dysfunction

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?”

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Terrific (On the Rocks)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, joined by HHS Secretary Tom Price (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) explains his intention to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, 24 March 2017, at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by The Washington Post)

Robert Pear runs for the New York Times under the headline, “Pushing for Vote on Health Care Bill, Trump Seems Unclear on Its Details”. And the detail there, in turn:

After two false starts on President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration officials are pressing the House to vote on a revised version of the Republican repeal bill this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, administration officials said.

And Mr. Trump insisted that the Republican health legislation would not allow discrimination against people with pre-existing medical conditions, an assertion contradicted by numerous health policy experts as well as the American Medical Association.

“Pre-existing conditions are in the bill,” the president said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’”

Steve Benen adds, for msnbc:

When Dickerson pressed Trump on whether he’s prepared to “guarantee” protections to those with pre-existing conditions, the president replied, “We actually have – we actually have a clause that guarantees.”

There is no such clause. The Republican bill guts benefits for consumers with pre-existing conditions, clearing the way for states to do the exact opposite of what Trump said yesterday. (GOP leaders have been reduced to telling worried lawmakers that most states won’t take advantage of the option, but under the Republican blueprint, the financial pressure on states to roll back protections like these would be significant.)

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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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A Brief Note on Reality

President Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast on Sept. 7. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

“It’s a fact that unemployment has gone down and the stock market has gone up during the Obama administration. But GOP voters treat these things more as issues of opinion than issues of fact.”

Dean Debnam

It seems worth mentioning.

And while it’s one thing to rely on Benen, and another to sit so sternly on such a reliably obvious point―

If GOP voters want to make the case that Obama’s policies don’t deserve credit, fine. If they want to argue that there are other, more important metrics than unemployment and the stock market, no problem. If they want to suggest things would be even better if the country had adopted a right-wing agenda, we can at least have the conversation.

But the polling suggests Republicans prefer to pretend reality just isn’t true. It’s as if a form of cognitive dissonance is kicking in: the president is bad, falling unemployment is good, ergo unemployment must be higher, not lower.

―perhaps the problem here is the unfortunate regularity of Republican reliance on the “reality gap”.

And if the syllogism seems clumsy to the point of being nonsensical, yes, that is actually the point.

Yes, really. This is what Republicans have come to.

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The Carcharodon, Leapt

Credit: Reuters/Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/HBO/Salon

Oh, for ....

In the first three books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (and four seasons of the show),

Tyrion has a trajectory that might sound awfully familiar to Obama: He’s a bright and charming man who is nonetheless looked down upon by people who are a lot stupider than he is because they are prejudiced against people who look like him. Despite these obstacles, Tyrion rises high in government, taking on the highest executive office in Westeros, with the title of the Hand of the King. His job as the executive is to rein in an economic crisis as well as deal with an unnecessary war, all while trying to manage a bratty king named Joffrey.

Tyrion does an excellent, if imperfect job, despite these overwhelming circumstances, helping stave off an invasion and deal with other political crises. Despite his hard work and many successes, many in the kingdom continue to hate Tyrion irrationally, calling him a “demon monkey” and blaming him for catastrophes brought on by the king, catastrophes that Tyrion has actually gone out of his way to fix. In the end, this public’s desire to scapegoat him leads to Tyrion’s downfall, as he is blamed for the king’s murder, which he didn’t commit, and has to escape unjust execution under the cover of darkness.

If you substitute “the president” for “Hand of the King,” “the Republicans” for “King Joffrey,” and “secretly born in Kenya” for “demon monkey,” the parallels between Tyrion and Obama are downright startling. Like Tyrion, Obama walked into office with a military crisis and an economic disaster on his hands. Like Tyrion, his efforts to fix things get stymied at every turn by forces that oppose him for political reasons. Like Tyrion, he had a major military victory (killing Osama bin Laden) and domestic victories that prevented suffering, but many refuse to give him credit. Like Tyrion, Obama gets blamed by huge numbers of people who have preexisting prejudices about him, who would rather blame someone they irrationally hate than the truly guilty parties.

It is not so much a question of whether Amanda Marcotte is right or wrong; rather, it is simply a matter of, “Oh, come on!”

And it is true that societies witness and take part in transformations of myth, occasionally retiring one here or there while scrabbling perpetually to create new ones. As Barkerα reminds, nothing ever begins. History, meanwhile, will eventually show this particular mythopoeic play more a question of waterskiing in a leather jacket.

Well, you know, if history bothers noticing this one at all.

This is an important question: If life imitates art so much that we shape our decisions in order to create and align mythopoeia that, circularly, it reflects and reinforces itself, at what point have leapt the carcharodon?

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What Your Republican Neighbors Want

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem – especially for someone who would like to be the leader of the free world in 22 months.”

Steve Benen

Yes, it really does come to this.

And do be certain to thank your Republican neighbors; this sort of petulant ignorance and dangerous incoherence is exactly what they voted for.

____________________

Benen, Steve. “Iran policy trips up Rand Paul”. msnbc. 16 March 2015.

What They Voted For

TedCruz-bw-banner

One of the hammers that has yet to drop after the 2014 GOP midterm victory is the obvious question:

Top Republicans want Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general delayed until they are in charge of the Senate — and they are insisting she divulge whether she supports the president’s plan to act without Congress on a major immigration amnesty.

Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky issued a Friday statement saying her nomination should be considered “in the new Congress,” and on Saturday, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah also pushed for a delay.

Cruz and Lee issued a joint statement highlighting their demand Lynch divulge her thoughts on whether an executive amnesty would be constitutional.

“President [Barack] Obama’s Attorney General nominee deserves fair and full consideration of the United States Senate, which is precisely why she should not be confirmed in the lame duck session of Congress by senators who just lost their seats and are no longer accountable to the voters. The Attorney General is the President’s chief law enforcement officer. As such, the nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law. Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the President’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”

(Dennis)

It is not as if we should be surprised; they told us before the election. Even the Speaker of the House is on board with the suggestion that a lame-duck congress should walk away from its duties, even with a war on the line.

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The Future, Revealed?

Jobs, jobs, jobs ... j'abortion!

We might for a moment pause to recall 2010. Republicans achieved a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the real story was in the state houses, where the GOP made astounding gains by hammering away at the economic instability their Congressional partners worked so hard to create.

And then they tacked away from jobs. As Rachel Maddow memorably put it, “Jobs, jobs jobs … j’abortion”. State-level Republicans passed record numbers of anti-abortion bills, knowing that most of them were unconstitutional. And it is certainly an old conservative scheme, to tilt windmills, lose, and then bawl that the sky is falling because the Constitution is Sauron and Democrats and liberals the armies of Mordor.

With many predicting a Republican blowout in the 2014 midterms, some are looking ahead to figure out just what that will means in terms of policy and governance. And some of those are Republicans.

Yet there is a week left; perhaps this isn’t the best time to be telegraphing the Hell they intend to call down upon the Earth.

Or, as Lauren French and Anna Palmer of Politico explain:

Conservatives in Congress are drawing up their wish list for a Republican Senate, including “pure” bills, like a full repeal of Obamacare, border security and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — unlikely to win over many Democrats and sure to torment GOP leaders looking to prove they can govern.

Interviews with more than a dozen conservative lawmakers and senior aides found a consensus among the right wing of the Republican Party: If Republicans take the Senate, they want to push an agenda they believe was hamstrung by the Democratic-controlled chamber, even if their bills end up getting vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Their vision could create problems for congressional leaders who want to show they aren’t just the party of “hell no.” And while conservatives say they agree with that goal, their early priorities will test how well John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can keep the party united.

Two points: Swing voters can’t say they weren’t warned. And conservative voters complaining about gridlock should admit that’s what they’re after.

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