Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: TO THE TRUMPERS, "THE SWAMP" ISN'T CORRUPTION -- IT'S US

Many newspeople are putting this story by Glenn Thrush of The New York Times into the wrong frame:
Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
Thrush's Times colleague Trip Gabriel tweets:


The Daily Beast headline is "DRAIN THE SWAMP? Report: Mick Mulvaney Encouraged Pay-to-Play With Lobbyists." A photo of Mulvaney that accompanies New York magazine's write-up is captioned "It’s simple: Keep filling the swamp."

But as I regularly tell you, the Trumpers don't believe that "draining the swamp" means eliminating corruption -- to them, "draining the swamp" means eliminating their enemies.

Elsewhere in the article, Thrush writes:
In his remarks, Mr. Mulvaney also announced a series of moves intended to reduce the [CFPB]’s power....

Such moves include cutting public access to the bureau’s database of consumer complaints, which the agency had used to help guide its investigations.

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” he said.
To Trumpers, that's the swamp. It's the Obama-era people who decided that the complaints should be posted and the holdovers who continue to take those complaints seriously, as well as the ordinary Americans who file the complaints and those of us who want the bureau to function as it did prior to Trump's inauguration.

the Trumpers believe that Mulvaney is a very effective swamp-drainer -- and by their definition he is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THERE ARE REASONS TO WORRY ABOUT 2020

I think Paul Campos is right:
Trump has a very good chance of getting re-elected, by which I mean the probability of that happening is high enough that it should be considered its own independent ongoing crisis, that should be a non-stop focus of efforts to stop it from happening.
As Campos notes, "Since the days of Grover Cleveland, only once has a party won the White House and not held it for at least eight years" (the Democrats lost the 1980 election after barely winning the 1976 election). That's a reminder that even if Trump is driven from office, a substitute GOP nominee could very well win.

Campos adds:
... I’ll make a bold prediction: It will turn out that, miraculously, Democrats will nominate [a] “flawed” candidate in 2020....

This candidate will turn out to have said and done things that raise “troubling questions” in the minds, loosely speaking, of the elite media in general and the pundit class in particular, because of the iron rule of American politics that Both Sides Do It and the Truth No Doubt Lies Somewhere in the Middle.

When it’s pointed out that these “scandals” add up in seriousness to .1% of whatever happened in the Trump administration yesterday afternoon, the Village Elders will reply that this only emphasizes that the difference between Trump and the Flawed Democrat is one of degree, not kind.

Also, Flawed Democrat will have a lot of trouble connecting with voters, meaning older white people in deep red states. This failure will be attributed to Flawed Democrat’s taste in food, music, and/or couture. (If Flawed Democrat is a woman, her hair will come under extreme scrutiny, because that’s only fair given the media’s unfair tendency to occasionally mention the fact that Trump appears to have a recently deceased marmot on top of his head, so this is Totally Not Sexist.)
I'll go further: If the next Democratic nominee is a woman, she's likely to be a woman who doesn't act "nice," meaning she'll be someone who doesn't smile all the time and who sometimes says things that make people (i.e., GOP voters and older white male pundits) uncomfortable. Political leaders are supposed to act serious and sometimes say uncomfortable things -- but Democratic women are deemed uniquely unnatural when they act that way. Warren, Gillibrand, Harris -- the boys on the bus aren't going to like any of them.

Also, the nominee, whether male or female, is likely to be too far to the left for the pundit class -- definitely too far left on economics (in discussing economics, pundits believe it's always 1992), and probably too left-wing on social issues (the same people who are now singing the praises of the Parkland kids will get the vapors if the 2020 Democratic nominee backs any aspect of the kids' agenda -- what will old men in rural Pennsylvania diners think?).

And then there's this, which I think extends to pretty much any Democratic nominee:



I feel good about this year's state and local elections. I feel good about the congressional midterms. Winning the 2020 presidential election is going to be the hardest lift.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON, STOP DIGGING

In his recent Wall Street Journal piece about his dismissal by The Atlantic, Kevin Williamson complained that no journalist ever asked him to explain his position on the proper penalty for abortion in a hypothetical America in which abortion was criminalized. So New York magazine's Ed Kilgore asked him, twice -- and never got a straight answer, only some high-toned libs-are-evil invective, along these lines:
People on the pro-choice side seek to shift the conversation to the question of the specifics of criminal sanction for obvious and shallow rhetorical purposes — because that’s an easy way to whip up emotional hysteria, preempting meaningful discourse rather than enabling it. The obviousness and stupidity of that gambit should be fairly obvious to any reasonably intelligent and fair-minded adult, but those are in unfortunately short supply.
After Kilgore, published the non-response, Williamson should have slunk away quietly, his "no lib journalist would dare to ask me" gambit having blown up in his face. But he's back for more. Today he has a piece for The Weekly Standard piece -- yes, for a guy who's being "silenced" by liberal fascism, he sure does get published a lot -- in which he reopens the question and specifically attempts to take down Kilgore, failing spectacularly.
Ed Kilgore, a dreary partisan dolt in the employ of New York magazine...
I guess this is some of the "great prose" for which we should all cherish Williamson, according to Bret Stephens.
Ed Kilgore, a dreary partisan dolt in the employ of New York magazine, thought he saw an opening, and sent me a one-question inquiry: “What is your ‘public policy recommendation’ on appropriate punishment for women having abortions in a hypothetical criminalized abortion regime?” As any reasonably intelligent person will immediately detect, that question isn’t actually a question; it is a rhetorical stratagem in the shape of a question, deployed for the purpose of lame partisan point-scoring in the form of blocks of texts shaped like journalism.
Why is it a rhetorical stratagem rather than a question? Supporters of criminalizing abortion seek a world in which, um, abortion is criminalized. If someone is proposing that a currently legal act should be criminalized, it's reasonable to ask for more details on how this criminalization would be played out in practice. If I say AR-15s should be banned, you have every right to ask whether those that are currently in citizens' possession will be confiscated. I ought to have an answer for that, even if it's not what I want to talk about when I talk about AR-15s. But if you're on the right, being asked to answer an uncomfortable question is a moral outrage, even if you just complained that no one ever asked you to answer it.
It isn’t discourse, but a facsimile of it, the journalistic equivalent of the Gemütlichkeit Spamwich created by Lisa Dziadulewicz of Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Just not quite right.
I guess Jonah Goldberg came first in the "Guest-Write a Sentence in a Tendentious Kevin Williamson Essay!" raffle. (That sandwich is a real thing, by the way; recipe here.)
It is, as I have noted, a dishonest strategy, because the question cannot be intelligently answered in a single sentence or two.... Try to summarize it in sound-bite form and you’ll produce something that is easy to caricature—which is, of course, the point of asking the question.
Fine, except that Kilgore didn't ask Williamson to answer the question "in a single sentence or two." This whole thing started with a Williamson tweet, but Kilgore isn't asking for an answer in tweet form. He sent an email. Presumably he wanted an emailable answer. You can easily email a an answer that's longer than two sentences.

Williamson answered with the you-want-a-piece-of-me? rhetoric quoted above, adding:
As noted, my original observations on this subject, including the Infamous Tweet, speak to the very dishonesty and stupidity of the stratagem upon which you are here relying. I can’t believe that you are in fact unaware of my opposition to capital punishment.
I'm sure Kilgore was fully aware of that. He was also aware of Williamson tweets in which hanging was recommended, followed by a podcast in which hanging as the only logically consistent punishment for a woman who has an abortion was discussed at great length by Williamson. So, um, which is it, Kev? That was the question.

Williamson writes:
That, in turn, gave New York magazine the opportunity to write the headline Kilgore wanted to write: “Kevin Williamson Won’t Tell Me What He Thinks Should Happen to Women Who Have Abortions.”
I've read Kilgore for years. I'm sure he would have published a straight answer.
But that isn’t the whole truth, either. I made a great effort to tell him—and his editor, Adam Moss.

What you will not read about at New York magazine is the fact that I offered them a full account of my views on the subject, in the form of an essay on exactly how I think we should go about dealing with the legal prohibition of abortion. (In the interest of making this easier for New York magazine, I offered this at no charge, something I almost never do. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” as Dr. Johnson observed.) Why take one or two sentences, filtered through the unreliable sensibility of a hostile columnist, when you could have the whole thing? Because, as New York editor Adam Moss told me, that is “as much on the subject of your views on this matter as we want to publish.”

And there you have it.
This isn't a response to Kilgore's question -- this is a writer's pitch. Williamson, who clearly craves "liberal media" validation, just lost a sweet gig at a top "liberal media" outlet. At this point, he was pitching another "liberal media" outlet, offering to do a piece free (in exchange for a byline), at which point he'd be seen as a hero who maneuvered his way into a patch of column inches in enemy territory. What he wouldn't do was send an answer to the question he was asked without this arrangement in place.

If he was so determined to get his point across, and if he didn't care about being paid, why didn't he just write the piece anyway and send it to Kilgore (and Moss as well)? Then he could tell the world that, no he hadn't answered the question in "sound-bite form," but yes, he'd answered the hell out of it.

He could still do that. The Journal would probably publish his reply. So would the Standard. So, I imagine, would many other publications, many of them not conservative.

But he'd rather grumble that he's being subjected to censorship and calumnies, because that's much more important to conservative pundits than advancing their policy arguments.

HOW MANY PEOPLE EVEN KNOW THE "MEN'S RIGHTS" MOVEMENT EXISTS?

We don't know the motive for the van attack in Toronto that killed nine people yesterday, but we're being told this about the man charged in the attack:
Speculation surfaced Monday night around a Facebook post associated with the same name and the same photo as the one that appears on [Alek] Minassian's LinkedIn profile....

The post referred to the "Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger." Rodger was the 22-year-old California man responsible for a deadly rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six people dead and a dozen more injured.

In a video posted ahead of that 2014 attack, Rodger raged about a number of women turning down his advances, rendering men like him "incels," a term used by some groups to mean "involuntarily celibate."
Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, Florida, posted praise for Rodger in a YouTube comments section ("Elliot rodger will not be forgotten"). Other mass killers and would-be killers have praised Rodger or connected their rage directly to their sexual frustrations.

But awareness of the "men's rights" movement has never broken through. Stories and op-eds about the phenomenon are rare in the mainstream media. There's a useful blog, We Hunted the Mammoth, that's devoted to these guys, and there's discussion of them at feminist sites. We heard about the movement after the Rodger incident and during Gamergate. But none of this seems to have penetrated.

This is an ideology like jihadism or white separatism, but we're not having a national debate about whether it's the fault of late capitalism or the removal of prayer from the schools or what-have-you. We're not talking about it at all, even though it's a subculture with bizarre beliefs and secret code words that would lend itself very well to journalistic explainers. I'd say the lack of discussion is because the subculture participants are mostly white men, but that's true of the neo-Nazis, and we seem able to talk about them. Maybe the problem is that many of these guys are socioeconomically similar to the white men who run newsrooms. In any case, we need to talk about them more. I bet many people you know don't even realize that this subculture exists.

Monday, April 23, 2018

KEEP TELLING YOURSELF THAT REPUBLICANS WILL REJECT TRUMPIAN EXTREMISM IN 2020

Today Greg Sargent notes that appeals to authoritarianism are showing up in quite a few GOP campaigns this year.
... in West Virginia, GOP Senate primary candidate Don Blankenship is running an ad that says: “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary ... Lock her up!”

... The GOP Senate candidate in Tennessee ... echoes Trump’s attacks on African American football players protesting systemic racism and police brutality: “I stand when the president walks in the room. And yes, I stand when I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'”

... in the Indiana Senate GOP primary, Mike Braun, the candidate who is most vocally emphasizing Trump’s messages — on trade, the Washington “swamp” and “amnesty” — appears to be gaining the advantage. Braun’s ads basically recast true conservatism as Trumpism in its incarnation as populist anti-establishment ethno-nationalism.

... one of the Indiana GOP Senate candidates has bashed “Crooked Hillary Clinton,” and all three have cast aspersions on the Mueller probe. One called it a “fishing expedition,” and another claimed: “Nothing’s been turned up except that Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here.”
Meanwhile, AP reports that a top target of 2018 Republican candidates is likely to be Hillary Clinton:
With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP's most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide. The strategy ... has popped up in races in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota....

"I promise you that you'll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She's a very powerful motivator," said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall....

The national GOP [is] running digital ads featuring Clinton's comments — and her image — to attack the 10 Democratic Senate candidates running for re-election in states Trump carried.

"She's called you 'deplorable.' Now, she's called you 'backwards,'" said one ad that targeted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"If Bill Nelson had his way, Hillary Clinton would be president," the ad continued. "Florida won't forget."
If this is what's going on in 2018, why are centrist pundits still harboring fantasies of a Republican "return to normalcy" in 2020?

Yesterday I quoted an op-ed by Joe Scarborough in which he foresaw a Republican rejection of Donald Trump in 2020. I didn't quote the end of the op-ed:
Which brings us to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The former South Carolina governor announced last Sunday that the United States would impose additional sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Haley’s declaration enraged Trump, despite the inconvenient fact she was only following White House policy and GOP talking points. Still, the president went behind his ambassador’s back to assure the Russians he would kill any future sanctions. Other White House officials played down Haley’s remarks, describing America’s representative at the United Nations as “confused.”

Haley’s response to the charge was as sharp as it was telling.

“With all due respect, I do not get confused.”

With those nine words, the ambassador declared that, unlike most other members of Trump’s Cabinet, she would not allow herself to be humiliated by a political day trader, whose fitful 15 minutes of fame will come to a close long before a new president takes the oath of office in 2021.

Still, another scenario came to mind this week: How wonderful would it be for our daughters to see this woman — this daughter of immigrants — take a debate stage to coldly cut the Donald down to size, revealing to the world once and for all that this bloated emperor has no clothes?

What a sight that would be.
Even if we accept the notion that a Haley candidacy would represent a refreshing return to moderate conservatism, why are we imagining that Trumpism is going to die in the next two years? I'm going to keep saying it: If Trump falls between now and the next presidential election, GOP voters will want a candidate who will avenge his downfall, and who'll give them the emotional payoff they get from Trump. That's not going to be Haley, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, or John Kasich.

Trumpism isn't receding in the GOP -- it's increasing. This year's Senate and House candidates are more like Trump than the ones in 2016. The voter outrage these candidates are stirring up won't go away, even if some of the Trumpy candidates get their clocks cleaned in November -- remember that many of them won't, because they'll be running in deep red states or districts.

After that, either Trump will consolidate power, which will make Trumpism the winning play for 2020 candidates, or he'll remain under siege, possibly until he falls, which will increase Republican voters' taste for vengeance.

No, we can't purge the GOP of Trumpism between now and the next presidential election. We'll have to defeat the GOP extremists repeatedly before they finally -- I hope -- retreat to the margins.


WHAT TRAVIS REINKING'S FATHER WAS ALLOWED TO DO IS EVERYTHING THAT'S WRONG WITH THE GUN CULTURE

You probably know this about the man suspected of shooting up a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people:
Months before the man suspected of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House on Sunday became the target of a manhunt, authorities arrested him for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns.

Among the four weapons they took from Travis Reinking was the AR-15 semi­automatic rifle that police say he used in the Waffle House on Sunday. Two of the other weapons — a long gun and a handgun — are missing from Reinking’s apartment, and as of Sunday evening, Reinking was still at large.
And you probably know this:
... Reinking's father was present when ... deputies came to confiscate the guns, [Tazewell County sheriff Robert M.] Huston said. The father had a valid state authorization card and asked the police if he could keep the weapons. Deputies gave Reinking's father the weapons, Huston said.

"He was allowed to do that after he assured deputies he would keep them secure and away from Travis," Huston said, referring to Reinking's father.

Huston and Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said they believe Reinking's father returned the weapons to Reinking.
It's bad enough that Jeffrey Reinking, the father of Travis, returned the guns to him after that White House incident. But it wasn't the only troubling incident that should have concerned Jeffrey Reinking. There was this:
In June 2017, police records state Reinking threatened someone with an AR-15 while wearing a pink dress. After threatening the man, Reinking drove to a public pool and dove in before exposing himself to others at the pool, according to the reports.
And this, in May 2017:
In one police report from Tazewell, County, labeled suicide by firearm, the police report says that authorities were advised that Travis Reinking was allegedly “delusional and believed the famous entertainer Taylor Swift, was harassing him via stalking and hacking his phone.” He believed “everyone including his own family and the police are involved.”

His mother, father, and grandmother “were worried about Travis” so they called emergency services, the report states. “They stated Travis has been having these delusions since August 2014,” according to the report. Travis was accused of being “hostile towards police and does not recognize police authority. Travis also possesses several firearms.”

... Travis’ family “advised Travis made comments about killing himself earlier in the day. They also advised he owns and had access to many firearms at his residence,” reports allege.

Travis returned, and, reports say, police responded and allege he stated that “Taylor hacked his Netflix account and told him to meet her at the Dairy Queen.” He went into further detail of the delusion. He was taken for evaluation.
And yet:
When police contacted Reinking's father, the father said "awhile back he took 3 rifles and a hand gun away and locked them up when Travis was having problems. (The father) wanted to move out of state so he gave them back to (Travis)...” the reports state.
Jeffrey Reinking thought this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do -- and of course he did, because this is hearltand America, and in heartland America the bar for being permanently deprived of guns, the most precious commodities in life, is extraordinarily high. This is what the American gun culture believes: Except for a handful of people who've been convicted of horrible crimes, firearms are always good to own. This, of course, applies only to people who look like Us, not Them. But if you're a heartland white American and you haven't killed anyone yet, of course it's fine for you to possess firearms -- even if you've been delusional and suicidal, even if you've broken the security perimeter at the White House, even if you've threatened someone at a public pool with an assault weapon.

And there seems to have been no law preventing Jeffrey Reinking from doing this. The authorities apparently got no more than a spoken agreement that he'd keep the guns away from his son. There probably isn't a law under which he could be charged and convicted. Could he be successfully sued? In gun-loving America, it's doubtful.

That's the gun culture, too. The gun culture doesn't want there to be laws that scare firearm owners into erring on the side of caution.

I imagine that we'd find a way to punish Jeffrey Reinking if his name were Muhanmmad. But I'm assuming that nothing will happen to him -- and that the gun community will block any efforts to change the laws so that people who are grossly negligent in this way are held accountable when relatives maim or kill.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

IF TRUMP SURVIVES TO 2020, THEY'LL ALL COME AROUND -- PROBABLY EVEN MITT

A few days ago, CNN ran a story about the reluctance of many Republicans to say they'll endorse Donald Trump in 2020. In a column for The Washington Post on Friday, Joe Scarborough seized on this:
... these ... morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.

“Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party. Alexander is not the only GOP senator to offer up tortured answers to this simple question.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Tex.) refused to answer, explaining that he had not given the question much thought because things could change in the time before the 2020 campaign revs up.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.) spent four days grasping for an answer to a question he called “unfair” before finally saying he didn’t want to “make news.”
Scarborough thinks this is a sign that Trump won't run in 2020.
It’s becoming clear that Trump will not be running for president in 2020....

Now, even Trump’s most steadfast allies are quietly admitting that the Southern District of New York’s investigation poses an existential threat to his future, both politically and legally.
No, that's not what they're quietly admitting. They're quietly admitting that Trump's downfall might happen between now and 2020. They know it's a serious possibility, and they don't want a statement of support to appear in print or on tape now, one that can be used against them in the future, when Trump is a pariah.

But they also don't have the courage to say that they oppose the president, because they're certain he'll survive until November 2018 and it's a serious possibility that he'll survive until November 2020.

Mitt Romney -- who was forced into a Senate primary yesterday when hard-liners in the Utah GOP refused to endorse his candidacy -- has joined them in bet-hedging.
Mitt Romney said Saturday that he could not yet commit to supporting Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign....

"I will make that decision down the road," Romney ... said in an interview with CNN.... "As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I'll want to know what's in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah."

"So I'm not a cheap date," he said.
But if Trump isn't driven from office and mounts a reelection bid, most if not all of them will come around. Even the first Republican to say he intends to primary Trump -- thriller writer Brad Thor -- will probably endorse him in the end:
Conservative author and commentator Brad Thor took to Twitter Saturday to announce he would challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020.

The New York Times bestselling author of the popular Scot Harvath series of spy thrillers was a vociferous critic of Trump’s during the 2016 primaries and has continued speaking out against the president’s leadership style.
Yup, Thor was a Never Trumper during the 2016 primaries as well -- so much so that he got his buddy Glenn Beck suspended from satellite radio for a time after making comments that some interpreted as a call for the assassination of Trump.
SirusXM satellite radio has suspended conservative talk show host Glenn Beck for comments he made last week that have been interpreted as potentially advocating the harm of presumptive Republican presidential nominee and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

During a May 25 interview on “The Glenn Beck Program,” Beck agreed with a comment made by New York Times bestselling thriller author Brad Thor:

“I am about to suggest something very bad,” Thor said. “... With the feckless, spineless Congress we have, who will stand in the way of Donald Trump overstepping his constitutional authority as president? If Congress won’t remove him from office, what patriot will step up and do that if, if, he oversteps his mandate as president, his constitutional-granted authority, I should say, as president,” Thor said, according to CNN. “If he oversteps that, how do we get him out of office? And I don’t think there is a legal means available. I think it will be a terrible, terrible position the American people will be in to get Trump out of office because you won’t be able to do it through Congress.”

“I would agree with you on that,” Beck responded.
But even Thor came around to Trump at the time of the convention, if only reluctantly.
Brad Thor, who has been in the #NeverTrump camp since the beginning and is a respected conservative author, came to this realization on Tuesday, throwing his support behind Mr. Trump. It wasn’t a pretty endorsement, but it was an endorsement all the same.

“Yesterday, Dr. [Hugh] Hewitt tried (yet again) to help guide America to the best (and only) option available to us. I lost a lot of sleep last night reading and then re-reading his words. I awoke this morning with a more nuanced view. Drug #1 (Hillary Clinton) will kill us — no question. Drug #2 (Donald Trump) might kill us, but it also might: A) Slow the cancer, or even B) Cure the cancer,” Mr. Thor wrote in HotAir.com....

“It’s a lot to hope for, I know, but hope is all we have left. We have exhausted every other avenue. Make no mistake — I believe one hundred percent in standing on principle. Principle, in this case though, will not cure cancer. Sadly, that crappy clinic south of the border is starting to look like our only option,” he wrote.
Thor is anti-Trump again, but he has no political experience, and he's not going to beat Trump in a primary -- nor is anyone else -- because the GOP base loves Trump and will continue to love Trump as long as he's in office and out of prison (and maybe even if those things are no longer true). So after Thor crashes and burns -- in Iowa or New Hampshire or on Super Tuesday, if he runs at all -- he'll endorse the winner, because, in his opinion, the Democrat will be so evil he'll have no choice.

But won't Romney be a holdout again? By that time he'll almost certainly have survived his primary and a general election, coasting to victory in both. He won't be up for reelection until 2024. Why should he worry about endorsing Trump?

Because this time around it's highly likely that the Democratic nominee will be a person no one regards as a centrist. It will probably be someone who talks a lot more like Bernie Sanders (it could even be Bernie Sanders) and a lot less like 1990s Bill Clinton. Never Trump Republicans who want to maintain political viability will be horrified by all the left-wing talk -- free college! $15 minimum wage! Marijuana leglaization! Rolling back the Trump tax cuts on the wealthy! Medicare for All, or at least a Medicare or Medicaid buy-in! It's all socialism!

(And yes, I know: Hillary Clinton ran on a platform that was quite progressive. But for whatever reason, nobody believed her. They'll believe the 2020 Democratic nominee.)

In addition, if Trump survives, this time around the skeptics will believe that he can win (which he can). So they won't dare oppose him this time if he's the nominee.

If Trump's still around, they'll fold. Just wait.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A THEORY ABOUT THAT JACK JOHNSON TWEET

Out of nowhere, the president tweeted this today:



Jack Johnson was the first black man to be world heavyweight boxing champion. His fights against white boxers led to deadly riots. He had relationships with a number of white women, several of whom he married. He was ultimately arrested on trumped-up charges that he violated the Mann Act, which prohibited transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, even though the alleged violations took place before the law was passed. He was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to a year and a day in prison; he fled the country for several years, then ultimately returned and served time in Leavenworth.

So why this all of a sudden? Maggie Haberman thinks she knows why:



Early today, I tweeted a different theory:



I don't which of these theories makes more sense -- or maybe we're both right.

I don't understand why Trump would need to wave his pardon power in front of people's noses -- maybe it's a case of Trump thinking, "Many people don't know that I can pardon anyone who's committed a federal crime," meaning he only recently learned that. Whatever he thinks, we actually do understand that he can try to hinder the Mueller investigation by issuing pardons. But I'm sure he doesn't know that people understand that.

I'm having second thoughts about my theory, because how often has Trump cared whether people think he appears altruistic? But this could be a rare instance of that. And he might want to pretend not to be a racist. (The racists I've ever encountered have been fine with black people who are athletes, because, y'know, that's what black people are supposed to do.)

There's this, too:



Yup -- Trump is president of the United States, but he really wants us to be impressed by the fact that he's friends with Sylvester Stallone.

I'm in favor of this pardon, so I hope no one tells Trump this:
Johnson's great-great niece wants President Trump to clear the champion's name with a posthumous pardon. And she has the backing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has supported a Johnson pardon since 2004.

"Jack Johnson was a boxing legend and pioneer whose career and reputation were ruined by a racially charged conviction more than a century ago," McCain said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Johnson's imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a stain on our national honor."
If Trump finds out McCain's in favor of this, he'll never do it -- although maybe the fact that President Obama chose not to pardon Johnson coungts more than the fact that McCain is in favor of the pardon.

WHO NEEDS THE ALT-RIGHT WHEN THERE'S ORDINARY AMERICAN RACISM?

The Washington Post reports that the alt-right may have passed its peak.
Eight months after a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in the death of a counterprotester, the loose collection of disaffected young white men known as the alt-right is in disarray.

The problems have been mounting: lawsuits and arrests, fundraising difficulties, tepid recruitment, widespread infighting, fierce counterprotests, and banishment from social media platforms. Taken together, they’ve exhausted even some of the staunchest members.

One of the movement’s biggest groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, dissolved in March. Andrew Anglin, founder of the Daily Stormer, the largest alt-right website, has gone into hiding, chased by a harassment lawsuit. And Richard Spencer, the alt-right’s most public figure, canceled a college speaking tour and was abandoned by his attorney last month.
I read this story shortly after I read Jamil Smith's "Where Can We Be Black?," which was just published in Rolling Stone:
African Americans are often made to feel as though we are uninvited guests in our own country. We are excluded from environments great and small, at times by force.... This exclusion is the very root of racial discrimination, and of the social penalties that whiteness exacts upon blackness....

After missing his bus last Thursday, Brennan Walker, a 14-year-old student in Rochester Hills, Michigan, tried to walk to school. His mother had taken his phone away, and soon, Walker was lost. He ended up doing what most Americans would think is safe to do: knock on a neighbor's door and ask for help and directions. But that same act cost Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell their lives – and it almost cost Walker his. He told local reporters that after a white woman in the house behaved as if she thought Walker was trying to break in, a white man, Jeffrey Ziegler, came downstairs with a gun. Walker took off running. He only heard the gunshot that meant to take his life before escaping, later hiding and crying.

... By now, many of us have seen the viral video shot by [Starbucks] customer Melissa DePino, showing ... Philadelphia police officers confronting and arresting ... two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who had been waiting peacefully.... There was no reason to charge the men with anything but "waiting while black" ...
These are just two recent incidents. Similar incidents happen every week. Occasionally there are consequences -- Ziegler is now charged with felony assault and the Starbucks manager has lost her job. More often, there are no ultimate consequences for the people who do these things.

So why do American racists need the alt-right? Membership in the alt-right means marginalization -- but there's plenty of opportunity to be racist in America without joining a racist movement. And many Americans don't insist on a white ethno-state -- they just want the racial pecking order regularly reinforced. So they're satisfied with ordinary American racism.

Just as mid-century American workers contended themselves with a somewhat generous social safety net while rejecting out-and-out socialism, twenty-first-century heartland whites are rejecting racist movements because there's considerable opportunity to be racist in America without them.

Friday, April 20, 2018

WHO ARE YOU GONNA BELIEVE, ME OR MY LYING WORDS?

Kevin Williamson has written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled "When the Twitter Mob Came for Me." Fellow conservative pundit Noah Rothman is getting the drubbing he deserves for his response to the piece:



Best wisecrack so far:



All this on a day when we're learning that another Russian journalist has died under suspicious circumstances:
A Russian investigative journalist who wrote about the deaths of mercenaries in Syria has died in hospital after falling from his fifth-floor flat.

Maxim Borodin was found badly injured by neighbours in Yekaterinburg and taken to hospital, where he later died.

... a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.

Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a "principled, honest journalist" and said Borodin had contacted him at five o'clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was "someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing".
Oh, but Borodin never faced a "Twitter mob," so what did he know about courage?

In Williamson's piece, he seems to argue that not just a professional opinion-monger's tweets but his extended discursions in podcasts are to be ignored, because they're not really speech acts.
I was fired [by The Atlantic] on April 5.

... The problem was a six-word, four-year-old tweet on abortion and capital punishment and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: “I have hanging more in mind.”

... The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions.
If Williamson wasn't asked what he really thinks, perhaps it's because he already told us what he thinks. When you're a professional journalist-slash-pundit and you choose to tweet, you tweet as a professional journalist-slash-pundit. When you do a podcast in which you revise and extend the words in your writing, you do that as a professional journalist-slash-pundit. (And please note that, in the podcast, Williamson's elaboration on the tweets went on for several minutes, in which he pointedly disagreed with fellow conservative Charles C.W. Cooke's suggestion that it might be appropriate to have variable punishments for different kinds of murder, which is what both agree abortion is.)

The point of Williamson's Journal op-ed seems to be that a writer deserves a mulligan for anything he says in a podcast, even at great length, and even if the podcast is expressly intended to be an auditory elaboration of his writing, and also that, of course, a writer really deserves a mulligan for tweets, which don't count as his opinions even if the whole point of his having a Twitter account is to spread those opinions through social media. Hey, you can't know what a guy thinks just from what he types in short form and says at great length in non-print long form -- that doesn't count!

Sorry, Kevin, that still doesn't make sense. You had your say, and you're justifiably paying for it.

IT'S LIKE A PONZI SCHEME, BUT WITH PHONY SCANDALS INSTEAD OF FUNNY MONEY

After a great deal of agitation by Republicans and the right-wing media, last night the Justice Department sent Congress lightly redacted versions of James Comey's memos on his meetings with President Trump -- and the memos were leaked to the press in 39 minutes. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been threatened with impeachment if he didn't release these and other memos ... but the Comey memos, once we were all able to see them, had few new revelations, and were consistent with what Comey has said in congressional testimony, in his book, and in his recent interviews.

Many people are puzzled.




It's simple. Republicans are running a Ponzi scheme -- but instead of promising wealth, they're promising a payoff that apparently means much more to the rageoholics who watch Fox: proof of unprecedented criminality on the part of their political enemies. For days, weeks, or months, they tease angry right-wingers with new tales of Deep State perfidy -- and yes, by the time the reveal comes it's clear to everyone that it's all a big nothing, but by that time they've been laying the groundwork for other claims of gross misconduct by everyone the rubes hate, so no problem. Republicans and their allies don't really care if there's no payoff, just as they didn't care that the much-hyped Devin Nunes memo was a damp squib, because the buildup is the point. Days or weeks in which they promise shocking revelations of pure evil are days and weeks when the hate reaches maximum level. The point is to keep the rubes invested in their narrative, and to maximize the number of days when they're at peak anger.

The Republicans won't slink away crestfallen. They'll just move on to the next thing. They'll have achieved another anger peak that lasted longer than the current momentary letdown.

Rinse and repeat. They can keep this up forever.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

TED CRUZ HUMILIATED HIMSELF ON TRUMP'S BEHALF BECAUSE HE FEARS BETO O'ROURKE

Ted Cruz has been widely mocked for lavishing praise on Donald Trump as part of Time magazine's annual Time 100 list:
President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans....
Thank you, Ted. You have 95 words to go (I won't repeat them here), but you already have the highest score ever recorded in Wingnut Mad Libs. I think we can stop the competition now.

Why is Cruz humiliating himself this way after Trump insulted his wife's looks and suggested that his father was in on the Kennedy assassination? I think he's afraid of the Democratic challenger he'll face in November, Beto O'Rourke.

I don't think the just-released Quinnipiac poll that shows O'Rourke trailing Cruz by just 3 points was a factor -- that poll, I'm sure, was published long after Cruz agreed to abase himself for Time. I think he's concerned with nationwide polling for the past several months, and the results of recent special elections, and the surprisingly high turnout by Democrats in Texas primaries last month.

As an incumbent Republican in Texas, Cruz should be headed for an easy victory, based on past elections. But Democratic voters this year are motivated. Are Republican voters?

Cruz is assuming that if they're motivated at all, it's by love of Trump. They're probably motivated to give money only to candidates who love Trump. So after his (temporary) resistance to Trump in 2016, Cruz really needs to establish his bona fides if he wants enthusiastic base support.

It's a double-edged sword, given the fact that Trump is surprisingly unpopular in Texas. (He's underwater in Texas according to that Quinnipiac poll, with 43% approval and 52% disapproval, and a January Gallup poll had even worse numbers for Trump in Texas: 39% approval, 54% disapproval.)

But Cruz is making the bet most Republicans make -- that motivating the base is more important than offending everyone else. So he grovels.

Or maybe he grovels because he thinks he's going to lose in November. Hey, there are sure to be some openings in the Trump administration in 2019, right?

IF IT'S CONCLUSIVELY DEMONSTRATED THAT TRUMP IS A CRIMINAL, REPUBLICANS WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH IT

The Wall Street Journal quotes a Trump lawyer saying that Michael Cohen is likely to flip:
One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges.

Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump....

Speaking from his experience as a prosecutor, he said even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Mr. Goldberg said.
Jonathan Chait finds this curious.
... as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.
Chait has a similar response to a quote from voluble Trump loyalist Anthony Scaramucci:
Asked today by Katy Tur if “there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,” Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.”

You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong?
Chait is right -- in politics, if you're defending an officeholder under investigation, you're supposed to say that that officeholder wouldn't dream of violating the law. These guys have let the mask slip.

But for supporters of the contemporary Republican Party, I don't think that matters. Either they don't believe that their heroes are guilty or they believe that their heroes were found guilty through a "witch hunt" conducted by the liberal Deep State.

Look around. Don Blankenship, who spent a year in federal prison after an accident in one of his coal mines killed 29 miners, might win the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia. Rick Scott, whose company oversaw what was at the time the largest Medicare fraud in history, has won two terms as Florida governor and could defeat an incumbent senator this year. Staten Island's Michael Grimm, a convicted felon, is running a credible race to unseat the Republican who took his old congressional seat. Missouri governor Eric Greitens, accused of rape, blackmail, and campaign fraud, still has a 41% approval rating in his state.

I think we're rapidly approaching the point at which being an accused criminal, or even a convicted one, will be a selling point in the eyes of the GOP electorate. Republicans will dine out on their convictions the way Jay-Z regularly invokes his drug-dealing past or Lenny Bruce boasted of his arrest record. The Deep State man can't bust our movement! MAGA!

Incontrovertible evidence of Trump's criminality may emerge soon. It might drive him from office. But I don't believe it will lower his poll numbers.