Category Archives: Donald Trump

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

State of the Union, 2020 — if you have something to say about it

tearing

I amazed myself last night by watching and/or listening to pretty much all of it. Missed the very beginning.

I don’t really have much to say about it overall, except that it was very Trump. No other president in my lifetime, and probably in our history, has engaged in such an extended bout of unabashed braggadocio in public. No one else would, it being so, you know, tacky. But that was to be expected.

Oh, there was one other thing. As I said in a Tweet, we’re used to the dramas of ordinary people being used as props in these speeches, and I think I grew tired of it the first time I saw it. But no one has ever pumped steroids into the device the way Trump did, with all those game show surprises and awarding of valuable prizes.

Anyway, here are my Tweets. I look forward to your observations:

Not up to Congress to decide Trump’s fate? What utter nonsense

Removing the president is not the job Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

Removing a president is not properly the job of Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

I’ve been meaning to comment on a Frank Bruni column from last week, headlined “Of All Trump’s Defenses, This Is the Lamest,” with the subhed, “Only the voters can send the president packing? That’s a joke.”

Actually, that subhed is probably the best part, but the rest is pretty good, too. An excerpt:

Once the Senate concludes its trial of President Trump, it should go into recess. Until next January. The House, too. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation, consider nominations or make any important decisions whatsoever: This is an election year, and the voters will soon weigh in on the direction of America. The nation’s business should await that judgment, lest members of Congress contradict it.

A ludicrous proposal? Indeed. But it’s in line with — and an extrapolation of — a favorite argument against Trump’s conviction and removal from office. His Republican supporters say that lawmakers shouldn’t speak for voters on such a crucial issue. To pre-empt the verdict at the ballot box, they say, is to subvert the people’s will.

Nice try. Lawmakers are elected specifically to speak for voters on crucial issues. That’s the system. That’s their job….

Absolutely, it’s their job. And it’s no one else’s, including the vaunted electorate’s.

From the start, Republicans have complained that the impeachment process is somehow illegitimate — either because it seeks to undo the 2016 election, or pre-empt the one this year, or both.

But we have this Constitution, you see, and it was written by some very, very smart people (smarter than the average modern voter, dare I say), who wanted the voters to have input into who ran things, but not necessarily the final say. So they created a finely balanced tension between governmental elements that were each chosen by differently formed constituencies that should check each other:

  • The House would be elected the way far too many people today think the rest of the government should be elected — directly by the people, and extremely often. House members would represent equal-sized chunks of the population.
  • The Senate would represent states, and would be chosen by those states’ legislatures. It was an excellent idea, although we threw away half of it with the 17th Amendment. The only part we kept was that they still represent the people of entire states. And… they’re elected for six years to shield them from political passions of the moment.
  • The president would be chosen by the Electoral College, but we’ve pretty much altered that beyond recognition. But we kept enough of its anti-democratic essence to allow Donald Trump to be elected despite Hillary Clinton having the majority of votes. So yay, elitism, right, my Republican friends?
  • The president and the Senate would choose justices together.

But to hear certain people talk, everything should be decided by the people, acting directly through their smartphones.

(Shudder.)

I’ve gotten to where I can’t bear to listen to the Republicans when they speak during the impeachment proceedings, because despite all the pernicious nonsense I’ve been subjected to in covering politics over the last few decades, I’ve never had my intelligence insulted to this degree.

I forced myself to listen to one idiot the other day who was ranting about how the Democrats wanted to tear up every ballot cast in the country in 2016. Really. He said that, despite the fact that MOST ballots were for Hillary Clinton. Presumably, those nasty Dems wouldn’t want to tear those up, if they’re as single-minded in pursuing partisan advantage as he seemed to assume.

Anyway, the Senate needs to go on and conduct a trial and do its job — even if that means acquitting Trump, as it almost certainly will.

And in the meantime, hand me no lies about how this is NOT the job of Congress. It is, precisely. And it’s no one else’s.

There’s plenty of time to hear from the voters between now and November.

I’m counting on Lamar Alexander to do the right thing

Lamar shirt

I ran across the shirts you see above at Belk the other day. The one in the middle is a dead ringer for the one Lamar Alexander wore on his famous walk across Tennessee when he ran successfully for governor in 1978 — the first statewide political campaign I ever covered.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Lamar, as I’ve mentioned here many times. And now, the fate of the impeachment trial may lie in his hands, assuming he does the right thing. An excerpt from an NYT story from the last few days:

WASHINGTON — The ghost of Howard H. Baker Jr., the Republican senator from Tennessee who turned against Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, is hovering over Senator Lamar Alexander.

Mr. Alexander, a third-term Republican from Tennessee who is retiring at the end of this year, has said that no one outside his family has had more influence on him than Mr. Baker, the former Senate majority leader who is remembered for the penetrating question he posed as Nixon stared down impeachment: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Now Mr. Alexander may hold in his hands the fate of another Republican president who is facing removal from office. He is one of four Republican moderates who have expressed openness to bringing witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial. Of the four, he stands out because he is not running for re-election and arguably has nothing to lose….

The story goes on to say Lamar “does not appear ready for a Howard Baker moment.” They based this on the fact that he wanted to wait until the first phase of the trial was completed to decide. But I have two things to say about that:

  1. That seems a reasonable hesitation to me. He was keeping his options open until the point at which a decision would have to be made.
  2. That story was written before the revelation from Bolton’s upcoming book.

So I’m going to be optimistic, counting on Lamar to do what he generally did back when I covered him as governor: the right thing.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A Modest Proposal on Iran: We just have to play to Trump’s ego. It might even be worth it.

There’s a window of opportunity here, but it probably only stays open as long as the Iranians are content to have fired a few missiles without having hurt any Americans.

It won’t be easy. It will require a lot of people being in on the plan and sticking to it. And it will be distasteful, because it will involve flattering and kowtowing to Trump as though we were a bunch of Lindsey Grahams or something.

But it could definitely be worth it. Bear with me.

All of our allies would have to be in on it — the ones who have labored so to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is assuring them is kaput. As for Israel — well, it will require some forbearance from them.

All the Democrats will have to play along. Nancy Pelosi’s role will be key. We’ll need the Republicans, too, but no sweat… this sort of toadyism is reflexive to them, so we don’t even have to ask for their help.

Here’s what we do: We all get together and communicate the following to Trump:

Oh, wow, you really showed those ayatollahs! You whacked their guy and after a bunch of bluster, they only had the guts to blow up some sand! You really had their number! You owned them, the way you always do with the libs! We can’t wait to see what you do next! Actually… we have a suggestion, not that it wouldn’t occur any moment to someone as brilliant as you…

You know that stupid Obama nuclear deal that only you saw needed to be scrapped? You know how the “allies” are all being so petulant about that? Well, let’s show them something. Let’s show them how it’s done by a real dealmaker! Negotiate a REAL deal, an America-First deal that makes everybody else they they got a great deal, too (the saps!)…

It won’t even be much trouble. Just take the stupid deal that Obama sweated over, work some of your magic on it to make it your own, and presto! The Trump Comprehensive Plan of Action will avert war, settle down the whole region, prevent nuclear proliferation and probably help with that global climate change thing that people keep yammering about!

It will be easy, for someone with a brain as brilliant and normal as yours! It would be just like what you did with NAFTA — knock it down, then replace it with something that is basically the same but less sad, a beautiful new thing with the glittering Trump brand on it — just chock full of real class! Something you can stand up and strut about…

As you see, we’ll probably have to work hard on the sincerity in doing this, but he’s so eager to be validated in his illusions about himself that he won’t examine it too closely. He’ll lap up the flattery, and next thing you know we’ll have a real breakthrough that would increase peace and security in the region and the world.

I mentioned Nancy Pelosi’s role. It’s essential, although fairly easy for her. She just needs to keep holding back the impeachment from the Senate. The hardest part for her will be that she’d have to say that she’s doing it because what our wonderful president is doing is so important that he must not be distracted!

We should be able to get all this done in a month or so — as I say, all the actual work got done in the Obama agreement — and then get on with impeachment, and the election.

What do you think? I’ll tell you what I think:

It. Could. WORK!

via GIPHY

‘Shame on Nikki Haley,’ says Frank Bruni

nikki

And he has a point.

It seems our girl, so fresh from tarnishing her own fine record on the Confederate flag, has stepped in it again. Not sure why she keeps doing this. Does she feel she’s not in the limelight enough these days?

Anyway, Bruni said this in his latest email newsletter, under the headline “Don’t you dare question my patriotism:”

Shame on Nikki Haley.

In the aftermath of the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, she didn’t merely praise President Trump — a show of support that may well reflect her own, like-minded assessment of events and is absolutely her right.

She denigrated Americans who took a different view by disingenuously describing their reaction. “The only ones that are mourning the loss of Suleimani are our Democrat leadership and our Democrat presidential candidates,” she told Sean Hannity during an interview on Fox News. Of course he thrilled to that characterization…

Nikki’s point seems to have been the usual thing about partisanship stopping at the water’s edge. And there’s value in the usual thing, when we have a usual sort of president. Which we did, with the first 44.

But our situation now is as different as ones and zeroes from what we had before 2016.

As I said earlier, as we try to apply the usual standards for whether killing Soleimani was a good thing or a bad thing, we just can’t forget for a moment that this is Trump who decided to do this. And it is impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt, ever. This is a startlingly ignorant, narcissistic, unprincipled, impulsive, vindictive man who doesn’t know what truth is, who has no notion of the national interest, and is motivated entirely by what he sees as benefiting him personally, or stroking his pathetically fragile ego.

Not that he’ll never do what’s best for the country. He’ll do that if it is coincidentally the thing that he sees as benefiting him. He’s like a stopped clock that way.

To pretend we are living through a normal political era in which the usual maxims apply is to lie to yourself and to the American people.

And we get enough of that already from the White House.

Nikki Haley managed to extricate herself from the Trump administration with her image as Golden Girl of the GOP relatively untarnished. Now that she doesn’t work for him any more, she should keep her distance, if she’s serious about the future ambitions we keep hearing about.

She’s better off not trying to be Trump’s Yes Girl. Anyway, he’s got Kellyanne Conway for that

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, and other thoughts on the killing of Soleimani

1200px-Qasem_Soleimani_2019-10-01_05

Why have I gone so many days without commenting on the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the United States?

Because I’m still not sure what to say. I don’t have enough information to say “this was a good thing” or “this was a bad thing.” And ever since I made the move from news to editorial in 1994, I’ve been disinclined to write about anything that I couldn’t offer some sort of judgment on.

What follows is a few of the thoughts that have been going through my head since this happened…

We can’t get around the fact that this is Trump doing this.

First, if this is a classic “wag the dog” move, Trump has miscalculated. Because this incident underlines more starkly than anything else that’s happened in the past three years why it is an extraordinarily bad idea to have such an ignorant and deeply flawed person in the role of commander-in-chief.

Yes, the natural impulse in such a situation is for the American people to close ranks with the president and give him the benefit of the doubt. But how can anyone, other than the blindest of his base, do that with this man? Most people in the country know that he only cares about his own self-interest. There could be a situation in which his interest and the country’s coincidentally line up — the stopped-clock principal — but we know that to him, the country’s interest is simply not an operative variable.

And he lies. About everything. He doesn’t misspeak and then backtrack when the untruth is exposed, the way other people in politics do. He lies with utter abandon, and when the lie is proved beyond any doubt, he doubles down on it.

In a situation like this, in which (I’m assuming here) the American people can’t be shown all the evidence without compromising intelligence sources, it is essential that we have some faith in the truthfulness and judgment of the president, whether we like him or not. That is utterly impossible in this situation. So instead of persuadable people going, “This is a dicey situation, so we’d better rally around the president,” they are more likely to go “Oh, my God, how soon can we get someone else — anyone else — into the White House?”

Forgive me for starting with the political calculation, but the fact that this guy is in this job affects all the other things I have to say.

This is a job for the Deep State.

I can’t trust anything Trump — or anyone who owes his or her job to him — says about the situation. I know I can’t trust Republican members of Congress, either, based on their completely surrender of their minds to Trump. Nor am I terribly interested in what the Democratic presidential candidates think about it. (Yes, their statements may help us choose between them, but their reaction isn’t helpful in assessing the immediate situation, which is what I’m talking about here.)

What I want, what I need, to know in order to form a judgment is what the Deep State thinks. I need the views of experts who have no political dog in the fight.

Is it the consensus of our intelligence community that there was an imminent threat that justified taking the extraordinary chance (given that we don’t know what Iran will do) of killing this guy? Oh, and while I’m asking, what do they think we should do next?

Often in these situations, within a few days after the story has initially broken, there will be a piece — probably in The New York Times — from a reporter with excellent intelligence sources who has interviewed them about the situation and gleaned some sort of consensus from those sources.

This would be a great time for such a story. I’m not asking for the moon — I don’t expect something as definite as, for instance, the fact that ALL of our intelligence agencies agree that Russian interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. I’m not greedy. I’d just like to know in general what people who know a LOT more about this than I do are thinking. That might help me decide what I think.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

When in doubt, quote a Clint Eastwood movie, right?

I don’t think anyone in this country, outside of people like this out-of-work football player, doubts for a moment that Soleimani had it coming.

But he’s had it coming for a long time, and we’ve had the ability to kill him before now, and we haven’t done so. The question isn’t, “Did he deserve it?” The question is, what changed that switched the calculus toward a decision to kill him now? And was that calculation sound?

In other words, someone might be a bad guy, but killing him may be a bad idea. (In fact, as an opponent of the death penalty, I would argue that it’s usually a bad idea to kill someone just for being a bad guy.)

And we just don’t have enough reliable information to know.

No one, but no one, thinks war with Iran is a good idea.

No matter how crazy and bloodthirsty you may think neocons are, I can’t think of anyone in that camp that has ever put forth outright war with Iran as a good idea. (Neo-cons don’t usually count John Bolton among their number.) I’ve never seen the case credibly made that it would be in anyone’s interest, except maybe people on the sidelines who don’t like us, such as Russia or China.

So, you know, we probably need to do what we can to avoid it from this point on… which brings us back to my fervent wish that a normal human being of any party was in the White House right now… Something I heard on the radio earlier today struck me as ironic in the extreme: A Republican member of Congress (I think; I didn’t catch the name) was making the point that the Iranians aren’t totally crazy; they don’t want war with the United States. How weird is that? We’re counting on the ayatollahs to be more rational and mature than the president of the United States

I could say much more, but I figure that’s enough to get a conversation going. Sorry to have taken so long, but as I say, I was hoping to know more….

Watch out, fellow elitists! It’s a trap!

trap

Mr. Smith accused me of being elitist today, and let’s face it: He had evidence on his side.

But something good came out of that scolding of yours truly. It reminded me of a piece I read back in October, and meant to share here, and forgot. But it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to share it and the warning it contains.

It was an oped piece in The Washington Post by Joel Stein, author of In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.

I actually probably should buy that book, if it’s anywhere near as funny as the column. An excerpt:

Impeachment is an elitist trap

As an elitist, I enjoy a good impeachment. Especially if followed by a trial in the Senate, overseen by the chief justice in a black robe with gold stripes. In fact, I wish there were an even more complicated way to kick out a president — one with a Latin name that centered on the opinions of Ivy League historians and presented as a nine-part documentary on PBS.

Correcting the electorate’s stupid mistake via an intricate legal process created by our Enlightenment-loving founders and enacted by entrenched experts in Congress is the elites’ version of “John Wick.”

I am assuming that “John Wick” is movie about a righteous, skilled underdog battling an incompetent, corrupt power. But I have no idea if that’s true, since elites have never seen any of the “John Wick” movies…

… and so forth. That passage made me feel very smug, since I have never seen a John Wick movie, either. (Are they particularly stupid? I need you to tell me, because I wouldn’t know!)

The piece is full of good bits that tempt me to push the envelope just a mite on Fair Use. Here’s another one:

Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s “The Republic.”…

Anyway, the serious point in all this hilarity is that the best approach to getting rid of Trump is to beat him next year at the polls, “Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.”

But read the whole thing. It’s fun. And when you’re living in such depressing times — when a president is about to get the impeachment he so richly deserves, and the Senate is waiting to reject that impeachment in the most insultingly dismissive way they can think of — it’s nice if we can, even for just a moment, laugh about it…

giphy (5)

Impeachment has been rushed, and it shouldn’t have been

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

I’ve actually meant to say that for a couple of months, but there’s never been a day when I felt I had enough time to explain all the reasons I think that. And I don’t have time to explain it all today, either. But I thought I should at least say it, before the whole thing is over with.

Oh, and I have another excuse: I haven’t always been sure I felt it was being rushed. But it’s a thought that has occurred to me, many times. And this time, I’ll go ahead and say it before I doubt it again. And if I’m wrong, y’all can tear it to shreds.

The Democrats have been hurrying this thing because they want it over well before the 2020 elections. And that makes a certain amount of sense as electoral strategy, except for this great, big flaw: Impeachment itself has NEVER been in the electoral interest of the Democrats — or the nation — since a conviction in the Senate was never in the cards, and it increases the chances of a Trump re-election.

But the thing is, they had to go ahead and do it. If you’re a sworn member of the House, and a president has done what this one has done, you have to impeach him. Just as the Republicans had to with Clinton 20 years ago. Clinton’s behavior was impeachable from the get-go, and so has Trump’s been.

So, good for the House Democrats for doing their duty, as the House Republicans did last time around. But they’ve tried to have their cake and eat it, too — to do this thing that honor requires, but try to minimize the political cost.

They should have insisted that the process wouldn’t end until, for instance, Mulvaney and Giuliani testified. At the very least, they should have continued to pursue that — through the courts as well as in the court of public opinion — for a few more weeks. At the very least, it would have made Trump’s obstruction more painfully clear, even if that didn’t move the Senate.

Now, the Senate is going to rush this through even faster and we’ll never hear from people we should have heard from.

And Trump will still be in office, and his base — which is immune to reason or facts — will still be ticked off about it, so you will have paid the political price without a concrete result.

All of this said, it’s better to impeach him than not to impeach him, even if you rushed it.

But I do think they’ve rushed it, and I’m not persuaded that was necessary or advisable.

Discuss…

And furthermore, it’s not quite the thing…

"Excuse my strong language, but the president's conduct has been... unacceptable. There, I said it."

“Excuse my strong language, but the president’s conduct has been… unacceptable. There, I said it.”

I don’t have much more to say than what I said in this Tweet:

I’m a little reminded of Mr. Darcy’s comment that dancing at “at such an assembly as this” would be “insupportable.” Although I admit that the situations aren’t comparable. Just the manner of speaking.

But I don’t want to give the congressman in the next district a hard time. I fully appreciate that it’s a tough call for a guy who wants to stay in office and happens to live in South Carolina.

But I also fully believe that if you can’t support impeachment under these circumstances, then you shouldn’t BE in office.

And yeah, I’m talking to you, Lindsey Graham. And Tim Scott and Joe Wilson and those other four moral Munchkins in the House…

Look at them telling themselves, ‘Keep a straight face… Act like this is totally normal….’

macron

So it appears our president is over across the pond embarrassing us, again, squabbling with allies and roiling markets.

For me, it’s interesting to turn the sound down and just watch these foreign leaders sit next to him and labor to keep a straight face.

I give Macron some credit for breaking out of this pattern and confronting Trump, which you see above. But most continue to play the game, trying not to have a diplomatic incident.

I’m very sorry that we keep putting our friends through this…

Henceforth, all witnesses should talk like Fiona Hill

No, I’m not just talking about the accent, although I would love that.

And it wouldn’t have to be her specific Northern-English accent, either. I’d settle for a nice, posh RP mode of speech, which for a brief second was what I thought she was using — she just has such an authoritative delivery that it came across as upper-class until I’d listened a moment.

Or failing that, perhaps a thick Cockney — say, Michael Caine or even more so. Or Scouse — think of any one of the Beatles, especially George.

That would really liven the proceedings, and make me want to listen. But I don’t mean merely to indulge my unabashed Anglophilia. I’d love to hear a Scottish accent, a la Fiona Ritchie. (A Scottish ancestress of my wife was accused of witchcraft back in the 1650s, although eventually released. I suspect her guilt, in the sense that I find few sounds more bewitching than a woman speaking with a Scottish accent.)

Or Welsh. I seldom hear a true Welsh accent, and would like to become more acquainted with it. Especially since family lore holds that the Warthens were Welsh (although to my great frustration, I’ve been unable to nail that down).

Better yet, given the topic of these proceedings, how about having a witness who lays out all the facts in a true Ukrainian accent? That could be edifying.

But I digress…

Back to where I started: It’s not about the accent. Tonight, my wife was watching a rerun of Dr. Hill’s testimony and remarked that she seemed the most intelligent witness she’d heard yet.

I don’t think that’s a matter of accent. After all, while she sounds as educated as she is, those Northern tones — she’s from County Durham, the daughter of a coal miner and a nurse, educated at the University of St Andrews — tend to be looked-down-upon, historically, by the Southron snobs in London.

No, it’s the fact that she knows what she’s talking about.

Like most of these witnesses, she’s a professional, a person of obvious expertise and discernment. The accent just serves as a garnish, calling extra attention to the fact this is not your average idiot at the end of the bar holding forth on what his gut doth dictate.

She — like Vindman and Taylor as so many of these people, and so unlike Nunes and Jordan — is the embodiment of what Trump and his supporters despise. They are, as I said, people who know what they are talking about, and have this country’s best interests at heart. It radiates from them; it’s undeniable.

They are, in short, the anti-Trumps.

And I want to hear more from them, and less from some of those idiots on the committees. I doubt Fiona Hill could get elected to Congress from any district in the country. And that’s the country’s loss. And an indictment of democracy as practice in the 21st century.

I want to hear more from her. And people like her. They give me hope for the country, hope for humanity…

Fiona

NO, I’m not watching TV all day. Are YOU?

live tv

I’ve never been fond of “man-on-the-street” interviews. I prefer “people-who-know-what-they’re-talking-about” interviews. Guess that makes me an elitist. That, and… other stuff.

Anyway, this morning on NPR — I think it was on “The Takeaway” — there was this long string of short clips of Real People answering the question of whether they’d be watching the impeachment hearings on TV today. As usual, I could only take so much of it before switching it off.

If I remember correctly, most of the Real People were not planning to watch the hearings. (Actually, I just went back to check, and all of the ones I heard said that. There was a string of people who said “yes” after that, but I had turned off the radio before they came on.)

Presumably, I was supposed to be interested in their reasons for watching or not watching, as though there would be something edifying in these reasons, as though I would be somehow wiser for having heard the usual comments like “I’ve made up my mind,” “It’s all a partisan farce,” “I have a life,” etc.

And I’m thinking, Who can sit and listen to TV all day — TV about ANYTHING? And moreover, who on Earth would WANT to?

Or NEED to in order to be an informed citizen? I take in news and analysis from quite a few competent professional services every day. I’ll get all the information I need from those sources. (Unlike the president, I trust professionals to do their job — and I know if one slips up in doing it, the next one will fill in that gap.) If — and this seems doubtful — I feel the need to watch a portion of the testimony, to get intonation or whatever, I can go back and find and watch it with little trouble. In fact, I most likely won’t even have to look for it, because so many sources will be throwing the clip at me.

So in other words, the Real Person who sounded most like me was the one who said he would not be watching, but “I will pay close attention to the media recaps.”

Which will give you more than anyone needs to know. In fact, you’ll have to scan the whole mess with skill, discernment and alacrity if you’re going to get anything else done that day.

So who’s watching? And why?

the room

Nikki Haley was asked to help save the country. She refused.

Nikki book

Having been out of town travelling, the first thing I read about Nikki Haley’s most-newsworthy revelation in her book took a sort of second-day, second-guessing approach.

Aaron Blake wrote that yes, the assertion that Rex Tillerson and John Kelly asked her to help them save the country from Trump and she refused was important, but “The bigger story, though, is that two even-higher-ranking officials took such an extraordinary step that allowed for Haley’s refusal.”

No. Sorry. It’s not really news that Tillerson and Kelly knew their boss was a dangerous idiot. Hadn’t we assumed that?

The simple version IS the news here: Nikki did NOT fully see what a loose cannon Trump is, and refused to help them.

I suppose I’d need to read the whole book to know, but the few quotes I’ve seen seem to hint that when the two men told her, “The president didn’t know what he was doing,” she didn’t immediately agree with them.

And this is important because, against all reason, people keep saying that Nikki is “widely viewed by Republicans as a top potential presidential candidate in 2024,” even “the Republican Party’s brightest rising star.”

Only in a world in which Donald Trump can get elected president of the United States — a radically different universe from the one we all lived in before 2016 — could she look like presidential timber.

For that matter, only in a world like that could she — a charming person with ZERO training or experience in international affairs — have been considered a candidate for ambassador to the United Nations. But she got that job (because the priority was to make Henry governor), and managed to look very good in it, given the background — which is to say, given the train wreck that is Trumpian foreign policy.

Don’t get me wrong here: Nikki looks great compared to Lindsey Graham’s abject degradation.

Also, I’ll acknowledge that it makes me a tad nervous to have political appointees presuming to work around an elected president, even when that president is Trump. But I don’t get the impression that these guys were talking coup. (They weren’t even proposing the nearly-impossible task of putting the 25th amendment into play, although they should have been.) I could be wrong — and y’all tell me if I am — but it seemed more like a couple of guys in unenviable positions trying to guide the administration in a sane direction, and hoping for a little help.

Which she refused to give. And that’s what we should remember, whenever anyone mentions what a hot prospect she is to become POTUS.

Polls indicate Trump remains competitive in key states. Oh, yeah: And if Warren is the Democratic nominee, he wins

polling chart

Tonight I got a fund-raising text from Joe Biden that reminded me that I meant to share with y’all something I saw in The New York Times this morning. The text said:

BREAKING: A New York Times poll says that Joe Biden is the ONLY candidate who can beat Trump in some critical swing states that Trump won in 2016.

So if Joe Biden isn’t our nominee, Trump will be reelected again.

But Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have more money than us — even though they can’t defeat Trump. And if we can’t catch up, they might be the ones facing off against him….

And so forth.

Here’s what the Biden campaign is talking about. See the graphic above, which I hope the NYT doesn’t mind my showing you (I urge you to go read it on their site, and even subscribe, as I do). There are other informative graphics with the piece.

The Times emphasized Trump’s competitiveness, leading with:

Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College…

But the graphic (which I had to go grab from an old Tweet, because it no longer appears with the story), shouted something else: Democrats are nuts if they go with Elizabeth Warren.

Of course, I knew that already. Did you?

The story has an important caveat:

There is a full year before Election Day, and a lot can change.

But then, a caveat to the caveat:

But on average over the last three cycles, head-to-head polls a year ahead of the election have been as close to the final result as those taken the day before.

So I suppose we should take heed….

The Whistleblower? Who still cares about him?

A portion of the front page of The State today...

A portion of the front page of The State today…

… or her, but the hints I’ve seen have pointed strongly toward a “him.”

The front page of The State today (above) had a headline, above the fold, dealing with The Whistleblower. And I thought, “Who still cares about him?” Hence the headline.

One does hear Republicans, and their master Trump, speak of him as though he and his identity were crucial, the main point, even. And we know why. They want to have a face, a person, they can thoroughly trash, to distract everyone from the truth he told about what Trump has done.

That’s why one Republican leader has rejected the idea of Republican lawmakers being able to depose The Whistleblower. They’re not interested in facts, not interested in getting answers. They’re interested in the Trump base seeing them, the Republican members of Congress, attacking the guy and demonstrating how hard they’re trying to defend Trump. To them, nothing else matters.

That’s why the arguments they present make so little sense. A reasonable, impartial person might wonder why, after demanding over and over that a formal vote be taken on initiating the impeachment process, they complained so mightily when such a vote was taken last week. Because, boys and girls, that’s the point: not the facts of the matter, but whether they are recorded on sound and video loudly decrying the process and competing to see how many times they can say “sham” in one sentence. It’s about the emotion, about the indignation.

Anyway, seeing and hearing (on radio) The Whistleblower back in the news reminds me that last week I meant to share this editorial that was in The New York Times.

The headline was “Thanks, Whistle-Blower, Your Work Is Done.” And it was accompanied with a copy of the official whistleblower complaint, with portions highlighted to show things that have been corroborated by other, usually named, witnesses.

That document, of course, was pretty much redundant the day it was released — because the day before, Trump’s own White House had released the memo that confirmed The Whistleblower’s account of the July 25 phone call.

It’s only become more obsolete since then.

In fact, that editorial with the highlighted complaint has been made pretty dated with the release today of a first batch of transcripts from the closed-door depositions taken thus far.

But anyway, I pass on the editorial and the annotated complaint, as they are still interesting — although the whistleblower himself and what he had to say become less central each day.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.

 

 

 

So, where do you stand on carrying the bat to first base?

bregman

Here’s a little thought experiment…

Earlier, some of you expressed disapproval of the crowd booing Trump at the World Series Sunday night, while others defended it.

Contemplating another Series controversy from last night’s game (and not the disagreement that led to the Nationals’ manager being ejected — it was quite a game), it occurs to me that it might be a sort of related issue.

I’d like to see y’all’s positions on the booing thing alongside your positions on whether it was OK for Alex Bregman and Juan Soto to carry their bats to first base after hitting home runs.

I have this theory that people who were disturbed by the booing would also disapprove of the bat-carrying, both being violations of certain standards of behavior. Likewise, anyone likely to approve of the “Lock him up” chant would be more inclined to let those young ballplayers strut a bit.

Me, I disapprove of both. I see both within a context of society fraying, becoming less civilized.

You?

soto

Is Donald Trump our ‘most honest president?’

"Believe me..."

“Believe me…”

Frank Bruni reminds me of this point I’ve been thinking about making for two or three years now, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.

We know that no one who has ever held the office of president — in our lifetimes, at the least — utters more falsehoods that this guy. Certainly, no one can boast more “Four Pinocchio” scores (OK, I tried to back that up with a link, and Google failed me. Oh, I saw that the Post had to come up with a new “Bottomless Pinocchio” just for him, and that in 2018 they broke his falsehoods into two categories to keep him from dominating the standings, but I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I think what I’m running into is the ancient horror journalists have of saying someone or something is the most anything ever — because someone might always come up with a worse example.).

He seems the personification of the old gag, “How can I tell when he’s lying? His mouth’s moving.”

The thing is, though, what if he’s not lying, technically? What if he actually believes all of these laughably false things that he asserts with such vehemence? The guy’s not terribly bright, and he’s such a narcissist that it’s possible that he convinces himself that any assertion that is helpful, or that he perceives as helpful, to Donald Trump is automatically true.

There’s plenty we can point to that supports this position on the matter. How else do you explain, just to grab a recent example, his repeated assertion that his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect?” Or that the whistleblower (remember the whisteblower, that guy whose role in all this long ago became redundant in light of subsequent revelations, a fact that has not yet penetrated the Donald’s skull?) is peddling untruths. He continues to assert both of these things even though the rough transcript the White House itself released shows him to be obviously wrong on both counts. Not to mention all of the subsequent revelations that show that phone call to be just one piece of a large, consistent pattern.

Maybe you want to say he’s crazy rather than dumb. Either way, you can say his ability to discern the truth is severely limited.

So in that case, is he a liar? Don’t you have to mean to lie for it to count?

Anyway, I’m thinking about this again after reading the recent Frank Bruni column headlined “‘Human Scum,’ ‘Lynching’ and Trump’s Tortured English.” (Subhed: “The president needs a thesaurus and a therapist, though not necessarily in that order.”)

It’s another piece addressing a thing that probably explains as well as anything why people who work with words tend to see Trump as dumb, while it is less obvious to certain other people:

The other day he turned to the bounteous trove of the English language for a pejorative worthy of his critics’ awfulness, at least as he sees it. He decided on “human scum.”

He sought to capture the horror and injustice befalling him. What he came up with was “lynching.”

There’s being crude with language, there’s being loose with it, and then there’s being Trump, who uses words the way a toddler does marbles, grabbing the ones that are most bluntly colorful and tossing them into the air just because he can.

Trump is as inept at English as he is at governing. He’s oxymoronic: a nativist who can’t really speak his native tongue….

And so on. But the passage that prompts this post is this:

I’ve written before that Trump, “in terms of the transparency with which he shows us the most eccentric and ugliest parts of himself,” may inadvertently be “the most honest president in my lifetime.” His language is obviously central to that. It’s a glimpse into his fury and fears…

Which is slightly different from what I said above. Basically, Bruni is saying that no matter how untrue and badly chosen his words are, the emotion behind them reveals the true Trump.

My point is that maybe we can’t label Trump’s perpetual flow of falsehoods as lies, because he really doesn’t know any better.

Either way, Trump comes across as less dishonest than a mere examination of facts would suggest.

What do y’all think?

 

Apparently, the GOP will have a ‘war room’ after all

war room

I’ve seen and heard it mentioned frequently that the White House has no impeachment “war room,” just Trump himself careening wildly from tweet to outburst, without any rhyme, reason or strategy.

That may be, but the Republican Party itself is apparently creating one. Note the job posting I found on Daybook, above. Here’s the description:

The Republican National Committee is seeking applicants for entry- and junior-level positions in the War Room. The War Room is the nerve center of the communications department, and its purpose is to keep our staff and others outside of the organization informed of all political news. War Room staff are responsible to be the ears and eyes of the communications department, coordinating and organizing to keep the RNC informed.

Responsibilities Include:

• Media monitoring, tracking, and alerting news, video, and live events of significance

• Creating and distributing multiple daily products that are disseminated outside of the building, including media matrices, television & network reporter roundups, and travel coverage of notable political figures and governmental officials

• Coordinating with the organization’s research and press teams to quickly flag and engage in rapid response to relevant news and stories

• Manage and update the organization’s video collection

• Monitoring and editing video and audio to assist the communications department in their messaging

Qualifications:

• Undergraduate degree required, with a major in communications, political science, journalism or a related field a plus

• An expressed desire or proven experience working to further conservative causes, candidates, and policies

• Familiarity and experience with social media and relevant monitoring platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Tweetdeck, and YouTube

• Strong research and analytical skills, including the ability to quickly and accurately identify politically relevant content and news

• A strong interest and familiarity with the current media and political environment, including political and policy issues

• The ability to quickly and efficiently handle time-sensitive requests from the organization’s communications team and work with tight deadlines

• Above average time management skills

• Excellent oral and written communication skills

Desirable Experience:

• Experience working on a campaign’s or party’s research team.

• Work experience in political communications or research, including on Capitol Hill, in journalism, the law, public relations, marketing, or at a trade association.

• Prior experience with TV Eyes, IQ, Snapstream, Camtasia, Hypercam 3, iShowU, MPEG Streamclip or other video clipping and editing software.

Personally, I wish no one had political “war rooms” — or at least, if they’re going to have them, that they would call them something else. Back when Bill Clinton had one (during the 1992 campaign), I found it quite offensive — only people who had never been to actual war, and had no respect for it, could call it that. And I think the mentality that made them call it that went a long way toward pushing us down the slope to today’s poisonous partisanship.

Of course, if the “war room” comes up with strategies better than the idiotic, desperate invasion and occupation of the SCIF yesterday, I suppose it would be worth it to the Republicans. One has to wonder how long trying to distract everyone from the substance of the charges against the president is going to work for them, even among the base…