Monday, July 15, 2019

Spineless Opportunist

This post can go only downhill after this Charlie Pierce comment, responding to- well, you know:

Except for Justin Amash—who called the presidential* tweets "racist and disgusting"—no Republican member of Congress had the sand to condemn the president*'s naked bigotry, but many of them did demonstrate their skills at licking both boots and spittle. Susan Collins had nothing to say, although I'm sure she was deeply concerned. Ben Sasse also went into seclusion, possibly considering how much better a human being the president* would be had he grown up milking chickens on the lone prairie. Joni Ernst tweeted out some nifty footwear. Jesus, these people are pathetic.

They are pathetic. But they're pillars of integrity compared to Trump's former ambassador to the United Nations, NikkiHaley, who- only a few hours after the President's bigoted tweetstorm against the congresswomen-

condemned prominent Democrats for staying mum after protesters demonstrating outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility last week pulled down the American flag and flew the flag of Mexico in its place.

Crews in Aurora, Colorado, restored the American flag Friday evening. The protesters also removed a "Blue Lives Matter" flag, honoring law enforcement, spray-painted it with the words "Abolish ICE," then raised the flag upside-down, on a pole next to the Mexican flag, local media reported.

"There are no words for why the Democrats are staying silent on this," Haley wrote. "If this is your way to winning an election, fire your strategist. This is disgusting. Love your country. And if you don’t like what is happening then tell the members of Congress to get to work and fix it."

Irresponsible, outrageous, and unlawful, but also silly and ineffectual, coming from a bunch of nameless, unknown private individuals who wanted instant notoriety via Instagram, Facebook, or Republican complaints.

We do know, however, who it is who told members of Congress to "go back to the places from which they came," which include the exotic locales of the Bronx, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

That same man gave a couple of Russian guys hanging out with him in the Oval Office classified information obviously originating with an ally, Israel; casually reports on the US government to mainland China and Russia through his cell phone; labeled an American politician "a nasty, vindictive,horrible person" while he was at a ceremony in France commemorating D-Day; publicly sided with a murderous Russian thug over USA intelligence; condemned prosecutors at a funeral, commended the Soviet invasion ofAfghanistan; defended Saudi Arabia when it butchered an American resident; and is to Nikki Haley a public treasure.

"Love your country" is an ironic comment directed toward Democrats, rather than to the President whom Haley loyally served while he praised foreign dictators, criticized Americans, and has run an Administration which, against all odds, is almost as corrupt as he himself is.

As a "person of color" and Republican to the left of Genghis Khan and of even Jim Jordan, Nikki Haley is a darling of the mainstream media. But that hasn't prevented her from being a shill, and for someone a lot more dangerous than a bunch of immigration extremists.

Share |

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Crime-Infested Places From Which They Came

By now, everyone has seen President Trump, in a series of three tweets, has proclaimed

So interesting to see 'progressive' Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.

Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.

These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

In response, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker tweeted

During the 2016 campaign, whenever Trump made racist or xenophobic comments there was a small but reliable chorus of Republican office holders who spoke out. Today, there’s silence, nine hours later.

Of course, there is little reason for GOP members of Congress to respond. If they condemn Mr. Trump for these remarks, they may face the wrath of the President. By keeping silent, they avoid a Trump-approved primary opponent. And otherwise excellent journalists such as Rucker imply that, just maybe, Republicans finally have regained their probity.

But of course they haven't. They know they merely have to sit back and watch Democrats remind voters already convinced that Donald Trump is a racist that he is a racist... and voters who resist that conclusion once more get annoyed at Democrats for seemingly attacking as a racist anyone they disagree with.

One of Trump's (unspecified) targets was Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who referred to the President's "hate filled agenda" and accused him of "stoking white nationalism." No kidding. Another, Representative Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts put out a screenshot of Trump's tweets, remarking (emphasis hers) "THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like."  Nothing new there, either.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted "when I call the President a racist, this is what I'm talking about." The Speaker's reaction may have been most emblematic of the instinctive Democratic response to, well, almost anything:

However,what they will not see Democrats do is linking Trump's condemnation of the four Democratic congresswomen as attacks on their own Americanism. The New York Times explains

.... only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.

New York City. Ohio. Michigan. These are the states of birth of three of the four subjects of Trump's invective. Two of these  states cast their lot for the winning nominee in each of the last three elections, for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Trump in 2016.

It shouldn't take a marketing genius to craft an ad, maybe even a campaign, charging the President- plausibly- with having denigrated the residents of Ohio and Michigan as being a "complete and total catastrophe" and "crime-infested." Though Trump ran successfully in 2016 on the "Obama and the Democrats have made the USA into a hellhole" platform, he was then a challenger. Now he is the incumbent.

It's conceivable that it won't work. Politics now may be completely bipolar, with Democrats infuriated by the odor of racism and misogyny, and Republicans determined to look the other way no matter the affront.

Nonetheless, much of the mainstream media, never-Trump Republicans, and centrist Democrats  portray voters, especially those of the rust belt central to electoral victory in presidential elections, as hungry for a Democrat who blisters Trump yet is not very liberal. If there is any- any- validity to that argument, Democrats would prosper by an argument that a president fond of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and other anti-American despots is contemptuous of his fellow Americans.

Meanwhile, the image of the Democratic Party among many voters in the "heartland" as one which sees not one country but gay vs. straight, women vs. men, "people of color" vs. white would be undermined.  If Democrats don't even recognize that Donald Trump has given them an opening, they're placing their faith in the notion that the nation's changing demographics, which was almost to guarantee them a victory in 2016, is their ticket to victory in 2020.

Or maybe these well-healed critics mean only that the Democratic Party must not nominate Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or anyone else who would upset the economic status quo. But give it a try.

Share |

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Great Unknown

Acknowledging "It remains unclear how medically serious Merkel’s shaking incidents have been," Siobahn O'Grady and Rick Noack of The Washington Post report

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was filmed shaking at an official ceremony in early June, her office brushed it off as an episode of dehydration. Then it happened again. And again.

On Thursday, she opted to sit through national anthems during an official visit with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. After the event, she told journalists that she is fine but “will have to live with it for a while.”

“I am very well, and you don’t need to worry about me,” she said. “Just like how it has come, one day it will go away, too."

The Post reporters recall that the late-stage cancer afflicting French president Francois Mitterand was not revealed until he had left office and died in 1996  and that the nation's Francois Hollande did not acknowledge he had undergone surgery for benign prostate swelling until he was elected France's president.  Additionally, they note, the American public was unaware that President John F Kennedy had been prescribed numerous medication for Addison's Disease. 

It turns out, however, that the Post's reporters are only modestly concerned with post-war European history, even Chancellor Merkel's difficulties. Instead, it may have been a pretext for a cheap shot against someone who never became a Chancellor or President:

A number of American leaders and high-profile politicians have chosen to keep their medical conditions out of the public eye. On the campaign trail in 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton fell ill at an event honoring 9/11 victims and had to depart earlier than planned. An onlooker captured video that appeared to show her legs buckling as Secret Service agents helped her into her van. The campaign said she was dehydrated and later expanded the explanation to clarify she had recently been diagnosed with pneumonia after a long allergy-related cough. Her somewhat mild illness came after months of accusations from her Republican competition that she was suffering from an undisclosed condition.

As The Washington Post reported at the time, her initial instinct to keep her pneumonia diagnosis secret “set in motion perhaps the most damaging cascade of events for her in the general-election campaign — giving fresh ammunition to Republican nominee Donald Trump, who lags in the polls, and spoiling a two-week offensive she had plotted before the first debate.”

She later told CNN she kept the diagnosis private and tried to power through because she “just didn’t think it was going to be that big a deal.”

It was a big deal- but only because The Washington Post and other media outlets decided to blow the incident out of proportion in her race with the Republican nominee. Hillary Clinton, who released her full medical records prior to the election, evidently was not on death's doorstep, whatever her opponents and  his supporters implied. Yet, the Post excludes from those "American leaders and high-profile politicians" the current President, Donald J. Trump.

The President underwent an annual physical exam last February, and we learned little. He continues to take Ambien, Crestor, antibiotics, Propecia, and a low dose of aspirin.

We know also that Trump avoids exercise, eats fast food so he won't be poisoned, evinces evidence of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, sleeps four to five hours a night, and has been described as "increasingly isolated." We do not know for sure whether he has continued a prior likely drug habit. In a story which lasted, oh, perhaps 24 hours, during a set last December

comedian Noel Casler claimed President Donald Trump used to snort Adderall on the set of The Celebrity Apprentice.

Casler, who worked on the show's crew, had a few other comics – mostly ardent Trump opponents – come to his defense on Twitter, calling him “professional” and “discreet.”

The six-minute routine at the Gotham Comedy Club drew plenty of laughs on Dec. 1, but it didn’t start going viral until a few days later.

“He’s a speed freak,” Casler told the crowd. “He crushes up his Adderall and he sniffs it, ’cause he can’t read, so he gets really nervous when he has to read cue cards. I’m not kidding. This is true.”

He went on to describe a “24-page nondisclosure agreement” – then apparently dismiss it.

“I didn’t know then he was becoming president,” he continued. “Now it’s, no way, dumbass. I’m telling you everything I know. So he gets nervous and he crushes up these pills, and that’s why he’s sniffing when you see him in debates and when you see him reading. It’s why he’s tweeting, you know, it’s like he’s out of his mind.”

Riffing on the allegations, he continued.

“It makes sense if you think about it,” he said, “methamphetamine was invented by the Nazis to keep the fighter pilots up all night on bombing runs, so it makes sense that Trump would use it to hate-tweet.”

Thanks to The Washington Post, we are to believe that Hillary Clinton nefariously hid from the public an incident of what is sometimes referred to as "walking pneumonia,"  but we still don't know why the sniffing. Also thanks to The Washington Post and the other media evidently afraid of what they'd find, we do not know whether the individual who was elected President of the USA, now possessing the nuclear football, is physically and psychologically healthy.

Share |

Friday, July 12, 2019

Hard To Believe

Things change. People change.  The views of people change.

Still, if there were a courageous journalist out there, the Speaker of the House would have some explaining to do. And it has nothing to do with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the run-up to what the Administration claims will be immigration raids in numerous cities on Sunday, Nancy

Pelosi also told members that she plans to reach out to religious leaders to encourage them to oppose the efforts, as she did last month when Trump first threatened the raids, one person said. Pelosi also spoke to Trump by phone last month and urged him to call off his plans.

Democrats have sharply criticized the White House’s plans, which would target not only individuals who failed to appear in court, but also any unauthorized immigrants who happen to be at the scene — possibly affecting family members or others who were not originally targets.

Pelosi later told reporters she thinks evangelical groups played a significant role in Trump's decision to call off the initial raids and she hopes they'll chime in again.

“They were very concerned that this goes too far because these raids were not what they signed up for with President Trump. And I think their calls to the president made a difference,” Pelosi said. “Hopefully the president will think again about it or these groups will weigh in once again.

These raids were not what they signed up for with President Trump That would be the same Donald J. Trump who made these statements:

6/16/15: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

12/7/15: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

10/16: (Ford is) "going to build a plant and illegals are going drive those cars right over the border... And they'll probably end up stealing the cars."

If it's not what they signed up for, it's what they got- and what they seem to approve. Pelosi did not specify what "evangelical groups" she was referring to. However, the religious individuals who make up those groups or who are presumably represented by them have made their sentiments clear- and not as the Speaker suggests. Alternatively, the groups she has talked to may be African-American groups.

Surveys separating out evangelical sentiment from that of other Americans are scarce. However, a Pew Research survey fourteen months ago determined

By more than two-to-one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees. Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.

In April of this year, a University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found "Regardless of whom Americans believe are the intended target of the immigration raids, there is a striking partisan divide on expressed support for these activities: While 81 percent of Democrats disapprove of the raids, 88 percent of Republicans approve." There is some evidence that approval of the overall performance of President Trump among white evangelicals has declined. However, it is still substantially greater than that of non-churchgoers, Catholics, or mainline Protestants, and they remain his popular base. 

Maybe, just maybe, evangelical leaders are privately opposed to mass immigration raids. More likely, though, they are telling the Speaker what she wants to hear. But if these are "not what they signed up for," they're keeping quiet among those who most need to hear, the individuals who agree with them theologically.

Perhaps support by evangelical Christians of harsh immigration enforcement is cruel and heartless. Or maybe not. They are, however, not stupid. They heard Donald Trump loud and clear during the presidential campaign and they hear him loud and clear now. 

It's often uncomfortable for members of the media to ask questions pertaining to religious belief and its intersection with political values. However, with most available evidence indicating otherwise, if the Speaker of the House maintains evangelical leaders are aghast or repulsed at, or even cool toward, the President's immigration policies, someone should ask her for substantiation of her claim.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

She Went There

Vox on Wednesday brought us up-to-date (almost) with the clash between the House Speaker and the gang of four (video below from April before the recent flare-up):

Nancy Pelosi firmly told House Democrats to keep their internal gripes behind closed doors, even as she herself fields backlash for seemingly dismissing her caucus’s progressive firebrands.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay,” Pelosi told lawmakers in a private meeting Tuesday, according to multiple sources in the room.

Pelosi’s comment was directed at progressive House lawmakers, many of whom vocally chided their leadership and moderate colleagues for accepting the Senate’s $4.59 billion supplemental border funding bill in late June, arguing the legislation did not go far enough to improve standards at detention centers. In the end, only four Democrats voted against that piece of legislation: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA), the so-called progressive “squad.” But there’s been clear sourness in the caucus since, and that has spilled over publicly.

“I am looking for a new pharmaceutical drug that builds spine,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said after the border bill vote. Her co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) tweeted that a bipartisan group of moderate Republicans and Democrats —dubbed the “Problem Solvers Caucus” — were becoming the “Child Abuse Caucus.”

Pelosi responded to their grievances in public, too. In an interview with the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, she questioned the actual influence Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley, women who have commanded the attention of the Democratic Party with bold policy proposals and a viral internet presence, have in Congress.

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi told Dowd. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter: “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment.”

And there it should have ended.

But there it didn't, because

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Post.

“But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color,” she added.

No. She wants Democrats to to continue to control the House of Representatives and if that means degrading Democrats from safe districts, she will degrade Democrats from safe districts, especially if she believes it helps Democratic candidates in swing districts (which it probably doesn't). She wants power because.... because that's what a lot of politicians want.

Pelosi is not singling out "newly elected women of color"/colored women. She is singling out those individuals who voted against the caucus majority on the supplemental border funding bill and actively tweet. "Singling out of newly elected women of color" has the distinct odor of someone who feels entitled.

 The Speaker bears a greater burden of not dividing the caucus because she is the one with the power, and she has failed that test in this dispute, especially by lowering herself to an interview with Maureen Dowd. However, Ocasio-Cortez et al. would do better to emphasize that their loyalty is not to an individual but to their constituents. 

And best of all, to leave out gender and, especially, race. They shouldn't ignore these divisive topics because they are uncivil or hurt feelings. They should steer clear because it simply is not accurate as applied to the Speaker, at least not on this matter.

Pelosi has been acting foolishly lately. But if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to create animosity among Democrats, and toward Democrats from voters, she may have found a truly effective angle.

 Share |

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dancing With The One That Brung Ya

Jamelle Bouie observes

Trump’s approval rating is nearly 10 points under water, meaning that over all, people disapprove of his performance as president by a large margin (52.3 to 42.7 percent); in several recent polls he loses hypothetical matchups with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg; and as of April, 52 percent of registered voters said they “definitely” wouldn’t vote for him in 2020. He still has the economy on his side, but if the president doesn’t try to reach out to voters outside of his base — if he doesn’t try to appeal to Democrats and Republicans who rejected him in 2016 — there’s a good chance he’ll lose re-election.

There is a good chance he'll lose if he doesn't. There also is a good chance he won't lose. And there is a good chance he will lose if and only if he tacks to the center.

We won't know for 16 months.  But we do can guess that whatever approach Trump takes will be the wise choice strategically. However, Bouie is uncertain, arguing that it is

striking to see how far the president is from the center of American politics. The most expansive Democratic proposals for strengthening the social safety net are far closer to the political mainstream than the great majority of Trump’s actions as president. And he shows no sign of changing course. Trump is still committed to his base, still obsessed with mobilizing his strongest supporters. This may get big crowds in friendly territory, but it might not be enough to win a second term in 2020.

Although we won't know whether the strategy the President employs will bring him success a year from November, we do know how Trump survived- maybe even thrived from- the most serious crisis of his 2016 campaign. In an excerpt in Politico  from Timothy Alberta's new book about Trump and the GOP, we learn that the pressure upon the candidate to bow out of the race after release of the Access Hollywood tape was even greater than had been supposed. 

When the Repub candidate was heard on tape bragging about sexual assault, much of the GOP elite it could win the presidency only if he stepped aside in favor of Mike Pence.  With the second presidential debate looming, Trump could have relinquished his run or at least tried to gut it out by muddling through the controversy.

But he would do neither.  Instead, he counter-attacked, in part by "bringing up Bill Clinton’s history of being 'abusive to women'" and by creating 

without question, the ugliest and most vitriolic presidential debate in the mass-communication era. And it was exactly what Trump needed. Facing pressure unlike any White House hopeful in memory, the Republican nominee didn’t just get off the mat; he came up swinging. It made all the difference. Within 48 hours the bleeding had stopped: Republicans ceased their calls for his withdrawal, Pence dutifully returned to the stump and his campaign went on as though nothing had happened.

"With this," Greg Sargent comments, "Trump displayed a remarkable, if perhaps instinctual, grasp of how to survive in today’s GOP. While he did issue a video apology, what really rescued Trump was going ferociously on the attack, which crucially included threatening to put the real enemy in prison."

Donald Trump makes periodic tactical mistakes, but has a keen grasp of strategy. He understood he needed to go on the attack and project an image of strength. (He also may have discovered that, at base, Americans are simply not appalled by sexual assault.) The President will at times deviate from that between now and November 2020 if he senses that a feint is conducive to his image. However, it is not clear that his mix of ideological extremism, hostility toward American citizens, and overt ethnic and gender bias will decrease his odds of re-election.

Share |

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Not Race

This sort of thing has to stop. In his excellent Washington Post column, Paul Waldman cites the most relevant passage in Maureen Dowd's column about her interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

I asked Pelosi whether, after being the subject of so many you-go-girl memes for literally clapping back at Trump, it was jarring to get a bad headline like the one in HuffPost that day — “What The Hell Is Nancy Pelosi Doing?” The article described the outrage of the Squad, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts are known.

Pelosi feels that the four made themselves irrelevant to the process by voting against “our bill,” as she put it, which she felt was the strongest one she could get. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” she said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Waldman notes "Pelosi seems gripped by the belief that voters will punish Democrats if the party is too mean to Trump, or uses its institutional power too aggressively and fails to Get Things Done." He justifiably complains

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Pelosi can’t just say, “I get where they’re coming from but we just happen to disagree on this, and that’s fine,” and leave it at that. But she seems unable to keep herself from showing contempt for the fact that younger members such as Ocasio-Cortez have large social media followings (“their public whatever and their Twitter world”), as though she doesn’t understand this newfangled technology and therefore it must be stupid and irrelevant. She’s often equally dismissive of their policy priorities, calling the Green New Deal “the green dream or whatever they call it.”

More succinctly, Charlie Pierce  asserts "Don't pick unnecessary fights with your own people, especially in the public prints. The press is not your friend, nor is it supposed to be" (and Maureen Dowd, as he understands, is the master of snark and nothing else).

One twitterer, however, may as well have justified Pelosi's cheap shot. ("Get off my lawn," she might have phrased it.) He links to the Waldman piece, entitled "Why is Nancy Pelosi doing this," and remarks (emphasis his) "My question exactly. Bitter older woman reprimanding the youthful women of color is NOT A GOOD LOOK."

The Speaker said nothing, implied nothing, suggested nothing about individuals "of color," not of color, African-American, Arabic, Latina, or whatever. In the video below, Pelosi is seen striking out (at approximately :51) against then-NBC correspondent Luke Russert for (merely) asking whether House Democratic leadership would benefit from younger leadership (a widespread belief at the time).  As her remarks indicate, there is no reason to believe that Pelosi is sexist- at least not against women.  She is, beside being a little put off by new media, against anything or anyone that/who challenges her authority (video below, again).

House criticism of the GOP's border detention bill, supported by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, was led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna (don't call me Elvis) Presley,  They are youthful, they are women, and they are "of color" (or "colored," as it once was put in the less-tolerant precincts). Those are the Representatives who, with Judiciary Committee chairperson Nadler and Ways and Means Committee chairperson Neal dancing to P:elosi's tune, are currently presenting any challenge whatsoever to the Speaker.

And so it is they whom Pelosi, unhelpfully, struck out against.  Criticism of a Democrat for allegedly being insensitive to minorities- especially, though not only, in the age of Trump- is the stuff of what sometimes makes the Democratic Party or the left look foolish.

Share |

Spineless Opportunist

This post can go only downhill after this Charlie Pierce comment, responding to- well, you know: Except for Justin Amash—who ca...