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Rudy’s Bizarre Adventure

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 19 July 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

In truth, the problem with calling Rudy Giuliani the gift that keeps on giving is not the fact of its politic, but, rather the disaster that statement represents. Caroline Orr, for instance, noted yesterday—

Speaking about the Mueller probe, Rudy Giuliani tells Judge Jeanine: “Maybe they think Manafort’s somebody they can flip faster.”

… hence implying that Manafort has incriminating evidence on Trump that would give him leverage to flip.

—and that ought to be hilarious except for the fact that it is real. And toward a certain political objection we might simply note that regardless of aesthetics and sincerely held beliefs, there really are investigations afoot, and one of President Trump’s attorneys really is putting on some extraordinary manner of flaming excremental spectacle.

The lede from Zeke Miller for Associated Press is striking insofar as it is a lawyer saying it instead of some conservative pundit on cable news—and, sure, go ahead and make the obvious point about Rudy Giuliani as a pundit, but what, really, is anyone to actually do with it?—but then we also face the prospect that this is an attorney for the President of the United States, which ought to be significant in and of itself even before begging the question of a sitting president pleading the Fifth:

President Donald Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, won’t rule out the possibility that the president would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the swirling Russia investigation.

“How could I ever be confident of that?” the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Giuliani said despite Trump’s openness to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller, he would strongly advise Trump against it.

“I’m going to walk him into a prosecution for perjury like Martha Stewart?” Giuliani said. Stewart was convicted in 2004 of lying to investigators and obstruction in an insider trading case.

Giuliani suggested that Trump wouldn’t necessarily comply with a subpoena from Mueller, but he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the president sitting for an interview with Mueller.

“He’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani said. “We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”

That last is, technically, true; many critics will rightly point out it is also functionally meaningless; asserting privilege is different from actually exercising them insofar as one must make the assertion stick, and history does in fact seem clear on this point, which in turn means invoking and asserting a constitutional right: The President of the United States will not convey any true information that would incriminate him.    (more…)

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A Necessarily Inevitable Point

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

What seems most bothersome about the so-called email scandal is the number of people who ought to have known better, by which we ought to mean among those pretending to be shocked and appalled. Matt Yglesias phrases it delicately for Vox: “The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign”.

Because Clinton herself apologized for it and because it does not appear to be in any way important, Clinton allies, surrogates, and co-partisans have largely not familiarized themselves with the details of the matter, instead saying vaguely that it was an error of judgment and she apologized and America has bigger fish to fry.

This has had the effect of further inscribing and reinscribing the notion that Clinton did something wrong, meaning that every bit of micro-news that puts the scandal back on cable amounts to reminding people of something bad that Clinton did. In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.

This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election―overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way.

When all is said and done, who else do we treat this way? Who else would tolerate a quarter-century of this? Who else could endure it yet still find ways to flourish? Seriously, they can even tell us it’s bullshit, and there is still a market sector anxious to gobble it up like manna from Heaven.

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Image note: Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press.

Yglesias, Matthew. “The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign”. Vox. 4 November 2016.

Your Quote of the Day: Murphy on Trumptastic Genius

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)“Trump is a genius at stepping on his own messaging, and I don’t think there’s a force on Earth, at least without heavy weaponry, that can ever separate Trump from his ability to tweet. I think everybody in that campaign is trying to pry the smartphone away from him, and it’ll never happen.”

―Mike Murphy, 4 October 2016

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Image note: Detail of photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

A Little Light Reading

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, 12 January 2016.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci/Pool)

A’ight, that’s it.

More constructively, Josh Lederman and Kathleen Hennessey of Associated Press have filed a story that counts well among the things that make you go, Hmm....

President Barack Obama called off a planned meeting Tuesday with new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, seeking distance from a U.S. ally’s leader during a diplomatic tour that’s put Obama in close quarters with a cast of contentious world figures.

It’s unusual for one president to tell another what to say or not say, and much rarer to call the other a “son of a bitch.” Duterte managed to do both just before flying to Laos for a regional summit, warning Obama not to challenge him over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

That would be part one, but the original URL for the story is a serial number and the phrase “obama-putin-agree-continue-seeking-deal-syria”. The first ten paragraphs go to the “bizarre rift” Rodrigo Duterte has apparently invoked ‘twixt himself and Barack Obama.

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The Clown Car Collective

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

“It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Republican presidential hopefuls, who at least claimed to be outraged by last week’s CNBC debate, suddenly discovered the power of collective bargaining.”

Steve Benen

It is never actually useful to make such declarations after the fact, but come on, who doesn’t see that quote and experience an internal sigh of relief akin to, “Yeah, so I’m not the only one who noticed”?

And you know how it goes. You cock your head, or raise an eyebrow, and when you look around nobody else seems to be reacting, so, you know, maybe you’ve got it wrong.

Whatever. Never mind.

The moral of the story, Steve Benen’s tale, inasmuch as we might risk using the word “moral” in any context remotely related to Republicans, is actually pretty straightforward, and thus pretty much what you might expect:

Putting aside for a moment whether the list had merit―it didn’t―the underlying point was that candidates believed they could leverage their power by acting together. After all, without them, there could be no debates―networks would be expected to meet the Republicans’ demands, fearing that the candidates simply wouldn’t show up unless they were satisfied ....

.... But revolts like these only work when compatriots link arms, and in this case, Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz―constituting a third of the Republican field―have each said they’re not endorsing the demands.

This is a really important point. Conservative policies often seem hostile toward the collective consideration in any collective endeavor. To wit, there is a reason so many of their policies require that some people be left out, excluded from the benefit. And this is always couched in a selfish appeal. And when the underlying motivation is a Machiavellian assertion of self, working and playing well with others is behavior only cultivated for calculated purpose. That is to say, if conservatives seem to face extraordinary inherent challenges when attempting or purporting to work together, yes, there is a reason for that.

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Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “GOP debate rebellion starts to unravel”. msnbc. 4 November 2015.

Your Chyron of the Day

'Greek Love Gone Wrong?' (CNBC, 9 February 2015)

Seriously, how can anyone expect me to pass that moment in human history without noticing? I mean, sure, it’s there; no point in accurately claiming I didn’t put the television to CNBC in the first place―it doesn’t matter. There is a confluence of events, and for some reason the Universe sent me a treat today.

If you need this one explained, don’t worry about it; you probably wouldn’t appreciate the explanation, anyway.

But, yes, really. They went with that one.

Treasures of the marketplace.

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Image note: Detail of framegrab from CNBC, 9 February 2015.