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Somewhere in the Range ‘Twixt Apt and Emblematic

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed location, 14 August 2017, in image released by Korean Central News Agency. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

“Well, this about sums it up: when you’re blinded so much by partisan tribalism that you like a totalitarian dictator who executes people with flamethrowers for his viewing pleasure more than *gasp* a Democrat.”

Brian Klaas

This is the bouncing ball: Columnist Brian Klaas tweeting Axios coverage of an Ipsos/Daily Beast poll. Regarding that last:

A coin for a planned US-North Korea summit, later canceled, displayed in Washington, D.C., 21 May 2018. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over was conducted June 14-15, shortly after President Trump’s historic summit with the North Korea dictator. According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim with 68 percent saying they had an unfavorable view (12 percent of voters overall had a favorable view of Kim, compared to 75 percent who viewed him unfavorably). That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans.

Pelosi, nevertheless, was only the second-most disliked figure on Capitol Hill. Her overall 29 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable rating was slightly better than the numbers for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell had an overall favorability rating of 20 percent with 43 percent viewing him unfavorable. (Self-identified Democrats, for what it’s worth, had a significantly more favorable opinion of McConnell than of Kim Jong Un.)

(Resnick)

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Image notes: Top — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, 14 August 2017, in image released by Korean Central News Agency. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)  Right — A coin for a planned US-North Korea summit, later canceled, displayed in Washington, D.C., 21 May 2018. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

@brianklaas. “Well, this about sums it up: when you’re blinded so much by partisan tribalism that you like a totalitarian dictator who executes people with flamethrowers for his viewing pleasure more than *gasp* a Democrat.” Twitter. 19 June 2018.

Ipsos. “American Public Does Not See Celebrity Candidates as the Answer”. 18 June 2018.

Resnick, Gideon. “Kim Jong Un More Popular Than Pelosi Among Republicans: Exclusive Poll Results”. The Daily Beast. 18 June 2018.

Sykes, Michael. “Poll: Republicans favor Kim Jong-un more than Nancy Pelosi”. Axios. 18 June 2018.

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The Art of the Swamp (Smile Through)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The setup, via Jonathan Chait:

Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)Earlier this month, when Michael Avenatti reported that Michael Cohen’s Delaware shell company received half a million dollars from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch, it looked quite shady. But the firm, Columbus Nova, quickly asserted the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, had only a tangential relationship to it, and had not used it as a conduit to pay Cohen. Columbus Nova released a statement insisting it was “owned and controlled by Americans and not Vekselberg, and denied that Vekselberg had ever owned the company or used it as a conduit for payments.” So maybe it wasn’t a Russian bribe. Maybe it was just an investment firm, which happened to have a large Russian client, looking to get influence with the administration the way many businesses do.

As more information has dribbled out, the innocent explanation has looked less and less plausible.

And the punch line, from the New York Times:

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

(Rashbaum, Protess, and McIntire)

Such as it is, something about gravity goes here. There is a certain point at which it is not so much the notion of everything going downhill from there, but, rather, the appearance of trying to smile through a screaming, flaming plummet into a cursed abyss. No, really, there is even a clown car taxi joke in there having to do with a “series of coincidences” that really does sound like a its own manner of comedic setup about how there they all were minding their own business when all of a sudden . . . .

Something, something, #WhatTheyVotedFor.

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Image notes: Top — Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)  Right Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

Chait, Jonathan. “Did a Russian Oligarch Funnel Money From Russia to Michael Cohen?” New York. 25 May 2018.

Rashbaum, William K., Ben Protess, and Mike McIntire. “At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations”. The New York Times. 25 May 2018.

Your Quote of the Day (Pompeo and the Circumstance)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Getty Images)

“These officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. They have signed secrecy agreements. They quietly go about their work and try not to get too worked up over the headlines, including the fanciful notion that they spy on their fellow citizens via microwave ovens.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

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American Prestige

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, after signing executive orders at the White House in Washington, D.C., 23 January 2017.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what ‘illegal immigrants’ means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies.”

Steve Benen

Via msnbc:

Turnbull insisted after the call that the agreement with the United States is still on – the prime minister was less eager to publicly discuss the nature of his conversation with Trump – though the U.S. president turned to Twitter last night to declare, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what “illegal immigrants” means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies. NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell noted overnight that someone should tell the White House that Australia “has more troops fighting ISIS in Iraq than any other ally [and] has fought at our side since” World War II.

That’s not a rhetorical aside. Someone really should let Team Trump know about this, because there’s reason to believe they’re unaware of it.

In #DimensionTrump, it is easy enough to expect that these stories only go downhill.

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Keystone Courage (Trumping Toomey)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).  (Photo: Getty Images)Steve Benen summarizes―

So, after dodging an easy question for nearly a year, Toomey will put off voting until late in the afternoon―75 minutes before polls close―and then he’ll grudgingly make an announcement about his preference.

―and on this occasion I must dissent: This is, quite clearly, not an easy question.

Ask Speaker Ryan; I hear the question started getting to him, by the end.

To the other, hemming and hawing probably beats attempting the dangerous and unadmired flip-flop-flip. Better to stand around looking like an idiot than to open your mouth and insist. Wait, that’s not how it goes, is it? Never mind. Republicans. The Party of Accountability. Values. Principles. Astounding. Or not. Whatever.

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Image notes: Top ― Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube). Right ― U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). (Photo: Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “Paul Ryan and the candidate who must not be named”. msnbc. 1 November 2016.

—————. “Paul Ryan’s principles waver at election’s finish line”. msnbc. 7 November 2016.

—————. “Pennsylvania’s Toomey not through playing presidential games”. msnbc. 8 November 2016.

—————. “Under fire from the right, Ryan condemns a Democratic dystopia”. msnbc. 18 October 2016.

The Ted Cruz Show (Coward)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in detail of photo by Getty Images, 2016.

Via Associated Press:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he waited until January to begin criticizing Republican rival Donald Trump because he didn’t want to become “roadkill” like other candidates who had challenged the front-runner.

Cruz made the comment Wednesday during a forum hosted by a conservative talk radio host near Milwaukee. It marked Cruz’s first campaign stop in Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 5.

Cruz was asked about a previous statement he made calling Trump “terrific.” Cruz responded by noting that his campaign has had a plan since launching a year ago, and said he needed to build his base of support first and get his record out before drawing contrasts with Trump.

Coward.

You know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not cowardice. Maybe it’s what we call, “Texas courage”.

This is the guy who wants us to “trusTed”.

Which, in turn, begs a simple question: Why not?

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Image note: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in detail of photo by Getty Images, 2016.

Associated Press. “The Latest: Cruz says he didn’t want to be Trump ‘roadkill'”. 23 March 2016.

Savage, Dan. “Ted Cruz’s Secret Longings”. Slog. 5 February 2016.

No Reason to Go Setting Our Hair on Fire

The U.S. Capitol building stands surrounded by scaffolding in Washington, D.C., on wednesday, 28 October 2015. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

And why not?

Some Republican House members are looking for a few good members — who don’t want to get nuked.

Republican Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Doug Lamborn of Colorado, leaders of the Missile Defense Caucus, sent a “Dear Colleague” note with this message: “If your boss is fine with being nuked by Iran and North Korea, ignore this e-mail.”

(Gangitano)

Alright, before we go setting our hair on fire over this little Beltway vignette from Roll Call, it would behoove us to recall one simple point.

That is to say, this is Trent Franks and Doug Lamborn.

Arizona Eight and Colorado Five, in case it matters, and especially with that latter, it kind of does. Mr. Franks is hawkish near to paranoid, and Mr. Lamborn stupid to the point of infamy. Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District is similarly notorious. In its context, tinfoil missile shield advocacy probably isn’t the worst these two could come up with.

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Image note: The U.S. Capitol building stands surrounded by scaffolding in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, 28 October 2015. (Detail of photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gangitano, Alex. “Calling All Members Who Don’t Want to Get Nuked”. Heard on the Hill. Roll Call. 3 March 2016.

The Carly Fiorina Show (Another Day, Another Lie)

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists, who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses, packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

“Just so we’re clear, Fiorina lied, then she defended the lie, then she repeated the lie, and then she grudgingly conceded that the ‘fact-checkers are correct’. But she still sees herself as a victim of a media ‘attack’.”

Steve Benen

Here’s the tricky part: “This is what the liberal media always does; it attacks the messenger trying to avoid the message.”

This can be taken two ways:

“It attacks the messenger [who is] trying to avoid the message” ― While it would, in fact, be the more accurate interpretation according to the facts, we can rest assured this is not Ms. Fiorina’s meaning, lest she be complaining that messengers seeking to avoid the message might be subject to scrutiny for the attempt.

“It attacks the messenger [while] trying to avoid the message” ― This is more likely what Ms. Fiorina meant, except it’s dysfunctional. To wit: The media “attacks” [calls out] the “messenger” [bearing false witness] while trying to avoid [propagating] the [false] message.

In other words, it seems Ms. Fiorina thinks she’s only being treated fairly if the news media carries water for her presidential campaign.

Then again, what is a serial liar supposed to say?

Carly Fiorina’s alleged presidential merit is her business acumen. Her demonstrable political demeanor, however, is straightforward dishonesty.

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Image note: Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (Detail of photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “Fiorina finally admits she flubbed her facts”. msnbc. 2 November 2015.

Chairman Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, speaks in an interview 16 October 2015.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically―at least it is for me.”

Rep. Trey Gowedy (R-SC04)

The first point, to wonder what it is Mr. Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, thinks he is doing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should meet resistance; set that urge aside. There is a lot going on, here. Rachel Bade of Politico hopes to explain:

Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he “just can’t win.

“I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said. “[A]t some point, maybe something will stick, or maybe you get them off track or you get them to do or say something stupid, then you can seize on that.”

He also lays some blame at the media’s feet, arguing they’re too quick to report Democrats’ accusations without checking the merits, or the story of an ex-committee staffer who accused the panel of focusing on Clinton.

“You can work your entire career to have a reputation, and then someone you have no recollection of ever meeting sits down with a reporter and you’re immediately in a position of having to defend and it’s impossible to prove a negative,” he said.

This is a basic political maneuver very much associated with Karl Rove: Assign your greatest weakness to your opponent. With Republicans, it has pretty much become a tell: “I mean, honestly,” Gowdy complained of Huma Abedin’s testimony, “have you ever heard a more absurd critique than leaking the fact that one of the more recognizable people in the world was coming to Capitol Hill?”

This is a problematic complaint. Trey Gowdy is simply not an honest man.

(more…)

The Ted Cruz Show (Speaking of the House)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalitions Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/GQ Roll Call/Getty)

True, these are nine paragraphs from Steve Benen, but they’re short, and worth the moment for reading:

In September 2013, just eight months into his congressional career, Cruz strategized with House Republicans privately. GOP lawmakers shut down the government a few days later.

In October 2013, Cruz met again with House Republicans about their shutdown gambit.

In April 2014, Cruz hosted a chat with House Republicans about strategy on immigration reform. A bipartisan reform bill died in the chamber soon after.

In June 2014, on the same day as the election of the current House GOP leadership team, Cruz met again with a group of House Republicans.

In July 2014, Cruz huddled with House Republicans, who took his advice, ignored their party’s leadership, and derailed a GOP border bill.

A week later, also in July 2014, they met again, this time as members were getting ready for their August break.

In December 2014, with Congress facing a funding deadline, Cruz huddled again with House Republicans.

In September 2015, Cruz met privately with a group of House Republicans once more as the party weighed another government-shutdown plan.

And today, with House Republicans poised to choose a new Speaker, there’s Ted Cruz hanging out with House Republicans.

The Tortilla Coast Junta would appear to be in effect.

Stay tuned.

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Image note: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/GQ Roll Call/Getty)

Benen, Steve. “Cruz huddles with House Republicans on eve of Speaker vote”. msnbc. 7 October 2015.