Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Chuck Change

U.S. Capitol Police arrest protesters who were staging a sit-in in the office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Last week seems like, well, right. But it was all of a week ago we quoted without commment Patricia Murphy of Roll Call saying something about how the incoming president would need Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), “the rising Senate Democratic leader and the man poised to be a Clinton consiglieri or Trump’s not-so-loyal opposition”. Shoulda, coulda, doesn’t matter woulda said something, you know? Because, a headline today from The Hill tells us, “Protesters block Schumer’s office, call for new leadership”, and, you know, why not?

Meanwhile, Roll Call runs a bland, informative headline, but stings in the sub with, “Protesters chant for Schumer to ‘grow a spine,’ step aside for Sanders or Warren”.

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What They Voted For: Repeal & Replace

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who: Steve Benen (msnbc)
What: “Trump hedges on health care, points to ‘amending’ ACA”
When: 11 November 2016

Via msnbc:

Donald Trump doesn’t have any background in health care policy, and throughout the presidential campaign, he never demonstrated any interest in learning the basic details. The Republican knew he hated “Obamacare”―though it was never altogether clear why―and committed to the law’s repeal, but beyond that, Trump’s position was largely hollow.

At one point, pressed on his specific position, Trump vowed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with “something terrific”―without making any effort to explain what that “something” might be or how it’d be “terrific.”

Today, Trump talked to the Wall Street Journal, where the president-elect said something about health care that’s quite a bit different from his previous rhetoric ....

.... Specifically, Trump talked about keeping protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their family plans until they’re 26.

The president-elect told the Journal, “I like those very much.”

Trump went on to say that, as part of his lengthy meeting with the president, Obama pointed to specific provisions of the ACA that are worth preserving. “I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that,” Trump said, adding that the law “will be amended, or repealed and replaced.”

You’ll notice that “amended” is a new addition to Trump’s health care vernacular.

We might wonder, when it turns out that President Trump is not simply just another disappointment, but, rather, a stellar failure compared to any pretense of expectation his voters might have been stupid enough to believe, whether those people will be unable to countenance their own failures or simply blame others for the mere fact of a Trump administration.

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Image note: Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

Benen, Steve. “Trump hedges on health care, points to ‘amending’ ACA”. msnbc. 11 November 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Telltale Taxes)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is one of those things that has just been bugging me, even though it’s kind of moot. Well, okay, work with me, here. Let us, first, rewind.

It was arguably one of the most important moments of this week’s presidential debate. Hillary Clinton was speculating about why Donald Trump would choose to be the first modern American presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. “Maybe,” she said, “he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Unprompted, Trump interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”

A Washington Post reporter, watching the debate with undecided voters in North Carolina, noted there were “gasps” in the room after the exchange. “That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” one said. “Another person would be in jail for that,” another voter added.

Steve Benen’s telling of the tale is not unfamiliar; indeed, his formulation of the moment is not unique, because it reads a little better that way, like a one-two. But it is also inaccurate, as is any telling in which Hillary Clinton sets up Donald Trump by saying, “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Hillary Clinton did say that. And as part of the setup. But this telling gives Donald Trump a bit of wiggle room, which Benen, in turn, aims to debunk:

Perhaps now would be a good time to note that “That makes me smart” and “That would make me smart” are not the same sentences.

Indeed, let’s also not forget that in the same debate, Trump talked about how the government doesn’t have the necessary resources for public needs. “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years,” Clinton interjected. Trump fired back, “It would be squandered, too.”

As we discussed the other day, the comment was striking because of its apparent acceptance of the underlying premise. By saying his tax money would have been “squandered,” Trump seemed to be conceding that Clinton’s argument was correct: he hasn’t paid taxes.

That analysis responds to Donald Trump’s appearance on FOX News two days after the debate:

O’REILLY: Okay. And those of us in Manhattan know that’s true. Now, they are going to come after you, they being the Clinton campaign, on the statement that you made that you were as smart for paying as few taxes as you could possibly pay. You know it’s going to be in the next debate, it’s going to be on campaign ads. Do you have any defense for that right now?

TRUMP: No. I didn’t say that. What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.

O’REILLY: Right.

Right there, you see Donald Trump lying and Bill O’Reilly helping him: “I didn’t say that”, Donald Trump explained of saying he was smart to not pay taxes. “What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.” And this is what Benen picked out, and he is exactly correct insofar as the point goes: “Perhaps now would be a good time to note that ‘That makes me smart’ and ‘That would make me smart’ are not the same sentences.”

O’Reilly teed the point up again:

O’REILLY: All right. I’m Hillary Clinton in the next debate. And I say to you what she said yesterday in North Carolina. Hey, if is he not going to pay any taxes and he thinks that’s smart, what does that make us? We pay taxes. Are we stupid? How are you going to answer that?

TRUMP: Well, first of all―first of all, I never said I didn’t pay taxes. She said maybe you didn’t pay taxes and I said well, that would make me smart because tax is a big payment. But I think a lot of people say that’s the kind of thinking that I want running this nation.

O’REILLY: Okay.

Note they are using the same narrative Benen did. So, here’s the thing about stylistics and narrative: Sometimes tailoring for the punch actually weakens the narrative. And this time, the tailoring hands Donald Trump his talking point.

What Hillary Clinton actually said, and how Donald Trump actually responded:

CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

(Washington Post)

The thing is that Hillary Clinton really did say, “maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes”. And then she said, “because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax”. And that is when Donald Trump said, “That makes me smart.”

Telling the story the way Steve Benen and Donald Trump alike tell it overlooks a specific point: Certes, there is a difference ‘twixt, “That makes me smart” and, “That would make me smart”. But what did Donald Trump actually respond to?

CLINTON: … the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

In this telling, Donald Trump doesn’t get to rely on “maybe”. He acknowledged Secretary Clinton’s argument. Despite his protestations and Mr. O’Reilly’s agreement, Donald Trump really did say paying no federal income tax makes him smart.

And while the latest absurd chapter illuminated by the New York Times pretty much renders last week’s maybe moot it still seems worth pointing out.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Barstow, David, et al. “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

Benen, Steve. “Has Donald Trump paid federal taxes or not?”. msnbc. 29 September 2016.

Blake, Aaron. “The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript, annotated”. The Washington Post. 26 September 2016.

O’Reilly, Bill. “Interview with Donald Trump”. The O’Reilly Factor. Transcript. FOX News. 28 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Business Acumen)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Trump hiring Steve Bannon might go down as the worst campaign hire of all time.”

Eric Kleefeld

This is a point worth considering.

First off, it opened up the field for Hillary Clinton’s blistering speech yesterday against the alt-right, as well as the Clinton campaign’s other attacks linking Trump to not just Breitbart, but to Klansmen and other sundry white supremacists.

Next, the Trump campaign’s clumsy efforts to deny its alt-right connections has become utterly impossible. In the latest example, Trump himself got tripped up by Anderson Cooper. After the candidate claimed, “Nobody even knows what it is … this is just a term that was given that—frankly, there’s no alt-right or alt-left.” Cooper had only to point out that Bannon himself proclaimed Breitbart to be the voice of the alt-right. Trump’s reply: “I don’t know what Steve said.”

Certainly, it makes for a neatly-packaged talking point to call Donald Trump the candidate of the internet trolls, but the label also happens to be true. And in that context, there really is a method to the madness.

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¿Normalization?

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.

The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”

The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”

What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.

This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.

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The Donald Trump Show (Sacrifice of the Intellect)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is―

Has Donald J. Trump become a born-again Christian?

That is the suggestion of James C. Dobson, one of America’s leading evangelicals, who said Mr. Trump had recently come “to accept a relationship with Christ” and was now “a baby Christian.”

Dr. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and one of the country’s most prominent social conservatives, gave his account at a meeting Mr. Trump had in New York on Tuesday with hundreds of Christian conservatives.

In an interview recorded at the event by a Pennsylvania pastor, the Rev. Michael Anthony, Dr. Dobson said he knew the person who had led Mr. Trump to Christ, though he did not name him.

“I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long,” Dr. Dobson said. “I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”

(Gabriel and Luo)

―you know, I don’t know. It’s fucking pathetic, is what it is.

Look, if this naïveté is the bounty of faith―no, really, pick your punch line. How about, I’m glad I called bullshit and walked away decades ago/ Maybe, Why would anybody want to be like them? Oh, hey, I got it: Why are we still paying attention?

I get that these people are desperate, but the capacity for self-delusion among conservative Christians is emblematic of self-inflicted human frailty.

And while “the dumbest thing James Dobson ever said” is kind of like trying to pick the best rock song ever recorded by surveying an 80s catalog, or the best movie ever made by scrolling through free cable on demand, the craven idiocy of trying to justify Donald Trump is itself a spectacle; “baby Christian”, though, is an all-time great.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Gabriel, Trip an Michael Luo. “A Born-Again Donald Trump? Believe It, Evangelical Leader Says”. The New York Times. 25 June 2016.

A Tumble Down the Clown Hole

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“It seems that with the arrival of a bullshit artist like Trump, bullshit has wholly conquered the Republican party. Which is not to say that that Republicans haven’t been duplicitous for a long time, which they have. But this dishonesty has become more and more blatant, as if they’ve come to realize that their base is either too ignorant to realize or too angry to care.”

Conor Lynch

The only thing that feels weird about that quote is the nagging feeling that it really isn’t a bunch of words wasted repeating the obvious. Because it’s like a bartender metaphor: Sounds like everybody’s problem, buddy. Except if it really was everybody’s problem, why would nobody be doing anything about it? If we run ’round the cycle enough times, the whole thing about civilization and suicide pacts starts to assert itself without actually saying anything.

But if for a moment it seems Conor Lynch is telling us something we already know, the next question is why it still plays in Peoria. Proverbially. Or, you know, maybe even literally. Because clearly this isn’t common knowledge, yet. Or else, perhaps it is, but it’s just not everybody’s problem.

Seriously, there will come a point at which we must entertain the proposition that the jaw-dropping insanity, at least, is what people want. But even that would spill over with a manner of cognitive dissonance. Chaos is as chaos does, but chaos also reflects its constraints. There is a reason this insanity and chaos plays, and that really should be a problem.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch, Conor. “Rise of the GOP bullsh***ers: How the electoral process has been overwhelmed by lies & untruths”. Salon. 14 December 2015.

A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

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The Ben Carson Show (And Your Mother, Too!)

“They tell you that there’s a war on women. There is no war on women. There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.” ―Dr. Ben Carson

So, you know, we finally got around to making up a quote image for Dr. Ben Carson’s wonderful war inside women gaffe.

Because, like, you know. You care. Or something.

And, you know, because if people are going to read, they tend to need pictures, too, these days. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to socmed another freaking cat video, why not this?

Because, you know, sure, why not? I mean, look, I’m not going to knock sports fans. But in truth, if most of the sports fans I know paid half as much attention to, you know … er, look, okay? I know. I come from a football family. And I get it. Sports really do affect our lives.

But compared to elections? Yeah, I know, maybe the trade seems inexplicable, giving up prospects when there’s no way it’s going to pay off five years down the road, but I am a father, goddamn it! Yeah, I like championship trophies and hoisting pints to victory as much as the next, but you know what I like even more? A world in which creepy old men aren’t declaring war on my daughter’s insides.

And by the juxtaposition, it is worth pointing out that those of us who have better awareness of the political farm leagues than, say, the baseball version from which we take the term, are slightly awestruck today as more evidence emerges that the Republican establishment is afraid of what might be about to happen. But that also throws the political calculus of what happens when and if Donald Trump actually does crash and burn the way the conventional wisdom once believed he must; Dr. Carson would, given the apparent mood among Republican voters at this moment, be a more likely nominee than, say, Jeb Bush.

And in the time you wasted reading my halfwitted justification for wasting it, you could have grabbed that image and sent it to a friend who probably needs it either for their own benefit, or as something to send to someone they know.

I mean, really. I have a daughter. And, you know, a mother. And lots and lots of friends and neighbors who just happen to be female. And not a one of them needs Ben Carson’s goddamn war inside their bodies.

And, you know, “Some of my friends are women!” hardly makes me special. Indeed, for the most part it makes me just like you.

Admit it. You know someone who needs to be paying attention right about now.

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Image note: Source photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, 2015.

Johnson, Eliana. “The Establishment Thinks the Unthinkable: Trump Could Win the Nomination”. National Review. 19 October 2015.

A Moment with House Democrats

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD05).  (Detail of photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

This is interesting; well, at least the way Mike Lillis tells it for The Hill:

House Republicans seeking new leadership posts in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) resignation should not expect help from Democrats, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Tuesday.

“The Republicans are going to have to decide this on their own,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “I don’t think there’s a great role for us to play in this.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the favorite to replace Boehner when he steps down on Oct. 30, is thought to have the 124 GOP votes needed to win his party’s nomination ahead of the vote scheduled for Thursday.

But some conservatives are predicting McCarthy doesn’t have the 218 Republican supporters needed to finalize the process on the House floor.

And there really is a compelling question, there. Can Democrats use Republican fractures in order to wield some influence over, say, Speaker McCarthy? Ostensibly, they intend to support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12), and why not? Stranger things can happen, and in order to make that case we need only present the phrase Speaker of the House Ben Carson.

Mr. Hoyer, it would seem, prefers cautious wisdom; there really is no point in guessing until the House GOP makes up its own mind: “The Republicans are going to have to decide this on their own.”

Fun, fun.

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Image note: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD05). (Detail of photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Cahn, Emily. “DeSantis: Forget President, How ‘Bout Ben Carson for Speaker?” Roll Call. 30 September 2015.

Lillis, Mike. “Hoyer: GOP ‘on their own’ picking leaders”. The Hill. 6 October 2015.