Chris Cillizza

Passthrough (Presidential Potsherd)

#PresidentPotsherd | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“I assume ‘let’s blame Obama’ will become a popular rallying cry in far-right circles, because it’s vastly easier than dealing with the facts.”

Steve Benen

It is not quite correct to ask who is surprised. In truth, nobody ought to be surprised. Still, though, if we inquire, for the sake of some decent societal form, what brought on Mr. Benen’s line, well:

This week, the president has moved on to a new explanation: this is all Obama’s fault. USA Today reported this morning:

President Trump said that former president Barack Obama is “behind” the angry protests that have erupted at Republican town halls around the nation during an interview on the Fox News morning program Fox and Friends scheduled to air Tuesday morning.

“I think he is behind it,” Trump said when asked about Obama’s role in the protests. “I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.

“No, I think that President Obama is behind it,” Trump said, “because his people are certainly behind it and some of the leaks, possibly come from that group, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

This is, in many ways, the perfect Donald J. Trump Conspiracy Theory.

And this is the Donald J. Trump administration, after all.

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The Donald Trump Show (Boffo)

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

Again we hear the refrain wondering whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has finally gone too far. The answer, of course, is invested in who marks the threshold, and in the end voters have the final word, or so to speak. GOP consultant and fierce Trump critic Rick Wilson appears quite correct when he says a leaked conference call tells us the Trump Univesity lawsuit “really bothers” his party’s apparent nominee. And while Wilson’s critique that “there is no campaign” actually sounds about right under the circumstances―hint: more than the conference call, perhaps the msnbc article with the straightforward title, “Donald Trump does not have a campaign”, explains the problem better― NYT deputy Washington editor Jon Weisman is even more blunt: “The leaks in this boffo @bpolitics piece,” he tweets, “show @RealDonaldTrump doesn’t understand he’s playing in the majors now.”

And boffo fits well enough; the Bloomberg Politics piece describes a Monday conference call between Mr. Trump and prominent supporters:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

Which sounds about right, all things considered, except that’s when things start to go off the rails:

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

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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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Something About the House of Representatives

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01), promoting his budget agenda.

“After we finished our wine and chicken wings, I thought, ‘This is someone who isn’t inclined to do it but understands he could have that legacy as speaker if the circumstances were right’. That’s why it’s a live possibility.

Stephen Moore

How can anybody possibly resist that quote?

No, really, until Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01) makes some sort of move, either bowing to pressure or finding some other way to silence the groveling, this would appear to be the holding pattern. Paul Kane and Robert Costa peruse the tea leaves, and perhaps the next best indicator of what’s going on is another marvelous quote from their effort for Washington Post:

“There is a story in ‘The Book of Virtues’ called ‘Boy Wanted,’ ” said William J. Bennett, a former education secretary in the Reagan administration and a mentor to Ryan. “Boys want him; girls want him. That’s what’s happening to Paul. He also has a sense of duty to his family, to the things he knows, like the Ways and Means Committee.”

Yeah, good luck with that one.

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The Ben Carson Show (Liar)

Something about epistemic closure goes here. That is to say, here is another part of the Ben Carson Show―and, to a certain extent, a larger Republican motif and malady―that seems hard to comprehend in the context of how conservatives expect this part to work:

Amid a giant uproar over his comments on “Meet the Press” that he would be uncomfortable with a Muslim being elected president, Ben Carson is trying to recast what he said by using that most-convenient of scapegoats: the media.Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson officially launches his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in Detroit, Mich., on May 4, 2015. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Carson insisted Tuesday that he was talking about radical forms of Islam, not the religion more broadly. “It’s on the record on NBC. On ‘Meet the Press.’ Did anyone pick up on that? Of course not, because that wasn’t the juicy story,” he said at an event in Ohio.

And, you know, with a setup like that, there is only one place for Chris Cillizza to go:

So, Carson said what he said. (And, it appears to have won him plaudits from many on the right.) His blaming of the media is smart―he’ll get a double bounce from people who agree with him on a Muslim being president and from those who hate the media.

But, it’s just not accurate.

It’s a double death-pang, so to speak; a fierce voice for Christian advocacy wallows in sin. Dr. Carson would lie to us, and in order to turn his back on his own word.

Or, maybe, you know, he’s a politician.

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Image note: Source photo ― Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson officially launches his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in Detroit, Mich., on May 4, 2015. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Cillizza, Chris. “Sorry, Ben Carson, you weren’t misquoted about a Muslim president. That’s ridiculous.” The Washington Post. 22 September 2015.

A Glimpse Inside the Strange World Known As the House of Representatives

Centrist gavels for House Appropriations subcommittees.There are, of course, dramatic interpretations waiting for the pundits to pounce, but four House Appropriations chair assignments last week include the sort of trivia that actually tell us a bit about how our government works. David Hawkings of Roll Call detailed some of the significant aspects of the four assignments brought on by two resignations and the passing of Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL-13):

The altered assignments mean a changed membership for one-third of the group known all over Capitol Hill as the college of cardinals. The allusion to the power players of the Catholic Church is not only because of the significant unilateral power these chairmen have to reward or restrict federal agencies through subtle tugs on the federal purse strings. It also refers to their somewhat secretive code of conduct for rewarding colleagues in both parties who embrace the panel’s spending culture — and punishing those who don’t.

This latter code has frayed somewhat since earmarking became verboten and the GOP majority unified behind the goal of cutting the discretionary part of the budget that appropriators control. But it still remains solidly in force at the margins. And so — if a comprehensive omnibus spending package is going to be written to dictate spending for the 35 weeks after Jan. 15, when the current continuing resolution expires — the four new and repositioned chairmen, along with their eight colleagues, will each be called on to quickly bless hundreds of small trade-offs and compromises.

“Being an Appropriations cardinal is an incredibly important job with great responsibility,” said Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, because lawmakers must be “responsible and pragmatic leaders who get the job done.” That’s a rare characteristic in the total-budget-breakdown era of the moment.

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