Washington Post

#WhatTheyVotedFor (#swampstyle rebrand remix)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“This kind of thing is becoming routine in Trump’s administration, in part because he’s fostering a culture of corruption in the government, and in part because Republicans in Congress have decided to let him get away with it. They could put a stop to the routine self-enrichment fairly easily, or force him to divest his assets and set up a blind trust, but they have chosen instead to do nothing.”

Brian Beutler

If one believes in morals to the story, then there ought to be something of value in the latest outrage to earn a few seconds notice in the presidential pageant of deviant misadventure. Via The New Republic:

Donald Trump is using taxpayer dollars to enrich himself while asking Congress to fund his government. Multiple State Department websites were found promoting President Trump’s private club at Mar-a-Lago Monday, and not in particularly subtle ways.

Once upon a time, Republicans complained about this sort of thing.

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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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The Donald Trump Show (Conway-esque)

Republican U.S. presidential nominee donald Trump is greeted by (L-R) his son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka, and son Eric after the conclusion of the third and final debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Reuters/Pool)

This actually takes some explaining. Or maybe not. Okay, so Robert Costa of the Washington Post issues a tweet amid the third presidential debate, criticizing Donald Trump, describing the Republican nominee’s now infamous “bad hombres” line as “Trump being Trump”, and the rest of the game show host’s answers by the lovely term, “Conway-esque”.

Five minutes later, with Hillary Clinton eviscerating the Republican nominee, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway retweets Costa’s critique as a boast.

Or, as Sophia Tesfaye put it: “Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is already auditioning for her next gig”:

Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, must be making a covert cry for help, as nothing short of desperate confusion could explain a tweet she sent in the middle of the third presidential debate ....

.... After Trump’s “bad hombres” comment caused a ruckus on social media, Trump’s campaign manager took to Twitter to retweet a compliment of herself and backhanded diss to her boss.

Somewhere in the load of not-necessarily transcribed, good luck finding it on the website pile of campaign coverage segments from msnbc’s relentless branding campaign is a bit with a few seasoned, liberal-leaning hands chuckling about the fact of major Republican players showing enough wisdom to stay clear of the Trump presidential bid. There is some merit to the point: Corey Lewandowski, a Koch lobbyist is no longer with the campaign; RNC consultant and Scott Walker’s primary campaign manager Rick Wiley has come and gone; consultant to notorious international figures Paul Manafort has come and gone; and former Dole staffer turned lobbyist Jim Murphy has stepped back from his role as national political director with less than three weeks remaining in the election contest. Donald Trump’s campaign is currently run by an alt-right publisher and, well, Kellyanne Conway. None of these were truly first-tier to begin with. But, still, while it’s not quite pitching for delegates in the 2020 race at the 2016 Republican National Convention, neither is it … er … ah … y’know?

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Image notes: Top ― Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by (L-R) his son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka, and son Eric after the conclusion of the third and final debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Reuters/Pool) Right ― Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Conway, Kelly. “— >”. Twitter. 19 October 2016.

Costa, Robert. “Bad hombres”. Twitter. 19 October 2016.

Tesfaye, Sophia. “Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is already auditioning for her next gig”. Salon. 19 October 2016.

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

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

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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A Reflection on Confidence as Danger

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a roundtable discussion with students and educators at the Kirkwood Community College Jones County Regional Center on 14 April 2015, in Monticello, Iowa. (Detail of photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It is true that chatter such as Paul Waldman’s title―”The first debate was a defeat for Trump. Here’s why the second could be an outright massacre.”―and setup generally makes me uneasy for overconfidence in a volatile marketplace I instinctively distrust―

If the first step to fixing your problem is acknowledging you have a problem, Donald Trump is in some serious trouble. We’re ten days from his second debate with Hillary Clinton, and while most voters and virtually every sane observer agree that Trump did poorly in the first debate, a spate of reporting suggests that his campaign, and especially Trump himself, are in a state of deep denial about what happened and what he needs to do in order to have a different outcome next time.

But that’s not all. Because of the format of the second debate, Trump stands to do even worse than he did in the first debate, and Clinton could do even better.

―but the WaPo analysis is worth a read insofar as it offers a striking, freeze-frame glimpse into the existential condition of the campaign, including how the candidate’s “short attention span and staff chaos” left it to Rudy Giuliani and Roger Ailes to prepare the Republican nominee to face Hillary Clinton, Trump’s failure to grasp the significance of the fact that his base alone is inadequate to carry the vote, and an apparent detachment from or rejection of reality that includes pretending he won the debate with a performance so strong Mr. Giuliani could be heard asking, aloud, “Why would would we change if we won the debate?”

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Your Lede of the Day (Allegation and Alligator)

Er … okay ...

Authorities in Florida have arrested a man accused of throwing a live alligator through a restaurant’s drive-through window.

(Chokshi and Larimer)

If the lede isn’t strange enough, there is the detail:

Once approached by authorities, James admitted to having picked up the alligator along the side of a road, driving to Wendy’s and throwing the beast through the drive-through window.

A judge on Tuesday ordered James to stay away from all Wendy’s restaurants, to avoid possessing any weapons, to get a mental health evaluation and to limit his contact with animals to his mother’s dog, according to WPTV.

James’s parents described him to the TV station as an outdoorsman and harmless prankster, adding that he viewed famous crocodile hunter and conservationist Steve Irwin as an idol.

At some point, this really does start to sound like a farce that never should have seen a green light. For the suspect, Mr. James, and everyone else ranging from inconvenienced to terrified in the moment of dealing with an alligator chucked through the window, reality unfortunately reminds that this is apparently not some script for the next Will Ferrell movie.

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Chokshi, Niraj and Sarah Larimer. “Assault with a deadly weapon: Florida man charged with throwing alligator into Wendy’s”. The Washington Post. 9 February 2016.

How We Do It (Freedom Forfeit Fried)

United States Department of Justice

So, you know, irony doesn’t really do any good for the people who have been hurt―

The Department of Justice announced this week that it’s suspending a controversial program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of assets seized from citizens under federal law and funnel it into their own coffers.

The “equitable-sharing” program gives police the option of prosecuting asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law. Federal forfeiture policies are more permissive than many state policies, allowing police to keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize―even if the people they took from are never charged with a crime.

The DOJ is suspending payments under this program due to budget cuts included in the recent spending bill.

(Ingraham)

―but for the rest of us, that’s gotta be worth something. There are some days when we take what we can get, and if budget constraints will accomplish what justice cannot, well, what else do we expect? This is your federal government. These are your United States of America.

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Ingraham, Christopher. “The Justice Department just shut down a huge asset forfeiture program”. The Washington Post. 23 December 2015.

Something About Obama, Something About Putin (Jung on Rye Remix)

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and iconic closet homosexual Vladimir Putin (background).

Narrative counts.

Steve Benen offers the setup:

By late 2014, Republican affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the wane. After months of gushing praise for the autocratic leader, American conservatives saw Putin struggling and isolated, prompting his GOP fan club in the United States to fall quiet.

That is, until a few months ago, when the Russian president deployed forces to Syria, rekindling the American right’s love. Republican White House hopefuls once again praised Putin’s bold “leadership,” as did like-minded pundits. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin argued, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”

Remind me, how’s that working out for the Russian president?

The punch line, of course, being: About as well as you would expect.

And, well, you know me; any chance to pick on Jennifer Rubin. The title of her October entry―and I shite thee not―is, “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”.

Still, though, this thing with Republicans and Putin is even more embarrassing than the bit about a young Jung finding a dirty thrill in his admiration for the maestro Freud.

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Benen, Steve. “Obama again gets the last laugh against Putin”. msnbc. 11 December 2015.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”. The Washington Post. 1 October 2015.

Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

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The Ben Carson Show (America)

Ben Carson and the United States of America: Composite sources ― Ben Carson Campaign/Twitter via Washington Post; Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

While not everything wrong with Ben Carson’s presidential campaign can be pinned directly on the good doctor, his own inability to communicate with others while respecting reasonable bounds of reality has left many questioning whether or not the man who believes so many absurd notions about history, science, and humanity is smart enough to be president of anything. And in that context, no, the latest failure of his campaign staff just doesn’t help.

Happy Geography Awareness Week! Recognizing that “too many young Americans are unable to make effective decisions, understand geo-spatial issues, or even recognize their impacts as global citizens,” National Geographic created this annual observance to “raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education.”

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign inadvertently underscored this point Tuesday night, when it took to social media to share a map of the United States in which five New England states were placed in the wrong location. The campaign deleted the Twitter and Facebook posts Wednesday morning after media outlets and social media users pointed out the error.

(Ingraham)

Dr. Carson doesn’t help his assertion of Christian virtue with bigotry and cruelty toward war refugees; he certainly doesn’t help his assertion of presidential competence by losing track of New England.

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Image note: Composite sources ― Ben Carson Campaign/Twitter via Washington Post; Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Ingraham, Christopher. “Ben Carson’s campaign made a U.S. map and put a bunch of states in the wrong place”. The Washington Post. 18 November 2015.