Monday, January 22, 2018

Don't Call Me "Romney"

Republican National Committee chairperson Ronna McDaniel wasn't let off the hook when she was interviewed on Prime Time Cuomo last week, and never should be.didn't get off easy when she was interviewed on Prime Time Cuomo last week.  And it could have gone worse.

The CNN host asked his guest "you accused (New Jersey senator Cory) Booker of 'mansplaining' to Nielsen, (Homeland) Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen, who's of course a woman. Why, why did you call it that?"  McDaniel responded

Well,Chris, I just think it would have been covered differently if it were a Republican senator yelling or lecuring a woman coming before the Senate, not giving her a chance to explain herself, grandstanding, I know he's auditioning for 2020. I understand that. But he was disrespectful and he did mansplain to her and shes an intelligent woman, she's the Secretary of Homeland Security and she deserved an oportunity to answer.

Cuomo then played a tape in which Booker responded

....It's a little insulting to say I should be treating cabinet secretaries one way or the other depending on their gender. I'm standing here as a United States senator in my official capacity, challlenging a cabinet secretary who's lying before the Senate on an issue that affects my state as well as the nation, something as serious as her lying about overt bigory coming out of the White House.

The New Jersey senator was "disrespectful" toward an individual who heads a Cabinet department who, when asked "Norway is a predominantly white country, isn't it?" by another senator, responded "I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that is the case."  (To be fair, Kirstjen Michele Nielsen, as she was named upon birth, grew up in Clearwater, Florida rather than Oslo.)

McDaniel argued that the media gave Elizabeth Warren a break when she complained of how she was "interrupted" (by "Democrats," she said, which was probably an unintentional error).  But "they talk to men like that all the time," Cuomo explained, and noted that President Trump himself had disparagingly referred to the Massachusetts senator as "Pocahontas."

The President also recently referred to Senator Minority Whip Durbin as "Senator Dicky Durbin," the latest in his litany of disparaging nicknames, including Sneaky Dianne Feinstein; Sloppy Steve (Bannon); Jeff Flakey; Al Frankenstien; Liddle Bob Corker, Wacky Congresswoman (Fredericka) Wilson, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Lyin' Ted; Low Energy Jeb; 1 for 38 (Kasich); Crazy Bernie; Cryin' Chuck (Schumer); Psycho Joe (Scarborough); and Crazy Megyn (Kelly).  But Cory Booker, says the RNC chairperson, was disrespectful to the Homeland Security secretary because he criticized a woman.

It's a little hard to imagine Ronna McDaniel, even while tossing around "mansplaining," as a feminist defender of the dignity of women.  It seems that she is even more supportive of Donald J. Trump than she lets on, as the Washington Examiner in December reported

President Trump reportedly asked Ronna Romney McDaniel to stop using her maiden name, “Romney,” publicly before she took over as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

Sources told the Washington Post the president made the request and then, in a “lighthearted way,” told McDaniel she could make whatever decision she wanted. But McDaniel, the niece of Mitt Romney and granddaughter of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, dropped the name.

The president was reportedly happy McDaniel stopped using her maiden name publicly, a senior administration official and adviser told the Washington Post. Advisers said Trump told people the name “Romney” often led to boos during events, which prompted the president’s request to the incoming Republican National Committee chairwoman.

Now, that is being loyal to the President of the United States. Actually, it's more like subservience, and a great testament to the GOP, party of strong women and family values.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

Newly-inaugurated governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has gone off the deep end.

Proof ironically comes from an Obama-era program. A June, 2012 memorandum from Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano set forth the rationale for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by "the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion."

DACA did not establish "amnesty" for the children who arrived in the USA under the age of sixteen. and were on that date under the age of 31. They were required to have"continuously resided" in the country since 6/15/07 and been currently in school, a graduate of high school or possessor of a GED, or an honorably discharged veteran.

And criminals need not apply. Napolitano wisely required the indiviudal not to have "been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offfense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety."

On January 17 MSNBC's Chuck Todd (transcript here; relevant portion of the video at 3:20) asked Murphy about the Office of Immigrant Defensive Protection which the governor wishes to create. The New Jersey Democrat responded

Before Donald Trump got elected, we spoke about driver`s licenses for everybody regardless of status, statewide identification cards, instate tuition or financial aid for “dreamers,” then Donald Trump gets elected. And we still stand for all those.

The state of New Jersey is in a fiscal crisis, exacerbated by the disastrous eight-year reign of Chris Christie. Its public pension debt (and property tax burden) are the greatest in the nation, the latter driving residents (especially the elderly) to move out-of-state.

In response, Phil Murphy wants to give a break in tuition to immigrants who are not citizens and under current policy, will not be citizens. They would pay lower tuition in New Jersey state schools than residents in towns in Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York State bordering New Jersey.

Murphy also  would like "driver's licenses for everybody regardless of status," which evidently would include illegal immigrants. He might want to be reminded that one Hillary R. Clinton, who in 2007 was on the fast track for the Democratic nomination for President. She was riding high before she ran into a roadblock, courtesy of rival Chris Dodd:

Had the late Tim Russert never asked this question, it is very likely Senator Barack Obama never would have been nominated and become President Obama.

Murphy's other immigration proposal contrasts with the DACA policy established in 2012. Todd asked him "among this (illegal immigrant) population), what should be enough to get you deported? If you were brought here, what should be enough to get you deported." Murphy replied

I think what we`ve done and the president has done this, it was  done in our campaign, we`ve crossed the wires between criminal justice and law enforcement on the one hand and immigrant status on the other hand. There is nothing inconsistent.

In fact, I think they add to each other with being really tough on law enforcement but being a welcoming state and community that people could come out of the shadows and feel free to engage with police and other community leaders. If you commit a crime, you ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Remarkably, Murphy's only concession to law enforcement was "if you commit a crime, you ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," which means..... nothing.

No politician ever would recommend someone not be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." But he says nothing about what the law should be. Nor does he indicate whether once someone is prosecuted and convicted, he or she should be deported or instead allowed to remain in the state.

It's not hard to figure out why. DACA required the individual not be a felon or repeated misemeanant. Murphy would require no such thing, though he was by the question invited to concede that breaking the law would be a deal-breaker. Obeying the law should be a minimum, as the Obama Administration understood.

The governor of New Jersey would be more humane to both immigrants and non-immigrants were he to ensure that all residents, legal or illegal, receive basic human services, or better.

But citizenship, or the effort to obtain it, means something. Certain benefits, including access to a driver's license, in-state tuitiion, and protection against deportation should be conveyed to persons exclusive of those who are here (illegally or as Dreamers) who are precluded from being citizens. If Murphy attempts to follow through on the agenda he laid out to Todd, the Governor will be courting trouble both for himself and Democrats in New Jersey.

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Defending Trump

The publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, an ardent Trump supporter, evidently has adopted his hero's style and fomented discord and disruption in the community.  The NPR affiliate in Pittsburgh summarizes

Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh said they are “saddened and humiliated” by an editorial published on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed” has also faced criticism from former Post-Gazette staff members, major foundations in Pittsburgh, and family members of the paper’s publisher, who have called the editorial a defense of racist rhetoric by President Donald Trump’s.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents 150 current employees of the Post-Gazette, submitted a letter to the editor objecting to the editorial. Guild President Michael Fuoco said that it was rejected by the paper’s publisher, John Robinson Block, and will not be published.

The PPG did publish a critical letter signed by sixteen members of the family which owns its parent company, Block Communications.

Block begins the editorial- published on Martin Luther King's birthday- with "calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism." (If the publisher even wanted to pretend the piece came from the editorial board, he would have written "racist.")

But Block is not the best messenger, arguing "we need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof."

Excluded would be: a) the late Jimmy 'the Greek' Snyder, fired when he commented 'The slave owner would breed his big black (man) to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid. ... That's where it all started... The black (athletic) talent is beautiful.";  b) the late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, who once remarked "Never hire another nigger. I'd rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger";  c) the living David Duke, who once maintained "White people don't need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals"; d) any of Duke's former operation, the Ku Klux Klan, or of the American Nazi movement.

Duke is no longer so explicitly racist. Now he thanks President Trump for his "honesty & courage" and contends "we are determined to take the country back" with "the promise of Donald Trump."

Yet, Block's editorial, despite first glance and common interpretation, was not about the promiscuously applied term "racist." He argues

But, when we have a chance to reform the immigration system, and save the Dreamers, and find common ground, let us not get distracted by another cudgel to use against the president. Calling the president a racist helps no one — it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.

This is about Donald Trump and the myth of conservative victimization. For cultists who ridicule liberal "snowflakes," they are oddly insistent that Trump was "legitimately elected."  They also are determined to insist repeatedly- well before Robert Mueller completes his investigation- that nothing has been proven by the Special Counsel or, as Block imagines it, "the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully."

"If he is to be removed from office, let the voters do it based on his total performance — temperament as well as accomplishment — in 2020." we're forced to read from a wealthy publisher who fell asleep before the civics instructor got to Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution. (I'm beginning to miss the time when conservatives feigned devotion to Mr. Madison's document.)

Such conservative snowflakes don't even have the courage of their convictions, in this case hostility toward Dreamers.  Block asks, curiously, "If the president had used the world “hellhole” instead, would that have been racist? If he had used the word “failed states,” would that have been racist?"

And if the Pittsburgh Steelers had beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend, would they have beaten the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts this weekend?  We don't know and it doesn't matter. The Steelers did not win and the President did not say "hellhole" or "failed states," instead using a more profane and graphic term, which was very likely not an oversight.

"How many presidents have said crass things in the Oval Office in private meetings? Think of Kennedy, Clinton and Nixon, to name three," Block claims. However, The Hill reports Trump "called friends to brag after the meeting in which (he) reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as "'shithole countries.'" This may be the first report of a President proud of his obscene language and determined that several nations would know he held them in contempt.

"The goal," Block disingenuously contends, is "to save the Dreamers. That's what the White House meeting last week was about." At that meeting, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin presented a plan in which the Dreamers would be protected while several of the President's own objectives would be accepted by Democrats. After previously saying he would support whatever Congress gave him, Trump denounced the deal, denying the Dreamers and risking a shutdown of  the federal government so that his own dream of total Democratic capitulation on the Wall might be fulfilled.

The main objective of President Trump's strategy is not to build a wall, assuage hurt feelings on being called out as a  racist, or demonstrate world leadership by publicly condemning other countries as inferior.  As Charlie Sykes has noted, the Republican Party now is "a party devoted to trolling.... because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish."

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Friday, January 19, 2018

No Compromise

The Illinois Senator and Democratic Whip on Thursday tweeted

He wasn't listening to Joe Scarborough, who earlier in the day sagely commented (beginning at 10:15 of the video below)

If you're a Democrat and you do anything to help this President who sounded racist and Republicans who have attacked Dick Durbin and questioned his integrity, questiioned his honesty- if you're a Democrat and do anything to help the government- help Republcans keep the government open without attaching a clean DACA bill to it, then you don't deserve to be in the majority this year- at the end of this year because you're too weak.

Democrats have to go after them. They were attacked, the President was racist in his remarks. He's now attacking the Congressional Black Caucus and basically said they're jokes. They called Dick Durbin a liar. You make them pay for that and while you make them pay for that, you also do what's good for the Dreamers and you get- you get a deal for theDreamers or you don't get a single vote. They own Congress. If they can't keep the government open, the voters will balme Republicans, not Democrats.

I believe that's likely, though Steve M. thinks voters will blame Democrats- but that it wouldn't hurt except in the short run. Senator Durbin was from the start an ardent supporter of Barack Obama, and it shows in his negotiating style.

Democrats must stop going in demanding half a loaf, getting a quarter-loaf, and believing they've accomplished something. As Scarborough understands, they hold most of the cards in this drama.  In "Fire and Fury," Steve Bannon is quoted characterizing liberals as "snowflakes."  Durbin's stance is part of what makes Democrats "snowflakes"- proposing significantly less than what they should.

It doesn't help with the Democratic base, which in this case is the immigrant community and its close allies.  And it hurts in the long run with voters generally, who have come to think of the Democratic Party as the one too weak to stand up for what it believes in.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Verify, Do Not Trust

Huffington Post reports

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told a meeting of Democratic lawmakers that President Donald Trump’s campaign pledges to curb immigration ― including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ― were uninformed, and that such a structure was unlikely to happen in full, according to multiple media reports.

Kelly made the comments to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday in a closed-door session that was first reported by The Washington Post. His comments were confirmed by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who was at the meeting.

“I can confirm that Chief of Staff Kelly said today that the President’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “Kelly went on to say that many campaigns are not fully informed about every policy and that campaigning and governing are two different things and that governing is harder.”

We don't have a quote from the Chief of Staff himself, but only an interpretation of his remarks by a member of Congress and immigration advocate.  But it sounds as if Kelly was, if he referred to "campaigns," giving the boss cover while attempting to make himself out as the voice of reason. The latter seems likely because

Gutiérrez also went on to confirm reporting by The New York Times that Kelly took credit as the “one who tempered” Trump’s more extreme opinions on the wall and the viability of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, also known as DACA.

“Kelly took credit for educating the President on the wall and that a concrete barrier from sea to shining sea was no longer the conception of border security barriers supported today by the White House,” Gutiérrez said.

It surely is comforting to know, through Representative Gutierrez, that the Chief of Staff does not except a concrete wall to arise out of the Rio Grande and the Colorado River.  The next day the President went even further, backing down from his campaign boasts while pretending otherwise:

The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.....

The old joke runs "how do you know when X is lying?" Donald Trump has shattered the punch line "when his lips are moving," for he does it quite effortlessly when he tweets as well as when he speaks (no rhyme intended).

Nonetheless, that puts the President not at odds but on the same terrain as his chief of staff. Let us not forget

Video of a 2015 speech delivered by Representative Frederica S. Wilson revealed Friday that John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, misrepresented her remarks when he accused her of bragging about securing $20 million for a South Florida F.B.I. building and twisting President Barack Obama’s arm.

Mr. Kelly, escalating a feud between Mr. Trump and Ms. Wilson, had cast the congresswoman on Thursday as a publicity-seeking opportunist. However, the video, released by The Sun Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, showed that during her nine-minute speech, Ms. Wilson never took credit for getting the money for the building, only for helping pass legislation naming the building after two fallen federal agents.

She never mentioned pleading with Mr. Obama, and she acknowledged the help of several Republicans, including John A. Boehner, then the House speaker; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo; and Senator Marco Rubio.

John Kelly is different than Donald Trump or Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He is more serious and reputable, and probably tells the truth more often than he utters falsehoods. But there is a reason all these individuals serve this particular President.

For the latter three, truth is an unpleasant option. For General Kelly, it can be thrown overboard when necessary, which puts him on an ethical plane above Sanders, Conway, or Trump. However, he is a reminder that service in uniform to the country does not inoculate one from dishonesty. As the immigration debate continues, nothing he (or anyone in the Administration) says can be assumed to  be completely accurate.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Consider The Source

As of a year ago when "Frederick Douglass has been doing an amazing job," President Trump didn't know that the abolitionist had died well over a century earlier.  He thought "people don't ask that question- why was there a Civil War" and believed "most people don’t know" Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

Donald Trump is profoundly, spectacularly ignorant. However, he isn't stupid.

Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician for President Trump and formerly for President Obama, performed a physical examination upon his Commander-in-Chief and pronounced him in "excellent health."

Most skepticism today is focused on Dr.Jackson's contention that Trump is 6'3" and weighs 240 pounds, which places him one pound beneath "obese." Still, he would be classified as obese if he were not listed at 6'3",  the same height as John Ellis Bush (JEB), who is demonstrably taller than Trump. 

But few individuals care whether Donald Trump, who is intensely bigoted, has threatened nuclear war against Korea and probably presided over a campaign colluding with a foreign enemy and power, is wildly overweight.

Many people do, though, care about the President's cognitive health.  Dr. Jackson observed  that Trump scored 30 out of 30 on a test Wikipedia states was created in 1996 and "was validated in the setting of mild cognitive impairment." Jackson revealed that Trump allegedly scored 30 out of 30 on the test which according to Wikipedia "was validated in the setting of mild cognitive impairment, and has subsequently been adopted in numerous other settings."

The  doctor had previously concluded "I've got to know him pretty well. And I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or his, you know, his neurological function." Afterward he maintained "I have no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues with his thought processes." Yet, Atlantic writer and  editor James Hamblin tweets 

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment is a 10-minute test that asks a person to draw a clock, repeat the phrase “I only know that John is the one to help today,” and identify a lion, rhinoceros, and camel. 

It would be extremely concerning if a President scored less than 30/30. 

Additionally, Jackson- who is not a neurologist- revealed that Trump himself had requested the exam. It appears to be "a widely used screening assessment for detecting cognitive impairment" and- despite the possibility of  gaming the test- Dr Jackson did not state whether Trump knew beforehand that the MoCA would be the test given to him.

We also were not told whether the 10-minute test was administered in ten minutes to a patient who has a notoriously short attention span.  But we do know this: Donald Trump is Dr. Jackson's boss.

Dr. Jackson is a United States Navy admiral specializing in emergency medicine, not neurology. He is, however, Donald Trump's subject, as suggested by Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution: the President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of  the individual states when called into the actual service of the United States.

With every outrageous tweet, statement, or action by the White House, Republican members of Congress stand idly by, rarely questioning the President, even lying for him in the instance of Senators Cotton and Perdue. They do so even though they are elected by their constituents and answerable only to their constituents.

And now we have a military doctor assigned to the White House who is answerable, at least de facto, primarily to Donald J. Trump. He has- surprise!- pronounced the President physically and mentally fit and sharp.

The President is ignorant of history and civics. Nevertheless, as this game illustrates, he is far smarter and shrewder than he's given credit for.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Racism And More Important Things

You knew it would happen. Having unjustified faith in good sense, I did not.  The Washington Examiner has reported

In just three days, the short video of reporters yelling questions to President Trump about whether he is a racist has become C-SPAN's most-watched clip on YouTube involving the Trump White House.

In the video from Friday, Trump signed a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and left the room as reporters demanded to know if he was a racist. That question was prompted by Trump's reported comment that America shouldn't let in people from "shithole" countries.

"Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?" one reporter asked.

"Mr. President, are you a racist?" April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked. "Mr. President, are you a racist?"

Shockingly, the President, already turning away from reporters, refused to answer.  Next up from Ms. Ryan when the opportunity presents itself: "Mr. President, when did you stop beating your wife?" Conversely and constructively, it might be "when will you be releasing the tax returns you promised the American people?"

The question wasn't stupid, worthless, or offensive simply because it was certain that it wouldn't be answered. Some questions need to be asked even if they surely will bring no reply. However, critical is a venue in which ignoring the question makes clear that the respondent is actively avoiding answering. This was not one of those instances.

Admittedly, by getting so many views, it becomes ipso facto a good question by the Law of the Free Market. (Success being its own justification, if it feels good or gets you what you want, do it. )  In a commentary having a lot to do with President Trump and nothing (directly) with April Ryan, Charles Blow explains

I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices....

Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.

Obviously, Donald Trump throughout his life has demonstrated a pattern of racial prejudice which exploits and encourages racial hostilities of other white people.  Given his extensive history of racially biased remarks, including (probably) "laziness is a trait in blacks" and (inarguably) "look at my African-American over here," the burden of proof lies with persons arguing that Trump is not a racist, in the traditional, contemporary, or any other, sense.

Nevertheless, it is less clear that he is a "racist" in the traditional and accurate meaning of the term as defined by Blow (who believes Trump is a racist)- a belief that race is an inherent (emphasis mine) and determining factor in an individual's character and capability. It also is not terribly important. More significant, as Blow understands, is

the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda.

Recognizing and acknowledging the racial component in the President's actions is more important than proving that Trump is a "racist."  Opposing his extremist agenda and calling out the members of Congress (hello, Senators Flake, Corker, Graham, and others) who obliquely condemn him while supporting his agenda is more valuable.

The media can continue to idolize Senators Flake, Corker, Graham, and others who concede the emperor has no clothes yet simultaneously enable and embolden him. Or it can continue to debate whether Donald J. Trump is a racist and prove he is. Still, both the loyal opposition and the media have a role to play, and shouting "are you a racist" to the President is not a good start.

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Don't Call Me "Romney"

Republican National Committee chairperson Ronna McDaniel wasn't let off the hook when she was interviewed on Prime Time Cuomo last ...