Monday, July 24, 2017

TRUMP DOESN'T HAVE THE COJONES TO FIRE SUBORDINATES WHO DON'T HAVE THE COJONES TO QUIT

Donald Trump's fans think he's the toughest guy on the planet, and he's best known for a TV show on which he regularly fired people -- but firing people is something he's too lily-livered to do as president. Jonatham Swan reports:
A much-discussed question at the top of the White House: just what magnitude of indignity would it take for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to resign?

President Trump knew that appointing Anthony Scaramucci as communications director would humiliate Reince, who fought hard against it....

Trump also knew that inserting a line in the press release saying Scaramucci would report directly to the President — doing an end-run around Reince — was perhaps an unendurable public humiliation.

If we've learned anything so far about this President, it's that in real life he actually hates saying "you're fired." So what might it take for Reince to quit?
"In real life he actually hates saying 'you're fired'": Chris Cillizza concurs:
Donald Trump's most famous line is "You're fired," which is funny because, as president, Trump has repeatedly shown that he doesn't actually like to fire people.
Cillizza lists the many ways Trump has tried to tell Jeff Sessions to make himself scarce, none of which have inspired Sessions to resign:
Trump wants Sessions gone. But he doesn't want to swing the proverbial sword. He wants to make Sessions' life so uncomfortable that Sessions throws up his hands and walks away.

Sessions ... told reporters -- in the papal plural no less! -- "We love this job. We love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate."

What does Trump do in the wake of that statement? Ramps up the rhetoric against Sessions so there can be no debate between reasonable people that Trump wants his attorney general to go do something else. But he doesn't do it to Sessions directly; he does it via a serious of public statements and leaks.
Why doesn't he just fire Sessions? He's the freaking president. If he wants someone gone, he should man up and issue the pink slip. Oooh, but I don't like firing people! Well, grow up, crybaby. Do something you don't like doing for once in your life. Otherwise stop whining about the fact that these people are still around.

Sessions clearly wants to stay, but Politico's Tara Palmeri says Priebus is constrained by a self-imposed milestone:
Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year.

Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight....

Despite frequent reports his position is in jeopardy, Priebus hopes to finish out his year, according to people close to him.
And according to CNN's John King, the same goes for Rex Tillerson:
Among those who viewed the President's public rebuke of Sessions as unprofessional, according to several sources, is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon-Mobil CEO.

Tillerson has a growing list of differences with the White House, including a new debate over Iran policy and personnel. His frustration is hardly a secret and it has spilled out publicly at times. But friends sense a change of late.

For weeks, conversations with Tillerson friends outside of Washington have left the impression that he, despite his frustrations, was determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year....

But two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they would not be surprised if there was a "Rexit" from Foggy Bottom sooner that that.
What's with staying on the job a year? Are Priebus and Tillerson 22-year-olds who need to stick it out until that one-year anniversary to show future employers that they're not impetuous? Priebus was head of the RNC. Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil. It's okay, fellas. You can just leave. You'll find work again, trust me. I'll give Tillerson credit for at least considering a resignation. Priebus, what's your problem?

But the Trump administration is full of simpering lickspittles. We saw this in June when Cabinet members lavished Trump with on-camera praise, as if at gunpoint. Since Friday we've seen new communications director Anthony Scaramucci repeatedly expression his love for the president:



We have this nearly North Korean FoxNews.com "op-ed" from Mike Pence:
In the first six months of this administration, President Donald Trump has fought every day to deliver on his promises to the American people. At a historic pace, this president has taken bold action to restore prosperity, keep Americans safe and secure, and hold government accountable.

President Trump has signed more than 40 bills and nearly 40 executive orders on everything from health care to energy, infrastructure and more.

While the previous administration turned to federal agencies to enact its agenda, President Trump has signed more laws to slash through federal red tape than any president in American history and has saved businesses up to $18 billion a year in costs....

President Trump inherited an economy that would barely budge – but under his watch, American businesses small and large have already created more than 800,000 new jobs since January. Company after company is responding to the president’s agenda with optimism – investing billions of dollars in American jobs, American workers and America’s future.

As the father of a United States Marine, I couldn’t be more proud to serve alongside a president who cares so deeply about the men and women of the armed forces of the United States of America....
And even First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner felt compelled -- or was ordered -- to inject a paragraph of Trump bootlicking into his statement to congressional committees about his interactions with Russians:
It is also important to note that a campaign's success starts with its message and its messenger. Donald Trump had the right vision for America and delivered his message perfectly. The results speak for themselves. Not only did President Trump defeat sixteen skilled and experienced primary opponents and win the presidency; he did so spending a fraction of what his opponent spent in the general election. He outworked his opponent and ran one of the best campaigns in history using both modern technology and traditional methods to bring his message to the American people.
Does anyone in this administration have any self-respect?

A FAKE-NEWS PRO-KID ROCK POLL?

Right-wing media outlets are crowing about a new poll showing Kid Rock (aka Robert Ritchie) with a lead over Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow in the 2018 Michigan Senate race. The poll is from a previously unknown firm called Delphi Analytica.
To gauge Ritchie’s chances in a hypothetical general election matchup, Delta Analytica conducted a poll from July 14-18 of 668 Michigan residents. Of respondents who stated a preference between Debbie Stabenow and Robert Ritchie, 54% stated they would vote for Ritchie while 46% said they would vote for Debbie Stabenow. These results could indicate that Ritchie is a popular figure in Michigan, Debbie Stabenow is unpopular, or some combination of concurrent trends. The relatively large, 44%, number of undecided respondents may be due to the early stages of the campaign.
Yes -- if you include the undecideds, the numbers are: Undecided 44%, Rock/Ritchie 30%, Stabenow 26%. That seems to be a lot of undecideds for a poll featuring a well-known incumbent and a well-known celebrity challenger.

But that's only one reason to be suspicious of the survey. We're told this:
In our quest for open and transparent process, we have included a subset of our raw polling data. We have stripped off race, educational qualifications and other social behavioral questions to protect our proprietary polling information . You can download the file here Raw Data
I went to the file and it really is, or appears to be, raw data. And I mean raw: It's just a list of interviewees ID'd by gender, age group, preference, and residence. It would be nice to get even basic crosstabs -- preferences broken down by race, gender, age, income -- but no luck. In addition, 78 of the respondents -- more than 10% -- aren't ID'd by gender or age, and others are ID'd by gender but not age. So 44% of the respondents gave no answer and 10% wouldn't give basic demographic data. and yet they're counted in the final results?
Amateur hour.

Delphi has announced a couple of other polls. One was conducted "in the Midwest region," though there's no indication of which states were surveyed. This poll, of Democrats, has a seriously implausible result:



In our Poll among Democrats in Midwest, approximately 50% thought none of the current democratic hopefuls have any chance of beating President Trump in 2020.

21% trusted former Vice President Joe Biden to take on Trump — while Elizabeth Warren, who represents the pro-Bernie populist wing of Democrats, had 14% support.

Interestingly, more people think Mark Zuckerberg has a higher chance of defeating Trump than former democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. This is a tremendous fall from a grace for a candidate who was the nominee for the party just few months back.
Trump has the worst poll numbers of any president at this point in his term, and yet half of Democratic respondents think none of these candidates could beat him in 2020? Even I'm not that gloomy.

And no, it isn't because the Midwest has become more and more pro-Trump since November -- a legitimate poll in Michigan in late May had Trump's unfavorable rating at 61%.

And even though Bernie Sanders isn't a Democrat, he seems serious about running as one in 2020. Why isn't he included? Because the folks at Delphi know it would strain credulity if a guy who still engenders a tremendous of goodwill among a large portion of the Democratic base fell short?

Delphi has one more garbage poll -- a survey of the upcoming Senate special election in Alabama to fill the seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions. What's suspect about this one is that, according to Delphi, only Republicans are surveyed -- but they're asked to choose from four Republican candidates and a Democrat. What's the point of that? There's going to be a party primary first. The Democrat won't be on the Republican ballot.

The Delphi Analytica website is reported to have gone up a month and a day ago. The site includes no information about the firm. The firm has no other Web presence except a post at Medium linking to the Kid Rock survey. And yet Delphi's results have been cited by the Daily Wire, Gateway Pundit, InfoWars, Twitchy, Red Alert Politics, and the American Mirror. In the right-wing information bubble, the result of the Kid Rock poll will become accepted fact.

Kid Rock is now a credible candidate in the right-o-sphere. Money and more conservative-press coverage will follow. All thanks to a poll that's almost certainly fake news.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

DEMOCRATS MIGHT BE WORKING ON SOLUTIONS TO THE WRONG PROBLEMS

In The Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe and Dave Weigel report on Democratic efforts to change the party's image:
Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.
Wait -- modern politics moves faster, so Democrats need more time to shore up their image before the next midterms? That makes no sense. Shouldn't it be the opposite?
... some lawmakers, aides and outside advocates consulted on the new agenda said that it is expected to focus on new proposals to fund job-training programs, renegotiate trade deals and address soaring prescription-drug costs, as well as other issues. It is also expected to endorse long-held Democratic principles, including “a living wage” of $15 per hour and already unveiled spending plans for infrastructure that would expand broadband Internet access into rural counties.

The rollout comes as Democrats continue to struggle to sell a coherent message to voters. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 37 percent of Americans said that the party “currently stands for something,” while 52 percent said it “just stands against Trump.”
Some of this is good. Some of it is small ball. It generally seems worthwhile. I do think it would help Democrats to make clear to non-politics junkies that they have ideas beyond anti-Trumpism.

But if Democrats have an image problem, so do Republicans. In fact, Republicans have had an image problem from years -- and yet it never seems to hurt them. Take a look at some numbers from the Post/ABC poll, collected by Polling Report:



Just before a wave election gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, they had only a 40% approval rating. It was down to 39% in September 2012, but they held the House. And when they seized the Senate and had more big gains in House races in 2014, it was with a 33% party favorable rating (and a 56% unfavorable rating) a month before the elections.

So you don't need across-the-board adulation to win midterm victories -- or at least you don't if your party has mastered a few dark arts, including collecting dark money, gerrymandering, and suppression of the other guys' votes.

O'Keefe and Weigel quote some explanations for Democrats' woes that seem far off base:
Many Democrats have watched with frustration for years as Republicans in Congress neatly packaged their policy proposals with catchy slogans and sleekly produced online videos fronted by younger, telegenic lawmakers crisply delivering campaign promises.

During the 2010 congressional campaign cycle that swept Republicans backed by the tea party into power, they were led by rising stars, including future House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and future House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). As House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan starred in online videos that broke down complex plans into simple sound bites. More recently as speaker, Ryan and his caucus have embraced the “A Better Way” agenda that includes conservative proposals to revamp poverty programs, health care and taxes, plus a hawkish national security stance. Last year, the plank was seen as a way to distance congressional Republicans from Trump.
No, that's not your problem, Democrats. The average American voter is not a political obsessive and therefore has no bloody idea who Kevin McCarthy is or what "A Better Way" is. The average American voter is not sitting around watching Paul Ryan's online propaganda clips in between cat videos.

If the public has more of an impression of what Republicans stand for, it's because Fox News and talk radio act as nonstop conduits for Republican ideas and the rest of the media generally gives GOP figureheads spouting those ideas respectful attention. Maybe GOP president candidates haven't received much respect from the mainstream media in the last couple of cycles -- though John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and even Chris Christie would have been media favorites running against Hillary Clinton -- but Republicans in day-to-day news coverage get respect across the media spectrum. Democrats, by contrast, are portrayed as irremediably evil on the right, to an extend that probably exceeds the negative coverage of Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and their caucuses in the liberal (or allegedly liberal) press.

These are Democrats' biggest problems. Their own messaging problems are secondary. They may as well work on what they can change, but what's hurting them most is what isn't in their control.

I still think they'll win back the House in 2018 and hang on to many contested Senate seats. One reason for hope is that the GOP isn't getting much accomplished in D.C., and many GOP base voters are likely to blame congressional Republicans rather than their God Emperor Trump. Over at Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft seems to be organizing the circular firing squad:
Do-Nothing Congress Reaches 200 Days Today with Obamacare and Massive Taxes Still In Place!

... There is no synergy between the House and President Trump since before the election. Initial observations would suggest that Speaker Ryan and his Congress are not behind the President. Speaker Ryan and his House may even be against the President.

The new Republican President wanted to pass tax cuts, repeal Obamacare and build a border wall in his first 100 days. But no matter how hard President Trump and his team worked, the Republican Congress was not going to work with him. They instead announced their own 200 day plan because they knew better.

It soon became clear that Ryan’s Congress was not going to play ball. They were getting nothing done and taking time off. They were not interested in helping President Trump reach his 100 day goals, they appeared to want him to fail. They were going to show him who was in charge....

What has Congress acheived?

* Obamacare is still in place and crushing Americans with huge insurance premiums and deductibles.
* The US tax code has not changed and Americans and American companies remain shackled with some of the highest taxes in the world. (The President proposed massive tax cuts that nearly all Americans are in favor of and yet nothing to date from Congress. They know better!)
* The US infrastructure is still broken. US Airports are worse than some third world countries.
* The President has removed many of the Obama era regulations but Dodd-Frank is still in place.

... Failed Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blew their first 200 days and accomplished nothing material.
If the conventional wisdom in the Republican bubble is the Bizarro World notion that Trump is a great president but the GOP Congress doesn't have his back, then Republicans are going to start primarying their own, and maybe failing to turn out for their incumbents in November. The crazies have been fighting with the ultra-crazies in D.C., so why not in the midterms? We can only hope.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

DEAR TRUMP FANS (OF ALL SOCIAL CLASSES): THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY IS EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT TRUMP, NOT YOU

If this Mike Allen report is correct, Donald Trump has found the meaning of his presidency: It's all about ... himself.
When President Trump makes more changes in his West Wing (insiders suspect August or September, but who knows?), any new faces are likely to be in the mold of Anthony Scaramucci, age 53, the pugilistic Wall Streeter known as "Mooch" who was named White House communications director, beginning Aug. 15....

The President is building a wartime Cabinet, for political and legal war....

One West Wing confidant says Trump really might dismiss [special counsel Robert] Mueller. So POTUS needs "a group that can fight through what could end up being something quite amazing."

"We're going to see out-and-out political warfare, and not over ... Medicaid," the confidant said.

... As Matt Miller, the MSNBC contributor and former Obama Justice Department official, tweeted after the revelation that Trump was digging dirt on Mueller and contemplating pardons: "Takeaway from the Post & NYT pieces is we are headed for certain crisis. Trump just will not, cannot allow this investigation to go forward."
Lincoln had the Civil War. FDR had the Great Depression and World War II. LBJ had the Great Society and Vietnam. George W. Bush had the aftermath of 9/11.

The great mission -- the great cause -- of Donald Trump's presidency? Saving his own ass.

Sorry, you got suckered, Trump fans -- and I don't mean just the Joe Sixpacks with axle grease under the fingernails. I also mean the mainstream Republicans who thought Trump was as likely as Scott Walker or Jeb Bush to sign all those Kochite bills. It was obvious even before Mueller came on the scene that Trump was more interested in grabbing cash and wallowing in the glory of being president than he was in any agenda, whether it was the congressional GOP's or the one he put forth on the campaign trail. But now he's not even pretending that he's going to try to be president. "Make America Great Again"? He's not even going to make the attempt. It's all about him, not America.

The counterargument is that the investigations have forced him to go to the mattresses. Well, Bill Clinton spent a long time under investigation, and he managed to do his job anyway. His ability to shift focus from his own defense to his job responsibilities was described as "compartmentalization," and was sometimes talked about as if it was a mental illness. But he continued doing what we paid him to do.

Trump can't do that -- frankly, he couldn't do it even if he weren't under investigation. But now it's being openly acknowledged: You won't have a president for the foreseeable future, even if you think we've had one for the past six months. Trump has other priorities.

FOX, 2017: WHAT AN APPALLING LEAK! FOX, 2015: HERE'S THAT LEAK!

Yesterday, in a Fox News story, a U.S. general accused The New York Times of publishing a leak in 2015 that recently allowed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to escape:
In a wide-ranging interview moderated by Fox News' Catherine Herridge, [General Tony] Thomas, who leads the Special Operations Command, said his team was “particularly close” to Baghdadi after the 2015 raid that killed ISIS oil minister Abu Sayyaf. That raid also netted his wife, who provided a wealth of actionable information.

“That was a very good lead. Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead,” Thomas said....

Thomas appeared to be referring to a New York Times report in June 2015 that detailed how American intelligence agencies had “extracted valuable information.”

”New insights yielded by the seized trove – four to seven terabytes of data, according to one official – include how the organization’s shadowy leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, operates and tries to avoid being tracked by coalition forces," the Times reported.
This morning, a retired colonel followed up on this story on Fox & Friends -- a program to which the president of the United States devotes more undivided attention than he does to his intelligence briefings. A tweet, unsurprisingly, followed:
President Trump on Saturday morning alleged The New York Times “foiled” a U.S. attack on an Islamic State leader, suggesting the paper has a “sick agenda” that hurts national security.



... Trump's early Saturday allegation may have been prompted by his TV viewing habits.

Frequent Fox News guest Tony Shaffer, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, discussed [the] allegation on “Fox and Friends Saturday,” saying the New York Times leaked information they should not have released publicly.

... CBS News editor Stefan Becket first made the connection on Twitter between the Fox News segment and Trump’s tweet.

The 2015 New York Times story that Fox is harrumphing about is "A Raid on ISIS Yields a Trove of Intelligence" by Eric Schmitt. At that time of its publication, Fox News was so incensed by the leak that ... it published its own summary of the story, with a link to the original Times story.
A raid last month by American commandos on the home of an ISIS leader in Syria turned up a trove of valuable information, reportedly including the role played by the leaders’ wives, who sometimes acted as couriers in delivering information....

The trove also yielded important information on ISIS financing, contact networks and tactics.

According to the New York Times, information collected during the raid also shows how ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stealthily conducts his business.

Among other tactics, the paper said, al-Baghdadi’s wife and other spouses of key ISIS leaders played an important role in passing on information to each other to give their husbands.
How appalled was the rest of the right-wing media by the publication of the leak? Breitbart was so appalled that it also published a version of the story, with a link to the Times original:
In a recent Delta Force-led raid against an Islamic State cell in Syria, American troops were able to extract a treasure trove of information related to the terror group’s leadership and financing structure, officials told the New York Times Monday.
As did the Daily Caller:
The U.S. has new information on how ISIS operates and how its leadership avoids being tracked by U.S. intelligence thanks to a May Delta Force commando raid....

“In the recent raid on Abu Sayyaf, we collected substantial information on Daesh financial operations,” John R. Allen, coordinator of the coalition against ISIS, reported to the New York Times. “And we’re gaining a much clearer understanding of Daesh’s organization and business enterprise.”

Umm Sayyaf, the late terrorist leader’s widow, has also been providing U.S. investigators with information about the militant group’s operations.
Oh, and:



But in 2015 and 2016 it was the Obama Pentagon, which presumably doesn't count, according to the right, because they were all traitors.

Friday, July 21, 2017

REPUBLICANS WON'T PREVENT A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS BECAUSE THEY DON'T THINK IT'LL BE A CRISIS

Noah Rothman thinks congressional Republicans' inability to deal with President Trump is a failure of imagination:
If the 2016 presidential election cycle demonstrated anything, it was that Republicans suffer from a crippling lack of imagination. That ordeal should have established that the unprecedented is not impossible. Even now, Republicans seem as though they are trying to convince themselves that their eyes are lying to them, but they are not. The tempo of the investigation into President Trump is accelerating, and a nightmare scenario is eminently imaginable. Only congressional Republicans can avert disaster, and only then by being clear about the actions they are prepared to take if Trump instigates a crisis of constitutional legitimacy.
Even though he's a conservative, Rothman believes that Republicans have to make clear to Trump that impeachment is on the table:
Republicans in Congress must stop comforting themselves with the notion that the worst cannot happen. They have to summon the courage to state publicly what they so freely tell reporters on background. If they are so concerned that the norms and traditions that have preserved the rule of law in this republic for 240 years are in jeopardy, they must say so. And they must say what the consequences will be for Trump, his associates, and his family if he goes too far....

Republicans may dislike the prospect, but it’s fast becoming time for them to start saying the “I” word if only to save the president from his most reckless impulses. The longer they tell themselves that the unthinkable is impossible, the more likely it becomes.
The problem isn't that Republicans lack the imagination to foresee an all-out Trump attack on the rule of law. It's that they can't imagine what would be so terrible about that -- it wouldn't have an obvious direct impact on them. It wouldn't take money out of the pockets of their donors. Their voters would cheer.

That's really all that matters. Who cares about the preservation of institutions and norms that hold the country together?

It's been obvious all year that Republicans have no abstract notion of what would be best for the country, and would have no interest in implementing such an agenda if they could devise one. All they want to do is check off items on the wish lists of Randian plutocrats, Christian-conservative theocrats, and Fox/talk radio revanchists. How else to explain their near-universal willingness to deprive tens of millions of people of health insurance, to slash non-military programs, and to hand the country over to an arrested-development bully who knows less about governance than a smart eighth grader? Some of this would hurt some of their voters, but would delight others. The cuts thrill their donors. And if the result is blood in the streets, who cares? It won't reach the tidy homes of GOP officials themselves. Their lives will go on as usual.

Elected Republicans seem incapable of taking seriously any concern that doesn't personally touch them, their donors, or their base. Torture? The only Republican who seems at all troubled by it is John McCain -- because he was tortured. Same-sex marriage? Rob Portman is a rare Republican who came around on this issue -- because his son is gay.

So how can we expect them to care about the rule of law? Will its erosion hurt them personally? Will it hurt the Koch brothers? Will it hurt the retirees in the diner in their district who still wear their Make America Great Again hats? No? Then none of it matters.

WHY HASN'T TRUMP FIRED MUELLER ALREADY?

So we know this from a Washington Post story:
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest....
And we know this from a New York Times story:
President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.
Here's what I don't understand: Why hasn't Trump already acted? I know, I know: If Trump fires Mueller, it will set off a "constitutional crisis"? But what does that mean in 2017 America? Not a single Republican in Congress will do more than claim to be "deeply troubled." There'll be a few lefty demonstrations, but probably fewer than there have been against Trumpcare and the travel ban, because it's easier to grasp the impact of those policies on ordinary people's lives. "The streets" are not going to "explode." Trump could easily get away with this.

So why hasn't it happened? The conventional explanation is that he'd have to conduct his own version of Richard Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre -- though what's stopping him is unclear to me, because there'd be no reaction to it beyond howls of outrage from non-Republicans and hand-wringing, at most, from Republicans.
Only the person acting as attorney general, currently Rod Rosenstein on matters related to the probe, can fire Mueller, and he’s said he won’t do it without “good cause.” So Trump would first have to purge the upper ranks of the Justice Department until he finds someone willing to follow his orders and dismiss the special counsel....

A Congressional Research Service report lays out how a special prosecutor can be removed.

“To comply with the regulations, the Attorney General himself must remove the special counsel, not the President or a surrogate (unless, as noted previously in this report, the Attorney General has recused himself in the matter under investigation),” the agency concluded....

But Trump does possess authority to fire Rosenstein for any reason, including refusal to remove Mueller from the post. If Trump did so, the decision would then fall to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department....

Brand is a conservative who served in the department under President George W. Bush and doesn’t have a background in criminal prosecutions. If Trump fired Rosenstein, Brand might resign because she and Rosenstein were nominated together, have a close working relationship and went through their confirmation hearings as a team.

Dana Boente, the acting assistant attorney general for national security, would be next in line if Trump also removed Brand. Boente has carried out controversial Trump orders before; in January, when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to defend the president’s travel ban against predominantly Muslim nations, Trump replaced her with Boente, who defended the ban.
Easy-peasy! Sean Hannity would spend the next week howling about Bill Clinton's travel office firings and all of #MAGA America would say the massacre was a blow for Freedom and Liberty and Draining the Swamp, proof that Trump belongs on Mount Rushmore.

A June Politico article says there are other possible ways for Trump to do this:
... there is another path Trump could take to remove Mueller, according to Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar. The regulations that govern the special counsel were issued by the Department of Justice and could be rescinded by the Department of Justice. If the regulations were rescinded, Trump would no longer be required to cite any cause in removing Mueller. Still, however, he would likely have to go through Rosenstein to rescind the regulation, a move Rosenstein would likely resist.
So? Fire Rosenstein. Or:
It’s possible that Trump could circumvent DOJ entirely and fire Mueller on his own. It’s not clear that Trump has any constitutional duty to adhere by a Justice Department regulation, said Saikrishna Prakash, a professor at University of Virginia Law School and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I don’t know how a rule of the Department of Justice can limit the president’s constitutional authority,” Prakash said, pointing to the president’s authority to remove officers of the executive branch, which could be interpreted to include a special counsel. “My view is the president can fire the special prosecutor without regard to what the rule says.”
Remember when we all thought Trump was a Hitler in the making? If that were the case, he'd have already done this, or worse. (The whole thing wouldn't even have gotten this far, after a polonium poisoning or two.) He still feels there are some limits to his power.

Maybe advisers he trusts have exaggerated the risk that Republicans in Congress will turn on him, and he believes them. That's the most likely explanation.

And maybe he's enjoying the battle. In his New York Times interview this week, Trump said that if the Mueller probe expanded beyond Russia and the election, that would cross a line for Trump. But at the end of the interview, there was this:
HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]

SCHMIDT: What would you do?

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
I think he believes he can intimidate Mueller. That may have been why he agreed to (or perhaps even suggested) the interview. That may be the point of the leaks to the Times and the Post. He is the alpha male, and they will cower before him! I think that's a fantasy he relishes.

He's clearly guilty of something. For some reason, he believes he can't shut down the special counsel investigation by brute force, even though he almost certainly could get away with it. He's trying to scare Mueller rather than crushing him. It's frightening enough, but it could be a lot worse.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

THE MOST HATED GOVERNOR IN AMERICA MIGHT GET TO FLIP A SENATE SEAT ON HIS WAY OUT THE DOOR

New Jersey will finally be rid of the universally loathed Chris Christie after his successor as governor is chosen in November, but Politico notes that he might get the opportunity to flip a Senate seat:
Gov. Chris Christie is the most unpopular governor in the country, but in his last days in office he may get to exercise enormous influence nationally: Choosing a successor to embattled U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, which could result in a Republican senator, at least temporarily, from deep-blue New Jersey.

Menendez, a Democrat and New Jersey's senior senator, goes on trial for corruption in September, and there are two scenarios that could see him leave Washington before Christie is term-limited out of office in January: If Menendez is convicted and the Senate acts quickly to expel him, or if he cuts a plea deal and leaves office even earlier.
The regularly scheduled election for this seat is in November 2018. If Menendez resigns, Christie's pick could serve until the winner of that election is sworn in in January 2019 -- in other words, for a year or more. Christie has the right to schedule a special election earlier, though he has no reason to do so because he'd like his chosen replacement to hold the seat for as long as possible.

(Christie did schedule a special election after Senator Frank Lautenberg died in 2013. The special election, absurdly, was three weeks before that year's regularly scheduled election. Christie was anticipating a big landslide win that year in his own reelection bid, and he didn't want Cory Booker to win more votes as a Senate candidate than he himself won in the governor's race the same day, so he let Booker run and win on the earlier date.)

Also, there exists the possibility that Christie could (God help us) name himself to the Senate seat -- although I don't think even he has that much gall.

There is, as you know, another Senate seat that could become vacant soon, in Arizona. The Arizona Republic tells us what will happen in that state if John McCain dies or steps down:
... were circumstances to require that McCain be replaced, that person would have to be a Republican, as McCain is, and would serve until the next general election, which happens every two years in Arizona. Whoever was elected would then fill out the rest of McCain's term, according to state law.
Arizona's governor, who would fill the vacancy, is Doug Ducey, a Republican, so he'd pick a GOP replacement in any case. But there was a Democratic governor -- Janet Napolitano -- in 2008 when McCain was the Republican presidential nominee. She would have had to pick a Republican to replace him.

I didn't like that idea at the time, but I see some merit in it now. The parties are very polarized. It seems wrong for a governor to override the voters' party preference when there's a vacancy. But only four states have such laws (Hawaii, Wyoming, and Utah are the others), so Christie might get to make some mischief before he's finally out of the governor's mansion.

THE TOLERANT RIGHT JUST WANTS JOHN McCCAIN TO RETIRE, DIE, AND BURN IN HELL

John McCain was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, but he once supported immigration reform, so a lot of right-wingers hate him. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs looked at the comments of a Breitbart post about McCain's brain tumor diagnosis and saw some of that hatred:




I went to thread and found this:



A few more:







At Free Republic, the posters are responding to a Daily Mail article in which we learn that McCain told Lindsey Graham, "I'll be back" -- which is what you'd expect him to say, despite the grimness of his prognosis. The Freepers aren't having it:
"I'll be back"

So will the Crabs, but we don't want those either.

****

Reading this triples the contempt I've had for him for years.

****

“’I’ll be back’: Cancer-stricken John McCain tells his closest friend in the Senate”

No thanks, Ace. No sale.

You’ve made yourself into one of this country’s greatest domestic enemies. Worse than the racist Fraud you supported in 2008, and worse than the forces you and he armed against America.

****

The McCain’s plan on picking who gets the seat eventually, too.

They aren’t going to let the Gov. just pick his replacement.

Swamp people.

****

Another unhappy soul so wedded to power that it is impossible to let go. This is about McCain and only about McCain. Screw the rest of the world. Screw the family. He has to clutch onto power to the last gasp.

****

Songbird Juan. Stick a fork in it.

****

“The McCain’s plan on picking who gets the seat eventually, too.”

You mean his “tit monster” daughter?

****

get well soon, John, because you’ve still got some ‘splainin’ to do about your claudestine little mission to obtain paid-for Russian-generated intel slandering Trump.

****

should Trump go to his funeral? I wouldn’t
We knew they hated us, but they hate their own, too, even under these circumstances.

WILL SESSIONS RESIGN? I'M GUESSING NO.

The president gave an interview to three New York Times reporters yesterday. Politico says he "turn[ed] against" his attorney general:
Trump turns against his attorney general over Russia

President Donald Trump would not have picked Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general if he’d known Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday....

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Trump said. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
If you watched Rachel Maddow last night, you're probably expecting a resignation:
“He criticizes Jeff Sessions in such a way that in normal times, we would expect an official criticized this way by the president to resign before the evening is over,” Maddow [said.]
Lawrence O'Donnell went further:
This leaves the attorney general no choice. He must resign.... when a president expresses no confidence in a cabinet member, then that cabinet member owes the president his resignation. When a president does it publicly, which is something we just have never seen before, then that cabinet member really has no choice from that minute forward -- absolutely no choice.... Any self-respecting attorney general of the United States would have publicly resigned as soon as the president's words became public earlier this evening.
I don't buy it. I'll grant that this public dressing-down is extraordinary -- but if you're one of the top figures in the Trump administration, you expect to be humiliated, and occasionally sidelined, while rumors circulate that the knives are out for you. Maybe you're Sean Spicer and you're sent out on Day Two of the Trump presidency to aggressively defend the claim that Trump had a massive inaugural crowd because the president didn't think you did a good job the first time. Or maybe you're Spicer and it's rumored that you're interviewing potential replacements for yourself. Maybe you're Spicer and you're a devout Catholic and the president leaves you off the list of people who'll get to meet Pope Francis.

Maybe you're Steve Bannon and you're being touted as the real president of the United States, and then this happens to you:
... the mercurial president has a long history of turning quickly on subordinates, and the political hit late Tuesday in the New York Post was trademark Trump, using the friendly Manhattan tabloid to publicly debase his chief strategist. The president said Bannon was hardly the Svengali of his caricature, but rather “a good guy” who “was not involved in my campaign until very late.”

Bannon’s associates were caught off guard by Trump’s comments. Some interpreted them as a paternal “love tap” by Trump to assert his own dominance, while others worried they amounted to an indirect firing.
Bannon is still around -- and is reportedly back in favor. Spicer hasn't resigned either.

Trump isn't just now "turning against" Sessions -- he's been angry about the recusal for months. The first reports, in March, said Trump was angry at the staff:
President Donald Trump is extremely frustrated with his senior staff and communications team for allowing the firestorm surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions to steal his thunder in the wake of his address to Congress, sources tell CNN.

"Nobody has seen him that upset," one source said, adding the feeling was the communications team allowed the Sessions news, which the administration deemed a nonstory, to overtake the narrative.
Trump continued to fume about this -- so much so that Sessions offered to resign in the spring, as the Times reported in early June:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign in recent weeks as he told President Trump he needed the freedom to do his job, according to two people who were briefed on the discussion.

The president turned down the offer....

... Mr. Trump [has] vented intermittently about Mr. Sessions since the attorney general recused himself from any Russia-related investigations conducted by the Justice Department. Mr. Trump has fumed to allies and advisers ever since, suggesting that Mr. Sessions’s decision was needless.

He has also blamed Mr. Sessions for the fallout from an executive order that the president signed for a travel ban on seven primarily Muslim countries, which courts have blocked.
Sessions could have decided not to take no for answer. He could have just stepped down. But he didn't.

I think Trump feels powerful when people he's humiliated lick their wounds and continue to work for him. I think his subordinates grow accustomed to this.

I also think Trump likes having Sessions around, as a living, breathing excuse for all of his Russia troubles. I'm sure Trump has considered finding a replacement for Sessions, who would then take over the Russia investigation, allowing Trump to push Robert Mueller out. But he's surely been talked out of this by some of his advisers.

Maybe Trump thinks he'd rather have Sessions in the tent than outside it. O'Donnell says that Sessions no longer has any reason to be loyal to Trump, and so he'll likely testify against Trump someday, contradicting Trump's version of events. But I think if you choose to work for someone like Trump, then to some extent you probably like prostrating yourself before a petty tyrant.

I could be proved wrong in a matter of hours, but I think Sessions will stay on. And if he goes, I don't believe he'll turn against Trump. His loyalty will endure. It's already endured this long.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

OR MAYBE KAMALA HARRIS IS REPUBLICANS' NEXT ANTICHRIST

Hmmm...




Yup -- according to PPP, all those other Democrats would beat Trump in 2020 by bigger margins than Harris (PPP says she'd beat him by 1) -- and yet it's Harris who gets a front-page write-up at Breitbart ("2020 POLL: KAMALA HARRIS 41, DONALD TRUMP 40," currently the site's most popular story). It's Harris who's front-paged at Drudge, where there's a link to a Washington Free Beacon story titled "Kamala Harris Spends Big With Media Firm That Boosted Bernie Sanders’s National Profile." It's Harris who makes the front page of Fox Nation with a Washington Times opinion piece guaranteed to get wingnuts' blood boiling:
Kamala Harris: Eric Holder in a skirt

... Make way for the next social justice warrior beating a drum for the White House. Harris, a la Eric Holder, a la Barack Obama, is a far leftist with a vision of America as an inherently racist, unjust, unfair, misogynist nation. And by gosh, she’s just the candidate to fix it.
The WashTimes piece uses Harris's statements on the drug war as a jumping-off point for pretty much every scare tactic in the right-wing media arsenal:
And then this take, on the war on drugs — that it’s not so much a criminal matter, or a personal failure. Rather this: “Whole populations of people have been incarcerated for what is essentially a public health issue.”

Does that mean a President Harris would release all the nation’s incarcerated dopers and pushers — and use tax dollars to send them instead to therapy and rehab? Another of her tweets gives clue.

“It’s clear,” she wrote, “we must rethink criminal justice policy in terms of prevention first.”

... The left sees crime and punishment as matters of haves and have-nots — and far too often, whites are the haves, minorities the have-nots, so their solution lies with wealth redistribution.

“The answer to fixing the criminal justice system is not to build more prisons or privatize those prisons,” Harris tweeted. “We’ve been offered a false choice about the criminal justice system. We are either tough on crime or soft on crime — I say be smart on crime.”

OK. But what does that mean, exactly? To a far leftist, smart on crime means soft on reality. It means looking at crime statistics, for instance, and seeing a disproportionate number of blacks behind bars and concluding a fault with the system — inherent racism — rather than a fault with the individual, or community.

This is an Eric Holder style of thinking. This is a Barack Obama way of seeing the world.

Harris for president? She’ll be Holder in a skirt; Obama, with longer hair.
The right isn't doing this with Bernie Sanders, or, for that matter, Andrew Cuomo. The right isn't even doing this with Cory Booker, so even though the race card is being played here in a flagrant way, there seems to be something more at work.

Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris ... golly, what's the common ground? Thinking, thinking.... Yes, the Democratic Party has a lot of intelligent, serious, non-flirty, take-no-crap women -- and I think the GOP believes that they're especially easy to demonize. The Breitbart story is quite mild, yet it's generated nearly 4,600 comments as I write this, among them these:
Is Kamala the best the Dems can do? Another boring, ranting, angry, uninspiring woman. It's Hillary all over again!

****

Apparently the Left's strategy is to pick the Most Toxic and Disagreeable Candidate. With Karmela they have chosen another "winner".
The Left seems to have an Endless Supply of Naasteey Women.
Her campaign slogan will be...
"I'm your worst nightmare white man!"
And her goal will be to prove it...picking up where Hilliary left off...
Her campaign promise will be, "Blatant Passive Aggression towards white men 24/7!"

****

Perhaps she'll change her gender to a white male and kill her-him-itself. Now that would be a political statement.

****

Other way around it appears, but who knows, "he" could be pre- or post-op.
Yeah, the Breitbarters are making the usual racist comments, but they're also hung up on gender -- and not just Harris's. A Democratic commenter boasts of voting for her in California and the responses include these:
Sure, probably a brown, gay, retired goverment employee who self identifies as a black female. Or just a Soros troll.

****

A white male Democrat? Gotta be gay.

****

You probably wear a man bun like all the effeminate Libturds.

****

You're a Liberal with a penis, by no means should you be considered a man.
If the right has chosen Warren and Harris as its next Antichrists of choice, gender is one of the main reasons. This may not manifest itself in the right's version of polite company, but it shows up in the fever swamps. I understand the many reasons people didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, but I think we've underestimated the number of votes she lost because flagrant sexism is hip in some circles and a woman who prefers not to act girly is regarded as repulsive, someone you'd vote for only if you seek to betray maleness. Watch how this operates in Warren's 2018 reelection campaign, and in 2020 if a woman gets the presidential nomination for the Democrats. It's going to get ugly.

DEMOCRATS HAD MORE 2018 ENTHUSIASM THAN REPUBLICANS. THEY DON'T ANYMORE. WHAT HAPPENED?

Two new polls show the same result: Voters favor Democrats over Republicans in the 2018 midterms by a wide margin -- but Republicans have more voter enthusiasm. One of these polls comes from The Washington Post and ABC:
A slight majority of registered voters — 52 percent — say they want Democrats to control the next Congress, while 38 percent favor Republican control to promote the president’s agenda, according to the poll.

Yet a surge in anti-Trump protests does not appear to have translated into heightened Democratic voter enthusiasm....

The Post-ABC poll shows that Republicans actually hold the advantage in enthusiasm at this early point in the campaign cycle. A 65 percent majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say they are certain they will vote next year, versus 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.
There are similar results in the latest Public Policy Polling survey. We're told,
Democrats have a 50/40 lead on the generic Congressional ballot.
However, Republicans are more excited about voting in 2018:



As are whites:



And older people (the poll makes clear that the young are more anti-Trump):



But this is a change since April, when a PPP survey showed a big Democratic enthusiasm advantage:
Democrats lead the generic Congressional ballot 47-41. But what's more notable is the enthusiasm imbalance. 63% of Democrats say they're 'very excited' about voting in the 2018 election, compared to only 52% of Republicans who express that sentiment.
So according to PPP, the Democrats' advantage on the generic ballot question has increased -- but Democrats' big enthusiasm advantage has disappeared.

I'm not sure why that happened. My guess is that in April many Democrats thought America was on the verge of totalitarian dictatorship, or at least a swift extreme-right upending of the status quo -- but now President Trump just seems inept and ineffectual. We shouldn't be complacent, but I suspect that while many Democrats continue to be engaged and active, others are losing interest in politics.

What's important to note is that Republicans are maintaining a level of enthusiasm. They usually do -- politics is entertainment for conservative voters, because right-wing media outlets carefully nurse grievances and sustain outrage, whether or not we're in an election season. A smaller percentage of Democrats are politically engaged all the time.

Trump also keeps GOP voters engaged -- every morning's tweetstorm is a mini-campaign rally. Elected Democrats aren't visible on MSNBC prime time, but for the vast majority of Democratic voters who aren't watching MSNBC at night, Democratic officeholders are largely invisible

But we're a year away from the 2018 campaigns. The president and the GOP Congress are likely to do (or try to do) many more terrible things. The Trump-Russia revelations won't stop, and it will be obvious that Trump is evading justice because he's being protected by congressional Republicans. Also, it's possible that some of the Republican enthusiasm will lead to punishing primary campaigns against GOP incumbents who are deemed insufficiently purist.

So there's plenty of reason to hope. But for now, Democratic engagement is fading a bit.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

YEAH, YOU'RE BEATING McCONNELLCARE, BUT YOU RESISTERS ARE INEFFECTUAL "HOBBYISTS"!

David Leonhardt, who writes for the Opinion Today newsletter of The New York Times, acknowledges the obvious:
The Health Bill’s Failure: Resistance Works

Over the July 4 recess, most Republican senators decided not to hold town hall meetings with their constituents. One of the rare exceptions was Jerry Moran, a second-term senator from Kansas.

And the opposition to the Republican health care bill was ready.

Moran held his meeting on July 6 in Palco, a town in western Kansas with fewer than 300 residents. Yet more than 100 Kansans showed up, and they had one overwhelming message for their senator: Don’t take health insurance away from people....

I’m not suggesting that the Palco meeting was the main reason for Moran’s decision. Yet he clearly felt political pressure to oppose the bill, and his recent meetings with constituents were a big part of that pressure.

One of this newsletter’s themes this year has been the potential effectiveness of grass-roots political organizing. The Tea Party showed as much in 2010, and the so-called Trump resistance has showed the same in recent months.
Opponents of GOP health care legislation have subjected Republicans in Congress to a tremendous amount of pressure. It's working. Which is why another Times op-ed, one that appeared a couple of weeks ago, continues to anger me.

This one was written by Eitan Hersh, a Tufts political science professor. Titled "The Problem With Participatory Democracy Is the Participants," it's one of a spate of recent "liberal media" opinion pieces that bash liberals and Democrats for, well, just being awful, pathetic people:
At backyard barbecues this holiday weekend, liberals will gab with one another about how much time they’re spending on politics. More than ever, they are watching cable news, and refreshing Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Many kept up with the recent special House elections. Some skipped work to watch the spectacle of James Comey’s Senate hearing. Others have been using a new technology called Resistbot to send text messages that are transformed into letters faxed to a representative’s or senator’s office. Yet, for all this activism, they have a sinking feeling that maybe they’re just spinning their wheels.

Americans who live in relative comfort are emotionally invested in politics, especially after the election, but in a degraded form of politics that caters to the voyeurism of news junkies and the short attention spans of slacktivists. They are engaging in a phenomenon I call “political hobbyism.” They desperately want to do something, but not something that is boring, demanding or slow.

Political hobbyists want easy ways to register their feelings. Democrats in particular embrace tools like Resistbot that offer instantly gratifying participation. Beyond the current political climate, Democrats, more than Republicans, believe in mass participation as a core value and also believe it empowers their side.

But cheap participation reflects a troubling infirmity in how partisans of both parties engage in politics. In fact, it is not because of gerrymandering, Citizens United, cable news or any of the other common scapegoats that our system is broken, but because of us: ordinary people who are doing politics the wrong way.
The contempt is palpable: Liberals are softy "slacktivists" who "live in relative comfort," they "gab" rather than converse, they use an app to send messages to Washington (a reader who didn't know better would assume that all communications sent to politicians by liberals are transmitted via Resistbot), and they don't want to do anything "that is boring, demanding or slow."

Although Hersh goes on to define billionaires who fund super PACs, many of whom are Republicans, as "hobbyists," and even defines the Republican president as one, he says that this is a liberal and Democratic problem first and foremost.

Are all lefty political activitists mere hobbyists? Hersh concedes that some are more than that:
Not all activism is political hobbyism. A Black Lives Matter protest meant to call attention to police misconduct and demand change on an issue with life-or-death consequences is not hobbyism. Neither is a spontaneous airport protest over the president’s travel ban, which also had clear goals and urgent demands.
Oh, okay. So attending a town hall to oppose the overturning of Obamacare passes muster with Hersh, right? Well, no:
What about attendance at town hall meetings hosted by members of Congress? These events could be places for serious discourse and reveal crucial citizen perspectives on matters of public policy, but they are more often hijacked by fair-weather activists looking to see action. It is certainly peculiar that Democrats who are motivated by the health care debate now couldn’t be bothered to show up at town hall meetings back in 2009 (or to vote in 2010), and the Tea Party activists of 2009 can’t be bothered now, since it wouldn’t be any fun for them.
So if you didn't vote in the past, you have apparently forfeited the right to be taken seriously as a political activist for the rest of your life, according to Hersh. You can't say you've seen the error of your ways -- you blew it then, and you're not allowed to change. Besides, you're only going to the town hall "to see action."

Tell that to Jerry Moran, or to all the Republicans who stopped holding town halls out of fear of these "hobbyists," and who couldn't dodge "hobbyist" anger expressed a dozen different ways, sometimes at a safe remove, but other times in police handcuffs.

I don't know why news outlets with largely liberal audiences are so invested in the notion that those audiences need to be told how terrible they are. But I'm happy to see that this scolding, at least for now, has been debunked by reality.

THEY'VE GOT TO PROTECT TRUMP'S PHONY-BALONEY JOB!

A Wall Street Journal editorial titled "The Trumps and the Truth" is inspiring responses like this:
The Wall Street Journal unloaded on President Donald Trump late Monday night, lambasting the president for being mired in an investigation into Russian involvement in his campaign and for continually hiding damaging details that inevitably are leaked.

Following a weekend when Trump’s attorney attempted to put out the fire – and failed spectacularly — the Journal editorial board finally had enough....

The Journal ... brought the heat....
So the Wall Street Journal editorial board is now part of the resistance? Not exactly. Here's the gist of the editorial:
Even if the ultimate truth of this tale is merely that Don Jr. is a political dunce who took a meeting that went nowhere—the best case—the Trumps made it appear as if they have something to hide. They have created the appearance of a conspiracy that on the evidence Don Jr. lacks the wit to concoct. And they handed their opponents another of the swords that by now could arm a Roman legion.

... [Trump attorney Ty] Cobb has an opening to change the Trump strategy to one with the best chance of saving his Presidency: radical transparency. Release everything to the public ahead of the inevitable leaks. Mr. Cobb and his team should tell every Trump family member, campaign operative and White House aide to disclose every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations.

... If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations, transparency will prove it.

... If Mr. Trump’s approval rating stays under 40% into next year, Republicans will begin to separate themselves from an unpopular President in a (probably forlorn) attempt to save their majorities in Congress. If Democrats win the House, the investigations into every aspect of the Trump business empire, the 2016 campaign and the Administration will multiply. Impeachment will be a constant undercurrent if not an active threat. His supporters will become demoralized.
The Journal ed board isn't distancing itself from Trump -- it's trying to save his presidency, and save America from the nightmarish descent into the abyss that it believes will inevitably result from a Democratic takeover of the House. ("His supporters will become demoralized" -- oh, the humanity!) It hopes to prevent this cataclysm by saving Trump from what it thinks are his worst instincts. (If only the urge to conceal were the worst of Trump's instincts.)

As Jonathan Chait notes, the board doesn't weigh the notion that Team Trump is concealing the truth for a reason:
Nowhere in the editorial does the Journal consider the possibility that Trump and his inner circle have lied systematically about the contacts with Russia because they have something to hide. “Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn’t be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel’s office,” the editorial asserts. But what if the truth is really bad? The Journal does not say.

“If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations,” the editorial posits, “transparency will prove it.” That is true! But what if, as now appears overwhelmingly probable, there isn’t nothing to the Russia collusion allegation? Well, the editorial doesn’t say. It just moves on to other questions.
So this is the current pro-Trump fallback position: Trump is an innocent man who has the potential to be a great president, but he's being hounded by the Javerts of the Democratic Party, the media, and the Deep State, and his response -- regrettably, bafflingly -- is to hide the truth. Like his tendency to tweet too much, it's just one of the rare flaws in his otherwise shining character.

This is going to become the standard line for Trump defenders. Here's what Senator John Thune said on CNN after being read excerpts of the editorial:
" ... To me, the administration is served by getting everything out there and being as transparent as they possibly can. Because, this issue, in order for it to go away, I think that is the best way to just cleanse it, and get it out there, and let the American people decide.”

“More transparency is good,” he added.

“More transparent than they are now?” [CNN's John] Berman asked.

“I think there has been a reluctance for whatever reason, I think, by the administration, in some cases, to get all the information out there, and I think they’re well served to do that, frankly,” Thune replied. “My guess is that they’ll probably find — and the intelligence committees and the others that have looked at this have not found any evidence of collusion to this point, and I think that the administration would be able to turn that page and move forward and focus on other things if they would get this issue behind them. And I think that that sort of transparency would enable that to happen.”
Yeah, that'll do it! No, really!

LIBERALS DON'T WANT TO PRY YOUR DAMN BURGER FROM YOUR COLD, DEAD HANDS

When David Brooks claimed that elitist sandwiches cause economic inequality, Josh Barro weighed his options: On the one hand, everyone thinks Brooks is an idiot; on the other hand -- hundreds of thousands of clicks! The choice was obvious: Barro would also tell upmarket liberals that their attitude toward sandwiches is killing America.

Okay, fine -- I don't know for sure that that's what really happened. But here's Barro with an interminable think piece titled "Liberals Can Win Again If They Stop Being So Annoying and Fix Their 'Hamburger Problem.'" His thesis: Americans are now cool with gay marriage and universal health care, but Republicans win elections because ... liberals tell people not to eat burgers. I'm not making this up. That's Barro's argument:
... liberals have staked out a wide variety of fundamentally non-policy positions on the culture that annoy the crap out of people, to their electoral detriment.

Let's discuss the hamburger example.

Suppose you're a middle-income man with a full-time job, a wife who also works outside the home, and some children. Suppose it's a Sunday in the early fall, and your plan for today is to relax, have a burger, and watch a football game.

Conservatives will say, "Go ahead, that sounds like a nice Sunday." (In the Trump era, they're not going to bother you about not going to church.) But you may find that liberals have a few points of concern they want to raise about what you mistakenly thought was your fundamentally nonpolitical plan for the day.

Liberals want you to know that you should eat less meat so as to contribute less to global warming. They're concerned that your diet is too high in sodium and saturated fat. They're upset that the beef in your hamburger was factory-farmed.
Since the only Americans whose opinions are considered valid these days are Trump voters, let me ask: Do you think the #MAGA crowd considers hamburger-shaming to be one of America's top issues? We know these voters despise liberals, but is this why?

I'll point out here that Barro's burger-shaming link goes to a New York Times story about Barack Obama's appearance a couple of months ago at a conference on food policy called Seeds & Chips. Remember that? No? Neither did I until I clicked Barro's link.

In fact, when Barro begins to list ways that liberals "annoy" Joe Sixpack, he does so from a perspective that's rather ... elitist.
Beyond what you're doing this weekend, this movement has a long list of moral judgments about your ongoing personal behavior....

The gender-reveal party you held for your most recent child inaccurately conflated gender with biological sex. ("Cutting into a pink or blue cake seems innocent enough — but honestly, it's not," Marie Claire warned earlier this month.)
Yes, I'm sure a lot of guys settling down to Sunday football with a burger in hand are regular readers of Marie Claire.
You don't ride the subway because you have that gas-guzzling car, but if you did, the way you would sit on it would be sexist.
Does Barro not realize that most Americans in the labor force drive to work? And don't even live in places where "manspreading" on the subway is an issue? Who's the elitist now?
No item in your life is too big or too small for this variety of liberal busybodying. On the one hand, the viral video you found amusing was actually a manifestation of the patriarchy. On the other hand, you actually have an irresponsibly large number of carbon-emitting children.

All this scolding — this messaging that you should feel guilty about aspects of your life that you didn't think were anyone else's business — leads to a weird outcome when you go to vote in November.
How much of this truly penetrates the mass culture? It's mostly upper-income people talking among themselves. That patriarchy link, for example, is from the freaking New Statesman Really? Retired steelworkers in Pennsylvania are reading The New Statesman now?

Of course, some of this talk does reach the masses -- thanks to the right-wing media. But when it passes through that puke funnel, it comes out smelling worse than it should. Example: A proposal was floated at Davos in 2015 to take the $90 trillion dollars likely to be spent globally on urban development in the next few years and use it to make cities denser and more public transit friendly, so cities would no longer need cars. Al Gore endorsed the idea. Once right-wingers got a hold of it, the headline was "Oligarch Al Gore: Spend $90 Trillion To Ban All Cars." Implication: all cars, everywhere, and at an extra cost, which was not the idea.

Consumers of right-wing media don't think liberals want people to eat less meat -- they think we all belong to PETA and oppose meat altogether. (Ask Ted Nugent.) They think our tolerance of Muslims equals support for imposition of sharia law on America. They think our support for tougher gun background checks means support for confiscation of all firearms. They think our praise for single payer means we want a North Korea-style command-and-control economy. They think our outrage at the deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of the police means we want cops killed.

Barro apparently doesn't want us having any discussions, in any forum, of ideas that might offend blue-collar America, however accurately those discussions are reported. And when some tempest in a teapot is cynically sold to blue-collar America as a threat to bedrock values, we're supposed to bow and scrape and apologize.
... usually the leading voices of the new liberal moralism are not politicians. Less-smug liberal commentators will usually protest that these voices are marginal, especially the college students who get so much attention on Fox News for protesting culturally insensitive sushi in the dining hall. If these voices are so marginal, it should be easy enough for Democratic politicians to distance themselves by saying, for example, that some college students have gotten a little nuts and should focus on their studies instead of the latest politically correct cause. Showing that you also think liberal cultural politics has gotten a little exhausting is a good way to relate to a lot of voters.
Yes, I'm sure constantly being on the defensive will win back the Senate and flip a lot of state legislatures for the Democrats in 2018.

In short, what Barro is saying is: Real or imagined lifestyle policing is bad -- but it's fine when it's done to liberals. Thanks a lot for that, Josh.