Wednesday, January 16, 2019

One Mustn't Say Such Things In Polite Company.

DC Examiner Deputy Editor Jay Caruso and investigative journalist Matt Taibbi agree:

It's difficult for Taibbi, Caruso, and other journalistic heavyweights who have a career to protect and live inside the Beltway. on the West Coast, or the West Side of Manhattan to break cultural taboos. However, Lindsey Graham must be quite sensitive to his constituents in South Carolina, which may be even further culturally than geographically from these areas.

Stephanie Ruhle has the courage to say, and Taibbi and Caruso do not, and have little interest in investigating. Donald Trump probably has something on Lindsey Graham, which may be the latter's sexuality or something entirely different.

Mr. Trump boasted periodically during the campaign of being politically incorrect, as when he said on Face The Nation "I'll tell you what's wrong with political correctness. It takes too long. We don't have enough time. We don't have enough time." and has publicly ridiculed numerous individuals, politicians and otherwise, with insults common only to little boys on the playground.

Having played ball for many years with La Cosa Nostra and the Kremlin, and not being encumbered by the requirements of political correctness or good manners, he would not hesitate to blackmail a United States senator.

Now chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, the South Carolinian is a powerful senator, indeed. He is, however, not nearly as powerful as Mitch McConnell, another individual whose personal life is being ignored by the press at the expense of the national interest. Greg Sargent reminds us

top Obama administration officials privately asked senior congressional leaders in both parties to go public with a united front against Russian interference. But (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell refused, claiming (in The Post’s words) that “he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” McConnell also questioned the intelligence demonstrating Russian sabotage.

Cue to the Trump Administration and

The refusal to hold votes on legislation protecting the special counsel. In fairness, Trump has still not moved successfully against Mueller. But McConnell scuttled efforts to protect Mueller even though Trump privately tried to fire him twice. There’s still time for Trump to act, and passing such protections — which the Democratic House would support — would plainly make any such action, and the damage it would cause, less likely.

There’s also a forward-looking dimension here. As the Lawfare podcast notes, if FBI officials opened a separate investigation into whether Trump was obstructing the probe to help Russia, it’s plausible McConnell and other congressional officials were briefed on this. That would make the failure to act to shield Mueller worse. We need to know more about this, too.

On the shutdown front, McConnell continues to refuse votes on bills reopening the government that have already passed the House. McConnell claims there’s no point, because Trump wouldn’t sign them. But this actively shields Trump from having to veto bills funding the government, which would make it much harder for him to keep holding out. Worse, McConnell privately told Trump in December he has no leverage and no endgame here, meaning McConnell knows full well that not forcing Trump’s hand leaves us adrift with no exit in sight.

"We need to know more about this, too," recognizes Sargent, who understands that McConnell's motives are probably not beyond reproach. The media should end its de facto prohibition on consideration of the Majority Leader's possible motives in remaining loyal to a President whose statements and behavior constitute an unprecedented threat to the institutions and security, hence economy, of this country.

It can start by acknowledging that McConnell is married, probably not coincidentally, to Secretary of the Treasury Elaine Chao.

A Democratic member of the other legislative chamber points out
Ascribing motives without evidence is perilous. Fortunately, here there is evidence, which goes unnoticed while Matt Taibbi and some others turn a curiously blind eye to power brokers whose highest priorities appear not to include the national interest.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump: Don't Eat Mor Chikin

In a national championship game fought between two evenly matched teams on July 7, the Clemson Tigers defeated Lou Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16.

The President of the USA, as is customary, entertained the victors at the White House, a win-win as an honor for the players and reasonably valuable photo-op for the host.

In this instance, Donald Trump played his role to the hilt, remarking "we have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many, many french fries, all of our favorite food." The President wanted to demonstrate that he, too, is suffering in the shutdown as White House staff members are sidelined. Asked "do you prefer McDonald's or Wendy's," Trump responded "I like them all. If it's American, I like it. It's all American stuff." He even took the opportunity to lie (in all likelihood):

If he's serving "all American stuff," Trump couldn't possibly be selling out to the Kremlin, or so he'd like us to believe. "I want to see what's here when we leave, because I don't think it'll be much," the President speculated, because there is nothing that says "delicious" more than cold pizza, hamburgers, and french fries, all brightly displayed without warming plates.

The President accomplished a major objective if product placement was on his mind- because there was one fast-food operation that was conspicuously absent.

Or rather, it would have been conspicuously absent, had the media yet again ignored one of Donald Trump's ongoing projects. There was nothing from Chick-fil-A, home of chicken and waffle fries superior to most other fast food.

It's the outfit known for its fervent opposition to same-sex marriage. More importantly- at least symbolically- it's the restaurant which never opens on Sunday. As of 2011, the company required its job applicants

to disclose their marital status, number of dependents and their involvement in community, civil and religious organizations, according to

The company’s vetting process can include more than a dozen interviews with an applicant – some lasting hours – and the applicant’s family, including with their children, according to Forbes.(Late founder and owner S. Truett) Cathy told the magazine he is looking for married candidates (he believes they are more industrious) who are loyal, wholesome and treat their families well.

“If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” Cathy said, according to Forbes.

Still, its food has become increasingly popular, even among individuals with dramatically different political viewpoints, and is less awful than most (if not all) of its competitors. Yet, it was not on the menu, despite one of its restaurants being only 1.6 miles, and less than ten minutes by automobile, from the White House.

It might have been an oversight were events like this not carefully choreographed. The Administration includes Vice-President Mike Pence, a fervent opponent of same-sex marriage and supporter of "religious liberty" legislation while governor of Indiana, no doubt a reason he was selected as running mate for the selfishly, gaudily libertine Donald Trump.

On Easter Sunday, he chooses to tweet profusely, in 2018 warning people about caravans with "big flows of people" who "take advantage" of our "dumb immigration laws" which are too welcoming.He appears to believe Second Corinthians is Two Corinthians and that the purpose of communion is to ask for forgiveness (which he doesn't do, anyway), during which he takes "my little cracker" and "my little wine," places the offering into the communion plate.

Or so it appears. No believing Christian speaks of "Two Corinthians," believes that communion is for confession, or takes the "little cracker" or the "little wine" lightly. 

Few non-believers would refer to "Two Corinthians" or assume communion=confession, or mock the elements of the sacrament as "little." Neither would Donald Trump, whose IQ reaches well into the double digits, except by design.

And yet Donald Trump has done exactly that, as well as sending out tweets which are hateful 363 days a year, but particularly repulsive on Easter (or Christmas).

Failing to promote Chick-fil-A as he did Burger King and McDonalds is far less serious, and more of a curiosity. However, sometimes an individual begins to run out of ways to demonstrate contempt for a group of supporters and poke the finger in their eye, so a White House meal becomes the latest effort to test his limits and the gullibility of his supporters.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Or She Can Change Her Initials from TG to BHO

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has announced that she will run for the Democratic nomination for President. Gabbard has her detractors for several reasons, including her opposition to regime change in Syria and partiality to Indian strongman Narenda Modi, a fellow Hindi. However, that is not the issue(s) likely to derail her campaign. Rather

In one instance in February 2004, Gabbard, at the time a 22-year-old state representative, was testifying against a bill aimed at legalizing same-sex civil unions.

“To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” she said. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”

Six months later, Gabbard spoke more candidly while replying to an email originally sent to her father, Mike Gabbard, who was a Republican city councilman in Honolulu running for Congress.

“I smell a skunk,” Gabbard told Honolulu Magazine. She was responding to an email that was originally addressed to her father asking about his ties to the leader of a Hare Krishna movement in Hawaii, according to the magazine.

“It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case [Mike Gabbard’s opponent],” she wrote.

It appears that Gabbard's views on gay rights shifted radically approximately a decade ago. CNN explains that in her successful run for the US House in 2012, she stated "I want to apologize for statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community." Since being elected, she "has supported efforts to promote LGBT equality, including co-sponsoring pro-LGBT legislation like The Equality Act, a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT individuals."

Nonetheless, she has been attacked on Twitter for those earlier views. Media Matters Editor-at-large Parker Molloy: "So, she’ll co-sponsor bills supporting LGBTQ rights, but still personally thinks we’re icky."  Former Vermont governor Howard Dean: "I was on the other side of this argument wearing a bulletproof vest while she was" condemning homosexuals."  Investigative reporter Andrew Kaczynski: "I realized Tulsi Gabbard was anti-gay but didn't quite realize how anti-gay she was in the 2000s."

Gabbard, despite acknowledgment of error, may not be able to survive this onslaught and what is likely to come.

But someone else survived and even prospered from his opposition- which continued until it was untenable in 2012- to same-sex marriage.  After Senator Obama opposed gay marriage in his (successful) 2008 presidential candidacy, wrote Washington Post reporter Hunter Schwarz in 2015

Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage for years after that, in fact, until an interview with ABC News in 2012, which also just so happened to be the first year the support for gay marriage crested opposition, data from Pew shows, and the year Obama was campaigning for reelection.

Obama's support also followed closely support endorsement of same-sex marriage by his running mate, Vice President Biden, and thereby preempted a rift in the campaign. Schwarz added

In 1996, as an Illinois state Senate candidate, Obama indicated on a questionnaire that he supported same-sex marriage. In 2011, however, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the questionnaire was filled out by someone else and that Obama "has never favored same-sex marriage." Obama also frequently said attitudes on the issue, including his, were "evolving" -- something many took as code for what was to come.

"My Forty Years in Politics" by former campaign chairperson (and still Obama fan) David Axelrod was published at the time of Schwarz's article and

Indeed, as Axelrod writes, Obama told him at the time that he was "just not very good at bull*****ing." And he wasn't. Plenty of people believed at the time that he was actually pretty clearly in favor of gay marriage and just didn't feel comfortable saying it. Yet the White House apparently decided to keep up the charade for years afterward.

Except that Obama was truly adept at bull*****ing because it allowed him to cement his base in Chicago, especially in the black church. Axelrod noted

Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union.'

It worked like a charm. To his ecclesiastical base,  Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage, substituting a nod and a wink to his supporters on the left. He added that he was "evolving," simultaneously signaling that he agreed with the left and taking a subtle dig at the creationists who dominate the Christian right. Additionally (and unlike Gabbard) he wisely still has not acknowledged error in opposing "marriage equality" nor apologized for pretending otherwise.

Jamelle Bouie recently argued "black candidates may have the strategic advantage in the Democratic primary.... because they won’t have to demonstrate the same social solidarity. Like Obama, they can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president’s racism rather than vocalizing it."

Black candidates may have a strategic advantage on gay rights for the same reason, with liberal/progressive voters assuming they are on the correct side of the issue. That may, however, not prove to be the case. Rather, it may have only been the bi-racial, former community activist Barack Obama who, despite his protestation, always has been a very, very good bull*****er.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Donald Trump, Prescient

When at a debate in August, 2015 Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump whether he was part of a war on women as alleged by Hillary Clinton, Trump was uncharacteristically forthright, maintaining

The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either.

A few months later, Republican senator Lindsey Graham labeled Trump "a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. " Two days later, he would comment "you know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell."

Two months later, Graham would state "I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office" and he ultimately voted for Independent Evan McMullin in the presidential election.

In "Fear" released last September, famed former reporter Bob Woodward claimed that the dramatic turnaround in Graham's attitude toward Donald Trump began with an Oval Office meeting in March, 2017. Trump met with Graham with a bear hug and then remarked "We've got to be friends. You are going to be my friend."

Some unfortunate teen-age girls have been told by a boy, "you are going to be my girlfriend" or by a creepy uncle, "you are going to be my friend." Yet, if Woodward is to be believed, it worked like a charm.

Nonetheless, in July Graham knocked the President for having suggested that Attorney General Sessions should have prosecuted Hillary Clinton. The following month, he criticized Trump for his response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A couple of months later, the two played golf together and Graham gushed over the President as if he had a schoolboy crush:

It was all downhill from there, Graham even returning to the theme last June with

Most recently- on Thursday evening- the Senator recommended the President "declare emergency, build the wall now" because "the Democrats are not working in good faith with you." By later that evening, it was all but certain that President Trump would declare a national emergency and re-direct funds to construction of his precious wall. 

On Friday afternoon, however, Trump told reporters that invoking emergency powers is "the easy way out" (which is why he probably will do it eventually) but "I'm not going to do it so fast."

Though surprising, it wasn't startling because the President believes he has little reason to concern himself with GOP members of Congress and others who do not want him to take that constitutionally doubtful action.  And he has no reason at all to heed Lindsey Graham.

Aside from the far right represented by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham, there is no Republican (Vladimir Putin being a member of the All-Russia People's Front) who can exert control over President Trump.

The House of Representatives, once ruled by sycophantic Paul Ryan, now is in Democratic hands, the Senate Majority Leader has a wife in Trump's cabinet, and Lindsey Graham is from South Carolina.

Graham may have been angling for a spot in President Trump's cabinet, previously as Attorney General, now as Secretary of Defense. However, that may not transpire, leaving him as a United States Senator from the state of South Carolina, a state which consistently votes Republican in presidential contests and in which Trump is very popular.

As a Republican (one not identified with the far-right of the Party), Lindsey Graham is nearly certain to win a general election. However, Donald Trump can make or break GOP candidates in primaries and South Carolina is a very conservative state with extremely conservative primary voters. It's highly unlikely that Trump failed to mention that in both the golf outing in October, 2017 and the earlier meeting at the White House.

There has been an unwritten rule that gentlemen not be unnecessarily rude with other gentlemen, including blackmailing them on unrelated, personal matters. It's highly unlikely, though, that President Trump, who shatters norms almost daily, would allow what he would consider "political correctness" to interfere with his message to the deep south Senator.

In October, comedienne Chelsea Handler tweeted "If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay. Looking at you @LindseyGrahamSC."

Pointing out that Lindsey Graham is Protestant, a lawyer, or a veteran would be harmless and would pass without notice. Even claiming that he is not Protestant, a lawyer, or a veteran would be relatively uncontroversial. However, Handler was criticized by conservatives and gay groups- criticized precisely because they realize that Graham would be harmed if he were believed, at least by his home state's residents, to be gay.  (They did not choose to deny her assertion.) 

President Trump has not been one to allow the niceties of what he would consider "political correctness" to get in the way of his message. Though it is widely speculated that Lindsey Graham is gay, he has denied it, and the very lack of hard evidence is a safeguard against its use as a political cudgel against him in South Carolina.

MSNBC host and former GOP Representative Joe Scarborough (R-Fl) recently lamented Donald Trump's transformation from "one of the most genial, reasonable and measured members of Congress" to "one of the administration's leading henchmen in hatching plots to run roughshod over our nation's traditions and turn the party into a rudderless collection of mini-me Donald Trumps."

This is a widely-held view. Yet, there has been relatively little interest in exploring the radical change over the last two years in the behavior of a member of the upper chamber of the legislative branch of the most powerful nation on earth.  "The big problem this country has is being politically correct," Donald J. Trump advised us 41 months ago. Alas, in the interest of a misguided politeness, the saga of Lindsey Graham has proven him right.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Jury Is Still Out, Barely

Most Americans are intelligent and (arguably) most American voters are even more intelligent.

Maybe most voters in the State of Iowa are intelligent, even in its 4th congressional district, represented by Steve King, who recently was interviewed by The New York Times:  .

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Although King later issued a clarification, Charlie Pierce remarked

this revolting lump of hot, bigoted mess has been elected to the Congress nine freaking times. His constituents are racists or they are idiots. (A third alternative is not available at this time.)

They've voted nine times for a fellow who previously graced his office desk with a Confederate flag. (Iowa was not part of the Confederacy.) They've been represented for over 16 years by a fellow who has supported far-right politicians in Europe and been characterized by a neo-Nazi as "basically an open white nationalist at this point."

Racists or idiots, Pierce speculates. In either case, a great lack many harbor sentiments inconsistent with democratic values of tolerance and inclusiveness, or are ill-informed, irrational, and senseless.

The evidence is not only in their endorsement of Steve King.  Although the 4th District is not one of those venerated, celebrated Trump to Obama districts, the electoral turnaround is stunning. In 2008, 53% of its voters opted for Barack Obama and only 45% for John McCain. In 2012 its Democratic/Republican numbers reversed- 53% voted for Mitt Romney and only 45% for Obama. Four years later, the big change came when Donald Trump garnered 61% of the vote and Hillary Clinton only 34%.

In eight years, the percentage of vote given to the GOP- represented by a war hero in 2008 and a draft evader in 2016- went from 45% to 63%.  The district in 2008 rejected this guy in favor of Barack Obama:

Eight years later its voters, favorable to Barack Obama, overwhelmingly repudiated Hillary Clinton and embraced this guy:

There may have been many factors involved in the dramatic uptick in the GOP share of the presidential vote in eight years. However, the starkly different perspective of the two Party's candidates (with Romney, three) is undoubtedly one of them. "Racists or idiots" may be a little harsh. The shoe may not fit exactly, but it's not far off.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019


Continuing his feud with Donald Trump, Joe Scarborough is increasingly less endeared with the Republican Party:
The New York Times had explained that references during the primary and general election campaigns to a wall on the southern border were promoted by advisers as

a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

That rhetorical device now has been magnified immeasurably, aided by South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who after the President's immigration speech told Sean Hannity

To my Republican colleagues: This is the best chance we’ll ever have to help President Trump get border wall funding, steel barrier funding, and at the same time, fix the loopholes. The only way we’ll lose is to give in. If we stand firm, put bills on the table that make sense, we will win this on behalf of the American people.

But, if we undercut the president, that’s the end of his presidency, and the end of our party - and we deserve to be punished if we give in now.

A former GOP US Representative, Scarborough was being generous when he argued "maybe the party needs to die." We learn from Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee
Barr is not a furloughed worker and has met with Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. A former Obama  Justice Department spokesperson tweets

"If we give in now," Lindsey Graham remarked, "we deserve to be punished." Graham has the right prescription for the wrong reason(s). As its members of Congress stand by their man in the White House, the party doesn't deserve to be punished. For the sake of American democracy, it needs to be replaced by a party which gives more than lip service to the national interest.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Same Trump, Different Circumstances

"Responding to a 'border emergency' by urging the beginning of planning for a 15-year civil engineering project," David Frum tweets, is "rather like saying 'My house is burning! Time to begin the process of calling for design proposals for a new fire station.'"

And so President Trump's address to the nation Tuesday night began and ended with a period or semi-colon rather than with his customary exclamation point, more of a hostage tape than a call for dramatic action.

Frum's colleague at The Atlantic, David A. Graham recognized

The speech was bewildering. Was this stiff oration given by the same man who captured the nation’s attention—and elicited outrage—with his descent down a gold escalator in June 2015, his vow that “I alone can fix it” in summer 2016, or his invocation of “American carnage” in January 2017? It’s hard to believe that master showman was the same person who sat behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday.

It is the same person whom people misinterpret- Republicans, for strategic advantage- as a "counter-puncher. However, Donald Trump is a puncher, not a counter-puncher.

When he walked down the escalator in June, 2015, he was acting, in contrast both to being genuine and to reacting.  He was brash and bold, promising to help schools, veterans, the middle class, the elderly, Israel and bring back "peace through strength."

Tuesday night, however, Trump was practically a wounded puppy because he is losing.  He knows he does not hold a winning hand, having given up leverage when he boasted that he would be "proud" to shut down the federal government. Tweeting prior to the President's speech, Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono observed "the only crisis that exists is the one he manufactured and the only wall that's real is the one closing in on him."

That's an exaggeration, but only a slight one. The President, having predicted the speech "is not going to change a damn thing," apparently relented because his arm was twisted by communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah H. Sanders, and Kellyanne F. Conway (weakness, as usual).

He'll get back his mojo, of course, for a while. Still, with the walls evidently closing in on him, Democrats should take notice that Trump has been tamed- at least temporarily- and that attempting to cajole, pacify, or appease him will only backfire.

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One Mustn't Say Such Things In Polite Company.

DC Examiner Deputy Editor Jay Caruso and investigative journalist Matt Taibbi agree : I’m no fan of Lindsey Graham, but this pract...