Friday, January 19, 2018

CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS LIKE SHUTDOWNS AND THEIR VOTERS HATE GOVERNMENT

Josh Marshall says that early polling suggesting that Republicans will be blamed if there's a shutdown is explained, among other things, by the fact that Republicans are identified with shutdowns:
... shutdowns are part of the Republican brand. They invented them as a policy and legislative cudgel. They’ve used them consistently under Democratic presidents. And because Republicans are generally inimical to the idea that government is a positive force in people’s lives and valorize dramatic and high stakes political gambits they have consistently embraced the concept and strategy of government shutdowns. Think about the Cruz/Obamacare shutdown of 2013. There was no hiding it. Shutdowns are awesome. They show our power. You’ll do what we want because we’ll make you. Shutdowns are part of the GOP brand. It’s hard to get around that.
I'm not sure how many ordinary Americans have noticed the pattern. I hope it's a lot. The Washington Post/ABC poll linked above suggests that that might be the case.

And maybe non-Republican voters have noticed that rank-and-file Republicans -- including some of their neighbors and relatives -- really hate government and are probably rooting for a shutdown. Here are some of the responses in a Free Republic thread titled "At Midnight Tonight,The Federal Government Will Shutdown. What Will You Do?"
Sleep. There is absolutely no problem with having a “shutdown.”

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I might get up and pour a toast.

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Me? I’ll sleep like a baby. My life does not rest on what the government may or may not do. Sheesh.

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Go about my life as normal. So far none of these “shutdowns” have had any direct impact on me.

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What if they shut down the government and no one notices? Or cares?

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Sleep very soundly and then next day, rejoice and be glad.

We need to see the unconstitutional 80% portion of the federal government go away. We in our respective States, need to be INDEPENDENT of the feds more than ever. Hope this helps.

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I guarantee - The sun will rise tomorrow.

These politicians are so arrogant to believe life will end without their precious government.

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Celebrate.

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Make a little love to my gorgeous wife. ;0)

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Pop the Champaign and celebrate,

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Feinstein said people will die.

I’ll be checking the obituaries ...

LOL

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What do you mean, Government shutdown????

You mean the government HAS been working????

The only one I know of that has done a damn thing is the president...
They like the alleged strongman president. They hate government. They love the breakdown of civil society. And maybe some of their neighbors understand that now.

THOSE TRUMP SUPERFANS IN DINERS AREN'T EVEN 20% OF AMERICA

Here's another bad poll for the president, this one from the L.A. Times:
As the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration approaches on Saturday, the president’s support has eroded, his opposition has gained energy and his party faces bleak prospects for the midterm elections in November, according to a new USC-Dornsife/Los Angeles Times nationwide poll.

Just under one-third of those polled, 32%, approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 55% who disapproved and 12% who were neutral....

Moreover, opposition to him has intensified — 42% in the poll said they disapproved strongly of Trump’s job performance, up from 35% in April. A much smaller group, 15%, voiced strong approval, down slightly from April.
According to this poll, more people disapprove of Trump strongly (42%) than approve of him strongly or not-so-strongly (32%). Ouch.

You may remember the USC-Dornsife poll. It's the one that consistently had Trump in the lead in the summer and fall of 2016, even as other polls showed him trailing Hillary Clinton. Its final result: Trump by 3 (which wasn't accurate, since he lost the popular vote by 2). There's no pro-Trump lean in the poll now.

Please note the percentage of fervent Trump supporters in the poll: 15%. Now, compare that to what CBS's polling unit recently found: 18% of respondents in its recent poll are so-called Trump "believers" -- i.e., strong supporters. Another 23% are "conditionals" -- "those who support the president on the condition that he delivers what they want." In this poll, the percentage of strong Trump opponents -- "resisters" -- equals the percentage of believers and conditional supporters combined.



(The "curious" are those "opposing the president for now but willing to back him if things change." If the change that would turn them around includes a change in Trump's temperament, I don't think there's much likelihood of a conversion.)

I bring all this up because the mainstream media continues to be obsessed with Trump superfans. We're supposed to accept this because, after all, Trump didn't seem to be very popular in all those pre-election polls (the USC-Dornsife poll excepted), and yet he won (or at least won the Electoral College).

But the superfans who continue to be interviewed in all those diners for all those mainstream news organizations are less than 20% of the population (18% according to CBS, 15% according USC-Dornsife). We're sold the notion that they're the "real Americans" and Trump opponents are a small group of overeducated elitists. But it's the superfans who are small sliver of the populace. Fervent Trump opponents are widespread; fervent Trump fans aren't.

So would the media please cover those people accordingly?

IF THERE'S A SHUTDOWN, THE PUBLIC WILL PROBABLY BLAME DEMOCRATS -- BUT DOES IT REALLY MATTER? (updated)

A government shutdown is imminent, the blame game has started, and a lot of liberals and Democrats are angrily insisting that no reasonable person could possibly blame anyone other than the Republicans for what's happening -- Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, the Republican president has signaled his support for a fix saving the Dreamers only to go back on his word, and Republicans have cynically used both the DACA and CHIP programs as bargaining chips.

Those are the Democratic arguments, but I don't think the public will buy them. On the other hand, I don't think it will matter in the long run.

We know what's going to happen. Messaging in the right-wing media is going to give 100% of the blame to Democrats. This messaging will be relentless if there's a shutdown. By contrast, the mainstream press will blame both sides, or just blame Democrats and their allies.





Republicans got the blame for the 2013 shutdown. Here was a CBS poll:
As they did when the shutdown first began, more Americans blame the Republicans in Congress than blame Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress for the partial government shutdown and the difficulties in reaching an agreement on the debt ceiling. Nearly half (46 percent) blame the Republicans in Congress, while just over a third (35 percent) blames Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Blame continues to break down along party lines. Most Republicans (71 percent) blame Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, while Democrats blame the Republicans in Congress in even higher numbers (85 percent). Independents are divided.
The numbers were worse for Republicans in a Washington Post/ABC poll:
Asked who they consider responsible for the impasse, 53 percent of poll respondents cite Republicans, 29 percent blame Obama and 15 percent fault both sides equally.
In that poll, independents largely blamed Republicans.

That precedent suggests that the party protesting the party in power gets the blame for a shutdown. But for Republicans, of course, it didn't matter in the long run.

Look at the Real Clear Politic schart of poll averages on the "generic ballot" question in the run-up to the 2014 midterms.



The blue peak in the middle of the chart represents polls taken around the time of the shutdown. At that point, a lot of Americans were expressing a desire to vote for Democratic congressional candidates rather than Republicans. But Republicans went on to trounce Democrats in the 2014 elections. The shutdown had been forgotten.

That blue wave in the fall of 2013 ended quickly -- once the shutdown was over, voters turned their attention to struggles with the Healthcare.gov website. Now, what do you think will happen after any shutdown that happens now? The president is sure to regain control of the news cycle. There are going to be so many negative stories about him between the resolution of this impasse and November that the shutdown -- unless it goes on for months -- will be a dim memory.

So don't be angry if Democrats take a hit in the polls. The bad numbers shouldn't linger.

****

OOPS: For now at least, I'm wrong.
By a 20-point margin, more Americans blame President Trump and Republicans rather than Democrats for a potential government shutdown, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A 48 percent plurality says Trump and congressional Republicans are mainly responsible for the situation resulting from disagreements over immigration laws and border security, while 28 percent fault Democrats. A sizable 18 percent volunteer that both parties are equally responsible. Political independents drive the lopsided margin of blame, saying by 46 to 25 percent margin that Republicans and Trump are responsible for the situation.
Maybe Trump really is killing the Republican Party -- with an assist from his congressional party mates, who are doing very few things the public wants.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

POLITICO'S CONSPIRACY EXPERT IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING

Politico has published an opinion piece by Joseph Uscinski titled "Why 'Girthers' Are the Biggest Losers." Uscinski is a political science professor at the University of Miami and a co-author of a 2014 book called American Conspiracy Theories. He lectures on the subject of conspiracy theories. So when he writes about conspiratorialism for Politico, you'd expect him to get everything right.

He doesn't. He gets nearly everything wrong.

Uscinski writes:
Why have Democrats become so prone to conspiracy theorizing about Donald Trump?
We haven't. Go on.
Even though Trump is said to be in fine health by his doctor, many of the president’s detractors believe the doctor is lying and that there is a conspiracy afoot to conceal the president’s true deteriorating condition.
No, really, we don't. We see undoctored photographs of him that reveal a 71-year-old man who's unmistakably out of shape. We read his own acknowledgment that he does nothing a reasonable person would call exercise. We see reliable accounts, from careful reporters and even Trump backers, of his shockingly unhealthy diet. We read stories in which doctors say on the record, based on data released by Trump's White House physician, that the president is at serious risk of a major coronary incident. If we're skeptical of the rosy picture painted by Trump's doctor, it's for good reasons.
After David Axelrod called Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor, a “very good guy and straight shooter,” Keith Olbermann asserted that Trump must have refused a presidential weigh-in and instead ordered Jackson to “just guess my weight.”
It was a tweet, from a political commentator who's skilled at tossing off barbed one-liners. It's not being offered as a definitive account of what happened.
The conspiracy theories about Trump ... may seem well-deserved. Trump’s conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz’s dad, Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, voter fraud and the news media have cost him the moral high ground from which to denounce the conspiracy theories about himself. Trump’s use of the birther conspiracy theory against Obama has given way to a girther conspiracy theory about his health.

That’s because there is a strategic logic to conspiracy theories: They are for losers. Conspiracy theories bind groups closer together, focus attention and motivate action. Electoral losers have a strong incentive—consciously or not—to motivate their co-partisans with a unifying narrative of a terrifying enemy. After their devastating loss in 2016, Democrats have accused a wide range of domestic and international actors of conspiring to cause their defeat.
There's a lot wrong here, but let me point you to just one thing: Uscinski says conspiracy theories are for losers -- and then tells us (correctly) that Donald Trump regularly engages in them. Um, didn't he win the election? So why is he still a conspiratorialist? And why was he a conspiratorialist with regard to, say, Ted Cruz when he was beating Ted Cruz? "Conspiracy theories are for losers" is Uscinski's big idea -- you can watch him deliver a lecture by that name -- and yet Trump proves him wrong. So why should we pay attention to anything Uscinski says?

And if "conspiracy theories are for losers," why does Fox News -- backer of the winning presidential candidate in 2016 and main messaging unit of the party that won both houses of Congress -- continue to promote ever more extreme conspiracy theories about the perfidy of the losing party?

Uscinski never mentions Fox's conspiracy theories about Clinton collusion with the Russians or FBI/special counsel/"Deep State" efforts to sabotage Trump. But he does say that "Democrats have accused a wide range of domestic and international actors of conspiring to cause their defeat." So, Professor, Russia didn't try to tip the election to Trump? Our intelligence agencies lied to us about that? The FBI didn't announce an eleventh-hour reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation? The press didn't obsess over those emails, and the documentation of that monomania by the Columbia Journalism Review and others was just Alex Jones-level tinfoil-hat-ism?
Resonant conspiracy theories in the United States tend to emanate from the party out of power and be aimed at the party in power.... Until 2009, conspiracy theorists villainized George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Halliburton, Blackwater and other members of the Republican coalition. Many of these theories suggested that 9/11 was an inside job....
"The party out of power" did not spread 9/11 conspiracy theories -- some on the left did, but 9/11 trutherism was overwhelmingly rejected by Democratic officeholders and the general Democratic electorate.

Uscinski does ultimately acknowledge that those in power do sometimes engage in conspiratorialism. Is his first example of this Donald Trump? Of course not.
... powerful people, even presidents, will try to use conspiracy theories from time to time. It doesn’t usually work very well because it’s hard to see the most powerful people in the world as the victims of shadowy forces. The powerless make more believable victims. Think about Hillary Clinton’s claim that “a vast right-wing conspiracy” was the cause of her husband’s troubles, or the opening salvo of the Obama reelection campaign that “secretive oil billionaires” were out to get him.
Right -- there was no organized effort to take down President Clinton and there were no oil magnates who engaged in a multi-pronged effort to take down Obama.

And then we get to Trump as a conspiratorial president.
The Trump presidency is different: He is a political outsider who came to power by building a coalition of conspiracy theorists. Even though Trump is presumably the most powerful person in the world, he will continue to use conspiracy theories to keep the coalition he built motivated and together. Yet Trump’s conspiracy theories gain little traction, as they convince only those who support him already.
They're on the most popular cable news outlet in America every day and night. They're endorsed, or at least tolerated, by the party that controls Congress. If that's "little traction," I'd hate to see serious traction.

And this paragraph ends with yet another swipe at the Democrats:
Conspiracy theories by the Democrats, on the other hand, have captured the national attention.
The link in that quote goes to a story titled "Most Say Trump Should Allow Russia Investigation to Continue - CBS News Poll." Intelligence agencies have documented Russian interference in our election, and Americans just say they want the investigation to uncover the truth. Uscinski calls this the seizure of "the national attention" by conspiracy-minded Democrats.

This isn't a sloppy op-ed -- it's disgraceful. Politico should be embarrassed to have published it.

THE WORLD HATES US, AND I'M SURE THE #MAGA CROWD CONSIDERS THAT A FEATURE, NOT A BUG

It would be nice to think that the administration and its backers would find this troubling:
One year into Donald Trump's presidency, the image of U.S. leadership is weaker worldwide than it was under his two predecessors. Median approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%, according to a new Gallup report.

The most recent approval rating, based on Gallup World Poll surveys conducted between March and November last year, is down 18 percentage points from the 48% approval rating in the last year of President Barack Obama's administration, and is four points lower than the previous low of 34% in the last year of President George W. Bush's administration.



But I've watched right-wingers for years, and trust me, they won't be upset. If Barack Obama was well regarded by the world, then obviously being well regarded by the world is a bad thing. That's what they'll tell us. They'll say that the world's goodwill derives from "bowing" and going on "apology tours" on the president's part, and who wants any of that?

They'll also tell us that if other countries don't like us anymore, it's because now they respect and fear us. Never mind the fact that many of these countries are countries we don't want to fear us -- they're our allies:
Out of 134 countries, U.S. leadership approval ratings declined substantially -- by 10 percentage points or more -- in 65 countries that include many longtime U.S. allies and partners.

Portugal, Belgium, Norway and Canada led the declines worldwide, with approval ratings of U.S. leadership dropping 40 points or more in each country.
The #MAGA crowd thinks those countries are all cesspools of socialism, so this will be shrugged off.

A Pew poll last summer had similarly bad numbers, and there was no distress on the right. But I guarantee you that if the numbers were up, we'd never hear the end of it, especially from the president's Twitter feed.

CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE, 2018 EDITION

Portions of an interview with EPA chief Scott Pruitt appeared on the CBS Evening News last night. Pruitt, of course, sought to justify his pro-industry bias.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told CBS News that a partnership with "industry" is necessary in order for the agency to protect the environment.

"This paradigm that says we have to choose industry over the environment or the environment over industry is the old way of thinking," Pruitt told CBS News' chief White House correspondent Major Garrett in an interview Wednesday.

"Now that serves political ends but it doesn't serve the environment because I will tell you this: to achieve what we want to achieve in environmental protection, environmental stewardship, we need the partnership of industry," he added.
Watch the segment, or at least watch it up through Pruitt's first statement.



So we spent the past year trying to achieve regulatory certainty, regulatory clarity, to make sure that people knew what was expected of them so they could invest, achieve good outcomes for the environment.
Just from looking at his career, we know Pruitt is lying about his concern for the environment. But notice his use of the word "people." When Pruitt says "people," he means "corporations." He means "industry executives." He's in a job in which he's supposed to serve all Americans, but his identification with industry is so absolute that, in his mind, the word "people" doesn't refer to the overall populace. It refers only to corporations and their officers.

At the end of the clip he uses the word "people" again, also in the course of feigning concern for the environment:
And I will tell you, if we have companies, industries, citizens, who violate the law, we're going to prosecute them. But we should not start from the premise that all people are that way, or all industry is that way.
Again who are the "people"? For Pruitt, "all people are that way" is equivalent to "all industry is that way."

Mitt Romney said, "Corporations are people." Scott Pruitt throws in a reference to "citizens" in that last soundbite. But there's no reason to believe that he thinks are people are people. We're certainly not the people for his purposes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TRUMPERS LOVE THE TESTOSTERONE, SO THE STORMY DANIELS STORY WON'T BOTHER THEM

Because we never, ever hear from the in the mainstream media, The New York Times has asked Trump voters to tell us why the president is so goshdarn wonderful. The paper has now published fifteen letters to the editor from Trump fans.

Two points stand out in the letters: First, the fans believe Trump is 100% responsible for positive developments such as declining black unemployment (he's not) and the defeat of ISIS (nope, not that either). Second, they love his manly essence. That's so obvious that the Times gives the letter the headline "'Vision, Chutzpah and Some Testosterone.'"

Read the following excerpts, and try to imagine that these people will be upset to learn that Trump had an affair with a porn star shortly after his wife gave birth to his youngest son:
The economy is up, foreign tyrants are afraid, ISIS has lost most of its territory, our embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and tax reform is accomplished. More than that, Mr. Trump is learning, adapting and getting savvier every day. Entitlement reform is next! Lastly, the entrenched interests in Washington, which have done nothing but glad-hand one another, and both political parties are angry and afraid.

Who knew that all it would take to make progress was vision, chutzpah and some testosterone?

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If it takes putting up with Mr. Trump’s brash ways to see things get done, that is a deal I’m willing to accept. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have accomplished what he has so far without being an unrelenting public bully.

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... we desperately needed a seismic change in the pusillanimous foreign policy pursued during the Obama years....

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How’s he doing? He has turned a fragile nation “anti-fragile” (the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term). Before Mr. Trump, we were scared of any volatility. Oh no, ISIS! Oh no, banks! The more chaos there was, the worse we were.

Now volatility is our friend. The more chaos, the better! Entrepreneurship up. Optimism up. Good old American problem solving is back!

****

As the Sonny LoSpecchio character wisely concluded in the movie “A Bronx Tale,” it’s better to be feared than loved. My hope is for our enemies to fear Donald Trump and for his domestic opponents to realize he’s on their side.

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... although words are indeed important, I thought his tough take-no-prisoners manner and, yes, even his unpredictability might be what was needed at this particular time to cause offending persons and countries to sit up, consider us seriously, and think twice about taking advantage of us financially and otherwise.

****

His combative attitude with the Democrats and the media on Twitter never gets old with me either.
We see a doughy TV addict who can't read a briefing book. They see ... a stud. I'm reminded of the gushing over George W. Bush's virility in the wake of the "Mission Accomplished" flightsuit stunt, except that Bush didn't shag actual porn stars. Trust me, the fact that Trump does -- even if Stormy Daniels later described the sex as "textbook generic" -- will only make these letter writers admire him more.

DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS LEVEL OF HYPOCRISY UNLESS YOU ARE A LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL

Many people have speculated on President Trump's mental health, and Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News medical commentator, tells us in USA Today that he's appalled:
Some of President Trump’s tweets and off the cuff comments may seem disinhibited, exhibiting a lack of good social judgment and calling on a need for restraint. But linking this pattern of behavior to a possible larger neuropsychological issue is pure speculation and a dangerous leap to take. There has been way too much doctor and pundit-driven speculation in the news media already about Trump’s supposed mental health deficiencies.

I endorse the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule, which advises members not to armchair diagnose or assess public figures they’ve never met or received consent from.... it’s unethical to speculate medically in public....
Now, here was Dr. Marc Siegel in August 2016:
[Sean] Hannity informed his viewers that a photo "which shows Hillary Clinton apparently needing assistance to climb a flight of stairs at a campaign stop back in February" went viral thanks to a prominent link on the Drudge Report. Hannity did not note, as the photo service Getty Images noted, that Clinton had merely stumbled and been caught by Secret Service agents....

He brought in Marc Siegel and David Samadi, two Fox News medical pundits who had never examined Clinton personally, but who suggested that the photo, Clinton's 2012 concussion and three falls since the start of the Obama administration raised serious questions.

"You see from our picture up there that it looks like she can barely get up stairs without two people carrying her," Siegel said. "I want to know what her neurologist says. I've reached out to her neurologist at Columbia after she had that fall. No comment. I want to know what her neurological records show."

... "What about this photo that the Gateway Pundit had up today?" Hannity asked. "Hillary's handler gets caught with a diazepam pen. What would that be for?"

"Someone is carrying a pen that you'd use in case of a seizure, a Valium pen — that makes me wonder about that," Siegel said.

In fact, as the fact-checking site Snopes later uncovered, the agent was holding what appeared to be a small flashlight; the rumor that he was holding a medical device was based entirely on hearsay....

"What about some of the weird pauses she has, the coughing fits she has?" [Hannity] asked Siegel, appearing [the following] night. "There are moments when I'm literally watching her and I'm thinking, okay, the facial expressions are odd. They seem off."

At first, Siegel restrained himself. "I don't know this because I'm only looking at a video," he said. "But I saw the same video you saw, and I'm wondering about a word called 'aphasia,' where you're searching for words, you suddenly lose those words, and that can be the sign, again, of some kind of traumatic brain injury or the aftereffects of a concussion."
In that first Hannity appearance, Dr. Siegel also said:
I think a traumatic brain injury with symptoms down the road is very, very likely here especially since she had a blood-clot on her brain.
Around the same time, Dr. Siegel appeared on John Gibson's Fox News Radio show and said this about Clinton:
She had a fall in 2009. She had a fall in 2011. Her fall in 2012 caused a big concussion that President Bill Clinton said kept her really rehabbing for six months. We've been learning more and more lately about post-concussion syndromes.... post-concussion syndromes can cause problems with cognition, with memory, with thinking. There doesn't seem to be any sign of that with her -- you saw her interview with Chris Wallace, I mean, she seems sharp as a tack. But I want to know this.
In his current USA Today op-ed, Dr. Siegel writes:
The notion of observing supposed dangers in our leaders from afar is itself scary, especially as seen through a distorting media lens.
His commentary was a prime example of this in 2016.

DISEASE HAS NO MORALS

Could President Trump really be reasonably healthy, as his doctor insists he is? Sure, I guess. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones -- three years older than Trump -- is still alive and well, despite the years his past heroin and cocaine habits, his daily morning joint, his drinking and cigarette smoking, and eating habits that could be called Trumpian:



If you like your life, if you like yourself, and if you have gobs of money and some luck, maybe you can beat medical odds. It's counterintuitive that Trump might have healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels, but it's also counterintuitive that the slender, active, disciplined Barack Obama had borderline high cholesterol, according to his 2014 health assessment. There's a certain moralism that makes us want people's health to match their personal habits, but health doesn't always work that way. Richards is still here. Non-smoker Andy Kaufman died in his thirties of lung cancer.

I don't believe Trump is 6'3" and 239 pounds -- Sports Illustrated's photo comparisons of Trump to athletes reported to be of similar size make a mockery of that claim, as do other photo pairings.





Even Maggie Haberman wasn't buying the numbers.



Dr. Ronny Jacksion, the physician who conducted the exam, might be a decent man -- former Obama adviser David Axelrod describes him as a "very good guy and straight shooter" -- but I imagine that you're expected to be at least somewhat politic when you're a White House doctor. Jackson worked in the White House during the presidencies of Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom were younger and thinner than Trump, and both of whom enjoyed exercise. Now, with Trump, Jackson probably has more to be discreet about.

Trump does demand more dishonesty of the people around him than nearly anyone else. But I can also believe that most of what Jackson has told us is more or less accurate. I can believe that the cognitive test Trump took really shows that he's not suffering from dementia or pre-dementia. Many people think Trump is on the verge of full-blown Alzheimer's, but I've always had my doubts -- an alternate explanation is that he's mentally lazy and incurious, that the Diet Cokes rob him of sleep and that the lack of sleep robs him of mental sharpness, and that TV, Twitter, and a lack of reading have damaged his ability to concentrate and analyze. Plus, he's the boss, and he thinks that means he doesn't have to try very hard, because being the boss means you can pay people to work hard and think for you.

In short, Trump could be reasonably healthy, because disease has no morals.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TRUMP IS TOO ARROGANT AND DELUSIONAL TO SKIP THE 2020 ELECTION

According to Politico's Annie Karni, people around President Trump believe he won't be impeached, but think he might not run again in 2020:
“There is no environment in which a Republican thinks Trump is going to be impeached,” explained [a] top Republican strategist. “But there’s a high degree of speculation that he doesn’t run — he doesn’t appear to be having fun, he’s old and angry. If he’s able to create his own fiction for why he’s leaving, why would he do this twice?”
Anyone who believes he'll bail is missing the obvious: Trump is obsessed with reelection. The fan worship during the 2016 campaign was an addictive drug for him, so much so that he's now trying to run a four-year reelection campaign. As Karni notes, he's already thinking about potential opponents:
Handicapping potential 2020 challengers — however premature the exercise is — has become a favorite pastime for the competitive president, who still regularly rehashes his shock win in the 2016 race.

“He’s always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’” said the Republican who heard the president’s assessment in December.
Being elected president was much more fun for him than being president is. Of course he wants to run again. Beating the odds in 2016 was so much fun, such a satisfying rebuke to his haters, that he'll absolutely want a second opportunity. I think he'd be delighted if he didn't have to wait three more years.

(It's true that by 2020 he might be suffering physical or mental impairments so severe he can't cover them up, or his legal troubles might be so great he'll want to bow out in order to minimize them. And while it's unlikely that there'll be 67 votes for a conviction in a Senate impeachment trial even after the upcoming midterms, Democrats could stage a 2018 blowout that will inspire Republicans to put a great deal of distance between themselves and Trump. But it's more likely that any impeachment or 25th Amendment move would fall short because of GOP loyalty to Trump.)

When it comes to 2020, the Trumpers are delusional:
One former White House official outlined a theory of the case that has gained some traction: Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent....
The tax cut is unpopular. Ending DACA is unpopular. Blowing up Obamacare is unpopular. In what world will "Trump’s policies ... continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign"? Obviously, only in the epistemically closed world of Trump rallies and the right-wing media.

The Trumpers see very few candidates who can beat Trump -- not Sanders (too old), not Warren (too lefty), not Gillibrand (no "mainstream appeal"). They worry about Oprah Winfrey and Joe Biden. Their belief that Trump's policies are popular but he isn't leads directly into fear of Biden:
... Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent — creating an opening for Biden, or someone like him, to recapture the loyalty of white Rust Belt Democrats who helped elect Trump in 2016.

“What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge,” said the former White House staffer.
The same policies? You mean racism? The wall? Huge tax cuts for the rich? Deregulation? Climate change denialism? Gutting Obamacare and CHIP? Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea? Alienation of all our foreign allies? Decimation of the State Department and other parts of the government? I'm ... uh, pretty sure that wouldn't be Joe Biden's platform.

I don't know what will happen in 2020. It's possible that Democrats won't find a truly inspiring presidential candidate. It's also possible that they won't need one because the public will be desperate for change.

Trump and his coterie seem to believe that they can win again despite terrible poll numbers, even though they're going to be running on Trump's unpopular first term and they're unlikely to face a candidate as widely maligned as Hillary Clinton. I like their overconfidence. I like the fact that they don't really believe the polls. I hope their unrealistic optimism doesn't subside until after the votes are counted in November 2020.



DID IMMIGRATION HARDLINERS IN THE THURSDAY MEETING DELIBERATELY PLAY ON THE PRESIDENT'S RACISM?

According to a story in The Washington Post, supporters of an immigration deal thought they had President Trump's support when they left for a White House meeting with him on Thursday. But after they arrived, they realized that the president had turned against the deal, under the influence of hardliners who'd also been invited to attend.
When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat’s efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides.

The president then asked if Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), his onetime foe turned ally, was on board, which Durbin affirmed. Trump invited the lawmakers to visit with him at noon, the people familiar with the call said.

But when they arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was “fired up” and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who seemed confident that the president was now aligned with them, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting.
We know that on issues he doesn't understand, the president often agrees with the last person who talked to him. It's clear that, in advance of this meeting, hardline staffers wanted Trump to be swayed by other hardliners, not by Durbin and Graham. So they invited hardliners to the meeting, as did Trump himself.
... some White House officials, including conservative adviser Stephen Miller, feared that Graham and Durbin would try to trick Trump into signing a bill that was damaging to him and would hurt him with his political base. As word trickled out Thursday morning on Capitol Hill that Durbin and Graham were heading over to the White House, legislative affairs director Marc Short began to make calls to lawmakers and shared many of Miller’s concerns.

Soon, Goodlatte, one of the more conservative House members on immigration, was headed to the White House. Trump also called House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and asked him to come, McCarthy said. Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Cotton were also invited to rush over.

In the late morning, before Durbin and Graham arrived, [chief of staff John] Kelly — who had already been briefed on the deal — talked to Trump to tell him that the proposal would probably not be good for his agenda, White House officials said. Kelly, a former secretary of homeland security, has taken an increasingly aggressive and influential role in the immigration negotiations, calling lawmakers and meeting with White House aides daily — more than he has on other topics. He has “very strong feelings,” in the words of one official.
What exactly did these hardliners say to Trump before the meeting? If they just made policy arguments, that's politics. But did they know that he regards certain countries as "shitholes"? Did they steer his thoughts in that direction?
Last Thursday was a critical moment in the stalled negotiations, revealing the president’s priorities even as the discussion fell apart.

Trump complained that there wasn’t enough money included in the deal for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also objected that Democratic proposals to adjust the visa lottery and federal policy for immigrants with temporary protected status were going to drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia, people familiar with the meeting said....

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was in the room and was largely stone-faced, not giving any visible reaction when Trump said “shithole countries” or when he said Haitians should not be part of any deal, White House advisers said.
It's quite possible that Trump's racism is so close to the surface that he doesn't need to be nudged in order to summon it up. But it also seems possible that before the meeting someone in the room pushed that particular button -- the supposed awfulness of African countries -- knowing that it would bring out Trump's racism. We have no evidence one way or another. But if the hardliners knew the president's prejudices, is it crazy toi think they'd try to tap into them?

Monday, January 15, 2018

PRESIDENTING IS HARD!

In The Washington Post today, Robert Costa portrays House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as a Trump bootlicker, the kind of man who gives the president a jar containing just cherry and strawberry Starbursts because he's learned that the president prefers those particular flavors.

Also, we learn some more about the president's need to have information presented to him in visual form:
While at Camp David last weekend, McCarthy took up the task of explaining the obstacles facing Republicans ahead of the midterm elections in November, walking through the financial hurdles and bleak prospects in various races. He urged the president to do everything he could to raise money for vulnerable Republicans.

According to two people familiar with the presentation, Trump appreciated McCarthy’s use of pictures and charts rather than a memo.
We know from more than one media report that Trump wants his intelligence briefings to be full of pictures and maps. I can imagine that even for someone who reads more readily than Trump does, it might be easier to absorb complex geopolitical information by means of maps. And on other subjects -- the healthcare system, for instance -- it's possible that a flowchart or two might make the complexities easier to absorb.

But how difficult are the midterms to comprehend? A traditional memo on the midterms would probably be full of bullet points -- that's not good enough for Trump? He needs huge graphs with 64-point bold type before he can take in the fact that he's unpopular in many districts and states where Republican candidates are running for reelection?

We're told that McCarthy provided "a basic and 'foundational' presentation that explained midterm politics to Trump, in the words of one senior official." I know Trump was a political outsider before the 2016 campaign -- but he lives in America and has access to political news, doesn't he? Is the nature of the 2018 elections an arcane secret known only to experts? Can't anyone with a newspaper subscription or Internet connection understand the state of play and the stakes?

We knew Trump was an uninformed simpleton. This suggests just how little he really comprehends.

SO I GUESS ORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE QUALIFY FOR MAINSTREAM-MEDIA INTERVIEWS ONE DAY A YEAR

Whenever it's a slow news day, you can count on some mainstream-media outlet to run a story by a reporter who's ventured into a rural diner in a Trump state to find -- surprise! -- that blue-collar white Trump voters still love Trump. Whenever it's not a slow news day, especially if the big news item is Trump saying or doing something offensive, you can count on a mainstream reporter following up on the story by traveling to yet another diner, where more rural whites will confirm that Trump's latest outrage doesn't shake their faith in him, because they like the fact that he's not "politically correct."

So it's a surprise that Sabrina Tavernise actually interviewed some black people for a story that appears in The New York Times today. Of course, it's Martin Luther King Day -- a good day, unfortunately, for tokenism.

Tavernise's interviews were conducted at churches. I'd like to believe that this wasn't because she was afraid to go to any other place black people gather.

Tavernise focuses on one point made by her interviewees -- that they believe America is backsliding dangerously.
... after a disheartening week and an even more disheartening year, black Americans interviewed on Sunday said they were struggling to comprehend what was happening in a country that so recently had an African-American president.
But it's important to notice that the interviewees also said that they believe recent events reflect a past that never really went away.
“Donald Trump is America’s id,” said Pastor [William] Lamar [of Washington], whose 180-year-old church is five blocks from the White House. “He is as American as baseball and apple pie.”

... “I don’t know that he’s listening, and I don’t know that it matters,” [Reverend] Dr. [Raphael] Warnock [of Atlanta] said in an interview. “Even if Trump were to leave tomorrow, we still have to deal with the large segment of white evangelicals who voted for Trump. My battle is not so much with Trump as it is with Trumpism.”

[Sterling] Tucker [a 94-year-old Washington civil rights activist] said that perhaps the progress the civil rights movement had fought for had missed parts of the country. Maybe black progress had engendered more resistance than he had understood.

“We moved beyond a point, but we didn’t carry the country with us,” he said. Today he hears white people complain that their problems have been forgotten as political leaders focus on black misery. “White people are saying that what has happened is you took equality from some white people and gave it to black people,” he said. “That’s where we are right now, I think.”

... Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington ... noted that today’s problems were rooted early in the nation’s history, and observed that in contrast to Germany after the Holocaust, the American South has not been forced to fully confront the legacy of slavery and the Civil War.

“Corners of the country could put their hands in their pockets, whistle and quietly shuffle off, as if the history was never theirs,” he said.

But that history can rear its head. “We are in the grips of the revenge of an American conscience that’s never repented of its racist history,” he said. “Things that were left smoldering, embers have caught a bit of wind from our current president, and from time to time we are seeing flashes of fire.”
It would be nice if the mainstream media would interview non-white Americans more than once a year. They're "real Americans," too. We need to know that Trump opponents worry not just about Trump, but about many of the voters who are interviewed week after week in all those rural diners.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

APPARENTLY, MOST AMERICANS AREN'T "REAL AMERICANS"

There's a new CBS/YouGov poll with mostly bad news for President Trump:
... three in four Americans say the country is divided, six in 10 don't have much confidence in the U.S. political system and six in 10 say racial tensions have increased. The president's strongest backers believe things are going well, but his opponents -- who have grown increasingly opposed to the president over the year -- say things are not. Overall, the number of Americans who say having Donald Trump as president makes them feel "pessimistic" is higher than it was a year ago.
Here's one noteworthy result from the poll:



The wording of this question seems carefully designed to inspire enthusiastic yes answers from white voters -- but 64% of whites answered no. The same percentage of men also answered no.

Trump voters and current Trump supporters answer yes to this, as do evangelicals, Republicans, and conservatives -- but every other group says no. And what does that tell us?

It tells us either that 69% of Americans aren't "real Americans" or that the real "real Americans" are the people who don't feel that Trump is protecting their "culture and way of life."

If nearly 70% of voters answer no to this question, then the "culture and way of life" Trump is protecting belong to a small minority of Americans. They're not the norm. Those of us in the 69% no group are the norm.

TRUMP IS STILL NOT VERY GOOD AT AUTHORITARIANISM

As we approach the first anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration, it's clear that the administration has tightened the screws on a number of groups -- undocumented immigrants, Medicaid recipients, and so on -- but Trump isn't the full-blown Hitler some people expected. This Washington Post story helps explain why:
In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families.

Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.... Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.

His brief biography offers few clues that he would so quickly assume a leading role in the drug policy office.... Weyeneth’s only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.
Not only did he rise to this top position at the age of 23, he did so, the Post reports, despite lying on résumés he submitted to the government (he claimed he'd received a master's degree he doesn't have). Also, he spent some of his high school years working for a family firm that "was secretly processing illegal steroids from China as part of a conspiracy involving people from Virginia, California and elsewhere in the United States and one person in China, federal court records show."

So how did he get this high-level job?
Weyeneth’s ascent from a low-level post to deputy chief of staff is the result, in large part, of staff turnover and vacancies.

... nearly a year after [Trump's] inauguration, the drug policy office, known as ONDCP, lacks a permanent director. At least seven of his administration’s appointees have departed, office spokesman William Eason said. Among them was the general counsel and acting chief of staff, some of whose duties were assumed by Weyeneth....
Oh, and:
In October, Trump’s nominee to lead the office, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), withdrew from consideration after a joint investigation by The Post and 60 Minutes found he had sponsored legislation favoring opioid makers and curbing the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate abuses.
Think about this. The president has an attorney general who's promised to crack down on legalized marijuana. The ONDCP, if staffed by like-minded people, offers furthers opportunities for a "law and order" approach to drug use. If you're an authoritarian, why wouldn't you want the agency and the AG coordinating their efforts?

But if you're the Trumpers, you don't make this happen because so many other impulses are in conflict. Your instinct is to put pro-industry toadies in top positions, so you initially choose an industry lackey for the top ONDCP job. You want to prove you can run an administration without mastering any Washington skills, so you picked that toady without realizing he'd have a tough time being confirmed. Your chaotic approach inspires you to alienate staffers, and your blind hatred of government leads you to assume it doesn't matter whether you replace them, even though this could be an opportunity to put in smart, ruthless people who'll carry out your darkest plans. In the end, you wind up with a kid in a top position -- and then he can't survive a little scrutiny:
After being contacted by The Post about Weyeneth’s qualifications, and about inconsistencies on his résumés, an administration official said Weyeneth will return to the position he initially held in the agency, as a White House liaison for ONDCP, a job that typically involves working with outside interest groups. The official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that Weyeneth has been primarily performing administrative work, rather than making policy decisions, and that he had “assumed additional duties and an additional title following staff openings.”
The administration has harmed a lot of people and will harm more before it's gone, but if the Trumpers were single-minded, they could be far more thuggish than they've been. They have too many conflicting impulses and goals. I don't think they'll ever get this authoritarianism thing figured out.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

BACK SOON

There's a lot going on in the news, but I'm in the middle of a couple of domestic repair situations that are eating up my time, so I can't post today. Maybe later tonight -- more likely tomorrow....