The Idiot Abroad

The news from the G-8 summit is that trade negotiations with China are on again. Apparently Trump blinked and offered concessions. Basically, Trump made a crisis of his own making slightly less bad. The Right will turn this into a major victory.

Trump also continues to embarass our species every time he opens his mouth. One does wonder where his head is, or even if he has one. His inane complaint about the U.S.-Japanese alliance — basically, that Japan should be paying more protection money — reveals not just ignorance of history but shows he is utterly oblivious to the fact that Japan’s prime minister has been bending over backwards to be nice to him

Mr. Trump’s words are also a pointless slap to Japan’s right-wing prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has ardently sought to cultivate a relationship with Mr. Trump and is trying to mediate a way out of the crisis between the United States and Iran. The 1960 treaty was signed by Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, another prime minister. During a four-day state visit to Japan in May, Mr. Abe flattered Mr. Trump with an extraordinary meeting with Japan’s new emperor, a sumo wrestling match and a lavish state banquet at the Imperial Palace. Yet standing next to Mr. Abe at a news conference in Tokyo, Mr. Trump shrugged off Japanese fears about North Korea’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles that could kill thousands of Japanese civilians.

This level of obliviousness goes beyond mere psychopathy, IMO, because even a psychopath can appreciate how other people think and what they want. They just don’t care. Psychopaths can put on a show of courtesy and consideration if they feel there’s something in it for them. But Trump is even worse; he can’t “think” outside of his own self-gratification. Not even self-interest; self-gratification. Anything that doesn’t immediately trigger happy tingles in his limbic system has no interest to him. Showing some reciprocal consideration to Shinzo Abe is very much in Trump’s self-interest, not to mention the U.S.’s interest, but he can’t be bothered.

But it gets worse. Vladimir Putin made some comment that western-style liberalism has become obsolete. Putin obviously was referring to the common political system of the western world that values the freedom of the individual. The New York Times’s Peter Baker asked Trump to comment on that, and Trump took “western-style liberalism” to mean “Democrats in California.”

Well, I mean he may feel that way. He’s sees what’s going on, I guess, if you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco and a couple of other cities, which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but he does see things that are happening in the United States that would probably preclude him from saying how wonderful it is. At the same time, he congratulated me, as every other leader of every other country did for what we’ve done economically, because we probably have the strongest economy we’ve ever had, and that’s a real positive. But I’m very embarrassed by what I see in some of our cities, where the politicians are either afraid to do something about it, or they think it’s votes or I don’t know what. Peter, I don’t know what they’re thinking. But when you look at Los Angeles, when you look at San Francisco, when you look at some of the other cities — and not a lot, not a lot — but you don’t want it to spread. And at a certain point, I think the federal government maybe has to get involved. We can’t let that continue to happen to our cities.

The moron also was asked about the confrontation between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden over his record from way back when on court-ordered busing. Trump clearly had no idea what the “busing” exchange was about. His response:

ABC NEWS’S JONATHAN KARL: I’m sure you saw the exchange between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the issue of federal busing — federally mandated busing. Biden thought that was a bad policy; he tried to stop it. Kamala Harris said it was an important part of desegregation, including in her own experience. Where do you stand on that issue of federally mandated busing?

TRUMP: First of all, before we get into that, I thought that she was given too much credit. … And as far as that, I will tell you in about four weeks, because we’re coming out with a certain policy that’s going to be very interesting and very surprising, I think, to a lot of people. 

What the bleep? And then …

WELKER: I just wanted to follow up on the question about busing. Do you see it as a viable way of integrating schools. Does that relate to the policy that you’re —

TRUMP: Well, that’s something that they’ve done for a long period of time. You know, there aren’t that many ways you’re going to get people to schools. So this is something that’s been done. In some cases, it’s been done with a hammer instead of a velvet glove. And, you know, that’s part of it.. But this has been certainly a thing that’s been used over the — I think if Vice President Biden had answered the question somewhat differently, it would have been a different result. Because they really did hit him hard on that one. But it is certainly a primary method of getting people to schools.

WELKER: And does it relate to the policy that you’re going to unveil that you just floated?

TRUMP: It relates to everything we’re doing. And you’ll be hearing about it over the next couple of months.

In other words, he had no clue what Harris and Biden were talking about, but he’s pretending he’s on top of it and will have a fix for it really soon.

Debate Part II

And the winner is …

She’s not my first choice on policy, but damn would I pay money to see Kamala Harris on a debate stage with Trump.

And what’s that noise about Joe Biden being the best person to take on Trump? I never believed it, but after last night you’d have to be a Biden cult follower to still think he’s the Only One Who Can Beat Trump. His affable Uncle Joe act was not working for him, at all.

Greg Sargent has an interesting analysis. Biden has simultaneously been selling himself as a champion of civil rights while, at the same time, signaling to white working class voters that he’s still the guy who fought busing.

When we discuss Biden’s electability in the industrial Midwest, race is central to what we’re talking about, and we all know it.

The most charitable way to put this is that Biden comes from a Democratic Party that precedes its new “wokeness,” so those voters might be more comfortable with him. A less charitable way is that Biden’s past association with things like his opposition to busing — which meant capturing the political energy of white racial backlash — carries an implicit racial and cultural signaling that will reassure them.

One key reason that Biden’s nostalgia over white supremacist senators blew up on him is that it ripped the lid off of all this. Just as Harris does, I believe Biden when he insists he was, and is, horrified by their white supremacy.

But what still remains ambiguous is whether Biden does or does not conceive the source of his claimed appeal to conservative whites as rooted in subtle appeals to blue collar white identity politics, as Jamelle Bouie has detailed.

This ambiguity was pushed forward when Biden adamantly refused to back off his praise for segregationist senators and, worse, when he dressed down African American Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) over the matter.

Harris put Biden on notice that he’s not going to get away with it. And he won’t, with younger voters, although I’ve seen polling saying that older voters are willing to give him a pass. Well, we’ll see what the polls do.

If Harris was the biggest winner and Biden — who had the most to lose — the biggest loser, what about the rest of the field? My impression is that it came down to who did and did not hurt themselves. For example, Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, and if you love Bernie you still love him, and if you don’t, you still don’t. I don’t think he was much of a factor last night, but he didn’t hurt himself.

Likewise Pete Buttigieg, who is mostly getting good reviews, didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t know if he helped himself. I suspect he mostly reinforced the impression he had already made on voters.

Michael Bennet had little speaking time, but when he did have the mic he managed to not be obnoxious. He may have helped himself with moderate voters, for what that’s worth.

I’m not sure about Kirsten Gillibrand. She was working hard at being assertive and did more than her share of interrupting. I remember agreeing with a lot of what she said. But no one is talking about Gillibrand this morning. She didn’t “break out.”

Andrew Yang had nothing to lose and little speaking time. He is mostly remembered today for not wearing a tie.

Now, to the second-tier losers. The Mr. Obnoxious Award goes to Eric Swalwell for his repeated bellowing of “pass the torch!” at Biden and Sanders.

John Hickenlooper remains The Candidate From the Past Century. I might have given him a second look in the 1980s. Well, no probably not then, either.

And last and least, there is The Candidate From Another Galaxy, Marianne Williamson, whose performance last night deserves to be re-enacted in an SNL skit. Last night I posted “Marianne Williamson is annoying” on my Facebook page, and the first person who agreed with me is a Zen priest. Really.  She must have some following or she wouldn’t have been on the stage, but I seriously hope she’s gone before the next round.

For those just tuning in, here is Debate Part I.

Update: Frank Rich, Kamala Harris’s Debate Performance Should Scare Trump

Debate Part I

It was messy, but it managed not to be a train wreck, and some things were clarified. I’ve been browsing through opinion pieces on the debate, and no two people agree who the winners and losers were. What I think, from worst to best:

Tim Ryan and John Delaney should not have been there, and I fervently hope they drop out before the next round of debates in July so they don’t continue to waste space. Delaney especially must have realized he had a problem when he expressed support for Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment and the crowd, which had been cheering a lot, was silent.

Beto O’Rourke needs to re-think his decision to run for president instead of for John Cornyn’s Senate seat. And he needs to do that really soon, because as a presidential candidate his image is deflating like a leaking balloon.

A lot of commenters want Jay Inslee to drop out, but I don’t mind him staying in a bit longer to keep reminding us that climate change is the paramount issue we’re not facing.

People found Bill De Blasio either surprisingly effective or really annoying. I expect him to get a little bit of a bump in the polls, but I fervently hope not enough of a bump to put him in the next round of debates.

Tulsi Gabbard was, to me, better than expected, but she’s being tagged by many as a debate loser nonetheless. If she gets no bump from the debate she might as well close shop and go home.

I think Cory Booker helped himself, but we’ll see. A lot of debate viewers may have been seeing Booker for the first time, and IMO he’s very likable. Maybe he’s not the strongest candidate on the stage, but whenever I see him on the teevee I feel an urge to take him home and cook him a nice dinner. Don’t ask why.

Amy Klobucher is still a contender. She’s still too moderate for my taste, but she did well last night.

Lots of people are calling Julián Castro the night’s big winner. He may move into the top tier.

Liz Warren is still far and away my favorite candidate of this group, and I think her momentum will continue. Her endorsement of Medicare for All was one of the most interesting moments of the evening.

So tonight the lineup is Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell. It may be a very different evening from last night.

Wars Are Easy, Says Captain Bone Spurs

This may be the most frightening thing Trump has said yet:

President Trump said Wednesday that if the United States goes to war with Iran, the conflict “would not last very long” and would not involve ground troops.

He’s talking himself into starting something. It will not end well.

One of the most consistent themes of history is that before every really horrible war there was some moron calling for aggression who yapped that war is a piece of cake. For example, in August 1914, on the eve of World War I, German Emperor Wilhelm II famously promised to his departing troops that they would return before the autumn leaves fell. More “realistic” hawks in Europe thought it would be over in 18 months, max.

And, of course, the Great War lasted four years and caused an estimated 15 to 19 million deaths.

Remember our little invasion of Iraq that never really ended? Remember “we will be greeted as liberators” and “the war will pay for itself”? Remember Mission Accomplished?

The great military blunders of history were all, it appears, rooted in arrogance. Napoleon marched his 650,000 troops into Russia thinking no one could stop him. The Russian military had to do little more than to lure the French deeper and deeper into their territory and then let winter, disease and starvation do their work.

Japan’s aggressions that caused the Pacific War were a study in irrational exuberance. I have found that study, actually. Here’s a quote from it:

The Japanese confused honor with interest by permitting their imperial ambitions to run far ahead of their military capacity to achieve them. Indeed, the Japanese, like the Germans (and later, the Israelis), displayed a remarkable incapacity for sound strategic thinking; they were simultaneously mesmerized by short-term operational opportunities and blind to their likely disastrous long-term strategic consequences.

That would describe Bolton, Pompeo and Trump, also, except that they are even dumber and apparently completely distinterested in long-term strategic consequences. We keep seeing that in the Middle East, military solutions have nothing but disastrous long-term strategic consequences. For everybody involved. And saber-rattling isn’t helping, either.

And do we want to talk about Vietnam?

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is a leading hawk about Iran. He is an Iraq War veteran, I understand, so one would think he would know better. Even the right-wing Washington Examiner published an op ed calling Tom Cotton a maniac. “Headcase Cotton is raring for war with no questions asked, apparently, and seemingly little concern for what it might do to the country,” it says.  More recently, he said on a PBS talking head program that the U. S. would win a war with Iran in two strikes — the first strike and the last strike.

So the question is, how stupid does one have to be to actually believe that?

Although he has called himself a “student of history” — one suspects he failed — Trump has less understanding of history than anyone who has held the office of the presidency. He has no comprehension of strategy or, apparently, thinks about long term goals other than him “winning,” whatever that means in his warped fat head. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from a war with Iran, for either country, but there is a lot to lose. The only thing that might save us is Trump’s incessant dithering and cowardice, and his fear that a military blunder might cost him the 2020 election.

The Yapping Dogs of War

Today the “president” announced sanctions on the Ayatollah Khomeini, who died thirty years ago. In response, Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani. described Donald Trump as being “afflicted with mental retardation.” I can’t argue.

The new sanctions are actually against the current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials. No one who understands Iran thinks the new sanctions make sense.

Under the sanctions, any foreign financial institutions that provide significant “financial services” to any of the Iranian officials would face U.S. penalties.

Trump announced the measures Monday, which U.S. officials said came in response to the downing of a U.S. Navy surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week. The sanctions also targeted senior commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including those the Treasury Department said were involved in shooting down the drone, a RQ-4A Global Hawk.

Khamenei does not have financial accounts outside of Iran, so this is meaningless to him. Whether other officials have foreign bank accounts I do not know. The Trump Administration is, apparently, trying to get Iran to negotiate another arms agreement. Trump famously tore up the arms agreement already in place that everybody but him said was working just fine. See Juan Cole for commentary on that.

After Iranian officials tossed more cheap and well-deserved insults at Trump, he got very huffy and tweety.

Does anybody believe Trump’s threats any more? Lately that’s all he does — issue taunts with no follow-through. New tariffs on Mexico! Big deportments last Sunday! Strike ordered on Iran! Then rescinded. Not that I want any of those things to happen. But I thought the first rule of being a tough guy is to not issue threats you aren’t willing to carry out.

Paul Waldman:

When Trump took office, we had an agreement, painstakingly negotiated with Great Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, and China to restrain the Iranian nuclear program, an agreement that, by all accounts, was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.

Armed with no apparent grasp of what the agreement consisted of other than the fact that it was negotiated by the Obama administration, Trump abandoned it and imposed sanctions against Iran. But the president seems only dimly aware that the hawks within his administration are interested not just in keeping Iran from having nuclear weapons, but also that Iran abandon its strategy for influence in the region and, ultimately, that its regime be overthrown.

Trump thinks that by beating his chest he’ll get Iran to bow down before him and promise never to develop nuclear weapons. But the people around him, who are encouraging him to take increasingly provocative actions, have much more ambitious goals.

Those heads of state of other countries are not, I don’t believe, idiots. They’ve had plenty of time to observe Trump and his vanity and his dithering and his inability to craft even the pretense of a foreign policy. They know he’s a weak and profoundly stupid man. Unfortunately, he’s a weak and profoundly stupid man with one hell of a military and some fire-eating war hawks for advisers.

Trump goes back and forth on things such as ordering military strikes because he’s all impulse and reaction, without any coherent idea about what our long-term goals should be.

Meanwhile, he continues to create hostility and despair wherever he turns his gaze. In Cuba, Trump undid the Obama administration’s policy of opening up ties and encouraging economic development, the result being more misery for Cubans for no purpose whatsoever. Any ability the United States might have had to act as an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians is gone. He continues a trade war with China that has so far done nothing but damage the U.S. economy. The leaders of other countries view him as erratic and unpredictable.

Trump seems to think unpredictability is a good thing. When reporters ask him what he’s going to do about this or that, he’ll say something like “You’ll find out.” Like this is an incentive to tune in to the next episode.

Trump’s also making noises about ending our alliance with Japan, apparently because Japan isn’t paying us enough protection money. This would be good news for the people of Okinawa, who have wanted our military off their island for years. Also Trump’s buddy Kim Jong Un would approve, I’m sure. For all we know, that’s where he got the idea.

Sights on the Road to Ruin

I swear, I can’t keep up. But I’m trying.

So today ICE was supposed to do a massive nationwide sweep through migrant communities to deport a gazillion undocumented immigrants, but it was called off, or at least postponed for a couple of weeks. This may be because of ongoing negotiations with Mexico. But that radically subversive PBS Newshour suggested the real reason was that it might conflict with the rollout of a “Latinos for Trump” campaign in Miami.

The rollout is to be led by Mike Pence, btw, who may be the most un-Latino white man in America. More gringo than a hot dog, I think the phrase is.

As we approach the End of Days, we find outselves locked in many semantic arguments over real atrocities that we are perpetrating, because apparently what we call what we are doing is more important than what we are doing. There have been several in-depth news articles describing deplorable conditions in the concentration camps — I think use of the term is justified — in which we are holding small children in unsanitary conditions. The New York Times reported a couple of days ago:

A chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held, according to lawyers who visited the facility this week. Some of the children have been there for nearly a month.

Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap.

“There is a stench,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, one of the lawyers who visited the facility. “The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border.”

See also Isaac Chotiner in the New Yorker for more appalling descriptions of conditions. It’s a wonder more children haven’t died, frankly. It’s possible many more have died than have been reported. Update: Law Professor Describes Poor Conditions Where Migrant Children Are Held.

Earlier in the week the Trump Administration sent a lawyer, Sarah Fabian, to argue to the Ninth Circuit Court that this is all perfectly fine. It’s also perfectly fine that little children are having to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights that never go off. The government is not required to provide soap or toothbrushes or give traumatized little children taken from their parents a place to sleep, the lawyer said.

It occurs to me that what the Trump Administration is spending to fight having to take care of children it is detaining would buy a whole lot of soap and toothbrushes. But the backstory to this atrocity goes back at least to the Reagan Administration, and no administration since has been innocent. Ken White wrote in the Atlantic,

The fault lies not with any one administration or politician, but with the culture: the ICE and CBP culture that encourages the abuse, the culture of the legal apologists who defend it, and our culture—a largely indifferent America that hasn’t done a damn thing about it.

The biggest difference is that the Trump Administration is more open about its inhumanity, apparently not seeing the problem. And, of course, because of Trump’s border policies many more children are being detained than ever before.

Instead of addressing an unspeakable atrocity going on right now, in real time, in our country, with the blessings of our government, people instead have been arguing about whether it’s appropriate to call the detention centers “concentration camps.” Yes, this is what you do when civilization has gone to hell. In the New Yorker, Masha Gessen argues that this argument really is about what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. We think of concentration camps, quite rightly, as something unimaginably horrible that can’t be allowed to happen. But if we don’t call them that, they’re okay.

In other news, last week Trump gave an interview to José Díaz-Balart of Telemundo and denied he had ever even suggested a family separation policy.

TRUMP: When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it, he had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that brought them together. Now I said something when I did that.

DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President —

TRUMP: Watch. Many more people will come up. And that’s what happened. But President Obama is the one that built those prison cells.

DIAZ-BALART: I understand 2,800 —

TRUMP: Do you remember —

DIAZ-BALART: 2,800 children were reunited with their parents in the last year. We don’t even know. The government doesn’t even know how many children are still not with their parents. They don’t even know, which I find incredible.

TRUMP: Ready?

DIAZ-BALART: My question is —

TRUMP: Are you ready? Under the Obama plan —

DIAZ-BALART: Sir, we’re talking about your plan.

TRUMP: We — no. No, we’re not. Because I’m the one that put people together.

The boy ain’t right. So we’re running concentration camps doing unspeakable harm to children, and the president of the United States is utterly demented and unfit to so much as answer phones at the White House, never mind run the country. But all this is supposed to be okay.

See also:

‘Urgent needs from head to toe’: This clinic had two days to fix a lifetime of needs

Notes on Excessive Wealth Disorder

Wag the Dog?

Early this morning Iran shot down a U.S. drone that may or may not have been in U.S. airspace. The “president” posted one of his signature stupid tweets about it —

— and then later walked it back.

Asked later in the day about the downing of the drone, Trump seemed to suggest that Iran may have shot it out of the sky by accident. “I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” he said in the Oval Office alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I have a feeling that it was a mistake by somebody who shouldn’t have been doing what they did.”

Oh, that kind of mistake.

This afternoon congressional leaders are meeting with the administration in the White House about Iran. I am not optimistic.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that Mike Pompeo evoked the name of al Qaeda when talking about Iran.

The Trump administration is telling Congress about what it says are alarming ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill.

Briefings by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, backed up by other State Department and Pentagon officials, have led Democrats and some Republicans to ask whether the administration is building a case that the White House could use to invoke the war authorization passed by Congress in 2001 to battle terror groups as legal cover for military action against Iran.

As tensions between the United States and Iran have surged, Mr. Pompeo has sought to convince Congress that there is a pattern of ties between Iran and the terrorist group going back to after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said.

A few days earlier, Pompeo was blabbering about Iran and the Taliban, prompting Juan Cole (whom I tend to trust on these matters) to respond,

Pompeo’s statement is so embarrassing as to be cringe-worthy. It is either a lie in the service of war propaganda or a display of such bottomless ignorance on the part of America’s chief diplomat as to be grounds for impeachment (or perhaps just consignment to an asylum).

Juan Cole goes on to explain the various ethnic/religious groups in the region and who is on speaking terms with whom, but the Taliban remain fanatical Sunnis while Iran is run by conservative Shia, so …

How’s about we suit up Bolton and Pompeo and send ’em out to fight two Iranian counterparts, preferably with wooden swords? I can’t bear the thought of that moron Trump being in charge of any real military action.

There’s Way Too Much Civility, If You Ask Me

Hope Hicks showed up for a closed-door congressional hearing today and didn’t testify. She didn’t testify because White House counsel told her not to. Some of what she was asked could not have fallen under executive privilege, because it involved testimony she had already given Bob Mueller, but apparently she refused to answer.

We’ll get a transcript in a couple of days. But a couple of bobbleheads on MSNBC last night predicted this would happen, and said the Dems were stupid to allow closed-door hearings. I am inclined to agree. If she’s going to refuse to cooperate, let her do it in front of cameras. No more closed door hearings. No more polite requests. Subpoena their asses and put them in front of a camera.

And if they ignore subpoenas? Open an impeachment inquiry, Dems. Let them evade that.

Greg Sargent writes,

Democrats had hoped to press Hicks on matters related to Trump’s alleged efforts to obstruct the Russian election interference investigation, including Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey and his anger at former attorney general Jeff Sessions, a longtime target of Trump’s rage over his refusal to protect him from the investigation.

But Democrats made little to no headway with Hicks. As The Post reports, the White House’s assertion of immunity “even extended to simple questions about where her office was located, according to lawmakers in the room.”

Democrats plan to go to court to force Hicks and others to testify, but legal experts say that could take months, possibly a couple of years.

Multiple legal experts have insisted that an impeachment inquiry might strengthen Democrats’ hands in these court battles. As Michael Stern, a former counsel to the House of Representatives, has argued, although Democrats currently have a good case to compel testimony, it would be even more “absurd” for the courts to rule that former White House aides “are somehow immune from testifying in an impeachment proceeding as fact witnesses to alleged high crimes and misdemeanors.”

What’s more, there’s at least a decent chance the courts would act more quickly in an impeachment inquiry context. “When information is sought solely for oversight purposes, it is difficult to convince judges that there is urgency in securing evidence,” Stern notes. “By contrast, there is a clear urgency to resolve impeachment matters.” Other experts agree that the courts could move more quickly.

As I understand it, Nancy Pelosi is terrified that an impeachment inquiry would backfire and hurt the Dems in the 2020 elections. But it seems to me that continuing to hold congressional closed door hearings that allow Trumpers to cry and whine about how they are being treated is more iffy than just showing the truth — or the open obstruction — to the American people. Open a bleeping impeachment inquiry and make all of it public, unless there is a specific question about national security.

Speaking of civility, Joe Biden managed to step in a steaming pile yesterday at a fundraiser with deep pocket donors at the Carlyle hotel in New York. After assuring his very wealthy audience

Biden repeated his earlier remarks that he didn’t want to “demonize” the wealthy and added that, though “income inequality” is a problem that must be addressed, under his presidency, “no one’s standard of living will change, nothing will fundamentally change.” He went on: “I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down.”

.He then waxed nostalgic about the good ol’ days when most southern congress critters were Dixiecrats, white segregationist Democrats. He named James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both blatant racists and white supremacists . As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Eastland blocked civil rights legislation until Senate leadership reined him in sometime in the 1960s. Talmadge was by all accounts a mean drunk as well as an ardent segregationist. Charming guys, right? But Biden went on about how they all got along and “got things done,” altough apparently not civil rights things.

Mr. Biden then recalled his time serving in the Senate. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, briefly channeling the late Mississippi senator’s Southern drawl. Mr. Biden said of Mr. Eastland, “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”

Mr. Biden then brought up a deceased Georgia senator, “a guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Well, of course, Eastland wouldn’t have called the very white Biden “boy.”

There was one woman in the Senate in 1972, when Biden was first elected, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. There was one black senator, Edward Brooke III of Massachusetts. Did Eastland call Senator Brooke “boy”? I do not know. Did he call Senator Smith “gal”? If so, did these two have to swallow their pride and accept it? Did Biden notice?

Tim Murphy:

That Biden was able to work with Eastland speaks, perhaps, to a certain aptitude at legislative negotiations on his part. But mostly it’s a product of what “we” meant in the context of the United States Senate in 1973. Eastland called him “son” and not “boy” because Biden was white, and for that same reason, they were able to put aside their differences and work together to fight, well, the desegregation of public schools via mandatory busing. As Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Wednesday, working civilly with Eastland was a privilege reserved for white men.

Chalres Pierce points out that Biden managed to disrespect Joy-Ann Reid at a recent event. When she asked him about “getting along” with Mitch McConnell, he left his seat and literally got in her face. “Joy-Ann, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together,” Biden said. Well, “the ones” are most of us at this point. But I’m starting to question if Biden knows what century he’s living in.

And notice how it’s always those on the left/liberal side being hectored to be “civil”?

I would defer to Biden on civility if we had two reasonably standard responsible political parties. We do not. We have one political party and a kind of weird mind-controlled cult. Sometimes civility is approrpriate. Sometimes it isn’t. We’re in one of the latter situations.

 

Big Important Stuff!

Right now, go visit Our Doug’s new website — BarnStorming the U.S.

Doug has a new gyrocopter and will be barnstorming the lower 48 states in 2020, stopping at each state capital to meet with politicians, activists, community leaders and other real people. And then the trip will end in Washington. You can read about it here.

You can also sign up for the effort and donate to the cause on the web page, so head on over there.

Here’s Doug in his new gyrocopter:

Trump’s Gig Administration

The old acting Secrretary of Defense is about to be replaced by a new acting Secretary of Defense, because the old one couldn’t get a security clearance. Shanahan, a former executive at Boeing — home of the still getting worse 737 Max fiasco — has been serving as acting Secretary of Defense since January 1. Even better, he’d been the confirmed Deputy Secretary of Defense since July 2017. Without a bleeping security clearance.

Let that sink in.

Shanahan’s security clearance has been held up because of domestic violence allegations, although the story there is murky. The worst thing that seems to have happened is that Shanahan’s son, at the age of 17, beat his mother just about to a bloody pulp with a baseball bat. “The attack had left Patrick Shanahan’s ex-wife unconscious in a pool of blood, her skull fractured and with internal injuries that required surgery, according to court and police records,” the Washington Post said.

Two weeks later, Shanahan sent his ex-wife’s brother a memo arguing that his son had acted in self-defense.

“Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” Shanahan wrote. “However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.”

And there also was an incident in which Mrs. Shanahan punched Mr. Shanahan in the face. “Court records also contain an earlier episode in which both Shanahan and his wife alleged they were assaulted by one another, and she was arrested.” The former Mrs. Shanahana has changed her name and is not talking to anybody about anything, thank you. I will make no assumptions about who did what to whom, but IMO somebody needs to keep an eye on the son.

So, what happens next?

Mr. Trump named Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon executive, to take over as acting secretary of defense. He did not say whether Mr. Esper would be nominated for the permanent position….

…Mr. Esper, a top lobbyist for Raytheon and an executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has a long history of ties to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he worked as an adviser to Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader, and various committees with jurisdiction over foreign policy and national security.

I’m sure you remember Bill “I like to experiment on cats” Frist. But let us also play a very tiny violin for Donald Trump

Mr. Trump’s decision not to move ahead with Mr. Shanahan is the latest evidence of the difficulty that the president has had in permanently filling the top jobs in his administration.

The president also has an acting chief of staff at the White House and an acting secretary of homeland security.

Please. Charles Pierce reminds us that Trump likes “acting.”

And, once again, an acting Cabinet secretary will be replaced by another acting Cabinet secretary, and I wouldn’t stand on one leg waiting for the administration* to put Esper’s confirmation before the Senate, either. The president* already has said that he “likes acting.” From The New York Times:

“I like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that?” Mr. Trump told reporters in January before departing to Camp David. “I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great cabinet.”

This is the most obvious game plan imaginable for an authoritarian simpleton. Hire temp workers and they’ll be so concerned about keeping you happy—and, thereby, keeping their jobs—that they won’t tell you anything you don’t want to hear. This president* doesn’t like to hear things he doesn’t want to hear, as some of his now-former pollsters recently discovered.

Indeed, the Times tells us why Trump liked Shanahan so much —

He was widely viewed as acquiescing to the White House and other government officials, including John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state. As he defended the president’s proposal to create a Space Force in the military, Mr. Shanahan famously said that the Pentagon would not be viewed as the “Department of No.”

A natural-born toad. But Charles Piece also has another point —

The problem with having temp workers heading the departments of the national executive is that it embeds a strong strain of chaos and indecision in the structure of the government. That this might be what the president* wants to do is a madman proposition on the best of days, but with things heating up in the Persian Gulf, my guess is that we’d do a lot better with a Secretary of Defense whose business cards are written in disappearing ink.

Not to mention one with a real security clearance.