Salon

Terrific (Heroes and Villains)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“While the leaders of the ruling political party have convinced themselves that they are heroes, in reality they are villains and enemies of the American people.”

Chauncey DeVega

What? He’s got a point. Salon:

As the Republicans voted to steal away health insurance from the sick, children, pregnant women, the poor, elderly, babies and people with pre-existing medical conditions in order to give millionaires and billionaires like themselves more money, they reportedly played the theme song to the movie “Rocky” and found inspiration from George C. Scott’s Oscar-winning performance as Gen. George S. Patton. On one hand, these are just curious details that help to paint a picture of what happened that day in Congress. But they also tell us a great deal about how the Republicans who voted to overturn the Affordable Care Act see themselves in history.

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Image note: Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

DeVega, Chauncey. “Despite their twisted fantasies, Republicans are nothing like Rocky or George Patton—they are political terrorists”. Salon. 8 May 2017

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Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

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A Memo to Pat McCrory: Deplorability and Expectation (#bullyblubbering)

#bullyblubbering | #pooreffingyou

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory addresses the Wake County Republican Party 2016 Convention at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, 8 March 2016. (Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

MEMORANDUM

To: Pat McCrory

re: Deplorability and expectation

Over at Salon, we learn:

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican best known for his controversial bill banning transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity, is now complaining that the association with anti-transgender prejudice is hurting his post-gubernatorial career.

“People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’—which is the last thing I am,” McCrory complained on a podcast for an Asheville-based evangelical Christian website known as WORLD on Friday, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

During a previous interview he told WORLD that “if you disagree with the politically correct thought police on this new definition of gender, you’re a bigot, you’re the worst of evil. It’s almost as if I broke a law.”

It is worth noting, sir, yeah, that’s going to happen: When you go out of your way to do something deplorable, other people regard you accordingly. It is, in point of fact, rather quite difficult to countenance the proposition that you are so incapable of comprehending this point.

To the other, apparently you’ve accepted several opportunities—your phrasing, remember: “I’ve accepted several opportunities”—so it would seem you’re not hurting for work.

Furthermore, you forfeit a good deal of general human sympathy when lamenting of having been “purged due to political thought”: You do recognize, sir, do you not, that you went out of your way to harm other people? You signed a law. You advocated against human rights. You created danger and harm for other people in doing so. If you wish society to commiserate with you as others react to your deplorable behavior, at least have the decency to describe circumstances honestly.

And what the hell do you have against veterans, sir?

Yeah, I know, it gets me, too, that nobody talks about this part, but you also went after veterans.

So, anyway, you were in fear for your safety because you were faced with protesters? And you were “sitting there”? Really, you can flee protesters while sitting?

Seriously, sir, if you would like to start rebuilding your reputation, perhaps you might start with not behaving deplorably.

Honesty would be a start.

Be warned, though: At some point you must face the fact that general human decency is a constant requirement of being viewed as a decent human being. I know, I know, some days it’s tough. I mean, you did sign that bill into law, and all. And you did go out and advocate for it. And you still don’t seem to have a clue what you did wrong.

Seriously, though, the times being what they were, yes, potty police and other assorted urogenital obsessions were going to try; and yes, an intelligent, decent public servant is expected to know better; and no, you don’t get to pretend you are any sort of victim.

And maybe you can stop with the bullyblubbering long enough to tell us what the hell you have against veterans?

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Image note: Photo by Al Drago/CQ Roll Call/Getty.

Rozsa, Matthew. “Pat McCrory, who signed North Carolina’s HB2 bill, can’t find work because people think he’s a ‘bigot'”. Salon. 14 March 2017.

Whitewashing History (Ben Carson Revisionist Remix)

#AlternativeFacts | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 12 at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. (Zach Gibson | AP file)

“If we use Ben Carson’s logic, Frederick Douglass made it big after his plantation internship, Harriet Jacobs went into servitude for the sole purpose of memoir research and Harriet Tubman was the best tour guide of her time. Carson’s actions have prompted many, including myself, to label him as an Uncle Tom. But we might be wrong about that: ‘Uncle Tom’ may be too good of a title for the HUD secretary.”

D. Watkins

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Image note: Ben Carson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 12 at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. (Zach Gibson/AP file)

Watkins, D. “Ben Carson’s infinite fall from grace”. Salon. 7 March 2017.

Something About Getting Stoned … Rogered … Trumped … (Never Mind)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Roger J. Stone Jr. in La Quinta, California, in March, 2017. (Photo: Jenna Schoenefeld/The New York Times)

Via the New York Times:

Roger J. Stone Jr., an informal adviser to President Trump, has been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to preserve any records he may have in connection to a broader inquiry into Russian attempts to interfere with United States elections.

The letter sent to Mr. Stone, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, represents the first public indication of the scope of the committee’s inquiry, and possible connections to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The Senate committee asked Mr. Stone, who is also under scrutiny from other federal investigators, to “preserve and retain all hard copies and electronically stored information as specified below in furtherance of the committee’s ongoing investigation into Russian actions targeting the 2016 U.S. elections and democratic processes globally.”

Mr. Stone confirmed the existence of the letter, which was dated Feb. 17. However, he said he had received it only on Friday, by email. Mr. Stone has acknowledged trading messages over Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that officials believe was actually Russian intelligence officers.

Part of the trick is if you squint enough, you can focus on just one aspect of the #PutiTrump scandal and make it stand out just enough to say it’s actually nothing at all. If you stare hard enough, everything else becomes a blur, and then this bit in focus seems the only thing there is, and therefore nothing of any significance at all.

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Butchery and Botchery

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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

Chauncey DeVega inquires after a point close to the heart of the #trumpswindle:

What happens when Trump and the Republican Party are done feasting on the “white working class” and their other supporters? When the bones are picked clean, to whom will they turn for a meal? People of conscience know the answer even if it terrifies them.

If a budget is a kind of moral document and a statement of priorities, Trump has shown that he is an enemy of the American people and the common good—including his most stalwart supporters. If Trump is willing to betray them, all others should quake in fear at what he plans for his enemies in the process of “making America great again.”

The question echoes: To call for Main Street over Wall Street, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? To call for empathy with the working classes, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? To drain the swamp of entrenched interests, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump?

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The Myth of Donald (Propacanada)

#trumpswindle | #mythopoesis

Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.)

Who: HealthCarewatcher (Daily Kos)
What: “CNN Just Reported Fake News on Justin Trudeau as Fact”
When: 15 November 2016

Via Daily Kos:

It has arrived. Nutty right wing propaganda has now been reported as fact on CNN. While watching Anderson Cooper 360, they did a story on World Leaders response to Trump. They reported as fact the following claim:

“Canadian President Justin Trudeau had called for a ban on Trump.”

First of all, Canada doesn’t have a President. It has a Prime Minister. I’ve followed Justin Trudeau because I’m really interested in Canadian politics. I really admire the Prime Minister. During the campaign to become Prime Minister, he eloquently said, “Conservatives aren’t our enemies, they’re our neighbors,” so I thought this smelled fishy. I googled this and found that CNN had plagiarized from a fake news site and reported it as fact.

A couple notes probably go here: First, this is hardly the beginning of the Trump Ministry of Propaganda; news organizations do occasionally fall for fake news. To the other, we can think what we want of CNN pulling from Hot Global News. And for whatever excuse CNN and other organizations might give, it seems especially important to pay a bit more attention to source credibility, because we are clearly in a time when falsehood can triumph simply for the fact of making Americans feel better about themselves. That is to say, sure, debunk all you want, but we will hear about this again from some passionate, (ahem!) well-informed advocate who apparently has no idea what is going on. (Never mind that last; the consequences of passionately dedicated ignorance is an inside joke that will, someday soon, and by the fortunes of the Trump administration, become rather quite relevant.)

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The Donald Trump Show (Basketeers)

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)

This is a long problem in the political discourse:

If you follow Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, you already know that statistics suggest that if only women voted for president, Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. Yet Trump’s female supporters are some of the most ardent folks on his side. He seems to appeal to women supporters as a candidate who will keep them safe and protect the borders from the bad hombres.

They don’t trust Clinton. And the endless stories about her emails don’t help build confidence with supporters of either gender. Yet when I ask for examples of what bothers people most about the emails, the answers seem to come directly from the Trump playbook. According to Trump supporters, the emails prove that Clinton is funding ISIS, ordered the massacre in Benghazi, is plotting to steal the election and is actually a pimp who procures women for her husband. “It just proves just how nasty she is,” one male voter told me.

When asked about the notion of breaking the glass ceiling by electing a woman to the White House, they all resoundingly said, “Not that woman.” Several women suggested that Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate in 2008, would make a great first woman candidate. “She is so much more prepared to serve than Hillary Clinton,” a stay-at-home mom from California said.

(King Collier)

It’s very nearly petulant, and comes in a variety of flavors. This time around it’s pretty straightforward: It is not that your voice does not matter; rather, forfeiture of reality simply does not constitute a middle ground. There is nothing we can do when the compromise point with conspiracists is granting the conspiracy theory.

And, frankly, it sounds like neurotic desperation, an excuse for supporting terrible people and ideas. The thing about self-indictment is that, for the most part, conscience will out; it’s part of being human. Relatively few of the infamously-designated deplorables actually celebrate their hatred; most of them try to find some way to believe they’re good people. We should find that encouraging; they want to be good. It’s just … I don’t know. This is the challenge. Pathos is one thing; self-imposed alienation is something else entirely.

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Image note: Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

King Collier, Andrea. “What are they thinking? Talking to Trump voters without judgment (and while black)”. Salon. 5 November 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Pants on Fire)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

At this point, it’s so damn ridiculous we could go on like this all day today and tomorrow and not feel any better even after Hillary Clinton wins, because, really, the Donald Trump presidential nomination is one of those American wild somethings in the whatnow that we really ought not try again, and I won’t say anything about swamp eels.

Damn it. Okay, anyway, it is easy enough to get distracted by the tale of the twitless wonder, but we might also take a moment to raise a glass to the one and only Steve Benen, who took a moment amid his own astonishment at talk of Donald Trump’s vengeful ways to appreciate a great symbol of the Republican nominee’s gaslit campaign, coming as it did while the team rallied to capitalize on James Comey’s clodhopping bombshell. Or, as the New York Timesα put it:

Stephen Bannon, CEO of Republican nominee Donald Trump's presidential campaign, meets with the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in Manhattan, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Carl Allegri/Reuters)But they insisted that to truly exploit it, Mr. Trump needed to do something he had been incapable of in the past: strictly follow instructions, let a story unfold on its own and resist the urge to endlessly bludgeon his rival.

They headed to a fleet of cars that whisked them to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, where a crowd of thousands was waiting for the candidate to take the stage.

But his aides needed time to sketch out what Mr. Trump should say―and not say. They sent Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, onstage with a mission: stall.

As the aides agonized over which words to feed into the teleprompter, they become so engrossed that a hot light set up next to the machine caused Mr. Bannon’s Kuhl hiking pants to begin smoldering.

“I think my pant leg is on fire,” he said after noticing the acrid smell.

Yes, apparently, really.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say this is one of the silver linings we get from having suffered the Donald Trump Show? After all, what better emblem of the emblematic? This is, unfortunately, the sort of experience for which there really is no excuse. And it is easy enough to say we all have played our part in American society and its reinforcement of some terrible aspects about our human frailty, but let’s face it, this time it’s pretty much all on conservatives themselves. They’re already trying to blame Democrats for Donald Trump, and the election technically hasn’t happened, yet.β

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α And hoist again for the four reporters required to bring us this heady glimpse inside Donald Trump’s existential uncertainty: Maggie Haberman, Ashley Parker, Jeremy W. Peters, and Michael Barbaro.

β Is there a rule about putting a footnote on the last sentence? In the moment, it seems like there ought to be. Nonetheless, it seems necessary to remind that the 2020 Republican presidential nomination contest is already at least informally underway; it has been since, well, before the Republican convention was over, and we even got the fun little joke last month about Kellyanne Conway pitching her credentials toward the next cycle. And, you know, it is possible Ted Cruz has already lost. Republicans are amazing, sometimes.

Image notes: Top ― Donald Trump announces his candidacy. (Photo: Justin Lane/EPA) Right ― Trump/Pence 2016 campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Benen, Steve. “Driven by vengeance, Trump is eager to ‘punish his enemies'”. msnbc. 7 November 2016.

Haberman, Maggie, et al. “Inside Donald Trump’s Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance”. The New York Times. 6 November 2016.

Rozsa, Matthew. “The big loser in Donald Trump’s war against the GOP is Ted Cruz somehow”. Salon. 11 October 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Somebody Stop Me)

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)

“I don’t know, you tell me. You know what? Why don’t you ask Hillary if she cares that cows can’t digest corn?”

Bill Scheft

You know, it’s a lot funnier to actually attribute it to Donald Trump, but there isn’t really a good way of doing that anymore. There is, to the one, Poe’s Law; there is, to the other, Donald Trump’s easily confused legion.

But it’s the one funny line in the premature flaccidity. Nor ought we blame Mr. Scheft; flaccid is the way of the Trump, and pretty much all caricature of this emblematic strangeness extends into that range, eventually achieving its best expression as metacommentary considering Donald Trump’s seminal lack of viability.

Prematurity? Bravado? Mindbending foolishness? It isn’t so much superstition this time; rather, the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee at all tells us there is enough wrong in the world that vigilance serves us best.

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Image note: Detail of photo by John Locher/AP Photo.

Scheft, Bill. “Donald Trump’s exit interview: ‘I just found out what the job paid. $400,000. You’re kidding, right?'”