Mother Jones

#DimensionTrump: The Lulzie Lede (Stone Stupid Mix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

L-R: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; comedian Randy Credico; longtime Republican hand and boasting conspirator Roger Stone.  (Detail of composite image via RT, ca. 2017.)

It ought to be significant of something that Dan Friedman of Mother Jones can possibly offer a lede like this:

Randy Credico, a comedian and radio host who Trump adviser Roger Stone claims was his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, has asserted his Fifth Amendment right ahead of an interview with the House Intelligence Committee that was scheduled for Friday, according to his lawyer. As a result, the committee has released Credico from appearing before the panel as part of its investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

To some degree, this kind of utter stupidity really is some aspect of #WhatTheyVotedFor.   (more…)

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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.”

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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.

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

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

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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The Ben Carson Show (The Value of His Values)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before addressing the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on 6 November 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Warren Rojas of Roll Call makes the obvious point:

Whether Ben Carson fudged a bit on that offer of a “full scholarship” to West Point or it’s a question of “semantics,” as he told reporters on Nov. 6, it wouldn’t be the first time a politician misrepresented their military experience.

Thus begins a brief review of Missouri congressional candidate Ron Dickey (D), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), former Rep. Wes Cooley (R-OR), and former Rep. Bruce Caputo (R-NY)

And in some cases it’s worse than others, but we should note that getting caught making stuff up about military service and honors is not necessarily the end of a politician’s career.

And perhaps Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson ought to take a look through these sordid histories. And while it is true the good doctor really does need to work, generally speaking, on how he responds to revelations of exaggeration and fabrication about the telling of his inspiring life story, a candidate who wants us to believe he is “not a politician” faces additional challenges when trying to walk, talk, and play the game like a politician.

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A Joke That Isn’t Funny

Inside New Orleans Planned Parenthood clinic. (Detail of photo by Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times)

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services.”

Judge John DeGravelles

And, yet, the hidden jewel is one you might overlook if you’re not careful. Molly Redden of Mother Jones tops His Honor, wondering the obvious: “They know vagina dentata is a myth, right?”

It’s a fair question, given the Louisiana proposal to do away with Planned Parenthood in the Pelican State and expect other providers to pick up the load.

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The Rick Santorum Show (Splat and Burn)

Plant workers in Cabot, Pennsylvania watch former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum declare his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

As gifts go, I’ll take a Wire show, but I really won’t complain about the Frothy Clown akwardly probing for his seat in the 2016 GOP Clown Car. Trip Gabriel drew the short straw over at the New York Times:

Rick Santorum, the runner-up in the Republican nomination race four years ago, announced his second presidential bid on Wednesday, pledging to restore a middle class “hollowed out” by government policies.

A former United States senator from rural western Pennsylvania, he appealed primarily to social conservatives four years ago. But he has donned a new mantle of economic populism, one he calls “blue-collar conservatism.”

“Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money,” he said, criticizing Hillary Rodham Clinton and “big business” for pro-immigration policies he said had undercut American workers.

Mr. Santorum, 57, was the surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses in 2012, thanks to evangelical Christian voters, and he went on to win 10 other states, dragging out Mitt Romney’s quest for the nomination.

Still, he has struggled to catch on this time around. He is in danger of not making the 10-candidate cutoff for the first Republican debate on Aug. 6, which will be determined by standings in national polls.

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The Mike Huckabee Experience (Christian Hatedown Remix)

In this April 18, 2015 file photo, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH.  Huckabee is set to announce he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  He has an event planned for May 5 in his hometown of Hope, Ark., where former President Bill Clinton was also born.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

This is a look ahead, toward some difficult times.

On Tuesday, Mike Huckabee made it official. The former Republican Arkansas governor and Fox News host launched his second bid for the White House in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, vowing to stop the “slaughter” of abortion and calling for the protection of the “laws of nature” from the “the false God of judicial supremacy.”

Tim Murphy reports, for Mother Jones, the “Mike Huckabee you may not remember”, and it’s just as foul a history as you might imagine.

Huckabee, then a Baptist pastor who operated a small television station out of his Arkadelphia church, made sex and morality the centerpieces of his ’92 campaign—and he preached as fiery a message from the stump as he did from the pulpit. The novice politician let loose with eyebrow-raising tirades that occasionally put him to the right of the most fire-breathing conservatives. He endorsed quarantining AIDS patients, condemned efforts to shield homosexuals from discrimination, and called for the death penalty to be imposed on big-time drug dealers. He attacked Bumpers repeatedly as a libertine who supposedly supported giving condoms to 12-year-olds, sanctioned gay throuples, and voted to use taxpayer funds on “pornographic” art.

Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)Huckabee’s 1992 platform was an artifact of the Moral Majority’s high-water mark. In interviews and on the stump he explained that the nation had strayed toward “selfishness and sensuality” and had been “savaged by radical groups bent on a moral and social agenda” at odds with Judeo-Christian values. “When I was in school, they passed out Gideon Bibles—today, they pass out condoms,” he said at stop after stop on the trail. In the new liberal order, Huckabee warned his hometown paper, the Hope Star, a family would consist of “three homosexual men living together.”

The gay agenda, he believed, was influencing and restricting the nation’s response to the AIDS crisis. He endorsed quarantining AIDS patients from the rest of society—a radical view even among conservatives at the time—while arguing that the severity of the epidemic had been exaggerated because gay people wielded so much political clout. The federal government should spend less money on AIDS, he insisted, and more on diseases that the afflicted had not brought on themselves, such as cancer.

“I realize a lot of people have received AIDS through blood transfusions, but AIDS is basically a lifestyle disease, and when the lifestyle is changed, the disease risk goes significantly down,” Huckabee said in one interview. AIDS advocates themselves, not taxpayers, should pony up: “Elizabeth Taylor went before Congress and made a big pitch that we needed more federal funding for AIDS. If Elizabeth Taylor would take one of the rings off her finger and sell it, she could get more money for AIDS research than the average Arkansan will make in two years of hard work. If she’s really serious about it, she’s got assets that she could dispose of. Why should she make me take money from my children’s future, and take it right off my table when she needs to cough up some of her own coin for that.”

It is worth noting that in this time when American Christians lament that they are, in various ways, under some sort of siege―from gays, women, television, even basic reality―it probably won’t help anyone to have so many Republican candidates rushing to proclaim hatred in Jesus’ name.

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A Problem with the Politics of Distraction

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in regards to her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State in New York, on March 10, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Gombert/EPA)

This would seem one to keep an eye on:

The chairman of the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks asked Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday to appear for a private interview about her exclusive use of a personal email account when she was secretary of state.

(Schmidt)

Obviously, there is more to the New York Times report than just the lede, and for the moment we might pause for an exercise in contrasts. To wit:

Mr. Gowdy said the committee believed that “a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary Clinton’s privacy, the security of the information queried and the public’s interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it.”

But Mrs. Clinton indicated on Tuesday that she wanted to give her testimony in a public setting. In a written statement, a spokesman for her said she had told the committee months ago that she was prepared to testify at a public hearing. “It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” said the spokesman, Nick Merrill. “To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public.”

There is, actually, a lot going on with this story that amounts to essentially nothing, which in turn allows such moments to slip beneath notice. Kevin Drum noticed―

Go ahead and call me paranoid, but this sure seems like the perfect setup to allow Gowdy—or someone on his staff—to leak just a few bits and pieces of Clinton’s testimony that put her in the worst possible light. Darrell Issa did this so commonly that it was practically part of the rules of the game when he was investigating Benghazi and other Republican obsessions.

Who knows? Maybe Gowdy is a more honest guy. But since Clinton herself has offered to testify publicly, why would anyone not take her up on it? It’s not as if any of this risks exposing classified information or anything.

―and perhaps what is most significant there is the reminder that while much of the nitpicking going on around our political discourse often seems petty and pedantic, it is sometimes important to check these aspects because they are, in fact, revealing about the nature and condition of the discourse itself.

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Fiscal Prudence in New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

As New Jersey reels from yet another legal scandal reaching the office of Gov. Chris Christie (R), it really is hard to know where to begin. Naturally, it is tempting to start “at the beginning”, but sometimes that is a difficult proposition, since nothing ever begins. So let us start, then, with Katie Zernike of the New York Times:

In a major blow to Gov. Chris Christie, a New Jersey judge ruled on Monday that he violated state law when he declined to make the full payment into the state’s pension system for public employees last year and ordered him to find a way to fund it now.

Earlier this month we learned that the governor, who once promised “a new era of accountability and transparency” was “waging 23 battles to keep state documents secret” amid a flurry of ethics investigations that have challenged his political ambitions. Zernike notes:

The decision further complicates Mr. Christie’s hopes of reviving his presidential ambitions, which have suffered in recent weeks as his approval ratings in New Jersey have sunk to the lowest point of his tenure, and Republican donors have moved to other contenders for the party’s nomination.

Mr. Christie will now be scrambling also to find the $1.57 billion the judge ordered him to pay.

And while it is easy enough to start, and even finish, with a roll of the eyes because Chris Christie has once again managed to do whatever it is he thinks he is doing, we ought not gloss over the other powerful irony, here. After all, what did Christie accomplish by skipping out on the pension system?

Well, he actually managed to convince Fitch Ratings to downgrade New Jersey debt. And he only had to break the law to do so. At some point, nobody can rightly claim to be surprised.

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Image note: Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit: Jim Young/Reuters)

Zernike, Kate. “Christie Broke Law With Pension Move, New Jersey Judge Says”. The New York Times. 23 February 2015.

Redden, Molly. “Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret”. Mother Jones. 4 February 2015.

Rizzo, Salvador. “Fitch downgrades N.J. debt, saying Christie is repudiating his pension reform”. The Star-Ledger. 5 September 2014.