George W. Bush

Cheap Sarcasm (w/Apologies to The Hill)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2017. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo/File)

Would someone please correct me, as I’m wrong?

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Friday that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush were referring to President Trump when they warned in separate speeches Thursday about politicians sowing anger and division in the country.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they’ve done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be,” Sanders said. “So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”

(Easley)

The thing is, I’m loath to pick on The Hill, this time around, but perhaps someone accidentally edited out the part where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually quoted or cited former Presidents Bush and Obama when claiming to “take them at their word”.

That is to say, she didn’t just make it up, right?

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The Republican Character (Flying Fuckless)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

This should be surprising. No, really, at some point it seems significant that this basic, commonsense, “Republicans just spent twenty-five years complaining about all this!” stupidity of two-bit, everyday corruption in the Trump administration is anything but surprising.

A summer visit that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made to the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team is now under two investigations by federal watchdogs.

The Interior Department’s inspector general has added concerns about Zinke’s meeting with the new NHL team and use of a private jet from Las Vegas to an investigation it opened Friday looking into the secretary’s travel, an IG spokesperson confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

The Office of Special Counsel has also opened a Hatch Act investigation into Zinke’s meeting with the hockey team.

The OSC probe is the sixth known investigation into travel by the administration’s cabinet members.

(Green)

This is not really so obscure. In the long history of abusing the -gate suffix, there was “Travelgate”. This had to do with Republicans complaining about Clinton White House hirings in the Travel Office. Something goes here about Bill Clinton’s successor, political hiring, and that bit even ties into a Republican email scandal, if you can believe it. No, really. Private email server. Twenty-two million missing emails discovered right at the time we needed to know what was going on about the replacement of career bureaucrats with political favors. An actual travel scandal? To the one, we ought not be surprised. To the other, Republicans just aren’t trying. For all the trauma they drag the nation through in fevered scandalmongering, Republicans owe us an appearance of trying to at least pretend an appearance of giving a flying fuck.    (more…)

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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Your National Security Council (Flynntastic | Great)

#downhill | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

There is a moment in the New York Times’ account of “Turmoil at the National Security Council” in which the Trump administration pitches apparent incompetence as an asset:

In a telephone conversation on Sunday afternoon, K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, said that early meetings of the council were brisker, tighter and more decisive than in the past, but she acknowledged that career officials were on edge. “Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” said Ms. McFarland, a veteran of the Reagan administration who most recently worked for Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes―most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”

It remains uncertain just how that should make anyone feel any better, but at least we know why McFarland is there.

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A Reflection on an Echo of a Cartoon

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 3 January 2017.

To the one, winter is as winter does, and we should probably leave it at that. Nonetheless, a month later, Jen Sorensen’s point still echoes:

Hillary has certainly frustrated me at times over the years, but I came to admire her intelligence and poise over the course of this election cycle. Her performance at the debates with Trump was nothing short of heroic. She also ran on the most progressive Democratic platform ever, but since policy has become almost completely divorced from politics, she gets little credit for that. I could go on, but as my husband says, this was not so much an election as an exorcism, the culmination of a decades-long smear campaign by the right.

The term “political correctness” has been the cornerstone of conservative efforts to transform the ideas of civil rights and equality into something frivolous and stupid. The right loves plucking silly examples from obscure, powerless people and blowing them up into huge “culture war” issues that supposedly threaten the nation. “PC” is an insult that plays into their hands.

Along these same lines, “liberal elites”―long a Fox News favorite―is designed to shift attention away from the actual economic elites hoovering up the world’s wealth and resources, such as the Koch Brothers or Trump, and instead make one think of poodle-owning urbanites supposedly looking down their noses at everyone (while in reality voting to raise the minimum wage). It’s a frame, not a fact, and hides a deep anti-intellectual agenda.

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Not Quite #WhatTheyVotedFor

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

washington-v-trump-bw

Let us start with Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined early Sunday to immediately block an order from a federal judge in Washington that halted the travel ban.

Instead, the panel established a rapid schedule for written arguments.

A brief from the two states that challenged the ban was filed early Monday. The administration’s response was due at 3 p.m. Pacific time. A panel ruling could come anytime after that―most likely within a week, experts said.

The three judges who happen to be sitting on the 9th Circuit’s motions panel this month and who will rule on the case are William Canby Jr., a President Carter appointee; Richard Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush; and Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by President Obama.

Clifton is considered moderately conservative and the two Democrats are viewed as moderately liberal. The 9th Circuit is broadly viewed as the most liberal federal appeals court.

If Trump loses, he could immediately go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles matters from the 9th Circuit, would probably ask the other justices to weigh in.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, suggested Sunday that the 9th Circuit was likely to rule against the Trump administration.

“Virtually every judge to consider the executive order has said that there is a substantial likelihood that it is unconstitutional,” Chemerinsky said in an email. “Both Republican and Democratic appointees have come to this conclusion. Having read some of the briefs in these cases, I think any court is likely to come to this conclusion.”

(more…)

Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

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A Note re: Kaine vs. Pence

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News)

This is important:

In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:

About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”

Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.

There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.

It happens.

We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.

Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.

This is the problem: If Gov. Mike Pence is “normal”, then we might pause to consider how we define normalcy.

____________________

Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)

Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.

—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.

—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.

Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.

Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.

Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.

The Ted Cruz Show (The Devil Inside/Lede of the Week)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gestures while addressing the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Friday Nov. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“A leading Satanist group is trying to distance itself from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after the presidential candidate was compared to Lucifer this week.”

Mark Hensch

This is your lede of the week.

This is also your Republican Party.

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Your Headline of the Duh

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before a House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2010. (Detail of photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The headline from Roll Call we might file as obvious: “Supreme Court Vacancy Could Lead to Even More Gridlock”:

Republicans, including Cruz and Rubio on the Sunday shows, have cited the so-called “Thurmond Rule” in saying the chamber shouldn’t confirm any such nominees in the last year of a president’s term once the presidential race is underway. It’s named after Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who chaired the Judiciary Committee from 1981 to 1987.

“There is no such thing as the Thurmond Rule,” Senate Judiciary ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. Leahy cited the Democratic-controlled Senate’s confirmation of several of Republican George W. Bush’s lower court nominees in September 2008 as evidence that there is no such tradition or rule.

Remember, when this stuff finally makes it ’round to the evening news, then the morning infotainment, that we’ve already heard it.

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Image note: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before a House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2010. (Detail of photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dick, Jason. “Supreme Court Vacancy Could Lead to Even More Gridlock”. Roll Call. 14 February 2016.