Paul Krugman on Trump Terror

Paul Krugman - CarrierRight now, I’m feeling more terrified than at any point since the 2016 election. Why? It’s time for some game theory! Start with a clear-eyed assessment of Trump’s character: he basically has negative empathy — that is, enjoys seeing others hurt. Normally, however, one would expect him to pretend to care and maybe even do some good things out of ambition and self-aggrandizement.

At this point, however, it’s clear to everyone — probably even him — that he just can’t do this president thing, and won’t get better. The prospect that he will be removed, say by the 25th Amendment, are getting realer by the day. And again, he probably knows this at some level. So we’re getting into the end game. He can’t save his presidency. He can, however, still hurt a lot of people — and he surely wants to.

So from now on, until he’s gone, I’m going to fire up my computer every morning in a state of existential dread.

–Paul Krugman
13 October 2017 Tweet Storm

Trump’s Grudging Condemnation of White Supremacists

Matt Yglesias - Trump's Grudging Condemnation of White SupremacistsDonald Trump’s statement today on Saturday’s murder in Charlottesville — a grudging, teleprompted address that came only after days of foot-dragging and criticism — is the latest edition of a well-warn tango.

Time and again, Trump loudly and clearly signals solidarity with the worst and most deplorable elements in American life, only to grudgingly back away in a manner designed more to give his fellow Republicans cover than to redress any actual harms.

There was nothing in today’s remarks that couldn’t have been said two days ago, and there was no hint of remorse or self-reflection over the pain his behavior has caused.

White supremacists like David Duke who see Trump as winking at them will, rightly, feel that once again the president’s willingness to take political heat on their behalf constitutes a not-so-subtle thumbs up. Americans who feel alarmed by the growing boldness of white nationalists will, rightly, feel that the president doesn’t take their concerns seriously. But Republican Party members of Congress and conservative media and institutional leaders who were discomfited by Trump’s odd behavior will have the license they need to pretend that everything is fine.

–Matt Yglesias
The Trump Tango Is Tiresome and Pointless

President Trump Won’t Blame Nazis for Murder

President Donald TrumpWhite nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend against the removal of Confederate statues in public spaces. White nationalists attacked counter-protesters on Friday night, punching and kicking them and (reportedly) pepper-spraying them. One counter-protester was killed and several were injured when a car rammed into them after accelerating for over a block.

President Trump blamed both sides.

–Dara Lind
Donald Trump Refuses to Name the Problem of White Supremacist Violence

US Has Never Been a Fair Arbiter in the Middle East

Mehdi Hasan - American Checks and Balances Are Out of WhackTrump’s son-in-law not only lacks the necessary qualifications, experience and knowledge, he also lacks even the pretense of balance or objectivity.

[…]

But here’s the thing: have there ever been “fair arbiters”? From the US side? Kushner, for all his many sins and flaws, is only the most extreme and egregious example of a long-standing and bipartisan trend in US Middle East policy: the appointment of special envoys, negotiators, and ambassadors who see themselves more as advocates and defenders of Israel than as neutral or honest brokers.

Don’t believe me? According to former State Department official Aaron David Miller, who advised six secretaries of state, US negotiators, himself included, have spent decades acting “as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.” Miller has admitted that he, Martin Indyk and other members of the US negotiating team at the Camp David summit in 2000 brought a “clear pro-Israel orientation” to the discussions and that their “departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one — Israel.”

[…]

This isn’t rocket science. “There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker,” observed the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim in 2010.

To be clear: the Palestinians and their supporters are not asking for the United States to attack or even abandon the Jewish state. What they want is fairness, not favors. But thanks to a mixture of factors — US strategic interests in the Middle East; the power of the military-industrial complex; the influence of Jewish American organizations; the rise of Rapture-obsessed Christian evangelicals — they tend to get neither.

Remember how Howard Dean, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, was pilloried by leading members of his own party, such as Nancy Pelosi, merely for suggesting that “it’s not our place to take sides” and that “the United States needs an even-handed approach in the conflict”? The former Vermont governor had to walk back his remarks and confirm that the United States had “a special relationship with Israel.”

In the context of US Middle East policy, “even-handed” is a dirty word. So too is “neutral.” Yet for the past two decades, according to polling data collected by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University, despite a clear majority of Americans offering greater sympathy for the Israelis than for the Palestinians, an equally clear majority says the United States ought to take neither side in the conflict. In 2015, for example, 66 percent of Americans thought the US should “not take either side,” compared with only 29 percent who suggested the US should side with Israel.

–Mehdi Hasan
Jared Kushner’s Pro-Israel Bias Is Nothing New for US Mideast Envoys — It’s Just the Most Blatant

Obamacare and Disingenuous Republican Tutors

Obamacare and Disingenuous RepublicansFor eight years, Republicans drove themselves into a fever-pitch hysteria against the Affordable Care Act without bothering to learn how the law worked. Working from the premise that Obamacare was a uniquely ill-designed law — death panels! train wrecks! — they easily persuaded themselves and much of the country that Republicans could write something vastly better.

Half a year of Republican-run government has systematically exposed the right-wing arguments against Obamacare as bad-faith rhetoric or outright fantasy. One small-business owner, who told the New York Times in 2012 that he opposed the law as something jammed down the public’s throat, was re-interviewed this year. “I can’t even remember why I opposed it,” he now says.

It is not surprising that only this year did the Affordable Care Act become popular. The law’s unpopularity depended entirely on the existence of an imaginary alternative that was free of trade-offs. The populist fallacy that everybody can get better insurance for less money if only the government wasn’t run by morons is seductive. Obama’s wonkish explanations could not expose the fallacy’s hollowness. But the Republicans in power have proven excellent (if inadvertent) tutors.

–Jonathan Chait
Obama’s Legacy Is Finally Coming Into Focus, Thanks to Trump

It’s Embarrassing to Have Trump as President

President Donald TrumpSo I deal with foreign countries, and despite what you may read I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders. They like me. I like them. You know, it’s amazing. So I’ll call, like, major‚ major countries, and I’ll be dealing with the prime minister or the president. And I’ll say, how are you doing? Oh, don’t know, don’t know, not well, Mr President, not well. I said, well, what’s the problem?

Oh, GDP 9 percent, not well. And I’m saying to myself, here we are at like 1 percent, dying, and they’re at 9 percent and they’re unhappy. So, you know, and these are like countries, you know, fairly large, like 300 million people. You know, a lot of people say — they say, well, but the United States is large. And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have. So China’s going to be at 7 or 8 percent, and they have a billion-five, right? So we should do really well.

–President Donald Trump
Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview

Yes, Trump Will Cause a Constitutional Crisis

Greg Sargent - Yes, Trump Will Cause a Constitutional CrisisThe Post and The New York Times are both reporting on what appears to be a serious escalation in the Trump team’s intentions to constrain the investigation of special counsel Robert S Mueller III, and The Post is also reporting that President Trump has privately been exploring the possibility of granting pardons to his family members, and perhaps even himself.

Which means the possibility that we are sliding toward a constitutional crisis needs to be take seriously. Now what?

In an interview with me this morning, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — a hard-charging Democrat on the Intelligence Committee — sounded the alarm in a big way, suggesting it’s time for Democrats to begin serious outreach to Republicans in Congress about sending a united message to Trump: any effort to remove Mueller is unacceptable and will be met with a forceful response.

“What’s important, now, today, is finding a path to send the strongest possible message that firing Mueller without cause would be seen as an attack on democratic values and the rule of law and that there will be negative consequences,” Wyden told me.

[…]

Now, you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s unlikely that Republicans will act to send a forceful message to Trump that such a course of action is off limits. Yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that he had talked to a number of GOP senators who are very critical of Trump’s comments to The Times, in which he suggested that he would not have selected Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe. But most of them would voice their concerns only under cover of anonymity.

Still, Wyden insists it is imperative that Democrats try to get Republicans to speak up. We must “send the strongest possible message to the president now, today, that there will be consequences,” Wyden says.

–Greg Sargent
Are We Heading Toward a Constitutional Crisis?

Shakespeare on Desire — Or “Fancy”

Shakespeare on Desire -- Or FancyTell me where is fancy bred.
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourish’ed?

It is engendered in the eyes,
With gazing fed, and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.

Let us all ring fancy’s knell
I’ll begin it.
Ding, dong, bell…

—William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice

Democrats Lose When They Talk About Nothing

Jon OssoffOssoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s healthcare bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

Much of this was unfair or ridiculous. And the stuff that wasn’t unfair — like the location of his home — is honestly pretty silly. None of this has anything to do with the lives of actual people living in the suburbs of Atlanta or anywhere else.

Ossoff’s team was aware, of course, that the district is not accustomed to voting for Democrats and that he was vulnerable to this kind of attack. They attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes it hard to mobilize potential supporters. And by lowering the concrete stakes in the election, it also makes it easier for trivial and pseudo-issues to end up dominating in the end…

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans…

If your opponents are unpopular enough, it’s certainly possible to win elections this way. But especially for the party that has a more difficult time inspiring its supporters to turn out to vote, that’s an ominous sign. Right now on healthcare and many other issues, Democrats suffer from a cacophony of white papers and a paucity of unity around any kind of vision or story they want to paint of what is wrong with America today and what is the better country they want to build for the future. And until they do, they’re going to struggle to mobilize supporters in the way they need to win tough races.

–Matt Yglesias
Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Special Election Loss Shows Democrats Could Use a Substantive Agenda

It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill Obamacare

Paul Waldman - It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill ObamacareThe fate of the American health care system now rests with a group of allegedly “moderate” senators, who are getting ready to approve a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a repeal bill so monumental in its cruelty that they feel they have no choice but to draft it in secret, not let the public know what it does, hold not a single hearing or committee markup, slip it in a brown paper package to the Congressional Budget Office, then push it through to a vote before the July 4th recess before the inevitable backlash gets too loud.

“We aren’t stupid,” one GOP Senate aide told Caitlin Owens — they know what would happen if they made their bill public. Even Republican senators who aren’t part of the 13-member working group crafting the bill haven’t been told exactly what’s in it.

Today, we learned that in a break with longstanding precedent, “Senate officials are cracking down on media access, informing reporters on Tuesday that they will no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.” Everyone assumes that it’s so those senators can avoid having to appear on camera being asked uncomfortable questions about a bill that is as likely to be as popular as Ebola. As Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News tweeted about the secrecy with which this bill is being advanced, “I have covered every major health bill in Congress since 1986. Have NEVER seen anything like this.”

–Paul Waldman
How the Republican Coward Caucus Is About to Sell out Its Own Constituents — in Secret

All the Republican Excuses for Trump

Brian Beutler - All the Republican Excuses for TrumpIn the midst of the most devastating testimony delivered about a sitting president in the living memory of nearly everyone serving in Congress today, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shuffled before microphones to say that Donald Trump—in trying to interfere with FBI investigations—probably just made an innocent mistake: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Ryan wants us to imagine Trump sitting alone in the White House with only his intellect and his muscle memory as his guides. He asks us implicitly to forget that Trump has a White House counsel, a vice president with years of governing experience, and an attorney general who campaigned with him for a year, all at his behest to instruct him. He asks us, again implicitly, to forget that Trump pierced the veil meant to separate the White House and FBI, to corrupt the rule of law, and that he then fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about why, and confessed—to NBC’s Lester Holt, and to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office—that he did it to remove “the cloud” of Comey’s investigation of his campaign.

It is an article of faith in Washington that no revelation about Trump’s conduct, no matter how severe, could convince Ryan and members of his conference to launch an impeachment inquiry. As dispassionate political analysis, this may well be true. It would certainly be foolish to believe the opposite—that Trump’s impeachment is a certainty.

But for everything we know about Trump’s conduct already, all this means is that the ethical and strategic conduct of Republicans in Congress should now be as heavily scrutinized as Trump’s. Republicans may not know what they’re covering up, but covering up they are; and they may believe they’re acting in their own political self-interest, but they almost certainly are not.

–Brian Beutler
Comey’s Trump Testimony Will Haunt Republicans

Jonathan L Rudd on the FBI and Loyalty

Jonathan L RuddIt is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. This is true for the simple reason that the Constitution is based on lasting principles of sound government that provide balance, stability, and consistency through time. A government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other. The founding fathers sought to avoid these extremes and create a balanced government based on constitutional principles.

The American colonists were all too familiar with the harmful effects of unbalanced government and oaths to individual rulers. For example, the English were required to swear loyalty to the crown, and many of the early colonial documents commanded oaths of allegiance to the king. The founding fathers saw that such a system was detrimental to the continued liberties of a free people. A study of both ancient and modern history illustrates this point. One fairly recent example can be seen in the oaths of Nazi Germany. On August 19, 1934, 90 percent of Germany voted for Hitler to assume complete power. The very next day, Hitler’s cabinet decreed the Law On the Allegiance of Civil Servants and Soldiers of the Armed Forces. This law abolished all former oaths and required that all soldiers and public servants declare an oath of unquestioned obedience to “Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Reich and people.” Although many of the officers in Hitler’s regime came to realize the error of his plans, they were reluctant to stop him because of the oath of loyalty they had taken to the Fuhrer.

–Jonathan L Rudd
Our Oath of Office: A Solemn Promise