Alex Wong/Getty Images

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…)

Advertisements

#DimensionTrump (#SpiceWorld)

#SpiceWorld | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks to the media during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 14 February 2017. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Two observations on Sean Spicer’s press briefing today:

• There is an interesting circle in the logic: Flynn did nothing illegal. In fact, he was doing his job. Uh-huh. Yeah. The job he didn’t have. Which, sure, makes it illegal. But it was his job, so it’s not illegal. He just lied about it, or forgot, or didn’t realize, or something like that. But it wasn’t illegal. It was his job. Which he didn’t have. No, really, I’m pretty certain that’s the pitch.

• Convincing … er … ah … somebody?anybody? … that President Trump makes his own decisions is really on the White House’s mind.

(more…)

The Donald Trump National Convention (Movin’ Right Along)

Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s worth noting that the New York Times headline, “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”, is rather quite generous.

Melania Trump earned praise for her speech on Monday at the opening night of the Republican National Convention, but her remarks almost immediately came under scrutiny when striking similarities were discovered between her speech and one delivered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic convention in 2008.

The phrases in question came when Ms. Trump―who told NBC News earlier Monday that she had written her speech herself―was discussing her upbringing in Slovenia and her parents.

(Haberman, Rappeport, and Healy)

On the upside, though, apparently Mrs. Trump’s dress was something of a hit; Bruna Nessif of E! reports that the $2,190 Roksanda “Margot” dress sold out in under an hour: “Now that’s how you make a fashion and political statement.”

Yeah, it’s a fabulous dress, and all, and a bunch of people apparently really did shell out nearly twenty-two hundred dollars per. And that’s the good news. All of it.

____________________

Image note: Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Haberman, Maggie, Alan Rappeport, and Patrick Healy. “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”. The New York Times. 19 July 2016.

Nessif, Bruna. “Melania Trump’s Dress Sells Out Less Than an Hour After Her Republican Convention Speech”. E! 18 July 2016.

The Jeb Bush Show (Fancy & Shame)

Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush waves after he spoke during the 'Road to Majority' conference June 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. Conservatives gathered at the annual event held by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America. (Detail of photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It would seem we were not the only ones who noticed.

Matthew Yglesias looked into the Jeb Bush’s suggestion of four percent GDP growth:

But 4 percent is not really a round number. The US economy grew faster than 2 percent in 2014, 2013, and 2012 and is projected by most economists to grow faster than 2 percent in 2015. Economists surveyed by the Associated Press, Politico, and the New York Times all doubted that 4 percent growth was achievable.

Wednesday, speaking in Iowa, Jeb defended the 4 percent target on the grounds that “aspirational goals” are important in politics.

According to James Glassman, Bush originally selected this goal at random, backed by zero substantive analysis of any kind:

That ambitious goal was first raised as Bush and other advisers to the George W. Bush Institute discussed a distinctive economic program the organization could promote, recalled James Glassman, then the institute’s executive director.

“Even if we don’t make 4 percent it would be nice to grow at 3 or 3.5,” said Glassman, now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In that conference call, “we were looking for a niche and Jeb in that very laconic way said, ‘four percent growth.’ It was obvious to everybody that this was a very good idea.”

No, really, is there any telling that doesn’t make the story sound incredibly stupid? As Howard Schneider and Steve Holland explained for Reuters, “Asked by Reuters during a campaign-style stop in New Hampshire on Thursday how he had arrived at the figure, Bush said: ‘It’s a nice round number. It’s double the growth that we are growing at. It’s not just an aspiration. It’s doable.'”

(more…)

The Bobby Jindal Show (Fake Super Funtime Sneak Pak Preview Peek Pass)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) speaks at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, 6 October 2014. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This takes a bit of work. Just a little, but, you know, still. Sorry. The hard part is trying to wrap your head around the idea that this is somehow real. Let us then start earlier this week. Jordan Weissmann of Slate picks up the tale:

While Kansas has become a strictly tragic cautionary tale about what happens when a politician actually tries to govern in line with radical conservative tax dogma, Louisiana is turning into more of a dark comedy. Coming into this year, the state was facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Unfortunately, Gov. Bobby Jindal—America’s spirit of hopeless presidential ambition incarnate—had signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise any taxes. This left lawmakers in a bit of a bind, since cutting their way to fiscal health would have meant decimating public health or higher education funding.

Last week, however, legislators ultimately passed a budget that raised hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue, sparing hospitals and colleges. Better yet, Jindal says he’ll sign it. So, how’d they square this circle?

With a mind-numbing budget gimmick, of course ....

.... Jindal created a fake fee for students, and a fake tax credit to balance it out, which ultimately leads to no money changing hands, but apparently satisfies whatever agreement Jindal struck with Norquist to preserve the illusion that he didn’t raise taxes. “It’s an embarrassing bill to vote for,” one Republican state representative told the New York Times, demonstrating the sort of candor that only becomes possible once your own party’s governor has alienated the vast majority of his state and abandoned all pretense of rational policymaking in pursuit of an inevitable also-ran performance in the GOP primary.

It really is futility. The Hopeless Clown has yet to officially jump into the race, but it has been clear to many that his mind isn’t on his work as Pelican State executive. When last we checked behind the scenes of the Bobby Jindal Show, the governor was posing for the national stage, hoping to enact a high profile bill by executive order after the legislature said no.

But wait … there’s more!

(more…)

A Good Day (Defense and Dignity Edition)

Then Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee 19 May 2011, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter

yeah, and don’t get me started on the word meritocracy ....

Huh? Oh.

Raise a glass to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday that gay and lesbian troops for the first time will be protected from discrimination by the same equal opportunity policy that protects other servicemembers.

Carter announced the change at the Pentagon’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride event.

The change ensures that gay and lesbian troops’ complaints about discrimination based on sexual orientation will be investigated by the Military Equal Opportunity program, the same office that handles complaints based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces,” Carter said.

(Vanden Brook)

I admit that after I outgrew childhood dreams of glory it really did become difficult to comprehend why anybody would want to be a soldier. Just sayin’. I mean, there are all sorts of jokes over the years; what was that one Doonesbury about signing up for the college benefits, not for a war? You know, that sort of thing. And it’s also true I have known families in which military service is traditional. But still, I don’t get it. What, would I join the military but only if I got to stay home and do paperwork instead of go fight and kill and maybe die?Transgender sign

Never mind. That’s me, and my own damn problem.

Reality, after all, doesn’t give a damn about what I wonder. People still apparently want to join the military.

We can certainly continue to fret about our estimated fifteen thousand transgendered service personnel; the armed forces can still kick them out for (ahem!) “health” reasons. But at the same time, a periodic policy review is underway, the Secretary seems to want to end the policy, and the services themselvs―including the Air Force―are leading the way by adding extra steps and requiring higher approval for those discharge processes.

That review is going to take a while; it is unfair to expect more good news next week, or next month. Maybe we can hope for substantive answers and substantial policy revisions next year, but in any question involving such bureaucracies, I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

But, you know. They’re on it.

And today was a good day.

Today brought something real and substantial.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

____________________

Image note: 19 May 2011: Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Vanden Brook, Tom. “Gay and lesbian troops will be protected by new Pentagon policy”. USA Today. 9 June 2015.

The Rand Paul Show (B-Roll Rules)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

It was enough to note Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) tiptoeing fake filibuster that was intended solely to grandstand and annoy his Republican colleagues. And then, of course, he moved on to trying to merchandise the stunt. We ought not, then, be surprised at the latest news from Bridget Bowman for The Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul has lauded his fight against a Patriot Act extension in his presidential campaign, but one campaign video appears to violate Senate rules.

Senate rules state, “The use of any tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for political campaign purposes is strictly prohibited.” But a video posted by the Kentucky Republican’s campaign Friday appears to violate that rule.

The video, titled “Rand Paul: Filibuster for the Fourth Amendment” lasts one minute and 19 seconds and has garnered nearly 1,000 views. It uses video footage and audio from his May 20 marathon speech on the Senate floor. The video utilizes roughly 20 seconds of video footage of Paul on the floor, and the audio of his speech is then used as b-roll footage of people on the phone and utilizing computers rolls. The audio is also heard as the video shows photos of “Stand with Rand” supporters posing with C-SPAN 2 on in the background as Paul gave his speech.

Because, you know, he’s Rand Paul. Maybe he’ll start his own Rules Committee.

____________________

Bowman, Bridget. “Rand Paul Campaign Video Appears to Violate Senate Rules”. The Hill. 31 May 2015.