Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Broad Disdain

"To paraphrase Andrew Gillum," Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick writes, "I don’t much care if the president intends to be a racist. I care that millions of those who intend to be racists believe that he really, emphatically is one."

By contrast, political theorist and contributing columnist to The Washington Post Danielle Allen argues

Unfortunately, when good and decent people who voted for Trump after having weighed the trade-offs are tarred with the same brush his adversaries apply to him, their anger activates. We all know what it feels like to feel falsely accused. This again is what Trump is counting on.

Unfortunate, too, is that Allen never tells her readers what false accusation is being leveled against Trump supporters.  She charges the President, accurately, with "racially-coded verbal abuse" and "racially coded language."  Although she does unnecessarily note Hillary Clinton's reference to "deplorables" (occurring once and nevermore), Allen actually states that critics of Trump label the President's supporters "racist." 

Nonetheless, that op-ed piece is notable for more than being six minutes of your life you'll never get back.  Allen implores Democrats not to fall into Trump's "trap" but instead to "affirm your love of country" and

Focus on the specific harm Trump is doing to a specific person; don’t widen the lens, however tempting that may be. Trump is putting one specific person, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), at real risk. This is abominably irresponsible. About that, there is only one thing to say: “Back off, man.” Ask everyone who loves this country to help protect the specific person who is being put in danger regardless of what you think of her opinions.

However, if there is in fact an identifiable Trump trap, it is precisely the one into which Allen is diving.

The President clearly wants Ocasio-Cortez, Presley, Tlaib, and- especially- Ilhan Omar to become the face of the Democratic Party. To that end, he will, albeit in an indirect fashion, smear both his supporters and other Americans.

"Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," Trump rhetorically asked early Sunday morning, no doubt as he was readying himself for the church services he religiously attends weekly.  Those places included, as print reporters pointed out and Democrats largely ignored, Queens, NY, Ohio, and Michigan, those "totally broken and crime infested places."

Temporarily walking back his bigoted tweets, the President a few days later denied supporting the chants, falsely claiming "I started speaking very quickly" and "I didn't say that. They did."

The next day, Trump walked back his walk-back. However, for roughly 24 hours, he had it out there that he disagreed with his supporters and wanted them to stop. That was a few days after he had written Ohio and Michigan (and New York City) out of the United States of America.

"I can tell you this, you can’t talk that way about our country, not when I’m the president," vowed the man who a few days earlier had slandered the residents of Ohio and Michigan, then his own followers, about Congresswomen who had done neither.

Nonetheless, most of the media and the Democratic Party noticed only that Trump had spewed his invective at "four women of color" or "four Congresswomen of color.," They thereby signaled to voters, most of whom are white non-Hispanic, across the country that they were exorcised by criticism of minorities, slandered by Trump as hostile to America.

I am less certain than Danielle and others of the prescription to block the President's re-election.. However, I do know that Donald Trump has been amazingly adept the last several years in ridiculing not only ethnic minorities and women, but a range of Americans, members of the Armed services, Christians, taxpayers, and others.  More notice should be taken of it.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Confrontation Feared

When in January Chris Christie's "Let Me Finish" was published, we learned

One day in early 2017, Chris Christie was in his kitchen in New Jersey, eating dinner with his wife Mary Pat. The phone rang. It was the president.

According to Christie, Donald Trump tried, not for the first time, to persuade the governor to become his labor secretary. Then talk turned to Christie’s firing as Trump’s transition chairman in November 2016.

“Chris,” Trump said, “you didn’t get fired. You got made part of a larger team.”

Christie gives his side of the conversation in his new book, Let Me Finish, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian two weeks before publication. He says he bristled at Trump’s claim, then rebuked the president.

“I’m a big boy who understands how the way this business works,” he said. “But please, sir, don’t ever, ever tell me again that I wasn’t fired.”

Christie had been fired, in person, by Steve Bannon, because Donald Trump could not do it himself. As President 

Trump fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and chief of staff, Reince Priebus, by tweet, the same medium by which he announced the “retirement” of Jim Mattis, attempting to steal the thunder of the defense secretary’s resignation.

James Comey, director of the FBI, was fired by letter. Jeff Sessions, the man who got the job Christie really wanted, attorney general, was hounded by tweet for months until he gave in and resigned. After very public power struggles with Kushner, Ivanka Trump and others, Bannon reached an exit agreement with the chief of staff, John Kelly, whose own departure turned into a drawn-out soap opera which has not yet ended with the appointment of a permanent replacement.

In her own book, the former reality TV star and presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reported being fired by Kelly. She then released a taped phone call in which Trump said “nobody even told me about it” and added: “You know they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. Goddamn it. I don’t love you leaving at all.”

It's five months later but Donald Trump has changed little, and still is frightened of confrontation. (Even the unusually corrupt Scott Pruitt was not fired by Trump, instead forced to resign by Chief of Staff Kelly; video from 4/18) That is why it is not only morally imperative to confront evil by refusing to open an impeachment inquiry, it is also strategically foolish:

Nancy Pelosi's gamble is that President Trump won't be re-elected.  It's a bet she, her party, and the country can't afford to lose.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Great Question

I was wrong. I was wrong when I thought Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening had posed a stupid, hypothetical question.

The CNN anchor/host/personality and lawyer asked Kansas Republican Kris Kobach

What do you want me to do when he makes a racist comment? I call him a demagogue because I don't want to get into the business of what he thinks he is, because in our political culture if he says, "I'm not a racist," then it gives guys like you cover to defend him.

But let me ask you, what would you do if the President said, "I am a racist. That's why I said it," what would you do?

However, it was not a stupid question. The obvious answer for a GOP senatorial candidate was "I normally don't answer a hypothetical question. Yet this one is easy. President Trump is not a racist, so he would never lie and say that he is, and I would thoroughly reject him if he did." That would have seemed definitive, and that would have ended that.

However, Kobach said that he would not defend Trump. Cuomo responded "would you still support him as President?" after which, this:

KOBACH: I don't know.
CUOMO: You have to think about it?
KOBACH: That would be a really tough question.
CUOMO: You have to think about whether or not you would support a racist?
KOBACH: If he said - if he said - if he said - if he says it--
CUOMO: Really?
KOBACH: I'd have to know who is running against him.

That's bad, although Kobach may have unjustifiably felt blindsided.. Maybe it was just him.

No, it wasn't only only him because the next night, Cuomo entertained Kayleigh McEnany (segment beginning at 14:04 of the video below), National Press Secretary for the 2020 Trump campaign and told her

I've decided to call this The Kobach test, instead of the litmus test.

Kayleigh, if the President said, the reason I'm saying these things is because I'm a racist. I know he hasn't said that. I know he doesn't believe that. Hypothetically, if he said that, would it change your support for him?

After McEnany claimed Democrats "are trying to paint the President as a racist" since June 2015 and "it's a ridiculous assertion," there followed (video below)

MCENANY: I'm not going to play these games where--
CUOMO: I don't support racism."
MCENANY: Because I won't - I - I won't - I won't allow you attach - to attach a label to the President, even hypothetically that is patently false and untrue. This is a man who's praised by--

She never answered the question, one she very likely had learned had been asked the previous night. Instead, she invoked Jews, blacks, and Trump's Palm Beach club. Really.

Two Republicans in two nights were thrown a hanging curve, practically begged to say that they would not support the President if he declared himself the racist he is not. But they took a pass.

That says something about them. However, given that it was not one individual but two and the second was tipped off at a question they were likely to face, the refusal to concede that Trump would be unworthy of their support is revelatory also of the President.

Cuomo's question was brilliant, an example of extraordinary broadcast journalism because he exposed two prominent Republicans as fine with racism in the country's President. It would have been easy to say they would not support him if they were confident they'd never face that challenge.

But they're not. They're not because they can see where this is headed. Trump is pushing the envelope, testing the limits, trying to find the point at which the only people who can deny the truth are the 25%? 20%? 15%? who would still support him if there were video of him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

We're nowhere near that point yet. It is as if we are lobsters, which in the traditional (possibly inaccurate) understanding are boiled to death so slowly they don't know what has hit them. By the time Trump owns up to being possibly "racist," the hostility and bigotry may be so commonplace that we have adjusted our attitudes and expectations accordingly. That may be more than a year away. Yet, as Kobach and McEnany understand, that day of reckoning- or acceptance- is not beyond the horizon.

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Conway Lets Down Her Guard

The media and Democrats are much too kind.

It is much too kind to President Trump, and much too kind to Kellyanne Conway. When Conway on Wednesday demanded to know the ethnicity of White House reporter Andrew Feinberg, she was rightfully criticized by Nicole Wallace, Joe Scarborough, and others.

After Conway's question, which Feinberg bravely and wisely refused to answer, she remarked

A lot of us are sick and tired of this country. Of America coming last- to people who swore an oath of office; sick and tired of our military being denigrated; sick and tired of Customs and Boarder people, Protection people, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic by the way...

Conway's mouth runs a mile a minute, and her mind probably nearly as fast. Maybe no one noticed. Maybe they're intimidated by the Administration. Or maybe they simply don't want to help the Administration dodge an important question (about ethnicity) with the Trumpian tactic of diversion

But Kellyanne Conway stated "A lot of us are sick and tired of this country." Yep, finally the truth, stated bluntly.

She thinks extraordinarily quickly, recognized that this wouldn't sound good, and went into her "of" riff.

Nonetheless, the Counselor to the President (drug counselor? mental health counselor?) has now followed down the rathole the man who denied "American exceptionalism," referred to the USA as a "laughingstock," and spoke of "American carnage." Conway has laid it all out there: "a lot us are sick and tired of this country."

How refreshing it would have been for the media, which realizes but won't acknowledge that Donald J. Trump is racist, and Democrats, who sometimes will speak of little else, would recognize the contempt that the President and his close adviser have for this country.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Once Again, With Bias

He's doing it again. The Hill reports

Donald Trump on Monday hit Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for saying that his slogan of "Make America Great Again," would more accurately be described as "make America white again."

"Speaker Pelosi said 'make America white again,' that's a very racist statement," Trump told reporters at Monday's White House event celebrating American manufacturing.

It was unclear if Trump, currently taking criticism for telling multiple congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from, understood the context in which Pelosi had made the comment.

Well, it's not 100% certain that he understood, in the way that it is uncertain Miami will not record traceable snow this coming winter. But we will never hear an American politician- even Donald Trump- say "I am racist." He or she wouldn't be lauded for honesty or authenticity, instead forever branded a "racist" with the individual's very words cited as proof.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump did as much as he could to acknowledge the obvious as he again tests the limits of acceptability. He knows he is outrageous, and will do what he does until it is widely recognized that he is Satan's representative on earth.

As in the video (beginning at :21) below, the Speaker had stated

But this is about keeping- you know, America- his hat- making America white again. They want to make sure that people- certain people- are counted. And it's really disgraceful. It's not what our founders had in mind.

"His hat"; "they."  Try as I might, I can't imagine that someone sufficiently illiterate or confused, Donald Trump or anyone, would believe that Nancy Pelosi was herself advocating "make America white again."   The Hill added

It appeared that Trump may have misheard a reporter's question and suggested Pelosi herself was saying she wanted to "make America white again," though the Speaker meant the remark as an accusation of racism against the president.

Reporters pointed that out to Trump while he was condemning the statement, but he did not appear to react to what they said.

Trump wouldn't react because he did not misinterpret the statement. He understood it and decided to draw attention to Pelosi's allegation because he does want to make America white again. He's also trying yet again to club the American people over the head with a baseball bat till they/we understand what he is. And if we don't figure it out until after he's re-elected, he'll remain a free man and it's only the nation which will have to pick up the pieces.

At 13:56 of her Tuesday appearance on"Deadline: White House," Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker noted

This is the party now, it's quire clear, of Donald Trump; and one thing the President does is he sort of throws out those floaters to see just how much he can get away with and how far he can go. The answer quite clearly is very far.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Spineless Opportunist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Crime-Infested Places From Which They Came

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

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

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

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

In response, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker tweeted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Great Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riffing on the allegations, he continued.

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

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

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Hard To Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

She Went There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there it should have ended.

But there it didn't, because

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dancing With The One That Brung Ya

Jamelle Bouie observes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Not Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, July 08, 2019

Private Drug Market

After Never-Trump Republicans trendily lament exploitation of immigrant children at President Trump's detention centers, contemptuously dismiss GOP opposition to same-sex marriage, and cheer the nation's women's soccer team for winning the World Cup, they still exhibit a conservative blind spot on several enduring, less sexy issues. One of these is health care.

Criticizing Kamala Harris' rhetoric on school busing and elimination of health insurance companies, George Will argues "One cannot unring a bell and Harris cannot erase the fact that she has repeatedly said she wants to take from 217 million Americans -- 80 million more than voted in 2016 -- something most of them like."

This is questionable. A Real Clear Opinion research poll conducted a couple of months ago found that when people were asked about support for health insurance obtained "through the government’s Medicare system," respondents were overwhelmingly in favor. More importantly in light of Will's allegation, they were asked

“Do you support or oppose Medicare for All, which is a system that will eliminate all private health insurance companies, and where all Americans, not just older ones, get health insurance through the government’s Medicare system?” Even with that caveat, 55% were in support, with 34% opposed.

Very likely, Americans suggested opposition to eliminating health insurance companies when the question did not suggest an alternative. If an individual were asked whether she wants those companies to go away, and not given an alternative, she might believe they would be replaced by nothing. Given a person a choice of the current system and the current system with no health insurance, it's likely they'd be far more enthusiastic than Will suggests.

But of course there is an alternative, the benefits of which are highlighted by the pharmaceutical market, and especially in the case of insulin. Natalie Shure writes in The American Prospect

On June 22, 2017, Alec Raeshawn Smith, a recently promoted restaurant manager with Type 1 diabetes, left his local pharmacy empty-handed. He’d gone in to pick up a month’s worth of insulin supplies, which he assumed would set him back around $1000—the amount he and his mother Nicole Smith-Holt had budgeted the month before when he turned 26 and, under Obamacare rules, had to drop off her insurance coverage.

For Alec, that price was already steep: Even with his promotion, he was making $35,000 a year with no benefits. He and Smith-Holt had combed through Minnesota’s Obamacare marketplace for months in search of a decent plan, but the affordable ones all had sky-high deductibles. That meant that he’d be paying full price for his insulin for months before his junk insurance kicked in, on top of hundreds of dollars in monthly premiums—sucking up some 80 percent of his take-home pay once he paid the rent. So he made a rational decision: He’d go uninsured, save the cost of the premium, and just pay for his meds out of pocket, while racking up work experience that could serve as a springboard to a better position with health insurance.

As it turned out, it wouldn’t have made a difference if Alec had been insured or not: The price of his insulin had apparently gone up again to $1300, which was more than he had in his bank account. Perhaps he felt embarrassed, too proud to borrow money so soon after finally moving out of his parents’ place. Perhaps he didn’t want anyone to worry about him, and figured he could keep his blood sugar down until payday.

So he left. He never told his mother and he never told his girlfriend. Five days later, he was dead.

The autopsy later determined the cause of death to be ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes typically brought about by not taking insulin.

Shure recounts the history of  the "insulin racket" and notes a recent, published study which determined "one in four diabetes patients reports rationing their insulin due to costs." She quotes the lead author, a clinician who has found "that one-in-four number only reflects people who actually used less insulin because of costs, but other people make trade-offs. They may be spending less on food or other necessary items, even on other medications." Shure explains

U.S. drug-pricing negotiations are the responsibility of individual insurance plans, of which there are thousands. Each of them has relatively little leverage against price hikes, which drug manufacturers have every reason to push as high as possible to pay off shareholders, whose investments were predicated on the promise of some of the highest returns in the stock market. If you’re a pharma exec whose goal is to maximize short-term profits, then jacking up prices on a drug like insulin—whose millions of patients are practically captive—is a sensible strategy.

The result has been predictable and

Average deductibles have quadrupled in the past decade, nearly half of all people with employer-based insurance have high-deductible plans, and co-pays have risen or been replaced with coinsurance, a frequently higher percentage of the overall price. Taken altogether, the deterioration of insurance quality and rising list prices mean that individual patients are bearing more and more of the brunt of high drug costs.

Drug prices are too important to be left to the private market.  Shure understands

Removing all financial barriers to insulin to ensure that all patients have an uninterrupted supply of it would require governmental intervention, not just relying on multinational companies to devise better deals. It might even demand making moves that end our reliance on those firms to make the drugs we need most.

Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All proposal, a single payer system more generous than existing Medicare, would guarantee that patients would get the prescription drugs they need. (He also has proposed a measure encouraging development of generic drugs.) However, there is a long way to go to enacting that and some patients, such as the tragic Alec Smith, have a very short time to get there. Meanwhile, the prescription drug problem persists- and you won't be surprised to learn that someone has A Plan For That:

Elizabeth Warren has written legislation providing for the public manufacturing of generic drugs, and explicitly stated in the bill that generic insulin would have to be produced within a year of passage.

George Will may not like it- he definitely does not like it- but two Democratic senators, Warren and Sanders, running for President would like private insurance to vanish. (Depending on the day of the  week, Kamala Harris would agree.) People need access both to the care they require and to preventive care before they fall victim to diabetes or another chronic disease. And if the plan is properly framed, voters would agree.

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

California Sleaze

On Friday, Joe Biden, who never misses an opportunity to be intimidated, stated

I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it and I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody,

To her credit, Kamala Harris realized that Biden had expressed regret not for his prior (and current?) position on school busing nor even for believing that collaborating with segregationists such as Herman Talmadge and James Eastland. She responded

He is right to recognize the impact of his words, and I applaud him for doing that. There is still a point of disagreement between he and I, and that remains... which is the issue of busing. We cannot rewrite history about what segregationists were doing at that time on a number of issues including opposing busing.

To her discredit, she meant "between him and myself." Admittedly, however, English is not an easy language to learn and she may have missed out on sixth grade English class.

More importantly, Harris is criticizing the former Vice-President for a position which she herself holds.  In the Thursday edition of Democrats Debate, Biden explicitly stated that he did not oppose busing ordered by the local governing authority, as was evidently the case for young Kamala Harris of Berkeley, California. He remarked

I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed. I did not oppose...

Yet, six days later, after a Democratic Party picnic in Iowa, Senator

Harris was asked by reporters whether she supports federally mandated busing.

“I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” she responded.

Asked to clarify whether she supports federally mandated busing, she replied, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”

She is "for the goal of desegregating America's schools," Harris maintained, six days after her nemesis had said in debate "that's one of the things I argued for, that we should not be- we should be breaking down these lines."

This "tool" should be considered by a school district," Harris said, six days after her nemesis had remarked "I did not oppose busing," but rather "busing ordered by the Department of Education."

The dirty little secret- and it is a secret, for all the attention it has received- is that Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have identical views of the use of busing to promote school integration. And yet, the California senator, evidently adept at seizing and exploiting an issue where there is none, says "there is still an issue between he and I, and that remains... which is the issue of busing."

This is sheer dishonesty, and while Joe Biden is being implored to clear up this matter, Kamala Harris herself clearly has some explaining to do, and this time not in her toolbox of deception.

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A Broad Disdain

"To paraphrase Andrew Gillum," Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick writes , "I don’t much care if the president intends ...