Democrats

The State of the Department (Quack)

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

With apologies: Altered detail from cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 April 2018.

“guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? as of today....zero”

Anne Applebaum

We should be clear that by today, the columnist means Friday last, when she posted the tweet, which refers, in turn, to a report from Foreign Policy:

One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany — an effort that ultimately failed.

Johnson’s departure leaves a growing void in the State Department’s stable of experts on Iran’s nuclear program and highlights a broader problem of high-level departures from government.

Officials say the trend is particularly evident at the State Department, where Trump sidelined career diplomats and morale plummeted under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.

Today is Tuesday, and elsewhere in the commentariat Steve Benen notes, “The article didn’t explicitly say that Johnson resigned in protest, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a mystery about what happened here.”

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The Pruitt Watch (#swamped)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Photo: Jason Andrew/Getty Images)

The list from Steve Benen might, ‘twixt now and Monday, have become obsolete; it’s hard to tell, some days.

1. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s controversial travel habits.

2. The House Oversight Committee is also exploring the EPA chief’s use of public funds for first-class travel.

3. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s behind-the-scenes talks with the National Mining Association.

4. Pruitt’s exorbitant spending on an around-the-clock security detail is the subject of three inspector general investigations.

5. The House Oversight Committee is also examining the EPA chief’s security expenditures.

6. The Government Accountability Office has already investigated Pruitt for exceeding federal spending limits when he bought a $43,000 phone booth for his office.

7. The White House Office of Management and Budget is also investigating the phone booth.

8. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s use of funds set aside for the Safe Drinking Water Act and diverting the money to give generous raises to two of his top aides.

9. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s four-day trip to Morocco late last year.

10. The Government Accountability Office is investigating Pruitt’s ouster of scientists from the EPA’s science advisory committee.

11. The Government Accountability Office is investigating whether Pruitt broke lobbying laws with comments he made to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

12. The House Oversight Committee is investigating Pruitt’s living arrangement at a lobbyist’s condo.

13. And as noted above, the EPA’s inspector general is now also taking a closer look at Pruitt’s time at that condo.

Before the day was out, the msnbc blogger found himself adding to the list, sort of, noting a “controversy that should become the 14th” in a Reuters report describing a financial hardship waiver Pruitt’s EPA granted to an Oklahoma facility for a company owned by former Trump administration hand Carl Icahn:

The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc (CVI.N) to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.

And it does, you know, just keep going downhill.

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Apropos of Nothing: Truth, Justice, and the American Ouroboros

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

VIII. Adjustment.

This is just a question: Is anyone else enjoying the hell out of the fact that Judge Wood might well be the undoing of Donald Trump and, thereby, very possibly the great Republican swindle itself?

That the crushing blow comes through her court would be . . . pretty much the epic saga Americans have been wanting, and, well . . . yeah. There’s also that.

Furthermore, that we Americans could manage to do this to ourselves? How is that not one of the most fascinating questions history could possibly countenance?

A Memo to James B. Comey, Jr.: Moral Fitness

#resist

"It's my duty to tell you that this man is morally unfit." Cartoon by Nick Anderson, 17 April 2018, via Daily Kos.

MEMORANDUM

To: James B. Comey, Jr.

re: Moral fitness

I think we’ll go with: Gosh, thanks Jim.

To the one, sir, you simply cannot fail to recognize this is #WhatTheyVotedFor. To the other, either way, you are a little late in telling the rest of the world what we already know. Then again, the beeblebrox figures it unlikely you give a damn.

____________________

Image note: Cartoon by Nick Anderson, via Daily Kos, 17 April 2018.

Congress, As Only Congress Can

#dysfunction | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A reflection of the U.S. Capitol, 17 February 2012. (Detail of photo by Kevin LaMarque/Reuters)

This is what it is—

At last count, one member has stepped down for health reasons (Mississippi’s Thad Cochran), one member resigned to seek a statewide office (California’s Xavier Becerra), four members gave up their seats to serve in the Trump administration (Georgia’s Tom Price, South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney, Kansas’ Mike Pompeo, and Montana’s Ryan Zinke), five resigned under a cloud of scandal (Arizona’s Trent Franks, Michigan’s John Conyers, Pennsylvania’s Tim Murphy, Minnesota’s Al Franken, and Texas’ Blake Farenthold), and two stepped down because they didn’t feel like being in Congress anymore (Ohio’s Pat Tiberi and Utah’s Jason Chaffetz).

A recent FiveThirtyEight analysis noted, “If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years.”

(Benen)

—but does not account for three U.S. Senators and thirty-three Members of Congress who are simply not running for any office, nor nineteen leaving their House seats in search of statewide office.

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The Latest Pickup: Joseph diGenova

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)

Steve Benen suggests—

Obviously, diGenova’s track record of pushing strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television makes it difficult to take him seriously, but because Donald Trump is Donald Trump, the opposite is true in the White House: this president loves those who push strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television. The same qualities that make Joseph diGenova appear foolish in the eyes of the American mainstream are the very qualities that make him appealing to Trump.

Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, ca. 2016 (Image: C-SPAN)—and that is all well and fine insofar as it goes. One need not protest, though, in order to recall general questions of White House morale and who might wish to work for the Trump administration, and from there specifically point out that eventually there will only be diverse manners of true believers left to answer the call. In this context, Joe diGenova might not be the best man for the job—

For those who support the president and want him to succeed, none of this is good news. Trump is facing a serious scandal of historic significance, which may very well bring his presidency to a premature end. He needs the best legal defense possible.

I’m not sure he’s getting it. Trump—who already had to replace the former head of his legal team, who seemed completely out of his depth—has assembled a group of attorneys who haven’t necessarily served him especially well, and he’s now adding a conspiracy theorist whom the president probably saw on Fox News, peddling a strange tale with no basis in fact.

—but could well be the last best attorney to take up President Trump’s defense.

____________________

Image notes: Top —President Donald Trump. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)  Right — Attorney Joseph E. diGenova (Image: C-SPAN)

Benen, Steve. “Trump’s new defense attorney burdened by a controversial past”. msnbc. 19 March 2018.

Your Tweet of the Day: McCabe Memos

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid): "Republican source to me just now: 'The McCabe Memos are the new Pentagon Papers.' #MuellerTime" [via Twitter, 17 March 2018]

This is the thing about melodrama and hyperbole:

Republican source to me just now: “The McCabe Memos are the new Pentagon Papers.” #MuellerTime

Joy Reid

For all the times Republicans bawled about the Obama administration as a Watergate-valence scandal, it is easy enough to be wary of an invocation so spectacular as the Pentagon Papers. Nonetheless, we might recall that melodrama and hyperbole are precisely #WhatTheyVotedFor, even if it hurts who they voted for.

And this does not begin to account for the long Republican habit of challenging thresholds, because the hard part about explaining that is found in the aspect of what is appropriate or not to speculate, project, conclude, or otherwise say about our neighbors.

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A Quote: Kansas Cluck

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

“The KFC bucket came with a side of Republican panic.”

Hunter Woodall and Bryan Lowry

It takes two, or perhaps some occasions simply beg a hook in lieu of a lede, but still, Woodall and Lowry do eventually get around to such niceties ‘twixt cluckin’ buckets:

Anxiety over the GOP’s weakened grasp on Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which includes Topeka and Lawrence, was on full display during last month’s state party convention.

Kansas Congressional candidate Paul Davis [D-02]. (Photo: Associated Press)GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Republicans lack a clear front runner in the race to replace her, while Democrats have coalesced around Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker who won the district during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.

“If the election were held today, (there’s) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,” Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast.

He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district.

“We cannot elect Paul Davis,” Stieben said. “And he’s ahead. Wake up. We need your help.”

There is a great moment in which we might toss coins or play some obscure dice game to decide between “now more than ever”α, and why not pitch for one’s own anti-abortion group. This is, after all, Kansas.   (more…)

How Mitch Made It

#PutiPoodle | #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)

There is a question of whether political messaging is similar to sentiments regarding the periods in which humans have been recording audio or video, and the proposition that we should, as a society, have passed the threshold by which it seems plausible to say one did not say it when anyone in their right mind already knows there is a definitive recording of the very words one really did say. Perhaps it seems obscure, but twenty years ago, traditional Christianist evangelism faltered on the internet and required transformation in large part because countless repetition wore it thin, while myriad objections and retorts pelted traditional religionistic grifting into remission. At some point, then, we might wonder when the necromancy required to raise the dead horse in order to kill it and beat it to chum all over again becomes apparent to political audiences. NBC News brings the latest ouroboros ’round Republican mulberries:

Former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Sunday said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “watered down” a warning about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election and defended the Obama administration’s response to foreign meddling in the campaign.

The language in a September 2016 letter from congressional leaders to state election officials was drastically softened at McConnell’s urging, McDonough said in an exclusive interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” . . . .

. . . . Asked if it was watered down at the insistence of McConnell and only McConnell, McDonough responded, “yes.”

Or, as Steve Benen reminds:

The problem, of course, is that every time Trump World turns its attention to officials’ response to Russian intervention in 2016, we’re reminded that it wasn’t Barack Obama who was negligent—it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

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A Matter of Perspective (Poodlefinger Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

This is important:

When Donald Trump makes ridiculously untrue comments, few are surprised. The president has a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, which is well deserved. Making matters much worse, however, is the degree to which his White House makes no real effort to be more trustworthy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)For example, the White House issued a formal written statement late Friday responding to the federal indictment of 13 Russian operatives who are accused of attacking our elections to help put Trump in power. A Washington Post analysis described the statement as “extremely dishonest,” and documented several demonstrable falsehoods—none of which has been corrected.

But West Wing officials weren’t content to stop there. On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Unlike Obama, [Trump] isn’t going to be pushed around by Russia or anybody else.” That might be slightly less laughable if Obama hadn’t imposed sanctions on Russia, which is the opposite of what Trump did.

In a certain way it does not matter what the esteemed Steve Benen finds laughable. There is a long story, of course, behind the statement that, brain chemistry is brain chemistry, or that brain chemistry will as brain chemistry does, but the proposition of laughability depends on circumstantial norms observably not in effect.

When the Press Secretary says President Trump will not be “pushed around by Russia or anybody else”, we need to consider what that means to her. Because either Sarah Huckabee Sanders believes what she says or she does not. The latter is actually the extraordinary alternative, so the question becomes how she believes such a seemingly ridiculous statement.

And to this the answer is actually straightforward:

• President Trump will not be pushed around by Russia because Russia is not pushing him around.

• President Trump will not be pushed around by anybody else because he will not be pushed around by Congress or the Special Counsel’s Office.

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