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Thursday, January 18, 2018

From the Dept of What the $&*&%# Were They Thinking??? 

by tristero

Remember when the NY Times devoted a complete editorial page to letters effusively praising Barack Obama, interspersed with pictures of exclusively black voters?

Me neither.

But today I woke up to find that the Times had turned over their entire editorial page to nothing but rabid Trump-ists and apologists... interspersed with pictures of white people: 3 white men and 1 white woman.

Folks, this is not normal behavior from a mainstream news outlet. I cannot recall anything remotely like this, ever, from the NY Times. It is beyond disgraceful editorial judgment. and the implications are downright terrifying.


Temporarily offline

by Tom Sullivan

Screen grab via Washington Post.

You wish.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly informed America yesterday that the president's campaign promise that Mexico would pay for a "big, beautiful" border wall was "uninformed." The wall wasn't the only exaggeration the president had difficulty erecting yesterday.

After much hype (his own) about the prospective "Fake News Awards," the launch of his awards page on gop.com last night flopped.

Prior to the crashed site, New York magazine inquired whether the awards, like Trump University, were actually a real thing:

During the White House briefing Tuesday afternoon, a reporter asked the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, what was up; Sanders had no information, but seemed to reveal herself when she referred to it as a “potential event.” In his newsletter that night, CNN’s Brian Stelter said that he’d “suspected for a few days that the idea has fizzled,” adding that his overtures to the White House had been met with silence.

And then, at 8:00 o’clock, Trump shared a link to the Republican National Committee’s website, gop.com. “And the FAKE NEWS winners are…” he said.

The link was broken, like everything else.
When finally the site was working, readers discovered the top award for fake news went to New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman for predicting financial markets would collapse with the reality star in the Oval Office. Others covered errors by journalists on social media to a story about the president overfeeding Japanese fish. The eleventh and final envelope contained "THERE IS NO COLLUSION!" (All caps in the original.)

The "highly anticipated" awards have already vanished from the GOP's front page.

The Guardian's Sabrina Siddiqui reminds readers:
Trump has often used his bully pulpit to highlight errors in the media, even when news organizations have taken steps to correct and apologize for any inaccuracies, and he has labeled the press the “enemy of the American people”. Trump has yet to acknowledge any of his lies, which have been tracked in an exhaustive list by the New York Times and underscore the president’s near daily disconnect from the truth.
In anticipation of the "potential event," Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona denounced the president from the Senate floor, comparing him to Josef Stalin and Bashar al-Assad:
It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party.
Flake gives a good speech. A pity he doesn't back them up with votes as high-minded.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Very Fine People 

by tristero

Murders By U.S. White Supremacists More Than Doubled In 2017:

White supremacists in the United States killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before, and were responsible for far more murders than domestic Islamic extremists, helping make 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence in America, a new report states. 
The report, “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017,” published Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said extremists killed 34 people last year. Twenty of those victims — or 59 percent — were killed by right-wing extremists, a designation that includes white supremacists, members of the so-called “alt-right” and “alt-lite,” and members of the anti-government militia movement.  
Of the 34 people killed, 18 were murdered by white supremacists, marking a 157 percent increase over the 7 people killed by white supremacists in 2016.
The first word that comes to mind is "deplorable." Utterly deplorable.
Eating Their Own Dog Food

by tristero

NY Times Washington Bureau Chief Elisabeth Bumiller today:
“It’s relentless, the unpredictability of it,” said Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief. “I knew it would be really wild and different, but I expected him to be somewhat different than the candidate Trump, and he really hasn’t been.”
Think about this for a second. The Washington Bureau chief of the New York Times - not some hack at a hack online pseudo-news source - actually thought that Trump would somehow change, like grow into the job or something. I can't think of a single thing Trump did or said during the campaign that would serve as the basis for such an utterly ridiculous expectation.

In fact I know at least three highly respected nationally known journalists who truly expected Trump to pivot and become statesmanlike. That his staff would contain him. Uh huh.

Sounds to me like a lot of respected reporters have been eating too much of their own dog food. They've actually come to believe believed all that nonsense about coming together and pivoting to the center they try to feed the rubes.

Of course, I'm shocked by what has happened over the past year. But surprised? Not for an instant.
What happened last year was exactly what I expected to happen. And I fear that the white supremacist sitting in the White House with the power to order a nuclear holocaust is just getting started. "Scared" doesn't begin to describe it.

In 2016 and even for part of 2017, the press, too busy telling itself that Trump wasn't...well, you know, everything Trump is... failed miserably. Their naivete was breathtaking. And people with authoritarian tendencies - like those who dominate American politics - thrive on naivete.

Here's hoping Bumiller et al are seeing things a bit more clearly now. And that it's not too late.

Bannon knows things

by digby

Did the White House force Bannon to stonewall the Intelligence Committee to prevent leaks of what he knows? You never know. After the trashing he gave to Kushner and Junior in the Wolff book they must be worried that they don't know what he's going to say.

The Daily Beast reports:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon broke some bad news to House investigators on Tuesday, announcing that the White House has invoked executive privilege to keep him from answering many of their questions.

But executive privilege—the president’s right to keep certain information from the public so he can have frank conversations with aides—will not keep Steve Bannon from sharing information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say,” said the source, who is familiar with Bannon’s thinking.

During a closed-door hearing before the House intelligence committee today, Bannon reportedly told lawmakers that President Donald Trump has invoked broad executive privilege for the purposes of Congressional inquiries. Because of that, Bannon refused to answer committee members’ questions about what happened during the presidential transition and in the White House.

This sweeping understanding of privilege will not impact what Bannon tells Mueller’s team, according to our source. (To be sure, Bannon isn't known for being predictable, and it's possible his team may still look for ways to dodge Mueller's queries.)

But it means he isn’t answering many of Congress’s questions. A source familiar with Bannon’s interview told The Daily Beast that despite the subpoena—issued by Devin Nunes, the typically Trump-friendly chairman of the committee—Bannon refused to answer questions about events that happened after Election Day.

“This was characterized as a result of his being there voluntary; he’s there of his own volition and could refuse to answer questions based on what the White House instructed him to do,” Schiff added. “We then were able to be promptly provide him with a subpoena and they went back to the White House and got the same instruction back again, basically: We don’t care whether it’s under compulsory process or voluntary basis, we’re instructing you to effectively put in place a gag rule.”

It probably wasn't all that wise to trash Bannon and get him fired before he testified before the Grand Jury, was it? He's no longer a friend. Maybe they can keep him from talking to the congress. But they can't stop him from talking to Special Prosecutor.



One group of voters really can't stand Trump. It's a very big group.

by digby

New Quinnipiac poll:

Wide gender, racial and political gaps leave American voters divided on whether President Donald Trump is "mentally stable," as 45 percent say he is stable and 47 percent say he is not stable, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.

President Trump is stable, men say 53 - 40 percent, while women say 53 - 39 percent that he is not, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. White voters say 51 - 43 percent he is stable, as black voters disagree 71 - 15 percent. Republicans say 89 -9 percent that Trump is stable. Democrats say 80 - 10 percent he is not stable. Independent voters are divided as 46 percent say he is stable and 45 percent say he is not stable.

American voters disapprove 57 - 38 percent of the job President Trump is doing.

Trump is doing more to divide the nation than to unite the nation, voters say 64 - 31 percent. Every listed party, gender, education, age and racial group says the president is dividing the nation except Republicans, who say 70 - 24 percent that he is doing more to unite the nation, and white voters with no college degree, who are divided 48 - 46 percent.

Trump does not respect people of color as much as he respects white people, voters say 59 - 38 percent. Republicans, white voters with no college degree and white men are the only listed groups who say he respects people of color as much as white people.

"President Donald Trump can't seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"The president is a divider, not a uniter, say an overwhelming number of voters, an assessment made even more disturbing by his perceived lack of respect for people of color."

American voters say 58 - 35 percent the comments President Trump allegedly made about immigrants from certain countries are racist.

American voters are divided on the way Trump is handling the economy, as 48 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. He gets negative marks on handling other key issues:

36 - 60 percent on foreign policy;
33 - 60 percent on health care;
38 - 60 percent on immigration;
42 - 51 percent on taxes.

Ron Brownstein offers another look from different data:

Previously unpublished results from the nonpartisan online-polling firm SurveyMonkey show Trump losing ground over his tumultuous first year not only with the younger voters and white-collar whites who have always been skeptical of him, but also with the blue-collar whites central to his coalition.

Trump retains important pillars of support. Given that he started in such a strong position with those blue-collar whites, even after that decline he still holds a formidable level of loyalty among them—particularly men and those over 50 years old. What’s more, he has established a modest but durable beachhead among African American and Hispanic men, even while confronting overwhelming opposition from women in those demographic groups.

Together, the results crystallize the bet Trump is making for his own reelection in 2020, and for his party’s chances in November’s election: that he can mobilize enough support among older and blue-collar (as well as rural and evangelical) whites to offset the intense resistance he’s provoked from groups that are all growing in the electorate: Millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites—particularly the women among them.

These findings emerge from a cumulative analysis of 605,172 interviews SurveyMonkey conducted with Americans in 2017 about Trump’s job performance. At my request, Mark Blumenthal, SurveyMonkey’s head of election polling, calculated Trump’s average approval rating over the last year among groups of voters segmented simultaneously by their race, gender, education level, and age. That extra level of detail, not available in conventional polls because their samples are too small, offers a more precise picture of Trump’s coalition.

The SurveyMonkey results put Trump’s total approval rating for 2017 at 42 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. That’s slightly higher than, but within range of, other major public surveys.

In the 2016 election, exit polls found that Trump’s best group was whites without a four-year college degree; he carried 66 percent of them. But his approval among them in the 2017 SurveyMonkey average slipped to 56 percent. In 2016, whites with at least a four-year college degree gave Trump 48 percent of their votes. But in the 2017 average, just 40 percent approved of Trump’s performance, while a resounding 60 percent disapproved.

Layering in gender and age underscores voters’ retreat. Trump in 2016 narrowly won younger whites. But he now faces crushing disapproval ratings ranging from 62 percent to 76 percent among three big groups of white Millennials: women with and without a college degree, and men with a degree. Even among white Millennial men without a degree, his most natural supporters, Trump only scores a 49-49 split.

Trump’s support rapidly rises among blue-collar white men older than 35 and spikes past two-thirds for those above 50. But his position has deteriorated among white women without a college degree. Last year he carried 61 percent of them. But in the new SurveyMonkey average, they split evenly, with 49 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval. His approval rating among non-college-educated white women never rises above 54 percent in any age group, even those older than 50. From February through December, Trump’s approval rating fell more with middle-aged blue-collar white women than any other group.

Women really, really don't like him.

I wonder why?



The calm before the Stormy

by digby

We're all about to hear details of Trump in bed. Oh my God:

There are credible allegations that the President of the United States engaged in an affair with an adult film actress, paid her over $100,000 to keep quiet about it weeks before the election, and is now actively engaged in an elaborate cover-up.

On January 12, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump, through his lawyer Michael Cohen, had paid Stephanie Clifford $130,000 one month before the election to buy her silence about an affair she had with Trump in 2006. Clifford is an adult film actor who performs under the name Stormy Daniels. The affair allegedly took place shortly after Trump’s third wife, Melania, gave birth to his son Barron.

Cohen then released a letter — purportedly by Daniels and dated two days before the story published — denying she ever had a sexual relationship with Trump.

The letter directly contradicts the contemporaneous account of another adult film actor, Alana Evans, who said she talked to Trump on the phone when he was with Daniels and he invited her to come over and “party.” Evans says Daniels later told her she had sex with Trump.

It also contradicts an interview Daniels gave to In Touch in 2011, according to a new report from the magazine. “[Sex with Trump] was textbook generic. I actually don’t even know why I did it, but I do remember while we were having sex, I was like, ‘Please, don’t try to pay me,” Daniels said, according to In Touch.

This scandal had not garnered the intense media coverage one might expect of a story about a porn actor’s affair with a president: At yesterday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not receive a single question about the alleged affair with Daniels or the payment.

It's going to explode soon because In Touch is going to release the full 5,500 word interview with Daniels from 2011 in which she describes sex with Trump in excruciating detail.

I'm getting my brain bleach ready.

Think Progress points out that this is a bigger story than just Trump having affairs. First of all, it shows that he lies about his sexual escapades. Stop the presses. But it also shows that he has been subject to blackmail and that his protestations that he couldn't possibly have done what the Steele dossier said he did because he's a germophobe are overblown.

Daniels says he didn't use protection.

And then there's this:

The story suggests Trump is vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.
According to reports, Daniels was able to extract a $130,000 payment to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. How many other women have stories about Trump that he does not want told? This is potentially a very dangerous predicament for a sitting president. In the unverified Steele dossier, there is an allegation that Russian officials have information about Trump’s interactions with sex workers in Moscow that Russian agents are using as leverage. There is not evidence that this is true (although Trump’s bodyguard confirmed he was offered the sexual attention of prostitutes) but Daniels’ story suggests similar circumstances may be possible. Trump, reportedly, has things to hide and is willing to go to substantial lengths to hide them.

This is what's important I think. I don't care what Trump does with porn stars and I really don't want to know the details. But it is important that he was worried enough about it that he paid them off. And it is important that his excuse that he couldn't have done anything untoward in Russia because he's a germophobe.

It makes you wonder just what were the "dark whispers" about Trump's longtime former bodyguard Keith Schiller to which Michael Wolff referred in "Fire and Fury." He's the guy who knows about this stuff.

It may be that there's nothing to the kompromat rumor. I tend to believe it's unlikely. But this new scandal makes it seem a little less unlikely than it was before.



He's just dumb

by digby

Jonathan Chait on the president being cleared of charges of mental deterioration:

A recent Washington Post story chronicled the rise of Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, who has gained special influence with President Trump. McCarthy’s methods include obsequiousness, attention to detail, and an ability to bring the discussion down to a sub-literate level so Trump can follow it. At Camp David, McCarthy gave a presentation on the midterm elections. “According to two people familiar with the presentation, Trump appreciated McCarthy’s use of pictures and charts rather than a memo. It was a basic and ‘foundational’ presentation that explained midterm politics to Trump, in the words of one senior White House official.”

Note that McCarthy was not walking the president through a complex technical policy requiring expertise in a field like science or economics. He was trying to explain the elections. He had to use pictures. It has been publicly known since last year that Trump cannot read a memo longer than a page, and any written material must be in bullet-point form. Trump himself admitted (or bragged) a year and a half ago that he does not read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” By this point it is simply taken as a matter of course that people wishing to communicate with the president must treat him as though he is suffering a severe mental impairment.

Trump is not actually suffering a severe mental impairment. White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has served in the post since 2013, informed reporters on Wednesday that the president is in fine physical and mental health. The report comes as the national media has discussed whether Trump’s functional near-illiteracy, minuscule attention span, and narcissistic pathos are the symptoms of dementia or some other kind of cognitive incapacitation. We should take Jackson’s diagnosis at face value. Trump is just an idiot.

Personally, I never bought the idea that there was ever a more intelligent Trump and it's just age that's made him incapable. People point to his older videos and show that he sounded more fluent and had a better vocabulary. I don't see it. He looked more normal, he sounded younger, but if you stop to actually listen to what he is saying rather than the sound of his younger voice, you'll see that he was just as much of an imbecile then. In fact, he said exactly the same things. He has never evolved even a tiny bit from what he thought back in the 1980s. He was shallow and arrogant and completely full of shit, blathering on stupidly about crime, foreigners (who are always "laughing at America") under-funding the military yadda, yadda. In recent years he got on the Muslim and immigration train but that's just an extension of his inherent xenophobia and racism.

He hasn't changed. He's always been a fucking moron.



Betraying Huckleberry

by digby

I wrote about the sad state of the Trump-Graham relationship for Salon today:

Poor Lindsey Graham. The "maverick" senator from South Carolina had spent the last two years expressing his scorn for Donald Trump, calling him "unfit" and "a kook." Then, sometime in the late summer, Graham apparently reconciled himself to the fact that Trump wasn't capable of growing or "pivoting" into the job, so he took it upon himself to cultivate the mercurial manchild, perhaps in the vainglorious belief he could influence Trump to become a mainstream conservative and stamp out the rapidly burning fuse that was going to blow up the presidency and likely the entire Republican Party.

Graham played golf with his president, he complimented him on his swing, he flattered his intelligence and he even agreed to throw some red meat at the base on Trump's behalf by taking up the ridiculous crusade to jail Hillary Clinton. He cajoled and he petted and he whispered the sweet nothings that the president needs to hear to make him feel powerful. Graham thought Trump trusted him and looked to him for guidance. He thought he could speak for the president in negotiations.

He was wrong -- and it was proven in classic Trump fashion last week. Like so many of Trump's close confidantes before him, Graham was stabbed in the back by the man he thought he was guiding. He was outmaneuvered by other "guides" who understand the dark impulses that drive their leader much better than Graham ever will.

Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., along with a few others, have been working for months on a bipartisan immigration deal that would save the young DACA recipients from being deported by Trump's ICE agents after his abrupt cancellation of their program. In a televised meeting last Tuesday, this group all believed they had received guidelines from the president. By Thursday, they came up with a tentative compromise deal. Graham and Durbin called Trump at 10 a.m. He sounded enthusiastic and told the two senators to come up to the White House at noon to talk about it.

When the bipartisan duo got there, the room had been stacked with hardline anti-immigration right-wingers, led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, whom staffers had hurriedly called to get to the meeting and help run interference.

According to The Washington Post, Chief of Staff John Kelly (a well-known anti-immigrant zealot from way back) got in the president's ear and worked him up so much that when Graham and Durbin showed up to find they'd been sandbagged, he was already fuming. That's when he went off about not wanting any more immigrants from "shithole" countries. Graham and Durbin tried to fight for their deal, but they had been outplayed.

It turns out that Graham's not the only one who is trying to manipulate this president. The old-guard Breitbart "base whisperers" Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have been supplanted by Kelly and professional hard-right extremists like Cotton, Perdue, Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions, with backup from Trump's "candyman," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They were more than willing to appeal shamelessly to Trump's racist id to get what they wanted. They knew it was what he really wanted too.

This bunch evidently told Trump "the base" would be thrilled if he rejected "shithole" immigrants, and he was so proud of himself for doing it, at least at first, that he called up his friends to see how they thought it was playing. It was only later that he realized he'd caused an international incident and destroyed the best hope of a bipartisan deal.

What happens now is anybody's guess. The deadline to fix this DACA problem is fast approaching and the government will shut down at the end of the week if the Congress fails to act on a budget. At the moment it's a standoff, with Republicans (and some members of the press) absurdly insisting that the Democrats will be responsible for a shutdown if they hold out for the DACA fix, even though the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House and can pass any bill they actually agree on. If the government turns off the lights this week, the GOP leadership needs to talk to the Republicans who refuse to vote for their own bill.

The other important question for the country is how we can preserve our democracy when one of the major parties has decided that it would rather accommodate and manipulate an unfit, unqualified and unstable president in pursuit of its white nationalist agenda than do its constitutional duty.

That's what's known as selling your soul. It would be one thing if "shithole" was the only offensive racist comment Trump has ever made. But it isn't even close.

Trump is also wholly corrupt, making millions of dollars servicing his "brand" as president. He refuses to release any information about his finances and is under intense scrutiny by the press and possibly law enforcement for past dealings that look an awful lot like money laundering for foreign criminals.

He's got absolutely no knowledge of policy, or ability to learn about it, and his nepotistic, amateurish White House is in a constant state of chaos. Trump acts belligerent toward America's allies and weirdly friendly toward many of its adversaries. He uses his Twitter feed to spew juvenile insults and, in some cases, alarming threats of nuclear war.

Trump has been credibly accused of sexual assault by nearly 20 women and was revealed just this week to have paid porn stars to keep silent about his sexual escapades with them, possibly lending credence to charges that he was a potential target of blackmail.

He is the subject of the first counterespionage investigation ever launched against a president over suspicions that he conspired with the Russian government to win the presidential election. There is ample evidence that he has obstructed justice trying to stop the probe.

If Republican officials have decided to overlook all that, it's hard to imagine what it would take to get them to do their duty.

Tuesday's Senate testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had poor Lindsey Graham lamenting:
[Last] Tuesday we had a president who I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan . . . but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with compassion. I don't know where that guy went. I want him back.
That guy never existed. The president of the United States is a man named Donald Trump. He is a racist and a xenophobe, and the vast majority of the Republican Congress doesn't have a problem with that. In fact, they've eagerly signed on to the Trump crusade.

Who's manipulating whom?


Stunningly unpopular

by digby

It's not getting any better:

This is a record not to be coveted: Donald Trump is wrapping up a year in office with the lowest average approval rating of any elected president in his first year.

That’s according to polling by Gallup, which shows that Trump has averaged just a 39 percent approval rating since his inauguration. The previous low was held by Bill Clinton, whose first-year average stood 10 points higher than Trump’s, at 49 percent.

Recent surveys show most Americans view Trump as a divisive figure and even question his fitness for office. One relative bright spot for Trump is his handling of the economy, though even there his ratings are not as high as might be expected given a relatively strong economy.

What the polls show about how Americans view their president a year into his term:


Trump’s current approval rating in Gallup’s weekly poll is comparable to his average rating, standing at just 38 percent, with 57 percent saying they disapprove.

The persistence of Trump’s first-year blues is unprecedented for a president so early in his term. Americans usually give their new presidents the benefit of the doubt, but Trump’s “honeymoon period,” to the extent he had one, saw his approval rating only as high as 45 percent.

Since then, Trump has spent more time under 40 percent than any other first-year president.

Presidents have recovered from periods of low popularity before. For example, Clinton’s rating fell to just 37 percent in June 1993 before quickly regaining ground, and he went on to win re-election. Harry S. Truman held the approval of less than 40 percent of Americans for significant chunks of his first term and was also re-elected. He went on to set Gallup’s lowest-ever approval mark, at just 22 percent in 1952.

Trump’s lowest point in Gallup’s weekly polling — 35 percent — remains higher than those of several earlier presidents. Truman, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter all had their ratings dip under 30 percent.


There aren’t many bright spots for Trump, but there are some. For one, most Republicans continue to approve of him — 83 percent of registered voters who identify as Republicans, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

The same poll found that most voters overall find Trump to be intelligent and a strong person.

And positive ratings for Trump’s handling of the economy have tended to run higher than his overall job ratings.

In a December poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Trump’s rating on handling the economy was 8 percentage points higher than his overall approval, though even that stood at just 40 percent in the survey, which was a particularly negative one for Trump.

In the Quinnipiac poll, voters were more likely to say Trump is helping the economy than hurting it, 37 percent to 29 percent. On the other hand, more said President Barack Obama deserves the credit than Trump does, 49 percent to 40 percent.


Aside from the economy, surveys have suggested few policy bright spots for Trump.

Health care has been a consistent low point. Seven in 10 Americans in the December AP-NORC poll said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the issue, even as 85 percent called the issue very important to them personally.

In another AP-NORC poll conducted late in 2017, just 23 percent of Americans said he has kept the promises he made while running for president, while 30 percent said he’s tried and failed and 45 percent said he has not done so at all. More than half said the country is worse off since Trump became president.

That poll was conducted before the passage of a tax bill that Trump signed into law in late December, but there’s little sign that the law will have an immediate positive impact. A Gallup poll conducted in January found that just 33 percent of Americans approved of the legislation.


But it may be character more than policy that’s driving negative opinions of Trump. In the January poll by Quinnipiac University, most voters said Trump is not level-headed, honest or even fit to serve as president.

And the AP-NORC poll conducted in December found that two-thirds of Americans thought the country has become even more divided as a result of Trump’s presidency.

In a July Gallup poll that asked those who disapproved of Trump for their reasons why, most cited his personality or character over issues, policies or overall job performance. That stood in stark contrast to Gallup’s polling on Obama in 2009 and George W. Bush in 2001, when far fewer cited such concerns about personality or character as reasons for their negative opinions.


You have been served

by Tom Sullivan

So that went well. Former White house chief strategist Steve Bannon stonewalled the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday when asked questions regarding his part in the Trump transition team and in the White House, reports The Hill:

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday night slammed what he described as a "gag order by the White House" following testimony from President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon before the panel amid its Russia probe.
Bannon refused to answer questions regarding his time in the White House in a hearing lasting ten hours. Sources told The Hill the meeting was a “total free-for-all.” “He doesn’t have any friends in that room,” another said.

Bannon's appearance yesterday was voluntary. His next won't be.

In conversation with Bannon's attorney, the White House "doubled down" on its demand Bannon answer no questions.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders characterized the White House stance as "fully cooperative."

"This was effectively a gag order by the White House," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters. Politico reports:
Tensions flared early in the proceedings after Bannon informed the committee that he was refusing to answer any questions about his time in the White House or on the post-election transition, infuriating Democrats and Republicans on the panel, who subpoenaed him on the spot, according to a source familiar with the interview.
It wasn't Bannon's first. Special counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena last week for Bannon to testify before the grand jury in the Russia investigation. The subpoena suggests Bannon is not personally a subject of Mueller's inquiry, the New York Times explained:
The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments. The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case. But it was not clear why Mr. Mueller treated Mr. Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena.
Appearing under a subpoena, Bannon will have cover for telling all. The White House has already telegraphed that it doesn't want that to happen, making the prospect all that more tantalizing. If this were a Trump reality show, that would be good marketing. But when it's Robert Mueller posing questions, maybe not.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Oh Sarah

by digby

In this moment of growing feminist awareness and solidarity it would be a mistake to think that everything has changed:

During a White House event on Tuesday entitled “A Conversation with the Women of America,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders advised women to ask their husbands and boyfriends to buy them jewelry. And things got even stranger from there.

Sanders plug for jewelry came after she introduced a woman named Sharon who told panelists — including White House staffer Ivanka Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — that she’s a business owner.

“I’m a jewelry store owner of more than 20 years in the Atlanta area, so I’m ecstatic about the tax reform bill,” Sharon said, at which point Sanders jumped in with some advice.

“Give your husbands, your boyfriends her contact information,” Sanders said, with Ivanka Trump adding, “We’re going to have to send some people your way… my secret skill, matchmaking.”

Women can buy their own jewelry these days. Maybe Sarah hasn't heard.

The next thing you know, Sarah's going to be holding Tupperware parties in the West Wing. (Not that there's anything wrong with selling Tupperware. Just that Huckabee Sanders probably ought to stick to her own business...)

In case you were wondering:
Since taking office, the Trump administration has taken steps to stop monitoring the wage gap, worked to dismantle legislation that prevents sex and gender discrimination in education, and made it easier for employers to stop covering contraceptive coverage, among other measures that have made life more difficult for women.


Listen up, racist Trump voters: you personally need immigration

by digby

If you persist in this inane demand that the country be purged of immigrants (and no new ones allowed) you're going to destroy yourselves. And you're going to take the rest of us with you.

Ron Brownstein smartly points out that us old white people depend upon younger immigrants to help finance our Social Security and Medicare. I know you conservative Trump voters all think you'll win the lottery and that the government put's your Social Security payments in a special envelope and then gives it back to you when you get old but that isn't really how it works. That isn't how any of this works:

The irony in President Donald Trump's hostility to immigration, expressed again in reports of his vulgar comments about Africa and Haiti last week, is that in appealing to the racial and cultural resentments of his political base he is directly threatening their economic interests.

The equation is unmistakable: as America ages, the older and blue-collar whites at the core of Trump's electoral coalition in 2016 need more working-age immigrants to pay the taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare.

Without robust immigration, each American worker will need to support substantially more retirees in the future than workers do today. And that will greatly increase the pressure for either unsustainable tax increases or biting benefit reductions in the federal retirement programs that the older and blue-collar whites central to Trump's support rely upon so heavily.

Trump's hostility to immigration ignores one of the central dynamics of 21st century American life: an increasingly non-white workforce will pay the taxes that support Social Security and Medicare for a rapidly growing and preponderantly white senior population.

"As every baby boomer retires over the next 15 years, we are going to need many more of these (diverse) young people to take their place," says William Frey, a demographer at the center-left Brookings Institution.

Because the US largely shut off immigration between 1924 and 1965, today's senior population is preponderantly white. Frey has calculated that three-fourths of all Americans 55 and older are white. Those older whites were the cornerstone of Trump's coalition in the 2016 election: whites over 45 gave Trump over three-fifths of their votes, and provided a majority of all the votes he received, according to exit polls.

Frey and other demographers project the white share of the senior population will decline very slowly over the coming decades-even as the total number of seniors explodes. The Social Security Trustees have forecast that the number of seniors receiving Social Security and Medicare will grow from about 48 million today to 86 million by 2050. That's an increase of nearly 40 million.

Though many Americans incorrectly think of the programs as a kind of massive 401(k) where their earlier taxes pay for their own later benefits, Social Security and Medicare are funded by what amounts to a generational compact. Each generation of workers, through their payroll taxes, funds the benefits for retirees at the same time. As the number of seniors increases, that means the US needs to increase the number of workers if it is to keep a sustainable balance between those receiving benefits from the programs and those paying the taxes that support them.

Because of the underlying child bearing and aging trends among native-born Americans, that won't be possible without immigration.

Frey has calculated that from 2000 through 2016 the absolute number of whites younger than 15 -- and not just the share -- declined in 45 of the 50 states. (The only states that increased their population of whites under 15 over that period were Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Carolina and Idaho.) Over those years, the total number of whites younger than 15 fell by nearly 6 million, Frey found, while the number of Hispanic, Asian and mixed race kids increased by about seven million. (The number of young African-Americans slightly declined too.)

Like other demographers, Frey projects that the 2020 Census will find that non-white kids represent a majority of all Americans younger than 18; kids of color are already a majority of all K-12 public school students.

What these numbers make clear is that, whatever Trump does to restrict immigration, there is no cavalry of white kids coming to fill the jobs that the mostly white baby boom is vacating.
Non-white young people-reinforced by future immigrants-will drive almost all of the workforce's future growth, according to widely respected projections by the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

In a detailed forecast last year, Pew examined the trajectory of the prime working-age population -- that is, ages 25 to 64 -- over the next two decades. Strikingly, it found that over that period the number of prime working-age adults whose parents were both born in the US will actually decline by over eight million. But Pew projects that loss will be offset by increases in the number of both prime-working age adults who are either the children of immigrants (13.5 million), or future immigrants themselves (17.6 million).

Looking further ahead, Pew has calculated that under current levels of immigration, the workforce will increase by about 30 million people through 2065-virtually equal to the increase in the senior population over coming decades. Almost all of that workforce growth will come from immigrants and their children, which Pew projects to account for fully 88% of the nation's total population increase over that period.

A growing workforce would ease the fiscal pressure that the expanding senior population will impose on Social Security and Medicare. But Trump's efforts to reduce legal immigration would consign the U.S. to virtually no growth in the workforce, Pew projects. Trump has endorsed legislation from Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, two attendees at last Thursday's explosive White House meeting, that would cut the total level of legal immigration in half. Pew projects that under that level of future legal immigration, the size of the workforce will remain virtually stagnant over the next half century.

If the workforce remains essentially unchanged while the senior population grows by 40 million, each worker will be required to fund 80% more seniors than they do now. That demographic imbalance represents a political tourniquet that will inexorably increase pressure for cuts in Social Security and Medicare -- a prospect that polls show are anathema to the older and working-class whites Trump relies on.

"We shouldn't be shutting the door on this (immigration)," Frey says. "Trump ... is really putting us in a very difficult situation demographically and also economically in the future."

Yet Trump, like many congressional Republicans and conservative commentators, almost always portrays immigrants as economic, cultural and security threats. From the outset, Trump's coalition has been centered on the voters -- primarily older, blue-collar, evangelical and rural whites -- most uneasy about the growing number of immigrants and demographic change more broadly.
Voters who supported deporting all undocumented immigrants represented a minority in almost all the Republican primaries in 2016 -- yet provided a majority of Trump's votes in almost all of those contests.

Pew Research polls last year found that the strongest predictors of warm feelings toward Trump were agreement with the ideas that the growing number of immigrants "threatens traditional American customs and values," that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions and that growing diversity overall was bad for the country.

In the general election against Hillary Clinton, Trump won 26 of the 30 states with the smallest share of foreign-born residents and lost 16 of the 20 with the most. And in a national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last September, Trump voters from 2016 were nearly five times as likely as Clinton voters to say immigration weakens, rather than strengthens, the nation.
In his repeated appeals to nativist sentiments, and his multiplying efforts to reduce immigration and remove immigrants (such as those from El Salvador), Trump may indeed be reflecting the racial and cultural anxieties of many of his voters. But the principal economic impact of slashing immigration as deeply as Trump is seeking would be to destabilize the federal retirement programs that are indispensable to those same voters. With his systematic offensive against immigration, Trump is feeding the prejudices of some of his supporters -- while threatening their ability to keep food on the table when they retire.

Yet another reason why racism is stupid and self-defeating as well as being immoral and un-American.




by digby

Luke Russert used to call Senator Joni Ernst the crown jewel of the GOP caucus:

ERNST: He is standing up for a lot of the countries that — where we have seen some —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Name a few. Could you name a few?

ERNST: Yeah, you bet. Norway is one them.


ERNST: No, well, okay, how many of you think — you know, you laugh, but folks, who borders Norway?


ERNST: Russia.

She too is a stable genius.


QOTD: Trump wishing he could use "tough measures"

by digby

Ok, he didn't say that exactly. But it was clear. Speaking to a woman's group today he said this about illegal drug use:

"And it's a worldwide problem. Some areas take care of it through very, very tough measures. We don't. We're not prepared to do that -- I guess -- they say --as a country."

It was obvious that he didn't agree with those who say that the US isn't prepared to use "very, very tough measures" against drug users.

He has told his pal Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte that he thinks he's doing it "the right way"

You remember what that is, right?

A few weeks ago the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography was awarded to a freelance photojournalist named Daniel Berehulak for a multimedia report that was published in The New York Times in December called "They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals." It documented the deaths of 57 homicide victims in the Philippine government's brutal campaign against drug users and dealers. The photographer had this comment upon winning the prize:

The story is indeed important. Those photographs document the grotesque campaign of terror in the Philippines, which experts believe has left more than 7,000 people dead in less than a year from extrajudicial killings at the hands of police and vigilantes.

The Philippines is currently run by President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the election last June after his final campaign speech, when he said, "Forget the laws on human rights; if I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor [of the coastal city of Davao]. You drug pushers, holdup men and do-nothings, you better go out because I'd kill you." He kept to his word, telling his police forces the day after he was sworn in, "Do your duty, and in the process, [if] you kill 1,000 persons, I will protect you." Last September Duterte proudly compared himself to Adolf Hitler:
Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there is 3 million, what is it, 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines], there are. I'd be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.

Duterte admitted to being a murderer, and not in the abstract sense of being a leader who orders killing by others. He says he has personally pulled the trigger. As the New York Times reported in December:

“I killed about three of them because there were three of them,” Mr. Duterte told reporters at a news conference in Manila, the capital. “I don’t really know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies.”

“It happened. I cannot lie about it,” he said in English.

The remarks followed comments he made on Monday, when he told business leaders that as mayor, he had patrolled the streets on a motorcycle and killed criminal suspects in order to set an example to his police officers.

None of that stopped President-elect Donald Trump from chatting up Duterte after the election, telling him that he was going about his war on drugs "the right way." And last Saturday night the White House released a statement that the two men had had another "very friendly conversation," in which they had talked about regional security and "discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs." (That's one way of putting it.) It said that "President Trump enjoyed the conversation and looks forward to visiting the Philippines in November" for the East Asia Summit meeting.

Then the statement said that Trump had invited the admitted murderer and Hitler admirer, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House.

The visit hasn't materialized. But Trump did yuck it up with pal on his Asia trip last fall. He admires him.



The Candy Man Can't

by digby

I wrote about "the candy man", House majority leader Kevin McCarthy for Salon this morning:

On the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday, President Donald Trump visited Trump International Golf Club for his usual weekend promotional appearance at one of his properties. He stopped off to assure the gathered press that he is not a racist:

Standing next to Trump in that clip is his newest BFF and chief enabler, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. McCarthy was present in the infamous White House "shithole" meeting, but has not weighed in on what exactly he saw and heard. Unlike the Hawaii state government Trump extols in that comment, the president has refused to take responsibility for the international furor resulting from his reported actions. Trump needn't worry that McCarthy will tell the truth because of personal integrity or lack of loyalty. But he ought to be a little bit concerned that his pal will let something slip inadvertently. They don't call him Kevin "Loose Lips" McCarthy for nothing.

McCarthy first came to national attention when John Boehner resigned from the speakership and he was assumed to be the heir apparent. He is a prolific fundraiser and had worked his way up through the leadership hierarchy the old-fashioned way -- by doing favors for his fellow Republican congressmen. Unfortunately, McCarthy is not as well known for his judgement or intellect, and he made one of the most memorable gaffes in congressional history. He appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and said that he was developing a "fight and win strategy" and used this as an example:

Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.

Setting aside the neologism, McCarthy effectively admitted that the endless Benghazi investigations were political. Not that everyone didn't know that already, but you can't have the prospective speaker of the House admitting that he is persecuting a rival for political gain. It's a bad look, and it cost McCarthy the job.

More recently, McCarthy was reported to have made a stunning gaffe in June of 2016, telling a group of fellow congressmen: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." The first name mentioned refers to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a fellow California Republican who is known to be a vocal Putin apologist.

When word of this comment was leaked to the media last May, McCarthy at first denied saying it -- until he was played a recording of the event, which also featured Speaker Paul Ryan swearing everyone in the room to secrecy. Here is The Washington Post's account:

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Like Trump, he doesn't seem to have learned discretion. Unlike Trump, he knows how to curry favor with important people. Indeed, that seems to be his one talent.

Trump either doesn't know about that Putin comment or has chosen to forget about it, because McCarthy has become one of the most powerful Trump enablers on Capitol Hill. He apparently decided that being in league with a man he suspects of being on Putin's payroll is just part of the job of majority leader. According to a new profile by Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa in the Post, he has taken to it with relish.

They recount the astonishing little anecdote that McCarthy once observed that Trump, like many six-year-olds, only likes the pink and the red Starburst candies, but none of the other colors. So McCarthy got a staff member to buy some in bulk and put the president's favorites in a jar with McCarthy's name on it. They apparently have been chatting on the phone regularly since the campaign and often watch movies together where they both talk all the way through. Trump calls him "my Kevin."

At the recent GOP Camp David retreat to talk about the impending midterm elections, McCarthy was lauded for his ability to communicate with Trump using colorful pictures and big charts to show him the lay of the land in this crucial year. He urged the president to do all he can to raise money for Republicans. There is no word about whether McCarthy also whispered in the president's ear that no Republicans actually want him to campaign for them, but it's unlikely. If there's one thing that sycophantic courtiers understand better than anyone, it's that you never let on that the sovereign is unpopular.

There are more and more Republicans joining Trump's court these days, apparently operating on the assumption that their own parochial interests are best served by making him successful, or at least by manipulating him for their own ends. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is tying himself in knots trying to pretend that he hasn't become a fawning yes-man. in a naked attempt to manage the unmanageable, and that has not completely betrayed the independent truth-teller image he's tried to build over the last few decades. It's not working for him.

Meanwhile, McCarthy is actually helping Trump destroy the GOP's chances of holding on to its majority by forcing his own California delegation to vote the party line, in a state that is itching to unseat as many of its remaining Republicans as possible. In just the last few weeks, two longtime GOP congressmen from rapidly diversifying districts in the Southern California suburbs, Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce, announced they would not run for re-election. Both districts are now viewed as likely Democratic pickups, and they're not alone.

Trump has a 22 percent approval rating in California, so you might think Golden State Republicans would be more vocal in their condemnation of Trump and the draconian policies he's proposing. So far they haven't been. Tara Golshan at Vox calls this "The McCarthy Factor," meaning that the fundraising powerhouse constantly assures his delegation that he's got their backs, no matter what. Issa and Royce lost their faith in McCarthy's ability to protect them from a big blue tsunami next fall. Of California's 53 House seats, only 14 are now held by Republicans, seven of those in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

McCarthy's seat may not be in danger, but his delegation -- like the entire Republican caucus -- could be a lot smaller next year. Unless his strategy of feeding pink Starbursts to a historically unpopular president turns out to be genius.



Bannon to the Grand Jury

by digby

It may not have been
the smartest timing for Trump to destroy Steve Bannon and tweet publicly, “now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case. But it was not clear why Mr. Mueller treated Mr. Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena.

The subpoena is a sign that Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena to the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Bannon did not address reporters before entering the proceeding on Tuesday, and a spokesman for Mr. Mueller and a senior White House lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Mr. Mueller issued the subpoena after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book criticizing Mr. Trump, saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous” and predicting that the special counsel investigation would ultimately center on money laundering.

After excerpts from the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” were published this month, Mr. Trump derided Mr. Bannon publicly and threatened to sue him for defamation. Mr. Bannon was soon ousted as the executive chairman of the hard-right website Breitbart News.

Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Mr. Bannon to cooperate with the investigation. The experts also said it could be a signal to Mr. Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Mr. Trump’s legal threats, Mr. Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.

Prosecutors generally prefer to interview witnesses before a grand jury when they believe they have information that the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie. It is much easier for a witness to stop the questioning or sidestep questions in an interview than during grand jury testimony, which is transcribed, and witnesses are required to answer every question.

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Bannon's the first insider to receive a subpoena.

He wasn't in the campaign during the period when Jr and Kush were eagerly accepting meetings with Russians offering to help them beat Hillary Clinton. But he was involved in everything that happened toward the end of the campaign, the transition and the first nine months of the campaign.

And Bannon was heavily involved in the Mercer operation which was bankrolling the data mining operation and Cambridge Analytica.

He's been abandoned by everyone. He's got nothing to lose.



He's backsliding

by digby

This Axios report assumes that the Trump White house had somehow improved over the past year which comes as news to me. But if that's so, it didn't last:

After a triumphant end to 2017, White House sources tell Axios that they see a dangerous pattern forming for this year: a backslide into bad habits of the chaotic early days of the Trump presidency.

White House officials had a solid game plan for January: do a long tax-cut victory lap, avoid a government shutdown and swing a DACA deal. Instead, Trump became preoccupied with a gossipy book and the treachery of Steve Bannon, made repeated bizarre public statements about his mental health, misrepresented crucial national security legislation, and sent immigration talks down a “shithole.”

Tax reform focused everyone. With its passage, there's now a bit of a vacuum that has been filled with fighting these wild fires.

Trump has been newly consumed by the kind of grievances that make some Rs cringe and regret their silence. 

"What is the White House about right now?” asked a source close to Trump. “I don't know.”

Chief of Staff John Kelly still has his orderly system firmly in place — there has been no let-up. But the Kelly bubble and schedule restrictions leave the President with more Fox time, and time for tangents.


These three recent events have alarmed some senior administration officials:

Trump's "shithole" (Or was it "shithouse"?) comment that was promptly leaked to the media. You had House Speaker Paul Ryan denouncing it; one Republican in the room (Sen. Lindsey Graham) effectively confirming it; and others, like Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, saying Trump never said what he was reported to have said.

Trump's over-the-top response to Michael Wolff's book. When most people had moved on, Trump was still ranting about the book, publicly and privately. He continued to tweet about Wolff, which only served to further highlight the material in his book and drive more sales. He remains livid about it. 

Trump's loose tweet — which he was pressured to walk back — in which he misrepresented and publicly trashed crucial national security legislation (FISA) just before the House was due to vote on the bill.

Why this matters: Kelly has worked wonders to impose process over what was an insanely chaotic and dysfunctional West Wing. He never promised to tame Trump's Twitter feed. But he had previously noted with satisfaction to aides that there'd been less of the wild, policy-affecting tweets that distinguished the early White House days.

Republicans inside the administration and on Capitol Hill are becoming increasingly alarmed by the prospects for the 2018 midterms. The White House political operation is still considered lightweight, and officials are still scratching around to fill the external-facing Office of Public Liaison

They got a quote from on of his toadies saying he loves to shake things up and that the public loves it because he was sent to DC to "disrupt" which is cute. And they want to send him on the road to "sell his tax cuts" which they seem to think is really helpful. If he had any discipline it might, I suppose.But put him in front of a crowd and he'll be talking about shitholes within minutes.

He cannot change. The Trump White house is reverting to its natural state.


Clarifying our values

by Tom Sullivan

The #Resistance locks progressives into a confining frame. An energizing one, perhaps, but restrictive nonetheless. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 behind us and the first anniversary Women's March ahead, and with the next volley from a president dishing red meat for his base coming as surely as the sun rises, perhaps it is time to clarify who we are rather than simply protest what we stand against.

Ed Kilgore offers an anecdote from Rev. William Barber II's book, The Third Reconstruction:

Not long ago I was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, with one of America’s most prominent atheists. Wearing my clerical collar, I realized that I stood out among his guests. So I decided to announce to Bill that I, too, am an atheist. He seemed taken aback, so I explained that if we were talking about the God who hates poor people, immigrants, and gay folks, I don’t believe in that God either. Sometimes it helps to clarify our language.
One could say the same about what makes America great. If American greatness means slamming the golden door to fellow human beings, to refugees from places the sitting president considers "shitholes," then I am not an American either.

Kilgore continues:
Recapturing the language of morality from conservatives remains one of Barber’s chief preoccupations. It is often jarring to progressives accustomed to a less fraught rhetoric of gradual social and economic progress to hear someone describe contemporary conservatives as deeply immoral people who are motivated by greed and who are making a mockery of their professed religious convictions. But while the Moral Movement was fully underway before Donald Trump executed his takeover of the GOP and the conservative movement, it now seems even more appropriate to describe the right as seized by a frenzy of immoral greed when it’s headed by the great narcissist and business pirate whose campaign was fueled by cultural resentments and hatred of “losers.” But Barber won’t let Republicans hide behind Trump:
Trump is a symptom of a deeper moral malady. And if he was gone tomorrow or impeached tomorrow, the senators and the House of Representatives and Ryan and McConnell and Graham and all them would still be there. And what we have found, Amy, when we look at them, no matter how crazy they call him or names they call him or anger they get with him, it’s all a front, because at the end of the day, they might disagree with his antics, but they support his agenda.
We are called to better things. The last president, a man not born to wealth or the privilege of whiteness, had a clearer sense of who we are. Nancy LeTourneau excerpts Barack Obama's speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge:
For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea – pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”

We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.
What we face today is a resurgence of the old aristocracies we thought subdued, people who believe their wealth and/or (white) bloodlines entitle them to count more than their neighbors. If the president's comments are not convincing, perhaps his and his party's opposition to conducting an accurate 2020 census is.

In an interview last weekend, Kathrin Levitan, author of "A Cultural History of the British Census," told With Good Reason that when the British first proposed conducting a census, landed elites opposed it. They saw its democratic implications:
Landed elites basically said, we don't think there should be a census because the census suggests everyone is worth the same amount. It suggests that every person is valued the same. And that was not the way they understood social hierarchy in 18th century Britain. ... They saw the census as having dangerous, equalizing implications.
It was ever so with royalty, their vassals and loyal peasantry. We Americans who believe in equality and not just the rhetorical veneer of it have a duty to proclaim it even more loudly than we condemn racism and ethno-nationalism. Who we are is a more powerful counter to who they are.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Flake = Trump 

by tristero

Jeff Flake is getting attention again from the mainstream media for "standing up to Trump." He's obviously positioning himself as the "serious" alternative in 2020.

This country needs someone who is inarguably opposed not just to Trump's style (which is easy) but Trump's agenda (which Republicans like this guy find impossible).

By contrast, Sanders votes Trump 14% of the time. And Warren votes Trump even less, less than 11% of the time. Those are truly serious alternatives in the Senate to Donald Trump. 

You don't like Trump? Don't vote for Flake.  If Flake really wants to oppose Trump and Trumpism, he'll stop voting for the Trump agenda. 

Given a choice, Trump or Flake? Neither. On policy, they're nearly identical. 


AmeriKKKa First

by digby


This is your America, Republicans. It's on you. Are you PROUD???



The fine art of unraveling right wing BS

by digby


For anyone who has been following the right wing counter-narrative on the Russia investigation which most recently has been focused on the idea that high ranking members of the FBI were actively working against Donald Trump, possibly with the help of Russian agents through the nefarious Christopher Steele.

It's very convoluted and completely absurd, since it was obvious that if the FBI had its thumbs on the scale it was on behalf of Donald Trump not against him. Anyway, last week a right winger who calls himself a journalist named John Solomon published an article that was picked up by Drudge and Sean Hannity and was then sent all over Bizarroworld in which he claims that the notorious emails sent between FBI agent Strzok and his girlfriend, FBI lawyer Page prove that they were leaking damaging information about Trump to the press.

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and Nick Baumann debunk the whole damned thing here and it's not easy because the whole damned thing is so ridiculous in the first place.

The reason this is important is because the traitorous Republicans in the congress, led by such patriotic heroes as Lindsey Graham, are using their offices to push this sort of nonsense into the legal realm and it's a dangerous abuse of power. We don't know yet if they will succeed in creating some sort of parallel investigation to counter the Mueller probe and attempt to equalize Trump's crimes but they've got people pushing for it. It's a cynical ploy to make Dear Leader happy and throw some Clinton meat at the ravening crowd that wants to see her drawn and quartered just so they can prove they did the right thing by voting for this cretinous imbecile.



Trump's Roy Cohn vs MLK

by digby

Here's a fascinating story by Gil Troy in the Daily Beast about Trump's mentor Roy Cohn (which should have disqualified Trump for the presidency all by itself) and his lawsuit against Martin Luther King ... for slander:

It began with a heartbreakingly familiar American ritual—a white cop shooting a black kid, who may or may not have been armed. The historian Michael Flamm, in his authoritative, compelling look at the Harlem riots that followed in that sizzling summer of ’64, writes reasonably, that “What happened on July 16 at 9:20 am in front of 215 East 76th street was unclear and contested, both then and now.”

What is clear is that a white, off-duty New York City policeman, Thomas R. Gilligan, while running an errand, heard a “commotion,” ran out, and ended up shooting a 15-year-old African-American, James Powell. Gilligan and the white adult witnesses on 76th Street claimed Powell slashed at Gilligan with a knife—cutting his hand—and that Gilligan identified himself as a police officer. Most of the kids on the street, who had attended summer school with Powell, saw no knife and heard no identification.

“This is worse than Mississippi,” one young woman shouted, as three hundred furious students started trashing Yorkville. The violence spread to Harlem, then to Bedford-Stuyvesant. Six nights later, one rioter was dead, 118 were injured, 465 had been arrested. Looting caused a million dollars’ worth of damage.

Legally, Gilligan was exonerated. The Grand Jury refused to indict. The Manhattan District Attorney’s detailed 14-page report explained why—with the DA brandishing Powell’s knife at a press conference. Morally, the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, nailed it. It should have been a “minor, indeed comic street incident,” with a highly decorated, 6-foot-2, 200-pound World War II vet and cop on the job for 17 years subduing a 122-pound teen with a three-and-a-half-inch knife. CORE’s counter-report on the incident concluded: “Policemen should not shoot boys half their size.”


The Long Rise and Fast Fall of New York’s Black Mafia
Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing between Dr. Benjamin Spock and Monsignor Rice of Pittsburgh at the Solidarity Day Parade in which participants marched from Central Park to the United Nations on April 15, 1967.
Exploring Martin Luther King’s Connection to New York City

Recy Taylor’s Baby Brother: She Was a Fighter Before #MeToo
Nerves were already raw that summer—even before temperatures hit the 90s during New York’s week-long riot. On June 21, racists murdered three civil rights activists from Mississippi’s Freedom Summer—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Officials would only find their corpses on Aug. 4. On June 28, the militant Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, while asking, “who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing ‘We shall overcome… suum day’ while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against?”

Yet on July 2, Lyndon Johnson signed the transformational Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the same day James Powell died, the conservative Barry Goldwater accepted the Republican presidential nomination, declaring: “Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives.”

Flamm notes that beyond inaugurating the 1960s’ “long hot summers,” the Harlem riots, the civil rights activism, the Goldwater nomination, and the great American crime wave, would nationalize local crime as a hot political issue. The “new racial dynamic… would drive a wedge between the civil rights movement and many white liberals… The image of the black rioter now joined the symbol of the black criminal, which had deep roots in American history.”

Amid such tension, and given New York’s centrality in American consciousness, an all star team of civil rights activists mobilized. Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and James Farmer of CORE joined local activists including the great Harlem rent striker Jesse Gray, and William Epton of the more obscure—and radical—Harlem Progressive Movement. They bombarded Gilligan with their eloquence, creativity, and wrath. Some alleged that Gilligan ended up in a mental hospital. Others distributed three thousand copies of a poster proclaiming: “WANTED FOR MURDER,” Gilligan was pictured in uniform above the contemptuous label: GILLIGAN, THE COP.

It’s ironic that King was sued for slander. While he wanted Gilligan suspended, he came to New York on a “peace misson” championing non-violence. King felt caught. Extremists like his eventual co-defendant in the slander suit, William Epton, a “Burn Baby Burn” Maoist, were shouting: “We’re going to have to kill a lot of cops, a lot of the judges, and we’ll have to go up against their army.” And many Harlem leaders resented importing this outsider from Atlanta. King would say, characteristically: “I call upon all Negro and white citizens of goodwill to continue to struggle unrelentingly but nonviolently against the racial and economic oppression that face our country.” The Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, who said he started agitation for equality “before Martin Luther King was in diapers,” snapped: “No leader outside of Harlem should come to this town and tell us what to do.”

Beyond his usual Gandhi-esque approach, King feared that black violence would get Goldwater elected. And five months before he won the Nobel Peace Prize—and four years before his assassination—he was not yet considered a saintly, nonpartisan figure. Allegations that he was a Communist hounded him. Meanwhile, Roy Cohn’s occasional cross-dressing playmate, the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, was trying hard to crush King.

Still, Gilligan—represented by Roy Cohn of Saxe, Bacon & Bolan—lumped King and Farmer with Epton, Gray, and the Harlem Progressive Movement. By the time he was 27 in 1954, Cohn was nationally famous and broadly loathed as head hatchet-man and chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch-hunt. In private practice for the next three decades, Cohn continued tarnishing his reputation. Even his devoted client Donald Trump would tell Vanity Fair's Marie Brenner: “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me. He’s a genius. He’s a lousy lawyer, but he’s a genius.”

When he died in 1986, Cohn was disbarred, owed $3.18 million in back taxes and had experience as defense lawyer and defendant, having been “tried and acquitted three times in Federal court on charges ranging from conspiracy to bribery to fraud,” The New York Times reported.

Still, Cohn’s bullying made him a formidable lawyer. “My scare value is high,” he boasted. “My area is controversy. My tough front is my biggest asset. I don’t write polite letters. I don’t like to plea-bargain. I like to fight.”

There's more at the link. It's fascinating. Things have improved but not nearly enough.

I'm sure you recall that Trump was recently reported to have been angry that Jeff Sessions wasn't performing as his protector in the Department of Justice, lamenting "where's my Roy Cohn?"