ignorance

Rudy’s Bizarre Adventure

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 19 July 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

In truth, the problem with calling Rudy Giuliani the gift that keeps on giving is not the fact of its politic, but, rather the disaster that statement represents. Caroline Orr, for instance, noted yesterday—

Speaking about the Mueller probe, Rudy Giuliani tells Judge Jeanine: “Maybe they think Manafort’s somebody they can flip faster.”

… hence implying that Manafort has incriminating evidence on Trump that would give him leverage to flip.

—and that ought to be hilarious except for the fact that it is real. And toward a certain political objection we might simply note that regardless of aesthetics and sincerely held beliefs, there really are investigations afoot, and one of President Trump’s attorneys really is putting on some extraordinary manner of flaming excremental spectacle.

The lede from Zeke Miller for Associated Press is striking insofar as it is a lawyer saying it instead of some conservative pundit on cable news—and, sure, go ahead and make the obvious point about Rudy Giuliani as a pundit, but what, really, is anyone to actually do with it?—but then we also face the prospect that this is an attorney for the President of the United States, which ought to be significant in and of itself even before begging the question of a sitting president pleading the Fifth:

President Donald Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, won’t rule out the possibility that the president would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the swirling Russia investigation.

“How could I ever be confident of that?” the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Giuliani said despite Trump’s openness to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller, he would strongly advise Trump against it.

“I’m going to walk him into a prosecution for perjury like Martha Stewart?” Giuliani said. Stewart was convicted in 2004 of lying to investigators and obstruction in an insider trading case.

Giuliani suggested that Trump wouldn’t necessarily comply with a subpoena from Mueller, but he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the president sitting for an interview with Mueller.

“He’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani said. “We can assert the same privileges other presidents have.”

That last is, technically, true; many critics will rightly point out it is also functionally meaningless; asserting privilege is different from actually exercising them insofar as one must make the assertion stick, and history does in fact seem clear on this point, which in turn means invoking and asserting a constitutional right: The President of the United States will not convey any true information that would incriminate him.    (more…)

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The Avoidance of Stupidity (McConnell Mix)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This ought to be a striking note from Axios:

Senate Republicans are working to finish their draft health care bill, but have no plans to publicly release it, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.

“We aren’t stupid,” said one of the aides.

Then again, this is the twenty-first century, and these are Congressional Republicans.

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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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The Donald Trump Show (Puti-PWND)

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

“Does Mr. Trump propose this collaboration with a regime obsessed with thwarting and weakening American power out of ignorance and naivete, or because of personal and business interests he has not disclosed? Mr. Putin surely knows the answer to that question―but U.S. voters do not.”

The Washington Post

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Image notes: A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

Editorial Board. “Donald Trump, Putin’s puppet”. The Washington Post. 10 October 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Confiscate the Guns)

Donald Trump: "I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically, you understand, you have to have, in my opinion, I see what's going on here, I see what's going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor, but New York City was incredible, the way that worked, so I think that could be one step you could do." (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters, 2016)

“When Trump recently told African-American communities, ‘What do you have to lose?’ he neglected to mention the answer: Fourth Amendment rights.”

Steve Benen

Or, more specifically:

At a Fox News event this week, Donald Trump seemed to endorse taking “stop-and-frisk” policies to a national level to address urban crime. “I would do stop-and-frisk,” the Republican said. “I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically.”

Of course, what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that stop-and-frisk didn’t work “incredibly well” at all, and when challenged in the courts, the policy was ruled unconstitutional.

When Trump recently told African-American communities, “What do you have to lose?” he neglected to mention the answer: Fourth Amendment rights.

Nor is the punch line the whole of it. The msnbc producer continues:

Trump, who’s never demonstrated any real understanding of criminal-justice policy, apparently likes the idea of police being able to stop-and-frisk Americans―including those who’ve done nothing wrong and have been accused of no crimes―effectively at the discretion of individual officers. If the police find a gun, under Trump’s vision, it will be taken away.

In other words, the NRA’s favorite presidential candidate―the Republican who’s benefiting from millions of dollars in NRA campaign money and claims to be a great champion of the Second Amendment―is on board with a policy in which government officials approach random American pedestrians and confiscate their firearms without due process.

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The Donald Trump Show (Ryan Rescue Remix)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Amid the astounding spectacle that really is the Donald Trump Show, there does arise the occasional substantive issue. And while the averages describe the Republican nominee’s spectacle in abysmal terms, the substantive questions that do arise just don’t seem to help. To wit, Steve Benen reflects on the fine print:

House Speaker Paul Ryan talks to reporters following the weekly House GOP Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol, 16 December 2016, in Washington. D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)To the Trump campaign’s credit, the commercial includes footnotes of sorts for many of its core claims. For example, at the 15-second mark, when the narrator says “working families get tax relief” in Trump’s America, there’s small text at the bottom that reads, “A Pro-Growth Tax Code For All Americans, GOP: A Better Way, 6/24/16.”

Why does that matter? Because “A Pro-Growth Tax Code For All Americans, GOP: A Better Way, 6/24/16” is House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) tax plan, not Donald Trump’s. They’re actually pretty different, and include their own marginal rates, which makes it odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own.

A couple of seconds later, the same ad includes fine print that reads, “‘Details and analysis of the 2016 House Republican Tax Reform Plan,’ Tax Foundation, 7/15/16.” And while I’d take issue with the center-right Tax Foundation’s analysis of Ryan’s plan, the point is, again, that Trump has a different plan.

At the 19-second mark, note that the fine print reads, “‘Details and analysis of Donald Trump’s Tax Plan, Tax Foundation, 9/29/15.” And while that’s certainly closer to being applicable, what the ad doesn’t mention is that Trump has since abandoned that tax plan, unveiling a new blueprint three weeks ago.

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Pedantry in High Dudgeon

D City Rock: Detail of frame from "Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt", 'Help! We Are Angels', by TeddyLoin featuring Debra Zeer.

“In a press release Thursday, the committee accused the Pentagon of not being upfront about what it knew:”

Amanda Terkel

This is a pet peeve.

Look: “Upfront” is not a word.

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The Donald Trump Show (Death Wish Double Trouble Super Fun Follow-Up Sequel Pak)

Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate who also happens to be a skeleton with an afro. (Detail of frame from 'Shonen Jump One Piece'.)

“He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance.”

Andrew O’Hehir

Sometimes the setup requires a bit of seemingly otherwise useless melodrama; and sometimes that seemingly otherwise useless melodrama―your buzzword for the week is, well, okay, two words: “October surprise”―works well enough to address certain otherwise seemingly obvious questions somehow obscured by a hazy addiction to synthesized melodrama. Or, more to the point:

We can’t be sure how many people really support Trump, [Thomas B.] Edsall reports, since there’s considerable evidence that they aren’t telling pollsters the truth. Voting for Trump, it appears, is something white people do in the shadows. It’s a forbidden desire that is both liberating and self-destructive, not unlike the married heterosexual who has a same-sex lover on the down-low, or the executive who powers through the day on crystal meth and OxyContin. Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)On some level you know the whole thing can’t end well, but boy does it feel good right now.

I have argued on multiple occasions that white Americans, considered in the aggregate, exhibit signs of an unconscious or semi-conscious death wish. I mean that both in the Freudian sense of a longing for release that is both erotic and self-destructive―the intermingling of Eros and Thanatos―and in a more straightforward sense. Consider the prevalence of guns in American society, the epidemic rates of suicide and obesity (which might be called slow-motion suicide) among low-income whites, the widespread willingness to ignore or deny climate science and the deeply rooted tendency of the white working class to vote against its own interests and empower those who have impoverished it. What other term can encompass all that?

Trump is the living embodiment of that contradictory desire for redemption and destruction. His incoherent speeches wander back and forth between those two poles, from infantile fantasies about forcing Mexico to build an $8 billion wall and rampant anti-Muslim paranoia to unfocused panegyrics about how “great” we will be one day and how much we will “win.” In his abundant vigor and ebullience and cloddish, mean-spirited good humor, Trump may seem like the opposite of the death wish. (He would certainly be insulted by any such suggestion. Wrong! Bad!) But everything he promises is impossible, and his supporters are not quite dumb enough not to see that. He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance. No wonder his voters are reluctant to ‘fess up.

(O’Hehir)

Nor is this a matter of making the obvious point; with Americans, it’s all in how you say it.

I mean, sure, we can all see it, but explaining the mess is a whole ‘nother thing.

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Image notes: Top ― Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate. (Detail of frame from Shonen Jump One Piece.) Right ― Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Appetite for destruction: White America’s death wish is the source of Trump’s hidden support”. Salon. 11 May 2016.

A Tumble Down the Clown Hole

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“It seems that with the arrival of a bullshit artist like Trump, bullshit has wholly conquered the Republican party. Which is not to say that that Republicans haven’t been duplicitous for a long time, which they have. But this dishonesty has become more and more blatant, as if they’ve come to realize that their base is either too ignorant to realize or too angry to care.”

Conor Lynch

The only thing that feels weird about that quote is the nagging feeling that it really isn’t a bunch of words wasted repeating the obvious. Because it’s like a bartender metaphor: Sounds like everybody’s problem, buddy. Except if it really was everybody’s problem, why would nobody be doing anything about it? If we run ’round the cycle enough times, the whole thing about civilization and suicide pacts starts to assert itself without actually saying anything.

But if for a moment it seems Conor Lynch is telling us something we already know, the next question is why it still plays in Peoria. Proverbially. Or, you know, maybe even literally. Because clearly this isn’t common knowledge, yet. Or else, perhaps it is, but it’s just not everybody’s problem.

Seriously, there will come a point at which we must entertain the proposition that the jaw-dropping insanity, at least, is what people want. But even that would spill over with a manner of cognitive dissonance. Chaos is as chaos does, but chaos also reflects its constraints. There is a reason this insanity and chaos plays, and that really should be a problem.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch, Conor. “Rise of the GOP bullsh***ers: How the electoral process has been overwhelmed by lies & untruths”. Salon. 14 December 2015.

Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

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