Author Archives: Brad Warthen

‘Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repea… oh, never mind…’

pulled it

One thing was for sure — fer danged sure — once Republicans were in charge, Obamacare was going to be toast, immediately if not sooner.

That’s before the GOP became the dog that caught the car.

So now it’s… um, never mind…

GOP health-care bill: House Republican leaders abruptly pull their rewrite of the nation’s health-care law

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We just pulled it,” President Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.

In a news conference shortly after the decision, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) conceded that his party “came up short.”

The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and Ryan.

“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said, referring to Ryan….

I especially liked this quote from Ryan: “Doing big things is hard.”

Awww… It’s just not like when the frat boys planned slashing Medicaid around the keg, is it? (I know he’s way younger than I am, but it’s like this guy went to college in a whole other universe…)

Gamecocks: Cinderella with brass knuckles?

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don't mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don’t mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I thought some of you sports fans would enjoy this piece from The Washington Post this morning.

I like the way they portray Frank Martin as an “ogre” (although one loved by his players). I think of him as this guy who is so supportive of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families, an ADCO client — if not exactly a teddy bear, at least a benign force.

Anyway, the story’s a good one. An excerpt:

South Carolina is like Cinderella — if she came to NCAA ball with brass knuckles

South Carolina is the closest thing to a Cinderella left in the NCAA tournament, but that ball-gown of a word is too delicate for them. There’s no dreamers in this team, they’re all brawl and substance, beginning with their rage monster of a coach Frank Martin, who seems to burst out of his suit with that terrifying tripwire temper, and looks at any moment like he’s ready to get in a fight with a pool cue….

Imagine that visage and voice coming at you. The large ogre’s jaw, topped by graying hair cut currycomb short. The eyes like an uncontrolled methane burn. You’d do what he said, too. In 2014, Martin cussed out guard Duane Notice so vehemently that his athletic director had to suspend him for a game. Yet that’s just one facet of a coach who must be acknowledged as the real thing, a masterful teacher who has gotten South Carolina to its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1973. He has done it with force of will, superb habits instilled over five years of grinding, and largely with homegrown players. Here’s the thing about all that yelling. It works. His players do what he tells them to….

Defining the Presidency Down (what would Moynihan say?)

Yes, I realize this is likely to feel like déjà vu — this is about much the same point as this post yesterday.

But I was conversing via email with someone about that, and he shared this, so I’m going to share it with you.

Why return to the same topic? Because it’s an important one, making points that I think a lot of folks still haven’t absorbed.

Ever since Election Day — or maybe even since Trump captured the nomination — I’ve had this conversation over and over with some of you, and with others… Someone will say, “What are you so upset about? Why don’t you wait until Trump does something truly horrible, and react to that?” Which I answer with what seems to me excruciatingly obvious: He’s doing it already, every single day — with every crude lie he Tweets, with every embarrassing moment with a foreign leader, practically with every breath he takes. By being our president, he’s taking the greatest country on Earth and making it smaller, cruder, stupider, tackier — demeaning the treasure that our forebears bequeathed us.

It’s not something I can kick back and regard as normal. In fact, that would be inexcusable.

Anyway, like the one I cited yesterday, this piece captures that pretty well:

is probably too much to expect President Donald Trump to have read “Defining Deviancy Down,” the 1993 essay by the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Much noted at the time, and remarkably prescient, Moynihan’s essay warned that Americans were seeing a decay in social behavior (for example, the rise in gun violence), and were becoming inured to it. To accept such deviant behavior as normal—to “normalize” it, to use a word lately in fashion—was bound to render America a less civilized society, Moynihan wrote.

Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

He was, of course, correct: In the quarter century since, we have accustomed ourselves to the ongoing coarsening of our society, from small things like the vitriol of Americans writing on social media and in the comments sections of news articles, to big things like our increasingly ugly political debates.

Early on in the presidential primary season, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart cited Moynihan in declaring that candidate Trump’s embrace of “nativist, racist, misogynistic slop” was defining deviancy down in the presidential campaign—mainstreaming coarse rhetoric and prejudicial views. Today, with President Trump continuing to exhibit deeply unpresidential behavior in the White House, he isn’t just defining deviancy down for political campaigns; whether intentionally or not, he is defining the presidency itself down.

Moynihan would have turned 90 this month. Decades ago, I had the honor of serving as one of his top aides. He was in many ways Trump’s polar opposite—a self-made statesman, sociologist, political scientist and lifelong student of history, someone who had seemingly read every book in the Library of Congress. The man had a core set of principles. He insisted on factual accuracy, believed that “governing requires knowledge,” and, famously, often said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” He required his staff to double- and triple-check factual assertions, and was known to include footnoted citations in his speeches and sometimes even his letters….

I like that this one cites Moynihan. I always liked that guy. Not that I ever met him or anything.

In fact, I only saw him once in person. (Warning! Brad’s about to reminisce again!) It was that time in 1998 that I mentioned recently, when I went to Washington to check on Strom Thurmond and see if he was still functioning, and also visited Mike McCurry at the White House. Anyway, as long as I was there, McCurry arranged for me to attend a ceremony in the East Room marking the 50th anniversary of NATO.

That afforded me an extra opportunity to observe Strom, as it happened. After everyone else was seated, President Clinton walked in with Strom beside him holding onto his arm. Bill walked the nation’s senior senator to his front-row seat and got him situated before heading up to the podium to speak. (We Southern boys are brought up to act that way with our elders, and I thought better of Bill for it.)

Anyway, after the event was over and most of the media folks were headed back to the West Wing, I stepped out of the door that opens into the covered portico on the northern side of the House. I stood at the top of the steps for a moment deciding whether to continue to the press room or go back in and chat with folks, and watched as cars picked up the dignitaries, there at my feet.

I nodded to Strom as he came out, and watched him negotiate the steps pretty well. But there was a guy in front of him having all sorts of trouble hobbling down to his car.

It was Moynihan. He was only 69. Strom was 95 at the time.

It’s a shame Moynihan didn’t take better care of himself. If he had lived to be 100 like Strom, he’d still have 10 years to go now, and we’d have the benefit of his perspective as the nation so dramatically defines its self-respect downward…

Can we make the presidency great again? Please?

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An interesting conversation started in response to one of the items on yesterday’s Open Thread, and I’d like to continue it here.

The item was this:

The American presidency is shrinking before the world’s eyes

… Every new administration has a shakeout period. But this assumes an ability to learn from mistakes. And this would require admitting mistakes. The spectacle of an American president blaming a Fox News commentator for a major diplomatic incident was another milestone in the miniaturization of the presidency.

An interested foreigner (friend or foe) must be a student of Trump’s temperament, which is just as bad as advertised. He is inexperienced, uninformed, easily provoked and supremely confident in his own judgment. His advantage is the choice of some serious, experienced advisers, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. But success in their jobs depends on Trump’s listening skills.

Mere incompetence would be bad enough. But foreigners trying to understand the United States must now study (of all things) the intellectual influences of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon….

It’s a wonder that the author, Michael Gerson, was able to type “the intellectual influences of… Stephen K. Bannon” without his fingers rebelling and refusing their duty.

In response, Bryan Caskey posed this question:

Yeah. It’s been going downhill for awhile. Raises the interesting question: When was the American Presidency at its apex in the world? Which President cast the longest shadow on the world stage?

Mark Stewart responded with his nominees, but I’d like to see some thoughts from others.

My own views…

Franklin Delano Roosevelt towers over all. I measure all by that. He’s the standard to rise to. (Yes, Lincoln was our greatest president, but not so much “on the world stage.” He was rather tied up here at home. And in his case, I can forgive that.)

Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush père and the others are measured by how well they navigated the world order that FDR left them.

The presidency began to diminish with the end of the Cold War. When people started talking about “peace dividends” and domestic agendas and saying obnoxious things like “It’s the economy, stupid” — that’s where the decline started.

Oh, and before you (especially you Democrats, but some of you populists and culture warriors on the right as well) get on a high horse defending domestic priorities, try doing this: Add up the domestic accomplishments of all of U.S. presidents from 1991 on, and I think you’ll find the result is a tiny fraction of what LBJ — or FDR — did domestically in a single year. (Say, 1964-65.)

Presidents and Congresses no longer do great things, globally or domestically. They just jockey for position in the next election.

OK, so that’s a bit broad and perhaps unfair. But compared to Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson, the pickings are pretty slim, and the ambitions for the country less impressive. I mean, look at THE big agenda item for Republicans now that they finally hold all the cards. What do they most want to do? Undo something that was done under the last administration, which by the way was the most ambitious thing Washington has tried to since the days when LBJ did bigger things than that before breakfast.

That, and build a big ol’ wall to keep them pesky Mexicans out.

In other words, low, petty, mean, small, crabby things that diminish us as a nation, that drag us down into being even less than we are in these uninspiring times.

And what’s the greatest ambition of the Democrats? To stop them from doing those things. Or maybe to try to stop them, and fail, and use it in the next election — which is as far as any of these people’s horizons extend.

What would it take actually to Make America Great Again, or at least have the office of president — and if we really want to aim high, Congress — be something we can respect?

And how on Earth do we get there from this profoundly low, demeaning spot in the road?

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Open Thread for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Screenshot of Washington Post video

Screenshot of Washington Post video

Some topics for your consideration:

  1. Graham urges Dems to give Gorsuch the chance he gave Kagan, Sotomayor — And he’s right. I heard an absurd argument from Russ Feingold this morning claiming that Republicans’ outrageous behavior on Garland (and it was inexcusable, an unprecedented refusal by senators, including Graham, to do their jobs) means Gorsuch shouldn’t get a chance. That’s insane. Gorsuch should get the same respect and consideration that Garland should have received.
  2. Bill allowing carrying firearms without permit heads for House floor — Because ya know, when we look around at the problems we have in the world today, we really need to add THIS to the pile, right?
  3. Charleston church killer’s friend sentenced to 27 months in prison — This reminds me of a conversation earlier in the week with Doug. I don’t see why the hed couldn’t have said, in the interests of brevity, “Roof’s friend Meek” instead of “Charleston church killer’s friend.” Anyway, it’s out there in case you want to comment.
  4. Trump tells GOP critics of health-care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you’ — Today’s classy move by the fulminator-in-chief. I wonder how much longer it will take for these people to have the nerve to tell him to take a flying leap…
  5. The American presidency is shrinking before the world’s eyes — Yep. And it shrinks more every day. This is what I keep saying to those of you who ask why I don’t wait to complain when Trump does something “horrible.” The answer is that he’s already doing it, every day. Worldwide respect for American institutions went into free fall the moment this guy captured the GOP nomination, and it hasn’t stopped falling yet…
  6. Trump is under investigation for ties to Russia. What happens now? — This is a day old, but still worth examining. This is a place where we’ve never been — in the first days of an administration, we learn officially that it’s being investigated for ties with the Russians, and the head of the FBI says under oath that the president’s attempt to deflect with wild accusations about his predecessor is a load of horse manure. Where, indeed, do we go from here?

 

All those names ending in vowels — it’s confusing!

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Tony Soprano, who tended to take great offense at any slight toward people whose names end in vowels, would not be pleased:

Lindsey Graham mixes up Samuel Alito with Antonin Scalia

… Sen. Lindsey Graham mixed up Supreme Court justices during the confirmation hearing for nominee Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday. The gaffe happened while Graham discussed nominations made during an election year.

“Justice Alito passed away in February,” the South Carolina Republican said.

Except that Justice Samuel Alito is actually alive. It was the death of another conservative judge, Antonin Scalia, that left the vacant seat on the court….

My first thought was, “Yeah, I’ve done that, too.” Even though I know Scalia is the dead one, and the one considered such a boogeyman by the left, and Alito is the low-profile, live one, I’ve been guilty of hearing the name of one of the only two Italian-Americans ever to serve on the court, and thinking of the other one.

Does this make me a bad person? I didn’t mean anything by it, T…

ICYMI: This cracked me up over the weekend

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You’ve probably already seen this gag — other people I showed it to this morning had — but for those who missed it, here’s a funny for you.

And no, it’s not supposed to be serious commentary or anything; it’s just a funny picture that was suggested by Trump’s body language in the photo, combined with Angela Merkel’s expression, which looks like a teacher addressing a wayward pupil. So lighten up, Francis.

I don’t know who did it. It was brought to my attention by this Tweet, from someone who didn’t know who had originated it, either…

 

I can’t bring myself to believe the charges against Courson

I’ve had a day and more to think about the news regarding John Courson, and it remains tough for me to come up with much to say about it, beyond this:

I can’t believe these charges.

I know Courson as a longtime source. We’re not close buddies or anything. I haven’t been on baseball road trips with him like Greg Gregory. All I can attest to is the impression I’ve formed dealing with him professionally over the course of decades.courson

And that impression is: John Courson is a gentleman, one who deeply values honor. Not only that, but he is a man to whom being a gentleman, in an old-school sense, is extremely important. He’d no more throw it away than he would tear down that Marine Corps banner he flies in front of his house and trample on it. He certainly wouldn’t do it in an underhanded scheme to obtain filthy lucre.

That’s just something I’m not able to imagine.

So there has to be some other explanation.

I just don’t know what that would be.

It seems unlikely that prosecutor David Pascoe would have stepped out on this without having what he believes to be solid evidence. After all this time, and all this expectation that’s been built up, and all the controversy infused with the ugly taint of partisanship, he’d be crazy to go after Courson unless he was sure he had him.

Even if you accept the notion — which I don’t — that this is all partisan politics, a desperate attempt by a Democrat to weaken the supremely dominant Republicans, Pascoe would be nuts to make a play like this without an ace in his hand. (And if it were a matter of a Democrat going after Republicans, why target Courson, who enjoys so much Democratic support?)

What might that ace be? One assumes he has, or would want to have, documents showing a money trail. And if that’s what he has, what explanation will Courson have to counter that?

In any case, I’m just not able to believe he’s guilty.

Yeah, it’s true: One can be fooled about someone. I’ll never forget my uncle’s reaction to Lost Trust. When the feds charged John I. Rogers, my uncle said no way. They’ve got the wrong man. No one in Bennettsville could believe that Rogers would do anything underhanded. If it had been the local senator, Jack Lindsey, no one would have raised an eyebrow. But John I. Rogers? No.

And then Rogers pleaded guilty.

But I don’t see that happening here.

We’ll see.

About this insanity of cutting State Dept. by almost 30 percent

Can’t let the day go buy without a post about Trump’s (and Mulvaney’s) insane proposal to cut the State Department by almost 30 percent:

The State Department faces cuts of nearly 29 percent, with $10 billion shaved off its core program funding under proposals to eliminate climate-change initiatives and to slash foreign aid, contributions to the United Nations and cultural exchanges.main-qimg-1e106bd58fc14b936332fa029ea62318

The basic budget for the State Department and USAID, which houses many U.S. development and economic aid programs around the world, will shrink from $36.7 billion to $25.6 billion. The Trump budget also calls for $1.5 billion for Treasury International Programs, a 35 percent reduction from the previous year, a figure the White House included in its discussion of State’s budget. The administration also proposes $12 billion for operations in war-torn areas such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, down from more than $20 billion this year. Overall, the budget would shrink from $52.8 billion to $37.6 billion.

The proposal reflects a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy to an “America First” focus on whether programs meet specific U.S. interests. Many of the spending cuts are in programs whose missions are deemed poorly managed or insufficient in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals….

I’ll also share this from U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s President and CEO Liz Schrayer:

“America First starts with protecting our national security and as our military leaders are the first to say: hard power alone will not keep America safe. The danger of cutting one-third of our civilian forces at a time of such extreme global threats, famines of historic proportions, and a refugee crisis not seen since World War II is unimaginable.

This debate between hard and soft power is a relic of the Cold War that ended after 9/11. Congress must recognize that we face complex 21st century threats from the rise of ISIS to the pandemics that can show up on our shores. Reject these dangerous cuts to diplomacy and development and invest in smart power – military and civilian tools alike. The stakes are just too high for America to retreat.”

Note the statements from religious, business, NGO and military leaders linked from that page.

Incidentally, the USGLC is the outfit that SC GOP Chair Matt Moore is leaving to go work for.

Here’s a statement on this stuff from Lindsey Graham:

“Historically, presidential budgets do not fare well with Congress.

“I appreciate that this budget increases defense spending, yet these increases in defense come at the expense of national security, soft power, and other priorities.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and President Trump to create a budget that is fiscally responsible, makes our country safer, and preserves wise investments in our future.”

Graham isn’t alone. Overall, his budget is not faring well with Republicans in Congress:

Defense hawks, rural conservatives and even some of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress sharply criticized the president’s first budget proposal on Thursday, pushing back on the huge potential hike in defense spending as insufficient and decrying some other cuts to federal agencies and programs.

Capitol Hill Republicans, however, did not seem terribly worried about the prospect of such a budget being enacted, stating matter-of-factly that it is Congress, after all, that controls the purse strings.

“Presidents propose, Congress disposes,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’ve not had our chance yet.”

Rogers was one of several GOP lawmakers to dismiss Trump’s budget as a pie-in-the sky wishlist with little hope of surviving negotiations in Congress. Most Republicans gave passing support to Trump’s general goal of increasing defense spending while reducing costs elsewhere in the budget. But none would embrace the specific White House blueprint….

You notice something? All these people who know something about governing are on one side, and the new “outsider” president is on the other. You know why? Because he and his loyal retainers, who wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them on the… ankle…,  don’t have a clue.

SC’s American Party has a candidate in the 5th, too

American Party

The American Party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace awhile back (not to be confused with the George Wallace version) is probably the closest organized group out there to the UnParty (a.k.a. the Grownup Party), even though I can’t bring myself to buy into some of its precepts.

So I’m going to run this release about their candidate for Mick Mulvaney’s 5th District congressional seat in its entirety, since you probably haven’t seen it:

The special election in South Carolina that will determine on June 20th who replaces Republican Mick Mulvaney in the US Congress is an early bellwether of the current sentiment in America.
Are South Carolina voters in the 5th Congressional District satisfied with our present political status quo, or are they ready to make another choice and pick a new, constructive approach to our many challenges?
The American Party candidate, Josh Thornton, provides that new choice – and direction!
Please take a minute to read his candidacy announcement below as well as the press release from a courageous Republican candidate in the race who acted on her convictions by withdrawing her candidacy and switching her support to Josh Thornton and the American Party.
Whether you live in the 5th District or not, please consider helping us send a message to Washington DC, and America, that we are tired of the gridlock and division constantly perpetuated by our present dominant parties. It is time to fix our broken politics – and, it can begin in this special election!


American Party Candidate Announces for the Fifth Congressional District Special Election to Fill Seat Vacated by the Trump Appointment of Mick Mulvaney

 

My name is Josh Thornton. I am a 41 year old educator from Rock Hill, SC. I have been a private and public school educator for 19 years. I have been happily married to my wife, April, for 16 years and we have a 10 year old son. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Math education from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Josh Thornton

Josh Thornton

As a resident of York County for the past 13 years, I have voted in too many unopposed elections or elections with only two unacceptable choices. As a result, I am running for Congress in the 5th District of SC. The House of Representatives of the United States was formed to give voice to every man and woman in our country. When you look at past elections and the current list of announced candidates for the 5th District, most are established career politicians, party officials, long term insiders or party activists.
I am running for Congress for several reasons. One being that the people of SC need a candidate who is not just another political partisan, but instead is someone who represents a positive choice for badly needed progress. South Carolinians need to ask themselves if they were positively motivated during the last election cycle. Or, if they were instead, merely choosing between the “lesser of two evils”.
We need meaningful competition in our political races in SC. For example, we need competitive general elections, not just competitive Republican primaries. It is time that South Carolinians had a substantially different choice in our elections. That new choice is Josh Thornton of the American Party.
The 5th Congressional District’s special election is a unique opportunity for the voters of our district to send a message to Washington, and to our Nation. We can make it clear that we are tired of choosing between a partisan “warrior” with a “D” or with an “R” next to their name- a partisan who follows the mandates of their party, even when it inevitably leads to harming our nation and dividing our people.
Our two party system is a broken system that is causing unprecedented gridlock. Republicans feel forced to vote in favor of the President and Democrats feel forced to vote against the President. This is catastrophic for the American people, because they often vote according to their Party mandates and at the expense of their constituencies. An American Party Congressman will be able to vote in favor of a Presidential policy when it is positive for their district and their Nation and to vote against policies that would be detrimental. An American Party member of Congress will be able to function as an independent public servant whose only objective will be to benefit the majority of the citizens of their district and their nation.
Government should be by the people and for the people; not, by the rich and for the party. It is time to give the people of SC a new choice and a new approach to governing. We have never needed it more than now.

Republican Candidate for the Fifth Congressional District Race Decides to Support the American Party and Its Candidate

 

Penry Gustafson of Camden, SC has suspended her campaign to run for U.S. Congress. She had previously announced publicly she would be filing as a Republican in an already expansive race to fill Mick Mulvaney’s 5th Congressional District seat. This statement clarifies the reasons for her decision and the change in plans for her political future.

“Where and when one starts politically is essential. I want to make absolutely certain to choose the right place for my personal beliefs and political ideology. More importantly, my family has always come first before career, and at this moment, I am needed more there than anywhere else.”

Her desire to bring back decency and common sense to public office is what drove her to enter the race. “I could not turn away from this wonderful opportunity to prove that the average citizen can seek public office along with the career politicians that seem to drive every single election.” Her slogan “Voice for All” refers to all citizens, all voters, all potential voters. She claims “Open, balanced solutions to complex problems is what is needed right now to calm the rocky waters.”

Her platform issues included bringing back trust, respect, and honor to our publicly held positions; providing an alternative choice for voters outside establishment candidates; supporting and implementing term limit legislation for all publicly held positions; working toward racial reconciliation; and using a fiscally responsible approach towards a workable balanced budget.

Having never run for office, Gustafson naturally decided that the Republican Party would be her best chance at winning any future elections in South Carolina and was advised that doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” She has been a voting Republican since 1988. However, after intense review and consideration, Gustafson is now supporting and plans to represent the third largest certified party in the state, the American Party. A modern and moderate party founded in 2014 in SC, The American Party, addresses our growing political dysfunction and offers more choices for the voting public.

Jim Rex, American Party Chairman says, “The American Party welcomes the involvement and support of Penry Gustafson!The Party was created by former Republicans, Democrats,and Independents who believe we need a new choice and approach to politics in our State and Nation. Penry Gustafson’s considerable talents and attributes-along with her unselfish patriotism-will be animportant addition to our efforts to fix a broken system.”

Gustafson intends to support Josh Thornton, a Rock Hill educator and American Party candidate. Finally, Penry proclaims, “We need viable candidates not beholding to special interests, lobbyists, or the two-party system, who can truly represent everyone.”

Please check out: thornton4congress or, call 803-360-4417 to talk about how you can help.

Hawaii judge on why travel order is a Muslim Ban

Here’s a nice excerpt from the “sometime scathing” (according to The Guardian) order by federal district judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu striking down Donald Trump’s second attempt to bar travel from certain Muslim countries.

Basically, he’s calling “bull” on the alleged motives for the ban:

The Government appropriately cautions that, in determining purpose, courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision-makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts’.

Judge Derrick Kahala Watson

Judge Derrick Kahala Watson

The Government need not fear. The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.

For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release: ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

Nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order:

Rudolph Giuliani explained on television how the Executive Order came to be. He said: “When [Mr. Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”

Virtual Front Page for Wednesday, the Ides of March, 2017

FBI

Artemidorus, do you have any notes to pass on about any of these developments?

  1. U.S. likely to send as many as 1,000 more ground troops to Syria, officials say — So is Trump trying to enforce Obama’s “red line?” And is he sure Putin doesn’t mind?
  2. Russian Agents Are Behind Yahoo Breach, U.S. Says — It’s been noted that these are “the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials.” It’s a start. This includes charges against two FSB operatives. Duh-duh-DUHHNNN!
  3. Devin Nunes confirms it: The evidence of Trump Tower being wiretapped doesn’t exist — So now Graham and McCain aren’t the only Republicans to have declared their sanity in this matter. They are joined by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
  4. After House setback, USC takes bid for $50 million for med school to SC Senate — I’m sure Harris made a good case, but it’s not looking like the year for this. Of course, the Senate isn’t the House, but still…
  5. Fed Signals It Is Entering New Phase — This is just about the headline, so inside baseball. Yeah, I know the WSJ is really, really into stuff that I find rather, uh, dry, but dang, people! You could have tried to make it sound interesting. Look at the way the NYT did it (“Fed Raises Rates for 3rd Time Since Financial Crisis“) or NPR (“Federal Reserve Raises Key Interest Rate, Signals 2 More Increases This Year“). Just tell me something about what happened. Throw me a bone, here. I’m the reader; I need the info…
  6. Carolina vs. Coastal this season? It could happen — For my dear readers who clamor for more sports. I’m willing to let this through, because it’s about… BASEBALL! After all, a man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms. Ent’usiasms… Ent’usiasms
A man stands at the plate alone, it is a time for what?...

A man stands at the plate alone, it is a time for what?…

Hear Joel Sartore and Photo Ark tonight at Harbison Theater

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I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented people over the course of my career, and no one fits that description better than Joel Sartore.

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Joel Sartore

Joel was a photographer at The Wichita Eagle-Beacon back when I was news editor there, and I knew he was something special then. Part of my job involved deciding what went on the front page, and I had the privilege of using his work a lot. The times I spent with him at the light table peering at negatives through magnifying glasses and discussing them persuaded me that here was an all-around fine journalist, far more than just another shooter.

And he had an incredible eye for exactly the right shot. I’ll post a couple of prints he gave me back in the day when I’m at home. Amazing stuff.

Well, he’s not in Kansas anymore. Not long after my stint in Wichita, Joel started working for National Geographic, and he’s been with them ever since.

Lately, he’s been working on a monumental project called the Photo Ark, which The State described thusly in their story about his appearance in our community tonight:

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is trying to save the planet with his camera….

The project is called Photo Ark, and his goal is to take studio photographs of the roughly 12,000 species in captivity.

“My job, my passion, or what I’m trying to explore and share is the fact that we are throwing away the ark,” Sartore said, adding that he wants “to document as many of the world’s captive species as I can before I die.”

In the past 11 years, he has photographed about 6,500 of these animals. He estimates it will take another 15 years or so to photograph the rest….

So, you know, a herculean task. But Joel’s up to it, I assure you.

He’ll be talking about his work tonight at 7:30 at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College.

I hope to see you there…

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I ask you, was Odoacer a real Roman? (Answer: No, and Trump’s not a real Republican)

Romulus Augustus resigns the Crown (from a 19th-century illustration).

Romulus Augustus resigns the Crown (from a 19th-century illustration).

Let’s elevate this discussion to the level of a separate post.

I regularly refer to “real Republicans,” a group to which Donald J. Trump — ideologically and otherwise — does not belong. This is an important distinction. To say he’s just another Republican — as plenty of Democrats and Republicans both would have it — is to normalize him.

A lot of Democrats insist that the thing that’s wrong with Trump is that he’s a Republican, end of story. This works for them because they demonize all Republicans, and it doesn’t matter how bad Trump is, he’s just another. Which means, they completely and utterly miss the unique threat that he poses to our system of government. They also miss the fact that unless Republican eventually rise up against him — something they’re unlikely to do soon, and even less likely if Democrats are calling him one of them, triggering the usual partisan defensive response — we’ll never be rid of him.

A lot of Republicans, including all the ones who know (or once knew) better, have dutifully lined up behind him, starting when he seized their presidential nomination. They’re now in they’re usual “R is always good” mode, any misgivings they may have had a year ago forgotten.

As usual, the two parties work together to support and reinforce each others’ partisan stances. The more Democrats push the line that Trump’s just another Republican, the more Republicans will embrace him and defend him. The more Republicans close ranks around him, the more certain Democrats are in seeing him as just another Republican.

And the more the rest of us see them falling into that pattern, the more disgusted we are with the mindlessness of parties. (Some of us, anyway. Many independents — the inattentive sorts whom both parties despise — are highly suggestible, and may lazily fall in with the usual binary formula that there are only two kinds of people in politics.)

In recent hours (and for some time before that), both Bud and Bill have been pushing the idea that my notions of what constitutes a “real Republican” are outdated and therefore wrong. Today, they say, Trump is a real Republican, and so is Tea Partier Mick Mulvaney.

Fellas, you seem to think I’m blind, but I’m not. I’ve watched as successive waves of barbarians (in the definition of the day) have washed over the GOP. I missed Goldwater because I was out of the country at the time, but no matter; he was a temporary phenomenon. Four years later Nixon had recaptured the party for the mainstream. But I remember when the Reaganites came in and took over for almost a generation, and the Bushes and the Doles got on board. Then, starting early in this century, things got crazy. There were so many bands of barbarians at the gate that it was hard to keep them straight. There was Mark Sanford and his Club for Growth hyperlibertarians, then the Tea Party with its snake flags, and Sarah Palin with whatever that was (probably just a subset of the Tea Party), and then Trump’s angry nativists.

And yes, the people I call “real Republicans” have been embattled, often seeming to fight a rear-guard action. And yes again, with all these elements pushing and pulling at the party, it has changed to where a Prescott Bush or a Robert A. Taft would not recognize it.

But let me pose a question to you: Was Odoacer a real Roman? After all, he inherited control of Italy after he seized it from the last emperor, Romulus Augustus, in 476.

Odovacar_Ravenna_477No, he was not. Not only was he a barbarian (apparently — note the mustache on his coin), but the Western Roman Empire is seen as having ended the moment he took over. He ruled as King of Italy, rather than emperor of anything.

Similarly, if Trump and his core followers are the Republican Party now, then it’s time to call it something else, rather than confusing it with the party of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert A. Taft, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

And perhaps that’s where we are. But let’s be clear: With Donald Trump — as much a barbarian as any political figure this nation has produced — in the White House, the nation faces a crisis that should not for a moment be diminished by portraying it as just more of the same games between Republicans and Democrats.

That will get us nowhere.

Mulvaney shows he’s ready to play in the biglys; bats 4 Pinocchios his first time out

Mick_Mulvaney,_Official_Portrait,_113th_Congress_(cropped)

Some of you may have doubted that Mick Mulvaney, swept into Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, was ready for the majors.

Well, he’s doing great by the standards of the Trump era. The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker gave him Four Pinocchios in his first at bat!

White House budget director’s false claims about the Obamacare legislative process

When I Tweeted about that this morning, former S.C. Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler responded, “He probably believes it. Those same false claims/lies got him elected to Congress the first time.”

Well, yeah, since he was elected by the “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” crowd. But it matters more now, given his position.

So, welcome to the majors, Mr. Mulvaney…

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Open Thread for Monday, March 13, 2017

Eventually, we'll all be REQUIRED to carry handguns, and fire them indiscriminately in the street."

Eventually, we’ll all be REQUIRED to carry handguns, and fire them indiscriminately in the street.

For your consideration…

  1. CBO projects 24 million more uninsured over a decade under Republican plan — OK, so that’s why Ryan didn’t want it scored by the CBO. On the other hand, this could help him with the Tea Party base, since people losing coverage is what they want.
  2. Bill allowing carrying firearms without permit advances in House — Because we just want everybody to carry guns everywhere, and we don’t even want to know anything about them. Yeah, this story’s four days old, but we hadn’t talked about it yet. Sometimes I think this stuff comes up on a dare. It won’t be long before they’ll be considering a bill to require everyone to carry, and to draw and brandish their weapons about while drinking.
  3. Democrats’ Strategy: Depict Gorsuch as ‘Against Workers’ — Really? How do you think that’s gonna play in Peoria, comrades? Or in the Republican Senate, for that matter?
  4. Filing closes in 5th District, and more candidates are running — We’re up to seven Republicans — all competing to see who can be more Trumplike, no fewer than three Democrats and five independents. To go to Congress. Because that’s such a pleasant place to be these days…
  5. McCain tells Trump: present evidence or retract wiretapping claim — Tell it, John. Meanwhile, Spicer says Trump’s totally unsubstantiated claims are covered because he used quotation marks on “wire tap.” Really. He even demonstrated his point by doing air quotes. No, look.
"Did I tell you about the bill I'm proposing in the House?" "You just keep thinkin', Butch; that's what you're good at!"

“Did I tell you about the bill I’m proposing in the House?” “You just keep thinkin’, Butch; that’s what you’re good at!”

If Millennials Were Lumberjacks (take THAT, Bruce Gibney)

Bruce_GibneyThere’s this obnoxious kid named Bruce Gibney — I haven’t found his age anywhere, but there’s a picture of him at right, so I think you’ll see my characterization is pretty much spot-on, especially the “obnoxious” part — who has written this book (and good for him! what a big-boy thing to do!) that just really rips into my generation.

It’s called A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. He goes on and on about it apparently, else it would not be a book.

My wife says she heard him being interviewed on the radio, and was struck by how much he seems to really, really hate us.

Oh, yeah? Well, take a look at this, ya little punk. Here’s what we think of you…

Kathleen Parker on the Marine nude-photos scandal

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Marines in combat in Afghanistan in 2009.

Kathleen Parker, in her reaction to the Marine nude-pictures scandal, takes an iconoclastic approach, as she tends to do in her best work.

Of course she condemns the actions of the Marines, as anyone should, and links it to our tawdry, “narcissistic, show-and-tell-all culture,” to which neither male nor female Marines are immune.

But she also brings to bear a couple of themes of her past work, such as her dim view of sending women into combat, and our society’s recent failure to value males qua males.

You won’t see many leading columnists make such points, especially the male ones; they wouldn’t dare:

Must men be treated as women? That is, should they be trained to be more “sensitive”? If so, Kathleen Parkercan you simultaneously create sensitivity in the desensitizing, killing culture that breaks down an 18-year-old’s humanity and instills in him an instinct for extreme brutality?

Put another way, how stupid are we?

There’s a reason we say in times of great peril, “Send in the Marines,” and it’s not because of the few brave, committed women among them. But try to find someone in today’s military willing to say so….

Then at the end, she quotes a retired Methodist minister who counsels veterans navigating post-traumatic stress disorder:

“Marines embrace the warrior archetype more than other branches. The shadow of this is patriarchy, misogyny and brutality. We are trained to be killing machines, deadening all emotion except anger. We’re told we don’t have the luxury of sensitivity, so we objectify everything, including women.”

Still, he’s optimistic, saying that we need to return to “the embodiment of the hero archetype in the medieval knight. Aggressiveness can be coupled with honor, nobility and compassion.”

Maybe so. But knights typically didn’t joust with women, which may be the most salient inference. That said, chivalry has a place here. An apology to the women who exposed themselves to the few, not the proud, would be appropriate — both as gesture and punishment.

Twitter would have tightened up St. Paul’s writing

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_Project

Is it blasphemous to criticize St. Paul’s writing? Probably not. It might seem a bit disrespectful to some, though, and I’m sensitive to that.

I hope those folks, and more importantly God, will forgive me if I confess something: His writing has long bugged me.

Sure, there are some nice, even beautifully poetic, passages — such as that one that is read so often at weddings. And I’ll even admit that there are brushstrokes of majesty in the verses I’m about to criticize specifically.

But I still find him on the whole rather tedious, and over-wordy. Especially some of those greetings in his epistles, which read to me sort of like “I, Paul, who will now insert multiple clauses setting out complex theological concepts adding up to an incredible number of words and making you despair of ever reaching the end of the sentence, in some cases describing myself and my own holiness, which you should emulate, but at other times describing a detailed scheme of thought for this new religion that I’m the first to write about, bring you greetings.”

I know there are a lot of important theological concepts in these passages, but when you try to cram all that into your lede, you’re going to lose your reader. I realize that as a journalist, I’m prejudiced on this score, but I don’t know another way to be. Forgive me, but sometimes I feel like maybe Paul was overthinking it, that perhaps Jesus’ teachings were more simple and direct than Paul made them out to be. I’ve always been partial to the way an atheist, Douglas Adams, described Christ’s message. To him, Jesus talked about “how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.”

Anyway, all this came back to me this past Sunday as I sat through this reading, Romans 5:12-19:

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world,
though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
But death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who did not sin
after the pattern of the trespass of Adam,
who is the type of the one who was to come.
But the gift is not like the transgression.
For if by the transgression of the one, the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.
And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned.
For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation;
but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and of the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act,
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one,
the many will be made righteous.

And as I followed along, reading the text as I listened, I thought, I could say this in a Tweet. And I was right. Here it is:

Through the fault of one man, Adam, sin came into the world for all. And through the goodness of one man, Jesus, abundant life came to all.

And I have one character to spare. I’m not bragging. Any reasonably competent modern editor could do it.

Sure, many modern editors have been guilty of slashing, indiscriminate violence against the language in their zeal for brevity. And I’m leaving out some important theological concepts, such as “Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.” But I’ve communicated the main concepts, right?

No, I’m not saying we’d be better off if the Bible were just a series of Tweets. I’m too much the traditionalist for that. And I love most of the Bible. But I find Paul wearing, and I’m just saying that had he had a fairly active Twitter feed, it might have tightened up his prose some. He wouldn’t have written his epistles in 140-character bites (one hopes), but at least the practice would have gotten him into the habit of getting to the point.

Of course, the fact that he didn’t is no fault of his.