nominee

Apropos of Nothing: Truth, Justice, and the American Ouroboros

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

VIII. Adjustment.

This is just a question: Is anyone else enjoying the hell out of the fact that Judge Wood might well be the undoing of Donald Trump and, thereby, very possibly the great Republican swindle itself?

That the crushing blow comes through her court would be . . . pretty much the epic saga Americans have been wanting, and, well . . . yeah. There’s also that.

Furthermore, that we Americans could manage to do this to ourselves? How is that not one of the most fascinating questions history could possibly countenance?

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What They Voted For: Swampstyle

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

Ital Vardi brings this wonderful bit of news for the Huffington Post:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is a shareholder in a private Montana company that manufactures and sells firearms and advanced weapons materials, a financial interest he did not disclose when nominated last year.

In response to inquiries from HuffPost, both Zinke and the company, PROOF Research Inc., confirmed the secretary’s holdings, though the dollar value placed on them varied. This previously undisclosed holding comes to light after numerous decisions in his first year in office that benefited the hunting and gun industries.

PROOF Research Inc. was first established in 2011 in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana, under the name Extreme Precision Armaments Inc., according to state of Montana business records. The company specializes in the production of lightweight rifles with high-precision carbon fiber barrels for hunting and military applications and was born as a merger of four smaller firearms and gun parts companies. It later changed its name to PROOF Research Inc. and moved to the nearby town of Columbia Falls.

According to the company’s website, its facility in Columbia Falls produces “the world’s finest composite barrels, stocks, and complete rifles.” A second facility in Dayton, Ohio, makes specialized high-temperature composite materials for the aerospace and defense industries, including components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and B-2 stealth bomber.

Obvious questions present themselves, but there is also something inherently clownish about the brazen stupidity of the omission, and given everything else, Steve Benen’s point last week, that the “Interior Secretary can’t seem to stay out of trouble”, resonates anew. There is also some impulse to raise an eyebrow at the seeming strangeness of a small firearms firm with such specialized defense-industry pedigree.

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Mundane Strangeness

#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)

This is one of those thing that … well, okay, so it is easy enough to get lost in the crashing waves of information tumbling across the land, as it is, but this is also the time of President Donald Trump, so we find ourselves suddenly having need for seemingly oxymoronic terms, such as mundane strangeness:

Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as agriculture secretary, has not yet been confirmed, and nobody knows why.

It’s not that Democrats are obstructing his confirmation—since changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule, they can’t block a Trump nominee unless they recruit three Republican “no” votes. And in the case of Perdue—unlike, say, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—they aren’t trying to do this. Nor are they resorting to extraordinary measures like the all-night debate that stalled Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation, or the committee walkouts that dramatized ethical issues hanging over the heads of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin or Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The reason the Senate hasn’t yet approved his nomination is that he hasn’t actually been officially nominated yet. Paperwork hasn’t yet traveled down from the executive branch to the Senate, so no hearings have been scheduled, even though Perdue does not appear to be a controversial nominee.

(Yglesias)

We should probably take the moment to clarify: If, for instance, we say that nobody knows what the problem is it isn’t so much a matter of political parsing as a matter of practicality. “They don’t seem to have a reason,” explained Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE), last week, “as to why his name hasn’t come up.” Perhaps someone in the Trump administration knows why; meanwhile, neither is the speculation absolutely raw.

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A Note on Narrative (Gregariously Pensive)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Setting aside the extraordinarily stupid headline … okay, look, Trip Gabriel explains::

The meeting of Mr. Pence, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, two pensive and little-known nominees, might be the least anticipated vice-presidential debate in 40 years.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.  (Photo: Gate Skidmore)Pensive? I’m sorry, but, really?

When Sen. Kaine was named the Democratic running mate, “gregarious” is a word that went around quite a bit. And while the two words are not specifically listed as antonymous, the one includes synonyms like affable, convivial, and outgoing, while the other matches up with absorbed, wistful, and withdrawn.

How about a show of hands among the press: How many of you just say or write whatever because the word sounds sexy or artistic or, you know, like, whatever?

This is a fun challenge for the day: Craft a narrative sentence properly describing someone as “gregariously pensive”.

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Image notes Top ― Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo) Right ― Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015. (Photo: Gate Skidmore)

Gabriel, Trip. “After Trump-Clinton, Vice-Presidential Debate Isn’t Exactly ‘the Return of Elvis'”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

Republican Justice (Maybe Mix)

Contemplation of Justice

Steve Benen, after reviewing the appalling stupidity of the Republican pitch against confirming a Supreme Court nominee, including their reaction to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, found himself adding a postscript:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who just last week explicitly urged Obama to nominate Garland, said in a statement this morning that Garland’s nomination “doesn’t in any way change current circumstances” – which is to say, Hatch still supports his party’s blockade.

However, Hatch also added this morning, “I’d probably be open to resolving this in the lame duck.” Keep a very close eye on this, because it may prove to be incredibly important. As things stand, Senate Republicans don’t intend to reject Garland, so much as they plan to ignore him. His nomination won’t be defeated; it’ll simply wither on the vine.

But if Republicans fare poorly in November’s elections, don’t be too surprised if GOP senators declare, “Well, now that voters have had their say, we’re prepared to confirm Garland after all.”

The msnbc producer and blogger advises readers to, “File this away for future reference”, and it behooves us to do so. One of the blessings facing pretty much any president seeking a new Supreme Court justice, and especially Democrats as such these days, is that there is a plethora of qualified candidates. In the end, given all else, one wonders if perhaps the “moderate, inoffensive, broadly respected, 63-year-old white guy” is actually the sacrificial lamb.

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The Republican (ahem!) “Quandary”

Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to be the next attorney general, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Toss a coin; is the problem the political reporting or the politics? Consider a lede from Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer for the New York Times:

Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr.

See, that’s pabulum. But, to the other, whence comes it? After all, U.S Attorney Loretta Lynch has seen her nomination to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General languish, though Senate Republicans are hard pressed to come up with a reason.

But, still, really? This is like a children’s book―And then the poor Senator had to choose …―except, come on, it wouldn’t make any sense even to children.

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Your Quote of the Day

Eric Holder in Washington, D.C., 1 June 2014. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

“To borrow a Homer Simpson line, it’s funny because it’s true.”

Steve Benen

It really is something of a mystery:

Remember, Senate Democrats could have tried to rush Lynch through the confirmation process during the lame-duck session late last year – before Dems lost their majority status – but Republicans implored Democrats not to. The power should rest with the incoming majority, GOP senators said.

The outgoing Democratic majority obliged, expecting Republicans to be at least somewhat responsible. After all, there were no substantive objections to Lynch and the GOP was desperate to see Holder go. Republicans had a built-in incentive to act reasonably.

And yet, here we are. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his team have subjected Lynch to the longest delay of any A.G. nominee in history – for reasons they haven’t even tried to explain – and this week, McConnell even broke his word about bringing Lynch’s nomination to the floor for a vote this week.

The irony is under-appreciated: Republicans wanted Holder to step down, and he did. Republicans wanted Obama to nominate an uncontroversial successor, and he did. Republicans wanted Democrats not to vote on Lynch in the lame-duck session, and they obliged.

Months later, the Senate’s GOP majority can’t quite bring itself to do what Republicans say they want to do. In fact, as far as McConnell & Co. are concerned, they hope to defeat Lynch – again, for reasons they’ve struggled to articulate – raising the prospect of Republicans keeping Holder at his current post until January 2017.

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Benen, Steve. “Holder suddenly enjoys the GOP’s ‘love’ and ‘affection'”. msnbc. 18 March 2015.

Ransom Governance

Mitch McConnell

When Loretta Lynch, nominee to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Republican majority seemed less interested in her record as an attorney and more focused on complaining about the man who would be her predecessor. And this, of course, after Republican efforts during the last session to block her nomination. Yesterday, things took a turn for the strange―

Yesterday, the GOP strategy became clearer. McConnell seems to have kept things vague because he intended to break his word.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there’ll be no vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general until Republicans and Democrats resolve a dispute over a human trafficking bill.

“If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general,” then “we have to finish the human trafficking bill,” McConnell said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Majority Leader added that he “had hoped” to allow the Senate to vote on Lynch, whose nomination has, by most measures, already waited longer than any other A.G. nomination in American history, but Lynch “will be put off again” unless Democrats agree to pass the human-trafficking bill that stalled last week.

McConnell went on to say, “We have to finish the human trafficking bill. The Loretta Lynch nomination comes next.”

Benen - GOP Ransom NoteJust so we’re clear, there’s no procedural concern or rule that must be followed. McConnell could bring Lynch’s 128-day wait to an end this morning, and by all appearances, she’d have the votes necessary to be confirmed.

(Benen)

―which, admittedly, sounds about par for the course in terms of Republican governance. The point here is the same as it has always been, to govern by ransom. The underlying argument here is that Republicans refuse to undertake their basic obligations unless they are given extra rewards. Give them treats, or the nation will suffer.

Benen noted yesterday:

And what of the human-trafficking bill? That was a bipartisan proposal, set to clear the chamber 100 to 0, but Republicans quietly added an anti-abortion provision and neglected to mention it to the Democratic co-sponsors. Dems, feeling betrayed and opposing the add-on, have decided to withdraw their support for the bill until the GOP majority takes the provision out.

Riders have always been notorious, but of late Republicans have taken this practice to odius extremes.α

As Benen reports today, the White House has sounded off on the Majority Leader’s stupidity:

From the White House podium, press secretary Josh Earnest is usually pretty circumspect in his criticisms of lawmakers. Yesterday, however, President Obama’s spokesperson was far less guarded – the Senate Republicans’ handling of Loretta Lynch’s Attorney General nomination, and their willingness to connect this to an unrelated human-trafficking bill, was just too much for Earnest.

“You’ve got to hand it to Republicans, that they’ve taken even a measure as common sense as [combating human trafficking] and turned it into a partisan controversy.

“That is not a reflection of a flaw in the bill. It’s a reflection of inept leadership”....

.... For his part, McConnell told reporters yesterday that the previous Senate Democratic majority could have voted on Lynch during last year’s lame-duck session, but they didn’t, delaying the vote until the new Congress. McConnell “failed to point out that that delay was at his request,” the president’s spokesperson reminded reporters yesterday.

And as hard as it seems to believe, this sort of dishonesty and irresponsibility is apparently what our Republican-voting neighbors want. But, you know, just like Sen. Embry, it’s not their faults.

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α Consider, for example, Kentucky―what? Kentucky? imagine that!―where Adam Beam reported on an episode in which a group of high school students managed to get a bill into serious consideration before the state house. The bill would have allowed student committees to participate in the screening of candidates for superintendent, and appeared to be on its way to easy passage. Then state Sen. C.B. Embry (R-KY06) tacked on an amendment demanding schools discriminate against transgender students. Another amendment would empower religious supremacism and discrimination. The bill is now left in limbo because the Kentucky House is wary of what happens next. As to Sen. Embry? “It’s not my fault,” he explained. And why would it be? He’s just a Republican, and they are never at fault for their own actions, and thus should never be held accountable.

Benen, Steve. “McConnell subjects Lynch to ransom-based governing”. msnbc. 16 March 2015.

—————. “White House takes aim at GOP’s ‘inept leadership'”. msnbc. 17 March 2015.

Beam, Adam. “Kentucky students get hard lesson in politics from lawmakers”. Boulder Daily Camera. 11 March 2015.

Getting Silly

Eric Holder in Washington, D.C., 1 June 2014. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Every once in a while a politician pops off, like Bill Clinton saying he never inhaled, and somewhere in the world several people are laughing in a specific context: Ha! He really went and said it!

But then there are times when we just want to put our foot down. It is considerably more abstract a sense of outrage, and there really isn’t anything funny about this particular flavor of disgust.

Paul Kane and Juliet Eilperin bring the latest very nearly predictable twist:

President Obama has yet to reveal his choice to succeed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but already the Senate confirmation process has begun its march toward contentiousness.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)With Nov. 4 midterm elections potentially tipping the balance in the Senate, some Republicans immediately called for a delay in the hearings and votes on the new attorney general until January, when the possibility of a GOP majority in the Senate might give Republicans almost total control of the outcome.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) issued a political call to arms for conservatives, saying that outgoing senators should not vote on the nominee during the post-election lame-duck session. “Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder’s successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced,” Cruz said in a statement.

It would seem a strange proposition that the United States Senate actually doing its job would constitute some sort of abuse of power. Kevin Drum rightly wonders, “Unless Cruz is suggesting that [lame-duck senators] should be banned completely, then of course business should be conducted during lame duck sessions. What else is Congress supposed to do during those few weeks?”

And, yes, this is the sort of idiocy we have all come to expect from Mr. Cruz; his is a unique brand of fertilizer. And, certainly, it is reasonable to run down the list of reasons why the junior senator from Texas is wrong. In the larger picture of the Beltway Republicans, though, the Senate backbencher and honorary President of the Tortilla Coast Junta in the House is, for once, actually taking his lead from Speaker Boehner instead of working to frustrate him.

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