MaddowBlog

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

(more…)

Advertisements

#DimensionSteve (Just Another Day)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 1, 'FLCL'.

From the mixed up files of Steve Benen:

#somethingterrific: “They’re ready, and arguably eager, to break their commitments, but they’re reluctant to talk about it.”

#artofthedeal: “It’s apparently Team Trump’s way of effectively saying, ‘Remember, we can re-take this hostage again at some point.'”

#ruleoflaw: “When a president with autocratic tendencies goes after courts for upholding the law, repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of decisions that go against him, it should make Americans a little nervous.”

#wellduh: “Never mind the incompetent failures, marvel at the ‘robust agenda of activity.'”

#wellduh: “Apparently, however, some took Team Trump’s rhetoric quite literally and reportedly started calling the hotline to report crimes committed by aliens—as in, extra-terrestrials.”

#wellduh: “What he refuses to appreciate is the fact that an American president says something, the world notices.”

#wellduh: “A woman in North Carolina illegally voted for Trump last year, casting a ballot in her dead mother’s name. A local Republican prosecutor has decided not to bring charges.”

#compromise: “But what’s striking to me is how much the larger conversation has changed since Obama left office.”

#wellduh: “We’re occasionally reminded that Sean Spicer isn’t great at his job”.

(more…)

#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?

(more…)

What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work

#earthquakes | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There is that part within that wonders―really, truly, genuinely in all good faith, wonders―who in these United States really thinks they can do that speech in which the audience is supposed to pretend they have no effing clue? Or, to check in with Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones:

If Pruitt’s address was meant to soothe staffers’ concerns about their incoming administrator, they may have come up short.

“Pruitt’s talk [was] as bad as expected,” said a current career EPA staffer of over 20 years, who requested anonymity, following the speech. “Not one word about public health. And talking about the rule of law as if we didn’t do EVERYTHING with the realization that it WILL end up in court. It was condescending and hypocritical.”

Some former EPA officials shared that view. “Trump’s team spent the entire campaign and the last few months railing against EPA’s existence, its staff, and its purpose,” Liz Purchia, an Obama-era communications staffer at the agency, said in an email. “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment. The American people are relying on them to defend the agency, protect its environmental statutes and stand up to Trump’s team to ensure they uphold science and the law.”

(more…)

#DimensionSteve (Theme Song Edition)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

Notes and quotes from Steve Benen, at MaddowBlog, 20 February 2017:

#ProbablyNot: “If it makes Sweden feel any better, many Americans often have no idea what Trump is saying, either.”

#WatersEdge: “As a factual matter, the senator is a Maverick in Name Only.”

#WhatTheyVotedFor: “There’s no reason to go along with this as if it were somehow normal.”

#GettingWorseNotBetter: “Republicans may be eager to blast Democratic ‘obstruction’ and partisan delays, but the truth of the matter is simple: Democrats can’t block nominees who don’t exist.”

#McCarthysMouth: “That’s the kind of quote that could use some clarification.”

#Backfill: “The era of ‘fuzzy math’ is back with a vengeance.”

#WhyGovernmentDoesntWork: “So, the nation’s Education Secretary, even now, isn’t sure the position she now holds should exist―apparently because she’s still not on board with the idea of having a federal Department of Education, which she now leads.”

#MatthewFifteenElevenα: “The president is himself on board with the ‘Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said’ approach to foreign policy.”

#PutiPoodle: “Why Cohen would tell two very different stories to two different newspapers is unclear.”

#YesWeHave: “Have we really reached the point at which Trump World is so accustomed to pushing bogus and misleading information that even the president’s golfing is fair game?”

(more…)

Something About Obama, Something About Putin (Jung on Rye Remix)

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and iconic closet homosexual Vladimir Putin (background).

Narrative counts.

Steve Benen offers the setup:

By late 2014, Republican affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the wane. After months of gushing praise for the autocratic leader, American conservatives saw Putin struggling and isolated, prompting his GOP fan club in the United States to fall quiet.

That is, until a few months ago, when the Russian president deployed forces to Syria, rekindling the American right’s love. Republican White House hopefuls once again praised Putin’s bold “leadership,” as did like-minded pundits. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin argued, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”

Remind me, how’s that working out for the Russian president?

The punch line, of course, being: About as well as you would expect.

And, well, you know me; any chance to pick on Jennifer Rubin. The title of her October entry―and I shite thee not―is, “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”.

Still, though, this thing with Republicans and Putin is even more embarrassing than the bit about a young Jung finding a dirty thrill in his admiration for the maestro Freud.

____________________

Benen, Steve. “Obama again gets the last laugh against Putin”. msnbc. 11 December 2015.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”. The Washington Post. 1 October 2015.

Absurd

Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

This is important: Over the years we witness much political wrangling over our American military. Even the question of whether our service members should answer to the law can become fraught with the cheap politics of patriotism. But a question has been nagging at me for years: Why do conservatives get to abuse our service members this way?

Via msnbc:

The perils of political paranoia in Texas (MaddowBlog, 29 April)

Cruz sympathizes with ‘Jade Helm 15’ conspiracy theorists (MaddowBlog, 4 May)

Walmart, Pentagon try to knock down conspiracy theory (MaddowBlog, 5 May)

Fearful Texas GOP base amuses nation with conspiracy panic (TRMS, 6 May)

Two points:

(1) Look me in the eye and tell me our service members would do it. I dare you.

(2) This insulting nonsense has reached the top valence of American politics, with at least three Republican presidential candidates joining in: Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

There is no point three.

This is absurd.

____________________

Image note: Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

What It Comes To (Mr. Paul Goes to Washington Scratch Mix)

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Okay, can of corn.

Steve Benen notes, well, among other things worth noting:

On NBC’s “Today” show yesterday morning, the Kentucky Republican told Matt Lauer that he signed on to the sabotage letter because he wanted to “strengthen the president’s hand.”

If there’s a way to see this as a coherent argument, I can’t think of it. Rand Paul thought it would strengthen Obama’s hand at the negotiating table if Republicans told Iranian officials not to trust or cooperate with Obama?

I’m surprised it took them this long.

On Monday, Daniel W. Drezner of Tufts University thus concluded his analysis of the fiasco for the Washington Post:

So, to sum up: Republican senators are trying to scuttle the negotiations with Iran. But not only do I think it won’t work, it might paradoxically help Obama.

It only took Mr. Paul a couple days beyond the requisite five seconds to figure out how to float this particular point as an excuse. They should have tried it sometime before the bit about the White House having no sense of humor.

____________________

Image note: Detail, “U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014.” (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “McCain, Rand Paul roll out new excuses for sabotage letter”. msnbc. 12 March 2015.

Drezner, Danel W. “Congress tries to go beyond trolling on foreign policy. It won’t work.”. The Washington Post. 9 March 2015.

The End of the DHS Funding Standoff

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) addresses the media at a news conference in February, 2015.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla)

And then it was over:

The Republican plan for funding the Department of Homeland Security never really made any sense. As GOP lawmakers saw it, they’d refuse to fund the cabinet agency unless Democrats agreed to destroy President Obama’s immigration policy – but it was painfully obvious all along that Dems would never accept such terms.

The resolution was always going to be the same: Congress would have to pass a “clean” DHS bill, funding the department, and going after the White House’s immigration policy through the courts. It was only a matter of time before Republicans realized they had no other credible option.

(Benen)

Until the next time. The only aspect of Speaker Boehner’s political calculation that is clear would be the suggestion that this will happen again.

____________________

Benen, Steve. “On Homeland Security funding, it’s Obama 1, Boehner 0”. msnbc. 3 March 2015.

Futility (Boehner Repeat Rehash Remix)

Don't ask me, I'm just the Speaker of the Fucking House

“He’s never wanted to just be speaker. He’s wanted to be a historically significant speaker.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK04)

It seemed a strange enough thing to say at the time. Consider that John Boehner’s historical significance as Speaker of the House might well be that he is the worst Speaker in history, at least until another Republican holds the job. Mr. Cole spoke of his friend and colleague just last November; Republicans had won a bicameral majority, and the article from Carle Hulse and Jeremy W. Peters is significant to this moment, opening:

John A. Boehner does not want to be remembered as the Shutdown Speaker.

As Congress returns from recess on Monday facing a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the government, Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are working to persuade the rank and file — furious over President Obama’s executive action on immigration — that engaging in a spending confrontation is the wrong way to counter the White House. That would set the wrong tone, they argue, as Republicans prepare to take over Congress and fulfill promises to govern responsibly.

And, well, as matters of House leadership go, kicking the can so we can do this for another week works, but the question of tone and avoiding a spending confrontation over immigration worked out just about as well as you might expect.

That is to say, Nancy Pelosi bailed Mr. Boehner out, and all she really gets in exchange is to do this again later this week.

And all of this leading to Josh Hicks’ headline today explaining “Why a DHS shutdown won’t stop Obama’s immigration orders”.

While Boehner’s allies in the House explain, as Jesse Byrnes reported yesterday, that the Speaker’s job is not in jeopardy, it’s worth noting that when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH04) “repeatedly denied” the prospect of an ouster, it would seem someone was asking him directly.

(more…)