Saturday, March 17, 2018

McCabe Move Part Of Strategy

Chris Hayes tweets "My prediction is that the McCabe firing, like the Comey firing, will end up backfiring."

It might. I was never convinced Trump would (successfully) lean on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but I've never been slick enough to be elected President of the United States of America. Donald Trump has.

Donald Trump has made several moves, let alone issued numerous tweets, which probably are tactically bizarre. When he recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs, several GOP members of Congress were very skeptical, even Senate Finance Commmittee chairperson Orrin Hatch, who argued "Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford." That should count as impassioned condemnation from a guy who has said Trump is "the best President I've served 'under' (including) Lincoln, Reagan, and James K. Polk." (Orrin Hatch is quite old.)

The President already has walked back a portion of that plan. Similarly, he has suggested capital punishment for drug dealers, not ony an excessively punitive but borderline bizarre idea that will not come to fruition.

But the push for a protectionist trade policy and killing criminals is part of a larger Trumpian strategy for 2020.  The popularity of tariffs nationwide is questionable, but it is likely the idea has gained him net support in Wisonsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Like the death penalty, it sends the message that Donald Trump is a no-nonsense, authentic guy who will stand up for the average person, whether beleagured manufacturing workers or voters he has convinced street crime has exploded out of control in cities.

Fun fact: The "Don't Mess with Texas" slogan was created by an ad agency, working under contract from state government in Austin, to mobilize support of the public to change its habits to reverse the epidemic of litter spiraling out of control in the state. Nonetheless, it quickly became a go-to line for pundits, politicians, and others, unaware of its origin, to demonstrate their swagger.

Tariffs and drug crime are not at the top of President Trump's consciousness. Neither is Andrew McCabe, no matter how vindictive Grump is.  But they are part of an overall strategy. And now we have a dismissal which may in and of itself- as Hayes expects- be a bad tactic, but part of a clever strategy.  Politico reports

But McCabe sees bigger forces at work in the Justice Department inspector general’s inquiry — which he views as part of a broader campaign to impugn him for his role in handling the FBI’s Russia investigation and his ties to special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Look, it’s personally devastating. It’s so tough on my family,” he told POLITICO during a wide-ranging interview conducted earlier this month, before his firing.

“But at some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,” said McCabe, 49, who says he has voted for every Republican presidential nominee until he sat out the 2016 contest entirely. “And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.”

“They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted,” McCabe added. “And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.”

"Trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted” is the primary purpose- but only part of the President's motivation.

In getting rid (he hopes) of McCabe, Trump once again has said "you're fired." Typically, he has had others, usually the Chief of Staff (his bodyguard in the case of James Comey) do the actual dirty deed.

But Donald J. Trump rose to national prominence in large measure because of his willingness- even delight- in firing people on "The Apprentice." Many people confused the program with real life, and many people, prone to live their lives vicariously through other people, envy and admire individuals able to snap their fingers and magically get rid of undesirables.

The McCabe move was part of the the Trump strategy- for defeating Mueller and for currying favor with voters. It's Donald Trump, Tough Guy, an image as divorced from reality as Donald Trump, Patriot.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Cannot Ignore The Culture War

Steve M. demolishes the major points of David Brooks' op-ed in The New York Times, in which the veteran columnist warns that progressives may drive the Democratic Party to "become the mirror image of your opponent,"   Donald J. Trump. Brooks celebrates the victory of House Democratic candidate Conor Lamb because he is, in Brooks' view, centrist and highly moral.  He also argues

There’ll be a tendency this year to nationalize each of the congressional races, to focus on Trump and not the country’s actual problems, to push the tribal hot buttons that excite the passionate Resistance in the great culture war.

Oddly, Brooks differentiates between focusing on Trump and focusing on "the country's actual problems."

But President Trump is exacerbating those actual problems, in some case having little to do with his personal immorality, prompting resistance without pushing those tribal hot buttons Brooks denigrates. One method is through packing the federal judiciary with judges who threaten what Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice notes is the "legal and social progress of decades" gained over decades for women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities. Further, they are likely to erode "critical protections' won in the courts "for the health and safety of the public and the environment."

Among the "woefully unfit appointees," Aron recognizes, of President Trump are

John Bush, confirmed this year to a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, who blogged anonymously for years, spreading racist birther theories about President Obama and mean-spirited attacks against Obama, LGBTQ rights, and an assortment of people and positions he disliked.

A nominee in North Carolina, Thomas Farr, appears to have misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role as a lawyer for Jesse Helms’s Senate campaign, in one of the sleaziest voter-suppression scams ever perpetrated: a mass mailing of postcards to African-American voters warning that they might not be legally registered to vote and could be prosecuted for voter fraud. His nomination remains on track.

In a climate in which harassment of women in the workplace is in the national spotlight, Don Willett, just confirmed to the 5th Circuit, harbors attitudes that cause deep concern.

While working in Texas state government, he aggressively belittled problems faced by working women, ridiculing “talk of ‘glass ceilings’” and dismissing concerns regarding “sexual discrimination/harassment.”

Willett carried his hostility to the Texas Supreme Court, where, as a justice, he ruled to weaken laws that protect women against discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

It’s not just the quality of nominees that has suffered. This administration and GOP-led Senate have taken a wrecking ball to norms that governed the nomination process for decades.

Bipartisan consultation with nominees’ home-state senators is dead. The hundred-year-old “blue-slip” tradition, giving home-state senators the go-ahead for nominations to proceed, was just junked.

Likewise, the ratings produced by the American Bar Association no longer count: this administration pushed four nominees rated “Not Qualified” by ABA evaluators. In past administrations, such ratings would typically force a candidate out of the running; not today, when the administration and its allies exclusively seek party loyalists, preferably in early middle age, who will sit on the bench for decades.

The man who became President is one to whom Brooks believes Democrats should turn- if not a blind eye- a sight-impaired eye- launched his dramatically successful campaign with

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.…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

Arguably, his campaign became even more hateful and bigoted, less truthful, and more focused on generating fear and anger. It is Trump, first as candidate, then as President, who has brought the cultural war to the fore, not the least by nominating only those judges approved by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society. Elizabeth Warren understands

the importnace of having a Democratic Party that stands for something- a Democratic Party that isn't just willing to take on a fight when it comes to- a Democratic Party that picks fights, a Democratic Party that makes people across the country say "I want to get out there and vote."

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Bipartisan Approval For Financial Disaster

In a brilliant, July 2016 article, Alex Nichols wrote about a celebrated musical "The most obvious historical aberration is the portrayal of Washington and Jefferson as black men, a somewhat audacious choice given that both men are strongly associated with owning, and in the case of the latter, raping and impregnating slaves."

The New York Times observed "Conservatives were particularly smitten" over Hamilton, and Rupert Murdoch labeled it "historically accurate," somehow appropriate for the guy who ultimately presides over the fanciful editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

Naturally, then-President Obama also gushed, remarking "I'm pretty sure this is the only thing that Dick Cheney and I have agreed on-during my entire political career." Nichols added  "That is, of course, false. Other points of agreement include drone strikes, Guantanamo, the NSA, and mass deportation."

Fortunately, President Obama was a little less favorably disposed than Bush-Cheney toward the financial institutions which disrupted, and nearly destroyed, the world economy in the latter stage of the previous administration. Though only one Wall Street executive went to prison, Obama did sign into law in July 2010 Dodd-Frank, which, the New York Times explained at the time

subjects more financial companies to federal oversight and regulates many derivatives contracts while creating a consumer protection regulator and a panel to detect risks to the financial system.

A number of the details have been left for regulators to work out, inevitably setting off complicated tangles down the road that could last for years.

But “because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes,” Mr. Obama said before signing the legislation. “There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period.”

Not so fast, big guy. There may be more "taxpayer-funded bailouts" In part for the same reason there was widespread acclaim for Hamilton:  the spirit of bipartisanship.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed by  67-31 the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, presumably named because it will reduce government oversight on banks with assets of up to $250 billion and provide comfort and relief to billionaire bank executives, referred to here as "consumers."

Earlier this month, the Boston Globe had pointed out that critics of  the legislation- the opening salvo of the Masters of  the Universe in overturning Dodd-Frank- "say that threshold is too  high, since the  failure of two or three of those mid-sized banks would be the equivalent of one big bank failing."
The Globe writes that one change "would empower big banks to secure more favorable treatment fromthe government" because it would require "the Federal Reserve to tailor regulations on the biggest banks individually for  each firm rather than aplying the same rules across the board."  Warren maintains it "may be the single most dangerous provision in the entire bill" and would result in "systematic weakening of  the  rules for all the big banks"

But as with Hamilton, there was bipartisan comity, with16 Democrats joining all 50 Republicans in voting for passage.  Senate Banking committee member and Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana commented "This legislative package is an example of what we can achieve by working together and shows Democrats and Republicans can break the gridlock. I’m proud my bill passed the Senate" and "look forward to the passage of my bill in the House, so that it can head to the president’s desk.” But Charlie Pierce recalls

All of those “compromises” of the early- and mid-19th century did nothing but delay the inevitable cataclysm over slavery. Support for Jim Crow often was “bipartisan,” as was the foreign adventurism that overthrew governments in places like Iran and Guatemala and that reached its bloody apex in Vietnam. The panic that produced the Patriot Act after the 9/11 attacks was bipartisan, as was the support for the war in Iraq for which that panic was exploited by a bunch of think-tank cowboys. More to the point, a lot of the measures that led to the financial collapse that led to the regulations now under assault were quite bipartisan. To say something is to be praised simply because it is something that “got done” in our “polarized age” is a simpleton’s view of politics.

Once the bill is approved by the House, President Trump will take a break from assailing members of Congress as "a low-IQ individual" or "a total phony" and sign the bill, citing it as an example of how he can get everyone to work together. And as one, the "liberal media" will join other opinion-makers in standing and applauding.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's Who He Is

It happened to President Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who with others

tried to talk Trump off the ledge. At one point, aides were sure Trump would make the announcement. Then they said he wouldn’t. Finally, sitting alongside steel executives, he did.

But Cohn quit his job after"iIn a meeting with steel industry executives, Trump announced plans for a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports."

He double-crossed Cohn and his allies by implying one thing when he spoke to them, then doing another.

Something similar happened to those bold students, fighting for an issue larger than themselves, and all persons interested in gun safety when, as Kevin Drum pointed out 

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

….The Trump plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws….Rather, the president is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

….The White House plan released Sunday does not address the minimum age for gun purchases. Pressed by reporters about the apparent backtracking, a senior administration official said the age issue was “a state-based discussion right now” and would be explored by DeVos’s commission.

Joe Manchin hails from probably the most culturally conservative state in the Union and Toomey from one in which the opening day of hunting season is a holiday in many counties. However, they had sponsored a bill, which ultimately failed to pass, to extend background checks to firearms purchased at  gun shows and on the Internet. Yet, Trump accused them- "you're afraid of the NRA, right"- of being intimidated by the National Rifle Association. The following day, he held a "surprise late-night meeting" with the organization, which presumably told him something like "sit down and shut up." The President promptly complied.

Drum remarked "Who could have guessed that Trump would cave in to the NRA after all his tough talk? That is, other than everyone?" He came cheap- bought in less than 48 hours.

Trump caved, not only because the organization is one of his bankers, but because it's what he does. And now he has done it  to the first Secretary of State named (presumably) after a dinosaur, who

learned he was fired Tuesday only from a tweet by his boss, President Donald Trump, NBC News reported, citing State Department officials.

And to add insult to injury, Tillerson was basically an afterthought in that tweet, which first introduced Trump's new chosen top diplomat, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Cowards generally have others do their dirty work for them, and Donald J. Trump is no exception:

NBC News reported that White House chief of staff John Kelly spoke with Tillerson by phone on Friday and told him that Trump intended to ask Tillerson to "step aside," according to two sources familiar with the situation.

On MSNBC's Deadline White House (with Nicolle Wallace), Jeremy Bash responded

The President did this via Twitter. He did this in a very cowardly way. He did this in a way only a small man would do, someone who doesn't actually want to deal with the consequences of telling someone that their employment arrangement is not working out and I wonder what signal it sends to our adversaries that the President is so petrified, to actually fire someone in person.

(Obviously, he meant not to fire someone in person.)

Tariffs, guns, Tillerson. Donald Trump has no backbone. File it along with racial bigot, misognynist, narcissist. Coward. And as for the reason Secretary of State Tillerson was fired:

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Father Figure

Vox's Emily Stewart reports

China has approved a plan to abolish presidential term limits, opening the door for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s national legislative body, voted on Sunday to change the country’s constitution to allow Xi to remain in power beyond his scheduled 2023 departure. In February, the Chinese Communist Party proposed the change; Sunday’s vote was largely considered a rubber-stamp exercise. Out of 2,964 votes, only two delegates voted against the constitutional change, while three abstained. The alteration removes phrasing that says China’s president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.”

This would be the nation which has been referred euphemistically to as "China" since it enacted market reforms and began to embrace the profit motive, which some in this country have sold as synonymous with "freedom." Now none dare recognize it as "Communist China" or even "mainland China."

And of course that makes Xi Jinping one of the favorites of President Trump, who

raised eyebrows earlier this month at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser when he praised President Xi’s power grab and suggested he might not mind trying it himself. “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

At a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump brought up the matter again — and media reports of it — and noted his remarks were made in jest. “But I’m joking. And they knew I was joking, everybody in the room was laughing, everybody’s having a great time. I’m joking about being president for life,” he said.

If Trump didn’t have such a habit of admiring dictators and strongmen — including on Saturday, where he publicly admired China and Singapore for executing drug dealers — it might make the public a little less wary about his jokes.

Many a true word is spoken in jest.  Moreover, a preference for authoritarianism is not the only think Trump has in common with Xi Jinping.  In 2014, a successful effort was launched to rebrand the latter as "Xi Dada," which translates as Uncle Xi or Big Daddy Xi.

Although the name has since been dropped, China scholar David Shambaugh at the time stated "I thought the Chinese system had moved beyond one-man rule and personality cults."

Evidently not- but "Big Daddy" has a parallel in American politics.

Interviewed on 60 Minutes in January, 2015,  Donald Trump, aiming to reassure voters that rescinding the Affordable Care Act wouldn't leave people without health care coverage, claimed "I am going to take care of everybody,. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now."

As a declared candidate a year earlier, Trump tweeted 'I will take care of the veterans who have served this country so bravely."

When last September President Trump revealed the Administration would phase out President Obama's DACA regulations, he declared Dreamers "are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody."

This is an essential part of the Trump strategy- portraying himself as such a big, strong leader that he will "take care of" people and be a comforting presence. He is the "Big Daddy" Xi Jinping once was... before Xi Jinping established the one-man rule which was not generally expected.

We now know what the Chinese leader had in mind.  So does (if re-elected) Donald Trump. He has told us.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Policies, Indeed

Appearing with "sleepy eyes" Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet The Press, Treasury Secretary Steve Munuchin was not pleased that the NBC host wanted to talk about President Grump's speech in Pennsylvania the night before.  Mnuchin pled "again don't take these campaign rallies and focus them on that's what it is, okay."

After Todd asked whether the media should "stop covering the rallies," Mnuchin whined

No, you’re putting words in my mouth. I wasn’t in any way saying you should dismiss that whatsoever. And you should obviously carry them. Because these are important moments for the president. And this is news. What I’m trying to say is, I’m focused on the policies. And the policies have created results. We’ve had more results in the last year on both foreign policy and domestic matters. So what we should be focused on and what I came to talk about were the president’s policies.

"You should obviously carry them," stated Mnuchin, who also claimed Trump was "using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally and obviously there were a lot of funny moments on, on, on that rally."

The jokes from the veteran of the comedy clubs of Queens, NY and New York City, NY, now appearing for a four-year (or less) engagement in Washington, DC included the "son of a bitch" Chuck Todd and the black congresswoman who is "a low-IQ individual." 

Trump's shtick was "hilarious," as Todd pointed out. Still, members of the Administration (such as the Treasury Secretary) and Trump surrogates have been promoting the notion that Trump's domestic, especially economic, policies have been an unmitigated success. Both Democrats and Republicans, unlike Newsweek's Michelle Goodkind, presumably have missed this one:

In all, 15 miners died since President Donald Trump took office in 2017—up from eight in all of 2016.This is the dirty secret of Trump’s much-touted effort to help the coal industry. The president has been quick to celebrate the 771 net workers that were hired in 2017, but the administration's push to support the dirtiest of fossil fuels has been accompanied by a surge in deaths of the workers who procure it. 

The 2017 death toll was the highest since 2014—when there were roughly 60,000 more miners at work in America.Mining advocates put some of the blame on the president, whose support for mine owners has led to relaxed safety enforcement, scores of inexperienced new miners and inconsistent commitment to training programs and courses. 

In the meantime,  Republicans in the House want to cut mine safety budgets further, and Trump, who says he supports coal miners, has been silent on a Senate bill that would shore up miners' pensions.“When you look at the Trump administration policies and his ratcheting back of regulations...this administration has no moral compass about ethics,” said Joe Main, who ran the Mine Safety and Health Administration under President Barack Obama. “Companies now think we have a less aggressive sheriff in town.”

Grasping the larger issues at stake, the  reporter continues

Trump’s support for coal is part of a larger economic vision of deregulation—one that he says is responsible for the stock market’s recent boom and higher gross domestic product.

“The stock market is way up [because] we took off restrictions and we took off regulations,” he said on January 16.

But for coal miners, those restrictions and regulations can be the difference between life and death.  

Munuchin and Co. should be so happy that the scandals of this Administration obscure the President's  disastrous policies. If there is a party in opposition to the GOP, it has to block the agenda of deregulation and destruction, and it's not putting up much of a fight so far.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Drug Dealers

In a campaign stop, poorly disguised as one on behalf of Pennsylvania GOP House candidate Rick Saccone, President Trump did what he did best- ridicule. Business Insider reports

Trump was particularly energetic in attacking the media, leveling a profane taunt toward NBC's Chuck Todd, whom the president has nicknamed "Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd."

"He is a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you," Trump said Saturday.

He went after CNN, too, for its coverage of his recent decision to accept a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump called the network "fake as hell CNN. The worst. So fake."

Trump also railed against top Democrats rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2020. He suggested that the media would be disappointed with a Democratic victory, as Trump's presidency has been a boon for television ratings.

"Could you imagine covering Bernie? Or Pocahontas?" he said, using a derogatory nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. "How about that? Can you imagine having to cover Elizabeth Warren for four years?"

Trump also slammed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and attacked Rep. Maxine Waters as "a very low-IQ individual," but said he'd be delighted if Oprah Winfrey ran against him so he could defeat her.

Besides going nearly full-bigot, the evangelicals' favorite American addressed the drug crisis when he

praised other countries for imposing the death penalty or life in prison for drug dealers, saying the United States should consider similar penalties.

"I think it's a discussion we have to start thinking about. I don't know if we're ready -- I don't know if this country's ready for it," Trump said.

He said those convicted of killing just one person in shootings and stabbings at times face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. But, he said, someone can "kill 5,000 people with drugs because you're smuggling them in and you're making a lot of money and people are dying," and go without serious punishment.

This isn't the first time President Grump has had this brainstorm (video below from 3/1/18). Newsweek tells us

“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump said during an appearance at a White House summit on opioids last week.

Singapore officials have reportedly briefed White House officials on their country's drugs offense punishment laws. 

Trump has previously expressed admiration for Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial crackdown on drugs dealers, which human rights groups say has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings by security services and police.

Shortly after taking office, Trump reportedly praised Duterte in a phone call for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” 

This strategy would be among those few instances in which a more aggressive federal government would do more harm than good. Successful litigation against Purdue Pharma and other powerful drug dealers, the manufacturers of opiates, would be more effective (let alone more humane) than life sentences or execution of drug dealers.  Fortunately, as with most of Donald Trump's ludicrous ideas, this one is unlikely to be implemented by the federal government or the states. That is assuming, of course, that Mr. Trump is not rewarded with a second term.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Arrow Points Downward.

In the past 4-5 months, I've devoted posts on at least four occassions defending Bill Maher.  The comedian denounced President Trump's proposal fo r a military parade, only somewhat joking "we better get used to that- tanks in the streets."   He criticized former Democratic party chairperson Donna Brazile (who has been on his program) for what she termed "failed policies" of both parties.  Maher even took on the patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6)- whom even Democrats assiduously avoid criticizing- for being given credit for a great foreign policy accomplishment because "we stopped fighting the Cold War but the Russians never did."

He called out the state auditor of Alabama- the heart of the Bible Belt- for defending Roy Moore by implying that Joseph was an "adult carpenter" who became the father of Jesus. It's telling when it's left to an imabashed atheist to notice that the point of the Biblical account is that Jesus did not result from a sexual union of Joseph and Mary.

But he was wrong, uncharacteristically, on his central point Friday night pertaining to the decision by Donald J. Trump to travel to Pyongyang to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Maher made a legitimate point when he began his monologue with North Korea and commented

I was watching cable news last night. so all these liberals reflexively hating on this. A) Obama- remember him? He proposed the exact same thing in 2008 and they loved it and b) F_ _  - you, you don't live on the west coast,where a nuke can get here faster than an Uber from North Korea.

Obama did in fact promise in 2008 to "initiate tough diplomacy with our enemies," albeit "without preconditions, although with preparation."  It is likely, however, that Trump would do so with little preparation, presumably part of the rationale for one of Maher's guests, comedian Trae Crowder, to remark "I think there's one key difference there... Donald Trump is not Barack Obama."

Still, the allegation that Obama advocated largely the same thing is largely accurate.  (At the time, liberals backed Obama on his aspiration, with conservatives far more negative than they have been about Trump's plan.)

But Maher's remark during the panel discussion about the potential danger in negotiations is troubling. He contended

But the worst actually has happened, instead of the bombs actually exploding.  It kind of reminds me when they talk about mass shootings and somebody says the a liberal talking point and I'm certainly not for arming people but they say if somebody else was in the room it would be made even worse. Really? Really, it could have gotten worse than just the guy who's a nut spraying the room? 

It can get worse- much worse- even short of a nuclear exchange.

Trump is not going only for the photo-op, though he's undoubtedly looking forward to that. He's determined to make a deal and he'll make any he can, lest his trip be branded a failure.  "I alone can fix it" he maintained while accepting the Repub presidential nomination. He once told Laura Ingraham "the one that matters is me. I'm the only one who matters."

Thomas Wright of The Atlantic understands that the President might offer to withdraw American troops from South Korea in return for the North dismantling (with verification) its intercontinetal ballistic missiles.  That would "signal that the United States cares little for its friends and is only concerned about direct threats to the homeland," he recognizes. Reasons such a proposal is particularly likely include that

Trump cares about the direct threat to the American homeland more than anything else. President Obama warned him of the North Korean ICBM threat immediately after the election and he has taken it to heart. He has pursued a unilateral policy and has held open the possibility of a preventive strike without prior approval from Seoul. This is the essence of “America First”—narrow U.S. interests supersede all other concerns. It is a significant conceptual break with traditional American policy since the late 1940s, where the United States treated threats to the homeland and to the allies equally.

The second is that Trump has always had concerns about alliances in general and the U.S.-South Korea one in particular. Since the mid 1980s, he has argued that America’s alliances are a bad deal. Initially his wrath was focused on Japan and the Arab states but in 2013, he said, “How long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? … When will they start to pay us?” In an interview with NBC in 2015, he said, “We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them. We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this.” Perhaps Trump may think that an end to the ICBM program and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea is a win-win.

Bill Maher should know better. In Ohio in August, 2016, Trump rhetorically asked black and hispanic voters "what do you have to lose?" a few days after asking black voters in Michigan "what the hell do you have to lose?"

A lot, it turns out, as Maher is aware. A good civilian with a gun can make mass shootings even worse- and there is no situation that Donald Trump can't, and probably will, make worse.

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Friday, March 09, 2018

Not The Button

A few hours before announcement of President Trump's decision to accept an invitation to meet with Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea Kim Jong-un, Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe (the US Senate's most prominent climate change denier) told Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network

I mean, look what's happening right now in North Korea, I believe all of that started when he made the strong statement to Kim Jong-un that he had a bigger button, he could fire (INAUDIBLE) the map and all of a sudden un started talking to South Korea and say -- I think welcome to the Winter games and all of that. 

A few minutes after the big news broke, former Obama Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and eastern European expert Evelyn Farkas (video below from last July) gave a conditional thumbs up to the development. On Chris Matthews' Hardball, she stated "we have to maintain the pressure because remember what got them to the table- sanctions and unfortunately probably some of the bluster coming out of the White House."

Upon further reflection, Farkas on Friday morning added to her comments on Hardball by tweeting

I've sat across from North Korean diplomats and military officers. They come armed with history. Even Kim Jing (sic) Un has been involved in foreign policy longer than our presiden. We should be careful.  

Attributing this hopeful developement solely- or even primarily- to Trump's tough-guy bluster, as Inhofe did, appears to be in error.  The New York Times observes that the invitation relayed to the President resulted from a meeting on Monday of the North Korean dictator and South Korea's Chung Eui-yong.  Further, Time's Laigness Barron reported Wednesday

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its determination that the North Korean government used a chemical warfare agent in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of regime leader Kim Jong Un.

The State Department said Tuesday that it determined North Korea used VX nerve agent, the most toxic of all chemical weapons. The statement offered no further details on how the suspected link between the chemical agent and the North Korean government was definitively proven.

“On February 22, the United States determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 that the Government of North Korea used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, in the Kuala Lumpur airport,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

There also now may be a realization that the USA has no alternative but to deal with Pyongyang. NBC's Andrea Mitchell explains today (Friday).

Only this week, the U.S. said it had concluded Pyongyang was responsible for assassinating Kim's step-brother in the Kuala Lumpur airport by using VX, a banned lethal nerve gas. The U.S. has also accused the Pyongyang regime of supplying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with illegal chemical weapons. And the Defense Intelligence Agency reported to Congress this week that Kim now has three intercontinental ballistic missiles, two of which can hit the U.S. mainland.

The timing of all this is not coincidental. Even before recent events, the Obama Administration had imposed sanctions on the North, though the diplomat who coordinated the policy concedes "the Obama Administration had come to the conclusion in its last six months that it had not done enough on sanctions." In September, President Trump ramped up the pressure.

We can be only uncertain whether the Trump-Kim talks will yield positive results, negative results, or no results at all, nor whether Kim has concluded that he can take Trump for all he's worth. But we do have a fairly good idea of what- on the American side- got the ball rolling, and enabled my cliches.

The North Korean leader, it has been reported, has started to become concerned about the impact of sanctions on his country, at least on the ruling class in Pyongyang. His country is needy, and our side is apprehensive. The suggestion by James Inhofe and others that the guy was intimidated by "fire and fury" rhetoric of the President is (in the spirit of the season) only so much blarney.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.

This post isn't about sex.  It also isn't about money or about the law.

Each plays a role in the Stormy Daniels/Stephanie Clifford-Donald J. Trump story. But this isn't about the corrupt businessman and the pornographic star. It pertains to President Trump's reaction to Sarah Huckabee Sanders' remark about the affair, and how that provides insight into Trump's surprise victory in November of 2016.

James Comey and Mrs. Sanders have something in common, other than belonging to the GOP.  Mediaite (and with different words, everybody) reports

President Donald Trump is reportedly somewhat less than thrilled with his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for her comments during Wednesday’s briefing addressing the Stormy Daniels story.

According to CNN’s Abby Phillip (citing reporting from Jim Acosta), Trump believes that Sanders essentially breathed life into the Stormy Daniels controversy with her Wednesday remarks.

“According to this source, Sarah Sanders’ comments were essentially putting the Stormy Daniels storyline on steroids yesterday,” Phillip said.

Sanders, in the Wednesday briefing, said “the president has denied the allegations against him. And again, this case has already been won in arbitration.”

Those comments from Sanders led many to point out that the White House was confirming that Trump engaged in some sort of legal agreement with the porn star.

Other than being confusing and possibly inaccurate (not unusual or counte-productive in the Trump presidency), there is nothing wrong with this statement. On the contrary, Sanders essentially repeated a great Trump theme: I'm a winner.  She contended the President a) has denied the allegations; and b) won. Case closed; let's move on.

But Trump, with magnificent political instincts, is upset with Sanders. Not, as far as we know, because of what she said but because she said anything, hence giving the public an opportunity to focus on the matter. If nothing else, it resurrected the issue from the political coffin.

And that's not good. Sometimes it matters less what the facts (in this case, contested) are than that an item is in the public consciousness.

Enter Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. Last May, numbers-cruncher Nate Silver wrote

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020.

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

It is highly unlikely, as Silver suggests, that Comey's letter of October 28 did not move at least one additional percent of voters into Trump's column.

Yet, it's likely also that the Director's letter of November 6, 2016- largely exonerating the Democratic nominee- also helped Trump.

The Real Clear Politics average of Pennsylvania polls from 10/29/16-11/5/16 gave Clinton a lead of 2.7%; she lost by .7%.  In Michigan, the average of polls of 11/1/16-11/06/16 had Clinton up by 3.6%. She lost the state by .3%. The RCP average of polls taken 10/26/16-11/01/16 in Wisconsin had Clinton up by 6.5%; she lost by .7% to Trump.

Either there was a whole lot of lying going on- or Clinton lost additional ground in the 2-3 days following Comey's letter of 11/6/16.   The news for her was favorable, but it brought the issue back to the fore. Similarly, Sanders gave a fairly clever defense of Trump's status- but brought the issue back from the dead.

That is what Donald Trump appears to believe. And his instinct, a sense of where people are at any particular time, has proven quite sound.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Rigged, Indeed

He's right, you know.

Donald Trump and his lackeys complained throughout the presidential campaign that the election was "rigged,"  This year, on Groundhog Day

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote on Twitter hours before ordering the release of the formerly classified memo. “Rank & File are great people!”

Obviously, the Devin Nunes memo indicated no such thing. Claiming an election is "rigged" brings to mind for most people the idea that it is fixed. However, the Urban Dictionary maintains "The word rigged is used to describe situations where unfair advantages are given to one side of a conflict."  By that (questionable) definition, the 2016 presidential election clearly was rigged.

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer notes a "top-secret Oval Office meeting" on January 5, 2017, in which "the nation's top intelligence agencies briefed (Obama and Biden and some national security officials for the  first time about the (Steele) dossier's allegation that Trump's campaign team may have colluded with the Russians."  One person who was there later told her

No one understands that at the White House we weren’t briefed about the F.B.I.’s investigations. We had no information on collusion. All we saw was what the Russians were doing. The F.B.I. puts anything about Americans in a lockbox.

It does so with almost any American- but not with Hillary Clinton.  Mayer found that Christopher

Steele was therefore shocked when, on October 28, 2016, Comey sent a letter to congressional leaders: the F.B.I. had come across new e-mails bearing on its previously closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as Secretary of State. He said that these e-mails required immediate review. The announcement plunged Clinton’s campaign into chaos. Two days before the election, Comey made a second announcement, clearing her of wrongdoing, but by that point her campaign’s momentum had stalled.

To Steele, the F.B.I., by making an incriminating statement so close to Election Day, seemed to be breaking a rule that he’d been told was inviolable. And, given what he—and very few others—knew about the F.B.I.’s Trump investigation, it also seemed that the Bureau had one standard for Clinton and another for her opponent. “Chris was concerned that something was happening at the F.B.I.,” Simpson later told the House Intelligence Committee. “We were very concerned that the information that we had about the Russians trying to interfere in the election was going to be covered up.” Simpson and Steele thought that “it would only be fair if the world knew that both candidates were under investigation.”

Shortly after the election, a mentor of Steele gave the dossier to hawkish Armed Services committee chairperson John McCain. But while the dossier was still largely a secret

On December 9th, McCain handed Comey a copy of the dossier. The meeting lasted less than ten minutes, because, to McCain’s surprise, the F.B.I. had possessed a copy since the summer. According to the former national-security official, when (McCain aide) Kramer learned about the meeting his reaction was “Shit, if they’ve had it all this time, why didn’t they do something?” Kramer then heard that the dossier was an open secret among journalists, too. He asked, “Is there anyone in Washington who doesn’t know about this?” 

As of then- a month after the election- plenty of people in Washington still didn't know about it.  That group included the President of the USA, the Vice President of the USA, and Hillary Clinton (and her campaign).

In a startling departure from Justice Department policy, FBI director Comey in July had announced that an American who would not be referred to prosecution was probably "extremely careless" in "handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

But that was unacceptable to some FBI agents.  A year ago, Vanity Fair's Bethany McClean revealed

A former D.O.J. official says that, as early as 2015, a rumor was floating around that the F.B.I. agents in New York were cracking jokes about seeing Hillary Clinton in handcuffs. “It was widely understood that there was a faction in that office that couldn’t stand her and was out to get her,” this person says.

Moreover, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who as a former US Attorney for New York and mayor of the city was close to James Kallstrom once head of the FBI's field office in New York- evidently had inside information:

On October 26, Giuliani appeared on Fox News and said, “We got a couple things up our sleeve that should turn this around. Even the liberal pollsters will get to see.” When pressed about what these surprises would be, Giuliani broke into a smile and said, “You’ll see. Ha ha ha.”

Two days later, on October 28, just 11 days before the election, Comey sent his letter to Congress saying that “in connection with an unrelated case, the F.B.I. has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” of Clinton. 

That halted Clinton's momentum, which was not in the least resurrected when two days before the election, Comey acknowledged that the allegedly "pertinent" emails actually changed nothing.

So, yes, the vote was "rigged" in the loose definition of the term. And when the full findings of Special Counselor Robert Mueller (assuming he is not dismissed) are released, Donald J. Trumplikely will wish the election never was rigged in his behalf.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Beware The Teetotaler

If so, then what?

There is something wrong when one can do a Google search on "transcript of Nunberg's interview with Erin Burnett" and of the first nine entries, five include the word "alcohol" or "drunk."

In her defense, Erin Burnett did not  accuse Sam Nunberg of being under the influence but instead stated

We talked earlier about what people in the White House were saying about you, whether you were drinking, or on drugs, or whatever had happened today, Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

Nunberg may have been lying about not having had even one drink.  Burnett's speculation came at approximately 6:40 p.m. (Eastern time) and rumor has it that some people drink beer at night or have a glass of wine at dinner. It happens. Moreover, Burnett may be thinking about getting out of the business of being a millionaire talk show host, preferring to be a drug counselor or evaluator.  Reporting on her 11:30 p.m. phone interview with Nunberg, New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi referred to Nunberg's "nearly 20-minute on-air talk with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, reiterating those sentiments in interviews with Bloomberg News, CNN, NY1, Vox, and Yahoo News."

That would mean the twice-fired Trump aide made it through at least nine interviews from mid-afternoon on, given that he appeared at 5:00 p.m. with CNN's Jake Tapper and an hour later with MSNB's Ari Berman. If Nunberg was drinking, I want to have some of what he had.

Two months ago, in response to widespread speculation about the mental fitness of Donald J. Trump to be President, a press release began

Today, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reiterates its continued and unwavering commitment to the ethical principle known as "The Goldwater Rule." We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media.

That was prompted by what some would consider "armchair" diagnosis of the President of the United States of America (previouslyleader of the free world), who has at his command- and can set about launching- the greatest arsenal of nuclear and conventional weaponry ever accumulated. Still, the preponderance of professional opinion considered expression of opinions about his fitness to be unacceptable.

Burnett appeared to be asking her interviewee only if he had a drink. However, the reaction was fairly predictable. The Daily Beast asked (asterisk theirs) "'What the F*ck?' Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg's Mueller Meltdown Leaves Friends Petrified?" followed by "those close to Nunberg said they fear he was drunk while going on a cable news blitz." Late Monday night, CNN featured a headline "Bewildered White House staff watch Sam Nunberg's interviews" with the statement "Several (White House officials) say they are stunned by the former Trump campaign aides' freewheeeling interviews, calling them 'bizarre' and 'nuts.'"

Leave aside the notion that there are experts on the "bizarre" and "nuts" from individuals serving the exquisitely sensitive guy who has tweeted "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend- and maybe someday that will happen!"  They cover for the misogynist who has tweeted "Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked- USED!" Before being elected, this conspiratorialist had asked "How amazing the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama's 'birth cerificate' died in plane crash today. All others lived."

Nonetheless, Erin Burnett had no trouble being trolled by those "people in the White House (who) were saying about you, whether you were drinking, or on drugs, or whatever had happened today." Perhaps Sam Nunberg did have an alcoholic beverage sometime among his nine+ interviews Monday. But we should take more seriously his opinions and allegations, good or bad. And also to remember: Donald J. Trump reportedly has never had a drink in his life.

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Don't Laugh.

South Carolina GOP  senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday noted that the 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum announced by President Trump

could have negative impacts on the U.S. economy and cause a rift with international trade partners. Graham pleaded on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday for Mr. Trump to "reconsider your solution."

"China is winning and we're losing with this tariff regime. You are letting China off the hook. You're punishing the American consumer and our allies. You're making a huge mistake here. Go after China, not the rest of the world," urged Graham. 

Graham said the steel industry has been "decimated" as a result of China's steel "dumping," saying the country produces more steel than the world consumes.

Notwithstanding his tough guy talk about mainland China during the campaign, Trump is targeting our allies rather than the tyrannical Asian behemoth.   We learn from CNN that in a closed-door meeting with lobbyists Saturday

Trump also praised China's President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn't mind making such a maneuver himself.

"He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great," Trump said. "And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."

We'd do well to take him at his word, generally.  Last week Trump proved to be the gun-grabber conservatives previously feared and loathed, and ordering law enforcement to confiscate weapons from his political enemies would be a great way for an authoritarian to start off his second- and possibly not his last- term.

Now President Trump is celebrating the nation he once accused of "raping" the United States of America.  As Xing Jinping is establishing one-man rule in Communist China, we shouldn't be surprised that it is Donald J. Trump who is suggesting that the government he leads should follow the lead of someone he believes is a rapist.

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Good Guy With A Gun

NBC's Ali Velshi on March 1:

A key point of the NRA's plans to "make our schools and communities safe" is simple: more guns. Does that actually hold up? For fact's sake, let's take a look.

In 2003, a study on -- building on research from the 1990s showed a 41 percent higher chance of homicide in homes with guns versus homes without guns. Fact. It found a 244 percent spike in suicides when compared to gun-free homes. This data isn't alone, but I want you to always remember this one: many -- most gun deaths in America are suicides. Nobody else in the world has numbers like American suicide deaths because of the number of guns we have. We'll come back to that another time.

A more recent analysis, in 2015, based on more than a dozen different studies -- and there has been a lot of research, while the CDC  [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] doesn't do it, lots of people do. It found that people with access to guns at home were almost twice as likely to be murdered compared to those without guns in their home....

The NRA argues the states with looser concealed carry laws are safer than those without. Again, not true. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at states that adopted "Right to Carry" concealed handgun laws, RTC, "Right to Carry." It found violent crime was 13 to 15 percent higher 10 years after the Right to Carry laws were adopted than the projections would have been if the laws had not been passed. And a 1998 survey of shootings in three cities found that for every time a homeowner used a gun for self defense or some other legally-justified shooting, there were four unintentional shootings. All the data shows that more guns do not mean more safety.

One week after Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, Wayne LaPierre held a news conference and famously contended "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  He gave three examples, including "and  when you hear your glass breaking at 3 a.m. and you call 9-1-1, you won't be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a  good guy to get there fast enough  to protect you."

The good guy in that scenario would be a police officer.  As of March 2, one of  the "good  guys" was a 48-year old Iraq War veteran and member of the Illinois Army National Guard- and police officer.  Mount  Pleasant, Michigan police believe his son, James Eric Davis Jr, a student at Central Michigan University

shot and killed parents James Eric Davis Sr., 48, a police officer, and Diva Jeenen Davis, 47, around 8:30 a.m. Friday in his fourth-floor dorm room as they were packing his belongings for a trip back to their Chicago-area home.

The shooting capped a series of events that stretched back to the previous night when campus police twice encountered Davis Jr. behaving strangely -- and sent him to a hospital suspecting an adverse reaction to drugs, school police Chief Bill Yeagley said Saturday.

t wasn't immediately clear how Davis Jr. obtained the gun that was registered to his father, Yeagley said.

But investigators believe, citing a witness and video, that the teen brought the gun from a parking lot into Campbell Hall, the dormitory where his parents were, shortly before the shooting, Yeagley said.

"What we know for sure is that the gun was registered to his father, and that we saw ... (Davis Jr.) came from the parking lot into our residence hall with the gun, and the father was upstairs at that time," Yeagley said at a news conference Saturday morning.

If it were a knife available to the assailant, either or both parents almost surely would still be alive. Instead, -as far as is known at this time- there was a gun legally purchased and carried by a good  guy.

Tragically, Ali Velshi is right and Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of  the National Rifle Association, is wrong. Or if the latter chooses: Guns don't kill people; gun lobbies kill people.

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Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Divine Miss W

When 6-7 weeks ago there was a groundswell of support for Oprah Winfrey running for President, Vice's Eve Peyser wrote

Trump isn't wrong about Oprah, but being an "inspiration" doesn't mean someone should run for president. Trump himself was "inspiring" to many Americans who voted for him despite all his obviously disqualifying traits. We don't need any more "inspirational" politicians, we need people who have actual experience governing.

The Los Angeles Times editorialized

Maybe not, but there is more to being president than the ability to deliver a stirring speech. Also, as the first year of the Trump presidency demonstrated, there are colossal risks in electing a political neophyte to the most demanding public office in the world. Just because the Republicans were foolish enough to travel down this dangerous road — in the process sacrificing many of their party's best qualities and most valuable principles in a desperate, craven hunt for votes — doesn't mean the Democrats should follow suit.

Admittedly, the best reason to pass on Oprah Winfrey is that she is another largely inexperienced, largely ignorant (in the case of Trump, thoroughly ignorant) celebrity  Additionally, Ms. Winfrey discovered politics in 2008, endorsed the least (among Edwards, Clinton, and himself) economically progressive Democrat for President, then largely fell silent until she allowed in October, 2016 that electing Hillary Clinton would not be a bad thing.

But there is another similarity between Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Trump.

Evangelicals and Pentecostals, once skeptical of Trump, quickly adhered to him once he secured the GOP nomination for President. He has declared  his devotion to them ever since, and they have clung to him more closely than Barack Obama believes working-class whites cling to their guns or religion.  At an event in July 2017 sponsored in Washington, D.C. by his church, Reverend Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas proclaimed "millions of Americans believe the  election of President Trump represented God giving us another chance- perhaps our last chance to truly make America great again."

Religion News Service in December quoted three Trumpists who believe God put his hand upon the billionaire businessman. One stated "I do believe that he (God) picked him. Because he puts people in office and he takes them out." Another argued "the odds of him becoming president were so overwhelming the only way he could have made it is with divine intervention." A third contended "I believe that maybe this was in God's divine plan. This is potentially God's way of giving us a chance to repent for all the wrong we have done in the world."

There are many people who believe God puts presidents in the White House, and they have done us no favors. Yet, The Hill reports

Oprah Winfrey said she’s had billionaires offer to fund her presidential campaign if she runs for the White House, but said she’s waiting for a sign from God. 

“I went into prayer,” she said of calls for her to run for president.

“’God, if you think I’m supposed to run, you gotta tell me, and it has to be so clear that not even I can miss it.’ And I haven’t gotten that yet,” Winfrey told People Magazine in an interview published Wednesday.

We've seen this play before, in which a billionaire with a sense of entitlement believes there is no need to serve in any public office, from school board member to US Senator, before running for President. The last guy made it- and we (except his fellow billionaires) all are suffering.

Fortunately, Oprah Winfrey is no Donald Trump.  But her previous foray into electoral politics- appearances for Barack Obama in 2008, after which she vanished from the fray- do not qualify her.

The Democratic Party can do better.  It especially can do better than a candidate who is ready to pronounce her candidacy as one straight from God. Though stated more subtly, the message would be clear,: support me or oppose God.

"Nobody reads the Bible more than me," Trump told GOP voters in February of 2016 and now many evangelicals believe that his candidacy was heaven-sent. Beware: the Democratic Party may get its own version of Donald Trump coming to a primary near you.

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Friday, March 02, 2018


It was (in a metaphor President Trump surely would understand) par for the course when

In a meeting with steel industry executives, Trump announced plans for a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

The decision came after a frantic 24 hours in which Cohn and others tried to talk Trump off the ledge. At one point, aides were sure Trump would make the announcement. Then they said he wouldn’t. Finally, sitting alongside steel executives, he did.

They thought they had won him over. But of course, the decision was subject to change and would depend on who Trump would speak to last on the subject.

That is conventional, and largely accurate, wisdom about how Donald Trump operates. The other day, he advocated confiscation of weapons (from the allegedly mentally ill) without due process. then meets with the NRA and its chief lobbyist is convinced Trump (and Pence) "support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control."

They're the last people to talk to the President on the issue. Still, it's significant that in a meeting with members of Congress, a few of  them Democrats committed to gun safety legislation, he had struck a far different tone. He may be overly susceptible to persuasion, yet also loathe to disagree with or contradict whomever he's talking to. In additional drama

Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.

No doubt he wants them out. He simply wants someone else to tell them.

Donald Trump rarely has the courage to face anyone one-on-one and criticize him or her, except on the make-believe "Apprentice." There, he was all about creating a fake persona, the guy willing and able to confront anyone at any time and deliver the hard truth.

In real life, that's the last thing Trump wants, or is willing, to do.  You will remember from May Keith Schiller, who was

the President's longtime bodyguard who has risen from part-time hired muscle to director of Oval Office operations.

That status was cemented on Tuesday when the former New York Police Department officer hand-delivered a letter from the President firing FBI director James Comey, entering the FBI headquarters with a manila folder and leaving without it.

Most people would think that firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation warranted a more personal touch, or at least dismissal by the President himself. However, Trump has hardly changed his procedure and

President Donald Trump, frustrated by his staff's handling of the abuse allegations against Rob Porter, is increasingly venting about Chief of Staff John Kelly and speculating about potential replacements, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Kelly said Friday evening that he had not offered to resign, although a source acknowledged that he is always willing to leave if that's what the president wants.

That was an NBC News report from over three weeks ago. Chaos in the Administration has only increased, Kelly joke (sort of) that his job is "punishment from God" and as of Friday morning,he is still Chief of Staff to Donald J. Trump

That may change soon.  If he leaves, Kelly can almost write his own ticket (as long as he doesn't have to deal with blacks or immigrants) and may resign. But an order to dismiss the Chief of Staff can come only from the office of the Presidency- and the guy currently occuping that office would have to grow a backbone first.

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McCabe Move Part Of Strategy

Chris Hayes tweets "My prediction is that the McCabe firing, like the Comey firing, will end up backfiring." It might. I ...