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Thursday, October 18, 2018

How to please His Majesty King Donald

by digby

It appears that John Bolton has become quite the energetic Trump suck-up:
A heated argument in the West Wing between chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton over a recent surge in border crossings turned into a shouting match Thursday, two sources familiar with the argument told CNN.
The exchange lay bare a bitter disagreement that has existed between two of President Donald Trump's top aides for weeks now. 
Trump, who was incensed about the rising levels of migrants and threatened to shut down the southern border on Twitter earlier that morning, took Bolton's side during the argument. Bolton favors a harder line approach to the issue and criticized Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the argument, a source said. Nielsen used to serve as Kelly's deputy when he ran DHS. Bolton reportedly said Nielsen needed to start doing her job, which incensed Kelly.

This is all about stroking Trump, who hates Neilsen, thinks she's weak.

The President, who sources say was present for the beginning of the shouting match, later denied knowledge of it.

"I've not heard about it. No," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to fly to Montana on Thursday afternoon. 
This isn't the first time Nielsen's handling of border security has been scrutinized by the Trump White House. 
Trump and Nielsen got into a heated argument during a Cabinet meeting in May over border security, a source with knowledge told CNN. 
Trump said he didn't think she was doing enough to secure the border and two people told The New York Times, which first reported the argument, that Nielsen drafted a resignation letter over the matter. 

Bolton was characterized as the winner of the fight, which must have pleased Trump. It's a perfect way to make him happy. He is yearning to make this "caravan" the big midterm issue:

The caravan issue has been the subject of several White House meetings in recent days, according to an administration official. The conversations have centered around not only how to stop the caravan, but also how to use the issue for the upcoming midterms, the official said. Stephen Miller has been heavily involved. 
According to unpublished Department of Homeland Security statistics reviewed by The Washington Post, the number of migrant families entering the US reached record levels in the three months since

Earlier this week Trump also took note of a migrant caravan formed in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Saturday and crossed into Guatemala on Monday. The caravan numbers in the thousands, organizers say. 
Members of the group told CNN en Español that they decided to join the caravan and head to the United States because of insecurity and a lack of jobs in Honduras. Many are traveling with children in tow. 
Trump posted several tweets about the caravan on Tuesday, calling for an end to foreign aid should they continue to travel. 
"We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!" Trump tweeted Tuesday night
Trump has repeatedly called for cuts to foreign aid in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, which, in all, obtained some $260 million in foreign aid for fiscal year 2019.
I don't think you need to be a foreign policy expert to see that what Trump is demanding is for those countries to arrest people who try to leave their country. Maybe they could build a wall?
In any case cutting off aid will almost definitely make things worse for the people living there. And it's already so deadly that people are willing to travel a thousand miles on foot to come to America.

He doesn't care.  But neither do Kelly, Bolton and Neilsen. This "fight" is just about sucking up to Trump and jockeying for favor with the Mad King. They all have nothing but contempt for these poor migrants.

Trump: Rosenstein "mentioned certain things to me that are very positive about that event"

by digby

Fox News and the House wingnuts are very upset that Rosenstein isn't coming before congress but the president is weirdly fine with it:

Steve Doocy: You know the rumor is the day after the midterms, you're gonna fire him and you're gonna fire the Attorney General.

Trump: Well I actually get along well with Rod

Doocy: (interrupts) Right but Mr. President, the people in your Administration, Rod Rosenstein, will not show up on Capitol Hill to, because Congress ...

Trump: I was surprised at that. Actually I was surprised at that. I would think he would. He mentioned certain things to me that are very positive about that event and I would imagine that he'd want to put that down, and frankly whether you were under oath or not shouldn't matter But he mentioned things to me that I would think would be fine for him to testify and so, you know when Congress calls. So I'm a little surprised that Rod wouldn't do it.
This is what he's talking about:

Rep. Jim Jordan said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be subpoenaed if he refuses to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee for his role in the FBI’s Russia probe and for allegations that he wanted to invoke the 25th Amendment against President Trump.

“He’s got to come in and answer questions,” Jordan, R-Ohio, said during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “If it takes a subpoena, then that’s exactly what needs to be done.”

Rosenstein had been tentatively scheduled to appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, but that meeting has been delayed. A House Judiciary Committee aide told The Hill that the panel does not have a time confirmed for Rosenstein to appear on Capitol Hill.

Jordan’s comments come just days after Trump declared that he has no plans to fire his deputy attorney general.

"He mentioned certain things to me that are very positive ... I'm a little surprised."

Please. Something has happened with all this and we don't have clue about what exactly it is. And by "we" I mean the New York Times who said this on MSNBC earlier today:

Michael Schmidt: We don't know. What is it about the president's relationship with the Trump that Rosenstein has been able to keep him at bay? If Rosenstein has told him something that the president thinks is favorable to him, why is it that he doesn't want to testify about it on Capitol Hill? It seems Rosenstein told him that it was sarcastic, at the same time not willing to go up to Capitol Hill. Going back further to earlier in the year, what has Rosenstein has done to manage this, to protect Mueller? It's just one of these things that we don't know and it's one of these sort of mysteries that we won't know until after Rosenstein is gone?

Schmidt is one of the reporters who "broke" the big story about Rosenstein and the wire, apparently uninterested in the fact that the New York Times was being used by their sources and without any concern for reporting the context that might make that clear. Maybe they could work on finding out exactly what in the hell happened there because they are right in the middle of it.


Laura Ingraham's favorite xenophobe snowflake

by digby

David Brat has problems:

While meeting with an addiction support group of inmates at the Chesterfield County Jail, Rep. David Brat (R-VA) downplayed an inmate’s addiction worries in comparison to his own trials being the subject of attack ads.

According to a Thursday ThinkProgress report, his comments came as a response to a female inmate’s concern about issues she would face when she left prison.

“You think you’re having a hard time. I’ve got $5 million of negative ads against me. How do you think I’m feeling?” he said.

“Nothing’s easy for anyone. You think I’m a congressman. Oh, life’s easy, this guy’s off having steaks,” he continued. “I got a daughter, she’s gotta deal with this crap on TV every day. No one out there’s got some easy life. And you’ve got it hard, I’m not dismissing that. You’ve got some fears, real anxiety coming up with a job, and whatever. And what you’ve got to find is a support system.”

Brat is running in a tight race against Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

Poor, poor David Brat.

This is the perfect characterization of Trump's Republican Party. Nobody ever has it worse than they do.


Welcome to the new baby

by digby

Personally, I think they should fly one over Trump's golf course here every single day.

Trump says it's impossible for him to lose

by digby

I'm sure everyone remembers this little bit of snotty, in-your-face, 6th-grade brazenness:

With similar narcissistic defiance, Trump now says that if the Republicans lose next month, it's not his fault. But he takes full credit if he wins.

Trump said he would not bear any personal responsibility for a poor showing from Republicans in the 2018 midterms, he said in a rare interview with the Associated Press this week.

“The midterms are very tough for anybody the opposite of president, for whatever reason, nobody has been able to say,” Trump said.


Republicans are starting from a huge advantage. The congressional map this year favors Republicans — particularly in the Senate, where Democrats are defending 10 seats in states Trump won. But even in the House, Republicans’ landslide wins in the 2010 midterm let the party redraw the lines for congressional districts, giving them an advantage.

The generic ballot shows Democrats with an average 7 point lead, where voters are asked whether they prefer a Democrat or a Republican, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. But Democrats will need to do at least that well to have any hope of retaking the house thanks to gerrymandering.

Despite all that, Trump is making things very difficult for Republicans, and there are many signs that this will be a wave election for Democrats. Trump doesn’t seem to recognize this reality. Instead, he is already praising himself for his electoral successes.

“I think I’m helping people,” Trump said. “Look, I’m 48 and one in the primaries, and actually it’s much higher than that because I endorsed a lot of people that were successful that people don’t even talk about. But many of those 48, as you know, were people that had no chance, in some cases.”

Trump talks about one big disadvantage: He’s not on the ballot, he said.

In a particularly telling musing from the president, he said some “people” have been telling him they could never vote in an election without Trump on the ballot.

“I’m not running,” Trump said. “I mean, there are many people that have said to me, ‘Sir, I will never ever ... I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’”
You'd think that the Republican candidates would be a little bit miffed at this but they appear on stage with him regularly and lick his boots like he's some kind of demi-god. The entire party is banking on Trump's allegedly massive popularity to keep them in power.

Or, it's just that he has that boot on their neck, promising to treat them like garbage the way he treats Flake, Corker, McCain and they are simply cowards who would rather bow down than take a chance on losing their seats?

This is not a new phenomenon. People love to talk about the spineless Dems and how useless they are, but they are nothing compared to the groveling sycophants of the GOP. I used to write about this all the time during the Bush years. I called them the Eunuch Caucus which is an insensitive, gendered term, which I regret. So I will now refer to them as Tiny's Obedient Servants.


Warranted by the evidence

by digby

I don't know why this is coming out now but I'm sure it must mean something:

In an expansive interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Mr. Rosenstein offered a forceful defense of the inquiry, saying the public would have faith in its findings.

“People are entitled to be frustrated, I can accept that,” he said, in a nod to attacks on the probe from some conservatives and Republicans. “But at the end of the day, the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence, and that it was an appropriate use of resources.”

Mr. Rosenstein said the investigation has already revealed a widespread effort by Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an assertion that has been played down by Mr. Trump and repeatedly called into question by other members of the administration.

“I have a solemn responsibility to make sure that cases like that are pursued and prosecuted, and I’m pleased the president has been supportive of that,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

The rare interview, in his conference room on the fourth floor of the Justice Department, took place during a turbulent period for Mr. Rosenstein, whose appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 has made him the subject of scrutiny and attack by Mr. Trump and his allies in Congress.

Mr. Mueller’s team is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election and any links between those efforts and the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow.

The special counsel’s office has charged more than two dozen Russian nationals over their roles in the 2016 campaign, including a dozen Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking into Democratic Party servers and stealing information that they distributed publicly through fake online personas. Russia has denied it interfered in the election.

“I committed I would ensure the investigation was appropriate and independent and reached the right result, whatever it may be,” Mr. Rosenstein said, referring to comments he made during his confirmation hearing. “I believe I have been faithful to that.”

The low-key Mr. Rosenstein has unexpectedly become the highest-profile deputy attorney general in recent memory after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in March 2017 from the Russia probe in light of his prominent role in the Trump campaign.

Mr. Sessions’ recusal, widely seen as appropriate in the legal community, damaged the attorney general’s relationship with Mr. Trump and made Mr. Rosenstein the point man on some of the department’s most pressing challenges.

Last month, Mr. Rosenstein’s future as the Justice Department’s No. 2 official seemed in doubt, after officials said he offered to resign—and expected to be fired—following reports that he discussed secretly recording Mr. Trump and recruiting cabinet members to remove him from office in 2017. Mr. Rosenstein has steadfastly denied those allegations.

After a conversation aboard Air Force One last week, Mr. Trump opted not to fire Mr. Rosenstein, a sign that the longtime federal prosecutor has been able to develop a somewhat stable relationship with the president despite the strains of the continuing probe. Still, Mr. Trump is expected to make changes at the Justice Department after next month’s midterm elections, with Mr. Sessions’ departure widely anticipated.

Some GOP lawmakers have sought to call Mr. Rosenstein to testify about whether he did in fact suggest secretly recording the president, but that hasn’t happened. Mr. Rosenstein wouldn’t discuss the alleged episode in the interview, nor would he discuss its effect on his relationship with the president.

“The president knows that I am prepared to do this job as long as he wants me to do this job,” he said. “You serve at the pleasure of the president, and there’s never been any ambiguity about that in my mind.”

As he has been pressed into taking the lead on some of the department’s most contentious issues, Mr. Rosenstein has tried to make progress on an administration agenda that includes aggressive prosecutions of drug offenses, gun crimes and immigration violations. That policy focus has often been overshadowed by the Russia investigation and perpetual questions about his job future.

“I try very hard to ignore media speculation about what we’re doing and focus instead on what we’re actually doing,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “We sit down every day and we work toward the goals of the department and try to ignore the inevitable attention in the media.”
If a new attorney general takes office after the midterm elections, that individual would likely not be recused, relieving Mr. Rosenstein of the task of supervising the investigation and moving him somewhat out of the spotlight.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rosenstein said he acknowledges his critics but stands by his oversight of the inquiry.

“I believe that our department and our office have been appropriately managing that investigation,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein has been going out of his way to keep Trump happy. He ostentatiously sat behind Kavanaugh at the hearings. He flew with Trump on AF One showing the world a certain "chumminess" with his boss. What is unclear is whether he's managing him or if he's joining him.

Everyone is expecting a flurry of activity agter the midterms from the White House and possibly the Special Prosecutor. It feels as though this lame duck session of congress is also giong to be very turbulent. So fasten your setbelts.


Memory lane

by digby

Did you know this? I didn't ...

And when MBS said he had Jared "in his pocket" from last March:

In June, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report. Like many others interviewed for this story, they declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about sensitive matters to the press.

In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported at the time.

What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.

“Some questions by the media are so obviously false and ridiculous that they merit no response. This is one. The Intercept should know better,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell.

On November 4, a week after Kushner returned to the U.S., the crown prince, known in official Washington by his initials MBS, launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown. The Saudi government arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, which was first reported in English by The Intercept. The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured.

The Saudi Embassy did not respond to questions from The Intercept. The White House referred questions to National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton. Anton declined to comment, referring questions on Kushner’s discussions with MBS to Lowell.

It is likely that Crown Prince Mohammed would have known who his critics were without Kushner mentioning them, a U.S. government official who declined to be identified pointed out. The crown prince may also have had his own reasons for saying that Kushner shared information with him, even if that wasn’t true. Just the appearance that Kushner did so would send a powerful message to the crown prince’s allies and enemies that his actions were backed by the U.S. government.

One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept.


How to succeed in business without really succeeding

by Tom Sullivan

"What, exactly, is Donald Trump’s business?" asks The New Yorker's Adam Davidson. The Trump Organization seems to have been in and out of so many unrelated ventures and manages to profit even as the projects themselves fail. Middle-class housing, luxury housing, casinos, licensing agreements. All require different business models and skill sets. So what is it Trump really does?

"It is becoming increasingly clear that, in the language of business schools," Davidson writes, "the Trump Organization’s core competency is in profiting from misrepresentation and deceit and, potentially, fraud.

The New York Times on October 2 gave a master class in forensic reporting that uncovered how much the Trump Organization profits from "defrauding state and federal governments through tax fraud." All while being bailed out by his father after one failed venture after another. Now, reporting from ProPublica and WNYC reveals how Trump profits from "patterns of deceptive practices" found in Trump deals around the globe.

"Pump and Trump" catalogs the ways in which the Trump Organization misrepresents its involvement in construction projects that bear the Trump name. By inflating the number of units sold and the amount of Trump money on the line, the Trump family lures investors into projects that go bankrupt with remarkable frequency. Trump himself manages to walk away with the up-front profits.

Davidson continues:

It is hard to understand why developers would, again and again, pay the Trumps an unusually large amount of money up front and then a significant share of profits just for their name, especially when their track record of success is so low. One explanation could be that everyone involved is bad at business. The Trumps, their partners, the banks, and others involved simply don’t do proper due diligence, don’t think through the potential risks of a project, and aren’t dissuaded by Trump’s long record of failure. Another explanation, though, is that they are good at a different business. They are not in the real-estate industry. Perhaps, the evidence suggests, some of Trump’s partners are in the money-laundering and financial-fraud industries.
Which makes the Trump Organization either a patsy or a co-conspirator, the latter a term connected with the Trump Organization with increasing frequency.

ProPublica, like the New York Times before it, explores deal after artful deal, shadow buyer after shell company, and bankruptcy after bankruptcy how investors take baths and Trump takes their money. Another Trump core competency is getting away with it.

Now, in his hubris he has by seeking the presidency drawn the attention of the world's greatest criminal investigators. Nominally in his employ, members of the Department of Justice actually work for the people of the United States. Trump is riding the tiger and dare not let go, just as his Republican Party dares not let go of the grifters, paranoids, propagandists, and politics of resentment it rode to control of all three branches of government.

On Wednesday, Digby posted Banana Republic Watch warning that along with accomplices running interference in Congress, Trump is using the machinery of government to evade scrutiny of himself, his business, and his executive branch allies. Independent reporting suggests he may have to go full banana Republican if he hopes to keep himself from being eaten.

Bruce Geller and CBS once sent the IMF into banana republics to cut the legs out from under leaders like those trying to establish one in here the U.S.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trump's way with the ladies

by digby

Yesterday he posted an ignorant tweet calling Stormy daniels "Horseface." Today he tweeted this:

The reason college-educated women hate him with the heat of a thousands suns is because he's a pig and an ignoramus. And his condescension is overwhelmingly offensive. "I supply all this" --- no you don't, you orange piece of work, we "supply" our own financial and economic health.

He gave away that he knows he's a liar about having the support of women in his interview with Trish Regan on Fox News the other night. Trump had said that the economy was going to bring people together and restore civility (which basically means that he can keep calling women "Horseface" and they will all say "thank you sir, may I have another") and Regan pointed out that while women want financial security the polls all say "they are not liking" him.

Here was his response:
I had worse poll numbers when I went into the last election and you saw how well I did with women. If you looked at my poll numbers going into 2016, you would have said, 'There's not a woman in the country that's going to vote for me.' And I did phenomenal with women. In fact, that was one of the reasons — probably, the reason I won, in a true sense.

Now, I also did better with Hispanics than they predicted. I did better with African-Americans than they predicted. I guess they did better with -- the men stay with me, I don't know why. But with the women, with the women, they want security and they want financial security too."

He did not do phenomenally well with women. He did worse than any other candidate in history, even white Republican women. He is poison to a majority of women now.He's got a 35% approval rating with women over all which now includes a majority of white women. A whopping 72% of white college educated women (many of whom used to be Republicans) disaprove of him.

And he knows this. He slipped said, "I guess they did better than ---the men stay with me, I don't know why" which means he's aware that women don't. He's just lying, hyping himself like a table of rancid Trump steaks with the full knowledge that he's loathed by the vast majority of women in this country.

I guess he thinks that more men vote. They don't. Women vote more than men. And they are energized. Because they hate him.

Banana Republic Watch

by digby

This is how they do it.
And if Democrats take the House, they will undoubtedly start to hold hearings on these sorts of maneuvers. I don't know if it will make a difference.

At last count, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was the subject of 14 separate government investigations. (A new record!) But that number could soon be zero. That’s because Zinke just fired the Department of the Interior’s acting inspector general.

The news doesn’t stop there. Not only did Mary Kendall, the acting inspector general, not learn she was being replaced until The Hill broke the news this morning, but her replacement will likely be able to fill the role without needing to go through Senate confirmation.

Kendall—who’s served as acting inspector general at the DOI for ten years, and previously spent a decade as deputy inspector general—is being replaced by Suzanne Israel Tufts, a Republican lawyer who worked on the Trump campaign, and then was appointed to the role of assistant secretary of administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Tufts will not need to undergo Senate confirmation to fill the new role, as she was already approved by Congress for her job at HUD.

Tufts, who will now handle oversight of the investigations into Zinke, was appointed to HUD to replace an official who blew the whistle on Ben Carson’s taxpayer-funded $31,000 dining set.

If you think that sounds unethical, you’re not alone. “We are particularly worried that she’s a political appointee without any obvious government oversight experience,” Danielle Brian, the executive director of the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight, told NBC. “And they are sliding her in under the radar of any Senate confirmation process to take over charged investigations into the behavior of the cabinet secretary.”

“This reeks of retaliation for the shocking number of investigations into Secretary Zinke’s unethical conduct,” Chris Saeger, the executive director of the Western Values Project, said in a release. “He should immediately explain the reasons why the current inspector general is leaving and if he fails to, Congress should demand answers.”

This is a primary reason why the Democrats need to take back the house. We have seen what happens when you have corrupt extremists in the executive branch with enablers and accomplices running the congress.

Ron DeSantis is a right-wing extremist? Say it ain't so...

by digby

Oh look, Trump's greatest fan in the congress and now GOP candidate for Governor of Florida is a right wing extremist:

Beyond his embrace of the president, DeSantis has made a name for himself by promoting conspiracy theories that are trumpeted by the radical right and play into racial stereotypes. On four occasions, he has spoken at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has touted white Americans’ role in freeing black people from slavery and said that “the country’s only serious race war” is against white people.

“Liberal media are doing everything that can to help Andrew Gillum win this race and that includes writing stories that elicit racially charged fears and emotions. We not only reject your storyline, we condemn your entire narrative,” said Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director.

Here are some other conspiracies DeSantis has embraced:

ISIS may recruit from Black Lives Matter protests.

In 2016, DeSantis agreed with Fox Business host Neil Cavuto that he was worried the terrorist group ISIS could be recruiting from Black Lives Matter protests.

“I do worry about it, in the sense that reaching out to them doesn’t even have to involve brokering a meeting between some terrorist recruiter and somebody who’s disaffected,” DeSantis said on Sept. 22, 2016. “It could simply be exposing people to different propaganda that you see on the internet, on social media sites. ... So it’s definitely a problem, and ISIS I think has proven themselves to be pretty sophisticated at capitalizing on some people who have some underlying issues.”

The Founding Fathers weren’t racist.

In 2011, DeSantis wrote a book called Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama. In it, he excuses the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted a black person as only three-fifths of a whole person to determine congressional representation.

DeSantis defends the Founding Fathers for agreeing to the compromise because “counting slaves as less than a full person for purposes of representation benefitted anti-slavery states.”

Allowing slaves to be counted as three-fifths of a white person gave slave states extra representation without having to actually allow black people to vote.

Islamophobic conspiracy groups have merit.

Over the years, DeSantis has promoted himself with the help of figures who peddle Islamophobic rhetoric and policies. In 2014, he did an interview on Frank Gaffney’s radio program. Gaffney founded the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.” In 2017, DeSantis spoke at the annual conference of ACT for America, another group that pushes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

DeSantis has also pushed to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, an idea the Trump administration supports and people like Gaffney champion.

As Shadi Hamid at the Brookings Institution has noted, “There is quite literally not a single American expert on the Muslim Brotherhood who supports designation. Moreover, there is no plausible argument to be made for labeling the group a terrorist organization, at least according to the relevant legal criteria, as Will McCants and Benjamin Wittes lay out. They sum it up quite well: designation ‘would be illegal.’”

American values are declining in the “age of Obama.”

In 2008, conservatives seized on a clip of a black woman named Peggy Joseph saying that if then-presidential candidate Barack Obama won, “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he’s going to help me.”

There’s nothing remarkable about Joseph’s comments. People always vote for politicians because they believe they will make the country ― and often, their own personal lives ― better. Certain candidates may have policies that could put more money in their pockets or lead to better representation.

But DeSantis talked about Joseph ― and Obama’s campaign ― as if they were radical departures from “the principles that the country was founded on.”

In a 2011 speech, he said that with the Founding Fathers, “you think of things like, ‘Give me liberty or give me death’” and “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

But, he added, in the “age of Obama ... you have people like that woman who voted for Obama, who said since Obama was president, she wouldn’t have to worry about putting gas in her car or paying her mortgage.”

Obama is a secret communist.

The right wing has long tried to claim that Obama secretly supports communism ― an un-American value, of course. In his 2011 book, DeSantis gives credence to some of these theories. He writes that Obama had a “mentorship” with “Frank Marshall Davis, an African-American communist writer with bitterly anti-American views.”

“He certainly would not have discussed Davis in Dreams From My Father had Davis’ council failed to make an impact on him,” DeSantis wrote.

The Washington Post looked at Davis and his relationship with Obama, and wrote that Davis “was indeed associated with the Communist Party” but was not a “hard-core Communist who spied for Soviet leaders. He was critical of American society, but not America as a country.”

DeSantis, in his book, also implied that Obama’s mother was a communist. He notes that one of her high school teachers said she would ask questions around the Cold War like “What’s so good about capitalism? What’s wrong with communism? What’s good about communism?” He also cited the fact that one of her classmates referred to her as a “fellow traveler,” which is sometimes used to describe someone who is communist. There’s no proof Obama’s mother was a communist either.

Of course he loves Trump and Trump loves him.


It's not just about those arms sales

by digby

The New York Times reports on another issue that's got the White House nervous about the Saudi killing of a journalist. To be clear, it's likely that Trump truly is concerned about his vaunted arms deal and doesn't want to disrupt his romance with MBS because they have been so nice to him (and paid him millions of dollars.) This is what he cares about. But apparently, they have been planning to try to topple the Iran government by cutting off their ability to sell their oil --- with the help of the Saudi government --- next month.

White House officials are worried that the apparent killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Saudi Arabia’s changing account of his fate, could derail a showdown with Iran and jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.

Officials said the dilemma comes at a fraught moment for the Trump administration, which is expected to reimpose harsh sanctions against Iran on Nov. 5, with the intent of cutting off all Iranian oil exports.

But to make the strategy work, the administration is counting on its relationship with the Saudis to keep global oil flowing without spiking prices, and to work together on a new policy to contain Iran in the Persian Gulf.

If that carefully coordinated plan moves forward, the Saudis would likely see a significant increase in oil revenue at exactly the moment Congress is talking about penalizing the kingdom over the Khashoggi case. It is one reason that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sent, with a few hours’ notice, to see King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday.

Part of the problem is optics, officials said: Saudi Arabia looks like a brutal ally, including by leading a deadly military campaign in Yemen, just as President Trump and Mr. Pompeo have been casting Iran as the region’s bully.

“It’s a neat trick if you can both sanction a country and partner with them at the same time,” said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who worked for several Republican presidents. “And it’s not easy to keep the focus on Iran’s behavior when the Saudis are doing terrible things to journalists and dissidents, and bombing children in Yemen.”

After a phone call with Prince Mohammed on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said the kingdom’s rulers had again “totally denied any knowledge” of Mr. Khashoggi’s fate. He said the crown prince, who was with Mr. Pompeo during the call, would expand an investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and suspected killing two weeks ago.

Mr. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials have asserted that Mr. Khashoggi was murdered and his body dismembered; Saudi officials denied any wrongdoing.

While Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance has heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and both Turkey and the United States, the White House has been measuring the damage to its Iran strategy.

In interviews this week, Trump administration officials and outside experts said that possible repercussions on an elaborate plan to squeeze the Iranians have dominated internal discussions about the fallout over what happened to Mr. Khashoggi.

By comparison, they said, the issue of limiting American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which Mr. Trump has said would threaten American jobs, pales in importance. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss internal conversations.

On Nov. 5, the administration is expected to announce that any company that does business with Iran — buying oil, financing projects or investing in the country — will be prohibited from doing business in the United States, including clearing transactions in dollars. It would present a common front with the Saudis, and cast Iran as the source of almost all instability in the Middle East.

That argument, officials have acknowledged, is now in jeopardy.

Guess what? This Iran plan is fraught with danger. The consequences of this confrontation could be catastrophic:

Much indicates that the likely murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will be transformative for Saudi-U.S. relations. But whether it will affect the one issue where Saudi pressure on the United States was the greatest—Iran—is unclear. The Iran strategy favored by Saudi Arabia and the Netanyahu government in Israel, and eagerly adopted by the White House, will likely lead to a military confrontation regardless of whether its assumptions about the status of Iran’s economy and political survivability are true or not.

The Trump administration’s pressure strategy on Iran assumes that the Islamic Republic is standing on its last leg. The White House believes a gentle nudge will cause its collapse in the next few months. This is a shaky assumption—one which makes the policy immensely risky for a simple reason: what if President Donald Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince are wrong? What if the Iranian theocracy survives, albeit far angrier and hostile than it was before? And what if the assumption is correct? Will the clerical rulers sit quietly as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel orchestrate their demise? History is riddled with examples where pressure has triggered confrontation rather than capitulation—even when the underlying assumption has been correct.

If Trump’s bet proves wrong and the theocracy in Tehran shows itself too resilient, the United States will find itself in a vulnerable position. Trump’s complete isolation at the UN General Assembly last month was nothing short of astounding—yet, that may become the new normal. In the process, the United States will incentivize other countries to develop alternative financial transaction systems in order to protect themselves from what increasingly will be viewed as illegal U.S. financial sanctions. This will likely weaken the dollar and diminish America’s ability to use the existing financial system as an instrument of its own national power.

Moreover, Iran will likely be far more hostile and determined to counter U.S. influence in the Middle East as a result of the Trump administration’s escalation of tensions and its efforts to unseat the theocracy in Tehran. Already, a senior Iranian official told us this past week, Trump’s pressure has undermined moderates in Tehran who advocate for diplomacy between Iran and the West and a reduction of tensions. On the other hand, hardliners in charge of Iran’s policies in Syria and Yemen have benefitted from Trump’s belligerence. “The sense is that engagement has not paid off for Iran [as a result of Trump’s sabotage of the Iran nuclear deal],” the Iranian official explained, “Iran’s military engagement in the region, however, has paid dividends to Iran’s security.”

But here’s the real problem with America’s all-out pressure approach: Even if Trump’s assumption is correct and the Iranian regime is close to collapse, history suggests it will not play out as neatly as the Trump team appears to believe. Rather than Iranian capitulation, Trump should be expecting confrontation. Which is exactly what the Saudis want.

Maybe we'll get "lucky" and this murder of a Saudi journalist in Turkey will make this move impossible. Or maybe not. Trump shows no sign of causing anything to disrupt his cozy relationship with the Saudis.

If you're wondering why Turkey is behaving the way it is, it may just be to help disrupt this plot to confront Iran. Turkey and Iran's relations have been complicated but since the 2017 Qatar crisis, they allied against the Saudis and the US. And Turkey was against the US withdrawing from the Iran deal. It's a web of shifting alliances that makes it likely Trump and Jared, being dopes, and Bolton and company being extreme ideologues, are subject to manipulation by the Saudis.


Vlad the inspiration

by digby

We all know that Trump loves Putin and we know he loves torture. Apparently, Jared's bff Prince MBS does too:

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is fascinated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged ability to target former spies in the UK "and get away with it", a leading member of the Saudi opposition and friend of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi has told Middle East Eye.

“Putin is a role model. MbS once asked in a gathering: ‘How does Putin manage to kidnap his opposition figures and assassinate them in London, and it does not have consequences?’” the opposition figure revealed, referring to the crown prince by his initials.

Bin Salman’s interest in Putin was stirred by the suspected poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter Yulia with Novichok, a nerve agent, in the city of Salisbury in southern England on 4 March this year by suspected Russian intelligence officers.

The British government has said it is highly likely that Russia was responsible, and the UK and many of its western allies have expelled Russian diplomats as a consequence of the case. Putin has denied that the Kremlin ordered Skripal’s poisoning.

The case stirred memories of the notorious fatal poisoning of another Russian defector, Alexander Litvinenko, in a London restaurant in 2006, in what a British government report concluded was a Russian intelligence operation “probably approved” by Putin.

Trump has made it clear that he doesn't care about any of this, basically giving a green light to assassinations of dissidents and journalists.  Why wouldn't MBS go for it?


Mitch and the budget scam

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Yesterday President Trump called Stormy Daniels "Horseface" in a tweet and it wasn't the dumbest thing he said all day. In fact, it wasn't even the dumbest thing he wrote in that tweet. He closed it with "she knows nothing about me, a total con." In truth, she certainly does know he's a total con, as do most of the people in this country. Nonetheless, for all of Trump's hustles and scams, he is an amateur compared to the Republican Party, which has been committing a massive fraud on the United States for more than 30 years.

It's a simple scheme, really. Whenever they control the government they immediately pass massive tax cuts and massive increases in military spending, always promising that the wealthy and the corporations will pour all that money back into the economy and it will end up increasing revenues because of all the growth it will stimulate. But it never does.

It's actually quite brilliant because the real goal isn't just to give tax cuts to the rich and spend huge sums of money on the military. It's also to run up the debt so Republicans can turn around and wring their hands over the need to be "fiscally responsible" and force the government to cut spending on programs they don't like. They are specifically hostile to what they call "entitlements": the big-ticket items of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

They have wanted to end those programs ever since they were enacted, but this debt scam was cooked up in the 1980s when all the smart young Reaganites came to Washington. They tagged the Democrats as "tax-and-spend liberals" (now it's "socialists") so that whenever the Democrats finally come back into power, anxious to be seen as responsible stewards of the economy, they are immediately on the defensive. Republicans screech in unison that the entitlements are all going to break the bank and they must be cut or the sky will fall. Unfortunately, the political media join the chorus, beating their chests about how the people must "take their medicine" and "face up to the truth" that the country simply cannot afford to take care of the old and sick anymore. Pundits and journalists seem to take particular pleasure in lecturing their audience about how they'll have to "sacrifice" for the greater good and tut-tut all the supposedly irresponsible liberal politicians who are unwilling to tell them the "truth."

In recent years the con has been complicated by the fact that the GOP constituency is aging rapidly, making it necessary to blame Democrats for any possible cuts. That makes it a bit of a challenge, although not as much as you might think. Bill Clinton seriously considered a privatization scheme and Barack Obama famously put Social Security cuts on the table as part of his "Grand Bargain" with then-House Speaker John Boehner, which only failed because the Tea Party refused to take yes for an answer.

Still, for the most part, Democrats have held the line. When George W. Bush began his second term with a plan to use his "political capital" to privatize Social Security with the help of a massive grassroots campaign, Democrats beat it back. Furthermore, the concept of privatizing the Social Security system by investing in the stock market was thoroughly discredited just a few years later when the financial crisis hit and half of Wall Street went out of business.

But now Republicans are right back at the same game. The latest deficit projections are stunning. According to the New York Times:

The deficit rose nearly 17 percent year over year, from $666 billion in 2017. It is now on pace to top $1 trillion a year before the next presidential election, according to forecasts from the Trump administration and outside analysts. The deficit for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, was the largest since 2012, when the economy and federal revenues were still recovering from the depths of the recession.

The federal government should run a large deficit when the economy is in that kind of crisis. But when it's humming as it is now, not so much. That's how it's supposed to work anyway, at least according to standard Keynesian economic principles.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about this massive deficit on Tuesday and said, “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem. It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

It's as if those tax cuts and hikes in military spending never happened. In fact, that's exactly how they're going to frame it.

McConnell said at the time the GOP tax bill was enacted, “I not only don’t think it will increase the deficit, I think it will be beyond revenue-neutral. In other words, I think it will produce more than enough to fill that gap.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed the tax plan would "pay for itself with economic growth." They were wrong of course. Everyone knew that at the time because they've recited these same lines before and it never happens. We've had several real-life experiments to prove it.

Republicans will of course just lie and cover up their role in this huge expansion of the deficit, which shouldn't happen in a time of full employment and major corporate profits. From the way many commentators jumped into their old lines about "sacrifice" and "debt" like they were a pair of comfortable old slippers they forgot were under the bed, conservatives won't have much trouble getting that meme back into circulation.

When asked about McConnell's comments, President Trump told the Associated Press that he knew nothing about cutting Social Security and didn't plan to do it explaining that the increase in the deficit was due to natural disasters:
We also have tremendous numbers with regard to hurricanes and fires and the tremendous forest fires all over. We had very big numbers, unexpectedly big numbers. California does a horrible job maintaining their forests. They’re going to have to start doing a better job or we’re not going to be paying them. They are doing a horrible job of maintaining what they have. And we had big numbers on tremendous numbers with the forest fires and obviously the hurricanes. We got hit in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Georgia. Georgia was hit very hard this time. Nobody even, you know, treats that one fairly. The farmers got hit very, very hard.
So at least for the moment, the "entitlement" programs are probably safe. Somehow that isn't particularly comforting.



Like sands through the hourglass

by Tom Sullivan

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to release findings from his probe into Russian 2016 election interference soon after the November 6 mid-term elections, Bloomberg reports, citing an two unnamed officials:

That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.
With rumors the sitting president could fire Rosenstein in a bid to shut down the investigation Trump considers a witch hunt never far below the fold, the timing of the release could determine if, when, and how those findings reach the public. Rosenstein could resign or face firing after the election, one reason, officials said, he is eager for Mueller to wrap up the investigation.

Despite ridiculing the investigation since it began and after countless "NO COLLUSION" tweets, Trump again on Sunday claimed he had "no intention" of shutting it down. “I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind.”
There’s no indication, though, that Mueller is ready to close up shop, even if he does make some findings, according to former federal prosecutors. Several matters could keep the probe going, such as another significant prosecution or new lines of inquiry. And because Mueller’s investigation has been proceeding quietly, out of the public eye, it’s possible there have been other major developments behind the scenes.
Those may arise from all the hours of testimony and cooperation provided by former Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as well as Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Despite pressure to end the probe by deadlines set by the administration, it would not be unprecedented for such an investigation to go longer. The Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton took four years. The investigation into Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, took almost two, Bloomberg reminds.

ABC News adds detail on the possible fate of Mueller's findings:
Rosenstein is required by regulation to notify the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of the investigation and provide them with an explanation of any instance where he blocked a proposed action by Mueller’s team.

He could also release Mueller’s report to the public if he determines that the release “would be in the public interest,” according to the regulation, but considering Trump’s tumultuous relationship with the Justice Department and its leaders, Rosenstein might not be in a position to make those decisions when Mueller finishes his work.
Trump has never made his tax returns public. Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general during the Obama administration, helped draft the regulations. He recommends Rosenstein transmit “interim reports” to Congress to to preserve Mueller’s investigation against future interference by the Trump White House:
“Rosenstein could, right now, tell Congress (or even a small group of members, with appropriate safeguards, including secrecy) what has happened — what Mueller has learned so far, whether Rosenstein has ever said “no” to Mueller and where the investigation is headed now,” he wrote in the Washington Post. “Such a move would be unusual, to say the least. But it is a way for Rosenstein to safeguard his legacy. And it could also safeguard the very principle that no one is above the law. Not even the president — and not even this president.”
The final insult of this insult presidency will be if Trump's legacy proves the contrary.

In North Carolina this morning, polls are open for early voting.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I'm Not Getting It 

by tristero

The Saudis have been running this up the flagpole to see who salutes:
The Saudis shifted their tone a bit late Monday, indicating that maybe they were in fact responsible for what happened to Khashoggi’s death. They might be willing to say there was an interrogation, but his death was accidental.
I'm not getting it. How's that an excuse?

Are they saying they merely intended to torture Khashoggi but someone just went a little too far? Like the plan was to cut off a just a single limb with that bone-cutter — sure, it's a tad unpleasant for everyone but, it's not murder, right? — and ooopsie, the guy had a heart attack or something?

We live in very sick times.
Malfunctioning intuition in the modern world

by digby

Political scientists J. Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood have written a book called Enchanted America; How Intuition & Reason Divide Our Politics that looks to be a must read if you want to understand why our politics have gone batshit crazy. Jesse Singel's review in New York magazine explains that what these political scientists have found is that while all humans use intuition and heuristics, a large faction of voters is simply "magical thinkers" who reject reason (or are incapable of being rational) and make "causal attributions to unobservable forces." In other words, they would rather believe something absurd than what they can see with their own eyes.

The authors call them "intuitionists." And while there are some who exist on the left (anti-vaxxers for instance) They are mostly fundamentalist, conservative and Republican, and Trump's followers are more like this than any others. And they are also fearful pessimists. Singel writes:

But it’s the Trumpenvolk who are, relative to followers of other politicians, the most fearful and superstitious. It should come as no surprise that they were drawn to a man constantly raising fears of immigrant invasions, foreign terrorists, and globe-spanning conspiracies with anti-Semitic undertones. 
Oliver and Wood make it clear that when it comes to the question of Rationalism versus Intuitionism, they are partisans. “The Intuitionist/Rationalist split is not like other political divisions in the United States,” they write. “Intuitionism poses an existential threat to democracy. It is neither benign nor temperate. It bristles against open inquiry, is intolerant of opposition, and chafes at the pluralism and compromise modern democracy requires. It is prone to conspiracy theory, drawn to simple generalizations, and quick to vilify the other.” But they acknowledge that this area of study is not far enough along for them to have all that many concrete suggestions.
Maybe the first step is for writers, pollsters, and all the other elites who remain confused about Trump’s appeal to better educate themselves about the Intuitionism scale, as well as other related constructs like conspiracism (what it sounds like) and need for cognitive closure (a preference for simple, straightforward thoughts without much ambiguity). Absent these insights from political psychology, it’s easy to get caught in an endless cycle of befuddlement: How could evangelical “values voters” be so unconcerned that Trump is a philanderer and former supporter of reproductive rights? How could down-on-their luck working-class whites have such enthusiasm for a brash mogul, born into a rich family, who has endlessly ripped off people like them, and who has openly stated he will cut the welfare benefits keeping many of them alive and housed? How could white, educated suburban women vote for a man who has been credibly accused of multiple sexual assaults?
We could at least acknowledge that these people are not voting based on rational analysis. Economic determinists interpret decisions as relating to some variant of economic status or distress and there's no doubt that plays into it. But humans are complex and as this analysis shows, many people are driven by complex "intuition", evolving over millennia that doesn't have a rational application to the modern world. 


Trump's latest on the Saudi atrocity

by digby

Well ok then. He denies it. And he and Trump get along. They have chemistry. And Jared and the Prince have fallen in love. Beautiful letters exchanged, no doubt.

So it's all good.


 President Donald Trump Tuesday criticized rapidly mounting global condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the mystery of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, warning of a rush to judgment and echoing the Saudis’ request for patience. 
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump compared the case of Khashoggi, who Turkish officials have said was murdered in the Saudis’ Istanbul consulate, to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. 
“I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.” 
Trump’s remarks were his most robust defense yet of the Saudis, a U.S. ally he has made central to his Mideast agenda. They put the president at odds with other key allies and with some leaders in his Republican Party who have condemned the Saudi leadership for what they say is an obvious role in the case. Trump appeared willing to resist the pressure to follow suit, accepting Saudi denials and their pledge to investigate. 
The Oval Office interview came not long after Trump spoke Tuesday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He spoke by phone a day earlier with King Salman, and he said both deny any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
After speaking with the king, Trump floated the idea that “rogue killers” may have been responsible for the disappearance. The president told AP Tuesday that that description was informed by his “feeling” from his conversation with Salman, and that the King did not use the term. 
In Turkey earlier Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the Associated Press that police investigators searching the Saudi Consulate had found evidence that Khashoggi was killed there. 
Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the king and crown prince in Riyadh and said the Saudis had already started a “serious and credible investigation” and seemed to suggest it could lead to people within the kingdom. The secretary of state noted that the Saudi leaders, while denying knowledge of anything that occurred inside the consulate, had committed to accountability “including for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials.”
Pompeo was there today grinning like a jack-o-lantern.

This is very bad ...
Lindsay Graham's bad cop performance

by digby

To Trump's good cop. The end result will be ... nothing.

Realizing that he was causing some problems with the Iran-haters who have thrown their lot in with the Saudis he made sure they knew he hated them even more:

During an interview on Tuesday’s edition of Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) responded to Elizabeth Warren’s announcement that she has Native American ancestry by announcing that he too is planning to take a DNA test.

Hosts concluded the interview by urging Graham to come back on the show soon to reveal the results of his test.

“I’ll be probably be Iranian. That’d be like, terrible,” Graham said, in an attempt to be humorous. (Note: Remarks begin at 6:19 in the video)

Graham’s stunningly casual bigotry was too much even for host Brian Kilmeade, who tried to help him out by saying, “They’re great people, just bad leaders.”

Graham, however, kept digging.

“Yeah, bad leaders,” Graham said. “I’m not in the ayatollah branch.”

Ain't he sweet?

He's first and foremost a nasty little snot. This is his time.

The man who made Trumpism happen

by digby

The Atlantic's McKay Coppins has written an excellent profile of Newt Gingrich which I recommend to anyone who wants to understand how we got here. This is an excerpt but it's well worth reading in full:

[W]ading through Gingrich’s various books, articles, and think-tank speeches about Trump, it is difficult to identify any coherent set of “ideas” animating his support for the president. He is not a natural booster for the economic nationalism espoused by people like Steve Bannon, nor does he seem particularly smitten with the isolationism Trump championed on the stump.

Instead, Gingrich seems drawn to Trump the larger-than-life leader—virile and masculine, dynamic and strong, brimming with “total energy” as he mows down every enemy in his path. “Donald Trump is the grizzly bear in The Revenant,” Gingrich gushed during a December 2016 speech on “The Principles of Trumpism” at the Heritage Foundation. “If you get his attention, he will get awake … He will walk over, bite your face off, and sit on you.”

In Trump, Gingrich has found the apotheosis of the primate politics he has been practicing his entire life—nasty, vicious, and unconcerned with those pesky “Boy Scout words” as he fights in the Darwinian struggle that is American life today. “Trump’s America and the post-American society that the anti-Trump coalition represents are incapable of coexisting,” Gingrich writes in his most recent book. “One will simply defeat the other. There is no room for compromise. Trump has understood this perfectly since day one.”

I used to get hit hard by some progressives over my obsession with Gingrich during the Obama years. They felt that I was spending too much time looking at the Republicans, particularly, the combat style that Newt and his political progeny started instead of attacking Barack Obama. I understand the frustration with Democrats. I've written millions of words about it over the years, including many attacks on the way the ACA was negotiated and particularly the Grand Bargain, which I opposed from the beginning on both political and ideological grounds.

But I focus on this particular aspect of modern American politics, the radicalization of the Right, because I think it is the most fundamental challenge to our system of government and I don't think it has a damn thing to do with "issues" or ideology. Newt is clear about this. Trump is too. Take them at their word. Fighting among ourselves won't fix that problem.

The Red Hats and the party

by digby

Just a little something to think about:

Nine members of the far-right Proud Boys group and three protesters are facing riot and assault charges after a street brawl between them Friday night in New York.

The fight wasn’t a random clash, though: The Proud Boys were in Manhattan thanks to an invite from the Metropolitan Republican Club.

In a speech at the club, which was vandalized before the event, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes waved a sword at anti-fascist protesters and celebrated the assassination of a socialist Japanese politician. McInnes, a Vice co-founder, dressed up as the Japanese assassin who killed the politician, complete with glasses that made his eyes into a racist caricature of a Japanese person’s eyes.

It was a bizarre event to host at the GOP’s Manhattan clubhouse, but the Metropolitan Republican Club defended McInnes and the Proud Boys after the fight. In a statement released Sunday, the club said McInnes’ speech “was certainly not inciting violence.”

The Republican club’s role hosting the event highlights how the Proud Boys have managed to insinuate themselves with mainstream Republicans, even as they increasingly make the news for their violence. But the New York Republicans aren’t alone—the Proud Boys have already managed to make their way into other mainstream GOP campaign events and conservative media.

Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Devin Nunes have posed for pictures with Proud Boys on the campaign trail. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and Republican operative Roger Stone earlier this year.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion.”

— Historian Robert Paxton

Fascist skinhead groups have wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades, but scholars of fascism have noted that those groups pose limited political threats—unless a mainstream political party embraces them.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion,” historian Robert Paxton writes in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. “If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two” of what he identifies as fascist insurgency.

The Proud Boys, which have a paramilitary wing, have already proved willing to act as strongmen for Stone, and GOP stalwarts like the Metropolitan Republican Club have already proved willing to host the group.

We are a long way from the kind of streetfighting we saw in fascist Italy. But they started small too.

And I would just point out that there is another worrisome aspect of all this:

Bloodlines: A reprise

by digby

What with all the brouhaha about Elizabeth Warren's DNA, I thought it might be a good day to reprise this post about Trump's thoughts on the subject:

Friday, December 09, 2016

Trump's eugenics

by digby

Actually, it's MONEY through family but whatevs .. 

I have noted this before but it's worth looking at again. Trump is a eugenicist who believes that he and his family have superior genes and his wealth proves it. Remember this?

Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio explains that Trump was raised to believe that success is genetic, and that some people are just more superior than others:

"The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. 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."

Huffington Post also took the liberty of compiling a whole bunch of times Trump suggested that genes are the main factor behind brains and superiority. Here are just a few choice quotes from good ol' Trump:

"All men are created equal. Well, it's not true. 'Cause some are smart, some aren't."

"When you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse."

"Secretariat doesn't produce slow horses."

"Do we believe in the gene thing? I mean, I do."

"I have great genes and all that stuff which, I'm a believer in."
Well, there's actually a much better explanation for Trump's success:
We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”

Trump has certainly been creative ... in covering his ass. He managed to get bankers to keep loaning to him when he was clearly totally inept and repeatedly going bankrupts. It took them decades to catch on. He appears not to have paid federal income taxes for decades. And he just duped a large minority of Americans into believing that he was going to turn back the clock and make them all billionaires. So, he's creative alright. The way the best con artists are creative.

But he couldn't have done that without daddy's money. Not in a million years. 


Next Up: Disemboweling

by Tom Sullivan

Greg Sargent gets at a problem Republicans face ahead of November 6:

They need Trump to go full Trumpist to get out his voters, because his policies aren’t getting the job done — yet these displays are simultaneously strengthening the anti-Trump backlash among the constituencies most likely to deliver the House to Democrats.


A single quote from a GOP consultant tells the whole story. Republican Lou Barletta is trailing Sen. Bob Casey (D) by double digits — in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s win shocked the world — despite running as a full-blown Trumper. Why? A strategist for Barletta explains it to The Post this way: “One false assumption that was made was that a Trump voter from the 2016 election was necessarily a Republican voter.”
Trump's plan is to fill the media space with Trump, Sargent writes. Displays of contempt and humiliation for the losers, as Trump used on Lesley Stahl and Christine Blasey Ford, are part of the shtick. Kellyanne Conway thinks it's "Donald Trump in full" season, Sargent writes, with the sitting president doing as many rallies and unleashing "as many lies and depravities as the media space will absorb."

That the media is complicit and cannot look away says megabytes about the mindlessness of "moral" capitalism that turns the free press into Trump's vassals. Disembowelings and feeding the powerless to the lions was just as good for business at the Coliseum.

World revulsion at the disappearance/murder/dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudis seems not to have made a ripple in Trumpworld. For his part, the sitting president's Monday phone call with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has Trump floating the idea “rogue killers” (with access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul) are responsible. The frightening thing is how close to that edge Trump is willing to step (without having to see any blood himself, of course) to remain in the good graces of the strongmen he idolizes.

Daily Beast examines how welcome the extremist Proud Boys have become among mainstream Republicans:
Fascist skinhead groups have wreaked havoc in the U.S. for decades, but scholars of fascism have noted that those groups pose limited political threats — unless a mainstream political party embraces them.

“The skinheads, for example, would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion,” historian Robert Paxton writes in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. “If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two" of what he identifies as fascist insurgency.
Like Trump, the group is careful to manage its violent elements so as not to overstep:
The frequent clashes between Proud Boys and left-wing protesters apparently haven’t damaged the Proud Boy brand enough to keep the group from gaining new members. While other groups further to the Proud Boys’ right have fractured, the Proud Boys appear to be growing, with members from United Kingdom and Australia posting beat-in videos on YouTube.

“Gavin, smartly, is holding by his fingernails to legitimacy,” Hankes said. “He knows that the second they cross over into being recognized as extreme as they are in reality, it’s all decline from there.”
Trump is already that extreme. He's just better at manipulating a media trained not to say so forcefully and responsibly.
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