farce

Not What We Mean When We Say Foreign Service

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A protester holds a photo of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, later acknowledged to have been slain by the Saudi government. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Annieli, at Daily Kos, writes:

Those who wonder why we should care about Khashoggi’s death should ask whether we want an autocratic thug to be directing US foreign policy? Why is America’s president covering up a brutal extra-territorial murder? All this whabboutery serves MBS. Is that what we want?

And this is an important question: All of President Trump’s equivocation and excuses serve foreign interests.Remember that Donald Trump still thinks he is doing business, and this is reflected in conservative language; among Republican excuses for the President’s behavior, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), often seen as a critic of the administration, mewled and rolled over:

A key consideration in the administration’s mind, according to Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), is the belief that the crown prince can salvage Kushner’s stalled peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. “A lot of the Middle East peace plan is based upon their support. They feel like they have a lot of equity there,” Corker said.

(Dawsey, Hudson, and Gearan)

“Equity” is a curious word. Certes, the Trump family has invested tremendous “political capital”. There are a handful of Congressional Republicans willing to speak against President Trump, and the general criticism runs that tweeting disapproval is pretty much all they do compared to their voting records. And in this moment, Mr. Corker, the retiring U.S. Senator, is lending his voice in aid and comfort to presidential pandering on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post goes on to explain:

Trump allies acknowledged that the White House’s equivocations would probably result in growing calls from Congress for a more credible accounting of events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted it would damage the president politically.

Equity. This is just an investment. And if Sen. Corker, a Republican, wishes to be seen in opposition to President Trump, “equity” is the wrong word. Consider an actual Trump ally, such as evangelical preacher Pat Robertson:

“We’ve got to cool the rhetoric,” Robertson said. “Calls for sanctions and calls for punitive actions against the Saudis is ill-advised … You’ve got a hundred billion dollars worth of arms sales—which is, you know, that’s one of those things—but more than that, we’ve got to have some Arab allies. We have to have it! We cannot alienate a biggest player in the Middle East who is a bulwark against Iran.”When Robertson’s co-host Wendy Griffith argued that we cannot have governments killing critical journalists with impunity, Robertson dismissed those concerns.”We’ve had so many people killed,” he responded. “We’ve had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it’s bad, but we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

(Mantyla)

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One of Those Moments (… cum Farce)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To the one, something goes here about unnamed sources; it’s a long question, by now. To the other, though—

For all the morning’s madness, there may have been an underlying logic. Over the weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects appeared increasingly imperiled, Trump faced two tactical options, both of them fraught. One was to cut Kavanaugh loose. But he was also looking for ways to dramatically shift the news cycle away from his embattled Supreme Court nominee. According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate. “The strategy was to try and do something really big,” the source said. The leak about Rosenstein’s resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.

(Sherman)

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—this is the Trump administration: What insanity will we be expected to believe, tomorrow? The question is how well a bit like this ages; certes, it makes a powerful headline, but the instinct to disbelieve seems largely reasonable.

And, again, to the other, this is the Trump administration. The idea of a T&A comedy presidency ought to be a really stupid joke. Something, something, Trump administration, right. This really is what they voted for, and no, it’s been more of a tragedy cum farce than any sort of comedy. It really isn’t funny.

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Image notes: Top — Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)  Right — President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Sherman, Gabe. “‘The Strategy Was to Try and Do Something Really Big’: Trump Wanted to Nuke Rosenstein to Save Kavanaugh’s Bacon”. Vanity Fair. 24 September 2018.

What They Voted For: The Laughingstock

#AmericanPrestige | #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)

Because the first part of the making something great again is wrecking it so that it needs to be recovered:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, reads a copy of 'Fire and Fury', by Michael Wolff, at the Tehran Book Fair, 11 May 2018. (via Instagram)On Friday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was pictured in a post on his Instagram feed at the Tehran Book Fair.

Nothing unusual there, but in one image he was seen reading a Persian-language edition of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury. The subject of which, of course, is the chaos inside Mr Trump’s White House.

When the book was released in January, it was described as a “bombshell” by commentators as it raised doubts over Mr Trump’s mental health.

It claimed Mr Trump said he pursued his friends’ wives, that his daughter Ivanka would mock him, and that the US president would eat cheeseburgers in bed.

(BBC)

This is, of course, only days after President Hassan Rouhani responded to President Trump’s dereliction of a nuclear treaty by “conferring with the world’s two super powers, Russia and China”.

Yes, this demolition of American prestige is precisely what Republicans voted for. They cannot prove to us that government doesn’t work unless they break everything; they cannot make the nation great “again” if they do not lay it low. And, yes, in their own way, a game show host and flaccid farce, an obvious subject for Ayatollah Khamenei to scorch with such easy, demonstrative, blistering critique, is precisely what Trump supporters voted for.

This is actually part of their supremacism: It is easier to foster a world war if supporters feel insulted by the designated enemy; Trump seems to think Iranians are as simplistic as his followers, so he makes it easy for the Ayatollah to zing the President of the United States because he knows the magagaga are, themselves, easy marks.

They did elect him, after all.

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Image note: Top — President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference after winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  Right — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, reads a copy of Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, at the Tehran Book Fair, 11 May 2018. (via Instagram)

British Broadcasting Corporation. “Is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei trolling Trump?” BBC News. 11 May 2018.

Not Exactly Subtle

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

This is all ritual, right?

When asked—three times—at a White House press briefing about Russia’s link to the poisoning or any possible repercussions for the country from the U.S., Sanders carefully did not say “Russia”—or otherwise address who may have been responsible for the attack. She characterized it as an “indiscriminate” attack, although British authorities have concluded that Skripal was clearly targeted.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“We’ve been monitoring the incident closely, take it very seriously,” Sanders said. “The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against U.K. citizens on U.K. soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation.”

“So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this?” a reporter asked.

“Right now, we are standing with our U.K. ally,” Sanders said again. “I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.”

Pressed a third time, an annoyed Sanders answered, “Like I just said, we stand with our ally and we certainly fully support them and are ready if we can be of any assistance.”

(Papenfuss)

That is, just to be clear: We put up with the lying farce that is the Trump administration every day according to some pretense that we all recognize what is happening and it ought to be over, eventually, when Mueller and the American Way of Truth and Justice finally come through.

Right?

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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 Straight Dope

'Scuse me while I responsibly point this at you.

Here’s a a narrative for you, via Kenny Ocker at the News Tribune:

According to court documents:

The teenager set up a drug deal on Facebook with a friend. His friend met the dealer, who showed him the marijuana he wanted. The friend grabbed the bag and ran.

The dealer and the passenger from his car chased the friend about 50 yards before the teenager — wearing a mask and showing a handgun — showed up and asked, “What’s up?”

The dealer and passenger then ran toward their car.

The teenager went to put the gun back into his pants and the weapon fired a bullet through his leg.

In a state where marijuana is legal, this makes exactly no sense. Honestly, you know that bit about how one needs to live, instead of merely exist? Some days it seems like living isn’t enough; it’s like people need to live in an action movie.

Or a one-star farce.

Pick your poison.

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Ocker, Kenny. “Lakewood teenager shoots himself in groin during robbery attempt, documents say”. The News Tribune. 2 May 2016.

Your Lede of the Day (Allegation and Alligator)

Er … okay ...

Authorities in Florida have arrested a man accused of throwing a live alligator through a restaurant’s drive-through window.

(Chokshi and Larimer)

If the lede isn’t strange enough, there is the detail:

Once approached by authorities, James admitted to having picked up the alligator along the side of a road, driving to Wendy’s and throwing the beast through the drive-through window.

A judge on Tuesday ordered James to stay away from all Wendy’s restaurants, to avoid possessing any weapons, to get a mental health evaluation and to limit his contact with animals to his mother’s dog, according to WPTV.

James’s parents described him to the TV station as an outdoorsman and harmless prankster, adding that he viewed famous crocodile hunter and conservationist Steve Irwin as an idol.

At some point, this really does start to sound like a farce that never should have seen a green light. For the suspect, Mr. James, and everyone else ranging from inconvenienced to terrified in the moment of dealing with an alligator chucked through the window, reality unfortunately reminds that this is apparently not some script for the next Will Ferrell movie.

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Chokshi, Niraj and Sarah Larimer. “Assault with a deadly weapon: Florida man charged with throwing alligator into Wendy’s”. The Washington Post. 9 February 2016.

The Scott Walker Show (Virtue of Citizenship)

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls. Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues his curious cowardice.

BASH: Earlier this week you said that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders because the policy protected children and (INAUDIBLE) scout values. And then your campaign clarified to say that it was really protecting the scouts from the political and media discussion about that.

I’m having trouble understanding that. What―at the end of the day what is your position?

WALKER: I’m not talking about personal protection. I’m talking about―for me the reason why I didn’t have a problem with it is I just think it pulled scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there. And I just hope that they (ph) can (ph) stay focused. That’s all.

BASH: So, but should there be a ban on allowing gay men to be scout leaders?

WALKER: That’s up to the people who run the boy scouts.

One thing that people find unique, I guess, whether you like it or not, is I actually answer questions. People ask me a question, I’ll answer a question―

BASH: You’re not really answering this one.

WALKER: Sure. I said in this case that’s what I thought. I thought the policy was just fine.

BASH: OK.

WALKER: I (ph) was (ph) saying (ph) when I was in scouts it was fine. You’re asking what should the policy be going forward? It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.

BASH: Do you think that being gay is a choice?

WALKER: Oh, I mean I think―that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I’m going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I’m going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: On behalf of people is to do that properly you have to understand or at least have an opinion on who they are and where they’re coming from.

WALKER: But again, I think―no I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there. I mean to me that’s―I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.

So I’m just saying (INAUDIBLE) I don’t know what the answer to that is. And again I’m going to spend my time focused on things that I do know and what I can work on.

There is actually a lot going on in this exchange from CNN’s State of the Union, but the first thing to remember is that the questions come in a week when Boy Scout Leaders voted unanimously to approve a middling policy that lifts the formal ban on gay and bisexual employees and volunteers, reinvesting the question of discrimination at the troop level. Mr. Walker, apparently displeased with this turn of events, explained: “I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”

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The Donald Trump Show (Plants and Potsherds)

Donald Trump.

“If the DNC had scripted the last month or so, the party probably would have come up with a scenario that looks quite a bit like the one we’ve seen.”

Steve Benen

This is one of those occasions upon which I must disagree with Mr. Benen:

A Republican carnival barker would use racially charged, xenophobic rhetoric, which would propel him into the GOP’s top tier, pushing minority communities even further from the Republican Party. All the while, the GOP would find itself on the defensive, and more serious candidates would struggle to gain traction.

That is to say, no proper screenwriter would script such an episode except as naked farce. There is a reason truth insists on being stranger than fiction.

Benen also notes that some have made what seems the obvious point, that Trump, who has formerly identified with both parties, is a secret Democratic plant trying to wreck the Republican Party.

And also that for some, such as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL26), the conspiracy theory is the best they’ve got: (more…)