Tuesday, January 23, 2018

THESE TWO THINGS ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE

Michael Wolff says Donald Trump doesn't like his job.
Author Michael Wolff said in a new interview that he believes President Trump does not want to be the president.

"There is nothing to indicate that ... Trump is going to find his footing as the president of the United States, that he's going to be able to put a staff around him ... that knows what they're doing and a staff that he listens to," Wolff told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation....

"In the end, I think that the real truth is he does not want to be the president — the president of the United States," Wolff said. "He wants to be, instead, Donald Trump."
Matt Drudge read this and leapt to the president's defense:
Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge said in a rare tweet Tuesday that President Trump loves his job and is “already talking about his 2020 re-election run.” ...

“Time to call out Michael Wolff and his fabricated bullshit!” Drudge tweeted. “I had dinner with the president a few weeks ago and he was in fine form. He was optimistic, engaged, on top of the world, loving the job. And already talking about his 2020 re-election run!!”
I don't know if either of these guys is telling the truth, but they both could be mostly correct. I'm sure Trump did tell Drudge that he's psyched about his reelection bid -- Trump has been running for reelection literally since the day he was inaugurated. It's been argued that this is a way for Trump to drum up money, but it's also obvious that nothing about being president could ever be as awesome for Trump as running for president was -- all those cheering deplorables, all that adulation. It's probably killing him that he has to wait a couple more years to run again.

Is he "optimistic, engaged, on top of the world, loving the job"? Who knows? Wolff spent time in the White House when Trump was stumbling through early days as president; if Drudge had dinner with him "a few weeks ago," it was probably when the Republicans had passed the tax cut bill. Trump probably thought he'd made that happen, just the way he now thinks he personally ended the shutdown.

But generally speaking? I judge from the reports on Trump's ever-expanding "executive time" in front of the TV and on his frustration at the restrictions imposed on him by chief of staff John Kelly, and I assume he's not having a lot of fun day to day. He clearly doesn't want to do the job as it's normally done. He seemed optimistic and engaged to Drudge when he wasn't in the office. He seemed miserable to Wolff when he was. I assume Wolff is closer to the truth.

*****

Or to put it another way:


IF TRUMP USED CAMPAIGN FUNDS TO PAY OFF STORMY DANIELS, I BET DEPLORABLE CONTRIBUTORS WON'T CARE

It's possible that the $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels came from the Trump campaign:
Did President Donald Trump’s campaign reimburse one of the president’s businesses for the cost of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels?

That’s a question that’s now being asked by the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has flagged a Trump campaign reimbursement filing that sent $130,888.33 in campaign funds to a limited liability corporation called Trump Tower Commercial....

According to the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen set up a separate LLC called Essential Consultants in October 2016 that he used as a vehicle to pay off Daniels in exchange for remaining silence about her past affair with the president....

Given that the payment made from the Trump campaign to Trump Tower Commercial LLC was for roughly the same amount that Essential Consultants LLC paid to Daniels — and given the fact that the payout occurred just one month after the 2016 presidential election ended — this transaction is sure to raise questions over whether campaign funds were used to cover the costs of paying off a porn star.
Is that really what happened? I don't know. But if it is, I'm sure the many deplorables who responded to all those Trump fund-raising emails would be fine with it.

We know the press loves interviewing Trump voters, so in the next round of rural diner interviews, Trump fans should be asked: Would it upset you to learn that the money you gave to the campaign was used to conceal an affair with a porn star? We can be fairly certain that they won't object on the basis of morality.



But wouldn't they have assumed that their hard-earned cash was being used for voter turnout, TV ads, and the like? Wouldn't they regard paying for a porn star's silence as an inappropriate diversion of funds?

I'm sure they wouldn't feel that way. I'm sure they'd just assume that Daniels was a sinister liar who threatened to derail Trump's campaign as part of a Deep State/George Soros campaign to keep the Swamp in power. I'm sure they'd say that, as a canny master of the Art of the Deal, Trump concluded that he had to write a check to Daniels because he was determined to Make America Great Again and that -- alas -- was the price he had to pay to make that happen.

Really, go to Hooterville and ask them. I bet that's what they'll tell you.

****

UPDATE: The Washington Post's Aaron Blake explains why the payment in question probably isn't related to the Daniels scandal. Oh well.

DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE: McCABE'S WIFE WASN'T EVEN THE TOP RECIPIENT OF MONEY FROM THAT PAC

Axios's Jonathan Swan reports that the President wants his FBI director to fire Andrew McCabe:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.
This is part of a long campaign to target and demonize McCabe:
Trump and other Republicans have been hammering McCabe — who was selected by the White House as acting director after the Comey firing — for months on Twitter.

On July 26, Trump tweeted: "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got...big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!"
The president simplifies what happened in that Virginia legislative campaign -- but the story is often simplified even by Trump-skeptical reporters. Here's New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann:
[Trump's] issues with McCabe can be traced back to a Wall Street Journal report that ran shortly before the 2016 election. The paper revealed that in 2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recruited McCabe’s wife to run for a state Senate seat. McAuliffe’s political action committee poured nearly half a million dollars into the race, but she lost. Months later McCabe was promoted to deputy director of the FBI, which meant he helped oversee the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. So where’s the scandal? McAuliffe, like many Democratic officials, has close ties to the Clintons.
Hartmann (correctly) treats this as a non-scandal, but you might come away from her account believing that Jill McCabe received an unusual large amount of money from McAuliffe and his PAC. She didn't. The PAC, Common Good VA, gave more money to two other candidates for the state senate than it did to McCabe -- and the big outlays made sense, because Democrats were trying to regain control of the senate.

As The Washington Post's Gregory Schneider noted shortly after the Wall Street Journal story appeared:
McAuliffe’s PAC, Common Good VA, was spreading money to many candidates, as was the state Democratic Party. McCabe was not the top beneficiary; Common Good VA gave $792,000 to state Senate candidate Jeremy McPike and $770,000 to Dan Gecker, as well as lesser amounts to a host of other office-seekers.
Schneider's numbers are actually a little low. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, McPike received $803,500 from Common Good VA and Gecker received $781,500. (McCabe received $467,500.)

In reference to McCabe, Trump rounds up the total to $700,000 because she also received $207,788 from the Democratic Party of Virginia. (A Democratic candidate for the Virginia Senate received money from the Democratic Party of Virginia! Imagine!) But Gecker received slightly more than that from the state party -- $214,456. And McPike received a lot more from the party -- $535,162.

All this may be moot soon -- Andrew McCabe is said to be on the verge of retiring from the FBI, although Axios notes today that " senior Justice officials are still not sure what McCabe plans to do."

In any case, Jill McCabe didn't receive special treatment from a Clinton friend's PAC, no matter what the president or your right-wing uncle tells you.

Monday, January 22, 2018

DEMOCRATS LOST THIS ROUND BECAUSE AMERICA ISN'T A LIBERAL COUNTRY

It appears thathe shutdown will end soon:
In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats voted to re-open the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.

The Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and continue to negotiate on immigration and spending matters.
Why did Democrats yield? Didn't polls show that Republicans were being blamed for the shutdown?

Yes, but not always by significant margins:
A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted Thursday and Friday also found more voters would blame Republicans in Congress for the government shutdown, 41 percent, than would blame Democrats, 36 percent.
And:
A super PAC allied with Senate Democrats commissioned a poll in 12 battleground states in early December 2017, and it found that in more conservative states, blame for a shutdown would be split between Trump and Republicans and Democrats in Congress. But when interviewers asked respondents about a shutdown that might be tied to the legal status of dreamers, Democrats absorbed more blame.
To understand American politics, you have to absorb one simple lesson from Gallup's ideology poll. The specific numbers change, but the result essentially remains the same:



It's easy to think of Republicans as the conservative party and Democrats as the liberal party. But there are always significantly more self-identified conservatives in America than self-defined liberals. Sure, the gap is narrowing now. But in order for Democrats to be competitive, they need moderate voters more than Republicans do.

****

Some see strategy in what the Democrats are doing today:






I'm not sure I understand how this is a trap for McConnell. In the polls, the same people who are saying now that it's wrong to shut down the government on behalf of undocumented immigrants will be saying it in three weeks. The Republicans will proclaim once again that it's unconscionable not to fund the military. And so on.

On the other hand, the failure to get a DACA deal will mean mass deportations of young people who know no other country but America. Democrats are hoping that will matter to the rest of the country. I'm skeptical. This is an issue that's like universal background checks for gun sales: The liberal/Democratic position has overwhelming public support, but the people who are passionate one-issue voters are overwhelmingly on the other side.

If Republicans prevailed in this shutdown, it's because America, however anti-Trump it is, still isn't truly liberal. We'll see how much sympathy the Dreamers elicit three weeks from now. I don't think it will be enough, but I hope I'm pleasantly surprised.

MAGGIE HABERMAN THINKS MAGGIE HABERMAN IS NAIVE

If you believe that President Trump has no idea what he's doing with regard to immigration, and that aides are pushing him to do things he doesn't want to do, Maggie Haberman wants you to know that you're naive.






So I guess she believes the authors of this New York Times story are extremely naive. The authors are Julie Hirschfeld Davis and ... Maggie Haberman.
... twice over the past two weeks, Mr. Trump has privately told lawmakers he is eager to strike a deal to extend legal status to the so-called Dreamers, only to have his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, make clear afterward that such a compromise was not really in the offing — unless it also included a host of stiffer immigration restrictions.

As the government shutdown continued for its second day on Sunday, one thing was clear to both sides of the negotiations to end it: The president was either unwilling or unable to articulate the immigration policy he wanted, much less understand the nuances of what it would involve.

... Each time Mr. Trump has edged toward compromise with Democrats, he has appeared to be reined in by his own staff, which shares the hawkish immigration stance that fueled his campaign.
So Haberman tells us that Trump exactly what he's doing, which is contradicted by the reporting of Davis and, um, Haberman.

I don't think this is mysterious.

Trump has a few half-formed political ideas. Most of them are knuckle-draggingly right-wing, but a couple aren't. One of the latter is that the Dreamers are "these incredible kids" who should be allowed to stay in America. (The quote comes from Davis and Haberman's story.)

But Trump also likes to hire thugs such as Kelly and Miller -- I bet he calls them "killers," and he regards it as a supreme compliment. The killers are ideologically consistent. On immigration, Trump isn't. Trump wants a wall. So do the killers. Trump wants a DACA deal. The killers don't.

Haberman (in her tweets) says Trump doesn't want to alienate his base -- even though he's clear does that every time he speaks well of the Dreamers. He may believe that his base can tolerate a DACA deal. He knows that his favorite hosts on Fox don't like DACA, but the New York plutocrats he phones every day probably do. And some Republicans in Congress do, even though others, like Tom Cotton, obviously don't. (And they seem like killers.) So confusing!

If Trump can be a racist immigration hardliner and still favor a DACA deal, he must assume that his fellow Republicans similarly find these two positions compatible. He can't square the circle -- presidenting is hard! -- so he tells congressional Republicans it's their job. CNN reports:
In phone calls on Sunday, Trump encouraged Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 Republicans in the Senate and House, to reach an agreement with Democrats. But as he did at the end of last week, he stressed they should come to him with a deal instead of offering his own ideas for a way out, according to a person familiar with the calls.
And if a deal comes, the killers will tell him it's bad, and he'll agree with them, because they're killers and he likes killers. And we'll be back where we started.

This isn't strategic brilliance on Trump's part. He's not faking DACA support while letting the killers be the bad guys. As a rule, he's happy to be the bad guy. But on DACA, he's not the bad guy (or at least not the worst guy). So they step in. And he defers to them and goes back to watching television.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

DANA LOESCH ATTACKED KAYLEIGH McENANY IN 2016 FOR BEING WHAT LOESCH IS NOW

A profile of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch in today's New York Times begins with some criticism (Loesch is a "radio talk-show host and political commentator who views the world through a lens of fear and violence") but ends with a considerable amount of sympathy (in the conclusion, Loesch expresses her regret that she and the profile's author, Laura Holson, were unable to attend church together). In between, we learn about some of the key moments in Loesch's career, including this incident, which perhaps shouldn't be called a key career moment because it seems to have had no negative impact on Loesch's professional life:
... in 2016, Ms. Loesch expressed personal ire at Kayleigh McEnany, now the spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Ms. McEnany had chided a friend of Ms. Loesch’s for not supporting Mr. Trump, then a Republican candidate, during a CNN segment. “Babycakes, this was more than just going on television and flashing your pearly whites and your flat chest, red dress, over-sprayed bleach blond hair,” Ms. Loesch told radio listeners.

This time, it seemed, she had gone too far. Ms. McEnany was undergoing treatment for a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.
But she didn't go too far, apparently -- even though the treatment for which McEnany was preparing at the time was a preventive double mastectomy, to be followed by removal of her breast tissue and then her ovaries, the nine-minute attack seems to have done no harm to Loesch's career.



In fact, with her NRA gig, Loesch's public profile is higher than ever.

And why did Loesch attack McEnany? Because McEnany was an early supporter of Donald Trump, at a time when Loesch backed Ted Cruz. Loesch was horrified that McEnany would back such a loathsome candidate. Here's what she wrote on her blog after she was criticized for the McEnany attack:
This election cycle the most fervent Trump supporters have excused, defended, even cheered a candidate that has mocked a disabled reporter, the appearance of cancer-survivor Carly Fiorina ... and women in general. They mob-rage against anyone who demonstrates the slightest difference of opinion with them on Trump-the-candidate and when faced with feedback or criticism they recoil, as do feminists and Black Lives Matter, in want of a safe space. It's the furthest thing possible from being “politically incorrect.” In fact, this most fervent group's behavior is the epitome of Social Justice Warrior Political Correctness. I pointed this out in my monologue (also here and here) regarding a Trump surrogate who had the audacity to play bouncer of the conservative movement by personally attacking and smearing conservatives I know and claiming that you can't be a true conservative unless you whole-heartedly support Donald Trump. Her statement was asinine and my observation, delivered in the stated style of Donald Trump, was absolutely valid.
Yup, according to Loesch at that time (May 2016), it was outrageous to insist that everyone on the right close ranks and endorse Trump. He mistreated women! And the disabled!

A year later, she was arguing that antyone who resisted Trump wanted to "assassinate" the truth and needed to be opposed by armed members of the NRA:



They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse “the resistance.”

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.

And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

I’m the National Rifle Association of America. And I’m freedom’s safest place.
So it was fine for Loesch and other conservatives to denounce Trump in early 2016, and to attack those who jumped on the Trump train early. But now Loesch is as committed to Trump as McEnany was when Loesch attacked her. Now Loesch says that you dirty hippies better not say a discouraging word about the man. Got it?

YES, THERE IS A DEEP STATE THWARTING TRUMP'S WILL, BUT IT'S MADE UP OF REPUBLICANS

I think President Trump is a racist and an instinctual immigration hardliner -- but I also think he's sincere about wanting a DACA deal. I don't think he grasps the fact that those positions are contrary, because he rarely thinks hard about his political positions. He seems to be more flexible on immigration than his frequently racist, hardline rhetoric suggests -- or he would be if hardliners didn't intervene to prevent him from compromising.

Here's a story from The Washington Post about what happened after the televised portion of that meeting with members of Congress a couple of weeks ago:
After the president ordered cameras out of the Cabinet Room that day, the group delved into the details. Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s homeland security secretary, and her staff passed out a four-page document on the administration’s “must haves” for any immigration bill — a hard-line list that included $18 billion for Trump’s promised border wall, eliminating the diversity visa lottery program and ending “extended family chain migration,” according to the document, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

But one person seemed surprised and alarmed by the memo: the president.

With Democrats and Republicans still in the room, Trump said that the document didn’t represent all of his positions, that he wasn’t familiar with its contents and that he didn’t appreciate being caught off-guard. He instructed the group to disregard the summary and move on....
They don't want him to waver. This time they failed, but of course they subsequently nudged him when he was on the verge of a deal and he blew the deal up because he objected to immigration from "shithole countries." What did they say to him to get him in that frame of mind?

And then as the shutdown deadline approached he nearly sealed another deal, this time with Chuck Schumer. NBC's Kasie Hunt reports:






The Post reports that it was Mitch McConnell who urged Kelly to scupper the deal.
[Schumer] left the meeting buoyed, telling others that Trump seemed willing to strike a deal.

But as the day wore on, McConnell urged Kelly to not give in. Worried White House aides began making calls to their counterparts on the Hill, assuring them that Trump wouldn’t “give away the store,” in the words of one top Republican aide. The president summoned Meadows and Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho), another member of the Freedom Caucus, to the Oval Office for a long meeting, even as aides to Trump and Schumer discussed possible deals in writing.

... At [one] point, Kelly called Schumer, telling the Democrat that his immigration proposal was too liberal and would not work for the administration.

Schumer wondered aloud to his members about what, exactly, had changed.
Right-wingers say there a liberal, anti-Trump "Deep State" working to survert Trump and to prevent him from governing. In fact, there is "Deep State" -- but it's made up of White House aides, Republican members of Congress, and others who subvert the president's will. Sometimes they sneak around him; at other times they play on one of his instincts in order to prevent him from acting on one of his other instincts. Their efforts have surely prevented catastrophes, maybe even World War III, and it's probably unfair to say that Trump is being subverted when much of the manipulation is happening right under his nose.

Sometimes the Trump saboteurs are a force for good. On DACA, however, they're clearly evil. In any case, they're the real secret government, the ones who aren't letting Trump be Trump.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

TRUMP FATIGUE: IT ISN'T JUST FOR DEMOCRATS AND INDEPENDENTS

Axios buries the lede:
Younger Republicans want an alternative to Trump

One year since President Trump's inauguration, a majority of Republicans under age 45 would want an alternative in 2020, according to the latest Axios/SurveyMonkey poll. A huge majority of Republicans less than 25 years old want the president to face a primary challenge.
The number of young Republicans who want a primary challenge for Trump really is extraordinarily high. But take a look at the overall number:



More than 40% of Republicans and Republican leaners want their president to have a primary challenger, and a significant majority in every 44-and-under age group. I know that most polls show Republicans still strongly support Trump, but ... wow.

We know that Democrats loathe Trump, and independents aren't thrilled with him. We know that in some surveys Trump's overall approval rating -- people who like him a lot or a little -- is exceeded by the percentage of respondents who strongly dislike him. But this poll suggests that dissatisfaction with Trump has spread to nearly half of his own party.

So -- as I said yesterday -- why is the mainstream media constantly suggesting to us that "real Americans" are the people who sit in rural diners and tell us how awesome Trump is? Many Republicans would consider dumping him. Why can't political reporters at The New York Times?

Friday, January 19, 2018

CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS LIKE SHUTDOWNS AND THEIR VOTERS HATE GOVERNMENT

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

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

****

I might get up and pour a toast.

****

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

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

****

I guarantee - The sun will rise tomorrow.

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

****

Celebrate.

****

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

****

Pop the Champaign and celebrate,

****

Feinstein said people will die.

I’ll be checking the obituaries ...

LOL

****

What do you mean, Government shutdown????

You mean the government HAS been working????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

So would the media please cover those people accordingly?

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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



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

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

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

****

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

POLITICO'S CONSPIRACY EXPERT IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING

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

He doesn't. He gets nearly everything wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE, 2018 EDITION

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

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

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



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

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

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISEASE HAS NO MORALS

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



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

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





Even Maggie Haberman wasn't buying the numbers.



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

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

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