Ethics

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.

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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.

What They Voted For: Grotesque Dishonesty

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump announces a trade agreement with Mexico, 27 August 2018, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Fact checkers at the Washington Post note:

On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.

That such grotesque dishonesty is precisely what Trump voters wanted makes its own point. Steve Benen noted, yesterday, in consideration of yet another Trump administration travel scandal, “If you voted for the Republican ticket in 2016 because you hoped to avoid four years of ethics controversies, I have some very bad news for you.” The upside for those voters is that nobody really voted for Donald Trump in hope of avoiding a scandal-ridden presidency. To the other, or, rather, toward the more useful, we might wonder when it will be acceptable to stop pretending this was ever about anything other than graft and supremacism.

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Image note: President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., 27 August 2018 (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “FEMA director faces investigation at an inconvenient time”. msnbc. 13 September 2018.

Kessler, Glenn, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly. “President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims”. The Washington Post. 13 September 2018.

A Note on Civility and Equivocation

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Radical Centrism 101: Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

In such time as we have to reflect on notions of civility and politic, and observing its coincidence in which we grasp both desperately and often belligerently after comparisons in history, it does occur that sometimes these lines of thought and inquiry merge or intersect or whatever else they might do, and from this nexus arises a question worth considering:

• While rhetoric of conservative backlash often drew puzzlement and even mockery, and centrists, liberals, progressives, and leftists alike have scrambled to remind women, queers, and blacks what happens when we make too much uncivil noise, like winning court cases or wondering who would actually claim a religious right to actively sabotage health care, there is also an iteration of Green Lantern Theory whereby President Obama could reconcile the political factions by simply charming and schmoozing Republicans enough, including that he should never speak common platitudes of empathy because, being a black president, doing so apparently means one is trying to start a race war; and, yes, it seems worth wondering just how much worse the conservative and crossover payback would have been had the nation’s first black president gone on to prosecute war criminals, including the white woman recently minted Director of CIA.

When questions of civility arise, perhaps we ought to consider just how we might answer such demand for civility that torture and white supremacism are not somehow uncivil.

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Image note: Radical Centrism 101 — Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

The Silence of Cowardice

#AmericanAtrocity | #WhatTheyVotedFor

For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren't coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec [Jim Acosta (@Acosta), via Twitter, 22 June 2018.]

This spectacle is precisely what it looks like. Jim “The Animal”α Acosta tweeted, Friday

For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren’t coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—and that is the Show. Regardless of whether Sarah Huckabee Sanders is able to cope with her job or, after all this, notβ, the Trump administration has skipped out on the daily briefing since, and every little bauble of temptation, we look at, each pretense of a shiny new thing we give our attention, is not the American atrocity playing out before our eyes.

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α See Gstalter, whose ironic headline for The Hill, “Fox News’ Jesse Watters: Reporters who act like ‘a wild animal’ should lose press passes”, ought to make some sort of point.

β See, Nuzzi, “CNN reported that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t want to do the briefing alone, and was waiting for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to arrive and enter the room with her”. Nor should anyone pass over the point that the Nielsen briefing on Monday was the last before the press room silence Acosta records.

Image note: Top — Tweet by Jim Acosta (@acosta), 22 June 2018.  Right — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

@Acosta. “For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren’t coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec”. Twitter. 22 June 2018.

Gstalter, Morgan. “Fox News’ Jesse Watters: Reporters who act like ‘a wild animal’ should lose press passes”. The Hill. 14 June 2018.

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Inside the Disastrous White House Briefing on Trump’s Child-Separation Policy”. New York. 19 June 2018.

What They Voted For: Screaming, Flaming Handbasket

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

This is one of those that doesn’t so much go downhill from there, but, rather, is a screaming, flaming handbasket in medias res:

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress—in particular congressional Democrats—for the nearly-2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks.

(Nuzzi)

The flashback, then:

When top members of Donald Trump’s team add the word “period” to their most outlandish claims, it’s a safe bet they know they’re lying. The day after the president’s inauguration, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

(Benen)

Something about ominous setups goes here; unfortunately, all we find is a sick punch line:

Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need.

“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she said. “This administration has a simple message—If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department’s border policy dictates separation of children from their parents.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted late Sunday.

(Bacon)

(more…)

Your Tweet of the Day: Good Christians (NYT Softnazi Remix)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

are we all waiting for a N Y Times soft-Nazi interview w/ ICE officers & guards at children's detention centers? just guys next-door looking to make a living. also, good Christians. [Joyce Carol Oates, via Twitter, 18 June 2018]

This is not actually a punch line—

are we all waiting for a N Y Times soft-Nazi interview w/ ICE officers & guards at children’s detention centers? just guys next-door looking to make a living. also, good Christians.

Joyce Carol Oates

—but, yes, there is always the New York Times to play that part.

Rudy’s Bizarre Adventure (Recollection Remix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite image: Donald Trump speaks to the National Rifle Association convention, in Dallas, Texas, 4 May 2018 (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters); Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., 5 May 2018 (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo); uncredited protest image of Vladimir Putin.

The intersection of #DimensionTrump and coming right out and saying it is itself a futile endeavor; something can easily go here about parallel lines, overlap, and single tracks. Meanwhile, there is a no longer confidential memo from John Dowd to Robert Mueller, in January, and it is worth reconsidering the last several months of presidential simmer and tantrum in light of what we learn. Steve Benen tries, today, explaining one particular aspect:

This was the first time Trump World acknowledged the president’s direct role in dictating the wording of his son’s statement to the New York Times. In fact, the president’s legal team and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders specifically told the public, on multiple occasions, that Trump had nothing to do with crafting that statement. Those denials, we now know, were plainly false.

Over the course of the last year, Trump and his team have already changed their story about the purpose of the meeting—more than once—and these new revelations take the evolving narrative in an even messier direction.

Asked about the contradictions, Rudy Giuliani told ABC News yesterday, “This is the reason you don’t let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing.”

And there you have it. Something, something, mumble, murmur only goes downhill from there. Or not. Giuliani could stand at the bottom of a giant sinkhole and tout the merits of natural engineering, and for some reason people would try to take him seriously.

Oh. Right.

(more…)

The Art of the Swamp (Smile Through)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The setup, via Jonathan Chait:

Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)Earlier this month, when Michael Avenatti reported that Michael Cohen’s Delaware shell company received half a million dollars from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch, it looked quite shady. But the firm, Columbus Nova, quickly asserted the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, had only a tangential relationship to it, and had not used it as a conduit to pay Cohen. Columbus Nova released a statement insisting it was “owned and controlled by Americans and not Vekselberg, and denied that Vekselberg had ever owned the company or used it as a conduit for payments.” So maybe it wasn’t a Russian bribe. Maybe it was just an investment firm, which happened to have a large Russian client, looking to get influence with the administration the way many businesses do.

As more information has dribbled out, the innocent explanation has looked less and less plausible.

And the punch line, from the New York Times:

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

(Rashbaum, Protess, and McIntire)

Such as it is, something about gravity goes here. There is a certain point at which it is not so much the notion of everything going downhill from there, but, rather, the appearance of trying to smile through a screaming, flaming plummet into a cursed abyss. No, really, there is even a clown car taxi joke in there having to do with a “series of coincidences” that really does sound like a its own manner of comedic setup about how there they all were minding their own business when all of a sudden . . . .

Something, something, #WhatTheyVotedFor.

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Image notes: Top — Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)  Right Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

Chait, Jonathan. “Did a Russian Oligarch Funnel Money From Russia to Michael Cohen?” New York. 25 May 2018.

Rashbaum, William K., Ben Protess, and Mike McIntire. “At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations”. The New York Times. 25 May 2018.

What They Voted For: Pajamas and Whine

#alphamale | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) via Twitter, 23 May 2018.

Something about Sebastian Gorka, alpha males, and pajamas goes here, but I’m too goddamn lazy to waste my time looking it up.

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Image note: Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) taunts Donald Trump via Twitter, 23 May 2018.