Culture

The Tulsi Gabbard Show (Partisan Interests)

#Tulsi2020 | #WithTheRussians

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI02), along the way to seeking a 2020 Democratic presidential nod, weighed in on the slow-leaking debacle of Attorney General William Barr’s summary that is not a summary, noting Thursday:

Mueller reported Trump did not collude with Russia to influence our elections. Now we must put aside partisan interests, move forward, and work to unite our country to deal with the serious challenges we face.

Friday’s clarification letter regarding the Attorney General’s previous letter continues word gamesα that ought to sober up some ebullient pro-Trump celebration among ostensible progressives and leftists. Meanwhile, testable statements such as the Distinguished Member from Hawai’i Two offers can eventually be checked. The thing is, if President Trump is hoping A.G. Barr can hold out long enough at a threshold of potential misprision, we might wonder at those who seek to either abet or else profit thereby.

The upside for Ms. Gabbard, of course, is if it somehow turns out President Trump is somehow innocent to the point of driven snow. “Mueller reported Trump did not collude with Russia to influence our elections”, the Congresswoman wrote. Not even the 24 March letter from the Attorney General actually says that; Tulsi Gabbard seems to very anxious to advance the Trump supporters’ pitch.

Toward which end, we should probably note that among the mysteries of the internet, there is this: The part where the video frame in Congreswoman Gabbard’s tweet seems to say, “Tulsi 2020 … with the Russians”, is entirely coincidental; that’s just how it came up on the screen.

Still, this is the sort of gaffe that can haunt.

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Image note: Tweet by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI02), 28 March 2019.

α Previously, Mr. Barr fiddled the word “coordination”; the latest might leave the reader wondering at the definition of “summary”.

@TulsiGabbard. “Mueller reported Trump did not collude with Russia to influence our elections. Now we must put aside partisan interests, move forward, and work to unite our country to deal with the serious challenges we face”. Twitter. 28 March 2019.

Barr, William. Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Office of the Attorney General. 24 March 2019.

—————. Letter to Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler. Office of the Attorney General. 29 March 2019.

Maddow, Rachel. “Barr improvises role on Mueller report despite clear regulations”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 29 March 2019.

Steinberg, Ben. “This Footnote to Barr’s Mueller Report Letter Felt Very Random. Perhaps It Wasn’t”. Slate. 29 March 2019.

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A Low Barr for President Trump

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during his confirmation hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 16 January 2019. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It seems worth reminding of our American time and circumstance. Sometimes disbelief is not answered by asking, “How is this true?” but, rather, by considering environmental conditions within the range of observation; sometimes the question runs, “How is this not untrue?”

Those who marvel at the point of Mr. Barr’s private-sector memo denouncing the Mueller investigation being over four times longer than Attorney General Barr’s summary of an investigation he loathed should simply remember that a public attorney is still an attorney. We might well have our own opinions of turpitude and integrity vis à vis the Attorney General and the President he serves, but within the boundaries of what we might understand about Mr. Barr’s outlook, it is worth considering how the summary he released would fail to equal obstruction, misprision, or other such offense against either the law or his license to practice, and seek its meaning therein.

In the moment, the discourse seems almost as if we all saw the sleight coming, watched it happen right in front of us, yet pretend to believe it, anyway. It’s almost as if the years Americans spent watching and complaining about politicians, lawyers, and PR flaks splitting hairs and manipulating language, we are supposed to look upon this most bizarre circumstance as if such notions have never occurred to our tabula rasa innocence.

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Image note: U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during his confirmation hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 16 January 2019. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What They Voted For: Conservative Fulfillment

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“I had an opportunity to speak with President Trump and he, I would say to all my colleagues, has indicated he’s prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time. And I’ve indicated to him I’m going to support the national emergency declaration.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)α

The underlying theme of the #trumpswindle is that despite mutterings here and there among Beltway Republicans, the Trump Administration is hardly a departure from the GOP of recent decades; the sticky sensation of pining nostalgia for the ’80s is no mere coincidence. The Senate Majority Leader is hardly making a radical break with mainstream American conservatism in abdicating to a Republican president verging toward a national emergency against migrants.

Our American atrocity is afoot. Once upon a time, the joke was that we need another Vietnamβ. For Trump voters, apparently what we really need is another atrocity against nonwhites. For all the excuses Republican voters have offered over the years for bargaining with supremacismγ, they just haven’t really gotten much in return. There is the economic wreck and fiscal nightmare inflicted against the country over the course of the last twelve years, and that atop the general failure of their trickle-down myth; the Bush Doctrine has laid their foreign policy ambition to the bone. All these voters ever got for their votes is the traditional supremacism, and having suffered a definitive loss in the Gay Frayδ, have redoubled their efforts to assail the human rights of women. A national emergency in order to establish extraordinary authority to build border wall, at a time when a Republican administration runs internment camps for migrant children, is a happy day for American conservatives. This is #WhatTheyVotedFor.

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α Transcript corrected from linked article, per video source.

β e.g., Bart Simpson, ca. 1996 (#3F16)—

Bart: What the hell is this?
Lisa: It’s one of those campy seventies throw-backs that appeal to Generation X-ers.
Bart: We need another Vietnam, to thin out their ranks a little.

—exploiting a roadworn American trope about youth. It is, however, worth noting that when Congress refused to support President Obama’s request for new authorization against Daa’ish, Democrats saw too much risk and entanglement, while Republicans complained that the administration was not intending a large enough war.

γ Because, after all, those voters are not racist; but it’s just unfair to alienate supremacism like that, and it’s not like anyone is ever really going to let them be in charge. Right?

δ Which, in turn, was always about women, anyway.

Image note: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Bolton, Alexander. “Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency”. The Hill. 14 February 2019.

Nothing New Under the Sun

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is part of a Congressional delegation scheduled for an overseas trip, speaks to members of the media January 17, 2019 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. In a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), President Donald Trump announced the postponement of the trip to visit U.S. service members in Afghanistan, and a stop in Brussels to meet with NATO officials. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Steve Benen notes—

For what it’s worth, it’s not altogether clear why Trump and his team would find this so upsetting. There’s a limited universe of officials who have the experience, skills, and clearance necessary to work on highly sensitive intelligence matters. The idea of aides having a stint at the National Security Council, before making the transition to the staff at the House Intelligence Committee, isn’t especially odd.United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)Indeed, the inverse happens, too. Kashyap Patel, who helped co-author the unintentionally hilarious “Nunes memo,” recently left his staff job on Capitol Hill to join—you guessed it—the National Security Council.So why is it, exactly, that Schiff’s personnel decisions “enraged” the president and some members of his senior staff? Is there concern inside Trump World about what former aides might say about their impressions of the White House’s work?

—and perhaps it seems strange, but, yes, Hot Fuzz, the Wright/Pegg comedy, comes to mind, and that somehow makes perfect sense. (more…)

Not What We Mean When We Say Foreign Service

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A protester holds a photo of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, later acknowledged to have been slain by the Saudi government. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Annieli, at Daily Kos, writes:

Those who wonder why we should care about Khashoggi’s death should ask whether we want an autocratic thug to be directing US foreign policy? Why is America’s president covering up a brutal extra-territorial murder? All this whabboutery serves MBS. Is that what we want?

And this is an important question: All of President Trump’s equivocation and excuses serve foreign interests.Remember that Donald Trump still thinks he is doing business, and this is reflected in conservative language; among Republican excuses for the President’s behavior, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), often seen as a critic of the administration, mewled and rolled over:

A key consideration in the administration’s mind, according to Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), is the belief that the crown prince can salvage Kushner’s stalled peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. “A lot of the Middle East peace plan is based upon their support. They feel like they have a lot of equity there,” Corker said.

(Dawsey, Hudson, and Gearan)

“Equity” is a curious word. Certes, the Trump family has invested tremendous “political capital”. There are a handful of Congressional Republicans willing to speak against President Trump, and the general criticism runs that tweeting disapproval is pretty much all they do compared to their voting records. And in this moment, Mr. Corker, the retiring U.S. Senator, is lending his voice in aid and comfort to presidential pandering on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post goes on to explain:

Trump allies acknowledged that the White House’s equivocations would probably result in growing calls from Congress for a more credible accounting of events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted it would damage the president politically.

Equity. This is just an investment. And if Sen. Corker, a Republican, wishes to be seen in opposition to President Trump, “equity” is the wrong word. Consider an actual Trump ally, such as evangelical preacher Pat Robertson:

“We’ve got to cool the rhetoric,” Robertson said. “Calls for sanctions and calls for punitive actions against the Saudis is ill-advised … You’ve got a hundred billion dollars worth of arms sales—which is, you know, that’s one of those things—but more than that, we’ve got to have some Arab allies. We have to have it! We cannot alienate a biggest player in the Middle East who is a bulwark against Iran.”When Robertson’s co-host Wendy Griffith argued that we cannot have governments killing critical journalists with impunity, Robertson dismissed those concerns.”We’ve had so many people killed,” he responded. “We’ve had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it’s bad, but we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

(Mantyla)

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What They Voted For (No, Really)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Corpus Hypercubus', by Salvador Dali, 1954.

A couple points come to mind:

United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)An evangelist pastor criticized religious leaders who are “trading their moral core” by supporting the Trump administration solely due to their stance on abortion.

Doug Pagitt, a Minneapolis-based pastor and executive director of Vote Common Good, wrote in USA Today Sunday that white Evangelicals are blindly support Trump and the GOP-led Congress.

(Gstalter)

First, the question of evangelicals cleaning up their own houses, as such, is fraught and grim.

And for a bonus, there is the mystery of what happened in the last copy edits of the first two paragraphs of the the article.

Image notes: Top — Detail of Corpus Hypercubus, by Salvador Dali, 1954.  Right — United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)

Gstalter, Morgan. “Pastor tears into Evangelicals for supporting Trump due to abortion stance.” The Hill. 21 October 2018.

What Mitch Said (Professional Sideshow Meltdown Mix)

#rapeculture | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows his head in prayer during an event on Capitol Hill, 24 February 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

C-SPAN, via Twitter:

CSPAN (@cspan): ".@SenateMajLdr: 'We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way. We want this hearing to be handled very professionally not a political sideshow...' #Kavanaugh" [via Twitter, 25 September 2018].@SenateMajLdr: “We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way. We want this hearing to be handled very professionally not a political sideshow…” #Kavanaugh

The question arises whether we should thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for acknowledging Senate Republicans are incapable of handling the growing sexual harassment and assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in a respectful and professional way that does not amount to a political sideshow.

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Image notes: Top — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows his head in prayer during an event on Capitol Hill, 24 February 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  Right — Tweet from C-SPAN, 25 September 2018.

One of Those Moments (… cum Farce)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To the one, something goes here about unnamed sources; it’s a long question, by now. To the other, though—

For all the morning’s madness, there may have been an underlying logic. Over the weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects appeared increasingly imperiled, Trump faced two tactical options, both of them fraught. One was to cut Kavanaugh loose. But he was also looking for ways to dramatically shift the news cycle away from his embattled Supreme Court nominee. According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate. “The strategy was to try and do something really big,” the source said. The leak about Rosenstein’s resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.

(Sherman)

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—this is the Trump administration: What insanity will we be expected to believe, tomorrow? The question is how well a bit like this ages; certes, it makes a powerful headline, but the instinct to disbelieve seems largely reasonable.

And, again, to the other, this is the Trump administration. The idea of a T&A comedy presidency ought to be a really stupid joke. Something, something, Trump administration, right. This really is what they voted for, and no, it’s been more of a tragedy cum farce than any sort of comedy. It really isn’t funny.

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Image notes: Top — Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)  Right — President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Sherman, Gabe. “‘The Strategy Was to Try and Do Something Really Big’: Trump Wanted to Nuke Rosenstein to Save Kavanaugh’s Bacon”. Vanity Fair. 24 September 2018.

The American Discourse (Nazi Symbol)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Jonathan Chait observes—

There is no better symbol for the Republican Party elite in the Trump era than Gary Cohn weighing the morality of opposing Nazism against corporate-tax-rate cuts and choosing the latter. But it is also a reminder that Nazism, which several generations of Americans have grown accustomed to thinking of as an exotic symbol of pure, abstract evil, in reality represents a political faction. Trump is not a Nazi. Nor, even, is Steve Bannon. They are, however, Nazi-adjacent, and actual neo-Nazis are excited about Trump, who has emboldened and empowered white nationalists in a way nobody could have fathomed until recently. They are just another part of the party coalition now.

—and it just seems worth noting this is what has become of the American discourse.

The important parallels here are not between Hitler and Trump. While Trump, like Hitler, is racist and authoritarian, his racism is not genocidal, his contempt for democracy is instinctive rather than ideological, and he crucially lacks any plan for massive territorial conquest. What makes the history pertinent, rather, are the eerie similarities in the behavior of the right-wing politicians who facilitated both men’s rise to power.

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