Iraq War

What They Voted For: Swamp

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Who: Christina Flom (Roll Call)
What: “Rand Paul on Bolton Appointment: ‘Heaven Forbid'”
When: 15 November 2016

Roll Call brings us up to speed:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says that President-elect Donald Trump appointing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to his Cabinet would be a major step toward breaking his promise of “changing America’s disastrous foreign policy.”

Rumors that Trump is considering Bolton as Secretary of State prompted Paul to write an op-ed in Rare.us, calling Bolton “part of failed elite that Trump vowed to oppose” ....

.... Paul said no man “is more out of touch” with the Middle East than Bolton and that Bolton is unable to see the mistakes he has made.

“All nuance is lost on the man,” Paul wrote. “The fact that Russia has had a base in Syria for 50 years doesn’t deter Bolton from calling for all out, no holds barred war in Syria. For Bolton, only a hot-blooded war to create democracy across the globe is demanded.”

This is one of those interesting things Republicans do to themselves. The Kentucky also-ran is not without a point, but he’s also Rand Paul, and this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party, now. There really isn’t anything surprising happening, which is a strange thing considering it’s happening at all. Still, though, as Donald Trump continues to undermine pretty much every allegedly respectable reason anyone might have offered in defense of their vote, we should remember that it always was about supremacism and lulz.

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A “Political Question” (Abu Ghraib)

This is still going on:

A federal court of appels on Friday reinstated a case brought by four Iraqis who allege they were tortured by employees of CACI while they were held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War.

The case had been dismissed by a lower court that found the alleged abuses amounted to a “political question” and was beyond the court’s jurisdiction. But the case, which was first filed in 2008, was reinstated by a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

(Davenport)

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Davenport, Christian. “U.S. Appeals Court reinstates Abu Ghraib prison abuse case against CACI”. The Washington Post. 21 October 2016.

The Donald Daa’ish Show (Once Upon a Time in Trump)

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

David Corn makes an interesting point―

Trump blames HRC & BHO for w/drawing troops from Iraq. But he called for that in 2006, even if violence increased.

―and recalls, well, himself, not quite two months ago:

When a conservative radio host on Thursday asked if Trump meant that the Obama administration had “created the vacuum” in the region that allowed ISIS to grow, the GOP nominee stuck to his nonsensical statement: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.” Next, Trump claimed he was being sarcastic. Then at a campaign rally, he added, “But not that sarcastic.” It was a very Trumpian couple of days. And on Monday, with a speech on national security that Trump read off a teleprompter, he had a chance to declare what he really thought about Obama, Clinton, and ISIS. After repeating the lie that he had opposed the Iraq War before the invasion, Trump did not restate his “founder” claim, but he said that because of Obama and Clinton, “Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose.” He added, “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS.” He insisted that Obama’s withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (which actually was compelled by an agreement reached with the Iraqi government by President George W. Bush) “led directly to the rise of ISIS.”

Here’s the problem for Trump—if being wildly inconsistent and attacking an opponent for supposedly holding a position that Trump himself once advocated is a problem: 10 years ago, Trump called for a complete US withdrawal of troops from Iraq and indicated that he didn’t give a damn if this led to civil war and greater violence there. He even predicted that such a move would cause the rise of “vicious” forces in Iraq. But Trump believed this would not be the United States’ problem. That is, Trump was ardently in favor of the very actions that he now decries and for which he wrongfully blames Obama and Clinton.

To the one, is there actually anything surprising about that? This is, after all, the Donald Trump Show. To the other, though, with less than a month remaining, it seems reasonable to wonder just how many times one might get to hand out that August article.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

Corn, David. “In 2006 Interview, Trump Demanded US Troops Leave Iraq—Even if Chaos and ISIS-Like Violence Occurred”. Mother Jones. 16 August 2016.

—————. “Trump blames HRC & BHO for w/drawing troops from Iraq”. Twitter. 9 October 2016.

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.

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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.

Futility, or, Senator Mark Kirk

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), circa 2016, in uncredited photo via campaign website.

It was easy enough to feel at least a little badly for Mark Kirk, the incumbent U.S. Senator from Illinois whose seat is among the most vulnerable the GOP must defend this year, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacked his opponent, a legless veteran, for “not standing up for veterans”. There is, however, a limit to any sympathy, especially when the embattled Republican manages to do it to himself:

Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign falsely asserted on its website that the Illinois Republican was a veteran of the Iraq war, a misstatement that comes six years after exaggerations over his military record nearly cost him his state’s Senate seat.

The Republican, now battling for a second term in a tight race in Illinois, stayed in the United States during the Iraq War when he served in the Navy Reserves. But on a public webpage on his official campaign website touting his record on veterans’ issues, Kirk was listed as a “veteran of the Iraq war.”

While Kirk campaign officials said it was a staff error, the issue resembles the controversy that nearly caused his 2010 Senate campaign to implode. Moreover, Kirk is now running for reelection against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran who lost both of her legs during combat in Iraq.

(Raju)

This is important: Neither is this the first time Mr. Kirk’s name has circulated in this context during this cycle. Apparently, the Illinois Republican and his team just … what? Couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the lie again? Can’t be expected, in this hectic modern world, to guard against known exposure?

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Image note: U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), circa 2016, in uncredited photo via campaign website.

Raju, Manu. “Mark Kirk campaign site falsely calls senator ‘veteran’ of Iraq war”. CNN. 21 September 2016.

Yilek, Caitlin. “GOP tweet accuses double amputee Dem of ‘not standing up for veterans'”. The Hill. 8 March 2016.

The Jeb Bush Show (Edgy)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

“We have the benefit now of all of this philosophy of offering free things to people not working. I think the better message is, let’s disrupt Washington. Let’s create a little bit of a recession in Washington, D.C., so that we can have economic prosperity outside of Washington.”

Jeb Bush

Two brief points:

(1) Jeb Bush is doubling down on the “free stuff” argument that did Mitt Romney no good, yet remains popular with Republicans into this cycle.

(2) What was that about a recession?

No, really. What the hell, Jeb?

Olivia Nuzzi tries her hardest to explain the inexplicable for The Daily Beast:

Asked if Bush really meant that he would like to create a recession in Washington, D.C., the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan economy, his spokesman, Tim Miller, responded, “We should shrink D.C. so we can grow the economy of the rest of the country.”

But Bush said recession.

Asked “yes or no,” does Bush believe D.C. should be hit with a recession, as the country as a whole continues to recover from the Great Recession, Miller said, “He certainly wants to shrink the size of D.C. as laid out on his plan to reform Washington.”

And you know, this is the part where we usually shake our heads and mutter that it only goes downhill from there.

And, you know, it does.

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The Lindsey Graham Show (Three Amigos Reunion)

From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Maggie Haberman’s entry for First Draft, at the New York Times, actually has a really distracting quirk about it.

Surrounded by two of the “three amigos” — as former Gen. David H. Petraeus called them — Senator Lindsey Graham appeared with Senator John McCain and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday to denounce the deal to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Graham, a Republican presidential hopeful from South Carolina who is one of the most hawkish voices in his party, repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, just over three miles from the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, where the “No Nukes for Iran” forum was held.

“My friends, what we will see is a nuclearized Middle East,” said Mr. Graham of the deal’s implications, arguing it would extend well beyond Iran. “They view New York as a symbol of America. This is the place they would choose to hit us again if they could.”

Let us be clear: “Surrounded by two of the ‘three amigos'”? Sen. Graham (R-SC) is the third Amigo. This was a Three Amigo reunion. And they broke out a new version of an old classic. A nuclear nonproliferation treaty is bad because … here’s the new chorus, same as the old chorus.

But, yeah, other than the quirk, the important point is that it remains imperative to remember just how wrong these Three Amigos were.

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Image note: From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Haberman, Maggie. “Lindsey Graham and Friends Join to Denounce Iran Deal”. First Draft. 20 July 2015.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “Foreign Policy’s Bipartisan Trio Becomes Republican Duo”. The New York Times. 26 November 2012.

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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The Jeb Bush Show (Berlin Blitz)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) is 'seriously considering' running for president, according to his nephew, George P. Bush.

“Having Jeb Bush come to Berlin to argue on behalf of US foreign policy in Europe is a bit like sending Edward Snowden to give a speech on NSA reform to the Republican National Committee.”

Max Fisher

If that version doesn’t work well for you, well, it’s the sort of simile one works and polishes. Max Fisher of Vox also tried the joke on Twitter.

It’s a tough joke. That’s the thing. Or maybe the Serious Clown is just not conducive to cheap, overwrought punch lines.

More substantially, Fisher notes:

Bush has come up in nearly every conversation I’ve had here since arriving, and always with a warning: that skepticism of the US is already high here, that the German public’s support of tough policies toward Russia is tenuous, and that the mere sight of a Bush makes Germans want to run in the opposite direction of US foreign policy.

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