Partisanship will prevail

This FiveThirtyEight article breaks down the three biggest scandals of the last 50 years to try to illuminate what might happen with the Trump presidency. The article stops short of saying it, but the take-away is that party loyalty will save even this toxic clown. Those of us who believe that Trump is clearly unfit for office and has already committed impeachable offenses, and who are wondering why in the world Republicans can’t see this, will have no satisfaction.

The article analyzes the Watergate, Iran/Contra and Lewinsky scandals, and points out that virtually every step of the way, only a handful of lawmakers of the incumbent’s party ever voted against him, and that those few who did were “centrists”, an obsolete designation in today’s G.O.P.

The piece notes that,

Even as Nixon aides resigned and the Watergate controversy grew around the president in 1973, many congressional Republicans were arguing that the investigations of the president were overly aggressive. Two future GOP presidents, George H.W. Bush (then chairman of the Republican National Committee) and Reagan (then governor of California), called Nixon and assured him that he could get through the scandal.

Reagan counseled Nixon to hang on because “this too shall pass”.

Even after the Saturday Night Massacre, which many see as the fatal blow for Nixon’s presidency, Republicans stood by him:

The House Judiciary Committee held a series of votes about recommending Nixon’s impeachment in July 1974. All 21 committee Democrats, and six committee Republicans, voted for the first article of impeachment, which essentially accused Nixon of obstructing the investigation of the Watergate break-in. The other 11 Republicans voted against that article. There were three articles of impeachment against Nixon. Nineteen Democrats voted for all three articles of impeachment. Just one Republican did. A majority of the Republicans on the committee, 10 of the 17, voted against all three articles.

Note that the committee consisted of 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans, and that Democrats controlled the House, unlike today, and only a simple majority is required to send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Today’s House is controlled by Republicans, 246-187.

house

What finally killed Nixon was that there were a handful of principled Republican Senators who were willing to do the right thing, notably Howard Baker, the top Republican of the three on the Senate Watergate Committee. Even he let party loyalty cloud his judgement, as he let his aides discuss progress with the Nixon White House.

The Senate at the time of Watergate was controlled by Democrats 56-42. A two thirds vote in the Senate is needed for impeachment, so the task at hand wasn’t as difficult as it is today, where Republicans control the Senate 54-44-2 (2 independents).

But today’s political landscape is completely different than those good old days of simple partisan divisions. Cable news, the internet, gerrymandering, Dark Money, Citizen’s United, and many other factors have produced a state of hyper-partisanship which really has little resemblance to the Watergate era.

This Wapo article, entitled “Only Republicans can stop Trump right now. History suggests they won’t.” says,

Recent history also justifies fears that Republicans will not stand up to Trump. Flake, McCain, Sasse and other senators have all clashed publicly with the president before. But those are just words, and talk is cheap. With the occasional exception when Republicans have been able to spare one or two votes, GOP senators have marched in lockstep with the Trump White House. McCain in particular has continued his years-long pattern of tut-tutting Republican leaders and then voting with his party anyway.

If Flake, McCain and others want to show us they are truly troubled, then they will need to do more than put out a statement. They need to join with Democrats and refuse to vote for a new FBI director (and perhaps even other Trump appointees or legislation) until a special prosecutor is appointed. Nothing short of that is acceptable.

It’s fun to watch Trump’s “disapproval” ratings go up each week and his “approval” ratings go down, but we need to remember (and the man-baby is constantly reminding us) that these numbers do not matter and that those who predicted the election based on such numbers were completely embarrassed.

What matters is that Trump’s approval rating among those who voted for him has not changed at all. It’s holding steady at 88% and will edge up whenever he does something “big”.

What matters is that the electoral map of Trump’s victory remains the same.

county

She’s baaaack…

 

Hillary Clinton has now re-emerged from her self-imposed exile, and is blaming everyone but herself for the disaster her incompetent candidacy has wrought. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve said many times she would have been a perfectly fine executive and I would have loved to have her lead us. But as a candidate, she just never got the knack.

She’s now blaming the FBI for its role in the bogus email flap, Putin, Wikileaks, FoxNews, misogynist bigots, etc. etc. And it’s all true. But it misses the point, which is that if she can’t rise above those things to defeat an insane, toxic, incompetent, lying, racist, sexist, xenophobic con-man and clown, there’s really no excuse but that she was a poor candidate.

She figured she could just coast in as Trump self-destructed, and that simply running as Obama 2.0 was a great platform. It should have been enough. The scandal-free and ethics-first eight years of Barack Obama gave us a miraculous economic recovery from the 2008 precipice we stood on (hard to even remember now, isn’t it?), and gradually disengaged us from stupid and unwinnable military adventures in various parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.

But it wasn’t enough. The voters wanted a transformational candidate with a new message – someone who could break the politics-as-usual gridlock in Washington, and Hillary wasn’t that person. Neither is Trump, of course, but the electorate was fooled into mistaking his bullying, demagoguery, and chaotic doublespeak for something positive. The final price we’ll all pay for this deception is yet to be determined.

Bill Maher says Hillary should go away now, and that her re-appearance verifies all the bad things people think about the Clintons, i.e. that it’s always all about them. He points out she had her chance and she blew it.

I agree. It’s time for the Clintons to get off the stage. All of them, including Chelsea. Let Elizabeth Warren be the first female president.

No Regerts

Form this article in the Failing New York Times yesterday:

While conservatives often decry government spending in general, red states generally receive more in federal government benefits than blue states do — and thus are often at greater risk from someone like Trump

In the map below, the darker the shade of blue, the more dependent on government spending the state is:

map

The states that benefit the most from government spending are, in order of dependency, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, Montana and Tennessee. With the exception of New Mexico, all of these states went for Trump.

mapThe states with the lowest state and local tax burden are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Tennessee, and Idaho. All of these except Delaware went for Trump.

In other words, the people who complain the most about government spending are those that benefit from it the most and contribute to it the least. Go figure.

The NYT article cited a few people who have benefited greatly from government programs that Trump now wants to cut or delete funding for in his proposed budget.

One avid Trump supporter in Tulsa said that Tulsa Domestic Violence Intervention Services “saved my life, and my son’s”. Trump’s budget cuts their funding.  “My prayer is that Congress will step in” to protect domestic violence programs, she said.

Billy Hinkle, a Trump voter enrolled in a job-training program that Trump wants to eliminate asks, “Why is building a wall more important than educating people?”. Hmmm. Good question, Billy.

Tarzan Vince, another Trump supporter in the program, says  “If he’s preaching jobs, why take away jobs?”. We’ll get back to you on that one, Tarzan.

Navy vet Ezekial Moreno, a Trump voter was stocking groceries when he enrolled in the soon-to-be-eliminated WorkAdvance program, which enabled him to find employment in the Aerospace industry. As a result, he was able to move his family out of an apartment into a house, get one daughter violin lessons, and a math tutor for another daughter. “There’s a lot of wasteful spending, so cut other places,” Moreno said. Yes, Ezekial, you put your finger on the problem: it’s those other people that need to have their opportunities cut.

70 year-old Judy Banks voted for Trump to “get rid of illegals”, but now finds the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which pays senior citizens a minimum wage to hold public service jobs and which she depends on, will be cut. “If I lose this job,” she said, “I’ll sit home and die.”

But none of these people regretted their vote for Trump. All said they would vote for him again in 2020. The article says, “Some of the loyalty seemed to be grounded in resentment at Democrats for mocking Trump voters as dumb bigots, some from a belief that budgets are complicated, and some from a sense that it’s too early to abandon their man.”

This WaPo article talks about research they did showing that if Trump voters could do it all over again knowing what they know now, only 1% would vote for Hillary Clinton.

I get why people don’t like Hillary, I really do. And I proudly voted for Bernie in the Massachusetts primary. But when the alternative is a fraud and con-man who is manifestly unqualified for the job by experience and temperament and a million other measures? Come on.

Can it be that easy to get someone to vote against their own self-interest?

It seems like Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” remark bothered them more than anything, like the smartest girl in class was calling them stupid. I don’t know if anyone’s vote would have gone to Hillary if she hadn’t said that and some other things, but the response of many Trump voters like the ones in this NYT piece boils down to:

You think I’m stupid? You don’t know what stupid is! I’ll show you stupid – I’ll cut off my nose to spite my face! Now who’s stupid?!

 No regerts, baby. No regerts.

tat

Treason shmeason

There’s really nothing that the hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 election are going to reveal that we don’t already know.  They interfered. They did it to benefit one candidate and hurt another. They used a third party, Wikileaks, to release information acquired by their own cyber-thieves in order to achieve this. The candidate that was helped openly encouraged them, supported them, reveled in their help, and asserted over and over that our elections were rigged (if he lost).

The Russian motives were to decrease the authority and power of America on the world stage in order to increase their own, to de-legitimize and diminish the very idea of democratic governments, and to install a president that they could easily manipulate through flattery and favorable business dealings while preventing the election of a candidate that would oppose their ambitions.

We’ve known all these things since before the election. The Russians have been spectacularly successful in attaining their objectives.

The situation is further complicated by events abroad that can have terrible consequences for the U.S. and its allies, and in which the Russians are heavily invested as well.  North Korea is on the verge of acquiring the capability of striking the U.S. with nuclear weapons, and the Assad regime in Syria is providing sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah which will drastically change things on the ground for Israel.

Before this election, most Americans would have agreed that any president who defended Russia over information provided by his own intelligence agencies is a traitor and is committing treason. Some Americans still do, but it doesn’t matter because their elected representatives don’t.

This is the moment that Republicans in congress can recognize the wrong turn we have taken, seize back control from their unhinged “leader”, assert their own moral authority and integrity, and impeach Trump.

But they showed no interest in questioning the intelligence heads on the mountain of circumstantial evidence showing the direct collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians. Instead, they were only interested in those who leaked the evidence of such collusion, i.e. Obama administration holdovers in the “deep state”, who are discrediting Trump with their leaking. Or getting it on the record that the Russians didn’t tamper with voting machines (a crime no one has accused anyone of committing), and repeating this request for each state. Thanks for nothing.

comey

James Comey (F.B.I.) and Mike Rogers (C.I.A.)

There will be no impeachment, even if treason has been committed. The victory has already been won: Dark Money has defeated Deep State.

Instead, there will only be 2020 “campaign” events, in which the hearings are ignored, focusing instead on the fact that free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not been signed by any team, and celebrating the fear apparently expressed by the N.F.L. of being on the wrong end of one of Trump’s famous attack-tweets. Two months in to an administration with no accomplishments (but tons of outrageous controversies) and he’s already “campaigning” for 2020? By using the power of the presidency to attack a football player?

Treason shmeason.

trumpouisville

Trump “campaigning”  in Louisville hours after hearing

There will be no apology for the preposterous lies defaming the previous president. Although he repeatedly promised that there will be “big things” revealed “very soon”, nothing is revealed. There is nothing to reveal.  His accusations have been fully repudiated by everyone who could actually support them.  Instead, Sean Spicer will go on repeating that nothing has changed and that Trump stands by his accusations.

There will be no public mention of the great success the “Obama tapped my wires” tweets actually achieved: knocking the scandal that Attorney General  Jeff Sessions lied to congress under oath off the internet, perhaps permanently.

There will be no mention of the fact that F.B.I. Director Comey would not acknowledge until now that this investigation has been taking place since July (Eight months? What takes eight months? Maybe it will take four years, and we can all just forget it!). No, you see, they are forbidden from acknowledging an investigation of “an American person” until it has concluded. Except if it is Hillary Clinton, that is, in which case you can make the investigation public, and then open another one two weeks before the election and make that one public as well.

In the meantime, Judge Andrew Napolitano, the very talented legal mind who divulged that Obama used GCHQ to “tapp Trump’s wires”, has been taken off the air. FoxNews doesn’t like the heat he brought down on them with his nonsense, though the President of the United States thinks the nonsense was just swell.

A couple of days before Napolitano’s idiotic “news” about GCHQ, Tucker Carlson was interviewing Trump and asking him why he wasn’t producing any evidence for his claims about Obama tapping his wires as the intelligence agencies and congress had none. Trump said he “will be submitting things” to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence “very soon.”.  He didn’t submit anything, of course. And then Napolitano took the stage. It seemed perfect cover for Trump: of course the FBI and CIA would deny knowledge of the “tapping”, because Obama went over their heads (in violation of the Five Eyes requirements) directly to GCHQ. That explains it! See? Trump was right all along!

Except it doesn’t explain it. If he were relying on this particular bit of fabrication, he would have had to have known about it at the time of the original March 4 tweets. He only heard Napolitano’s story weeks later. What are the options (other than Trump is a psychotic liar)? That he got the “information” from Napolitano weeks before it went public? That he planted the story with Napolitano when it started to go bad for him? That FoxNews was complicit in the lie and sidelining Napolitano is part of the show so they can retain credibility as a “news” outlet (as if!)? Heads I win, tails you lose.

And what if the Republican congress did come to its senses and impeach rather than just circling the wagons? Does anyone think Trump would just roll over and let it happen? He’d just ignore the whole thing, play some golf, tweet out a few choice words about something his base really cares about, say  Arnold Schwarzenegger and his crappy ratings. The “impeachment” story was a fake. It never happened. It was fake news put out by the Failing New York Times and that loser, Crooked Hillary, to cover up their losing loserness.

Onward.

Why does he do it?

Trump has lately gone on a binge of tweeting craziness and lies about his predecessor. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to de-legitimize our own government, rattle the world, and make himself small in the eyes of virtually everyone.

A couple of days ago, it was Obama “tapped my wires”. Yesterday he invented a bogus statistic about Gitmo prisoners that have been released:

In his impulsiveness, and with his alarmingly  itchy twitter-finger, he couldn’t take a minute to learn that the overwhelming majority of those people were actually released by Bush. Not that knowing this would have changed his tactics.

Of course the bigger question is why tweet about Obama at all? He’s not running for anything and, for lots of good reasons, no president has ever done anything like this before. Obama himself certainly could have said a few things about his own predecessor, but there is absolutely no reason to do it. It helps nothing and solves no problem.

To paraphrase a recent Nobel Prize winner, “The answer, my friends, is polling in the wind.”

As we have pointed out many times before, Trump has no principles. He is a dangerous narcissist whose oxygen is flattery. He cannot function without the upvotes, “likes”, and followers that social media, especially Twitter, provides. He can’t stop gloating that Schwarzenegger’s ratings on The Apprentice weren’t as good as his own, referring to himself repeatedly as a ratings machine.

The reason Trump can’t stop insulting Obama is because Obama (and all former presidents) is absolutely killing him in the polls. Trump, the most prolific “winner” of all time according to himself,  is actually a loser! Trump is trying to drive the public’s opinion of Obama as low as his own, so he can “win”.

gallup averages

trump poll

It’s all a ridiculous game he’s playing and using really dangerous tactics. If you doubt it, have a look at this chart, which shows how a well-timed terrorist attack, like the one on 9/11, can boost your ratings. If you think Trump can’t possibly be considering this, well, I just hope you’re right.

George W approval

 

 

Class trumps gender

One of the biggest mistakes made by the Clinton campaign was assuming that Hillary would have the support of most women. This would be their first real chance at breaking the biggest “glass ceiling” of all, and their first real chance to end the “testosterone poisoning” that has fueled our domestic and foreign policy since the county’s founding. Best of all, she would provide a great model to show all young girls that they can do anything and achieve anything.

But it didn’t work out that way. It was women that gave Trump the election. White working class women. It turned out class was much more important than gender: white working class women voted 62% to 34% for Trump. If it had been 50-50, Clinton would have won the election.

Part of the explanation is that what “working class” actually signifies has changed. It once suggested productivity and sturdiness. Now it’s a euphemism for downwardly mobile and poor. This New Yorker piece notes,

“A significant part of the W.W.C. has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban “underclass”: intergenerational poverty, welfare, debt, bankruptcy, out-of-wedlock births, trash entertainment, addiction, jail, social distrust, political cynicism, bad health, unhappiness, early death.”

Here in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, most of us are subject to the mis-perception that the “women’s vote” consists mainly of like minded sisters: progressive, educated feminists who mostly subscribe to similar views on issues. We think, in general, women will be pro-choice, favor stricter gun control, favor an Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay for equal work (perhaps even “comparable worth”), and so on. We naturally think that women would vote for a like-minded woman given the chance, and Hillary would be the perfect choice. So smart, so qualified, so committed to their causes.

In Cambridge, 650 women at the Harvard Business School united in their dislike of Trump and signed a letter denouncing their fellow HBS alumnus, Steve Bannon, who had been appointed Chief Strategist for Trump. It said,

We are female graduates and current students of Harvard Business School. We represent a wide range of religions, ethnicities and professions. We are daughters, sisters and mothers; native-born Americans and immigrants; Republicans and Democrats.

Mr. Bannon has been described as one of the chief architects of the alt-right movement, a movement that preaches white nationalism, racism, misogyny and hatred. He has repeatedly put forth hateful rhetoric against women, including a radio interview in which he referred to progressive, educated women as “a bunch of dykes.”

But the “wide range”of the women inside H.B.S. is not as wide as they think. Outside Cambridge, in the real world, things are very different. This excellent article, also from the Harvard Business Review explains a lot about Trump’s appeal, the “culture gap”, and why class is more important than gender.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

Hillary Clinton epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.

The lesson here may be that the interests of women and men are, in fact, not nearly as far apart as we thought. But the interests of the “elites” are completely different than the interests of the “working class”.

Check out this article from the New York Times just yesterday, explaining the rationale that various women had for preferring Trump. Prepare to be disheartened.

OK, I get it. I get why someone like Hillary is so unappealing to so many men and, yes, so many women. I really do. But it still must be asked, is there no better alternative than a dishonest, impulsive, narcissistic, belligerent con-artist?

Trump voters unfazed

If you’re wondering whether any of the 60 million people who voted for Trump are feeling any buyer’s remorse, well, forget it. They aren’t. Inauguration, or as we’ve come to regard it, Crossing The Rubicon, is still a few days off, but a clear picture of what we’ll be getting has already emerged.

There will be no tax returns or medical reports released. There will be no divesting of business interests. Mexico will not be paying for The Wall. We will not Lock Her Up. There will be only extremely rare “press conferences” where every question is treated as an accusation and disputed rather than answered. There will be a cabinet of billionaires who are installed despite clear conflicts of interest. There will be daily tweets disparaging any individual who dares criticize the man-baby, and the presidency itself will be thereby demeaned. Russia, historically an ideological enemy, will be our best ally and have more influence on policy than any other. Relatives will be installed in important positions despite anti-nepotism laws. Our president will be hated and ridiculed by virtually every other country on the planet. If a business owner or board-member supports Trump, the bully pulpit will be used to encourage us to patronize that business – clearly an unprecedented (unpresidented?) abuse of the power of the presidency. Any of the 25 million or so people that got health insurance for the first time during the Obama years will now be out of luck.

There’s lot’s more that can already go on this list, and lots more will surely be added down the road. But you get the point.

Despite all these things, however, Iowa voters are happy with their choice. Iowa gave Trump his largest margin of victory, 15%, of any battleground state and are happy with what they got. The New York Times went to Monticello, Iowa last week to talk to the sages at the Table of Knowledge week and reported what they heard there 

tableThe Table of Knowledge

Here is a sampling from that piece of what they said.

They  marveled at how he had forced his fellow Republicans in the House to reverse themselves on gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics. “He’s getting responses; things are happening. He got Congress to turn themselves around with one tweet.”

“There’s no secret the press doesn’t like him, and neither does a lot of the leadership,” he added. “And that’s because he’s planning on making a lot of changes.”

About allegations that Russians have embarrassing sex-tapes they could use to blackmail Trump, one said,  “The way it is nowadays, unless I see positive proof, it’s all a lie,”  He added he was more concerned that government officials might have leaked the material to the news media. “I don’t know if it was classified, but if it was, whoever leaked it needs to go to jail,” he said. “We need law and order back in this country.”

Asked about government programs to aid the poor, one said, “I think they should be drug-testing if they’re on welfare”, and “The welfare system needs to be reorganized – ‘Chicago people’ were moving to Iowa to receive higher benefits and bringing crime.”

One said, “I’m ashamed to say we caucused for Obama” in 2008. My view is he purposely got into the presidency so he could ruin America.”

Another called the Affordable Care Act a form of socialism. He said he had no problem with a candidate who had run as the voice of the working people but was stocking his cabinet with the ultrawealthy. He said, “I know these guys are really rich,” he said. “They may have pulled off a few plays that weren’t exactly on the up-and-up, but they all had to be pretty smart to be billionaires. If they replace their own concerns with the concerns of the country, they can make things really move forward. That’s what I’m excited about.”

Anyway, out of all this, there are two things that particularly strike me.

The first is the guy who said that for him, absent “positive proof”, it was all lies. By this he meant that only if FoxNews reported something would he believe it. The rest of the media was all lies. In other words, there is no “positive proof” that will ever change his mind.

The second is that we now have an answer to the question Trump asked everyone a year ago, “How stupid are the people of Iowa“.