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That Was a Matinee Performance of Bill Barr Covers the Royal Ass

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

“The last stanza of the morning’s performance of the low farce that is William Barr Covers the Royal Ass had the Attorney General of the United States telling Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, that when, at an earlier hearing, he had talked about the possibility that the Obama administration had spied on the Trump campaign, it was just a word that is a word and it just popped right out of his mouth. Bing! Like that. Whitehouse stared down at him as though Barr had grown a second head, and then everybody went out to vote and have a little lunch.

The morning’s performance was shadowed, of course, by the revelation in Wednesday’s Washington Post that Robert Mueller was agitated and upset with the way that his report had been summarized in Barr’s four-page memo released at the end of March. In response, the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to talk about the Steele Dossier, Strzok and Page, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and, god help us all, Her e-maillllzzzzz!

On the other side, the Democratic members of the committee insisted on talking about what Barr has been talking about ever since he put out his memo and pretty much poisoned the well with regard to what Mueller found and what should be done next. Barr tried to tap dance, but he’s not very good at it, and his arguments kept colliding with each other. For example, he kept trying to deny that his four-page summary was actually meant to summarize anything, which, I think we all can agree, is a hard argument to make: that the purpose of a summary is not necessarily to summarize.

In addition, Barr had no answer for the fact that, a couple of weeks ago, while testifying before another congressional committee, he had said he didn’t know of any problems Mueller had with how he’d summarized the counsel’s work. By that time, Barr had received Mueller’s letter expressing those very problems, and he had spoken to Mueller on the phone. Of course, when the chairman of the committee, Senator Huckleberry Graham, starts things off by stating flatly that he hasn’t read the whole report, anything goes, I figure. William Barr is another figure in the Trump Organization wax museum, and he’s melting down like all the others.

 

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2

Donald Trump Is a Vengeful Man

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

“Remember when you were writing a term paper in eighth grade, and you realized that it was supposed to be 1,500 words, and you only had 1,200 in you on the DEW Line or Quemoy and Matsu? You reached for the poetry to pad it out, didn’t you? And your poetry owed far too much to Rod McKuen, didn’t it? Admit it, you slackers.

‘You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii, from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona, from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California.’

That came at the end of what seemed to be an endless State of the Union address by the President* of the United States. We were told in advance that his main theme would be unity, which was hilarious enough in theory, but which turned out to be downright depressing in practice. A lot of attention will be paid (justifiably) to this passage in which the president* seemed to be threatening to stop being president* if Congress kept doing its job.

‘An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.’

And if it fits, you must acquit.

‘It just doesn’t work that way. we must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad. This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate, in some cases years and years waiting, not right.’

OK, put aside the fact that his administration* hasn’t seen fit to put people up for something like 21 percent of the jobs in the government, or that it seems like half the Cabinet is there on temp jobs. This mendacious little stanza was belied by a spectacular denial of the political reality that has existed ever since El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago came down the escalator in 2015.

‘But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.’

Quite simply, if it weren’t for the politics of vengeance and/or retribution, this guy wouldn’t have got any closer to the White House than the afternoon tour.

This is a president* who revenged himself on the Khan family, on everybody who ran against him in the Republican primaries, and who kept Michael Cohen on retainer to threaten to destroy anyone who crossed him. This is a president* who was taught about politics by Roy Cohn, who reinvented the politics of vengeance and/or retribution for the television age. This is a president* who slow-danced with Roger Stone, the master of the dark arts of vengeance and/or retribution, and the man who embedded “his time in the barrel” in the political encyclopedia.

Vengeance and/or retribution is the central animating force in this president*’s life. Without vengeance and/or retribution, he would be a lifeless lump of pasty goo in the middle of a fairway in Florida.

The rest of the speech was lost on me after that moment. That was the gaslight that blinded me to all the others—the horrible and fantastical border porn, the grotesque misinformation regarding the abortion laws passed in New York and proposed in Virginia, the pumped-up disinformation campaign about the glories of his administration*. All of these were awful, but they were predictably awful. They were awful things that have been awful in his awful speeches for two awful years.

That business about the perils of the politics of vengeance was astonishing in not only its brass-balls-i-ness, but also in its barely disguised threat to bring the temple down on his own head if he thinks the hounds are baying too loudly in his ears. If he’s going down, he’s going down bloody, and he’s going to take a lot of important elements of the government down with him. And that, my fellow Americans, will be his final exercise of the politics of vengeance.

Oh, and Stacey Abrams was great.”

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The U.S. Doesn’t Have a Border Crisis. Trump’s Campaign Does.

From New York Magazine, by Jonathan Chait:

In a short, uncharacteristically non-meandering speech to the nation from the Oval Office punctuated by loud sniffing, [emphasis mine, TTPT] President Trump depicted illegal immigration as an urgent crisis. In place of cogent policy arguments, Trump substituted his familiar anecdotes about immigrants rampaging the countryside to commit a series of grisly crimes against law-abiding Americans.

A more realistic assessment was provided by administration officials, who told the Washington Post (as the Post reporter put it), “Trump believes forcing a drastic reckoning by executive action may be necessary given the Democratic resistance and the wall’s symbolic power for his core voters.”

Two words in that sentence, symbolic power, tell you everything you need to know about Trump’s motivation. A symbolic goal is the opposite of a crisis.

The lack of a wall is a crisis for Trump, of course, because it is his most famous policy goal — for many of his voters, probably the only one that springs to mind. Failure to fulfill it may hurt him badly in 2020. It is not rationally connected to either illegal immigration nor to crime. The administration recently claimed 4,000 suspected terrorists crossed the southern border in the first half of last year. The actual number is six.

Amazingly, it is not even a goal Trump himself has pursued with any urgency until this last December. He devoted almost no effort to securing wall funds during the two years when his party enjoyed full control of government (during which he might have leveraged Republican desperation for corporate tax cuts to force them to fund his wall). His 2019 budget proposed to spend just $1.6 billion more on border security — which is to say, he is now demanding Congress give him three times as much as he asked for in his own blue-sky plan. As recently as December 19, he told Congress he would sign a clean bill to continue government funding with no additional fencing.

Trump shut the government down in an impulsive fit, failing to anticipate either the pain the shutdown would create nor any strategy for escaping it. Typically, shutdowns create a political backlash against either the party that is refusing to reopen government absent some political demand (because they’re the ones who won’t simply restore the status quo ante) or the president (because Americans tend to hold presidents accountable). In this case, those are both the same person. Indeed, Trump closed off any chance of winning the debate at the outset by claiming responsibility for the shutdown and even promising not to blame it on his opponents.

In lieu of any leverage, Trump could only assert, “I have invited congressional leadership to the White House to get this done.” He repeated the last three words slowly for emphasis, but it will only serve to underscore his own impotence.

The apparent logic of his speech was that the force of presidential rhetoric would rally the public to his side. But Trump could not even maintain the appearance of believing such a fanciful story. In an astonishing comment to reporters beforehand, the president confessed he didn’t want to give the speech or take a planned trip to the border. “It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,” he said, adding that “these people behind you” — pointing to his communications staffers — “say it’s worth it.”

It’s unlikely even a highly articulate, popular president could escape the mess Trump has created for himself. Trump is none of these things.

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And on the Seventh Day, He Rested…Um, Nope

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — On the seventh day of a partial government shutdown, President Trump threatened on Friday to close the southern border and cut off aid to Central America if Congress refuses to fund a wall.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday. “Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!”

It looks like not being able to go to his beloved Mar-a-Lago is getting on his nerves.

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Comment of the Day

From the New York Times online, by Ed Connor of Camp Springs, MD, responding to an opinion piece written by Ross Douthat:

“Or, as was noted long before the advent of Trump, the greatest predictor of a county voting democratic was the presence of a college in that county. For republican counties, it was the presence of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.”

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Trump’s Firm Grasp of Civics and Other Myths

From Politico, by Trump regarding the caravan of migrants:

“Now we’re starting to find out — and I won’t say it 100 percent, I’ll put it a little tiny question mark on the end, but we’re not going to get it, but we have the fake news back there, fake news — a lot of money has been passing through people to try to get to the border by Election Day, because they think that is a negative for us,” the president told the crowd. “Number one, they are being stopped and number two, regardless, that’s our issue.”

At the rally, the president added that Democrats figured “everybody coming in” was going to vote for their candidates — though he did not mention that only legal citizens can participate in elections, and that attaining nationality and registering to vote is a process that can’t be completed before Nov. 6.

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Some Thoughts From My Favorite Political Writer, Charles P. Pierce.

From Esquire:

“In plain terms, for all his spleen and outrage, Judge Kavanaugh lies about everything. In his earlier hearings, he lied about his judicial philosophy, and he lied about his days as a Republican operative, both in and out of the White House. On Monday, he lied to Martha McCallum of Fox News. On Thursday, he lied about his entire adolescence and his college days.

He lied even when he didn’t have to lie. He lied in preposterous ways easily disproven by common sense. (The “Devil’s Triangle”? “Renate Alumnius”?) He lied like a toddler, like a guilty adolescent, and like a privileged scion of the white ruling class, which is a continuum with which we all are far too familiar. He lied and he dared the Democratic members of the committee, and the country, to call him on his lies. And now, he is a couple of easy steps away from having lied his way into a lifetime seat on the United States Supreme Court. This guy is going to be deciding constitutional issues for the next four decades, and the truth is not in him.

The ballgame pretty much ended when Jeff Flake’s endlessly tortured conscience led him to the completely predictable conclusion that, while Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was “credible,” he would have to vote in favor of putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because, as his official statement said:

“What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law. While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the Constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well.”

Lord, what a putz this guy is. Before the committee began its meeting on Friday, Flake was confronted by a group of women who had survived sexual assault. He tried to hide in an elevator. They followed him in there. This should happen to him every time he climbs into an elevator for the rest of his life.

All that’s left in this sorry epic is to count the votes. We will have the next 40 years to count the cost.

And, an update: Intriguingly, the scheduled Sunday debate between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz in Houston has been postponed. The stated reason? Cruz “will be in Washington, D.C. for weekend votes.” The railroad is picking up steam.”

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Karma’s a Bitch, Ain’t It Mitch?

From The Washington Post by Dana Milbank on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

“And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was resolutely silent until late Monday, when the architect of the plan to deny President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing for 293 days went to the Senate floor and complained that Democrats didn’t follow “standard bipartisan process” by raising the allegations earlier.”

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Trump Blames the Victim. Putin Gets a Pass.

From Politico:

“The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses, and they were able to be hacked,” Trump said in a CBS News interview with Jeff Glor, aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans, too. But, and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses.”

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Trump: “There, there, Vlady. It’s those darn Dem’s fault, not yours.”

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Oh, Snap!

From Politico:

President Donald Trump asserted Monday that the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is unconstitutional and insisted that he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself, a declaration that follows the publication of a letter from the president’s legal team making the same assertion.

In his own retort, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) cited a Justice Department office of legal counsel published in 1974, four days before the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, that reads “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.”

“I know you have attention span problems, but it’s the first sentence,” Markey wrote, sharing a link to the Justice Department document.

 

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