Carlos Barria/Reuters

The Blind Chaos of Futility

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Somewhere between the joke about how conservatives in general cannot tell the difference, particular observations about the breathtaking naïveté we are supposed to believe about the Trump administration—

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday dodged questions about the existence of possible recordings of conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey.

Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)“I can’t comment on that,” Conway said on Fox News before moving to discuss other portions of Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier in the day.

Pressed twice more about the existence of possible tapes, Conway responded, “I can’t comment on that and actually the president himself has said he won’t comment any further on that.”

(Byrnes)

—we might find echoes of Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) point to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats when the latter decided he simply did not feel like answering: “You realize how simple it would be to simply say no, that never happened?”

(more…)

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#DimensionSteve (Narrative)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

We might take a moment now and then to observe the power of narrative, and it is fair enough to acknowledge there is nothing new if we take the note from Steve Benen of msnbc:

When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House and issues related to the Nazi Holocaust, the president and his team have made some unfortunate missteps. There was, for example, the ill-advised statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. A month later, the West Wing had an odd quarrel with the Anne Frank Center.

Today, however, Team Trump broke new ground.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, saying that even someone as “despicable” as the German dictator “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Asked moments later to clarify those remarks, Spicer, speaking from the White House podium, said that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them.”

Spicer went on to say Hitler brought people into “Holocaust centers.”

All of this, of course, unfolded from the White House podium during Passover.

Part of what makes this so remarkable is how obviously wrong Spicer was. One need not be a historian to know Hitler gassed Holocaust victims. The reference to “his own people” made an unfortunate mistake worse. As for Spicer describing Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” I honestly don’t know where to start.

(11 April 2017)

To the one, it really was an awkward circumstance even more unnerving to experience, even having heard or read about it. And, yes, the Press Secretary is a particularly unfortunate example of his office; Mr. Spicer can very much seem emblematic of Trump administration incompetence. There is no chic about Cheeky Spice’s reboot of the dignity of the office. There is, however, the added gravity of just how this White House has managed to create it’s own … er … ah … question about Jews. Of course, there is also this: We should not be surprised, although back then conventional wisdom thought going after Jews to their faces like that was a bad idea.

Still, though: If we call it a Kinsley gaffe, then what truth have we just glimpsed?

(more…)

Mundane Strangeness

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

This is one of those thing that … well, okay, so it is easy enough to get lost in the crashing waves of information tumbling across the land, as it is, but this is also the time of President Donald Trump, so we find ourselves suddenly having need for seemingly oxymoronic terms, such as mundane strangeness:

Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as agriculture secretary, has not yet been confirmed, and nobody knows why.

It’s not that Democrats are obstructing his confirmation—since changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule, they can’t block a Trump nominee unless they recruit three Republican “no” votes. And in the case of Perdue—unlike, say, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—they aren’t trying to do this. Nor are they resorting to extraordinary measures like the all-night debate that stalled Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation, or the committee walkouts that dramatized ethical issues hanging over the heads of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin or Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The reason the Senate hasn’t yet approved his nomination is that he hasn’t actually been officially nominated yet. Paperwork hasn’t yet traveled down from the executive branch to the Senate, so no hearings have been scheduled, even though Perdue does not appear to be a controversial nominee.

(Yglesias)

We should probably take the moment to clarify: If, for instance, we say that nobody knows what the problem is it isn’t so much a matter of political parsing as a matter of practicality. “They don’t seem to have a reason,” explained Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE), last week, “as to why his name hasn’t come up.” Perhaps someone in the Trump administration knows why; meanwhile, neither is the speculation absolutely raw.

(more…)

A Two-Bit Poseur

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Josh Gerstein, for Politico:

Licking their wounds after a stinging appeals court defeat, President Donald Trump’s aides went into triage mode Friday as they considered options for salvaging his contested travel ban for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

In two different venues Friday afternoon, Trump suggested that the White House is trying to redraft the order to strengthen it against legal challenges, which he expects the administration to continue to fight in court.

It would seem obvious that simply scrapping the former Order in favor of a new one would be the most efficient means of getting various intended restrictions into place. This is not, after all, the sort of thing where you can make headway simply thrashing and hammering over and over and over until judges grow weary of hearing about it and give over, anyway. Then again, this is the Trump administration, so, we ought not be surprised if they try. Meanwhile, among the various running theses out there chattering about what the Trump administration is actually up to, we should probably maintain some space to work a proposition of basic antisocial inclination. That is to say, this isn’t really about national security or even undocumented immigration. This is about taking satisfaction in cruelty, so as many times as the Trump administration can denigrate and offend the people they hate, they will.

And then there is always the countdown until someone says something to the effect of thinking about future presidents, and does anyone actually know the earliest in a term we’ve ever heard the line?

And remember, when the pieces don’t quite add up because, you know, why would any president so denigrate himself as Donald Trump does? Oh, right. Never mind. Could have had her, but uneducated, seething, simpering, terrified, brutish incompetence is #WhatTheyVotedFor. No, really. Remember that this ain’t over until it’s over, and in the meantime, given the range of options under the sun for an American president, it shouldn’t be hard for the handlers to convince a two-bit poseur to keep it up.

And every time someone suggest that sort of indifference to policy failure doesn’t make sense, remember every human being these policies spit on. Because that is the point, to simply spit and piss and yowl and hiss in order to offend and hurt as many people as they already don’t like or can find any excuse to add to the list. And if they get to stomp every once in a while, in between court dates and injunctions, all to the better. They know they cannot win over the long run; this president and his administration just want to hurt as many people as possible while they have the chance.

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Image note: Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters.

Gerstein, Josh. “Trump team plans a new executive order”. Politico. 10 February 2017.

Clown on Clown Debauchery

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), part of the U.S. Senate's 'Gang of Eight', speaks during a news briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)“Marco Rubio, again, looked like three small children stacked on each other’s shoulders wearing a suit. He spent much of the evening sparring with Ted Cruz over their respective positions on immigration. When he wasn’t doing that, he was repeating the same canned answers he gives to every question. Usually, a Rubio answer starts with an anecdote about his upbringing as the child of Cuban immigrants, then devolves into a blizzard of words that tickle the Republican g-spot―opportunity, America, great, unleash, America, capitalism, America―before his sentences just sort of meander into a nothingness of a point that lies flat on the ground, as if beaten into a coma by its own banality.”

Gary Legum

Honestly, covering the GOP debates is a bit of an exercise in frustration featuring the latest culmination of a long habit―possibly a deliberate tactic, once upon a time―in which one packs so much wrongness into a political statement that critics don’t know where to begin. Gary Legum, for instance, offers a review that is ostensibly about the proposition that there arrived a moment in the CNN spectacle when it was “almost possible to like Rand Paul”.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, 18 June 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Which, in turn, is a personal assessment; I might not get it, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Legum is wrong―in that moment when the Kentucky junior turned on the Governor of New Jersey apparently struck a chord.

But at the same time, the Salon article actually offers another point to consider: A Republican presidential debate occurred last night, and reading through the review the most profound response I can muster is to remember just how much I loathe the phrase, “That one moment when”.

I know, I know. Still, it’s the Republican presidential contest; we have every reason to pay attention, but at some point these candidates need to actually start running for president.

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Legum, Gary. “The GOP debate’s weirdest twist: That one moment where it was almost possible to like Rand Paul”. Salon. 16 December 2015.

The Rand Paul Show (Rumors and Exaggerations)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, 18 June 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)“Even if we put aside whether or not Paul is answering the question well, the issue is the existence of the question itself: competitive candidates who are performing well aren’t asked when they’re quitting.”

Steve Benen

You know, he’s kinda got a point.

What? What would you like me to quote, here? “Evidently, Bevin forgot that his third choice is supposed to be his first.” Valid point. Or, you know, maybe politics is just that cynical and everyone in Kentucky knows it. “A month before Kentucky voters choose a new governor, the Republican nominee joined Kentucky’s own presidential candidate – on a weekend – for a high-profile event. Just 50 people showed up?” Again, a valid point. Even more so, actually.Rand Paul 2016

And it just keeps coming. A sixty-four percent drop in fundraising for the campaign; opposition is switching to focus on Sen. Paul’s re-election campaign, as if his presidential bid is of no concern; he is hearing the actual question, even pressed so far as to explain, “I think the rumors of my demise are somewhat exagerated”, which never really is a good sign. When the headlines remind readers that a candidate is not dropping out, it’s not merely ominous. It’s an actual omen.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rand Paul Show.

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Image note: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the “Road to Majority” conference in Washington Jun. 18, 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “Rand Paul facing the question no candidate wants to hear”. msnbc. 5 October 2015.