Monday, November 19, 2018

Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it covers President Trump, Van Jones responded

I think there's actually a lot of amazing good stuff that happens in the country we don't get a chance to talk about because he just wakes up in the morning, tweets out some crazy stuff. And most of us wake up in the morning, pick up our phone, and then freak out for the next eighteen hours and then go to bed. So I think if we could just give him a little less of the oxygen we give real people dong real stuff more time, it would be better.

That was on November 16, 2018.  Two days earlier, this is how Van Jones decided to "give him a little less of the oxygen":

Give the man his due. Bootlicking may be the only way Jones can relate to the President of the United States. During the main portion of "Real Time," Gary Kasparov stated

We have to also mention that Obama Administration knew about these attacks. Congressman Adam Schiff had been crying in September 2016 but everybody thought Hilllary would have won anyway so why should we interfere?

A reliable sycophant of the former President, Jones responded

No, that's not true. Obama wanted to move forward on a bi-partisan basis. He tried to reach out to Mitch McConnell and here' the deal: think about the instability that would have been created if Obama had gone out on his own....

Hey, listen, if you don't elect Trump; you wind up with an armed Tea Party response....

Jones' argument that the President of the USA failed to speak out, in support of the findings of the intelligence community of foreign interference in elections is a fairly eccentric one. Obama has not claimed that fear of blowback from far-right activists, many of whom never even acknowledged that he is not foreign-born, was a factor in his inaction, either because it is inaccurate or it would expose himself as a weak, indecisive leader afraid of his own shadow.

He did "reach out" to Speaker McConnell. Rebuffed, he kept his mouth shut, probably because he was intimidated by McConnell and figured Clinton's victory was likely, anyway.

The Obama administration feared that acknowledging Russian meddling in the 2016 election would reveal too much about intelligence gathering and be interpreted as “taking sides” in the race, the former secretary of homeland security said Wednesday.

“One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be ‘rigged’ in some way,” said Jeh Johnson, the former secretary, referring to President Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation before Election Day. “We were concerned that by making the statement we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be 'rigged' in some way. So as not to encourage the myth that the election was going to be rigged for the benefit of Obama's party, the President chose not to inform the American public that the election was being rigged on behalf of the other Party.

Johnson was asked by ranking committee member Adam Schiff  “Why wasn’t it more important to tell the American people the length and breadth of what the Russians were doing to interfere in an election than any risk that it might be seen as putting your hand on the scale? Didn’t the public have a compelling need to know?”

Johnson replied "We were very concerned that we not be perceived as taking sides in the election, injecting ourselves into a very heated campaign or taking steps to delegitimize the election process and undermine the integrity of the election process." It was a terrible lapse in judgement, an example of what Dan Savage has noted (in another context) is the notion "that Democrats must always set a good example for Republicans."

It should have been about the public's need to know, as Schiff pointed out, or as Kasparov recognizes, "defending government and the Constitution." Instead, it was about a President who was intimidated- by Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, or both- who shut up when he should have stood up.

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

False Reality, False Hope

On Friday's episode of "The View," host Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, took exception to ridicule by Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Scarry had tweeted out a photograph of the incoming freshman member of Congress along with "Hill staffers sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I'll tell you something- that jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles."

Justifiably, the vice-hosts of The View also criticized  Scarry (who later deleted the tweet), though oddlynone pointed out that Ocasio-Cortez's outfit was professional and that she is no more a "girl" than, say, Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) is a "boy." 

That is a concept which probably escapes Goldberg, given that she condescendingly warned the reporter "hush, boy."

This incident, admittedly, is a trivial one. However, Goldberg made a much more serious error when- either ignorantly or disingenuously- she appeared to correct Sunny Hostin. The latter, while defending Ocasio-Cortez, had made the mistake of having prepared for the topic and stated

... and if you look at all of Congress, I mean, the Senate is filled with gazillionaires, the Representatives, the House, filled with gazillionaires. And do you know if you look, at all the money, working class people have never ever been able to- I found this stat, that no one from the working class has gotten into politics and gone on to become governor or Supreme Court Justice or the President. That is unbelievable- unbelievable.

Goldberg, undeterred by a panel member having done research, responded "Sonia Sotomayor was a working class woman. That's- that- they flash that stat."

Whether Hoskins' information applies to every Representative, Senator, President, and Supreme Court Justice, we'll never know. In a flash, Hostin remembered who the star is and quickly backtracked.

It's unfortunate that she did. Sotomayor was born into a working-class family but even before being becoming a United States Supreme Court Justice in 2009, was a huge professional success and had left those working-class roots behind.  After graduating from Yale Law School and passing the bar examination, Sotomayor worked in the NYC, NY district attorney's office and in 1984

entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. She moved from associate to partner at the firm in 1988. While she climbed the ladder there, Sotomayor also served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the State of New York Mortgage Agency.

Sotomayor's pro bono work at these agencies caught the attention of Senators Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who were partially responsible for her appointment as U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York City. President George H.W. Bush nominated her for the position in 1992, which was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on August 11, 1992. When she joined the court, she was its youngest judge. On her 43rd birthday, June 25, 1997, she was nominated for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. She was confirmed by the Senate that October.

Sotomayor's current socio-economic status- and her professional status prior to being elevated to the Court- are typical of her colleagues. It is typical, also, of officials throughout the upper echelons of government, the point Hostins made amidst Goldberg's denial. The Washington Post noted in July

If the Senate approves Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, every justice sitting on the Supreme Court will have attended either Yale's or Harvard’s law school. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard and transferred to another Ivy, Columbia.)

“The elitism on the Supreme Court is worrying,” said Benjamin Barton, a law professor at University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “From the age of 18, these people have all essentially done the same thing, followed the same path, run in the same cloistered circles. That’s not healthy.”

In 2012, Barton published a comprehensive study on the personal backgrounds of Supreme Court justices. He found that the modern-era court presided over by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in many ways the most elitist, homogenous group assembled since the court's inception.

While the current justices are far more diverse in gender and race than past decades, their educational and work backgrounds are almost uniform

Latina Sonia Sotomayor has a reasonably modest (though not poverty-stricken) background, her mother having been a nurse and her father a tool-and-die maker.  Whatever her background, she no longer is working-class. Most members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, moreover, come from relatively privileged backgrounds. And now every member of the US Supreme Court sports a law degree from Harvard and Yale.

So Hostin's remarks did not originate from a mere "stat," notwithstanding Goldberg's misdirection. The federal government is filled with individuals from an elite background, and saturated with people who are wealthy or at least of a socio-economic class most Americans will never attain.

The implication of Goldberg's remark, whether born of ignorance or deception, reflects what many on the left- and especially Democratic politicians- fail to understand or willfully ignore.

Class counts, and too much. Against the odds, Sotomayor overcame the twin professional handicaps of ethnicity and gender. However, focusing exclusively on the advancement of women and ethnic minorities, and celebrating them, will blind us to the factor of class and reinforce the myth of unlimited mobility in American society- at least for white males.

Moreover, the American people will not be fooled. We know that the system, if not rigged, is  skewed obscenely toward the privileged, and that males and whites are not immune from this distortion.  And when loads of privileged elites- Whoopi Goldberg among them- imply that the path is clear for anyone to ascend to the highest ranks of government, a resentment builds that has unintended, dangerous consequences.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

A Trump Favorite

Maria Ricardel, forced out as deputy national security adviser by First Lady Melania Trump after a tiff about seating arrangements on a flight to Africa, reportedly has rejected an offer to become the  USA ambassador to Estonia. One journalist responded
There is serious competition, including but not limited to, Mexico, Germany, France, and our own USA for this honored position.  However, it soon may become clear what is President Trump's favorite nation and- in an upset- it's not Russia. The Washington Post reported Thursday

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor released the findings of a long-awaited investigation of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday, saying that a team of Saudi agents dispatched to Istanbul with orders to bring him home alive had instead killed the journalist and dismembered his body.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said at a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

This is- to use two abused and misused terms- unbelievable, or at least incredible.

There are numerous reasons President Trump likes the House of Saud, among which are that  Riyadh is investing billions of dollars in American companies. It supports Jared Kushner's push for a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy tens of billions of dollars in armaments from the USA, all the better to continue its crusade against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. (Thirteen million Yemenis are now in danger of starvation there, but that's only gravy to Trump.) Additionally, it is a despotic, Wahabbist monarchy, pleasing to the USA's would-be imperial autocrat who himself derives his most fervent support at home from theocrats.  And it treats journalists, such as the late Mr. Khashoggi, very, very badly. So much so, in fact that NBC News notes

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey's case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

They said the White House specifically wanted details about Gulen's residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Therefore, we read, quite sensibly, from the deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post

This new Saudi account is completely implausible on its face. It contradicts numerous established facts about the case. Now we’ll see if the Trump administration gets behind it.

— Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) November 15, 2018

Evidently, the push to sacrifice Gulen to appease Erdogan and cut the Saudis a huge break has been stymied by bureaucrats. "Career officials at the agencies," Bloomberg reports, "pushed back on the White House requests" and a senior US official remarked "once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious."

It's conceivable, therefore, that the White House won't support the Saudi account of Khashoggi's murder. There still are some career, non-political employees in the Trump Administration, people who put principle over politics and country over personal privilege. But there also is Donald Trump, and he's not any of that.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

No. No Office.

Anne Fearan, Josh Dawsey, and Emily Heil of The Washington Post provide the boring, albeit necessary, background:

A transoceanic personnel crisis that engulfed the National Security Council this week is partly rooted in a bureaucratic dispute over the seating arrangements aboard first lady Melania Trump’s plane to Africa last month during her maiden solo trip abroad.

As the East Wing prepared the flight manifest for the marquee trip, deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel became angry that seats on the first lady’s government jet were assigned to a larger-than-usual security entourage and a small press corps with none for Ricardel or another NSC staffer, according to current U.S. officials and others familiar with the trip and its aftermath.

 Policy experts from the NSC and State Department were advised to fly separately and to meet the first lady’s party on the ground, a practice the State Department had often used, but Ricardel objected strenuously, those people said. She threatened to revoke NSC resources associated with the trip, meaning no policy staff would advise the first lady during her visits to Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Egypt.

Bad blood between Ricardel and Melania Trump and her staff continued for weeks after the trip, with the first lady privately arguing that the NSC’s No. 2 official was a corrosive influence in the White House and should be dismissed. But national security adviser John Bolton rebuffed the first lady and protected his deputy, prompting the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, to issue an extraordinary statement to reporters Tuesday effectively calling for Ricardel’s firing.

This may be a personality dispute or someone overstepping her bounds, fairly routine vices.  Somehow, however, "the first lady's spokeswoman" became

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Grisham said of Ricardel in the statement.

After an uncomfortable day of limbo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Wednesday evening that Ricardel was leaving the White House.

The "Office of the First Lady?"  The reporters continue

Soon after the first lady’s office issued its statement Tuesday, surprised senior White House aides walked to Ricardel’s office to see whether she was still there. She was, albeit confused....

A senior White House official said the first lady believed Ricardel was spreading false rumors about her office, including a misleading story that aides had arranged a $10,000 hotel stay in Egypt. Other White House aides said Ricardel belittled underlings, shouted at professional staff and was the most disliked aide in the West Wing.

Last weekend, according to administration officials, the first lady’s office again asked Bolton to oust Ricardel. Others, including Kelly, have wanted her gone for months, administration officials said, with little success in overcoming Bolton’s objections.

There is no Office of the First Lady. This website explains

From 1975 until the present day -- that is, from Betty Ford to Laura Bush -- women in the White House rekindled their interest in policy with a zeal unseen since Eleanor Roosevelt. In particular, Hillary Clinton advanced the policy-making aspect of first ladyship with her appointment to the task force committee for health care reform.

The "Office of the First Lady" is not mentioned in the US Constitution, nor does it seem to have been foreseen by the Founders. It has not been enacted legislatively, nor has it been the subject of any Executive Order. 

There is no mention of anything authorizing an "Office of the First Lady," probably because there is nothing authorizing such an office.

Some constitutional scholars- but especially politicians- once boasted of being "strict constructionists" and many conservatives similarly exhibited horror at "waste, fraud, and abuse."  There once also were (alleged) opponents of "big government."

Yet, no one on the right, nor any one on the anti-President Trump left, has uttered a word about this office  It is, then, relatively courageous that the Post reporters- probably going as far as their editor would approve- point out

Martha Washington, historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony noted, once wrote that she felt like a “state prisoner” because of protocol rules and a schedule set in part by her husband’s chief adviser, Tobias Lear. And there was no love lost between Mary Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln’s chief counselors, John Hay and John Nicolay, who referred to her as “the hellcat” behind her back.

Pat Nixon, Anthony says, chafed at top White House aides H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and John Erlichman for perceived offenses that included not giving her enough notice before travel and for not taking her ambitious agenda seriously, Anthony said.

“It goes back so far that what we’re really talking about is human nature and the problem of the boss’s wife,” he said.

Melania Trump has taken on a more public role recently, launching her anti-bullying campaign earlier this year and traveling to Africa in October.

Notably, there is no mention of anything creating an "Office" with a capital "O." In this instance, assertive behavior of the First Lady is a wise strategic maneuver, given that the GOP was recently shellacked by female voters and is generally seen as fairly hostile to women's issues.

The spouse of the President of the United States of America always will have a role. She (or he) can influence the President through "pillow talk" or in any manner they wish.. However, the First Lady is neither elected nor appointed and the designation of staff as comprising an "office" comes out of thin air, wasteful and extra-constitutional.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Problem Of A Different Sort

Two days after the mid-terms, the Daily Beast reported

“I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” (Bernie) Sanders said of Gillum. “He stuck to his guns in terms of a progressive agenda. I think he ran a great campaign. And he had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many, many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning.”

However, Sanders conceded also "I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American."

Having failed to label multitudes of white voters as "racist," the naughty Senator brought down upon himself a torrent of Twitter criticism, including "not feeling comfortable voting for a black person because they’re black indeed means that person is racist;" "Folks have to stop excusing racism/sexism as a means of normalization in hopes not to hurt the perpetrators feelings;" and "What do you call a person who is uncomfortable voting for a Black person? A RACIST."

In response to a fellow tweeting out a January, 2015 Washington Post article entitled "Sherrod Brown: Why aren't progressives begging him to run for president?"Jill Filipovic ( though right about this and this), unaware of the buzz surrounding senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, contends

No shade to Sherrod, but can we see more of these articles about women (especially the many qualified women of color on the Dem bench) and more discussion of female candidates as presidential hopefuls? The midterms showed us who votes Dem, and it's not white men.

Then in equal parts disturbing and predictable

Nancy Pelosi is making gender a central part of her bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel — leaning hard into the pitch that Democrats cannot oust the only woman at their leadership table following a historic election for women.

In addition to arguing she’s the best qualified for the job, the California Democrat and her allies are also framing a Pelosi victory as a matter of protecting political progress for women at a critical moment. Push her out, and men may take over the party at a time when more than 100 women are heading to Capitol Hill and after female voters have been thoroughly alienated by President Donald Trump. Embrace her, and she’ll prioritize legislation empowering women on issues ranging from equal pay to anti-harassment legislation.

This sentiment, assessing an individual's value on the basis of the inherited characteristics of race and gender, is pervasive but all too infrequently acknowledged. This past Monday, Slate's Jordan Weissman wrote that newly re-elected Ohio senator Sherrod Brown

isn’t the only candidate who needs to make this sort of tough calculation. Instead of running for president, Beto O’Rourke could try to go after Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s seat in 2020. Montana Governor Steve Bullock might be interested in the Oval Office. But he might be be more useful taking on on Republican Sen. Steve Daines. West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, who went so far as to announce his presidential bid on Monday after losing his House bid last week, might do better to try to knock off Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. But with Brown, the tension is a bit more clear, both because he’s such a compelling presidential candidate on paper, and because winning the presidency would actually guarantee that his Senate seat flipped, rather than simply remain in Republican hands.

There are also other reasons why Brown might not be an ideal Democratic standard bearer. He’s loudly sided with Trump on trade issues, which may be a big part of his secret to winning in Ohio, but might not play well with progressive primary voters who loathe pretty much all things about the administration. And while his Republican opponent failed to make much of an old domestic abuse allegation, that issue could play awkwardly on the national stage. (The issue involve some nonspecific accusations made by Brown’s ex-wife during their divorce in the 1980s. She has since become one of his most vocal political supporters, and cut a TV ad for him this year after Republicans tried to revive abuse claim during the campaign).

But ultimately, the question hanging over Brown isn’t whether he’s a good candidate, or even a great one. It’s whether he’s so much better than the other 2020 contenders that it would be worth waving his Senate seat goodbye.

Nonetheless, were Brown to be nominated and elected, he would be president, a rather more important office than senator.  Were he not elected- or not even nominated- he would remain a US Senator, no harm done.

Moreover, Weissman's inclusion of Richard Ojeda, now holding no political office, and of Beto O'Rourke, now holding no political office after his defeat by Ted Cruz, suggests that his concern may be motivated by more than concern of Brown's seat being taken by a Republican. 

It may be that Weissman is feeling a touch of that sentiment held by Filipovic, some Pelosi supporters, and members of the Twittersphere who find Bernie Sanders is insufficiently critical of voters who vote against a black candidate.

Sherrod Brown is a white male.  No Democrat (or Republican), and that includes an estimable senator from the nation's heartland, can be elected President without first being nominated for the office. While Weissman's article is entitled "The Really Obvious Problem With Sherrod Brown Running for President," the really obvious problem for Brown is demographic, and one he is powerless to change.

Following the 2016 elections, Senator Sanders asserted

It is not good enough for somebody to say "I'm a woman, vote for me." No, that's not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the  drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, one of the struggles that you're going to see in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.

"Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged," Albert Camus once noted. Whether the Party goes beyond "identity politics," it shouldn't be prohibitively difficult for the left and journalists (such as Weissman) sympathetic to a Democratic agenda to concede, openly and clearly, the role that gender and race play in the Party.

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Monday, November 12, 2018


He's just not that into you.

Oh, it has been obvious for some time now.   There was that time in July, 2015 that Donald Trump claimed that John McCain is "not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  However, maybe that was only a slam at John McCain, provoked by the fear of a comparison between the Senator's war record and his own history of five draft deferments.

Fifteen months later, he perpetuated a stigma when he remarked "When people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it." Yet, he did at the same time advocate improved mental health for veterans.

That same month, an interview with Howard Stern was unearthed in which Trump crowed "I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world, it is a dangerous world out there. It’s like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider." But that was ancient history, nearly twenty years earlier.

Faced with rain, Trump on Saturday skipped a Veterans Day commemoration at Aisne Marne American Cemetery, where many American soldiers killed in World War I are buried. On Sunday, he "chose not to walk side-by-side with other world leaders at another event Sunday, choosing instead to take his motorcade down an empty Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomph, rather than showing unity with the other heads of state."  Yet, a photo with other leaders of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance may have imperiled his job evaluation with President Putin, so he deserves some slack.

Now the President has decided to skip the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery.  However, it is not only deceased veterans who annoy him. He has tweeted

Federal law permits voters who are overseas, many of them soldiers, to submit ballots after election day. In Florida, those ballots are not due until Friday. And Donald Trump wants them not to be counted.

President Trump believes many ballots from overseas are illegitimate. He believes also that prisoners of war are not heroes, avoiding sexually transmitted diseases is as courageous as fighting in foreign wars, commemorating the American war dead is unnecessary in rain, and ballots from soldiers are suspect.

If your name were Kushner, or you were an attractive daughter of his, or were himself, he wouldn't be holding out a sign reading "I find you contemptible." But it's not, and he is.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Historically Literate

The Day of Jubilee has arrived- or so it must have, because racial bias and misogyny have disappeared from American life and politics.

We have it on no less an authority than National Review's senior political correspondent, Jim Geraghty. Last month TIME's Molly Ball and Alana Abramson reported

But when it comes to the party’s presidential nominee in 2020, Avenatti thinks in different terms. “I think it better be a white male,” he says. He hastens to add that he wishes it weren’t so, but it’s undeniable that people listen to white men more than they do others; it’s why he’s been successful representing Daniels and immigrant mothers, he says. “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight,” he says. “Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”

Shamelessly (the GOP way), Geraghty responded

Besides shameless and self-serving — par for the course for Avenatti — his argument is historically illiterate. We just had a two-term African-American president! Women have been elected to statewide offices in 49 out of the 50 states. The holdout is that notorious bastion of right-wing misogyny . . . er, Vermont. Forty states have elected minorities to statewide office. The electorate didn’t have a problem with a woman president. The electorate had a problem with that particular woman as president.

Well, of course it's self-serving.  But it is not historically illiterate.

In late October, 2012 Geraghty predicted Mitt Romney would win the popular vote for president and stated it’s also relatively rare for a candidate to win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College. Although I'm unable to confirm it, he appears to have voted twice against presidential nominee Obama. It's fascinating how many individuals who believe Barack Obama's election proved the USA has banished racism chose not to vote for that individual.

I'm less impressed than is Geraghty that after roughly 240 years of a representative democracy, we now have elected women and minorities to statewide office nearly everywhere. Moreover, the exclusion of any female president requires Geraghty to demonstrate that the defeat of Hillary Clinton was completely unrelated to her gender, especially given her emphasis on "breaking the glass ceiling."

Still, the most loathsome portion of Geraghty's claim is that the argument that electing a black as president is a tough slog is "historically illiterate."

Yes, Barack Obama was elected President ten years ago. However, more recently came the nomination by the Republican Party, and election to President, of a guy who built his political career on birtherism, denying that the black President, whose election is claimed to have unshackled us from the curse of racism, had not been born in the USA, hence an illegitimate President. As President, he has continued attacks prompted by animosity toward minorities.

When he launched his presidential campaign, Donald Trump notably referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists." Time after time candidate Trump made remarks which were ethnically biased, which included one which the usually sycophantic Paul Ryan referred to as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f--- her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s---, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

So let's review. After nearly eight years of GOP rule, dring a period of great economic crisis following a disastrous war, a black Democrat is elected President.  Eight years later, propelled by distrust of immigrants and of racial minorities, an unabashed bigot and proud perpetrator of sexual assault who had denounced the black man is elected President.

This invalidates, in the mind of a prominent National Review journalist, Michael Avenatti's claim that a nominee who is white and male has the best chance of being elected President in 2020. This argument does not make Jim Geraghty himself racist, misogynistic, or sexist. It makes him despicably dishonest.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Submit To What?

Politico's Rebecca Morin writes

 During a rant on Friday about CNN reporter Jim Acosta, President Donald Trump turned to another reporter, April Ryan.

"You talk about somebody that's a loser," Trump said of Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks who is African American. "She doesn't know what the hell she's doing."

During the gaggle in front of the White House, Trump continued to criticize reporters and went after another reporter of color.

“What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question," he told CNN reporter Abby Phillip after she asked if Trump wants Whitaker to "rein in Mueller."

"But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions," the president continued to Phillip before turning away and refusing to answer the question.

Journalists, media groups and academics immediately started speaking up, saying the remarks revealed a bifurcated approach between how the president treats white reporters and those who are women or people of color, including PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, with whom he also quarrelled this week. While the president insults many journalists, these critics say his barbs targeting women and people of color feel especially sharp, and hit at the reporter's basic intelligence and competence as a person. It's a tone that black reporters and scholars of African-American history say particularly stings, given that African-Americans journalists were not allowed into the White House until 1947 — and that the White House press corps remains overwhelmingly white to this day.

Morin adds "Press advocates worried, though, that Trump might bar these reporters from the White House if they continued to hit him with tough questions."

Nonetheless, they must persist. On Friday we were reminded by a New York Times columnist

Another NYT columnist, Bret Stephens. made a couple of insightful remarks on Friday evening's "RealTime with Bill Maher" but unwisely commented

Also, it's so important not to be baited by every tweet because Trump is playing the press and that is his skill. You talked about- Sarah talked about him as the ideal 8-year-old. I see him as the cunning 12-year-old- and maybe that's the subject for debate- but he's the classic 8th grade bully. He knows exactly where to poke someone one where it hurts.

McCain said something so smart before he died. You can't be the car alarm that's constantly going off Pick your battles. Pick them wisely.

(It would have been even more impressive if McCain said something so smart after he died. Anyway, notwithstanding the late Senator's integrity, taking advice on strategy from someone who selected Sarah Palin as his running-mate may not be wise.)

And Bob Woodward, before making an excellent recommendation about one news organization building on the report of another, contended

But I think that we're taking the bail in the press and Trump is just throwing it out on that table and saying, you know, "you're the enemy of the people" and then we get all steamy and emotionally unhinged about it.

Trump probably is playing the press in some manner. However, unless the media is willing to ignore all of the President's tweets, rallies, and news conferences- which won't happen- it would have to make some uncomfortable choices.

Stephen's remark came at the close of a week in which the President singled out with criticism or ridicule three black female reporters.  Unlike other groups- including veterans and Christian believers- whom Donald Trump has belittled, black women are not going to roll over and ask for some more.

This past week has seen the Democratic Party's triumph in statehouses, state legislatures, and the U.S. House, the GOP's post-election voter suppression, and the attacks on the three black women. Meanwhile, there has been relatively little outrage over an incident in which: the President denounced a White House correspondent; an intern physically snatched a microphone from the correspondent; White House credentials of the reporter were revoked; and the President's press secretary circulated a doctored video purporting to show that the reporter assaulted the intern.

Of course, President Trump will continue to retaliate against reporters who ask him tough questions.  "For a coup to work," Maher stated Friday, "it is first necessary for truth itself to be destroyed, as well as the people who try to report it so the dictator is free to say anything and his followers believe it."

So those who believe the press generally, or White House correspondents specifically, should hesitate before responding aggressively to Donald Trump's antics need to come clean. Patting themselves on the back for recognizing Trump's strategic manipulation, press and pundits who believe White House correspondents (or the press generally) should not reflexively fire back at the President need to specify the circumstances they believe should be ignored.

This past week, it was provoking confrontation with a major network's White House correspondent, and it was targeting Alcindor, Ryan, and Phillips.   But as Maher recognizes, there will be further attacks upon the media and others.  Resisting a slow-moving coup requires sound strategy, beginning with clear language from the media's heaviest hitters.

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Friday, November 09, 2018

Toying With His People

Paul Krugman observes

The midterms election feels like a mix-and-match combination of two ugly episodes from history. For weeks it felt like 2016: Rs created a fake issue -- the caravan playing the role of emails -- and the news media happily went along with it. 1/

Notice that the caravan totally disappeared as an issue as soon as the votes were cast -- not just Fox News, but mainstream media too. Guys, you really need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask why you're so easily played 2/

4:46 AM - 9 Nov 2018

The cynic would suggest that the guys (maybe a few gals, too) were played because they wanted to be played. However, it's more likely that producers or others in charge saw the picture of the caravan and had an absolute orgasm, with thousands of darkish people clearly marching together in the direction of the USA..

They could repeat endlessly that the individuals were refugees 1,000 miles or so from the Texas border, not financed by George Soros, did not include anyone of known Middle East origin, and are escaping poverty and oppression. But.... those pictures.

Nonetheless, there is a journalist- actually, a media personality- who is not being played.

At the President's campaign rally in Missouri the night before the election, Donald Trump called to the stage Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity. As the video below indicates, Hannity points beyond the crowd at the media and says into the microphone "by the way, all those people in the back are fake news."

The crowd was facing the media to which Hannity was pointing and goes wild, cheering, applauding, and smiling, a few apparently laughing at the media. They do so as Hannity turns 45 degrees so that he can see a portion of the crowd, and he smiles broadly.

He was not looking at the fake news, which he condemns for questioning and slamming his hero. He was not angry, but instead laughing while facing Trump's supporters. These individuals were laughing at the people (media) they were facing- as was Hannity. He was laughing at them.

Hannity is a partisan Republican doing what he can to help the party, and probably a genuine conservative and true believer. However, he didn't get where he was by being stupid. He knows, as Trump has proven, that many of these folks can be patronized, lied to, and even derided ("I lovethe poorly educated"; avoiding STD's "is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier"; "drink my little wine... have my little cracker")- and they will respond with fervent support.

Entertainers know how to entertain and how to play their audience. No one can do this better than the boss who on camera liked to tell potential apprentices "you're fired" but cannot be critical of anyone face-to-face. Legitimate, mainstream journalists are being "played," as Paul Krugman charges. However, not a legitimate journalist, Sean Hannity is not being played, instead himself playing his audience.

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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Prescience Revealed

Wednesday's events demonstrated that Bill Maher may be on his way to being proven right. On Friday night he had observed

 If historians want to look at an example of "we've been here before," look at this picture (shows massive Nazi rally). This is not Nuremberg in 1934. And here's the Garden in 1939 after Hitler had done some pretty awful things and yet 22,000 Americans were cheering him on (shows picture of huge numbers giving Nazi salute).

I'm not saying Trump is Hitler- Hitler volunteered for the army. But Trump is a wannabe dictator and he does have a knack for getting what he wants to be.

President Trump, as all were aware, had long wanted Attorney General Sessions to be gone because he recused himself from Robert Mueller's probe. And now he is, because Trump; has a knack for getting what he wants to be. The President has requested, and received, Sessions' resignation, replacing him with Matthew Whittaker, a GOP appartchik and conspiracy-monger who has called the Special Counsel's probe a "witchhunt." Strong legal mind.

The Washington Post has reported

The White House suspended the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday, hours after President Trump took issue with questions Acosta asked at a news conference.

The move to punish Acosta by removing his access to the White House is believed to be unprecedented. The Trump administration barred another CNN reporter from attending an open media event in July but until now has not gone as far as removing a credential, known as a “hard pass,” which enables a journalist to enter the White House grounds.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders cited Acosta’s brief confrontation with a White House press aide during Trump’s midday news conference as the reason for suspending his press pass “until further notice.”

Evidently that was inaccurate becaue

During the 90-minute session at the White House, Trump snapped at Acosta after the reporter asked whether the president had “demonized immigrants” by calling a caravan of Central American migrants “an invasion.” After a lengthy and tense back-and-forth, a female White House intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta.

Acosta held onto it and raised an arm to shield it, in the process making contact with the aide. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told the woman.

Wherein "Sarah Huckabee" and "other people" are proxies for "me"

After their exchange, Trump told Acosta: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

Then Press Secretary S. Huckabee Sanders tweeted out a shortened video, apparently made by an editor of the far-right conspiracy site Infowars, of the interaction.   David Frum responded

But dishonesty is the currency of wannabee dictators, and so it will not bother the regime that this was the full interaction:

Reverend Martin Niemoller, in a poem though distorted by history, nevertheless captured the cowardice of German institutions (especially the churches) toward the rise of Adolph Hitler. He did note that the Nazi persecution of Communists, trade unions, and Social Democrats met little resistance because "all of that was not our affair" and "the Church did not concern itself with politics at all at that time."

 Termination of the Attorney General and curtailment of freedom of the press took place fewer than 24 hours after polls closed Tuesday. If they had taken place before the election, when they undobutedly were planned, they probably would have cost Trump's Republican Party its Senate majority. Even a wannabe dictator must pick his time and place carefully.

In the USA in the early 21st century, religious institutions bear some responsibility to resist the slow-moving coup Maher has long recognized,  However, organized religion is in serious decline and political leaders and the media must fill the breach. It has now come, first to CNN, but eventually will come to others because, Trump claims, they are the "true Enemy of the People." There is still time to prove Bill Maher wrong, as he hopes he will be. Time, though, is fleeting.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The New South, Not Exactly

We're on to you, Joe Scarborough. Discussing the morning after election the narrow defeat of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia,both black Democrats, the former GOP congressman from northern Florida remarked

As a son of the South, I can tell you it's very interesting when I went to bed last night and knew that Gillum had lost and knew that most likely Stacey Abrams was going to lose, I went to bed and "To Kill a Mockingbird" came a line that Finch said to his daughter after the jury came back and found him guilty of murder. He said "but they thought about it, just for a moment thought about acquitting him." 

Let me tell you, we talk about the New South. No, no, this is the new South when a black man and a black woman can come within an inch of being governor of these two states, a state of Florida that voted for George Wallace in the Democratic primaries in 1968, I think in '72, the state of Georgia with its history, it's amazing.

Despite being anti-Trump, and his lack of racism and sexism (mostly, anyway), Scarborough still is that GOP congressman from the part of Florida previously referred to as "southern Alabama" and still would be, were that not politically incorrect and considered gauche. (Political correctness is "the elevation of sensitivity over truth," Bill Maher has observed.) And the new South is still, at least in part, the old South.

Charlie Pierce, more diplomatically, said much the same thing when on Wednesday morning he explained that some offices

in south Florida that the Democrats were hoping to flip went to incumbents. Statewide, both Senator Bill Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum fell behind their Republican opponents at virtually the same time. Ron DeSantis literally had no platform and the apparently limitless bankroll of Rick Scott was all the Republicans had. And those things, coupled with the basic cussedness of the Florida electorate, gave the country another look at how scared and racist it really is in its forgotten places. I spent three spring trainings (sic) in Polk County, the Designer Mudflap Capital of the Western World, so I am not surprised in the least. 

Georgia's campaign was mucked up by voter suppression.It's not in every state that people are lopped off the voting rolls by the Secretary of State, who also, no doubt by the grace of God, was the gubernatorial nominee and who by that same grace, chose not to recuse himself from election-related matters.  Nonetheless, Oprah Winfrey in the campaign's final days, worked enthusiastically for Abrams, which folks assumed would help the Democrat. And blacks presumably would be energized by the realization that the Republican was doing all he could to prevent them from voting.

A complex state, Florida nonetheless had an uncomplicated race, one in which the charismatic Democratic nominee ran an inspired, effective campaign against a Republican who, when noting in August that Gillum would be his opponent, stated "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up." This was less a dogwhistle than a bullhorn, as were the robocalls which were

narrated by someone pretending to be Gillum and using an exaggerated minstrel dialect with jungle noises in the background. The calls end with a disclaimer that they were funded by The Road to Power, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist website and podcast linked to Scott Rhodes of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Faced with the subtlety of a jackhammer, the voters responded. In a race some observers believed would feature Andrew Gillum dragging incumbent, lackluster US Senator Bill Nelson across the finish line, Nelson actually outperformed (however slightly) Gillum.  

Both fared only barely better than did Hillary Clinton in 2016, even though the out-party possesses the advantage in mid-term elections, there was no James Comey, and Gillum is very, very good.

Yet, though Joe Scarborough- and others- want to defend the South and suggest that it has gotten over its race problem, objective people know better. "I believe that the citizens and the residents of this state are going to send a very convincing message on November 6," Gillum had predicted. It wasn't the message he hoped for. 

Admittedly, this is not a problem exclusive of the South, and results in Florida and Georgia tell us a thing or two, if we'd but listen, about Hillary Clinton's national defeat in 2016 by Donald "oh, look at my African-American over here" Trump.  Wondrous are the forms taken by economic discontent. The South has changed, becoming much more modern and contemporary, in good ways and bad. (I always preferred this South, anyway. R.I.P.)

The Who once famously sang "meet the new boss,same as the old boss."  Some of us have been waiting decades for the new South to arrive. At least in the matter of America's original sin, the old boss turns out to be not much different than the old boss.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Divisive Strategy Is Most Viable

Without hint of embarrassment, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has written

To understand this good fortune, consider two counterfactuals. In the first, the last 21 months proceeded in exactly the same fashion — with the strongest economy since the 1990s, full employment almost nigh, ISIS defeated, no new overseas wars or major terrorist attacks — except that Donald Trump let his staffers dictate his Twitter feed, avoided the press except to tout good economic news, eschewed cruelties and insults and weird behavior around Vladimir Putin, and found a way to make his White House a no-drama zone.

In this scenario it’s hard to imagine that Trump’s approval ratings wouldn’t have floated up into the high 40s; they float up into the mid-40s as it is whenever he manages to shut up. Even with their threadbare and unpopular policy agenda, Republicans would be favored to keep the House and maintain their state-legislature advantages. All the structural impediments to a Democratic recovery would loom much larger, Trump’s re-election would be more likely than not, and his opposition would be stuck waiting for a recession to have any chance of coming back.

Before rebutting another of Douthat's arguments, Steve M slices and dices Douthat with

But Republicans began the 2018 campaign by trying to run on the record of the past two years, particularly the economy, and it wasn't working. As a recent Times story noted, the suburbs aren't particularly impressed by Trump/GOP economic policies because the economy was already good in suburbia before Trump came along. And there's still economic anxiety in much of America. That's why the party needed culture war to fire up the base. (And as the Brett Kavanaugh hearings made clear, you don't need to be Trump to be a rabble-rousing culture warrior -- even Lindsey Graham can pull it off.)

Republicans periodically claim that ISIS has been defeated.  In September, President Trump told Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, “If you look at various parts of the Middle East, you look at Syria, we’ve wiped out ISIS," which is "in the very final throes.” Similarly, he told the United Nations General Assembly "I am pleased to report that the bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have then driven out from the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria."

The claim about territory is accurate. However, ISIL is not in "the very final throes." It has nearly as many fighters as it ever did and a Pentagon spokesperson informed the Voice of America in August "ISIS probably is still more capable than al-Qaida in Iraq at its peak in 2006-2007, when the group had declared an Islamic State and operated under the name Islamic State of Iraq.”

By most- most- measures, the economy is doing well. However, the third quarter brought what the Wall Street Journal termed the "32nd straight quarter of yearly growth below 2%, a long and consistent stretch of anemic growth that hasn’t happened before in the post-World War II era."  Factory-sector growth retreated in October (possibly because of tariffs) business investment is lagging, and economic growth has slowed. Many leading economists believe recession is around the bend.

But Douthat's claim of "no major terrorist attacks" is most stunning, or at least should be.  The FBI defines "domestic terrorism" as "perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature." There were recently eleven people murdered by a guy among whose

many anti-Semitic social media posts were comments suggesting that President Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people. "Trump is surrounded by k****", "things will stay the course," read one post on the Gab social media platform, which used a derogatory term to describe Jews. Another post, apparently intended as an insult, read: "Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist," Bowers said two days before the shooting. "There is no #MAGA as long as there is a k*** infestation.

That sounds suspiciously like an extremist ideology of a religious nature. As God has reminded us

Breaking news from Mt. Sinai: Judaism is a religion. The millions of allusions to me in every single text and commentary and ritual of the past 3,000 years probably should have been a giveaway.  

There is a reason that President Trump downplays the economy and "won't shut up" about immigrants. Enthusiasm among Democrats for the mid-terms always was high, initially much higher than among Republicans. Obviously, the failure to destroy ISIL, lay a solid economic foundation, or end terrorism was not the reason Trump has downplayed these issues.

Instead, the President successfully has played the hate card, effectively effectively sowing division and ginning up enthusiasm among Republicans. Even a conservative columnist should realize that Donald Trump understands not only his base, but rank-and-file Republicans, better than nearly any of us does.

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Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...