incompetence

The Mulligan Class (B Team)

#alternativecompetence | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack): "Keep in mind - everybody in the original Trump administration? That was the A team." [via Twitter, 28 July 2017]

We should bear in mind that part of President Trump’s talent is allegedly acumen shown in selecting people to keep close to him. As a president and, the more we find out, a candidate, Mr. Trump demonstrates a dubious track record. Michael Ian Black is not wrong; we should not expect the mulligan class to do any better.

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The Trump Hole (Emergent)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz delivers a statement to the press in Washington, D.C., 8 June 2017. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP)

The sitcom pace of benchmark headlines sometimes means the effort of retort requires falling behind the story. Or, you know, there is a professional class, and say what we will about that. More directly, Steve Benen makes a certain point about the life and times of the Trump administration:

Kasowitz’s plan to go after Comey by way of the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office is itself more troubling than Comey’s actions. First, the IG’s office isn’t equipped to launch investigations into private citizens. And second, as Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the Bush/Cheney administration, noted this morning, trying to get the Justice Department to target a material witness—in this case, the former director of the FBI—only adds to the concerns about Team Trump trying to obstruct justice.

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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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Ineffable Incompetence (Meddle Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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)

The lede from Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima for the Washington Post:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

And, you know, maybe the theme this week will be something about wondering who is actually surprised. Last week, after all, seemed to focus on President Trump’s apparent inability to not insist on his own impeachment.

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#DimensionSteve (Narrative)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

We might take a moment now and then to observe the power of narrative, and it is fair enough to acknowledge there is nothing new if we take the note from Steve Benen of msnbc:

When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House and issues related to the Nazi Holocaust, the president and his team have made some unfortunate missteps. There was, for example, the ill-advised statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. A month later, the West Wing had an odd quarrel with the Anne Frank Center.

Today, however, Team Trump broke new ground.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, saying that even someone as “despicable” as the German dictator “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Asked moments later to clarify those remarks, Spicer, speaking from the White House podium, said that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them.”

Spicer went on to say Hitler brought people into “Holocaust centers.”

All of this, of course, unfolded from the White House podium during Passover.

Part of what makes this so remarkable is how obviously wrong Spicer was. One need not be a historian to know Hitler gassed Holocaust victims. The reference to “his own people” made an unfortunate mistake worse. As for Spicer describing Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” I honestly don’t know where to start.

(11 April 2017)

To the one, it really was an awkward circumstance even more unnerving to experience, even having heard or read about it. And, yes, the Press Secretary is a particularly unfortunate example of his office; Mr. Spicer can very much seem emblematic of Trump administration incompetence. There is no chic about Cheeky Spice’s reboot of the dignity of the office. There is, however, the added gravity of just how this White House has managed to create it’s own … er … ah … question about Jews. Of course, there is also this: We should not be surprised, although back then conventional wisdom thought going after Jews to their faces like that was a bad idea.

Still, though: If we call it a Kinsley gaffe, then what truth have we just glimpsed?

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The Price of Belief (#TrumpCare)

#TrumpCare | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA06) testifies at his confirmation hearing, 18 January 2017, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Every once in a while, it occurs to wonder if perhaps they are doing it on purpose.

President Donald Trump’s administration made a bold guarantee Sunday morning, telling Americans that health insurance won’t cost more if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through, understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

This line could become Price’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” moment ― a sweeping sound bite that ends up being not true. (President Barack Obama eventually had to apologize for his promise in 2013.)

(Terkel; boldface accent added)

No, really. He actually went and said that.

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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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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 (The Duck Episode)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“Satirical humor only works if it is punching up. Humor that punches down is just mean. A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.”

Sophia A. McClennan

Playwright Neil Simon asserted that comedy is cruelty, a theme that serves well enough as a benchmark as long as we can figure out what it means. Sophia A. McClennen offers some definition, and while the point itself is reliable, whence comes its seeming obscurity? That is, McClennan offers a fairly clear standard, yet also incredibly simplistic, and in this case we ought not criticize the standard as wonder if the critic herself has somehow gaffed up.

The answer to that last, by the way, is no.

Still, we postulate the possibility because it really does seem like the sort of basic notion people shouldn’t need explained so simply. Why did the chicken cross the road? The audience suffers cruelty as the butt of the joke for overthinking it. The rape joke that isn’t a rape joke but instead a blonde joke or a cop joke? Pick your cruelty: Are all cops rapists? Are all blondes stupid? Are all women just there to stick your dick in their mouths? (Hint: “Not another breathalyzer!” is a rape joke.) There is the Sandbox Joke, ne’er to be repeated publicly, which heaps its cruelty on young children for having been born in dark skin.

Is dementia or Alzheimer’s humor ever funny? Perhaps there is an affirmative answer; the cruelty of how many surrealists it takes to screw in a light bulb is illustrative for its lack of abstract gravity―in the end, surrealists can’t complain and surrealism itself is inherently indifferent.

More directly, the heart of McClennen’s consideration:

Last October, Death and Taxes ran a piece wondering if Trump had dementia. They pointed to the fact that Trump’s father, Fred, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years prior to his death. They also highlighted Trump’s aggressive late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings. They explained that it would be really easy for Trump take some tests and prove that he is mentally fit. “Because if Trump can prove he’s not suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him with a damaged mind devoid of all shame or self-awareness, he might just be an asshole.”

Now it may seem like I’m taking this in a flip manner and not respecting the real health challenges that face those that suffer these ailments. But that’s actually my point. I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

Or, more directly:

Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight reminded viewers that Trump speaks at a fourth grade level. That makes him, according to Camp, scientifically proven to be the dumbest candidate of them all. But Camp’s joke is only funny if Trump is talking that way to attract voters who respond to his simplistic rhetoric. It’s not funny if he really has lost the ability to speak like a healthy adult.

It is enough, to the one, hearing the people around me wind up their disgust: “He’s crazy! Why does Trump say these things?” And, yes, it would seem pedantic to suggest they answer their own question. Such as things are, the exclamation ought to carry some weight.

At some point, craziness needs to stop being the punch line. There are, for instance, his supporters, and then everybody else; it’s hard to discern the gray area, the in-between, the fence made for sitting. And everybody else seems to inevitably land at some version of Donald Trump being crazy. Perhaps it’s time we start taking the question of mental health more seriously? Not only would incompetence be, as McClennen notes, specifically not funny, it also seems a grave and necessary question in considering who should serve as president. The title “Leader of the Free World” might well be colloquial, but it also seems fair enough to expect the person we entrust with this duty should not be, at the very least, psychiatrically incompetent.

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McClennen, Sophia A. “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?”. Salon. 25 April 2016.

About What We Expect from Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015.  (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Well, you know. They tried.

Like we noted last week, it’s Congress.

The failure of Congress to strike a budget deal Monday night to avert a government shutdown means House and Senate lawmakers will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution―even though they approved one last week.

(Fuller)

Show of hands: Who’s surprised?

Anybody? Anybody?

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Image note: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01CD) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Fuller, Matt. “Congress Needs Another Stopgap Spending Measure To Avoid Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2015.