1

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

From The Hill:

The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s Friday House deposition, two sources with knowledge of the email told The Hill, the second time in a month the administration has sent its Ukraine talking points to Democrats.

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4

It’s Finally Clear Enough to See the Monsters in the Fog

By Charles P. Pierce, in Esquire:

WASHINGTON — The overriding emotion in the capital this week was, oddly enough, a kind of deep relief. There was relief in that, with the revelations of whoever it was that blew the whistle on this president*’s attempt to bull-rush the president of Ukraine into helping him ratfck the 2020 election, there was one clear lens through which the vast and nearly unlimited corruption of this administration could be seen clearly, and in its entirety. The ramifications of what was in the whistleblower’s complaint, validated as it was by the Intelligence Community’s inspector general, extend to almost every corner of what increasingly looks like an utterly criminal presidency*. (In a gesture of Christian charity, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that Tiffany is clean in all of this.) The president* himself pulled Vice President Mike Pence into the poisonous murk. Rudy Giuliani, now completely out of control and raving all over television, managed to implicate the State Department in whatever incoherent “missions” he was on in West Asia. And, because of the whistleblower’s complaint, the swirls of scandal are finally clear enough to see the monsters in the poisonous fog.

But there was another level of relief at play, too, and it was based in the feeling that had been general around Washington that something like what had happened with the whistleblower was bound to happen eventually. The administration* had been playing fast and loose with too much for too long. (And, it must be said, the same could be said of the president* for his entire life.) The entire American political universe had been waiting for almost three years for the one thing that actually would do it. This administration*—and, before that, its 2016 campaign—had weathered more fatal wounds than Rasputin at Yusupov Palace. But, because there had been so many false starts, when a scandal hit that actually drew blood, the American political universe was ready to jump on it. And the people who knew the president* best, the people from New York and New Jersey, knew it was coming because they’d seen it time and time again. The Trump presidency* was now as bankrupt as the Trump Taj Mahal.

“I predicted that on February 1 of 2017, when I sent a letter to Kevin Brady and he laughed at it. Now, I said, you didn’t know he was going to bury himself, did you?” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who has been dogging the president* financial chicanery ever since Inauguration Day. Pascrell has constituents who were previously stiffed by the president*, and there have not been many congressmen in history who could say that about many presidents.  “People whose contracts weren’t fulfilled and implemented. Contractors. Painters. Masons. Those guys who did work and were never paid. There are a lot of those guys out there in my district.”

So all of this clarity was enough to get Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership off the dime and engage the processes of impeachment for the third time in 45 years. Consider: people my age will now have lived through the engagement of the process of impeachment three times in their lives. Five generations of Americans passed through between the first congressional impeachment process directed at a president and the second one. So much time passed between Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon that impeachment was considered to be a vestigial, useless appendage of the Constitution, that it was the “scarecrow,” as Thomas Jefferson once scornfully described it. Now, it appears that the fourth one is upon us again. The mistake is to believe that this is somehow a problem.

3

How Marie Kondo Would Tidy Up Our Presidential Candidates

From the Washington Post, by Kate Cohen

You know how stuff just accumulates? How one day, you look around to discover you’ve got a cupboard crammed with mismatched food storage, a drawerful of socks you never wear and more than two dozen Democratic presidential candidates?

Well, that day has come. It was a fun shopping spree (who could resist two-for-one left-wing senators from the Northeast?), but you went overboard. You think you want all those choices, but when it’s actually time to suit up for the primary season, so many options are downright paralyzing.

It’s time to declutter. And that doesn’t mean just swapping a Swalwell for a Steyer.

You’ve read the book; you know the drill. Gather it all up and dump it on the debate stage. Be thorough; check for any Western governors who may have dropped behind the dresser.

Now, take a deep breath and assess that pile of candidates. First impression? Wow. This is gonna take a couple of days. Second: White guy, white guy, white guy, white guy. Why did you ever think you needed so many plain white guys?

Okay, slow down. Stay calm. To do this right, you have to pick up each candidate in turn and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”

Try each candidate on and look in the mirror. Be honest about what you see. “Am I this conservative?” “Does this make me look old?” “Do I believe that we can defeat President Trump by harnessing love?”

This one just makes me look like a hipster wannabe. And it was so cute when I first got it!

Oh look: another white one. But it’s brand-new and I love it! Still, is it too young for me?

I know it was fashionable once, but it’s hard to believe this particular kind of patronizing male politician was ever in style . . .

Well, this would be useful for evenings when I feel like flirting with the idea of a universal basic income. 

Okay, now, here’s something interesting from Minnesota. It’s certainly practical and it seems durable, but does it spark joy for me?

Because that’s the point, isn’t it? You shouldn’t worry about what everyone else will approve of. You shouldn’t try to appeal to people whose taste runs toward MAGA hats. Instead, you should “keep only those things that speak to your heart.” The things that make you feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror every morning, make you stand a little straighter, make you volunteer to register voters for 2020 instead of hoping someone else will.

Ah, here’s an old favorite, so comfortable, so undeniably right. It still fits after all these years, but it’s starting to show its age. Once upon a time it was the only candidate I would wear. Should I really move on just because it’s fraying a bit?

Let’s see what the book says. “You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. . . . To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

If you’re feeling guilty about letting go of things that have served you well, it might help to remember that discarded items are not necessarily destined for the trash! You’re simply launching them on a new journey. Your neighbors might want them in their House, for instance, or they might be chosen to occupy a treasured place in someone’s Cabinet.

The important thing is to “let go with gratitude.”

To each of, let’s say, 18 smart, thoughtful, accomplished candidates whom you would happily choose to replace the current outfit, it’s time to say, “Thank you for your service.”

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for your service.

As Marie Kondo says, “Only by letting go of items, one by one, can you truly face your past, and begin to create your future.”

3

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.

2

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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5

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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1

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.”