Saturday, August 17, 2019

Barring Death, It's Trump

Asked by Vanity Fair whether there is a chance President Trump will drop out of the 2016 race, Anthony Scaramucci replies

Yes. He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Scaramucci deserves credit for making a bold, unpopular prediction. It also is inaccurate.

It doesn't matter that the entire Congress hates Donald Trump. He hates the members of Congress, too, just as he dislikes, or has contempt for, immigrants, blacks, veterans, evangelicals, and women (unless they spell their name "I-v-a-n-k-a.")

Donald Russia won't drop out because if he does, he's likely to be prosecuted. He almost certainly will if he is succeeded by a Democrat, a likelihood if he doesn't run. A Republican president might pardon him, but can do so only for federal crimes, and would face the near-certainty that his political future would die with its issuance.

He won't drop out because if he loses, he will blame the defeat on a) the Electoral College (whatever the margin of defeat there or in the popular vote); b) "fake news"; c) voter suppression (irony notwithstanding); d) voter "fraud"; e) foreign interference (irony notwithstanding, again); f) Hillary Clinton.   (I know what you're thinking: what would Hillary Clinton have to do with it? Answer: "Clinton."); g) any combination of the preceding.

He won't drop out because it's never "gonna become very clear that it's impossible for him to win." The low-hanging fruit explanation: nearly everyone counted him out in 2016, from announcement of his candidacy till Election Eve, and he still won.  The politically incorrect explanation: if the economy tanks, pundits everywhere will maintain that he cannot win and will be wrong.

Approval of Donald Trump's performance would be enhanced by a strong economy in the fall of 2016. However, his popularity depends less on the state of the economy than would the approval of any other President. He was elected even though the economy- at least by traditional and conventional standards- was fairly strong in November 2016.  His ceiling always low, his cellar remains unusually high.

There were many reasons Donald Russia captured the nation's zeitgeist three years ago.  It was primarily the veneer of authenticity as he expressed the hostility, bitterness,and rage of whites- especially but not exclusively male- toward any one of a number of groups of Americans.  (Look angry, bluster, yell loudly, swear a little for extra points, and you must be sincere.)

We haven't yet hit the bottom of that well of resentment, and might not until and unless voters believe their financial situation is so endangered that they are even more vulnerable than at present to targeting of scapegoats. And there is no one who can fill that need better than Donald J. Trump.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

"Bend To My Will"

He may be a scoundrel, but when even a former member of the Irgun doesn't like your attack on perceived enemies of Israel, you don't really have a case:

It was not a total loss for the Likud government running Israel, however. It at least made one of the congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib, cry uncle.  NPR reports that Israel has (barely) partially relented after the Michigan Representative sent Israel's Interior Minister a letter whose contents read in full

I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beir Ur el-Fouqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.

Nor was the concession extracted probably an empty gesture, given that the visit by Tlaib and Omar to the West Bank and (presumably East) Jerusalem was "under the auspices of" a nongovermental organization staunchly committed to an independent Palestinian state. Now, however, Tel Aviv has gotten one of the congresswomen (Tlaib) to make a concession she probably did not want to make- that she would "not promote boycotts against Israel during" her visit.

Nonetheless, Israel has suffered a net loss, having bought itself some distrust within both the American Jewish community and the Democratic Party for its refusal to concede that all members of the US Congress can travel freely to Israel.

Not so President Trump, however.  Tel Aviv initially extended permission to the two Democrats, only to reverse itself when

This is what Donald Trump calls "winning." He blocked two political foes from performing an official duty, also bending an entire nation to his will.  Obviously, his action was reprehensible, and not only because an American president (successfully) recommended that a foreign government deny admission of duly elected members of a branch of government (constitutionally) equal to the presidency.

It might not have worked had this saga remained in the news for several days. However, it did not, with the Administration cleverly floating the idea of buying Greenland, thus diverting attention from an act of bigotry and hostility toward Americans, sentiments shared by many Trump disciples.

The President of the USA challenged a foreign government to say "no" to American citizens, yet another instance in which Trump has demonstrated his contempt for Americans.  And he prevailed. He again demonstrated what passes for "strength" in his eyes and those of his supporters by hitting back at the people they hate.

Opposed by Rahm Emanuel, AIPAC, and supported by virtually no one, the tactic viewed in isolation may have been a (very slight) net loser. However,it was a fine addition to Donald J. Trump's overall strategy.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Real Undead

Maryland Public Television, as reported by Media Matters, has announced

on August 12 that it will relaunch The McLaughlin Group in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area in September. MPT also plans to expand the program nationally in January 2020 “through an agreement with American Public Television.” The program was briefly relaunched last year on WJLA, Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s D.C. station. The weekly program will feature host Tom Rogan and panelists Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, and Clarence Page, as well as guest panelists. Clift, Page, and Buchanan were panelists on the original McLaughlin Group, which was hosted by the late John McLaughlin.

This displeases Media Matters considerably, as it doesCharlie Pierce, who remarks

At a time in which white-supremacy and outright racism is pouring out of the White House, and a time in which these forces are literally getting people killed, a public television station has decided to roll back the stone and bring back Pat Buchanan, who is responsible more than most people for injecting this poison into the body politic generally and into the Republican Party in particular.

As MM notes, Buchanan is a "white supremacist" though more accurately a Christian supremacist, with a Catholic emphasis.  Buchanan was the forerunner to Donald Trump, as Pierce explains

You can trace many of the horrors of our current moment—from new-wave protectionism to un-camouflaged racism—all the way back to Buchanan's campaign against George H.W. Bush. (Bill Clinton once told me and Mark Warren of this magazine that he thought the Buchanan campaign was the moment in which the GOP decided to lose its mind.)  

Unfortunately, Pierce then gleans the wrong lesson when he concludes

Now, with all of these issues at a serious flashpoint, these public-television dopes decide to give Buchanan, who is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old, and who's never been sure that the right side won World War II, another crack at spreading aged-in-the-wood venom on TV. Clift and Page should not be a part of this fiasco, either. The conservative Undead never will leave us.

Who else is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old (aside from Joe Biden)? That would be the President of the United States of America, one Donald J. Trump, who also would not be sure the right side won WWII, if in fact he knew who had won World War II.

Although Buchanan has much in common with Trump, that does not include ignorance of history (or general ignorance), a preference for profanity, nor the attraction to a kind of secular and empty (and non-Catholic) Christianity.  But if not for Buchanan, there probably would not be a President (or nominee) Donald Trump, and for that alone Buchanan should rank as an important historical figure.

Maryland Public Television wants a reprise of The McLaughlin Group, impossible without at least one conservative.  It has hired, Media Matters complains, a "white supremacist who has pushed virulently racist rhetoric."

Presumably, it could have gone a different direction in selecting someone from the right. We could have gotten Charlie Sykes or someone else from the Never Trump vault. With a few exceptions here and there, though more reasonable than other conservatives, they are of a certain type.

They hate the vulgar, divisive Trump. They are tolerant of immigration, even illegal immigration, skeptical of a border wall, and can compete with every liberal and progressive in their sadness at the treatment of migrants at the border.  Same-sex marriage is perfectly acceptable, and the President's contempt for foreign allies is not.

Yet, they will not criticize the forced-birth movement, deregulation or privatization, or tax cuts for the wealthy, and the free trade which has hollowed out the core of the middle class in America's heartland remains one of their gods.

They deserve a voice, as does everyone, and are welcome to ride- but not drive- the anti-Trump bus. However, the Trump revolution (as Pierce has well expressed previously) began not with the likes of Pat Buchanan but with Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan (6),  hostile to civil rights while quite congenial to the forced-birth movement and everyone and everything with economic clout.  President Donald Trump has learned well as he banishes the US Department of Agriculture to Kansas City, Mo., recognizing that most of its employees will quit, and agribusiness will have its way.

Pat Buchanan was not responsible for the devolution and destruction of government. Erosion of the belief that we owe something to us, that the mighty should use its power for the benefit of those left behind tracks back to Reagan, not to Buchanan. Still, Trump owes much to Buchanan.

Most Never Trumpers (common on not-Trump cable television) question little of the core values of modern conservatism, opposition to reproductive freedom and support of economic policies which favor the wealthy over the remainder of society. If Trump is upended in November, 2020, they will return to, or  remain in, their home base- the Republican Party- and promote the myth that the core ideals of the GOP were sound, that the Party merely had a case of pneumonia brought on by a venomous phony from New York City.

We can't bring back the late Ronald Reagan. But public television can bring back Pat Buchanan, more coherent and literate than the current President, yet also resentful and belligerent, and a reminder that Donald J. Trump didn't just come out of the blue.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Excuses

Whether for ethnic or professional reasons (or both), Sean Hannity, Corey Lewandowski, Geraldo Rivera, and Anthony Scaramucci stoutly defended the CNN host when Chris

Cuomo, the host of the eponymously named "Cuomo Prime Time," went viral Monday night when a conservative provocateur posted a video of him online. In the video, which is shot from a low angle, Cuomo erupts after being called “Fredo” by a heckler who claims not to know the anchor’s name. Cuomo says that the term, a reference to the mafia movie "The Godfather," is “an Italian aspersion,” comparing it to the racial slur used against African Americans. “It it’s like the n-word for us,” Cuomo said.

The conversation captured in the video deteriorates quickly, with Cuomo threatening the heckler, at one point warning him, “I’ll f---ing throw you down these stairs.”

If it is, it's news to Wikipedia, and also to myself, though not Italian-American but reared in quasi-northern New Jersey.

But of course, that's not the issue.  Cuomo's well-known heavyweight (scoundrels they are, but heavyweight)  defenders are not keen on the possibility that publicly confronting celebrities of the political world become a thing. 

It probably was, as CNN put it, "an orchestrated set-up." However, Cuomo's response was pitch-perfect:

I should be better than what I oppose. Cuomo was condemned by President Trump who, if he had 10% of the class the anchorman displayed, would be- well, would not be Donald J. Trump.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Guns Don't Kill People. People With Guns Do.

A few days ago, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, immigration rights attorney and forced-birth advocate Christine Flowers commended Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, who has remarked

..... only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence. The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts.

And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we’ve systematically created over the past half-century.”

Flowers complains "talking about expanding mental health support doesn’t advance the guns-and-racism narrative deployed to make this a partisan issue." We get a rare glimpse of the motivation of some proponents of the mental health dodge when Flowers adds

....the point of (Chaput's) comments was that the real problem in society is a complete abandonment of clear moral standards, and our increasing disrespect for human life. Guns are a part of that conversation. So is racism. So is mental illness. So, for that matter, are abortion, euthanasia, the over-sexualization of children, family breakdown, and all of the things Chaput mentions.

Abortion, euthanasia, over-sexualization of children, and family breakdown have little or nothing to do with gun violence, any more than such ridiculous assertions besmirch Philadelphia Catholics or forced-birth fanatics. (The macho male subculture does pertain, and obviously so, but that is a subject for another time.)

Flowers, Chaput, and others unwilling or unable to confront the problem with firearms will not be reassured of their misconceptions, however, in the most recentoutbreak of violence which may have been induced by mental illness:

A man who allegedly stabbed a woman to death in Sydney’s central business district before attacking others on a busy city street with a butcher’s knife was arrested carrying information about terrorist attacks and extremist ideologies on a USB drive.

But police say the man did not have any known links to terror groups, and that he acted alone. The attacks are not being treated as a terrorist attack, the New South Wales police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old man from Marayong, near Blacktown in western Sydney, jumped on cars and yelled at bystanders to “shoot me in the fucking head” before being restrained by members of the public – later lauded as “heroes” by police – who used cafe chairs and a milk crate to pin him down.

About an hour after the man’s arrest, the body of a 21-year-old woman was found inside an apartment in Clarence Street, in central Sydney. It is understood she had suffered multiple stab wounds.

"Shoot me in the f_ _ _ _ _ _ head" said the man, who exhibited a reckless disregard for human life, and may have been determined to kill anyone and everyone he could.

He wounded one person and killed none, just as some of the twenty children wounded by a knife-wielding assailant in January in Beijing probably are alive only because they weren't shot.  In the United States, that mentally deranged (or not) man probably would have wielded an assault rifle and had the time and means to murder several individuals- maybe even 21.

He did not, however. He had a knife, and there appears to be a lot of people in Australia now alive because the knife wasn't an AR-15.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Simple Suicide: A Political Loser

At least one journalist/newspaper columnist understands

But frankly, conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death needed no push from the Oval Office. Conspiracy theories are the voice of the ungoverned. The road that started in 1963 in Dealey Plaza -- in an ancient time when people had unbridled faith in their leaders and their institutions as a force for good -- finally came to its inevitable terminus, at the end of a rope in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Americans are bitter, confused, and most of all angry. And they have absolutely no faith in the people who are in charge. I know I don’t.

Will Bunch clearly understands that Americans are bitter, confused, angry, and cynical about people in power. So, too, ironically, does right-wing President Trump, who retweeted
Bunch recognizes the absurdity of believing the Clintons, out of power and out of favor, engineered a murder while Donald Trump's Roy Cohn- Attorney General William Barr- stood helplessly by. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide without the act aided, abetted, or condoned by anyone in authority.

Some people have more faith than Bunch, President Trump, or very likely the vast majority of the American people. Spurred by elite anguish about a need for criminal justice reform, there seems in the media to be a developing story line that jails and prisons are unable or unwilling to prevent the grossest abuses and tragedies, including suicides. Mother Jones' Madison Pauly writes

Epstein may have been be vastly more famous than (Sandra) Bland,  (Jiancarlo Alfonso) Jimenez, and (Damien) Coestly, but the circumstances of his death, as reported by the Times and Reuters, seem to fit the same pattern: a known suicide risk, carelessness by guards, and a lapse in detention practices.

It was very likely more than "carelessness" or a "lapse," though we may never know for sure, just as the truth about the most famous death in custody, that of Lee Harvey Oswald, has never been fully or definitively determined.

Donald Trump knows this, and that is why he was able to leap onto the longstanding Clinton Is A Murderer conspiracy, albeit indirectly by retweet because in doing so more directly he might have been held accountable for spreading a damnable lie. Courage has never been his forte.

Having a finger on the pulse of the American people is his specialty, however, and he realizes the American people are susceptible to believing the Clintons were behind it all because coincidence seems increasingly absent in American life and politics. The alternative narrative will be that the death of Jeffrey Epstein was an innocent suicide, which will be accepted by the few voters who still have the unbridled faith in the system that Will Bunch realizes has considerably dwindled..

The silence of the presidential hopefuls regarding Epstein’s death is both regrettable and reversible, and leaves a vacuum which Donald Trump has demagogically filled. However, Bunch has inadvertently pointed the way forward in which Epstein's death is linked to an effective, broader ideological message:

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Perp Walk Requested

After raids carried out Wednesday in Michigan in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested approximately 680 allegedly illegal immigrants working in poultry processing plants, President

Trump told reporters at the White House that the raids dissuade immigrants from entering and residing in the country illegally.

“I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they’re getting out. They’re going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent," he said.

Four days later on CNN's State of the Union, Acting Director of the US Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan was interviewed by Jake Tapper, who beginning at 13:01 in the video below notes

So it seems like undocumented workers, the dad of that little girl and the like, often bear the brunt of these raids and not the employers that hire them. Isn't it important to hold businesses responsible for this? Syracuse found, researchers at Syracuse University, found that from April 2018 to March 2019 the Trump Administration prosecuted zero companies and only eleven individuals for employing undocumented immigrants. Obviously, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants have been targeted.

After Morgan makes a comment, Tapper clarifies, asking "What I'm saying is why aren't you focusing more on the companies and the business owners?" and the Acting Director replies "they are- again, this was a joint criminal investigation between ICE and the Department of Justice which was targeting the companies that were hiring illegal aliens."

Tapper responds "are there any charges against the companies and the business owners?" and Morgan maintains

It's a pending investigation right now. There's a criminal search warrant to go in there, to collect more information, more intelligence and that investigation is ongoing. But that's the intent of that investigation.

Morgan insists there is a "pending investigation" and time, and good journalism, may prove the accuracy of his claim.  However, while there always has been a suspicion- or perhaps assumption- that while the Trump Administration wants to intimidate, punish, maybe even terrorize illegal immigrants, that it wants to avoid prosecuting their employers, whether from a pro-business ideology or to protect Mr. Trump, himself a prodigious employer of illegal immigrants.

Approximately 380 of the individuals arrested were moved toICE detention facilities and roughly 300 released the following day and given a court date. Their (ex-) employers remain at large, however. The ringleaders went home at night, slept in their own beds, and in the case of one of the employers- 14,000-employee Koch Foods- already has scheduled a job fair.

All of this raises the suspicion that employers violate labor standards because "they feel that ICE is going to back them up." President Trump emphasized the importance of the strategy because "this serves as a very good deterrent."

If deterrence is an objective, employers must be prosecuted. And more- they should be arrested at the same time as the workers (some with actual documents, some not) are picked up. They should be led out in handcuffs, so that their families, friends, and fellow executives can see them.

This need not be done out of vindictiveness, but rather because they can be presumed to have committed a felony, or felonies.  An individual worker has (presumably) broken the law himself. But the boss has employed not only him, but a whole lot of people who have presumably broken the law. It's long past time for a perp walk.

Barring Death, It's Trump

Asked by Vanity Fair whether there is a chance President Trump will drop out of the 2016 race, Anthony Scaramucci replies Yes. H...