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Quote of the Day (Straight from the Horse’s Mouth)

“The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.” —Ann Coulter

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Emergency on the Back Nine

From The Washington Post:

As Democrats push back against Trump’s plans for declaring a national emergency at the border, some are employing a little humor.

“Apparently this thing is such an emergency that it will immediately be followed by golf,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote on Twitter.

He was referring to Trump’s plans to fly to Palm Beach, Fla., on Friday afternoon for a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Golf is frequently on the agenda on such trips.

 

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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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So, God, Much Like the Russians, Has Been Meddling in Our Elections

From CNN:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she believes God wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported on Wednesday.

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there,” Sanders told CBN’s David Brody and Jennifer Wishon, according to a transcript of the interview provided by CBN.

 

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Government Has Been ‘the Problem’ Since Ronald Reagan. Except, Maybe, Until Now.

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

“The White House got rolled on Friday by Nancy Pelosi, to be sure. But it also got rolled by TSA agents, and air-traffic controllers, government employees standing at food co-ops and pantries, as well as thousands of inconvenienced ordinary Americans standing in line at airports. This is more important than the fact that the president* got beaten again by the new-slash-old Speaker of the House.

It was said by more than a few people that the shutdown would prove to be an alpha test for small government. Instead, it became a demonstration that 40 years of that kind of thinking may finally have run out of energy. Without necessarily meaning to do so, those thousands of Americans made the opposite case by standing in all those lines. Without necessarily meaning to do so, those thousands of Americans decided that government was the solution, and not the problem, at least as far as getting from the ticket counter to the jet way.

I’m stressing the whole air-traffic business because that’s where the long slide toward Trumpism began. When Ronald Reagan broke the controllers’ union, he signaled that the federal government was a) open for business, and b) on the side of management, and therefore on the side of capital and not labor, and the Republican Party committed itself to that equation as a matter of faith. Simultaneously, it adopted supply-side economics as its only real policy in that area. And that’s where it’s been since 1981. Until, I suspect, maybe, now.

This particular moment can go either way. It is tenuous and there still are pretty good odds that it may be an evanescent one. It may even be a kind of mirage created by a preposterous president* who seems bound and determined to bring the temple down on his own head. Or he may be the inadvertent catalyst for a renewed faith in our political commonwealth. It’s not often in our history that we have had this kind of chance to see what we shouldn’t ever be. (The last one may well have been the Confederate States of America.) A teachable moment, as it were.”

 

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Wilbur Ross, What Do They Eat While They Wait for Their Loan?

From Politico:

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday said he doesn’t understand why some federal workers are seeking out food banks during the government shutdown, saying they have the option of low-interest loans instead.

“These are basically government-guaranteed loans because the government has committed, these folks will get back pay once this whole thing gets settled down,” Ross said. “So there is really not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis now.”

Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest, but the idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,” he continued.

Federal employees have reported going to homeless shelters to find food for their families, but when asked on Thursday about the desperate measures, Ross replied: “Well, I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” Ross argued with loans backed by the guaranteed back pay, federal workers should be able to find the money to carry them through the shutdown.

 

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“Here ya go. This’ll tide you over until your loan goes through.”

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Lindsey Graham, Political Windsock

From the Washington Post, by (gasp!) George F. Will:

“Back in the day, small rural airports had textile windsocks, simple and empty things that indicated which way the wind was blowing. The ubiquitous Sen. Lindsey O. Graham has become a political windsock, and as such, he — more than the sturdy, substantial elephant — is emblematic of his party today.

When in 1994, Graham, a South Carolina Republican, first ran for Congresshe promised to be “one less vote for an agenda that makes you want to throw up.” A quarter-century later, Graham himself is a gastrointestinal challenge. In the past three years, he had a road-to-Damascus conversion.

In 2015, he said Donald Trump was a “jackass.” In February 2016, he said: “I’m not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump, because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of space there. I think he’s a kook, I think he’s crazy, I think he’s unfit for office.” And: “I’m a Republican and he’s not. He’s not a conservative Republican. He’s an opportunist.” Today, Graham, paladin of conservatism and scourge of opportunism, says building the border wall is an existential matter for the GOP: “If we undercut the president, that’s the end of his presidency and the end of our party.” Well.

Six years after its founding, the Republican Party produced the president who saved the nation. The party presided over the flow of population west of the Mississippi, into space hitherto designated on maps as the Great American Desert. (The Homestead Act of 1862 was enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress.) The Morrill Act of 1862 (Vermont Rep. Justin Morrill was a Republican) launched the land-grant college system that began the democratization of higher education and advanced the science-intensive agriculture that facilitated the urbanization that accelerated the nation’s rise to global preeminence. The party abetted and channeled the animal spirits that developed the industrial sinews with which 20th-century America defeated fascism and then communism. Now, however, Graham, whose mind might not have a whole lot of space for pertinent history, thinks this party’s identity and survival depend on servile obedience to this president’s myopia.

During the government shutdown, Graham’s tergiversations — sorry, this is the precise word — have amazed. On a recent day, in 90 minutes he went from “I don’t know” whether the president has the power to declare an emergency and divert into wall-building funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes, to “Time for President . . . to use emergency powers to build Wall.” The next day, he scrambled up the escalation ladder by using capitalization: “Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW.” Two days later, he scampered down a few rungs, calling for his hero to accept a short-term funding measure to open the government while wall negotiations continue. Stay tuned for more acrobatics.

But stay focused on this: Anyone — in Graham-speak, ANYONE — who at any time favors declaring an emergency, or who does not denounce the mere suggestion thereof, thereby abandons constitutional government. Yes, such a declaration would be technically legal. Congress has put on every president’s desk this (to adopt Justice Robert Jackson’s language in his dissent from the Supreme Court’s 1944 Korematsu decision affirming the constitutionality of interning of U.S. citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent) “loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.” Or an implausible one. However, an anti-constitutional principle would be affirmed. The principle: Any president can declare an emergency and “re-purpose” funds whenever any of his policy preferences that he deems unusually important are actively denied or just ignored by the legislative branch.

Why do they come to Congress, these people such as Graham? These people who, affirmatively or by their complicity of silence, trifle with our constitutional architecture, and exhort the president to eclipse the legislative branch, to which they have no loyalty comparable to their party allegiance?

Seven times, Graham has taken the oath of congressional office, “solemnly” swearing to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “bear true faith and allegiance” to it, “without any mental reservation.” Graham, who is just 1 percent of one-half of one of the three branches of one of the nation’s many governments, is, however, significant as a symptom. When the Trump presidency is just a fragrant memory, the political landscape will still be cluttered with some of this president’s simple and empty epigones, the make-believe legislators who did not loudly and articulately recoil from the mere suggestion of using a declared emergency to set aside the separation of powers.”

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President Coulter Has Spoken

From Politico:

“100 miles of border wall in exchange for amnestying millions of illegals. So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall,” tweeted conservative media commentator Ann Coulter, who has repeatedly antagonized the president for failing to erect a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border during his two years in office.

“Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” Coulter added, referring to Trump’s 2016 GOP primary rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has previously criticized the president’s immigration rhetoric.

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Donald Trump and His Team of Morons

From the New York Times, by Paul Krugman:

“There have been many policy disasters over the course of U.S. history. It’s hard, however, to think of a calamity as gratuitous, an error as unforced, as the current federal shutdown.

Nor can I think of another disaster as thoroughly personal, as completely owned by one man. When Donald Trump told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, “I will be the one to shut it down,” he was being completely accurate — although he went on to promise that “I’m not going to blame you for it,” which was a lie.

Still, no man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.

If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration. Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.

First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, who was asked about the plight of federal workers who aren’t being paid. You don’t have to be a public relations expert to know that you’re supposed to express some sympathy, whether you feel it or not. After all, there are multiple news reports about transportation security workers turning to food banks, the Coast Guard suggesting its employees hold garage sales, and so on.

So the right response involves expressing concern about those workers but placing the blame on Democrats who don’t want to stop brown-skinned rapists, or something like that. But no: Hassett declared that it’s all good, that the workers are actually “better off,” because they’re getting time off without having to use any of their vacation days.

Then consider what Sean Hannity had to say about taxing the rich. What’s that? You say that Hannity isn’t a member of the Trump administration? But surely he is in every sense that matters. In fact, Fox News isn’t just state TV, its hosts clearly have better access to the president, more input into his decisions, than any of the so-called experts at places like the State Department or the Department of Defense.

Anyway, Hannity declared that raising taxes on the wealthy would damage the economy, because “rich people won’t be buying boats that they like recreationally,” and “they’re not going to be taking expensive vacations anymore.”

Um, that’s not the answer a conservative is supposed to give. You’re supposed to insist that low taxes on the rich give them an incentive to work really really hard, not make it easier for them to take lavish vacations. You’re supposed to declare that low taxes will induce them to save and spend money building businesses, not help them afford to buy new yachts.

Even if your real reason for favoring low taxes is that they let your wealthy friends engage in even more high living, you’re not supposed to say that out loud.

Again, the point isn’t that people in Trump’s circle don’t care about ordinary American families, and also talk nonsense — that’s only to be expected. What’s amazing is that they’re so out of it that they don’t know either how to pretend to care about the middle class, or what nonsense to spout in order to sustain that pretense.

So what’s wrong with Trump’s people? Why can’t they serve up even some fake populism?

There are, I think, two answers, one generic to modern conservatism, one specific to Trump.

On the generic point: To be a modern conservative is to spend your life inside what amounts to a cult, barely exposed to outside ideas or even ways of speaking. Inside that cult, contempt for ordinary working Americans is widespread — remember Eric Cantor, the then-House majority leader, celebrating Labor Day by praising business owners. So is worship of wealth. And it can be hard for cult members to remember that you don’t talk that way to outsiders.

Then there’s the Trump effect. Normally working for the president of the United States is a career booster, something that looks good on your résumé. Trump’s presidency, however, is so chaotic, corrupt and potentially compromised by his foreign entanglements that anyone associated with him gets tainted — which is why after only two years he has already left a trail of broken men and wrecked reputations in his wake.

So who is willing to serve him at this point? Only those with no reputation to lose, generally because they’re pretty bad at what they do. There are, no doubt, conservatives smart and self-controlled enough to lie plausibly, or at least preserve some deniability, and defend Trump’s policies without making fools of themselves. But those people have gone into hiding.

A year ago I pointed out that the Trump administration was turning into government by the worst and the dumbest. Since then, however, things have gotten even worse and even dumber. And we haven’t hit bottom yet.”

 

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