unprecedented

The Suicide Pact as a Political Argument

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Contemplation of Justice

This is an interesting starting point:

If the Justice Department and the FBI knowingly used an unreliably biased witness to win a FISA warrant against Carter Page, violating his civil liberties in the process, you would therefore expect that there are some judges on the FISC who are concerned. They, after all, are the ones who were misled. They are the ones who signed warrants and renewals based on shoddy information. Conversely, if the judges on the FISC are not hopping mad, you might take that as evidence that they don’t, in fact, feel misled and that the Justice Department and FBI conduct was, after all, reasonably within the obligations of lawyers and investigators before the court.

(Wittes)

One particularly difficult aspect of the #TrumpRussia scandal is the manner in which the context of dispute overshadows history itself. It is telling, in comparison, that Democrats have come to defend and advocate the individual mandate, but also that Republicans and conservatives turned on their own idea; at some point, we ought to take the note about insincerity. It has, for years, also been true that a liberal political relationship to law enforcement is fraught, to say the least; but it is also true that conservatives have simultaneously drummed up tough law-and-order talk while relying more and more on conspiracy theories denigrating and defaming law enforcement institutions. Naturally, the allegedly liberal party finds itself defending the law enforcement agency and agent that, to the one, undertook irregular actions wrecking the Democratic presidential candidate, and that alone ought to be boggling. To the other, if we set aside Donald Trump for a moment, the FBI is also the agency that reviews its own duty-related killings, and has found itself to be perfect, something like a hundred fifty out of a hundred fifty. Given a day in court to indict all the sleazy tactics of a powerfully effective eugenic “drug war” any liberal would find the FBI in line to defend the necessity of allowing law enforcement to behave that way. Yet the spectacle continues apace, with Republicans hollering until they wheeze and Democrats breathlessly defending one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies on the planet. Without this extraordinary, self-inflicted presidential scandal requiring our priority, what is up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, anyway? Federal law enforcement is still law enforcement.

Just as Democrats finding themselves rallying to defend the individual mandate ought to be significant of something about how we reached this point, or Jade Helm leaving liberals to consider posturing an ostensible general defense of the American military; or, if we can remember back to 2009, the conservative roll from patriotism and the indignity of protesting against the president to the patriotic necessity of threatening the president with firearms; or, hey, we might consider decades of conservative conspiracism including the National Rifle Association, and then wonder whether it will be law enforcement or the military confiscating the guns; so, too, might we wonder at the trend of conservatives behaving so badly that others need to do their jobs for them.

(more…)

Advertisements

Passthrough (Presidential Potsherd)

#PresidentPotsherd | #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)

“I assume ‘let’s blame Obama’ will become a popular rallying cry in far-right circles, because it’s vastly easier than dealing with the facts.”

Steve Benen

It is not quite correct to ask who is surprised. In truth, nobody ought to be surprised. Still, though, if we inquire, for the sake of some decent societal form, what brought on Mr. Benen’s line, well:

This week, the president has moved on to a new explanation: this is all Obama’s fault. USA Today reported this morning:

President Trump said that former president Barack Obama is “behind” the angry protests that have erupted at Republican town halls around the nation during an interview on the Fox News morning program Fox and Friends scheduled to air Tuesday morning.

“I think he is behind it,” Trump said when asked about Obama’s role in the protests. “I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.

“No, I think that President Obama is behind it,” Trump said, “because his people are certainly behind it and some of the leaks, possibly come from that group, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

This is, in many ways, the perfect Donald J. Trump Conspiracy Theory.

And this is the Donald J. Trump administration, after all.

(more…)

Ominously Obviously Ominous

#incoherence | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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)

Jon Finer, for Politico:

What is different is that right now not only is there no discernible doctrine guiding President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, the United States currently has no real foreign policy at all. By that I mean not that the policies are objectionable, or that the Trump team is struggling with the learning curve each new administration faces at the outset, as it reviews its predecessors’ approach and settles on its own. Rather, I mean that we are experiencing an unprecedented degree of policy incoherence on virtually every major issue the country faces.

(more…)

What They Voted For: That Most Special of Interests

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Who: Darren Samuelsohn (Politico)
What: “Trump’s kids to run businesses via ‘blind trust,’ Trump attorney says”
When: 10 November 2016

Politico offers the necessary context:

Donald Trump’s vast business holdings will be placed into a blind trust with his oldest three children in charge, according to the president-elect’s attorney.

Trump during his campaign faced questions about how he’d handle his business dealings and potential conflicts if he were to become president, saying repeatedly he’d separate himself from the company. And while his lawyer Thursday used the term “blind trust” when discussing the family’s upcoming financial arrangement, putting Trump’s children in charge of a set of assets that their father is aware of does not constitute a blind trust. Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed. On CNN, Cohen conceded Trump would have a difficult time satisfying critics who continue to raise doubts about their plans.

(Samuelsohn; boldface accent added)

This is how Trump voters and supporters will work around the cognitive dissonance of cronyism and nepotism in their ostensibly anti-corruption, anti-cronyist, anti-Establishment, anti-institutional figurehead: Ego defense. Redefining terms like nepotism and cronyism in order to exclude what one desperately wishes to protect requires some manner of neurotic complex; there is no precise classification for cravenly making it up as you go, so denial and suppression cannot in themselves suffice, as it is not so straightforward. There is some pretense of intellectualization and rationalization, but scrambling to justify post hoc projection and displacement―while flailing into concomitant secondary denial about whatever prior sentiments and processes one is replacingα―is neither intellectual nor rational.

(more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Black Box)

Chris Hayes: "But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like. 8/8" (via Twitter, 6 September 2016) Photo of Donald Trump via YouTube.

“I know basically no one cares about this (the lack of policy) but it’s seriously unprecedented.”

Chris Hayes

We are soon to find at least something of an answer. In September, Chris Hayes took to Twitter, offering up a Politico article as an exemplary of a key aspect of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Steve Benen of msnbc, at the time, called it “an under-appreciated point”α, which is, technically, true, but that really is the thing about the Donald Trump Show; it is impossible to fully appreciate anything about this presidential “campaign”. Such as it is, and inasmuch as Twitter monologuing―monotwitting? tweetologuing?―is all the rage:

[1]I know basically no one cares about this (the lack of policy) but it’s seriously unprecedented. Here’s a snapshot. [2] Here’s a piece on Clinton’s tech policy advisers. [link] Fairly standard arrangement: experts/insiders volunteer. [3] They craft policy on a whole range of important, but fairly technical issues. Happens in all campaigns on both sides. [4] Lots of times these informal advisers over-represent industry, which is bad! But there’s an effort to sketch out a concrete agenda. [5] There simply is no infrastructure like this for Trump. There was for Romney, but outside of a few issues, it doesn’t exist for Trump. [6] There simply is not a real policy agenda. And so, the campaign can’t be about it in any real way. Hence the focus on immigration. [7] At least with immigration there is some kind of policy, even if all over the place. But you can actually talk about policy contrasts. [8] But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like.

And here we are, two months later, at the end of the line. To the one, did Trump ever open the black box? To the other, does it matter that he didn’t?

____________________

α Benen continues:

Trump and his aides considered providing voters with more detailed information about how the candidate would govern, but they rejected it. In May, Politico quoted a campaign source saying Trump didn’t want to “waste time on policy,” in part because he believes “it would make him less effective on the stump.”

The same source added at the time, “It won’t be until after he is elected but before he’s inaugurated that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do.”

As we discussed at the time, this posture turns the whole point of campaigns on its head. Voters are apparently supposed to support the least-experienced, least-prepared presidential candidate of the modern era first, and then he’ll let the public know how he intends to govern.

Image note: “But ultimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box. No one, probably not even Trump knows what the hell it looks like. 8/8” (Chris Hayes, via Twitter, 6 September 2016); image of Donald Trump via YouTube.

Benen, Steve. “Trump campaign’s ‘black box’ leaves key questions unanswered”. msnbc. 6 September 2016.

Hayes, Chris. The Black Box Tweets. 6 September 2016.

Romm, Tony. “Inside Clinton’s tech policy circle”. Politico. 7 June 2016.

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.

(more…)