Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.

Trump’s Tantrum

Trump Maladministration

Lots of stuff has happened in the past couple of weeks while I’ve been in blog bardo. Much of this is real significant stuff with lots of implications. But after all the stress of dealing with web host tech support, right now I’m not up to taking on anything more complicated than beer. Maybe tomorrow.

Right now I’m just going to snark a bit about an interview of the so-called president by the Associated Press last Friday.  A lot of it is unintelligible. Really.

The AP released part of the interview last week, but made a fuller transcript available late Sunday. You can read it in full here, but beware: It’s a doozy. The phrase “Donald Trump is unintelligible” was even a top trending topic on Twitter early Monday ― referring to the 16 instances where the AP marked parts of the transcript “unintelligible.” (Pace later told the Toronto Star that one of Trump’s aides was talking over him at those moments, and that the aide did not want their comments included in the transcript. The Star notes that “this is itself highly unusual.”)

I’m wondering who the aide was and what his or her function was.  But the interview is all Trump. He’s bragging about how he’s the most wonderful president who ever was, and he’s genuinely surprised the press isn’t nicer to him (see Josh Marshall, “Trump: They Were Supposed to Love Me“).

At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen points out some of the more jaw-dropping moments of the interview. Like this one.

They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf . . . asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete—not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO—NATO is obsolete, and I said, ‘And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.’ You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.”

Terrifying, right? It’s the verbal equivalent of mangled, three-day-old road kill.

We also learn that Rep. Elijah Cummings, off all people, told Trump he would be the greatest president ever.  Somehow, I think Trump misheard.

Nguyeb also tells us that at one point, while Trump was off record, he discussed something he saw on CNN. Then later in the interview, he denied ever watching CNN. This stuff goes on and on; see also “Seven Baffling Moments From Donald Trump’s AP Interview” at HuffPo. See also the annotated transcript at Washington Post.

Please snark away. The comments are working now.

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We’re Back!

Trump Maladministration

Okay, the links work now. I think everything is back the way it was before the Great Migration.

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Trump Maladministration

I see that the comment link isn’t working, and also links to archived things don’t work. I’ll get back on the phone to tech support tomorrow.

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This Is It

Trump Maladministration

If you are reading this, we’ve made it to the new server. I feel as if I’ve dragged every byte myself, over the Alps. Whew!

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Jonathan Chait and the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis

Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Republican Party, Trump Maladministration

I’ve tried to avoid replaying the issues of the election, but it interested me that Jonathan Chait, possibly unwittingly, recently endorsed the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis. Chait wrote,

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

Chait gets things wrong sometime. He may be wrong this time. But he might not be wrong. We’ll see.

The Sarandon Hypothesis is from 2016. I confess I didn’t pay much attention to Sarandon, but as I understand it, she argued that it might be better in the long run if Trump beat Clinton, because Trump would be such an awful president he would destroy the Right and bring on the progressive revolution. A Clinton presidency, on the other hand, would have simply continued the slow death of progressivism in the U.S.

Trump is proving to be such a disaster there might not be anything left of the United States to salvage. But so far, his administration has not helped the Republican Party one bit.

For as unpopular as the president has become, Trump’s own party has been hit even harder when it comes to poll results. Republican support has dropped significantly over the past few weeks, with Americans now disapproving of Republicans 70 percent to 21 percent — a 14 point negative swing from two weeks ago.

The HuffPost aggregator has the Republican Party at 37 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. Democrats aren’t doing much better, however. They’re at favorable 40 percent, unfavorable 50 percent. But you know who’s even less popular? Congress.

So we’re a long way away from seeing whether the Sarandon Hypothesis holds water. The strongest factor working against it, IMO, is the Democratic Party, which still seems reluctant to own up to what it got wrong last year. But we’ll see.

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How About Those Syrians?

Trump Maladministration

I confess, I wonder if each president leaves a note for his successor in the Resolute Desk — “If your agenda fails, and your poll numbers are sinking, start a war with some country nobody cares about.” We’ll see if it works this time.

We’re hearing that Trump was so shocked at the hideous deaths of Syrian babies that he ordered air strikes. These are the same Syrian babies who must be blocked from entering the U.S. because they might be terrorists, so I’m not sure who he’s trying to kid.

Frank Bruni :

There’s justification for it, absolutely. President Obama had advisers who wished he’d done something similar, and there were Democrats aplenty — Hillary Clinton apparently among them — who found his restraint when it came to Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to be infuriating, a surrender of America’s role and moral authority in the world.

But Trump’s military action makes little sense in the context of most of what he said in the years before he was elected and much of what he has done as president so far. Let me get this straight: Obama wasn’t supposed to draw or be drawn across a red line, not even when the Assad regime used chemical weapons, but when the regime did that on Trump’s watch, it crossed “many, many lines,” in his words, and compelled an American response?

That’s a “dizzying turnabout,” as Blake Hounshell wrote in Politico, under the headline “Trump’s Syria Whiplash.” And I can’t square Trump’s statements over the last two days that the United States can’t stand by idly in the face of such grotesque suffering with his determination to bar those who suffer from being accepted as refugees into America. The babies prompt outrage and heartache when they’re writhing in Syria, but God forbid they come here.

Some guy at Politico:

It’s a dizzying turnabout for a man who complained endlessly during the presidential campaign about the trillions the United States had wasted on wars in the Middle East—and who urged his predecessor in 2013 not to launch “stupid” airstrikes to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people.  …

… Only last Thursday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was saying, “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out,” and Tillerson, borrowing language from Russian diplomats, was announcing, “the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

Months ago, Trump was insisting that the focus of U.S. policy should be defeating ISIS, rather than ousting Assad. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he told Reuters in an interview. “You’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said. That was October. What happens next?

Who knows? I think he does what he feels like doing at the moment.

Charles Pierce :

As policy, beyond snapping back at Assad for the war crime he committed earlier this week, I don’t see how this makes much of any sense. We learned a new word Thursday night—”deconfliction”—which is fairly defined as, “Blow shit up without killing any Russians because that could be a problem.” I love the new jargon that comes along every time we decide to make war in a place. So it’s unlikely that we will be involved in a shooting war with Russia, which is a good thing.

By the way, how long has it been since anybody asked the so-called president about his secret plan to eliminate ISIS? This might be a good time to roll that out.

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Senate Republicans Clear the Nuclear Option

Trump Maladministration

Two big news items already this morning. One, “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will temporarily step aside from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including interactions between Moscow and the Trump campaign,” Politico says.

But don’t get excited: “The Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation will be taken over by Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.).” Meh.

The other items is that the Democrats blocked Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court from advancing in the Senate under the old rules. Senate Republicans have already voted to pull the plug on Senate filibuster rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority vote.

Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed tomorrow with 52 Republican votes, plus the votes of three Democrats — Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Donnelly (IN). Remember those names. I believe all three of them are up for re-election in 2018.

There is considerable hand-wringing going on about how awful it is that Democrats are doing this awful thing. The more I hear about Gorsuch, however, the more I think he will be a disaster. There’s no point waiting for a worse crisis to blow up the Senate; he’s bad enough.

At the NY Times, Steven Waldman makes a good argument that we might all be better off without the filibuster, or at least what the filibuster has become.

In truth, eliminating the filibuster would be a minor change compared with the problem that such a move would solve: the recent rise of a system based on supermajority rule rather than majority rule.

Of course, the modern filibuster doesn’t require senators to give speeches through the night. It’s all very abstract; in the case of nonspending bills, the minority party simply lets it be known that it has enough votes to block the legislation.

In effect, the minority party now gets to decide when a bill should require 60 votes instead of 51.

The switch to supermajority rule happened without a constitutional amendment, without a national debate, without its even becoming a major issue in a presidential campaign. Because it happened gradually, we didn’t fully appreciate: The 788 filibusters since 2007 — those were the “nuclear” moments. …

… Under the filibuster rules in place at the time of the New Deal, Republicans could have blocked the Security Exchange Act, the National Labor Relations Act and the Tennessee Valley Authority, according to the journalist Charles Peters’s new book, “We Do Our Part.”

And if the Senate had been operating under majority rule during the Obama and Bush administrations, the following bills would have gained Senate approval: the Toomey-Manchin background check bill for guns; the provision allowing people to have a “public option” for health care on the Obamacare exchanges; comprehensive immigration reform; an increase in the minimum wage; and the bipartisan campaign finance bill, called the Disclose Act.

The Democrats, Waldman argues, have been entirely too nice. They should have ended the filibuster years ago, when they had the chance.

To clarify, Republicans today only killed the filibuster as it relates to Supreme Court nominees. But Waldman argues that the whole thing should be done away with. And let the chips fall.

I’m sure there are good arguments for the other side, but “keep your powder dry” isn’t one of them. At Vox, Dylan Matthews argues that maybe Democrats should allow Gorsuch to be approved so that they might be able to stop the next right-wing judge from being appointed. But I don’t see the sense of that. Republicans would just pull the trigger on the filibuster next time. What’s the point?

Our only real hope of the complete takeover of SCOTUS is to hope the Dems take back the Senate in 2018 and that no other justice dies or resigns before then. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what the Dems do now. Republicans will ram through their judges any way they can.

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Bannon Out at NSC

Trump Maladministration

The big news this morning is that Steve Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council.

An 4 April presidential memorandum took Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive and chief White House link to the nationalist rightwing, off the US’s main body for foreign policy and national security decision-making. It also restores the traditional roles of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence onto the NSC.

While the revamp is likely to be seen as a victory for Trump’s second national security adviser, army lieutenant general HR McMaster, the substantive impact of the shakeup remains to be seen. A parallel security structure in the Eisenhower executive office building, known as the Strategic Initiatives Group, reports to Bannon, whose closeness to Trump is a signal-marker of influence in this administration.

As much as I’d like to think that maybe Bannon’s influence in the White House is on the wane — if that even matters — it may be too soon to assume that.

There’s also this:

A White House official said that Bannon was placed on the committee in part to monitor Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and never attended a meeting. He’s no longer needed with McMaster in charge of the council, the official said.

Sounds like a Trumped-up excuse to me. Flynn was fired on February 13. This excuse also suggests that Trump was suspicious of Flynn even as he appointed him, which I doubt.

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Trump Maladministration

This morning Senate Dems announced they had enough votes to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. It’s assumed Republicans will go nuclear and change Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority. And, of course, they will blame Democrats for forcing them to do that.

Sarah Posner:

But, putting aside the fact that Republicans didn’t even give Merrick Garland a hearing for months, Democrats are standing on the moral high ground on the merits. That’s because, at his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch steadily evaded questions designed to pin down his legal views, denying voters any insight into those views. This gives Dems both a defense against the “obstructionist” charge and gives them the better political argument.

Some have argued that Democrats should save their political capital for a future nominee. Gorsuch, this argument goes, won’t shift the balance of power on the court since his views essentially align with those of his predecessor, the late Antonin Scalia. Democrats, then, should hold their fire for a future Trump nominee to replace one of the liberal justices on the court, when the future of abortion rights, for example, hangs in the balance.

But Gorsuch has handed Democrats a robust case against his confirmation, and they should use it. First, there are his rulings. He ruled against a worker suing his employer in what’s now known as the frozen trucker case, siding with an employer who fired its driver Alphonse Maddin, for abandoning his incapacitated (and unheated) truck in subzero temperatures. Gorsuch also ruled for Hobby Lobby over its female employees, holding that a privately held corporation had a religious right to object to the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act. In both, Gorsuch showed he’s inclined to interpret statutes as protective of companies with readings that most Democrats and liberal legal experts find highly questionable.

Do read the whole thing.

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The Planned Parenthood Video Scammers Deserve Prosecution

Trump Maladministration

Last week California prosecutors filed 15 felony charges against the two anti-abortion crusaders who released deceptively edited videos to claim that Planned Parenthood was engaged in illegal fetal tissue sales.

Two anti-abortion activists who filmed undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood have been charged with 15 felonies in California. Prosecutors say David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress used fake identities and an invented bioresearch company to meet medical providers and record their private conversation without consent at several locations in the state.

Daleiden is a 28-year-old activist whose undercover videos have electrified the anti-abortion movement since he started releasing them in 2015. The first and most notorious video captured a Planned Parenthood medical director discussing the donation of fetal tissue with what some saw as callous informality—over wine and salad, as abortion opponents like to emphasize. The employee thought she was having a conversation with two representatives of a tissue-procurement company. Within months of the video’s release, the Washington Post called Daleiden “the biggest star in the anti-abortion firmament.” …

…Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on similar charges in Texas last year, but those charges were dropped after six months. Meanwhile, investigators in California were moving forward with their case, searching Daleiden’s apartment almost a year ago, and seizing a laptop and hard drives. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations,” California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a statement this week.

 The Los Angeles Times editorial board disagrees with these charges, calling it prosecutorial overreach:

It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time.

How much do I disagree with the LA Times? Let me count the ways …

First, it wasn’t just Planned Parenthood and StemExpress who were damaged. Taxpayers footed the bills for all the investigations that went forward because of this scam. This is from September 2016, while the tab was still running:

The investigations into Planned Parenthood’s practice of fetal tissue donation are running up quite a tab. Meanwhile, the man who prompted them has not received a single fine.

After anti-abortion activist and Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden alleged in a series of undercover videos last year that Planned Parenthood was selling donated fetal tissue for a profit, Republican-led investigations quickly followed and they have not been cheap.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee panel investigating Planned Parenthood is on track to spend at least $790,000, according to a recent report from Rewire. In addition to the previous congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood, a dozen states have also found room in their budgets for taxpayer-funded inquiries of their own. Texas alone has spent at least $47,000 on what the AustinChronicle has labeled a “witch hunt.”

Legal fees aside, Daleiden himself has only had to post a single $3,000 bond in Texas. …

… Twelve state investigations into Planned Parenthood have found no proof that the women’s health organization sold fetal tissue for a profit, as Daleiden has repeatedly alleged. As Vox reported, eight additional states have refused to open investigations, citing a lack of evidence, and previous congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood have not turned up proof of criminal wrongdoing.

Does the LA Times think those states plus the federal government will sue Daleiden and Merritt to recoup all the taxpayer dollars wasted on investigations because of his false charges? If so, now we’re talking. But I haven’t heard of any such plans.

It would be one thing if someone had legitimate evidence of criminal wrongdoing that triggered investigations, even if the accused entity were eventually exonerated. But when someone fabricates evidence to make a public accusation that triggers expensive investigations, that should not go unpublished. Maybe there’s no specific law against this, but there ought to be.

Second, violence and threats against Planned Parenthood clinics nearly doubled after the release of the doctored videos.

The scene outside women’s health clinics has become dramatically more threatening to patients and providers since 2015, when anti-abortion activists produced a series of heavily edited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of fetal body parts. The videos have been thoroughly debunked, and Planned Parenthood has been cleared of wrongdoing in multiple investigations. But the percentage of clinics reporting violence and threats by anti-abortion activists nearly doubled after the videos were released, from 19.7 percent of clinics in the first half of 2014 to 34.2 percent in the first half of 2016.

The most common types of violence and intimidation that clinics have reported include stalking, bomb threats, death threats and people blocking access to clinics. In 2015, at one Colorado Planned Parenthood facility, a man broke in and shot 12 people, killing three. He cited the alleged sale of “baby parts” as his motivation. Nearly half of clinics (49.5 percent) reported at least one incident of severe violence or harassment in 2016, such as a break-in, robbery or instance of arson or vandalism. A quarter of all facilities said they experience harassment by anti-abortion protesters on a daily basis.

“This is just not tolerable behavior in a democracy,” said Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a nonprofit. “This would never happen to men walking into a medical clinic.

The man who shot and killed three people in Colorado Springs, Robert Dear, told police he attacked the clinic because he was “upset with them performing abortions and the selling of baby parts.” Three people died as a result of the deceptive video.

In most sensible countries, using speech to incite violence — especially when the speech actually does incite violence — is what’s called a “crime.” After World War II several European nations passed “hate speech” laws to limit the kind of xenophobic, bigoted speech that gave rise of fascism and the Holocaust. It can be argued that in some nations this has been taken too far to curb legitimate speech.

But in the U.S., people can spread lies intended to defame and discredit anybody, even if that speech leads to violence, and nobody can prosecute them for it. The First Amendment protects all kinds of speech that sorta kinds advocates violence in a general way, and because Daleiden and Merritt  didn’t actually call on people to go out and bomb abortion clinics they can probably hide behind the First Amendment on this one.

But these people released a deceptive video to spread lies that not only lead to threats, but three people were shot and killed in Colorado Springs because of it.

I’ve written before that if any “activist” group tried the same crap against banks that they pull against abortion clinics, they’d be locked up last week. There’s be no question the perpetrators were terrorists and criminals. But violence against abortion clinics somehow falls into a grey area where terrorism can get away with calling itself “activism.”

In short, the false charges against Planned Parenthood promulgated by Daleiden and Merritt had serious, real-world consequences, including the murder of three people and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted, and these consequences didn’t fall exclusively on Planned Parenthood and StemExpress. Maybe the unlawful recording of private conversations is the only crime they can be charged with, but if they are convicted I will see it as justice. It’s like Al Capone being convicted of tax evasion — he was guilty of so much more, but better those charges than nothing.

And while we’re on the subject — last week the pathological misogynist and so-called vice president Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate that received little notice:

Republican legislation letting states deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers advanced toward Senate passage Thursday, rescued by an ailing GOP senator who returned to the Capitol after back surgery and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Republican leaders kept a procedural vote open for over an hour after two GOP senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, joined Democrats trying to block the measure. Pence then journeyed to the Capitol to break a 50-50 tie and cast the deciding vote in Congress’ latest clash that mixed abortion, women’s health and states’ rights.

I don’t believe this has been signed into law yet, but I don’t see what’s going to stop it.

The terrible irony, of course, is that Vice President Weenie (to be called such henceforth because of his pathological fear of women) has experience with de-funding Planned Parenthood. As governor of Indiana, his slashing of Planned Parenthood and other public health funds led directly to a public health crisis — a massive HIV outbreak. Apparently he’s learned nothing.

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