumbing (slightly) to, the hard truths of governing and leading a world that hangs on his every word....

Consider:

* Trump said health care is his most urgent domestic topic, telling us he spoke with President Obama again on Monday about the topic. He back-tracked a bit from his promise of insurance for everybody, saying he wanted to find a mechanism -- Medicaid block grants, perhaps -- to help the poorest get insurance. "You know there are many people talking about many forms of health care where people with no money aren't covered. We can't have that," he said.

* On Friday, he told The Wall Street Journal that border-adjustment, a vital part of the House Republicans' corporate tax-reform plan, was "too complicated." Now, it's suddenly back on the table. "It's certainly something that's going to be discussed," he said. "I would say, over the next month-and-a-half, two months, we'll be having more concrete discussions. Right now, we're really focused on health care more than anything else."
Remember the post I wrote yesterday titled "Republicans in Disarray! (Probably Not)"? I quoted Joe Scarborough predicting that Trump will "blow apart the Republican Party" as "the first independent president," citing Trump's damn-the-torpedoes insistence on universal coverage in the Obamacare replacement plan. Scarborough said,
Now Donald Trump is ... warning the Republicans in the House, you better follow me. You better provide universal health insurance for everybody or else.
A day later, guess what? Trump is following them. He's talking as if block grants and similar gimmicks are going to lead to universal coverage, just the way the congressional GOP does.

And instead of insisting on tariffs to discourage companies from outsourcing jobs, he's saying that border adjustment -- the congressional GOP's alternative, which involves taxing imports and exempting exports -- is "something that's going to be discussed." He's not digging in his heels. He's not firing off angry tweets directing fire at advocates of border adjustment (or Medicaid block grants, for that matter).

Trump isn't going to destroy the GOP or the "two-party duopoly," as Scarborough insists. Trump wants to be the leader, but he doesn't want to be without a gang. So, sure, he'll deviate from GOP orthodoxy, but he's going to stay in the party orbit. He thinks he wouldn't seem so tough without his boys (and they are mostly boys) backing him. And they're going to tell him what to do more often than you'd expect, because they're answerable to people richer and more savvy about the system than he is.

I've said it for a while now and I'll keep saying it: The Trump presidency is going to be at least 80% identical to a Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Marco Rubio presidency. Which is bad enough.

DOES DONALD TRUMP HAVE ANY MOTIVATION TO PREVENT NATIONAL SECURITY CRISES?

Donald Trump will be president in two days, and in the area of national security his administration is simply not ready, Politico reports:
Sources close to the transition describe Trump’s national security staffing as a “black box,” leaving everyone from Obama administration officials to Trump job seekers and foreign diplomats guessing at who will land crucial positions shaping policy and managing crises.

Much of the speculation focuses on the [National Security Council]....

But the Trump team has also not yet announced any appointments below the Cabinet level for the departments of State or Defense, leaving many more important posts open days before Trump’s inauguration.

"This isn't getting attention it deserves. Who will run and implement policy? Right now there is a big vacuum," Max Boot, a military historian and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted Tuesday....

“Unlike State, which can rely on its bureaucracy, the NSC has to be ready on Day One as most of its old team leaves,” said Philip Gordon, who held senior NSC jobs in the Obama and Clinton White Houses. “In a normal world, even before a single presidential phone call or meeting or decision the NSC team would prepare background, points, facts, etc. They will not have a team ready to do that.”
A story in The New York Times has similarly alarming news:
The Obama administration has written 275 briefing papers for the incoming Trump administration: nearly 1,000 pages of classified material on North Korea’s nuclear program, the military campaign against the Islamic State, tensions in the South China Sea, and every other kind of threat the new team could face in its first weeks in office.

Nobody in the current administration knows whether anyone in the next has read any of it....

N.S.C. officials began drafting briefing papers for the next administration last summer. Some focused on nuts and bolts: How do you arrange meetings? How do you circulate information to the agencies? Others discussed the evolution of administration policies or contingency planning for crises. Most were three to five pages to make them easy to digest.
And yet all we're told is that "a Trump official" assures us that "members of the team had read some of the memos and praised their quality." Oh, good -- they've read some. (I'd have felt better if that had been "the bulk of the memos" or "the key memos." "Some" is not reassuring.)

I don't know the extent to which the president-elect has thought about this. I can't imagine he's particularly focused on it.

And really, why should he be? Now, I'm not the sort of person who thinks Trump and his crew want an international crisis.



On the other hand, there's no question that, because he's a Republican who acts like a tough guy, his approval ratings will shoot to 90% if, for instance, there's a major terrorist attack on the United States, even if it later turns out that the attack happened because the administration was asleep at the switch. If there's another kind of foreign policy crisis, even if it's one the administration could have headed off, Trump's numbers are also likely to rise.

I don't think there's a cynical calculation here, but I'll note that being under attack is Trump's comfort zone. He likes to offend his enemies; when they respond, he lashes out and his fans cheer. The rhythm of Trump's life requires this. And because (like George W. Bush) he was born into wealth and has never known poverty despite failing badly in business, he simply hasn't developed the habit of being alert to the possibility of disaster, which is a survival instinct for most people. Hey, disaster has never hurt him much, has it?

Bush seemed to stumble into a situation in which being attacked paradoxically brought him glory. I don't think he saw that coming. Trump expects that to happen when he's attacked. He thinks he's the toughest SOB anywhere, and he clearly would like to deal out the ass-kickings he thinks he's extraordinarily capable of dispensing rather than work to head off crises.

He probably doesn't think he needs to do any work whatsoever to avert crises. I'm sure he thinks he scares would-be enemies of America just by writing nasty tweets. It doesn't work that way, but he doesn't know that. So prepare for the worst.

****

Oh, but according to The Washington Post, Trump has done some thinking about how he'd like to use the military:
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.

“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.
Parades. He's thinking about military parades.

We're doomed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

GOOD NEWS: THE TERM "ALT-RIGHT" IS TOXIC NOW. BAD NEWS: THE TERMINOLOGY IS SHIFTING.

There's a long Politico Magazine story on the alt-right that's well worth your time. I say that even though it risks normalizing the movement's participants by making them seem like just another group of wannabe D.C. power players:
Disdaining the traditional Washington think tanks as passé, they’re taking aim straight at America’s sense of its own identity, with plans for “culture tanks” to produce movies that make anti-immigrant conservatism look cool, and advocacy arms that resemble BuzzFeed more than The Heritage Foundation. They talk elliptically about internet memes replacing white papers as the currency of the policy realm, pushed out by “social media strike forces” trained in the ways of fourth-generation, insurgency-style warfare. There’s the idea of taking over the Republican Party with a wave of Tea Party-style primary challenges in 2018 that will rely on novel campaign tactics like flash mobs and 24/7 streaming video of candidates’ lives.
The story is worthwhile because there's no concealing the ugliness of the alt-right's agenda. The paragraph I just quoted ends this way:
There’s even a new right-wing hipster fraternal organization started by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys (motto: “The West Is the Best”), which promises to serve as an amateur security force at political events, including the Inauguration.
The story profiles unabashed racists such as Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer (Spencer is the guy whose speech at a recent D.C. conference culminated in Nazi salutes) as well as people who want us to believe they're just jolly provocateurs (we learn that Milo Yiannopoulos's vision for the alt-right "DeploraBall" celebrating Trump's victory includes "shirtless Mexican laborers ... building a physical wall around" entering guests). Even if the story's author, Ben Schreckinger, spends too much time on his interviewees' ambitions, everyone he speaks to comes off as a dangerous creep.

But I'd like to point out that we have some information that's relevant to the ongoing controversy about the use of the term "alt-right":
Known until recently as the “alt-right,” it is a dispersed movement that encompasses a range of right-wing figures....

Now, as its members move on Washington, an already fragmented movement is further split between those who embrace Spencer’s racial politics and those who, for reasons of pragmatism or principle, reject the “alt-right” label for its associations. Said Paul Ray Ramsey, a blogger who flirts with white nationalism but found the Nazi associations a bridge too far, even for him: “You don’t want to tie your brand to something that’s ultimate evil.”

Many figures in the movement now disdain the term “alt-right”...

[Mike] Cernovich has condemned Richard Spencer and disassociated himself from the “alt-right” label....

Cernovich now uses the label “new right” to describe himself.
Schreckinger, regrettably, uses the term "new right" a number of times in the article, and refers to some movement participants as members of the "alt-light" (a term used by Richard Spencer). Using these terms is a whitewash. I've believed for some time that using the term "alt-right" isn't whitewashing racism or neo-Nazism, as long as you unreservedly assert that alt-rightism is racist and neo-Nazi. I think the press and other commentators have successfully done this -- as the members of the movement themselves say, the term is now poisoned.

But these people mustn't be allowed to slither away and start referring to themselves as the "new right," or to say that the alt-right is racist but the "alt-light" isn't. These terms have to be tainted as well. Read about the members of the movement, in Schreckinger's piece and elsewhere. These people must not be normalized or mainstreamed.

IN TRUMPWORLD, THE RULES STILL APPLY ONLY IF YOU'RE CAPABLE OF SHAME

I don't agree with this headline from James Hohmann's Daily 202 column in The Washington Post:
Monica Crowley losing White House job shows that the rules of politics still apply for Donald Trump
Here's Hohmann's argument:
Donald Trump and his team believe that the rules and norms of Washington do not apply to them. They are wrong, and yesterday brought a significant proof point.

Washington veterans marvel at how much Trump has been able to get away with because he just doesn’t seem to care what anyone else thinks....

For the past 10 days, the poster child for this phenomenon has been Monica Crowley, a TV talking head who despite a dearth of serious experience was appointed as the senior director of strategic communications on the National Security Council....

A steady stream of stories since the weekend before last has revealed pretty egregious examples of apparent plagiarism over a period of several years, from a 2012 book to her PhD dissertation and op-eds.

... Trump learned crisis management from his mentor Roy Cohn, who had been Joe McCarthy’s chief counsel during the witch hunts of the 1950s. Cohn, who represented Trump when the Justice Department sued him for housing discrimination in the 1970s, taught him to never apologize and to always counter-punch.

That’s exactly how his team initially responded to the revelations about Crowley....

[But] because a handful of reporters doggedly pursued the story, the pressure became too much. Yesterday afternoon, Crowley sent a statement to the Washington Times to say that “after much reflection” she’s decided to stay in New York.
That doesn't prove that the rules apply to Trump. It proves that the rules apply to Trump appointees who don't have the unmitigated gall to brazen out a scandal like this (and who presumably aren't Trump's special favorites).

Crowley's appointment would not have required Senate confirmation. She could have hung on if she'd been deemed a key person in the administration -- like, say, the man who would have been her boss, General Michael "Putin Poodle" Flynn. But Crowley was picked presumably because binge TV watcher Trump used to see her all the time on Fox, not because the president-elect regarded her as a critical figure in his administration. She was easy to jettison -- and she appears to lack the extraordinary self-regard of her would-be boss, or her would-be boss's boss. If you think you've cornered the market on excellence, genius, and judgment, as Flynn and Trump do, you'll probably try to outlast embarrassing revelations, because your ego won't let you withdraw. Crowley, I guess, doesn't have a head swelled to several times normal size.

We'll see if the old rules still apply if there are relentless attacks on a higher-level appointee -- Flynn, for instance. For now, though, Crowley's an exception to the Trump Rules, which still seem to hold.