Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I'M NOT SURE LAWRENCE LESSIG IS ANY CRAZIER THAN MITCH McCONNELL

This can't possibly happen, and just raising it as a possibility makes liberals seem like sinister coup-plotters. So why bring it up?
Sure, it's been more than 340 days since Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, but there's still one very narrow, highly unlikely and entirely unprecedented way that Clinton could become president.

And it has some Democratic die-hards dreaming again.

Harvard University professor Lawrence Lessig offered a Clinton path to the presidency on Medium, putting forward a series of "if/then" scenarios that lead to House Speaker Paul Ryan handing the White House keys to Clinton.

Here's how constitutional law expert Lessig lays it out:

If number 1: If Trump is definitively found to have colluded directly with Russia, he would be forced to resign or be impeached.

If number 2: If Trump is removed, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.

If number 3: If Pence becomes president, he should resign too, given that he benefited from the same help from Mother Russia.

If number 4: If Pence resigns before appointing a vice president, Ryan would become president.

If number 5: If Ryan becomes president, he should do the right thing and choose Clinton for vice president. Then he should resign.
It's just crazy talk, right? But I wonder what we'd be talking about if the parties were reversed.

Imagine a 2016 election that ended the way the most optimistic Democrats thought it might: with a huge Hillary Clinton victory and a coattail effect that flipped the House and Senate. Now imagine -- and this is a stretch -- that it was Clinton who colluded with a foreign power to steal the election. Imagine a special counsel closing in on the truth and threatening her presidency.

What do you think the Republican leadership would be saying -- the same people who embraced the results of the 2016 and 2000 presidential elections without blinking, and who last year made up a rule saying that a president can be deprived of the opportunity to fill a Supreme Court vacancy for the sin of being in his last year of office?

I suspect they'd be arguing for just the kind of election-result nullification Lessig describes. They'd say Tim Kaine has no right to be president and neither does Nancy Pelosi. They'd probably propose exactly what Lessig proposes here, except for this bit:
... if Ryan did the right thing, that would be the most extraordinary event in the history of America since the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter. But unlike that, this event would build the union, not divide it. And if he did it, then Clinton should embrace the spirit of cross partisan decency and nominate Ryan, or a Republican, as her Vice President. At least for the balance of her first term, the frame of adults-behaving-like-adults could live.
There's no way Republican leaders would embrace the notion of Pelosi being rewarded for her voluntary surrender of the presidency by being named Donald Trump's vice president. They'd probably demand an investigation into the elections of whichever swing-state and swing-district Democrats flipped control of Congress. How much money did those candidates get from a treasonous Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party? We need to get to the bottom of this!

So, yes, what Lessig is proposing is far-fetched. But it would probably be a mainstream idea in the GOP if there were a mirror-image presidential scandal. Mainstream journalists would be expected to take the proposal seriously. And if it didn't happen, literally every act by surviving Democratic officeholders would be deemed illegitimate.


YOU COME AT THE LIAR, YOU'D BEST NOT MISS

President Trump said it again today, on the radio to Fox's Brian Kilmeade:
We're the highest taxed nation in the world. We need the tax cuts.
The talking point is regularly refuted -- here's Paul Krugman knocking it down over the weekend -- but Trump doesn't stop.

Today an enterprising young reporter tried confronting Trump on the fake talking point. He was wasting his time.


MIKE SACKS: ... repeatedly said that we're the highest-taxed nation in the world, when that's been seen as objectively false. How -- with the credibility you need to pass tax reform, why do you--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Some people say it differently, and they'll say we're the highest developed nation taxed in the world.

SACKS: And why don't you say it that way?

TRUMP: Because a lot of people know exactly what I'm talking about it. In many cases, they think I'm right when I say "the highest." As far as I'm concern, I think we're really essentially the highest, but if you'd like to add the "developed nation," you can say that too. But a lot of people agree that the way I'm saying it is exactly correct. Thank you very much.
Yes, the president answered with his usual combination of alpha-male arrogance and "I didn't do the reading so I'm just making stuff up" improvisational BS. But Sacks fails here, too.

Sacks -- a national political correspondent for Scripps (and a former #3 on the "50 Most Beautiful" list of the D.C. publication The Hill) -- shouldn't have even asked the question if he didn't also know that there are many higher-taxed countries, and they're all "developed." Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Switzerland -- these are not Third World countries.

How should we rank the nations? Taxes per person? Or taxes as a percentage of GDP? Either way, the U.S. is far behind many rich nations. (Go here to see the charts in their original not-blurry form.)





C'mon, Mike, you get paid to do this. Don't even ask the question if you're not well-informed enough to know what the follow-up should be.




IF YOUR GO-TO ANALOGY FOR TRUMP IS ENTERTAINMENT TV, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT

Out of nowhere yesterday, President Trump entertained the possibility on Twitter that he might get to run against Hillary Clinton again in 2020. He brought up the subject a second time in a news conference yesterday afternoon.

As The Washington Post's Michael Sherer notes, Trump's M.O. as president is to conjure up enemies, just to rally the base. To Sherer, this is like entertainment television:
Most days bring another round, often at dawn, like plot points in a 24-7 miniseries.

... when the president is on track — he calls Twitter “my voice”-- he can script his presidency like a professional wrestling match, where the heel, or bad guy, is the one who makes the face, or good guy, shine in the ring.
Sherer doesn't use the phrase "reality TV," but that's another favorite pundit metaphor for how Trump runs his presidency.

All of these are reasonable analogies -- but most pundits miss the obvious one: the conservative media, particularly Fox News. Fox programming isn't really news, of course -- it's a 24/7 roundup of liberal/culturally "elitist"/Democratic (and occasionally RINO Republican) villains, contrasted with conservative heroes. Consider Scherer's round-up of Trump's recent feuds:
In just the past few weeks, Trump has started, without any clear provocation, fights with football players who kneel during the national anthem, departments stores that declare “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and late-night television hosts for their “unfunny and repetitive material.”

Then there are the individual targets: Clinton, of course, but also “Liddle” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and a shifting array of reporters, newspapers and networks he labels as the “fake news.”
Just one enemy after another. Now here's part of the front page of Fox News Insider this morning:



Fox staffers scour the earth day after day, looking for enemies to denounce. That's the central feature of Fox programming. It's why Fox fans, including Trump, love to watch.

It's true that, as Scherer notes, Trump singled out enemies long before he was president:
It’s a tactic he has employed for years — defining himself against a negative space, as a tough truth teller who opposes others. In 1990, he condemned his New York real estate rival, Leona Helmsley, as a “truly evil human being,” and decades later he spent years nursing a viciously personal feud with Rosie O’Donnell, a daytime television host, largely through social media.
But Fox has taught him to juggle multiple enemies at once, to maintain a rotation of go-to enemies, and to continually add new ones. This tactic has helped Fox keep its viewer base after the loss of Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Eric Bolling, and Megyn Kelly. It's helped Trump keep his base despite his failures as a president.

Trump would make and taunt enemies if Fox had never existed. But he probably wouldn't sustain as many feuds at once.

Monday, October 16, 2017

SO YOU'RE SAYING YOUR ENTIRE FIREARM SELL JOB IS BASED ON A LIE?

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch says she's getting death threats:
Radio host and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said she's had to pack up her belongings in garbage bags and leave her home over threats from gun control advocates and other opponents.

Loesch said she and her family, including her young children, have received threats over her role in the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.

She told Martha MacCallum it's been difficult to sell her home "conventionally" through open houses and a realtor when she's received such vile threats.
Some of you probably think this is a publicity stunt. But I'll take Loesch at her word.





I loathe Loesch and I loathe the NRA. But threatening the woman or her family is completely unjustified.

On the other hand, when I dig through some of Loesch's old press clips, I find that she used to talk as if her guns allowed her to laugh at threats like this:
Speaking at the Bullets & Bourbon confab, the comely conservative commentator’s timing was immaculate, her off-hand one-liners withering and her shtick superlative. Re: death threats and stalkers: “They’re the ones with the problem,” she asserted.
Meaning what?
“My husband and I are like Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre in Tremors.”
Tremors is a 1990 sci-fi movie about people being attacked by vicious subterranean worms; in the scene in question, Gross and McIntyre use a wall full of firearms to blast a killer worm to smithereens.



Loesch's point: Death threats? Stalkers? Try pulling any funny stuff and taste hot lead. Loesch isn't afraid of you. You should be afraid of Loesch.

Except that now Loesch is afraid. She's so afraid that she turned to the authorities.
But, she praised the FBI and local law enforcement for their help during the situation.



Loesch usually mocks people who use private security:
Loesch said the anti-Second Amendment jokes are told by celebrities who often have armed security guards to protect them.

"Why don't you give up the firearms that your private security is holding?" she said. "You're not being more virtuous just because you're paying someone else to carry it. You're outsourcing it because you lack the courage of your own convictions."
Even though she's admitted to using private security in the past:
Clearly, Loesch is not comfortable without a gun. So what does she do when her career takes her to New York City or Washington, D.C., as it often does? ... “I always request security.”
Loesch's notorious recent NRA ad referred to the organization as "freedom's safest place." But she doesn't claim to feel safe now. Loesch used to joke about people who stalked and threatened her. Now she's telling us her arsenal isn't sufficient.

The gun lobby's message is that guns will make you invincible in a dangerous world. Crime? Government tyranny? Say hello to my little friend!

But her arsenal isn't working against threats like this from anonymous randos. It certainly wouldn't be enough to fight off a well-armed government bent on tyranny. So the marketing of guns seems to be based on a lie.




THIS CNN STORY ABOUT TRUMP AND IMPEACHMENT IS NOT REALLY ABOUT TRUMP AND IMPEACHMENT

It's understandable if you think that this CNN story is about the possibility that President Trump will be impeached -- after all, the headline is:
Trump Allies Worry That Losing the House Means Impeachment
But that's not really what the story is about. Let me give you some hints as to what it's really about:
Top White House aides, lawmakers, donors and political consultants are privately asking whether President Donald Trump realizes that losing the House next year could put his presidency in peril....

Donors who trekked to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in support of House Speaker Paul Ryan were treated to a slide show late this summer to fundraise off those very fears, according to multiple attendees. Among the slides: An overview of the Democrats who would be tapped to lead key committees if the GOP loses control, including Rep. Elijah Cummings as the head of the House Oversight Committee.

To some attendees, the subtext was clear. If Republicans forfeit the House, Democrats will almost certainly create a spectacle that will derail conservatives' agenda and the remainder of Trump's first term -- a spectacle complete with a raft of new subpoenas, a spotlight on the Russia investigation and, many are convinced, impeachment proceedings....

Alex Conant, a partner at GOP public affairs firm Firehouse Strategies, said Trump should focus on protecting his own party.

"The number one thing Trump should be doing to save his presidency is helping congressional Republicans maintain their majorities," Conant said. "Instead he's allowing his allies like Steve Bannon to really undermine Republican reelection campaigns. It's just reckless and politically naive considering how devastating it would be to his presidency."

...A number of Republicans asked not to have their names used in order to speak candidly about a sensitive topic.

"If we lose the House, he could get impeached. Do you think he understands that?" one top GOP donor recalled an exasperated Republican senator saying privately.

"Won't it be ironic that Steve Bannon helped get the President elected and impeached?" another top Republican official said in a moment of venting.
This isn't a story about Trump and impeachment. It's a story about the war between Steve Bannon and the Republican establishment.

Bannon is selling his scorched-earth, primary-'em-all strategy as the way to elect Republicans who'll support and protect Trump. At the same time, donors who've given to incumbent Republicans in the past are withholding cash until they see some legislative results.

How can establishment Republicans keep the money spigot flowing? Answer: Tell donors that Bannon and his candidates will cause Republicans to lose the House.

Even when you can't detect the subtext in the CNN story, it's there. This seems like straightforward concern about Trump:
"It will be on steroids, the amount of lawyers, investigations, inspector generals that come out of the woodwork" if Democrats win back the House, predicted Sara Fagen, who served as Bush's White House political director. "It will be very debilitating in a way they don't understand yet."
But note that Fagan, who is now a consultant, was on CNBC doing a dance of joy on the day Bannon was booted from the White House:



And there was this:



The war between Bannon and the GOP establishment is also woven into Jane Mayer's big New Yorker story "The Dangers of President Pence," in which we're told that the vice president and possible 46th president is a tool of the Koch brothers in a way that Trump isn't:
During the campaign, Trump said that Republican rivals who attended secretive donor summits sponsored by the Kochs were “puppets.” The Kochs, along with several hundred allied donors, had amassed nearly nine hundred million dollars to spend on the Presidential election, but declined to support Trump’s candidacy. At one point, Charles Koch described the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton as one between “cancer or heart attack.”

Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, credits Pence for the Kochs’ rapprochement with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” Short told me. “There are areas where they differ from the Administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.” ... Bannon is ... alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”
Bannon thinks money should flow his way, ostensibly because he thinks the Kochs and their candidates are falling down on the job of making America great again and are not giving Trump enough support. (It seems to me that what Bannon really wants, using \ the money of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, is to build his own Koch network. But it's possible this is about more than his ambitions.) In any case, Bannon thinks his candidates (and his efforts to make unswerving loyalty to Trump a litmus test for Republicans) are going to save Trump, not destroy him.

I'd say "Pass the popcorn" if I didn't think that it makes no difference who wins these skirmishes -- Republican voters will vote for whoever wins these contested primaries, and the outcome of the midterms will depend on whether Democrats can increase their usual off-year turnout, not on how nutty GOP general-election candidates are. But the battle matters a lot to the candidates and consultants. Sooner or later, Bannon will be absorbed into the establishment, but for now he's got the war he wants.

TRUMP'S SUPREME COURT GHOULISHESS: IS HE THINKING ABOUT GENES AGAIN?

Axios reports that Trump is speculating on possible Supreme Court vacancies, with one surprising name included:
Sources who've spoken to the president about the Supreme Court say he tells them he thinks he'll have appointed four justices by the end of his first term....

Asked how he comes to that jaw-dropping number, Trump mentions the obvious: he's already replaced Antonin Scalia with Neil Gorsuch, and there are rumors Anthony Kennedy will retire.
"Ok," one source told Trump, "so that's two. Who are the others?"

"Ginsburg," Trump replied. "What does she weigh? 60 pounds?"

"Who's the fourth?" the source asked.

"Sotomayor," Trump said, referring to the relatively recently-appointed Obama justice, whose name is rarely, if ever, mentioned in speculation about the next justice to be replaced. "Her health," Trump explained. "No good. Diabetes."
Sonia Sotomayor has successfully managed type-1 diabetes since childhood. She's 64 years old -- years younger than Trump. (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 84 and a cancer survivor, though she also has a rigorous exercise regimen.)

Health is a peculiar obsession of Trump's -- health and stamina. I'm sure you remember this:
Donald Trump reiterated his view that Hillary Clinton "doesn't have the stamina" to be president during Monday night's debate.

"She doesn't have the look. She doesn't have the stamina, I said she doesn't have the stamina, and I don't believe she does have the stamina," Trump said.
Trump's friends at the National Enquirer and his online backers fixated on Clinton's health, as did Trump himself at times:
“Here’s a woman — she’s supposed to fight all of these different things, and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car,” he told supporters at a ... rally in Pennsylvania. “She’s home resting right now.” He slackened his jaw and feigned stumbling across the stage, a dramatic re-enactment of the video that showed Clinton nearly collapsing from pneumonia in September.
Trump believes -- or at least wants us to believe -- that he's blessed with superior genes that confer excellent health (as well as above-average intelligence and a gift for "winning").
"I consider my health, stamina and strength one of my greatest assets," Trump tweeted in December 2015. "The world has watched me for many years and can so testify—great genes!"

The president has also fielded several questions via Twitter from users asking about his energy and family, repeatedly pointing to his genes as the basis for his success. "You’re up at 5am and you’re awake at 1am. How do you have so much energy? Seriously!?"

"Good genes!" Trump replied.

He also seemed to apparently miss a thinly veiled dig in June 2013, when @YoungBasedGod_g wrote to him, "@realDonaldTrump your dad gives good brain?? Damn."

"It’s called genes!" Trump tweeted back.

"Dr. John Trump, uncle, for many years at M.I.T.," he also wrote in May 2013. "Good genes, I get it!"

... Trump’s apparent obsession with his own genes could be due to his family’s alleged belief in the theory of eugenics, the president’s biographer Michael D’Antonio said in 2016.

"The [Trump] family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development," D’Antonio said in his PBS documentary, The Choice. "They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring."



Trump is so lacking in normal human feelings that he can only regard the possible death of a liberal justice as an opportunity for himself, but I think he's anticipating the demise of Sotomayor because he assumes she lacks his obvious genetic excellence.

When the overweight, exercise-verse, junk-food-loving Trump is gone, perhaps we'll finally learn what his health was really like. For now, I think he's anticipating the deaths of unsympathetic justices because he assumes they're inferior beings.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

WEINSTEIN CAN'T USE THE '60S AND '70S TO EXCUSE HIS BEHAVIOR -- AND NEITHER CAN DOUTHAT

Harvey Weinstein blamed his sociopathic behavior on the era when he came of age, and Ross Douthat thinks he has a point:
“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” Harvey Weinstein wrote in his awful pseudo-apology, just before the fake Jay-Z quote and the promise to go to war with the N.R.A. “That was the culture then.”

Everyone has made sport of this line, but give the devil his due: In certain ways sexual predation actually was the culture in the years when Weinstein came of age, in the entertainment industry and the wider society it influenced and mirrored.

There is a liberal tendency to regard sexual exploitation as a patriarchal constant that feminism has mitigated, and a conservative tendency to regard it as a problem that’s gotten steadily worse since the sexual revolution.... When it comes to Weinsteinian behavior and related evils, things probably haven’t ever been as bad in modern America as they were for a time in the 1970s. And if you want to understand our own era’s problems, the specific ways that things were worse back then are worth remembering.
Blame the sexual revolution, Weinstein says -- and Douthat thinks that a valid argument.

But then you look at the big Weinstein story in The Washington Post today and -- in among the horrifying but by now unsurprising stories of brutal behavior toward women -- there's this:
In 1984, Harvey Weinstein was 32 years old and making one of his first real feature films, on location outside of Scranton, Pa. It was a comedy called “Playing for Keeps,” featuring a not-yet-famous Marisa Tomei, and the mood on set was anxious. Weinstein was foul-mouthed and domineering. He sparred routinely with his younger brother, Bob, his co-director.

... the day before the “Playing for Keeps” premiere ... Weinstein, enraged that [producer Alan Brewer] had been out of pocket for a few hours, lunged at him and began punching him in the head, Brewer said; the skirmish tumbled into the corridor and then the elevator. By the time Brewer reached the street, intent on never associating with the Weinsteins again, he said, Harvey was pleading for him to stay and help ensure that their film got launched.
And this:
Warren Leight worked with Weinstein as director on “The Night We Never Met,” a romantic comedy starring Matthew Broderick and Annabella Sciorra.

... Weinstein’s behavior was erratic.... Weinstein bulldozed the editing process, said Leight, who was unhappy with the cuts. He told Weinstein as much.

“Right now this feels like getting f---ed up the ass without Vaseline,” Weinstein responded, according to Leight. “But in 10 years, it’s going to seem like the best sex of your life.” Each outburst, Leight said, would be followed by a gift basket and an apology.

Leight was so worn down that he retreated from the film business, finding success in theater and television. In retrospect, he said, the abusive tactics that Weinstein used with women were in line with those he used with directors and male employees: the domination, the cycle of eruptions followed by contrition, the swagger, accompanied by shows of neediness.

“It’s absolutely the same behavior,” Leight said.
And before that, we read this from New York magazine's Rebecca Traister:
I was sent, on Election Eve 2000, to cover a book party [Weinstein] was hosting, along with my colleague Andrew Goldman. Weinstein didn’t like my question about [his movie] O, there was an altercation; though the recording has alas been lost to time, I recall that he called me a cunt and declared that he was glad he was the “fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece-of-shit town.” When my colleague Andrew (who was also then my boyfriend) intervened, first calming him down and then trying to extract an apology, Weinstein went nuclear, pushing Andrew down a set of steps inside the Tribeca Grand — knocking him over with such force that his tape recorder hit a woman, who suffered long-term injury — and dragging Andrew, in a headlock, onto Sixth Avenue.

Such was the power of Harvey Weinstein in 2000 that despite the dozens of camera flashes that went off on that sidewalk that night, capturing the sight of an enormously famous film executive trying to pound in the head of a young newspaper reporter, I have never once seen a photo.
And this:
Actor Nathan Lane says embattled movie exec Harvey Weinstein attacked him during a birthday party for Hillary Clinton 17 years ago.

Weinstein ... threw the fete for Clinton’s 53rd birthday in 2000 — but he also tossed emcee Lane against a wall for a joke the actor made onstage about Rudy Giuliani’s comb-over, the Broadway and film star said.

“This is my f–king show, we don’t need you,” Weinstein reportedly raged at Lane.
Weinstein's worst abuse was directed at women -- but when he's dealt with men, he's also been a monster.

Weinstein says he's acted the way he has toward women because he was told in the '60s and '70s that he was entitled to all the sex he wanted, and Ross Douthat essentially agrees. But I don't recall anyone going to the barricades in '60s or '70s for the right to beat the crap out of a work colleague or subordinate. There were love-ins; I don't remember any fight-ins. Beating people up wasn't embraced as a cultural value old people were too square to understand.

Harvey Weinstein does every horrible thing he does for the same reason: because he's a thug, not because he's a libertine. His sexual assaults are crimes of violence, just like his attacks on men. He would have been violent if he'd grown up in any era.

BANNON'S RIDICULOUS BOAST, BY THE NUMBERS

Steve Bannon laid down a marker yesterday:
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said Saturday that President Trump will "win with 400 electoral votes in 2020," following reports that he had lost faith in the president's ability to complete his current term.

"The populist, nationalist, conservative revolt that's going on, that drove Donald Trump to victory, that drove Judge [Roy] Moore to victory, that will drive 15 candidates to victory in 2018, and I hate to break it Graydon Carter and the good folks at Vanity Fair, but yes, President Trump is not only going to finish this term, he's going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020," Bannon said during a speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

Bannon reportedly said several months ago that Trump only has a 30 percent chance of finishing his current term, a source told Vanity Fair....
Bannon knows this is nonsense. He said because he'd had a lapse into incorrect thinking, so he felt he had to tell the members of the #MAGA cult that he has full confidence in the Dear Leader. Also, he's trying to sell himself these days as the deplorables' own Karl Rove, a master electoral strategist and savant.

But let's take him seriously for the moment. What would Trump have to do to get to 400 electoral votes, a feat no candidate has accomplished since George H.W. Bush in 1988?

He'd have to limit the opposition to 138 or fewer electoral votes. The problem is, in states with 145 electoral votes, Trump lost in 2016 by 15 percentage points or more: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia. The margin was 20 or more in all but Illinois, Rhode Island, and Washington. Which of those states would Bannon say Trump is going to flip in 2020?

And in Morning Consult's state-by-state polling September, Trump's approval trails his disapproval in 7 states he won in 2016 -- states with a total of 96 electoral votes: Arizona (44.2% approval, 51.1% disapproval), Iowa (41.9%/52.6%), Michigan (39.6%/54.9%), North Carolina (47.1%/47.8%), Ohio (45.8%/48.8%), Pennsylvania (44.6%/50.7%), and Wisconsin (41.3%/53.2%). I'm sure I don't have to tell you that just losing Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin would have cost Trump the presidency in 2016. If Trump in 2020 were to win only the states where his approval rating is positive now, he'd get just 210 electoral votes.

A lot can change in the next three years: Trump could rally America around a war or his response to a terrorist attack. The economy could experience a boom -- except it's already fairly strong, at least on paper. Or the president could grow and mature, then have a period of impressive accomplishments -- nahhh, that can't possibly happen.

The country is so polarized that I don't think anyone for the foreseeable future will run up 400 electoral votes in any election. But hey, Steve, if the rubes will buy that snake oil, you just keep selling it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

RIGHT-WINGERS RESPOND TO HARVEY WEINSTEIN: MEN AREN'T THE PROBLEM, THEY'RE THE SOLUTION!

Right-wingers have been following the Harvey Weinstein news and have concluded that the solution to sexual predation in Hollywood is ... men.

RedState's Kimberly Ross writes:
In The Wake Of Weinstein, Masculinity Isn’t The Problem; It’s The Solution

... Among the many roles a man has is that of protector. We have seen men fill this role countless times in society. Closer to home, we see it in the many good men who we have in each of our lives: fathers, brothers, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

... Examples of true masculinity are either reinforced or shattered in childhood. Thankfully, I grew up in a home with loving parents. Each day I realize the blessing of this upbringing in a world where it is becoming increasingly rare. My father, a compassionate and strong man, exemplified true masculinity in the ways he cared for and tenderly loved his wife and three children. He showed it (and continues to show it) by helping the less fortunate, giving of his time to those who need it, protecting the weak, being respectful to everyone, treating women as a gentleman should, and providing for and sacrificing for his family.

Whether those desiring to push narratives want to admit it or not, these are more individuals like my exemplary father than there are Harvey Weinsteins.
I'm puzzled -- in one paragraph Ross says fathers like hers are "increasingly rare," then in the next paragraph she says there are more men like her father than there are Harvey Weinsteins. Isn't she contradicting herself?
We will never combat the Weinsteins of this world by punishing masculinity. Instead, our best defense against creating monsters like this is to support the honorable men in our lives (such as my exceptional father), be grateful for their influence, and train up the next generation to follow their lead and journey down the same path.
So we have to rely on "exceptional," "increasingly rare" men to save us. Oh, and they'll save us by acting as "protectors" of women. I guess we can't have genuine female autonomy without having sexual predation. Every women has to be "protected" by a gentleman (or several).

PJ Media's Tom Knighton echoes this, while also promoting his own career:
... Writer Kimberly Ross hits the nail on the head.

Last year, I released a book on masculinity in which I outlined, among other things, the three roles of men: the Provider, the Professor, and the Protector.

It's the last of these that Ross brings up, and she's right. It does apply perfectly....

Through it all, we've seen only a handful of cases of anyone doing or saying anything.

Brad Pitt is reported to have threatened Weinstein with a "Missouri whooping" after the producer pulled his act with Pitt's then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow. Seth MacFarlane admits a joke he made at Weinstein's expense while hosting the Oscars was made out of malice.

That's about it.

... Developing a muscular physique and perfect hair is not what it takes to act like a real man. Delivering on that "Missouri whooping" Pitt offered would have been a start.

At the very least, a real man would have stepped up and told the world about Weinstein. But the idea of masculinity has been warped, so that most of these Hollywood men didn't even realize that standing up for Weinstein's victims was their responsibility as males.
Why is this a specifically male responsibility? Because it doesn't count unless a man makes the accusation? What's Knighton's point here, apart from trying to sell a few more copies of his masculinity book?

One woman who tried to blow the whistle on Weinstein went to the cops and wore a wire to incriminate him. She was threatened and discredited, because Weinstein had too much power. Do Ross and Knighton disapprove? Should only men have endeavored to take down Weinstein, perhaps with a series of "whoopings"?

But I keep forgetting: The right-wing media operates on the "always be closing" principle -- that is, conservative writers should always use the news to sell right-wing talking points. In this case, the talking point is "female independence sucks and culturally conservative patriarchy rules." Maybe next we'll hear that Hollywood needs more father-daughter purity balls.

Friday, October 13, 2017

WE HAVE A "POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING" PRESIDENT AND IT'S HORRIBLE FOR AMERICA

Over at Politico, Michael Kruse writes about the profound influence self-help preacher Norman Vincent Peale had on Donald Trump's thinking:
Trump and his father were Peale acolytes—the minister married Trump at the first of his three weddings—and Peale’s overarching philosophy has been a lodestar for Trump over the course of his decades of triumphs as well as the crises and chaos. “Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”

... In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” he told the New York Times. “I never think of the negative.” ... “If you’re going to be thinking anyway,” he wrote in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “you might as well think big.”

That year, Jack O’Donnell saw it firsthand. He started work for Trump as a marketing executive at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.

“This is the best place in the world to work, and I’m the best guy in the world to work for,” Trump told O’Donnell in their first meeting, according to O’Donnell’s 1991 book, Trumped! The onslaught of Peale-preached superlatives kept coming. “I’m America’s most successful businessman,” Trump said. “I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner.”
I'm grateful to Kruse for reminding us of the connection, but while he weighs the question of whether Trump is too self-deluded for his own good, he also suggests that you can't argue with Trump's success:
This, though, is just it: Nobody, ever, has had more success convincing himself, and others, that he is a success even when he is not—and thus turning that stated sentiment into actual, tangible, considerable accomplishment. And if he could do that, it seems fair to ask whether gravity or accepted laws of politics apply to him at all. What, exactly, is “unrealistic” about Trump’s optimism?
Trump had success on Daddy's money, and his initial breakthroughs came at a time when bust was turning to boom in New York City, a financial capital at a moment when finance became America's most important product. Trump bought just before Manhattan real estate took off, and his early success, weighed against his frequent subsequent failures as he overvalued most of the assets he purchased, suggests that at the beginning of his career he just got lucky buying a commodity that actually was worth more than he paid for it. Peale might have put him in the frame of mind to be arrogant about his prospects, but plenty of other people made money -- often much more money -- in the same market, without spouting the prosperity gospel to every tabloid reporter within earshot.

Kruse also ignores the obvious reason why it's dangerous to have a delusional Pealeite in the Oval Office: Presidents who tell lies aren't just lying to themselves -- they're lying to the country, and they're lying about the country. When Trump says a healthcare plan he's supporting is going to give millions of people health security at a low price, he's blatantly deceiving millions of people, not just himself. When he says the Puerto Rico recovery effort is going swimmingly and doesn't need to be improved, he's literally killing people.

Maybe Norman Vincent Peale helped Trump become rich and famous. But Trump is president now. His delusions can hurt a lot of people.

TRUMP MIGHT NOT OWN HEALTHCARE NOW, BUT GOP VOTERS MIGHT NOT SAY DEMOCRATS OWN IT

James Hohmann of The Washington Post has written a piece titled "Throwing a Bomb into the Insurance Markets, Trump Now Owns the Broken Health-Care System" -- a premise I don't fully accept.

Hohmann writes:
The administration announced late last night that [President Trump] will immediately halt cost-sharing reductions. These $7 billion in annual subsidies to health insurers allow around 7 million low-income Americans to afford coverage.

Earlier in the day, the president signed a far-reaching executive order that makes it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy alternative types of health insurance with lower prices, fewer benefits and weaker government protections.

This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.
That's the conventional wisdom: If health insurance becomes harder to get and significantly less affordable for millions of people, Trump will get the blame -- with, as Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein notes, one asterisk:
Of course, extreme partisans will blame the other party no matter what, but that doesn't matter much because, well, they're extreme partisans, and we already know how they're going to vote, although there might be some small effects on turnout.
Yes, but hasn't the past year -- the failure of Trump's campaign to implode after the Access Hollywood tape broke, the relatively low but persistent support for him despite his colossal boorishness and ineptitude, the fact that his approval still tops his disapproval in 23 states -- taught us how widespread and intractable pro-Trump extreme partisanship is? Will his voters ever blame him for anything? And aren't there still a hell of a lot of them, even though they're far from a national majority? (Of course, they weren't a national majority in 2016.)

But while Trump's fans may not blame him for their health insurance difficulties, it's quite possible that they'll blame members of Congress from his party. Remember that the propaganda they're hearing these days tells them that Trump is the God Emperor and our failure to reach the conservative Promised Land is largely the fault of Judas Republicans -- "swamp creatures" -- who are deliberately sabotaging Trump because they're part of the same Trump-hating, Trump-sabotaging "establishment" as the evil Democrats.

I don't know what percentage of Trump voters believe that -- but I hope it's not quite enough to defeat GOP incumbents in the 2018 primaries, while still being enough to lower Republican turnout in the 2018 general elections in which Republican incumbents will be on the ballot. I'm supposed to believe that Republicans will lose general elections if a lot of Bannon/Mercer whackaloons win primaries, but I don't believe that -- at this point, I don't think anyone is too extreme for the typical GOP voter. I think Republicans have the opposite problem: Their voters are now being trained to hate their incumbents, Trump excepted, and those incumbents, if it make it to the November ballot, aren't going to inspire high turnout.

On health care, I think Democratic voters are going to blame Republicans -- all of them -- for destroying Obamacare, while many Republican voters are going to blame Republican incumbents (excluding the sainted Trump) for not fully repealing Obamacare, which is what they think would solve all our healthcare problems.

I don't want to see Obamacare destroyed. But if, going into 2018, everyone blames congressional Republicans for the health care mess, I'm cool with that.

TRUMP: WHERE'S THE VELVET GLOVE FOR MY IRON FIST?

We know how vindictive President Trump is -- all we have to do is watch his mistreatment of Puerto Rico, which I assume is primarily payback for the humiliation he's suffered at the hands of San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz -- or see what he's doing to Obamacare:
President Donald Trump plans to cut off subsidy payments to insurers selling Obamacare coverage in his most aggressive move yet to undermine the health care law.

The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program.

The decision, which leaked out only hours after Trump signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans – delivered a double whammy to Obamacare after months of failed GOP efforts to repeal the law. With open enrollment for the 2018 plan year set to launch in two weeks, the moves seem aimed at dismantling the law through executive actions.
But there's another side to Trump: He doesn't just want to stomp enemies into submission -- he wants to seem magnanimous to his supporters. Yesterday, he sold the Obamacare executive order as a great deal for Americans.
“They will have so many options,” Trump said Thursday. “This will cost the United States government virtually nothing, and people will have great, great health care, and when I say ‘people’ I mean by the millions and millions.”
It's also been reported that Trump was upset to learn that a tax change he's advocated actually hurts middle-class people:
Months after the White House proposed ending a tax break for people in high-tax states, President Donald Trump grew angry when he learned that the change would hurt some middle-income taxpayers, according to two people familiar with his thinking.

Trump’s concerns led him to say this week that “we’ll be adjusting” the tax-overhaul framework, the people said....

But Gary Cohn, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, said Thursday that the president is not rethinking his position on the state and local tax deduction, which allows households to deduct state and local taxes on their federal returns.
Does Trump literally not understand that what he's doing to Obamacare, or what he's proposing to do to middle-class taxes? I think he understands the vindictive part -- he wants to destroy everything left over from the Obama administration -- but I don't think he understands that the wingnuts and corporatists who are shaping the proposals he champions are selling him on ideas that don't even seem to have positive benefits for ordinary Americans.

Trump is an empathy-deficient sociopath, but I think he really wants the policies he sells to be -- or at least to appear -- excellent for Americans. He's not a drug dealer working on a filthy street corner and telling the addicts he sells to that, yes, the drugs are cut with baby powder and cost more than they did the last time, but hey, take it or leave it. He's Trump. He sells swank (Trump hotels and golf courses). He sells get-rich-quick (Trump University). The properties may be no better than piss-elegant and the hotel restaurant may be godawful, but a lot of work goes into making everything seem dazzling.

He wants it known that he delivers excellence. Those paper towels he tossed in Puerto Rico? The best!
U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at the “fake” journalists who criticized him for tossing rolls of paper towel to Puerto Rican hurricane victims.

The paper towels, he said, were beautiful. And soft.

“They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels,” Trump said in a conversation that aired Sunday on Christian television network Trinity Broadcasting. “And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having fun, they were having fun. They said, ‘Throw ’em to me! Throw ’em to me, Mr. President!’”
On policy, he really wants Congress and his advisers to give him more to work with. Maybe he even believes their completely implausible selling points for a time. But Fox News taught him that conservative rule would lead to utopia, and he either believed it or believed it would be an easy promise to sell. Poor Donald. It's harder than it looks.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I FOUND IT -- THE ABSOLUTE WORST HARVEY WEINSTEIN TAKE

If you've traveled to the furthest reaches of the Internet in a quest to find the worst possible take on the Harvey Weinstein story, trust me, you can stop looking, because I found it: a guest post at Instapundit by the sci-fi and military novelist John Ringo.

Shorter Ringo: When Hollywood women attack conservative men, it's because they really hate Harvey Weinstein.
Deflection in abuse syndrome: Are Hollywood Actresses really angry at Conservative men? Or is it all just a sham?
What's with the capitalization of "Conservative"? Is conservatism an ethnic group now? Then again, Ringo capitalizes "Actresses," so maybe he just doesn't know how capitalization works.
The simple answer to the question is: Yes. But not because conservative men have abused them. Because they are forced to be silent, for various sociological and psychological reasons, about their abuse at the hands of the ‘in-crowd’ of liberals by which they are surrounded. And they lash out at any convenient target.

Let’s put this in a perspective that might make sense: A high school cheerleading team.
Yes, because these are ladiez we're talking about, so we can't possibly go with a non-gendered, non-infantilizing analogy, can we?
We’ll call the town this takes place in ‘Hollywood’.

When the new freshman girls reach high school they’re SOOO EXCITED! They were cheerleaders in junior high and now they might get on the JV CHEERLEADING TEAM and even be VARSITY CHEERLEADERS! YAY! GO HOLLYWOOD!

So let’s follow the career of a freshman aspiring JV cheerleader named, oh, Ashley.
Which is totally not meant to sound like a porn name.
As part of Ashley’s tryout she’s invited to a HIGH SCHOOL PARTY! (YAY! WE’RE REALLY GROWN UP NOW!) And at that high school party she gets a little drunk and ends up in the morning in a bed full of strangers (various male varsity jocks) wearing nothing but her socks.
John is now typing with one hand, isn't he?
She’s embarrassed and shocked and hurt and doesn’t know what to do. Because she’s never had an experience like that before. (Though she’s rarely a virgin.)
Yup -- one hand it is.
Does she call them out? Does she report it? Will it affect her chances of being on the cheerleading team?

At some point she might open up to a Varsity Cheerleader we’ll call, oh, Dame Judy D. And Dame Judy’s rather cold response tends to be: Welcome to the bigs, sister. No shut up and act.
Yes, we now get to imagine Dame Judi (not Judy) Dench in a cheerleader costume. Remember, Ringo is a New York Times bestselling author, so we're talking high-end fiction.
And so Ashley is now part of the herd. She’s one of the ‘important’ people in high school. And she probably ends up being one of the mean girls who makes life horrible for the nerds. (Herein played by anyone with (R) after their name or anyone who can be defined as ‘conservative’.) And the reason that she makes life horrible for the nerds is THEY ARE THE ONLY SAFE TARGET!

If she lashes out at the jocks and Varsity cheerleaders who are actually making her life hell, the best she can hope is a punch in the face. Worse SHE MIGHT BE THROWN OUT OF THE IN-CROWD! She might NEVER DO LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!

And when it’s her time to be the Varsity Cheerleader and some newbie freshman wimp is crying and sulking she tells her: Welcome to the bigs, sis. Now shut up and act.
It never ceases to amaze me that conservatives -- who control the House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court, most governors' mansions, most state legislatures, all of talk radio, and the highest-rated news channel on cable TV, and who also brag about being being rootin'-tootin', gun-totin', dirt-under-the-fingernails, working-class Regular Americans who regularly wave a semi-automatic in our faces and dare us (in multiple languages) to "come and take it" -- also choose to portray themselves as weak, terrified, relentlessly persecuted omega males. Dudes, have some self-respect.
... It’s all part of abuse syndrome, people.... People who are subject to long-term abuse MUST find an outlet for the anger that bubbles in them all the time. They don’t, dare not for various reasons, lash out at their abusers. Think of children in abusive homes. How can they lash out at their parents who are abusing them? They are powerless. So they become bullies in turn.
I've never been raped. No one has ever invited me up to a luxury hotel suite, greeted me wearing nothing but a bathrobe, an erection, and a beer gut, and tried to force me into a sex act against my will, on penalty of destroying my career if I failed to comply. So why do I despise Republicans with every fiber of my being? Oh, right: because they're destroying the country. I knew there had to be a reason.
... This doesn’t mean there aren’t conservatives just as shitty as Harvey Weinstein. There probably are. But they are MUCH more likely to be outed by the news media. (Think of Newt Gingrich and divorcing his dying wife or for that matter the Access Hollywood tape. Interesting that name keeps coming up don’t you think?) Do you really think if a Republican senator was charged by a woman with groping her or masturbating into a plant, that the New York Times would kill the story?
How long did Roger Ailes get away with it? Bill O'Reilly? Dennis Hastert?

But that's Ringo's story and he's sticking to it -- and not only that, he's concluded that it's the reason conservatives are morally superior to liberals:
In that way the liberal bias in media can be considered a God send to conservatives and Republicans. It polices our ranks. It is a major weakness for the Democrats and liberals because it refuses to do so. Thus you get the Harvey Weinsteins, the Weiners, the Spitzers who are all ‘protected’ classes until they can’t be protected anymore.
Remind me again: Who broke the Weinstein story? I'm pretty sure it wasn't World Net Daily.
So do liberal actresses and models and all the rest really think conservative men are the worst human beings in the world?

Yes. Yes, they do. Because they have to work every day with some of the ACTUALLY worst human beings in the world. And they have to believe conservative men are worse. Otherwise, there’s no point to being on the ‘good’ side.

Thus when Donald Trump said some needlessly crass things and alleged to have groped women, they immediately saw in him not just Harvey (all the rest of the abusers in Hollywood High not to mention Billy ‘I did not rape that woman’ Clinton) but WORSE THAN HARVEY.

Because Trump has to be worse. They can’t really be slaves to some of the most vile human beings on the face of the planet.

Got news for you ladies: Yes, yes, you are. You enable them every day and by doing so you not only support the abusers, you directly or indirectly tell all the hurt new cheerleaders: Welcome to the bigs, sis. Now shut up and act.

You’re blaming the wrong side.
I should have known where this was leading: It's all your fault, bitches. Thanks for the insight, John.

PEOPLE WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER ARE TALKING ABOUT THE 25TH AMENDMENT AGAIN

There's 25th Amendment talk again:
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said the president’s behavior is growing increasingly “erratic” — and co-host Mika Brzezinski suggested his Cabinet may be preparing a constitutional challenge.

The “Morning Joe” host and his panelists reacted to the alarming Vanity Fair report that described the crisis within the White House, where aides say the president is “unraveling” in a job he’s not suited to hold....

Brzezinski pointed to the appointment of Kirstjen Nielsen, [John] Kelly’s longtime aide, to replace the now-chief of staff as Homeland Security secretary as evidence that the Cabinet may be readying a 25th Amendment challenge.

“That’s Cabinet-level, right?” Brzezinski said. “I don’t think Kelly’s leaving — I think he’s getting his troops in place to act.”
You probably know that Section 4 of the 25th Amendment gives "the Vice President and a majority of ... the principal officers of the executive departments" -- presumably the Cabinet -- the power to declare the president unfit for office. Until recently, I wouldn't have imagined that that was possible. But if Trump advisers are telling journalists that they "struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods," and that there are serious discussions about physically preventing Trump from launching a nuclear strike, then I guess it's conceivable. Still, it's hard to imagine the likes of Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt voting to oust the president.

The 25th Amendment says that the president can challenge his removal, which then can proceed only if two-thirds of the House and Senate agree. This process is actually harder than impeachment -- you just need a majority in the House to impeach (a two-thirds majority is need for a conviction and removal from office).

I used to believe that no congressional Republican would ever vote to get rid of Trump, but after Bob Corker's denunciation of the president, D.C. gossip says that a lot of Republicans are similarly aghast at Trump's behavior. Now I can imagine that a few Republicans would vote against him. But nineteen Republican senators, as well as dozens of GOP members of the House? Especially when Steve Bannon and the Mercers are framing their primary-every-GOP-incumbent-except-Cruz strategy as an effort to elect Trump loyalists?

To uphold a 25th Amendment removal, you'd need 290 votes in the House, which has only 194 Democrats. Are nearly a hundred Republicans going to vote against Trump?

And would this process win every Democratic vote? Joe Manchin is up for reelection in 2018 in West Virginia, where Morning Consult says that Trump has a 59.5% approval rating (35.7% disapprove). How's he going to vote? What about Heidi Heitkamp, who's up for reelection in 2018 in North Dakota, where Trump approval is 50.9% (43.9% disapprove)?

And notice that under the 25th Amendment, the vice president must agree to remove the president. Do we really believe that Mike Pence would earn the undying enmity of Trump diehards by voting to get rid of Trump and elevate himself to the presidency? Mike Pence -- the Trump bootlicker who dutifully flew to Indianapolis on Sunday and walked out on NFL game on the president's orders?

I used to believe that no Republican official would ever support Trump's removal from office. It's clear now that some would -- but not nearly enough.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

PRESIDENTING IS HARD!

In response to Gabriel Sherman's Vanity Fair story describing President Trump as "increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods," Martin Longman reaches for just the right quotes:
Back in April, President Trump did an interview with Reuters in which he said that he was already missing the lifestyle he enjoyed prior to assuming the office: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” he said. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

It wasn’t a surprise to his longtime friend, radio shock jock Howard Stern. On the February 1st airing of his program, Stern told his audience that he had warned Trump off of running for president:
“I really was sincere, I said, ‘Why would you want to be the president of the United States? You’re not going to be beloved, it’s going to be a f*cking nightmare in your life,” Stern recalled telling Trump in audio first flagged by CNN’s KFile.

“He stepped into a situation that’s really not a win for him,” he added. “He’s a 70 year-old guy, he’s got a great life, gorgeous wife, great kids, he’s got helicopters, airplanes, all the accoutrements of the great life… so now to step into this f*cking mess, and for what? There are people who are better suited for this kind of thing.

“He didn’t need this in his life.”
But I don't agree with Longman's conclusion:
I don’t think Trump ever thought he’d win a primary, let alone the nomination or the presidency. He wanted attention and he wanted to build his brand. Maybe he wanted to do the Russians a favor and torch Jeb Bush’s neoconservative presidential aspirations.

Before long, he might grow as pissed at the people who voted for him as the rest of the world is already feeling. “What kind of maniacs thought I’d be good at this job?” I can envision him saying.
I don't think Trump believed he would absolutely win the nomination and the presidency, but I'm sure he had a lot of confidence in his ability to do so. He was sure the presidency would be easy -- I can't believe he thought winning the presidency would be hard. This is a guy who thinks everything is easy for a man of his towering intellect. As David Corn reminds us today, as far back as the 1980s, Trump believed he had all the skills he needed to be a nuclear negotiator:
In a 1984 interview with the Washington Post, Trump, then a 38-year-old celebrity developer, said he hoped one day to become the United States’ chief negotiator with the Soviet Union for nuclear weapons. Trump declared he could negotiate a great nuclear arms deal with Moscow. Comparing crafting an arms accord with cooking up a real estate deal, Trump insisted he had innate talent for this mission. He claimed he would know exactly what to demand of the Russians—though he conceded his lack of experience in the technical field of nuclear weaponry. “It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles...I think I know most of it anyway,” he said. “You’re talking about just getting updated on a situation.”

... In 1986, Trump told Bernard Lown, a cardiologist who invented the defibrillator and who received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for joining with a prominent Soviet physician to promote nuclear arms reduction, that he could concoct a nuclear disarmament deal with the Soviet Union and end the Cold War in an hour.
I think Trump is upset now because everything isn't effortless. He thought a bill that would give everyone great healthcare for less money would just magically appear on his desk, awaiting his signature. He thought his generals should give him an awesome plan to wipe out all terrorists immediately. He thought he could just demand a massive increase in America's nuclear arsenal and it would happen, as if arms treaties, budget limitations, and the fear of a global arms race weren't constraints on him.

Everything was supposed to be easy -- and I'm sure he still thinks it could be. I'm sure he thinks it's other people's fault -- although maybe he occasionally suspects that he's not up to the task. That thought must be painful, and I'm sure it's instantly banished from his mind. But no wonder he's in a bad mood all the time.

RUSH LIMBAUGH CALLS JEMELE HILL A "NEW BLACK PANTHERETTE"

I mentioned Rush Limbaugh in my last post, but I neglected to tell you that Limbaugh told his audience yesterday that ESPN host Jemele Hill is a "New Black Pantherette."



(Limbaugh tacks on the "-ette" because, hey, why just be racist when you can be racist and sexist at the same time? It's like sinking two balls with one pool shot.)

Here's what Limbaugh said:
The New Black Pantherette, Jemele Hill, who is recently suspended from…? (interruption) What are you lookin’ at? New. New Black Panther. She’s not a Huey Newton.

I mean, the Black Panthers, they’re one and alone. But the New Black Panther... She’s a New Black Pantherette. These are the people that thwarted people’s efforts to vote in Philadelphia. (interruption) Uh-oh. Dawn has got a worried look on. (interruption) Oh, it’s not about me. Okay. I use barometers on the other side of the glass to tell myself when the media is gonna get excited over something I say, and... (laughing) Okay. So Jemele Hill, the New Black Pantherette at ESPN, was not suspended for claiming that Trump was a white supremacist. But she has been suspended “for violation of social media policy.”
Limbaugh wants this to go viral. His last huge viral moment was when he spent days slut-shaming Sandra Fluke in 2012; he lost a lot of advertisers, but he's still on the air, so I'm sure he thinks it's all good. His most recent viral moment was an embarrassing one: He downplayed warnings about Hurricane Irma's threat to Florida, after which he acknowledged the storm's danger and left the state. He'd like a breakthrough again.
Jemele Hill... She is a radical, by the way. She’s an angry radical. I mean, you can just tell as a viewer. You can just tell this. That better not offend her.
It's scary when black people are angry, especially "radical" black people.

The New Black Panthers are a small black separatist group. They've been denounced by everyone from the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Huey P. Newton Foundation, a group named after a co-founder of the original Black Panthers.

A much-watched video showed two members of the group standing outside a polling place in Philadelphia, one holding a billy club; no voter ever claimed to have been intimidated by them, and the Justice Department in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration decided to seek an injunction against members of the group rather than pursuing criminal charges, but the incident and the response were deemed to be all Barack Obama's fault, and by 2010 Fox News had aired at least 95 segments on the group, covering more than eight hours of airtime. Many of the segments were hosted by the now allegedly apolitical Megyn Kelly.

(I'd remind you that most of the angry conservatives who've denounced what the New Black Panthers did at that polling place believe Americans, or at least white Americans, have an absolute right to carry firearms anywhere they please, including polling places. See, e.g., "A Guy in a Trump Shirt Carried a Gun Outside of a Virginia Polling Place. Authorities Say That’s Fine" by Ryan J. Reilly, HuffPost, 11/4/2016.)

Is Jemele Hill really a New Black Panther? Has she expressed any sentiments similar to these?
"Our lessons talk about the bloodsuckers of the poor... . It's that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating, Johnny-come-lately, perpetrating-a-fraud, just-crawled-out-of-the-caves-and-hills-of-Europe, so-called damn Jew ... and I feel everything I'm saying up here is kosher."
— Khalid Abdul Muhammad, one of the party's future leaders, Baltimore, Md., Feb. 19, 1994

"Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!"
—Malik Zulu Shabazz, the party's national chairman, protesting at B'nai B'rith International headquarters in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2002

"I hate white people. All of them. Every last iota of a cracker, I hate it. We didn't come out here to play today. There's too much serious business going on in the black community to be out here sliding through South Street with white, dirty, cracker whore bitches on our arms, and we call ourselves black men. ... What the hell is wrong with you black man? You at a doomsday with a white girl on your damn arm. We keep begging white people for freedom! No wonder we not free! Your enemy cannot make you free, fool! You want freedom? You going to have to kill some crackers! You going to have to kill some of their babies!"
— King Samir Shabazz, head of the party's Philadelphia chapter, in a National Geographic documentary, January 2009
Of course she hasn't. But it doesn't matter -- she's black and she's expressed political anger, so she's a radical hatemonger to Limbaugh's audience, of course.

BANNON HOPES HE CAN WORK THIS DESTROY-THE-GOP SCAM FOR YEARS

I didn't get much in the way of news from this morning's Mike Allen story about Steve Bannon, despite the breathless headline -- "Inside Bannon's Plans for a GOP Civil War." "Bannon vows to support primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for re-election in 2018 — with the sole exception of Ted Cruz"? We knew that. Pledging to reject Mitch McConnell as Senate leader is "becoming a de facto litmus test in Bannon's recruitment"? We knew that, too. And we knew from The Hill that Republicans fear Bannon is putting the GOP's majority in the Senate at risk.
The veteran election forecaster Charlie Cook this week said Republicans have only an even chance of holding the majority despite their advantages.

“Given their current disarray, Republicans will need to fight hard to gain any new seats, and losing one or two of their own seats would put their majority in jeopardy,” Cook wrote in National Journal.
(Yes, despite the fact that Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats this year while Republicans are defending only 9, political pros are arguing that Democrats could take the Senate. Yesterday Politico had a story speculating on that possibility, one day after Politico told us that Democrats might suffer a McGovern-size rout in the 2020 presidential election. So Republicans are the verge of doom, unless they're on the verge of triumph -- or maybe they're somewhere in the middle. Thanks for the expert analysis, Politico!)

But I got real insight on Bannon from from an unlikely source: the headline to this radio monologue transcript at Rush Limbaugh's site:
Bannon: One Election Isn’t Enough
Limbaugh quoted this excerpt from Bannon's recent Sean Hannity interview:
BANNON: To take your country back, it’s not gonna happen in just any one election. This is something you’re gonna have to grind out day in and day out for the next five, 10, 15, 20 years. It took us a long time to get here. There’s no magic wand we can wave and drain the swamp. There’s no magic wand we can wave and blow up this establishment. I hate to tell people, you’re gonna have to work.
What's happening here? It's obvious. Now that Bannon is out of the White House, he wants a steady flow of money from his sugar daddy and mommy, Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Breitbart is nice, but he feels he needs to offer them more. And so we have this blow-up-the-GOP project -- which Bannon says is going to go on forever.

Bannon has spent years looking for something that's going to make him rich and consequential. He went to Goldman Sachs. He went to Hollywood. He ingratiated himself with Donald Trump. Now this is what he's doing to make the money and power flow in his direction for a long, long time to come.

Bannon is really into this, and it's causing him to lose perspective. Right now at Breitbart, what's the lead story? It's not what you'd imagine Breitbart's audience would want to read about -- Harvey Weinstein or Jemele Hill or tax cuts. It's this:



Maybe you're thinking what I thought when I read that -- who the hell is Steven Law? As we learn from the story, he works with Rove at American Crossroads -- he's the president and CEO. Bannon is gunning for him in Breitbart's top story, not Hollywood liberals or woke ESPN hosts.

Why? I guess because that's where the money is.