The Big Story

The Donald Trump Show (Piling On)

Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016.

To the one, there was no particular (ahem!) “Gary Hart moment” by which Donald Trump explicitly dared the press to do anything … or, you know, maybe there was and … and … I mean, come on, really, it would be easy to miss. After all, the Republican nominee has pretty much declared war against the press. As proverbial shows go, it would seem someone finallyα, took away Trump’s Twitter, which is probably for the best when we pause to consider the idea of a man who “privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day”, as the New York Times explains, “including a threat to fund a ‘super PAC’ with vengeance as its core mission”.

Setting aside the thought that, “Of course he would”, it always occurs to wonder just how often, within whatever schematic or flow chart or whatever else by which they define their expectations, any given bully so utterly fails to account for the idea that maybe the objects of belligerence might occasionally fight back. That is to say, what does he expect the press will do?

To wit, it’s not like they didn’t have any warning; Associated Press made clear they were onto the story of Melania Trump’s immigration and work history months ago; Alicia A. Caldwell, Chad Day, and Jake Pearson delivered the confirmation of what everyone already kind of suspected:

Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago provided to The Associated Press.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)The details of Mrs. Trump’s early paid modeling work in the U.S. emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them. Trump has proposed broader use of the government’s E-verify system allowing employers to check whether job applicants are authorized to work. He has noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.

Mrs. Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.

This is what I don’t get: Why? To the one, is it at all possible for any realistic person capable of running a business scheme like Donald Trump’s to expect that the press somehow would not or could not find this? To the other, in fairness, it is entirely possible that the GOP nominee didn’t know; it is entirely possible he is surrounded by so many yea-sayers that he has no idea what is going on, even with his own wife. To the beeblebrox, neither does the other preclude the one.

Honestly, only American conservatives could accomplish … well, this. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Donald Trump Show.

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α GOP strategist Mike Murphy, on msnbc last month after the vice presidential debate:

“Trump is a genius at stepping on his own messaging, and I don’t think there’s a force on Earth, at least without heavy weaponry, that can ever separate Trump from his ability to tweet. I think everybody in that campaign is trying to pry the smartphone away from him, and it’ll never happen.”

Image note: Top ― Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016. Right ― U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Caldwell, Alicia A., Chad Day, and Jake Pearson. “Melania Trump modeled in US prior to getting work visa”. The Big Story. 4 November 2016.

Day, Chad, Jeff Horwitz, and Alicia A. Caldwell. “Former modeling agent says he got Melania Trump’s visa”. The Big Story. 4 August 2016.

Gauthier, Brendan. “WATCH: Journalist Katy Tur responds after Donald Trump bullies her in front of 4,000 people”. Salon. 3 November 2016.

Haberman, Maggie, et al. “Inside Donald Trump’s Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance”. The New York Times. 7 November 2016.

Sheehy, Gail. “The Road To Bimini”. Vanity Fair. 1 September 1987.

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Something About the Speaker (Footnote Fury)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01) speaks at his primary night press conference, 9 August 2016, in Janesville, Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

“The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism.”

Jonathan Chait

Steve Benen frames the issue well enough:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has largely pulled off an impressive public-relations gambit in recent years. The Republican leader has recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader, without making any meaningful changes to his far-right agenda, simply by using the word “poverty” a whole lot.

But it’s occasionally worthwhile to look past the rhetoric and focus on the hard data ....

.... Ryan’s tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker’s approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

(more…)

An Adversary, Passing

Phyllis Schalfly of the Eagle Forum speaks in this uncredited photo from December, 2011.

Associated Press reports:

Phyllis Schlafly, the outspoken conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and founded the Eagle Forum political group, has died. She was 92.

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Image note: Phyllis Schlafly, circa 2011, in uncredited photo.

Salter, Jim. “Far-right activist, author Phyllis Schlafly dies at 92”. The Big Story. 5 September 2016.

A Brief Distraction

Associated Press: "US envoy takes 17 UN ambassadors to play with gay characters" (2 March 2016)Associated Press:  "NASA spaceman back from record year flight; gives thumbs up" (2 March 2016)This is fun. I mean, sure, maybe Scott Kelly did give an actual thumbs-up at some point, but still.

Headlines, indeed, can be their own manner of entertainment. But even more fun than mismatches like Krill Kudryavtsev’s photo with Marcia Dunn’s headline for Associated Press is a double entendre, such as we might perceive her colleague Edith M. Lederer’s human rights report: “US envoy takes 17 UN ambassadors to play with gay characters”.

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Image note: Left ― AP headline, “NASA spaceman back from record year flight; gives thumbs up”, with photo by Krill Kudryavtsev showing American astronaut Scott Kelly showing a victory sign, 2 March 2016. Right ― AP headline: “US envoy takes 17 UN ambassadors to play with gay characters”, 2 March 2016.

Dunn, Marcia. “NASA spaceman back from record year flight; gives thumbs up”. Associated Press. 2 March 2016.

Lederer, Edith M. “US envoy takes 17 UN ambassadors to play with gay characters”. Associated Press. 2 March 2016.

Beehive Buzz

VIII. Adjustment.

Just an update to a tale out of Utah:

A Utah judge who had ordered a baby girl taken away from her lesbian foster mothers and placed in a heterosexual home removed himself from the case Monday as criticism turned into calls for his impeachment.April Hoagland, left, and Beckie Peirce smile during a press conference outside of the Juvenile Court in Price, Utah Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. The married same-sex couple said Friday they are relieved after finding out they will be able to keep a baby girl they have been raising as foster parents. They spoke after a judge reversed his ruling to take the 9-month-old child and place her with a heterosexual couple for her well-being. (Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Though Judge Scott Johansen had reversed his decision and allowed the 9-month-old baby to stay with the married women recommended by state welfare authorities, there were concerns he could still have the baby removed from their home in Price later on.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce asked for the judge to be disqualified, saying that the decision revealed a potential bias that broke the rules of judicial conduct, their lawyer Jim Hunnicutt said.

While Johansen disputed their legal standing to call for his removal, he nevertheless stepped aside nearly a week after the Nov. 10 order criticized by national gay rights groups, the state’s Republican governor and others.

(Whitehurst)

This is a relevant question, I think: For all we might hear our politically conservative neighbors bawl about liberal judicial activism, what would they call a judge who has to make stuff up in order to desperately cling to traditional family values?

Just like we didn’t hear them complaining when the Sixth Circuit decided to arbitrarily recriminalize homosexuality for the purpose of sending a case to the Supreme Court.

Then again, I still recall the cries of liberal judicial activism in Roper v. Simmons, in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the decision of one of the most conservative state supreme courts in the country.

A judge getting caught faking it as he goes in order to exercise his right of conscience to deny equal protection in his own courtroom? If that isn’t an example of the sort of judicial activism our conservative neighbors constantly complain about, then … er … well, it would be one thing to say, then it is no longer clear what, exactly, they are complaining about, except, you konw, something about the day ending in -y.

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Whitehurst, Lindsay. “Utah judge removes himself from gay foster parent case”. Associated Press. 16 November 2015.

Beehive Awesome

Justice is blind ... just kidding. No, really, did you read the Sixth Circuit ruling? Jaded eyes, jaded eyes ....

“We all mistakes as humans. We all have our own opinions. Sometimes they come out in the wrong setting. I’m not going to guess as to where it came from. I’m just going to be thankful that he decided to fix it.”

Beckie Peirce

And then it was over.

April Hoagland, left, and Beckie Peirce smile during a press conference outside of the Juvenile Court in Price, Utah Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. The married same-sex couple said Friday they are relieved after finding out they will be able to keep a baby girl they have been raising as foster parents. They spoke after a judge reversed his ruling to take the 9-month-old child and place her with a heterosexual couple for her well-being. (Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)A Utah lesbian couple said Friday they are relieved after finding out they will be able to keep a baby girl they have been raising as foster parents.

The married couple spoke Friday, hours after a judge reversed his ruling to take the 9-month-old child and place her with a heterosexual couple for her well-being.

“We’re just happy we don’t have to say goodbye to her on Tuesday,” April Hoagland told The Associated Press. “That’s a big relief.”

(Price and McCombs)

It feels really weird to say, “Congratulations!” at a time like this, because, well, you know. Seriously, what in the world was this?

A note to the homophobes, supremacists of conscience, or however we might find to say it: No more of this, please. There is exactly no reason to take it out on children.

Be well, Utah.

Thank you.

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Image note: Right ― April Hoagland, left, and Beckie Peirce smile during a press conference outside of the Juvenile Court in Price, Utah Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. The married same-sex couple said Friday they are relieved after finding out they will be able to keep a baby girl they have been raising as foster parents. They spoke after a judge reversed his ruling to take the 9-month-old child and place her with a heterosexual couple for her well-being. (Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Price, Michelle L. and Brady McCombs. “Utah judge reverses order to take baby from lesbian couple”. Associated Press. 13 November 2015.

The Beehive Stand

VIII. Adjustment.

For all the complaints we hear from conservatives about judicial activism, what are we to think? Yet for all the jokes we might make about Utah, all eyes turn to the Beehive State. This week a juvenile court judge ignored the will of a birth mother, the recommendations of the state’s Division of Child and Family Services, the office of the Guardian Ad Litem, and, as near as anyone can tell, Utah statute when he ordered a nine month-old removed from the home of certified foster parents April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce because he alleges scientific data that he will not provide demonstrates children will fare better under heterosexual parents.

The State of Utah does not seem inclined to agree, and is fighting back:

Utah state officials are challenging a decision made by a Utah judge to a take a baby away from lesbian foster parents and place her with a heterosexual couple for the child’s well-being.

Utah Division of Child and Family Services officials said Thursday in a statement that they will fight the ruling at the appeals court if Judge Scott Johansen doesn’t rescind his decision.

The state agency said the judge went against its recommendation that the 9-month old baby should stay with April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, a married couple in Price, Utah.

In his decision, Johansen mentioned research that shows children do better when raised by heterosexual families, state officials said. However, the American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for believing that gays and lesbians are unfit parents based on sexual orientation.

(McCombs and Price)

(more…)

¡Benghazi! (Walk and Chew Tinfoil Mix)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks his fellow Republicans are full of crap because they couldn't find a way to support his pet tinfoil conspiracy theory.

Sometimes we need a specific setup to make the punch ilne; this isn’t high comedy theory, or anything, but part of the latest episode in the Benghazi debacle only stands out in relationship unto itself, that this is the House Intelligence Committee report:

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

(Dilanian)

So let that be a lesson; yes, when it comes down to the proverbial brass tacks, Congress can occasionally be expected to do its job. There are, of course, any number of explanations for the GOP’s partisan pandering over the interim, and a lot of it just comes down to fundraising to the one and the difference between acknowledging or exploiting human frailty to the other. The tinfoil scheme was largely a fundraising gig, you know? Intended to fleece willing sheep. Right?

“I think the report is full of crap,” [Sen. Lindsey] Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union” ....

.... CNN host Gloria Borger then told Graham that the House report concludes that the administration received bad information at first and did not lie.

“That’s a bunch of garbage,” Graham shot back. “That’s a complete bunch of garbage.”

(MacNeal)

Oh.

I guess tinfoil is as tinfoil does.

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Dilanian, Ken. “House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories”. The Big Story. 21 November 2014.

MacNeal, Caitlin. “Lindsey Graham Won’t Accept New Benghazi Report: It’s ‘Full Of Crap'”. Talking Points Memo Livewire. 23 November 2014.