Andrew Kaczynski

Carter Page

#NoPuppetNoPuppet | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

This is Carter Page. Honestly, it is pretty much what it looks like. The headlines can tell you quite a bit, and either read along or don’t; there is a lot there, and the tale really is as clumsy and ridiculous as it seems.

• Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

• Ioffe, Julia. “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow”. Politico. 23 September 2016.

• Nechepurenko, Ivan. “Carter Page, Ex-Trump Adviser With Russian Ties, Visits Moscow”. The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

• Schwarz, Jon. “Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton”. The Intercept. 15 February 2017.

• Woodruff, Judy. “Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year”. News Hour. 15 February 2017.

• Reilly, Steve. “Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”. USA Today. 2 March 2017.

• Helsel, Phil. “Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador”. NBC News. 3 March 2017.

• Herridge, Catherine, Pamela K. Browne, and Christopher Wallace. “Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page rips ‘false narrative’ on Russia collusion”. FOX News. 30 March 2017.

• Ross, Brian and Matthew Mosk. “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page targeted for recruitment by Russian spies”. ABC News. 4 April 2017.

• Groll, Elias. “Russian Spy Met Trump Adviser Carter Page and Thought He Was an ‘Idiot'”. Foreign Policy. 4 April 2017.

• Kaczynski, Andrew. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page says he didn’t disclose Russian spy contacts to campaign”. CNN. 5 April 2017.

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The Donald Trump Show (Total Devastation)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), at left, joins Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump during a press event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday, 1 March 2016. Christie, who suspended his own presidential campaign in February has been widely ridiculed for endorsing Trump.

“A spokesman for Christie denied he was a manservant.”

Andrew Kaczynski

Two important points:

• Do you really want to know what that sentence means?

• Okay, look, the thing I still can’t figure out about the phantom candidate conspiracy theory is why. Still, though, it occurs to wonder at the actual reason Donald Trump has every appearance of trying to destroy the Republican Party. The bizarre bits and pieces we hear about Chris Christie seem nearly emblematic. Whatever hell the New Jersey governor’s reputation had already discovered one wonders at the penance of such humiliation in Donald Trump’s shadow. That the Republican nominee apparent is so vicious is beyond doubt, but what does Mr. Christie think he’s doing? Or Republicans, for that matter? The RNC, many congressional Republicans, and various prominent voices in the conservative discourse seemed to shrug and roll, shuffling in line behind their party’s primary winner. And then what happened? Look at what Donald Trump is doing to conservatives. This is astounding. This is unimaginable. This is your Republican Party, and if it wasn’t for the fact that they were Republicans we probably ought to pity them right about now. I mean, sure, for a lot of the rest of us our diverse grievances against and disputes with Donald Trump are pretty clear, but what the hell did the GOP do to piss him off this badly?

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Kaczynski, Andrew. “Scott Brown Says He Won’t Fetch Trump’s McDonalds Like Christie (Reportedly) Did”. BuzzFeed. 15 June 2016.

Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

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The Ben Carson Show (Passing)

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct.” (Dr. Ben Carson, 2012)

The Ben Carson phenomenon might well be passing; having emerged as a social conservative frontrunner, displacing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of the race, as well as the perennial Pennsylvania tantrum otherwise known as Rick Santorum, and comic relief upstart Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom should consider following the Cowardly Badger off the field.

It was only two weeks ago that Rich Lowry toddled over from his corner at National Review to explain for Politico why Dr. Carson is “the superior outsider”.

Carson’s rise suggests that it’s possible to catch the populist wave roiling Republican politics and yet not be an obnoxious braggart who abuses anyone who crosses him and will say or do anything as long as he’s getting attention. Ben Carson is a superior outsider to Donald Trump.

He is more gentlemanly and more conservative, with a more compelling life story. Carson is a man of faith who, despite his manifest accomplishments, has a quiet dignity and winsome modesty about him. Ben Carson is a throwback, whereas Donald Trump is a bold-faced name straight out of our swinish celebrity culture.

Then again, this is the same Rich Lowry who wrote the now-obscure rave review of Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice presidential debate performance, and we needn’t wonder why the National Review editor would rather that one be hard to find. And there is, of course, a reason we note Mr. Lowry’s poor judgment.

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What Passes for … er … ah … Something … in Oklahoma

Mao (left), and Suou react to July (not pictured) in Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 9, 'They Met One Day Unexpectedly ...'.

“I know a lot of people, actually a lot of people who are friends of mine in the gay community, who also think it was a bad decision.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

No, really.

Seriously, is there anything we can possibly add?

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Kaczynski, Andrew. “Republican Sen. James Inhofe: My Gay Friends Think Court Ruling Was Bad”. BuzzFeed. 27 June 2015.

The Iowa Question

Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-12)

Retrospect. Hindsight. We should have seen this coming. All of that. But the thing about the clarity of hindsight is that every once in a while, we might feel compelled to pause and ask ourself why certain things are expected.

For instance, Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R-12). What’s that? She’s a plagiarist? Well … right. Should have seen that one coming. Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir of BuzzFeed posted the seemingly inevitable lede:

Passages of local paper pieces under Ernst’s name appear to have been copied word for word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate.

The Ernst campaign responded by arguing that the copied materials were produced specifically to be compied as if they were a person’s own work.

If it seems reasonable enough to argue that Gov. Terry Brandstad’s “Condition of the State” address in 2012 was intended to be reproduced by fellow Republicans as if it was their own writing, well, that covers plagiarism.

But it doesn’t cover one’s inability to convey their own thoughts and feelings.

Ken Rozenboom, one of several state senators who published articles with text identical or nearly identical to Ernst’s told BuzzFeed News that the common language was drawn from summaries of the week’s events sent to members of the Senate Republican caucus by their communications team.

“Some … use them in their entirety, some use tidbits,” he said, noting the summaries sent were meant to be used as guidelines.

Another state senator, Sen. Michael Breitbach said, “I write my own. I don’t know what they do.”

Gregory Orear, editor of Red Oak Express, one of the newspapers that ran the suspect columns, explained that he “wouldn’t be shocked”, as he considers them “bottom of the barrel” editorials. “I’m sure some of it was cut and pasted,” he told Buzzfeed. “It’d be nice if she had her own thoughts in it.”

Any number of punch lines suggest themselves, here.

Meanwhile, the nation waits with bated breath as election day approaches. Will Iowa send seditious incompetence to the U.S Senate for the sake of a parenthetic note? That is, if the winning argument is that Joni Ernst’s name is followed by an “(R)”, well, frankly there would be many around the nation who just aren’t surprised.

Iowa, we’re looking in your direction.

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Kaczynski, Andrew and Ilan Ben-Meir. “Iowa Republican Copied And Pasted Passages In Newspaper Dispatches”. BuzzFeed. 29 October 2014.

Arkansas? (Really?)

Arkansas

What the hell is wrong with Tom Cotton?

It would seem the Congressman from Arkansas’ Fourth Congressional District is so desperate for a U.S. Senate seat that he will aid and abet terrorism in order to do so.

Does that sound a little strange? Well enough; it ought to. Andrew Kaczynski brings the underlying lede:

An ad from Republican Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton about his military experience and national security issues uses footage from an ISIS propaganda video as B-roll.

And Steve Benen brings the blistering critique:

In recent months, most of the Republicans incorporating ISIS propaganda into their commercials have relied on the ISIS video in which James Foley was murdered. Foley’s family has pleaded not to even watch the footage, but in a few cases, politicians on the right have ignored those wishes ....

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4), candidate for United States Senate, is willing to help Daa'ish in order to win..... I honestly never thought I’d see the day. Far-right politicians, eager to seem “tough” on terror, are deliberately putting terrorists’ propaganda on the air, on purpose, to advance their personal ambitions.

Keep in mind, there’s no shortage of available footage that the Republican campaign could have included in the commercial. There’s plenty of background video of combat in the Middle East, for example, which Cotton could have used to make the same point.

But, no. Cotton instead used ISIS propaganda, putting the same footage on the air that the terrorists want to see on the air.

And while Benen might wonder about who on the campaign thought this was a good idea, there is perhaps a more important question.

Really, Arkansas? This is okay with you?

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