Trump presidency

The Latest Pickup: Joseph diGenova

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)

Steve Benen suggests—

Obviously, diGenova’s track record of pushing strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television makes it difficult to take him seriously, but because Donald Trump is Donald Trump, the opposite is true in the White House: this president loves those who push strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television. The same qualities that make Joseph diGenova appear foolish in the eyes of the American mainstream are the very qualities that make him appealing to Trump.

Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, ca. 2016 (Image: C-SPAN)—and that is all well and fine insofar as it goes. One need not protest, though, in order to recall general questions of White House morale and who might wish to work for the Trump administration, and from there specifically point out that eventually there will only be diverse manners of true believers left to answer the call. In this context, Joe diGenova might not be the best man for the job—

For those who support the president and want him to succeed, none of this is good news. Trump is facing a serious scandal of historic significance, which may very well bring his presidency to a premature end. He needs the best legal defense possible.

I’m not sure he’s getting it. Trump—who already had to replace the former head of his legal team, who seemed completely out of his depth—has assembled a group of attorneys who haven’t necessarily served him especially well, and he’s now adding a conspiracy theorist whom the president probably saw on Fox News, peddling a strange tale with no basis in fact.

—but could well be the last best attorney to take up President Trump’s defense.

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Image notes: Top —President Donald Trump. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)  Right — Attorney Joseph E. diGenova (Image: C-SPAN)

Benen, Steve. “Trump’s new defense attorney burdened by a controversial past”. msnbc. 19 March 2018.

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#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”.

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The Moralist, the Moralizing, and the Moral of the Story

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

There is no moral to the story; it is convenient word play in an age of professional moralists and societal resentment toward morals of stories.

A personal moment: Something strange occurred by which a blog accustomed to calling thirty hits an outstanding day pulled about sixty for two in a row. The phenomenon on this occasion is one of a scant few posts written directly about the infamous former FOX News personality Bill O’Reilly, on an occasion he appeared to throw his own mother under the bus.

One of those weird curses of privilege: Since people are reading it, do I deliberately write a follow-up? Great, who wants to read that much of me crowing about the demise of Bill O’Reilly’s tenure at FOX News? And can I really muster the will to wallow in such sordid tales when it means putting Bill O’Reilly’s face on a protracted discussion of sexual harassment and belligerence? And how much should I really complain about the world when this is the question I’m nibbling through lunch time?

Maybe it’s these conundra, even more than the low ethics, that we come to disdain about conservatives. I can still remember a Doonesbury episode from the Time of the Blue Dress, and the idea that Mike was relieved that his twelve year-old daughter already understood enough about fellatio that he need not explain that aspect of the headlines. The idea of putting Bill O’Reilly‘s face on any discussion of sexual harassment almost feels like harassing belligerence of its own.

To the other, it is not so much a question of passing on opportunity; rather, well, damn it, the smartest thing to do would be to stop now.

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Asymetrically Expected

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

Steve Benen brings both setup and punch line, which is what it is, and he is certainly fine talent―

Republican voters opposed bombing the Assad regime in Syria, until Donald Trump took office, at which point they changed their mind. GOP voters thought the American economy was awful, until a Republican became president, at which point they suddenly reversed course.

And Gallup reported late last week that Republican voters had deeply negative attitudes about the current U.S. tax system, right before they changed their minds in early 2017.

―but come on, Republicans are making it too easy. Or perhaps this is part of their faustian bargain, that such simplicity, daring to be stranger than fiction in a distinctive context akin to denigrating parody and pantomime, is the price of their desires. To say this is how Republicans or conservatives behave—to predict or expect such simplistic behavior—merely for the basis of political affiliation ought to be some manner of offensive stereotype.

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Waning Tacitry

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Via msnbc:

Ordinarily, a half-way competent president would manage to avoid quite so many international incidents, but Trump has managed to create these problems after just two months—in many cases, for reasons that are only obvious to him.

Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Republicans spent years investing enormous energy into the idea that President Obama hurt the United States’ international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world.

During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”

The point is pretty much the same, whoever makes it: For all Republicans complained about American prestige during the Obama presidency, it seems, like so many of their other complaints, precisely strange that they should have backed President Donald Trump. Then again, perhaps we should consider what that really means.

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A Headline That Should Not Be

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A Yoma feeds. (Detail of frame from 'Claymore the Series', episode 1, "Great Sword".)

‘Tis a grim headline: “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The lede is pretty straightfoward: “President Trump can’t seem to get past the wiretapping controversy,” writes Niall Stanage. “It’s not even clear that he wants to do so, despite Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in rejecting his claims.”

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 whole thing is a mess. The Trump presidency, that is. To wit, the problem is not that Stanage, of all people, gets that headline, or anything like that. It has an iconic ring, and his coverage of Donald Trump for The Hill managed to pull that one out. Somebody eventually would have, and it’s easy enough to say Stanage deserves it.

During the previous day’s White House media briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had read remarks from a Fox News commentator, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who claimed that GCHQ—a British intelligence facility—had been “used” by Obama to get “transcripts of conversations” involving Trump.

This has sparked fury in London. GCHQ itself, which generally refrains from public comment, called the allegations “nonsense.”

But Trump insisted on Friday that “we said nothing,” and instead sought to put full responsibility for the claim onto Fox News. “You should be talking to Fox,” he told the German reporter who had asked about the episode.

Soon afterward, a Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, said on-air that the network “cannot confirm” what Napolitano had alleged, and added, “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Or, rather: Whatever. The problem is that anyone gets to write that headline. It is some manner of thing that should not be.

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Image notes: Top ― A Yoma feeds: Detail of frame from Claymore the Series. Right ― Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder.

Stanage, Niall. “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The Hill. 17 March 2017.

The Difference ‘Twixt Republicans and Government

#theUnion | #WhatTheyVotedAgainst

It is so easy to miss these little moments amid the cacophony. Steve Benen brought us this episode, eariler this month:

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)Apparently, the point is that the Republicans’ proposal, panned by practically everyone who isn’t an elected GOP official, is better – because it’s shorter. This was Spicer’s exact quote to reporters:

“People who have concerns about this, especially on the right, look at the size. This [puts hand on tall pile of paper] is the Democrats’; this [puts hand on short pile of paper] is us. There is, you can’t get any clearer, in terms of this [puts hand on tall pile of paper] is government; this [puts hand on short pile of paper] is not.”

Please note, this wasn’t a joke. Spicer wasn’t kidding around. In 2017, the chief spokesperson for the president of the world’s dominant superpower argued, in all seriousness, that the merit of a national health care plan can be measured in part by page numbers.

There really is something to the idea that the presidency of Donald Trump marks the arrival proper of internet culture in American society; usually this point takes the form of reflections on trolling, flaming, and people who like lulz. This is different. This has something to do with an idea called Poe’s Law, which pertains to the written word and, for instance, emoticons. The idea is that there arises a threshold at which, without some manner of hint or cue, it becomes impossible to discern ‘twixt satire and genuine representation. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer trying to illustrate the difference between the Republican agenda for government and actual government slouches toward this dark and nebulous quarter.

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Image note: White House Press Secretary 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)

Benen, Steve. “By pointing to piles of paper, Spicer makes the worst argument of all”. msnbc. 7 March 2017.