Sunday, November 13, 2016

Last Call For Trump Cards, Con't

Donald Trump of course is exactly who we warned America about, and the notion that he would ever "moderate" his course was always a pipe dream, the plan that he would ever get rid of the nastier elements of his campaign team was an outright lie.  Just look at who his new top strategist is.

Less than a week after his election, Donald Trump has begun to fill out the team he plans to bring with him to the White House. The president-elect announced Sunday that he has selected Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to serve as chief of staff in his incoming administration.

In the same announcement, Priebus' appointment shared top billing with the news that Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president.

"I am thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country," said Trump said in the emailed statement. "Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory. Now I will have them both with me in the White House as we work to make America great again." 

Yes, that Steve Bannon, editor of Breitbart News, the unapologetically racist and anti-Semitic "alt-right" clown is now the person directing the Trump administration's overall strategy.  15 months ago Bloomberg's Joshua Green called him "The Most Dangerous Political Operative In America" for a reason.

It’s nearing midnight as Steve Bannon pushes past the bluegrass band in his living room and through a crowd of Republican congressmen, political operatives, and a few stray Duck Dynasty cast members. He’s trying to make his way back to the SiriusXM Patriot radio show, broadcasting live from a cramped corner of the 14-room townhouse he occupies a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court. It’s late February, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference is in full swing, and Bannon, as usual, is the whirlwind at the center of the action.

Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, the crusading right-wing populist website that’s a lineal descendant of the Drudge Report (its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, spent years apprenticing with Matt Drudge) and a haven for people who think Fox News is too polite and restrained. He’d spent the day at CPAC among the conservative faithful, zipping back and forth between his SiriusXM booth and an unlikely pair of guests he was squiring around: Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s right-wing UKIP party, and Phil Robertson, the bandanna’d, ayatollah-bearded Duck Dynasty patriarch who was accepting a free-speech award. CPAC is a beauty contest for Republican presidential hopefuls. But Robertson, a novelty adornment invited after A&E suspended him for denouncing gays, delivered a wild rant about “beatniks” and sexually transmitted diseases that upstaged them all, to Bannon’s evident delight. “If there’s an explosion or a fire somewhere,” says Matthew Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington political editor, “Steve’s probably nearby with some matches.” Afterward, everyone piled into party buses and headed for the townhouse.

And now he runs the Trump administration.  I was wrong about Bannon before and dismissed him as a joke. I guarantee you I am not wrong now.

This is who they are.

You Get What You Paid For

GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, supposedly a very intellectual policy wonk and details guy, doesn't actually have time for details when it comes to his plans for eliminating Obamacare (and Medicare and Medicaid along with it).

The Wisconsin Republican promised during an interview on CNN that the repeal of Obamacare would lower the costs of health care by providing “vouchers” to poor Americans.

CNN host Jake Tapper noted that many women were paying nothing for birth control thanks to an Affordable Care Act mandate.

“Is that going to end?” he wondered.

“Look, I’m not going to get into all the little nitty-gritty details of these things,” Ryan replied curtly.

“With all due respect,” Tapper countered, “I don’t know that the average woman of childbearing years out there who relies upon contraception provided by health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, I don’t know that she would think that that’s just a nitty-gritty detail.”

“You’re asking me details about legislation that hasn’t been written yet!” Ryan complained.

“Right, but would that be a principle of whatever replaces [Obamacare]?” Tapper wondered.

I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about legislation that hasn’t even been drafted,” Ryan stated defiantly.

Except Ryan is the guy who drafted exactly the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare as part of his budget plan which has been readily available for several years, as the GOP keeps proposing it as draft legislation.  And other legislation that Ryan has written makes it very clear where he stands on birth control and what will replace Obamacare:

Ryan has co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would give fetuses the same rights as human beings. The measure would have also criminalized certain types of birth control. Ryan, who is Catholic, has called the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate a “threat” to poor Americans.

So yeah, if you think birth control is another one of those questions that will be left to the states, wait until the GOP talks Trump into signing laws like this.

Sunday Long Read: The Desertion By Dayton

ProPublica's Alec MacGillis writes the definitive piece on the Democratic party's epitaph in Ohio, and as I've said here many times, as goes Cincinnati and Dayton, goes the Buckeye State.  The numbers of Obama 2012 voters that flipped to Trump here are staggering.  

Yes, voter suppression worked very well, especially in Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, where combined there were 100,000 fewer votes in 2016 than in 2012. But Clinton also lost 10 of the 17 counties Obama won in 2012, including Montgomery (Dayton) and Ashtabula (Kent State U east of Cleveland).

Overall Hillary Clinton got 510,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012.  Half a million, where total turnout in Ohio was 250,000 less than in 2012.  So no, voter suppression did make a difference, but Clinton would have lost anyway here. And she would have lost badly because she lost voters like Tracie St. Martin.

At one small house, someone finally answered the door. Tracie St. Martin stepped out onto the porch, a 54-year-old woman with a sturdy, thick-muscled build and sun-weathered face, both of them products of her 26 years as a heavy-construction worker. St. Martin greeted the women warmly, and when they told her what they were there for she said, sure, she was considering Trump — even though she usually voted Democratic. And when they got talking, in the disjointed way of canvassers making a quick pitch, about how Trump was going to bring back the good jobs, St. Martin was visibly affected. She interrupted them, wanting to tell them about how she had, not long ago, worked a job that consisted of demolishing a big local GM plant. Her eyes welled up as she told the story and she had trouble continuing.

The canvassers gave her some materials and bade her farewell. But I doubled back a little later and visited with St. Martin in her kitchen, which she was in the midst of tidying up, with daytime TV playing in the background. Space in the kitchen was tight due to the treadmill she recently bought to help her get into better shape, which she hoped might make her less dependent on the painkillers for the severe aches she got from her physically demanding job, pills that had gotten a lot harder to obtain from her doctor amid the clampdown on prescription opioids.

St. Martin apologized, unnecessarily, for her emotions on the porch and expanded on what she had told the women from Buffalo: She was a proud member of Local 18 of the operating engineers’ union, which had been urging its members to support Hillary Clinton. The union provided her health insurance and decent pay levels, and trained her for demanding work, which, just months earlier, had required her to hang off of a Pennsylvania cliff face in her dozer as part of a gas pipeline project.

She came from a staunch Democratic family and had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, before not voting in 2012 because, she said, she was away on one of her long-term jobs. She was a single mother with three grown daughters. She had experienced all manner of sexual discrimination and harassment on very male-heavy worksites over the years.

She was, in other words, as tailor-made a supporter as one could find for Clinton, a self-professed fighter for the average Jane who was running to become the first woman president.

And yet St. Martin was leaning toward Trump.

Her explanation for this was halting but vehement, spoken with pauses and in bursts. She was disappointed in Obama after having voted for him. “I don’t like the Obama persona, his public appearance and demeanor,” she said. “I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.” She regretted that she did not have a deeper grasp of public affairs. “No one that’s voting knows all the facts,” she said. “It’s a shame. They keep us so fucking busy and poor that we don’t have the time.”

When she addressed Clinton herself, it was in a stream that seemed to refer to, but not explicitly name, several of the charges thrown against Clinton by that point in time, including her handling of the deadly 2012 attack by Islamic militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya; the potential conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation; and her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, mixing national security business with emails to her daughter, Chelsea.

“To have lives be sacrificed because of corporate greed and warmongering, it’s too much for me — and I realize I don’t have all the facts — that there’s just too much sidestepping on her. I don’t trust her. I don’t think that — I know there’s casualties of war in conflict, I’m a big girl, I know that. But I lived my life with no secrets. There’s no shame in the truth. There’s mistakes made. We all grow. She’s a mature woman and she should know that. You don’t email your fucking daughter when you’re a leader. Leaders need to make decisions, they need to be focused. You don’t hide stuff.

“That’s why I like Trump,” she continued. “He’s not perfect. He’s a human being. We all make mistakes. We can all change our mind. We get educated, but once you have the knowledge, you still have to go with your gut.”

Ohio's unemployment rate was 11% in January 2010. By September 2016 it was down to 4.7%.  And yet half a million voters left Clinton, and at least 100,000 went to Trump.  They bought the four years of attacks on Clinton wholesale and literally said that Donald Trump's legal and ethical issues didn't matter to them at all.

As I said yesterday, for Barack Obama to have policies to help people of color was one thing.  For Hillary Clinton to continue those policies cost her the Midwest.  They voted against Romney because he was obviously out of touch.  But they voted against Clinton because they were made to.

But the harder truth is Ohio voted for Trump by a larger margin than Georgia, and about the same as Texas.  It's time to stop considering Ohio as swing, and start thinking of it like Indiana with more people.

It's a red state now and will be for a long time.

Professor Obama And The New Kid

I did not write this, but I wish I had, I found this on Tumblr last night and I'm posting it here in its entirety because this explains everything about Donald Trump's visit to the White House this week to meet President Obama.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the meeting between Trump and Obama at the White House, and here’s the thing.

Obama used to be a law professor. This is key.

Law school is so, so different from college.

In college, everyone expects there to be a “syllabus day,” kind of a grace period where they can show up and get the lay of the land, figure out the bare minimum that they can get away with, the TA gives everyone their office hours, there’s an introductory lecture, and everybody leaves a few minutes early to go take a nap or something. You do the bullshit assignments, you say something in class now and then to get your participation check mark, and figure out how badly you can do on the final and still pass.

But see, in law school, all the methodologies you’ve spent the last 17 years operating under go out the window. Day one of law school is you being thrown into the deep end of the pool—you’ve had a homework assignment for two weeks now, and it’s to read the first 200 pages of your casebook. And now it’s you and the teacher (who is usually as smug as Alex Trebek) gauging and assessing what you managed to absorb while you skimmed through all those pages of reading so you could hurry up and get to the other 150 pages of reading for your next period class, in front of 50 people who are all smarter than you. And if you fuck up, or you didn’t do the reading, you are at the mercies of not just the professor, but the silent satisfied judgment of your peers.

Law school is hard, and it will make you feel stupid and tongue-tied and like you don’t know anything and can’t form an argument—because you don’t, and you can’t. Everybody there has had a 4.0 since birth. Everybody there was the smartest kid in their class, and you’re all rabidly competing for a sliver of a chance at something down the road. It’s petty, and savage, fiercely entrenched in a culture of formalities and ceremony, and exactly like Washington DC.

Yesterday when I was driving home, the NPR reporter talking about the Oval Office meeting mentioned that Trump had thought it was going to be a “getting to know you” type meeting, but that he was surprised when Obama stretched their talk out to 90 minutes before sending him along to the Capitol building where he met with congressional leaders for more lengthy meetings and stuff he didn’t want to do.

And he hasn’t even gotten to the actual job yet.

So think about that as we go into this.

Trump walked into the Oval Office like a two-pump-chump freshman thinking it was syllabus day, and what he got was the first day of law school, and he hadn’t done the reading like everyone else had, and Professor Obama decided to put him in the hot seat.

This was Obama’s chance for the most perfect revenge that would never be picked up on as revenge at all. He was gracious, polite—everything he needed to be for a peaceful transition and a good review from the press. And that would continue when the doors were closed, because that’s the key. Not a Come to Jesus meeting, oh no. If Obama were smart—and he is very smart—he would have treated Trump like an equal, and brought the discussion to a level that assumes far more of Trump than anyone has so far. Assumes that he’s an adult who’s been paying attention. Statistics, esoteric minutiae about the executive branch procedure, economic growth numbers, labor figures, domestic policies, countries Trump has never even heard of, shit that would never in a million years have been in Trump’s campaign soundbites or digestible summaries.

No way to escape. No aides to remember any of it for him. Just the two of them.

Because that’s what would strike a precise chill into Trump. The thundering realization that he’s woefully unprepared for the hard, boring, thankless reality of this, and Obama’s version of a smooth transition won’t and shouldn’t include remedial civics.

That’s what I saw when they shook hands and Trump stared at the floor instead of looking back into Obama’s face. He’s just figured out how little he knows about any of this.

And that should give you a small glow of satisfaction, because after those meetings, Trump definitely has the 1L Terror Shits. In January, the night sweats and insomnia will show up, but for these first few weeks—nothing but diarrhea and self-doubt.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, explains precisely why Donald Trump wants to split his time between the White House and Trump Tower, why Republicans are begging him to leave policy to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and why everyone assumes Mike Pence will be the actual President of the United States in all but name because he's already running things.

It's because the worst-kept secret in America is that Donald Trump will be, by an order of magnitude, the least-qualified president America has ever had.  Everybody on Earth knew that except for Donald Trump.

And President Obama is the person that made Donald Trump realize just how unqualified he is for this job.  As a service to this nation, this meeting may have been the most important in Barack Obama's presidential career.

And yes, Mike Pence is, in many ways, going to be a far worse President than Trump.  Sadly, Pence is at least familiar with how the executive branch of an American state is supposed to work (theoretically) and because of that Pence is much more dangerous in the long run, much like Cheney was to Dubya (only worse).

But President Obama probably saved the planet on Wednesday morning.

At least in the short term.
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