A sweet story about a girl and the birds she feeds:
Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it's rare for that affection to be reciprocated. One young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden - and they bring her gifts in return.Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection. "You may take a few close looks," she says, "but don't touch." It's a warning she's most likely practised on her younger brother. She laughs after saying it though. She is happy for the audience.
Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014." Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. "Beer coloured glass," as Gabi describes it.
Each item is individually wrapped and categorised. Gabi pulls a black zip out of a labelled bag and holds it up. "We keep it in as good condition as we can," she says, before explaining this object is one of her favourites.
There's a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.
She didn't gather this collection. Each item was a gift - given to her by crows.
She holds up a pearl coloured heart. It is her most-prized present. "It's showing me how much they love me."
Gabi's relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She'd get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.
As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi's bus, hoping for another feeding session.
Gabi's mother Lisa didn't mind that crows consumed most of the school lunches she packed. "I like that they love the animals and are willing to share," she says, while admitting she never noticed crows until her daughter took an interest in them. "It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds."
In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.
Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.
It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.
The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.
One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word "best" printed on it. "I don't know if they still have the part that says 'friend'," Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.
When you see Gabi's collection, it's hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.
"If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them," advises John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. He specialises in birds, particularly crows and ravens.
I've got the biggest barrel in the whole wide world. In fact, it's the size of the fucking Grand Canyon: Trump at the CIA, standing in front of the wall of the fallen:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true, this is my first stop, officially. We’re not talking about the balls, or we’re not talking about even the speeches -- although they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday. (Laughter.) I always call them the dishonest media, but they treated me nicely. (Laughter.)
But I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody. (Applause.)
The wall behind me is very, very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while, and I’ll tell you what -- 29? I can’t believe it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-eight.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Oh, 28. We got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate what you’ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group, these are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know, I am so behind you. And I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted, and you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, please don’t give us so much backing. (Laughter.) Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing. (Laughter.) But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.
You know, the military and the law enforcement, generally speaking, but all of it -- but the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military. And probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. (Laughter.) But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. (Applause.) We’re all on the same wavelength, right? He knows. It took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right, because we know we’re on the same wavelength.
But we’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained. We have to get rid of ISIS. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. (Applause.) Radical Islamic terrorism. And I said it yesterday -- it has to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries, there can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody can even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.
You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. For the different positions of “Secretary of This” and “Secretary of That” and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people. And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent. And, by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand. What a good guy. (Applause.) And Reince and my whole group. Reince -- you know -- they don’t care about Reince. He’s like this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.
But we did -- we had such a tremendous, tremendous success. So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and, in this case, went so quickly -- because I would see six or seven or eight for Secretary of Agriculture, who we just named the other day, Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.
But I met Mike Pompeo, and it was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said, cancel everybody else. Cancel. Now, he was approved, essentially, but they’re doing little political games with me. He was one of the three. Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis, fantastic guy, and General Kelly got approved. (Applause.) And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group. It was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine all of these guys? People respect -- you know, they respect that military sense. All my political people, they’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well but you. We’re going to get them all through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.
But Mike was literally -- I had a group of -- what, we had nine different people? Now, I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point.
Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years who did a fantastic job in so many different ways, academically -- was an academic genius -- and then they say, is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I’m like a smart person. (Laughter.) And I recognized immediately. So he was number one at West Point, and he was also essentially number one at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a homerun. People like him, but much more importantly to me, everybody respects him. And when I told Paul Ryan that I wanted to do this, I would say he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled -- right, Mike? Because he said, I don’t want to lose this guy.
But you will be getting a total star. You’re going to be getting a total gem. He’s a gem. (Applause.) You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see. And again, we have some great people going in. But this one is something -- is going to be very special, because this is one, if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be perhaps -- you know, in certain ways, you could say my most important. You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing. And the generals are wonderful, and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction, boy, does the fighting become easier. And, boy, do we lose so fewer lives, and win so quickly. And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.
You know, when I was young and when I was -- of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. (Laughter.) Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping -- when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young.
When I was young -- and I think we’re all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, “The United States has never lost a war.” And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.
I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again, toward ending all of the problems. We have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused. So I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent.
And the reason you’re my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. (Laughter and applause.) And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number-one stop is exactly the opposite -- exactly. And they understand that, too.
And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? (Applause.) I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech.
In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured. But, you know, we have something that’s amazing because we had -- it looked -- honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on -- and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around -- you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.
We had another one yesterday, which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill, Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country, but had a lot to do with it. Helped us; real ally. And, as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out -- the bust. And as you also probably have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly. And they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. I say, absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill.
So a reporter for Time magazine -- and I have been on there cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right? (Laughter.) I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?
But I will say that they said -- it was very interesting -- that Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King. And it was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it. (Laughter.) So Zeke -- Zeke from Time Magazine writes a story about I took down. I would never do that because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is.
Now, the big story -- the retraction was, like, where? Was it a line? Or do they even bother putting it in? So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting.
I will tell you, final time -- although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that have been trying to come in -- because I am coming back -- we’re going to have to get you a larger room. (Applause.) We may have to get you a larger room. You know? And maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build, and we won’t have columns. (Laughter.) You understand that? (Applause.) We get rid of the columns.
No, I just wanted to really say that I love you, I respect you. There’s nobody I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge.
So thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you -- you’re beautiful. Thank you all very much. Have a good time. I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Thank you
You'd think he would have learned after firing Comey that interfering with the Department of Justice is a Very Bad Idea. But noooo:
The number of inappropriate contacts & requests from Trump to DOJ is staggering. Since his election, he has: interviewed @PreetBharara, called @PreetBharara repeatedly to try and curry favor; privately asked the FBI director for a loyalty pledge; asked the FBI director to drop a case; publicly told the AG what to probe; railed to the AG about recusing from a probe INTO HIM; asked the AG to drop a case into a political supporter (Arpaio), & now interviewed US attorneys in districts where he has exposure.
Any of these alone is a huge scandal. Together, they're a total indictment of his attempt to undermine an independent DOJ & the rule of law
Yes, it does seem just a little bit ... suspicious.
To think that the Attorney General under Bush was forced to resign because he fired some Us Attorneys for failing to make some desired political prosecutions. Under trump that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. After all, he's actually fired the FBI director for looking into his relationship with a foreign government and is still carrying on interviewing US Attorneys who might have jurisdiction over his own suspected criminal activity. And it's just ... happening. I'm going to guess from now on that Republicans will be free to do whatever they want with the DOJ. (Democrats won't, of course, because Republicans would show up at the White House with tiki torches chanting "Impeach! Impeach!" and everyone would run for cover.)
The NRA making the case for armed revolution, one video at a time
Dana Loesch's latest. I don't know how anyone can see this message coming from a group that advocates for people to be armed at all times can be seen as anything but incitement. We have free speech and they have a right to say it. But let's not kid ourselves about what they are saying. It's not as if their rights are in danger at the moment. The Republicans have it all and the court is well-packed. This is about fun owners destroying the opposition to Donald Trump and the Republicans.You do the math.
Give him a 10 out of 10. Those paper towels were awesome
Yesterday, Trump met with the Governor of Puerto Rico, whom he treated as his personal lapdog essentially daring him to complain or he'd make things even worse for the people there. He repeatedly compared the "fantastic" recovery in Florida and Texas to Puerto Rico constantly referring to its bad infrastructure and how it was a mess and how the people didn't go to work, which he claimed he understood because they had families without homes, all the while barely repressing a sneer at their lack of gumption. It was sickening. When asked to rate his response to the disaster he instantly said "I give myself a 10 out of 10." Uhm, no:
In contrast with Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Florida after Irma, where thousands of repair workers rushed in to restring power lines, only a few hundred electrical workers from outside the island have arrived to help. It was not until Saturday that the Puerto Rican government said it had the federal funding needed to bring in more workers.
And until a week ago, the small Montana company hired to get the lights back on had only 165 workers on the ground; it now has about 300. In comparison, 5,300 workers from outside the region converged on coastal Texas in the days after Hurricane Harvey to restore a power loss that was about a tenth the size, said Larry Jones, a spokesman for AEP Texas. Electricity was back on for almost everyone within two weeks.
In Florida, 18,000 outside workers went in after Hurricane Irma knocked out electricity to most of the state last month, according to FPL, Florida’s largest power company.
In Puerto Rico, the brunt of the work has been left to the 900 members of local crews.
Industry experts said poor planning, a slow response by power officials and Puerto Rico’s dire financial straits had led to a situation that would be unfathomable in the continental United States. Logistical challenges — like where to house the thousands of extra workers needed to get the lights back on — still have not been resolved.
“Thirty days after the storm, I see very little progress,” said Eduardo Bhatia, an opposition senator who in 2014 wrote an energy reform law. He added, “I don’t see the boots on the field doing the work, and that is a tragedy.”
At the White House on Thursday, President Trump said the administration deserved a 10 for its response to the hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo declared Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential election did not alter the outcome, a statement that distorted spy agency findings.
“The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” Pompeo said at a security conference in Washington.
His comment suggested — falsely — that a report released by U.S. intelligence agencies in January had ruled out any impact that could be attributed to a covert Russian interference campaign that involved leaks of tens of thousands of stolen emails, the flooding of social media sites with false claims and the purchase of ads on Facebook.
A report compiled by the CIA and other agencies described that Russian operation as unprecedented in its scale and concluded that Moscow’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process and help elect Donald Trump.
But the report reached no conclusions about whether that interference had altered the outcome — an issue that U.S. intelligence officials made clear was considered beyond the scope of their inquiry.
Isn't that special? This is the guy who's feeding Trump his classified briefing every morning.
Ever since Donald Trump was asked about his curious delay in commenting on the deaths of four servicemen in Niger and, instead of answering, began to brag about how he was the only president to call all the families of fallen soldiers, this ugly story has been festering. Once again, Trump's reflexive self-aggrandizement to cover up for his failures has gotten him into trouble.
First of all, other presidents have of course called families of the fallen and have made many other gestures of sympathy and care. It was a low blow to try to tar his predecessors as failing to honor the war dead. Needless to say, the moment he made the claim that he alone called all the families, reporters went out and started asking and it turned out he hadn't done that either.
after making that ignoble boast, Trump went on a radio show and said that someone should ask John Kelly, the former Marine general who is now his chief of staff, whether President Obama had called him after his son was killed in Afghanistan, which obviously meant that was where he'd heard that Obama fell down on the job. The White House later confirmed this.
Evidently, this spurred Trump to finally call Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the soldiers killed in Niger, while she was on the way to meet the coffin at the airport. He behaved like a boor because he doesn't know how to act any other way. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was accompanying the family to carry out this terrible duty, complained publicly about Trump's insensitive comments which the fallen soldier's mother confirmed. Instead of taking the mature and dignified course and simply apologizing for being inartful with his words, President Trump called everyone a liar and sent out one of "his generals" to clean up his mess.
Kelly has a distinguished record in the Marine Corps and is himself a Gold Star father who lost a son in Afghanistan. I don't think anyone in the country disrespects either of those things. But he is no longer in uniform and has willingly become a partisan political player working for a contemptible leader. When he decided to use his stature and experience to bail out his boss for making a hash of what he calls a sacred issue on Thursday, he sold his own reputation cheaply.
He went before the press and confirmed that Obama hadn't called him, but said he didn't see this as a negative thing. He wondered how any president can properly express himself if he's never been through the ordeal of losing a child, trying to elicit sympathy for poor Donald Trump and the burden he bears. But most presidents read a book or two about former administrations, they reach out to the living ex-presidents for insight or they just generally give a damn about aspects of the job other than holding rallies and watching "Fox & Friends." But this is Trump: He doesn't read and he doesn't ask for or take advice. He's not like any other president in our history.
After delivering what seemed to be a sincere disquisition on the way members of the military and their families face this tragedy, Kelly abruptly went on the attack, accusing everyone but his boss of lowering the discourse and destroying everything that's traditionally sacred in our society.
Kelly said that women were formerly considered sacred and implied that Khizr and Ghazala Khan and his wife had degraded the sacredness of the Gold Star family by appearing at the Democratic convention, conveniently ignoring the fact that the man he's working for is an admitted sexual predator who mercilessly attacked that Gold Star family. (He didn't mention that POWs used to be held sacred as well, or that his boss says he "prefers people who aren't captured.") He angrily decried the politicization of the war dead, although it was his own boss who politicized a simple question about a military mission that nobody wants to talk about by attacking his predecessors' approach to dealing with this sacred duty.
Then Kelly went for the jugular and brutally attacked Rep. Wilson for "eavesdropping" on the conversation between the president and Sgt. Johnson's wife. Apparently he hadn't bothered to read anything about the incident or he would have known that the call was on a speakerphone in the car and the exchange was confirmed by others who heard it. Had he looked into it, he would also have found out that Wilson, a former educator, is a good friend of the family and ran a program Johnson attended called the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, for youths pursuing military careers.
Just like his boss, the president, Kelly never once uttered the name of Sgt. La David Johnson or his pregnant widow, Myeshia.
Much of the mainstream press was predictably breathless over Kelly's forceful performance. Interestingly, many of the military commentators were not as impressed, correctly observing that it was Trump and Kelly who were politicizing the fallen. And the president just kept going:
Chuck Todd said on "Meet the Press Daily" that people heard what they wanted to hear from the reports of Trump's calls, suggesting that if you liked Trump you understood his reported comment, "He knew what he signed up for," as a sign of empathy and caring. I have no doubt that's true. His fans always give him the benefit of the doubt. For the rest of us it's not that simple, since Trump is a compulsive liar who has never shown empathy toward anyone but himself. As George W. Bush famously said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me ... won't get fooled again."
Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama spoke publicly yesterday in rare appearances since leaving office. Both commented on the toxic nature of American politics under our sitting president. But as David Allan Coe famously sang, they never even called him by his name.
“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said during a 16-minute address at “The Spirit of Liberty” event. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”
The scene was remarkable in part because Bush has largely remained out of the political spotlight since leaving office amid low popularity in 2009 and had made a point not to criticize or second-guess his Democratic successor, Barack Obama. Just hours after Bush completed his speech, Obama also made a veiled critique of the Trump era, calling on Democrats at a New Jersey campaign event to “send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear.”
Bush wasn't done. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” he said. The Bush family is not fond of the sitting president, and neither George W. Bush nor his father voted for him, the New York Times observes.
On the stump again for Democratic candidates, Obama was less direct.
""If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them. You won't be able to unite them later," Obama told a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. At a rally earlier in New Jersey for gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, Obama told the crowd:
“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed,” Obama said. “That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”
The past presidents' comments follow on the heels of those by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Monday at a ceremony where he received the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. His target was clear, although McCain too never even called the sitting president by name:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Those words got McCain on the sitting president's fighting side. He warned, "... people have to be careful because at some point I fight back," he told a talk show. "But at some point I fight back, and it won't be pretty."
Good luck with trying to intimidate people who won't be, Mr. President. Maybe that's why he's so sensitive about the size of his "hands." He's shooting blanks.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn is frustrating both administration officials and conservative movement leaders by holding up the confirmation of Russ Vought to be Mick Mulvaney's right hand man at the Office of Management and Budget.
Cornyn — a member of Senate leadership who has a strong say over the floor schedule — has made it clear that Vought will be held up until he gets more funding for Texas' hurricane relief, according to three sources close to the situation. It's unclear how Cornyn has phrased his demand or how much extra money, exactly, he's asking for, but his message has been heard loud and clear by top Trump administration officials.
Maybe he can throw them some paper towels instead.
“I would give myself a 10” out of 10. I think we’ve done a really great job and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from the governor and we are getting there and people are really seeing the effort that’s been put into Puerto Rico”
If you feel like watching a Halloween horror story check out the whole press conference with the Governor of Puerto Rico. Oh my God. He's so ... dumb.
Is vote suppression a problem in close elections? Why do you ask?
Well look here. Ari Berman of Mother Jones, who literally wrote the book on the voter fraud fraud, has a scoop:
On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.
Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”
A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year
The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention. When it did, it was often dismissive. Two days after the election, Talking Points Memo ran a piece by University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen under the headline “Democrats Blame ‘Voter Suppression’ for Clinton Loss at Their Peril.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was “a load of crap” to claim that the voter ID law had led to lower turnout. When Clinton, in an interview with New York magazine, said her loss was “aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” the Washington Examiner responded, “Hillary Clinton Blames Voter Suppression for Losing a State She Didn’t Visit Once During the Election.” As the months went on, pundits on the right and left turned Clinton’s loss into a case study for her campaign’s incompetence and the Democratic Party’s broader abandonment of the white working class. Voter suppression efforts were practically ignored, when they weren’t mocked.
Stories like Anthony’s went largely unreported. An analysis by Media Matters for America found that only 8.9 percent of TV news segments on voting rights from July 2016 to June 2017 “discussed the impact voter suppression laws had on the 2016 election,” while more than 70 percent “were about Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and noncitizen voting.” During the 2016 campaign, there were 25 presidential debates but not a single question about voter suppression. The media has spent countless hours interviewing Trump voters but almost no time reporting on disenfranchised voters like Anthony.
Three years after Wisconsin passed its voter ID law in 2011, a federal judge blocked it, noting that 9 percent of all registered voters did not have the required forms of ID. Black voters were about 50 percent likelier than whites to lack these IDs because they were less likely to drive or to be able to afford the documents required to get a current ID, and more likely to have moved from out of state. There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election. Clinton’s failings, James Comey’s 11th-hour letter, Russian interference, fake news, sexism, racism, and a struggling economy in key swing states all contributed to Trump’s victory. We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.
And no, it's not good enough to say that Democrats are at fault because they don't win with a big enough margin that the other side can't steal it. That's not how this works. There will always be close elections and there is no reason why these malevolent wingnuts should be able to win by keeping Democrats from voting. Only suckers would blame themselves for this.
A collection of right-wing websites teamed up with half-term nitwit Sarah Palin to spread a fake news story that appeared to pin the Northern California wildfires that have tragically killed at least 40 people onto an immigrant man who was arrested at a park in Sonoma, California.
Jesus Fabian Gonzales—who “often sleeps in the park and is well-known to law enforcement”—was arrested Sunday after starting a small fire that he says he lit to stay warm, and one that “was so small a responding sheriff’s deputy was able to mostly put it out before firefighters arrived.” Gonzales was taken into custody without incident for one count of arson, but by Tuesday, Breitbart, InfoWars, and other sites were blaring sensationalist headlines, including one that stated that the “homeless arsonist behind Calif. wildfire that killed 40 people is an illegal alien”:
Breitbart News and InfoWars offered no evidence to link the man’s arrest to the fires and their accounts of the man’s arrest were disputed the same day by Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.
“There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all,” Giordano said in a news conference also broadcast on the department’s Facebook page and area TV stations. “I just did want to kill that speculation right now so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”
Speculation from, say, Palin, who tweeted that “bet you not a single mainstream news organization is going to cover this story. Not PC or something.” No, it’s just fake, dumbass. In fact, USA Today notes that Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that “the only questions Breitbart News and InfoWars asked were about Gonzales's ethnicity and whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a detainer on him, which would hold him for an additional 48 hours at the jail.” It’s almost like they have an agenda here!
There's more at the link. It's just, dare I say it,deplorable.
Sometimes I think Donald Trump is trying to drive us all crazy. The relentlessness of the lies, the bizarre behavior and the overall chaos are just plain nuts. We've never experienced anything like this. Well, actually, there is one precedent, the monarch who was on the throne of England when America declared its independence. But that was a very long time ago. Since then we've had good leaders and bad leaders, some were even great while others were actual criminals. But this non-stop presidential pandemonium is unprecedented. And it's downright discombobulating.
In order to keep a grip on reality, it's tempting to try to find logic behind all the activity and ascribe the confusion to some sort of underlying strategy. You observe a wily character like Steve Bannon and read about his bizarre fringe philosophy of "disruption" to bring on some sort of global denouement and you read that he literally called Donald Trump "a blunt instrument for us" and you figure this might just be a big act in service of his ominous vision. Whenever Trump steps in it with an inappropriate tweet or behavior a torrent of commentary follows insisting that it's just a distraction for some other inappropriate tweet or behavior. It's understandable. It's frightening to think that the president's confidantes are all extremists and amateurs while the president himself creates chaos out of sheer incompetence.
On Wednesday Politico reported a startling poll result which the president tweeted when he saw it on Fox news:
"46% of Americans think the Media is inventing stories about Trump & his Administration." @FoxNews It is actually much worse than this!
This obviously made him very happy. And, needless to say, despite his absurd assertion that it's "much worse than this" that number is higher than one might expect.
The poll showed that 46% did believe that the news media was fabricating stories about Donald Trump and:
Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.
More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.
Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.
So, assuming this poll is a correct reflection of the public's view on this subject, most of the people who think the media is inventing stories about Donald Trump are Republicans and Trump supporters. That makes sense. That would account for between 35 and 40 percent. But what about the rest? Well, frankly I think they simply can't believe what they see and hear because it's --- unbelievable. It's more plausible to think the news media is making it up, especially for people who don't follow closely and only pay attention in passing. It simply can't be this bad.
I am among the 37% who believe the president is exactly what we see: an unqualified, wealthy egomaniac who won the presidency on a fluke and is in so far over his head that he's incapable of doing the job. But I can see that he has done something by accident, out of sheer defensiveness, that is powerfully disorienting: he's created a Big Lie.
"The Big Lie" is, of course, one of Hitler's "insights" so it's always dicey to even mention it in terms of any contemporary politician. And it also implies a conscious strategy which does not apply in this instance. But the idea that people are more inclined to believe a big lie rather than a small one simply because they can't fathom anyone being so audacious as to fabricate something literally unbelievable does describe this current phenomenon.
And you wind up going down the rabbit hole when you try to unpack it. Trump's Big Lie is that the news media is telling the Big Lie.
For instance, Trump has done something completely bizarre from the very beginning of his campaign. At his rallies he always says that the cameras won't show the crowd and that they have cut away from his speech. He says this as the cameras are clearly on and are panning the crowd. He knows that most people are seeing his rallies on television. He follows his coverage with fanatical attention. He's saying "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and because it's so frightening to think anyone could lie so shamelessly, many people are choosing to believe him.
Now it must be said that the news media bears some responsibility for this. For years they had played along with a right wing that cynically created the "liberal bias" trope in order to slant the news in their direction.It took Donald Trump viciously attacking them personally for them to challenge it head on. Their behavior during the Clinton and Bush years, as well as their contemptuous coverage of Hillary Clinton in this last campaign, had severely degraded their credibility with members of the public from across the political spectrum.
They are waking up to the consequences of years of excusing and enabling the right's undemocratic tactics but have yet to fully account for their role in it. After all, they eagerly embraced the last Republican Big Lie: the invasion of Iraq. It's undoubtedly the case that some number of those who think they're fabricating news stories today remember that.
Nonetheless, if nearly half the country believes the fake news that the news is fake, and the other half is being gaslit, we have an even bigger problem on our hands than Donald Trump. It means we're losing our grip on reality itself. This has happened before in history and it didn't end well. That's why it's important to keep your eyes focused and your ears open to what is happening even if it makes you feel crazy. You're not.
The JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan,
via Wikimedia Commons
Like Jesus the carpenter, I am a tradesman. Just without the sandals and his deep compassion and charity. My sin is, I don't aspire to be an entrepreneur. Unlike the sitting president, many of us just don't have the genes for entrepreneurship. Judging by policies that get the most traction in Washington, that makes us second-class citizens.
See, to be an entrepreneur is to be ennobled. A saint among citizens. A star in the capitalist firmament. Someone to make your mother proud. A job creator.
This is the gospel according to the ruling class, Ayn Rand, Horatio Alger, the Heritage Foundation and a heavenly host of other conservative think tanks. And quite a lot of politicians on either side of the aisle.
As venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said so memorably, "It's a small jump from job creator to The Creator. This language was not chosen by accident." It is, he said, a claim on status and privileges.
The business community let out a mighty, "We are not amused."
One of the stepping stones on the path to the Crash of 2008 was the Bush effort to create an "ownership society." Everybody should own a home. It is the American Dream and everyone should have one. Can't afford one? Not a problem. Financial wizards on Wall Street and their mortgage-backed securities could put you in a new home with no money down and no net cash flow. And then put your family out in the street when it all came crashing down.
Bankers did, by the millions, as David Dayen again details in a post this week for The Nation. Wall Street even paid its fines through fraud, according to a lawsuit now being heard in US District Court in New York City:
JPMorgan, it appears, was running an elaborate shell game. In the depths of the financial collapse, the bank had unloaded tens of thousands of toxic loans when they were worth next to nothing. Then, when it needed to provide customer relief under the settlements, the bank had paperwork created asserting that it still owned the loans. In the process, homeowners were exploited, investors were defrauded, and communities were left to battle the blight caused by abandoned properties. JPMorgan, however, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, thanks to using other people’s money.
Federal appointees at the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight signed off on the JPMorgan. Former North Carolina congressman Brad Miller, a longtime advocate for financial reform, told Dayen:
“No one in Washington seems to understand why Americans think that different rules apply to Wall Street, and why they’re so mad about that,” said former congressman Miller. “This is why.”
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Douglas Schoen, a former Clinton White House senior political adviser, however, is not amused that many Democrats are insufficiently appreciative of the money Wall Street wizards have to offer its candidates, nor of all of the wonderful things they do. In his New York Times op-ed, he argues that Hillary Clinton’s "lurch to the left" cost her the election in this "center-right, pro-capitalist nation."
Therefore, "Democratic leaders must prioritize entrepreneurship, small-business growth and the expansion of job-training and retraining programs." Democrats need to partner more closely with a financial sector. "The financial industry brings to market the world’s most innovate products and platforms that expand the economy and create jobs."
You can never enough entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'. And people complain Democrats don't represent working people anymore. Where do they get such ideas?
The notion that policy should tilt towards entrepreneurs aspiring to be "job creators" devalues real people who work for a weekly paycheck. They take pride in what they do whether or not they are business owners. As Hanauer pointed out, it is consumption that drives the economy. You can't have entrepreneurs entrepreneurin' without consumers consumin'. And working people are the ones getting short-changed in Washington, not the entrepreneurs and the financial industry. As Miller suggested, people outside Washington know it too well.
Part of the impetus behind the ownership society was to create more Republican voters. The theory was that paycheck workers tend to think like and vote for Democrats. Mold them into property owners and you create conservative voters resentful of government programs that helped get them there and of safety net programs that still serve neighbors now beneath them on the social ladder. Not to be all "class warfare" or anything.
What Democrats like Schoen argue for is another version of the ownership society. If only everyone was an entrepreneur, they would think and vote like entrepreneurs. Uh, wait....
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.
The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.
The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP's account termination.
The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons."
Two days before election day, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a post by @Ten_GOP regarding Hillary Clinton’s email.
“Mother of jailed sailor: 'Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info' #hillarysemail #WeinerGate” the tweet reads.
Three weeks before the election, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, retweeted a separate post from @Ten_GOP.
“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: "Tell The Truth!" RT if you are also done w/ biased Media!” the tweet read.
President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.
“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.
Trump Jr. also retweeted the account on Election Day.
“This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” the account wrote.
Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn retweeted the Russian-backed troll account at least once. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before it was removed from Twitter in August for its ties to Russian propaganda.
The account notably pushed for Flynn’s reappointment as Trump’s national security advisor, a job Flynn lost after press revelations that he’d lied about his telephone discussions with the Russian ambassador after the election hacks. It also repeatedly pushed Breitbart-backed talking points, including a fake news story about a gang rape in Twin Falls, Idaho that merited dozens of articles from Breitbart News.
Flynn Jr. will likely receive a Senate subpoena after he refused to be interviewed for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, ABC News reported on Tuesday.
Former Trump campaign advisor and longtime confidante of the president Roger Stone retweeted the account three times in 2017, twice to rail against commentators on CNN.
On the same day as the account’s permanent ban, @Ten_GOP was caughtpassing a photo of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade in Cleveland as a picture of the crowd gathered outside a Trump rally in Phoenix.
Last March the account was one of the most active in promoting WikiLeaks’ first big release of CIA documents, using the occasion to float the false claim that the so-called “Vault 7” documents acquitted Russia in the hack of the Democratic National Committee. “BREAKING: Obama’s CIA posed as RUSSIAN HACKERS to disguise their dirty work,” read one of the tweets. “The ‘Russian hacking’ was a false flag by the CIA. It was done to give Obama a reason to spy on Trump!,” read another.
Overt Russian propaganda outlets Sputnik and RT frequently used @Ten_GOP’s tweets in their news stories, including a story titled “Russia has no compromising info on Trump or Clinton, report is ‘total bluff’ — Kremlin.”
Far right news sites The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars quoted the account in articles several times.
Fox News cited @Ten_GOP as its sole example of a “Trump fan” in an article titled “Trump fans call for Kellogg's boycott after brand pulls Breitbart ads” last December.
Former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian cyberattacks, told The Daily Beast that this is “exactly what I was talking about” in his testimony in March.
“If what you said is true, I’d say, ‘My job is done,’” said Watts. “If this account is definitely an (Internet Research Agency) account, it proved Russian Active Measures (like the 2016 propaganda campaign) works, because Americans will use it against other Americans.”
Watts said the content of these pages is “made to look organic” so that “Americans will use it against their political enemies.”
“If you take rumors, false information, plants, and just repeat them, you’re doing the job of a foreign country. They are seeding out information or narratives they know candidates or partisans will use. They were so effective, they had the very top people in the campaign using it,” said Watts.
“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”
Jeff Sessions just can't keep his stories straight
Sessions testified before congress about the Russia investigation today. It didn't go well:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday offered a revised account of his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. During his confirmation hearing in January he falsely claimed he had no contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign—when he was a prominent supporter of Donald Trump—but subsequently acknowledged he had met with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States. He insisted, however, that they did discuss any campaign-related issues. Yet while testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, he switched his story again, noting that it was possible that Trump campaign positions did come up with the Russian ambassador.
Sessions spoke with Kislyak on at least three occasions: in April at a Trump foreign policy speech at Washington’s Mayflower hotel; at the Republican National Convention in July; and at an August meeting in his Senate office. But during his confirmation hearing in January he said there had been no contact between him and any Russians.
After the the Washington Post on March 1 reported Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak, Sessions said his conversations with the ambassador were cursory and related to his work as a senator, not his status as a Trump adviser. “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said later that month when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
In June, appearing before the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions altered his story again, saying, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”
On Wednesday, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pressed Sessions on his contacts with Kislyak, the attorney general once more shifted his account, leaving open the possibility that campaign-related matters may have arisen. “I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign other than it could have been in the meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,” he said. “I think that’s possible.”
Sessions also told Leahy he “did not recall” if he discussed emails—the Vermont senator seemed to be referring to the emails hackers stole from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign—with any Russian officials. Leahy, a former prosecutor, said that Sessions had shifted from issuing flat denials about the nature of his contacts with Russians to now saying that he could not recall his conversations. Leahy later told reporters that Sessions had changed his story and given “false testimony” in January.
Sessions reacted indignantly to Democrats who challenged him about his interactions with Kislyak. He accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who pressed Sessions to explain his shifting accounts, of treating him unfairly and “improperly framing the subject.” Sessions declined Franken’s request that he answer questions simply. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to his charges without having a chance to respond,” Sessions said. “Give me a break.”
Grassley said later in the hearing that former FBI Director James Comey in March gave a classified briefing to Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s top Democrat, regarding Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak. (In June the Washington Post reported that intelligence intercepts did indicate that Sessions had discussed campaign-related matters with Kislyak, who then shared this information with Moscow.) But Grassley added that the FBI has refused to share the information with other members of the committee.
President Trump appeared to distance himself further from a bipartisan Senate health-care effort Wednesday, warning against “bailing out” insurance companies.
“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” Trump wrote on Twitter. He was referring to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who forged a deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that was released Tuesday and was greeted by ample GOP skepticism.
The president’s tweet Wednesday was his latest conflicting statement about the Alexander-Murray plan.
The compromise would authorize payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage in exchange for granting states greater flexibility to regulate health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
That's Bannon talking, telling him that "bailing out insurance companies" is a good talking point. They may even think they can pull over some lefties with that disingenuous line.
Here's the problem. All of the GOP repeal and replace bills include huge payments to insurance companies. Not that Trump's dipshit supporters know or care. Still, it seems worth pointing out that this is a stupid "populist" line that isn't true.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) sat down with Mike Allen immediately after getting off the phone with President Trump, who called to encourage him about the bipartisan health care bill he announced yesterday with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Trump told Alexander that he supports the effort, is glad they're trying, but still needs to review the deal to "reserve his options."
Alexander's bottom line: "Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday," by calling me repeatedly and asking Sen. Murray to be a part of it. "He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term."
Yes, but: Minutes later, Trump tweeted: "I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care."
House Speaker Paul Ryan's take: "The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare," Doug Andres, Ryan's press secretary, told Axios.
It truly is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. We'll be so lucky to live through this.
So why DID he fire Comey then?
So Trump didn't fire Comey over the Russia investigation and he didn't fire him for the official reason --- that he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly during the election:
I guess I'll go with the reason I've always thought played a huge role in Trump's decision making. Comey is taller than Trump. He doesn't like that.
Of course he hasn't called the families of all the fallen soldiers
by digby Yes, he lied:
Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.
He placed himself at the top of the list, saying on Tuesday, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.
But AP found relatives of four soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received calls from him. Relatives of two also confirmed they did not get letters. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump — took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.
After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences and wrote him that “some days I don’t want to live.”
In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, “lovely.”
I'm sure he'll say the one who didn't hear from his is a liar and that AP is fake news. And his people will believe him. They believe everything he says.
But it really is calumny to lie about the other president's being less caring towards the fallen than he is. It's really low. This is a burden that they all care about, even the bad ones, although I'm pretty sure that excludes Trump since he's a sociopath and doesn't really care about anything but himself.
Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.
Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said on Fox News radio.
A White House official said later that Obama did not call Kelly but not respond to questions whether some other sort of outreach was made. Kelly, who was absent from a pair of public White House events on Tuesday, was sitting near the president in his tax meeting on Wednesday but did not address reporters.
Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”
For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.
Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but “other presidents did not call.”
He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.
But that hasn’t happened.
No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war’s bloodiest stages. But they often do.
Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.
Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.
Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.
“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”
He didn't bother to learn the fallen soldier's name before he called his widow. And he still doesn't know her name either.
Of course, he doesn't care to know them. He prefers soldiers who don't get killed, ok?
As I have noted in many Salon columns over the past year, Donald Trump has been saying from the beginning of his term that he believed the best political move he could make with respect to health care would be to sabotage it and blame the Democrats. On Jan. 11, while Barack Obama was still president, Trump held a press conference and said:
We don’t wanna own it, we don’t wanna own it politically. They own it right now. So the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time.
For Trump, everything in life is about taking credit for things he hasn't done and blaming others for things he has done. This is how he defines "winning."
The Republicans in Congress talked him out of that approach, because they understood that they would own whatever happens with health care. They now have total control of the government (at least in theory) and are expected to fix problems in the American health care system. Three days after he made that comment, Trump told The Washington Post he had a plan that just needed some final tweaking:
We're going to have insurance for everyone. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us. It's very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven't put it in quite yet but we're going to be doing it soon.
He lied, obviously. He had no plan. What he may not have realized was that Republicans in Congress didn't have one that he could take credit for either. They spent the best part of a year trying to cobble together something they could describe as "repeal and replace," tuck some fat tax cuts inside it and call it a day. They tried and, as we know, they failed. Trump has been flailing around ever since, trying to evade responsibility, desperate to spin this abject defeat as a win.
At one point he simply denied that it had happened that way, weirdly claiming that the Senate had the win in the bag but a senator was in the hospital. He may have been conflating John McCain's absences for cancer treatment with the fact that McCain dramatically voted no on the "skinny repeal" bill, but in any case, it was delusional. There was no senator in the hospital and Republicans simply did not have the votes.
As it happens, through negotiations in the Senate over the course of several months, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had worked on a bipartisan deal to shore up the Affordable Care Act, which did have some issues that needed to be addressed. They were reportedly making serious progress after the first vote failed in the Senate, until Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., decided to stage a final push for "repeal and replace." Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Alexander to stand down.
That didn't work either and, sullen over his bad press, Trump decided last week to go back to his own favored plan. That was when he pulled the plug on the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs), the government's payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Combined with other administration policies, such as reducing the funding used to promote the sign-up period and pay the workers who guide customers through the process, it amounts to the kind of sabotage that Trump suggested back in January.
On Tuesday, however, Trump abruptly announced that Alexander and Murray had come up with what he called a "short-term fix," sounding as though he were going to back it. Despite the fact that the two senators had been working on this for months, Trump tried to take credit by claiming that his hardball tactics with the CSRs had forced them to come together and hammer out a deal.
At this point, nobody knows if anything will actually come of this. The House didn't seem to know anything about the Alexander-Murray plan, which is kind of a problem. Trump himself seemed to backtrack, tweeting later in the day, “any increase in ObamaCare premiums is the fault of the Democrats for giving us a ‘product’ that never had a chance of working” and then, in a speech before the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday night, saying, "I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies." So who knows what he's really doing?
As a candidate, Donald Trump sold himself as a deal maker. As president, he's governing more as a hostage taker. Across an array of domestic and foreign challenges, Trump's go-to move has become to create what amounts to a political hostage situation. He's either terminating, or threatening to terminate, a series of domestic and international policies adopted by earlier administrations -- and insisting that others grant him concessions to change his mind.
Brownstein cites the health care gambit but also talks about how Trump is attempting similar maneuvers with his threats to withdraw from NAFTA, rescinding the DACA executive order and a full array of dangerous foreign policy provocations. Essentially, he's creating crises for others to fix so that he can take the credit -- or blame the other parties for failing to meet his demands.
The problem is that it never really works. He seems to believe that threatening to kill the hostages gives him leverage. It doesn't. As Brownstein notes, it more often leaves him stumbling around, isolated, with his opposition hardened and his allies divided and forming new relationships against him. It's a doomed strategy.
He's basically holding himself hostage and telling the world, "Give me what I want or the president gets it." It's tempting, right? The problem is that if he follows through on his threat he's going to take a lot of people with him.
In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition. The concerns are in line with ones raised by President Donald Trump, who has publicly and privately insisted he's the subject of a "witch hunt" on Capitol Hill and by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Democrats, meanwhile, are raising their own concerns that the congressional Russia probes are rushing witnesses -- including the testimony of President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner -- as well as stalling appearances of other key Trump associates.
CNN interviewed more than two dozen lawmakers and aides on the three committees probing Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with Trump's team, which highlighted the partisan tensions and suspicions bubbling beneath the surface -- and increasingly out in the open.
Sen. Jim Risch, a senior GOP member of the Senate intelligence committee, said "nobody wants to move this so quickly that we miss something," but added: "The question is how many weak leads can you follow?"
"We're a long ways down the line," Risch, an Idaho Republican, told CNN. "And with any of these things, the law of diminishing returns comes to play, and that's where we are right now, by any description."
"I don't see any reason why it couldn't be done this year," said Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican who sits on the intelligence and judiciary committees, calling for a final report in time to make changes ahead of the 2018 elections to prevent against more Russian cyberattacks.
The comments were echoed among influential Republicans across the three panels investigating potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. And the remarks present a fresh challenge for the GOP leaders of those committees, who are trying to navigate pressures from their members to finalize the inquiries while also attempting to chase down all relevant leads, which take time to pursue.
Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican who is leading the House intelligence committee's Russia investigation, said this when asked about the timeline for issuing a final report: "Absolutely sooner than later. As soon as we get the things done we need to do in order to get the report written and finalized, we'll do that."
Conaway declined to put a date on a final report, however.
Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Tuesday it's still his "aspirational goal" to finish the investigation this year.
Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
In a tweet Wednesday night, Chaffetz reaffirmed his distaste for Clinton and his refusal to endorse Trump — but reversed his plans not to vote for the Republican nominee.
But a foreign country interfering in the election is taking up too much time.
I wish I knew why they were so damned sure the Russian government would always work on their behalf in the future.
I do want to hear some more from them about patriotism, though. I keep forgetting what it means.