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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

About that Russian thing

by digby

The White House is refusing to cooperate with the congressional probe into the Flynn matter and it's very odd unless they have something to hide, don't you think? It's not like the guy still works there.

Anyway, it is probably a good thing if it pushed congress to appoint and independent commission since neither the tainted House probes or the slow-walking Senate probe are going to get the job done.

The people are already behind it:
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress. 
Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February's NBC/WSJ poll.
But they don't have much faith in the outcome:

There's good reason for this. The congress is investigating very haphazardly. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a member of the Trump transition and he talks a good game but he's doing as little as possible so I wouldn't get my hopes up:
The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records.

With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity.

A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more staff members were being added and a few others were involved less formally.

“We need to pick up the pace,” Senator Martin Heinrich, a committee Democrat, told Reuters on Monday. “It is incumbent on us to have the resources to do this right and expeditiously, and I think we need additional staff.”

While some directly involved in the investigation disputed characterizations of the probe as off track, the appearance of a weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.

The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Republican Trump’s favor, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates. Russia has denied such meddling.

With the House intelligence panel’s investigation for weeks stymied by partisan squabbles, the Senate committee’s parallel probe had appeared to be the more serious of the two, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr and top Democrat Mark Warner promising a thorough and bipartisan effort.

Burr, a member of Congress since 1995, last month called the Russia probe one of the biggest investigations undertaken in Congress during his tenure.

Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing than the one Burr is overseeing, according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries, which traditionally name every staff member involved.

A House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.

A special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.

A special Senate committee’s 1970s investigation into Watergate-era surveillance practices tapped 133 staffers.

A joint House-Senate probe of the 1980s Iran-Contra affair during Ronald Reagan’s presidency involving secret sales of arms to Iran to try to win the release of American hostages, with proceeds going to Nicaraguan rebels, had 181 staffers.

Spokeswomen for Burr and for Warner declined to comment on the staffing levels.

The listed sizes of various investigations may be an imperfect comparison because not all staffers listed may have actually had a substantial role, congressional sources said. Investigations often grow in size over time, and a committee aide said the panel had secured $1.2 million in additional funding for the Russia election investigation.

But the numbers are still broadly “relevant as indicators of a commitment to an investigation,” said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists.

“For this investigation to be successful, the committee must recognize the enormity of the job and provide the resources to tackle it,” Senator Ron Wyden, another committee Democrat, said in a statement.

Wyden sent a letter last month to Burr and Warner requesting that the probe include a thorough review of any financial ties between Russia and Trump and his associates.

None of the staffers possess substantial investigative experience or a background in Russian affairs, two of the sources said.

Apparently interference into American elections is no big deal to the Republican party. Well, as long as the Russians are trying to help them win. I guess they feel they're kindred spirits, which they are: authoritarian kleptocrats are the new right. So, it makes sense.

By the way, this piece by NBC from last week about that weird RT dinner is interesting. Flynn and Jill Stein were the American stars seated right there at the big table with President Putin for the event. Flynn was very enthusiastic.

This new story about Flynn's Turkish connection is also startling. It turns out the Turkish contact is also heavily connected to Russia. What in the hell was he thinking?

And now for the good news

by digby

A LOT of people are getting up off the couch and participating in protests, demonstrations and marches:

For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.

Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that occurred. This is particularly true of the “A Day Without a Woman” strikes on March 8. It’s virtually impossible to record an accurate tally of participants for strikes, in part because many people deliberately conceal their motivations for skipping out on work or school when they participate.

Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month. In this case, we note that March 2017 saw fewer people protesting than February 2017, during which we observed 233,021 to 373,089 people participating in crowds.

Who demonstrated against and for what in March?

1) The opposition to President Trump

Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests. We estimate that 67 percent of the crowds we recorded were opposing Trump’s policies. Some of the main protests included: 
At least 77 demonstrations against the GOP health-care bill and in favor of retaining the Affordable Care Act. When Vice President Pence left his meeting with local leaders in Jeffersontown, Ky., he may not have seen the 600 protesters. As his motorcade departed, passing a quarter-mile of protesters lining the road, “two Jeffersontown firetrucks drove along, blocking the view of the vice president’s limousine.”

Dozens of rallies and strikes on March 8 associated with “A Day Without a Woman,” accounting for just over 10 percent of the protests on our list, in places such as Anchorage; Cleveland; Lawrence, Kan., and Naples, Fla.
A similar number of protests related to immigration, travel bans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detentions and the sanctuary movement.

2) The support for Trump

About 15 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies. This is a small increase from February, where about 12 percent of the crowds represented pro-Trump claims. Many took place during the March 4 Trump rallies held nationwide. For instance, hundreds gathered at Stumptown Park in Matthews, N.C.; Lake Oswego, Ore., and Des Moines.

March 25 saw a number of “Make America Great Again” marches, ranging from small rallies in Boston and Oklahoma City to thousands who came together in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Seaside Heights, N.J.

Overall, rallies for the president are less focused on one issue than anti-Trump demonstrations and focus instead on supporting the Trump administration as a whole.

Finally, February’s trend of corresponding protests and counterprotests continued into March. This was particularly true for the March 4 Trump rallies, which typically faced counterprotests along with the pro-Trump crowds.

3) Neither for nor against Trump

The greatest change came in the final 18 percent of the crowds that were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump. We found a broad range of such topics. That’s a big uptick from only 3 percent of crowds in February 2017.

For instance, in March, we saw about 500 people oppose the parking system at Reston Town Center; dueling protests at the University of Florida over whether the student body president should resign; and the 58th Annual Tibetan National Uprising Day in places like Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Where did people protest?

The most common locations for protests were parks and plazas; state capitols or statehouses; and on college campuses. Other popular locations included district offices of members of Congress, city or town halls, schools and school district offices, and courthouses. Some places lost prominence this month compared with January or February, with only five protests at airports and about 10 at Planned Parenthood clinics.

What symbols appeared in the protests?

Pink hats continue to appear at anti-Trump rallies, as do red baseball caps at pro-Trump rallies. And the Antifa (antifascist) protesters who confront Trump supporters typically wear all black.

How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds? 
At more than 550 events (94 percent), no arrests were made. Moreover, March saw a lower number of arrests than February. The numbers dropped from 314 arrests in February to 201 in March, with about 120 of those arrests coming in a few cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. For instance, 12 people challenging the cleanup process at two Missouri landfills were arrested trying to block access.

However, the number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to property destruction or violence increased slightly from February, with one or more such arrests at 17 events — close to 3 percent of all events — in March. Several of these incidents occurred in cases where protesters and counterprotesters clashed, causing some injuries.
You have to love this:

But not all standoffs between competing groups escalated in this way. The Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR) planned a “Trump is Your President” demonstration outside the Islamic Association of North Texas on Abrams Road in Richardson on March 18. Members of the mosque and its supporters were ready for a counterprotest when a third group, the Dallas Workers Front, showed up armed “with pipes or guns” and dressed in black. Members of the mosque asked the Dallas Workers Front to allow BAIR to continue their protest peacefully. In the end, the BAIR members and mosque members left the site to the Dallas Workers Front and met up at a Halal Guys restaurant to eat and talk.
See? We can all get along...

*Should note that this does not count the big national marches in April for tax day, science and the upcoming climate march this week-end.


A little pre-emptive nuke strike might be just what the doctor ordered

by digby

At least according to Fox News. John Amato caught this alarming little tid-bit from yesterday:

There was a lot of nervous chatter today in the Beltway after it was reported that the White House is hosting all one hundred Senators for a private briefing.

Some thought Trump was using this as a photo-op for his first 100 days benchmark since he's come up so short, but others were particularly nervous because of the administration's hard line stance on North Korea.

During the final round table of Fox News' all star panel on Special Report with Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer believes that if North Korea gets the capability to launch a nuclear weapon, Trump with preemptively strike North Korea with our own nukes.

Charles Krauthammer sent this chilling message close to the end of the program..

Charles said, "I think this is a full-court press, we do have a plan. I think it's a mistake to say we're going into this blind."

Krauthammer responded to Sec. Kelly's remarks to CNN when he said that when North Korea is capable of putting nukes on missiles, "the instant that happens, this country is at grave risk."

Charles continued, " What General Kelly just said, what we saw was a declaration that we're through kicking the can down the road."

"If they acquire an ICBM ballistic missile that can hit the U.S. with a warhead on top of it, this is a new world and we're not going to allow it, that's an amazing statement..." he continued.

He said this is all aimed at China, but the "fuse is lit."

Baier said we could shoot down their missiles and Mara Laisson asked, "What is it that the U.S. is going to do?" "If we make a preemptive strike?"

Krauthammer replied that if we come to the final point, "where they have a nuke on top of an ICBM, yes, a preemptive strike."

He continued, " We can't live in a world where Kim Jung Un can push a button and obliterate Seattle. That's what you just heard General Kelly say."

Click over for the video. It will make your stomach lurch just a little when you realize that Donald Trump refuses to read briefing books and is getting most of his information from Fox these days.

Paul Wolfowitz has high hopes for Donald Trump

by digby

I wrote about the neocon dreams being rekindled for Salon this morning:

It was entirely predictable that as soon as President Donald Trump decided to drop some bombs on a Middle Eastern country, the neoconservative claque that had rejected him during the election would slither back into the GOP orbit. It’s true that Trump himself had nixed the appointment of Elliott Abrams, the man the Republican establishment had chosen to be Rex Tillerson’s right-hand man. That rejection had some people hopeful that Steve Bannon (whom Abrams blamed) would at least prove useful in keeping architects of the GOP’s tragic adventures in Central America and the Middle East out of this White House.

Bannon, of course, is the nationalist enemy of neoconservative global crusaders like Abrams and former George W. Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz. But it’s always struck me how much they actually have in common in terms of temperament, if not ideology. Bannon is well-known from his propaganda filmmaking and Breitbart days as a trafficker in conspiracy theories. And Wolfowitz for years insisted that 9/11 had been a collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, largely based on a discredited book called “Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War Against America” by a crank named Laurie Mylroie. They are both well-read and erudite conspiracy mongers who found their way into the most powerful offices on Earth.

Despite the obvious fact that Donald Trump is a torture-loving, “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil” kind of guy, his opportunistic distancing of himself from the Iraq War (despite evidence that he actually supported it) gave many people the impression that he wouldn’t support military intervention. That included members of the neocon establishment, who were leery of him. But now they’re back in the public eye, and one of the main architects of the Iraq War is once again making his presence known. According to Susan Glasser of Politico, Wolfowitz can take some credit for the action. In an interview with him she said:

Paul, you’ve jumped back into the fray as it were with what appears in hindsight to be an extremely well-timed intervention in the Wall Street Journal, saying Donald Trump should go ahead and do something in Syria, should intervene militarily in some way to respond to the chemical weapons strike. Miraculously enough, perhaps, he surprised much of the world by going ahead and taking your advice and doing so.

Wolfowitz modestly replied that he’s not sure Trump took his advice but he’s awfully glad he did bomb Syria because the U.S. is back in business:

I don’t think anyone would deny that he’s opportunistic, and I don’t think anyone would deny that he would like to be “the greatest president in modern times” or “huge” or you pick your adjective. And I think to achieve a Dayton-like peace settlement in Syria would not only be something that would be widely acclaimed, it would be hugely in the interest of the United States.

That does show a certain understanding of how to appeal to this president. But it’s mind-boggling to believe he could ever be capable of brokering the kind of complicated agreement that Wolfowitz goes on to describe, in which every country, faction and religious sect in the Middle East would be involved (except Iran and Russia, which makes no sense at all.) Apparently Wolfowitz doesn’t know that Donald Trump can’t even hammer out a deal between Republican congressmen who voted for him.

Wolfowitz places a great deal of faith in Trump’s generals, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, to run foreign policy and guide Trump to the right conclusions. He is impressed that Tillerson told Vladimir Putin that lining up with Syrian president Bashar Assad is “lining up with a loser.” Said Wolfowitz: “It may not get through any better than telling him that what he’s doing is criminal and immoral, but I think at least may resonate a little bit better with people around him.” Apparently, Wolfowitz thinks Putin is Russia’s Donald Trump, which is probably a wrong assumption.

The scariest part of the interview, however, involved Wolfowitz’s views on Iraq. He seems eager to get right back into the quagmire and stay there. Mentioning in passing that comparing Iraq to Germany and Japan in the post-World War II period had been the wrong comparison, he said it should have been compared to Korea — where we still have 30,000 troops stationed 60 years later and war is threatening as we speak! Wolfowitz recalled the period after the Iraq “surge” with great nostalgia as a sort of golden era:

[W]e do have a model there. I think it’s a model that worked dramatically. When Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker was Bush’s last ambassador to Iraq and General Petraeus was there commanding the U.S. forces, the two of them — they had offices, I think, in the same building deliberately. I think every night they would go to [Nouri al-]Maliki when he was, I think the way they put it, too tired to fight back.

Wolfowitz said Petraeus and Crocker would tell him things about his own country he didn’t know and would instruct him to fire this or that general and “stop these corrupt practices” that were going on in places around the country and it worked perfectly. If we don’t go back in there and repeat that, Wolfowitz said, “the alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence.”

This is a man who says in the same interview that “if we give up the Western idea of freedom, we’re giving up one of the most important diplomatic tools in our arsenal.” It doesn’t sound a great deal like freedom and democracy if a foreign government puts its generals in offices next door to the president so they can conveniently whisper orders in his ear when he’s tired.

In other words, Wolfowitz didn’t learn a thing from America’s disastrous experience in the Middle East. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the neocons seem to think the Iraq War is a “model that worked.” The smoldering wreck that’s left in the region can be fixed up promptly with a few thousand troops and some savvy military leadership.

There’s no reason to think that Trump is going there just yet. But with Bannon on the wane as an influence and Jared Kushner (who is more in sync with the neoconservative worldview) on the rise, that could change. These old neocon hands certainly have Trump’s number anyway. On the day after the Syrian airstrikes, Elliott Abrams wrote in The Weekly Standard that the president had “finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.”

They have good reason to be confident. After all, they got one president to invade a country that hadn’t attacked us. Why wouldn’t they believe they can do it again?
What the world sees in Trump

by digby

I knew the world would be completely different on the morning after Donald Trump won the election. I've been waiting for the media to survey someone other than Trump's cult and this one by the AP actually goes out into the wider world to ask people in other countries what they are seeing. It's very interesting.

An excerpt:


YULIYA KONYAKHINA, Moscow: "I have a feeling that the world became more dangerous in general, not because Trump got elected, but in general it (the world) became more dangerous. When I go down to a metro I have sort of thoughts that something bad can happen."

SHAHRZAD EBRAHIMI, Tehran, Iran: "(The world) is 100 percent a more dangerous place. The U.S. threats to the world had been lessened during (Barack) Obama's presidency and policies of that country were based on moving toward peace for at least eight years. But as soon as Trump took office, demonstrations began against him and the situations in Syria, Palestine, bombings, military and war threats all got worse. The more he sticks with his current policies, the more insecure and non-peaceful the world, especially the Middle East, will become. As you can see, now he is exchanging verbal blows with North Korea. Sometimes one can assume that this situation can even trigger a third world war."

KIM HYANG BYOL, Pyongyang, North Korea: "It's coming to 100 days since Trump became president, but we don't care who the president is. The problem is whether they're going to stop their hostile policy against North Korea, and whether they will do anything to help us reunify our country."

RUSTAM MAGAMEDOV, Moscow: "(Trump is) agent provocateur, but in reality, he is just a good showman, as they say in the U.S. The fact that he became a president is rather scary, because he can start a war. It seems like that he is already moving toward the Korean borders. I think it is dangerous, first of all for Russia, because as a president and politician he is a bad person, a bad politician who has little understanding of politics.

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv, Israel: "Yeah, well maybe a little bit more dangerous. But I think that the steps that he took should have been taken a long time ago. And if it became more dangerous then it's not only because of Trump. Although, he has other drawbacks."



DIANE LALLOUZ, Tel Aviv: "It's true that Donald Trump has a loud bark and you can say it's more bark than bite. But, not really. It's enough that he takes a few actions as opposed to not doing anything. He talks a lot, sometimes way too much and right off the sleeve without actually thinking about it and that may be a problem. But, at least the world knows that Donald Trump is going to take action when required."

RAYA SAUERBRUN, Tel Aviv: "If it's barking or if it's doing, at least it shows that it's doing something. If it will sustain for a long time, we don't know."

MOHAMED SHIRE, Mogadishu, Somalia: "This might be a new step; this might be a new strategy. We probably have to wait and see, but I think the United States administration needs to be very careful in just getting involved in Somalia without having a clear strategy and program that they align with the current Somali government."

YADOLLAH SOBHANI, Tehran: "Trump comes out with a lot of hype at first but eventually backs down from some of his stances on issues such as Russia, Middle East, Syria and so on. His inconsistent actions have proven that his bark is worse than his bite and he should not be taken very seriously."

MAJED MOKHEIBER, Damascus, Syria: "This is why we cannot predict whether there will be stability or more military security. In addition to that, we see that there are military tension spots around the world in other areas such as North Korea ... that frankly may lead to a big explosion and a world war."

JUAN PABLO BOLANOS, Mexico City: "I think it's a bit of both. On the issue of sending Mexicans back, it is being fulfilled by the guy, Trump, and on the issue of building the wall, I definitely think he will not achieve it."



RA SO YON, Pyongyang, North Korea: "After Trump became president, there has been no improvement in America's image. If America doesn't stop its aggression against us and pressure on us, then we'll never have any good image of America; it will only get worse. We'll never be surprised, whatever America does. And we're not expecting any surprises from Trump."

YURI (no last name given), Moscow: "Nothing actually had changed, for real. Nothing had changed in Russian-American relations. They aren't our friends or enemies. Geopolitical enemies, maybe, that's it."

MARGRET MACHNER, Berlin: "My trust at the moment is a lot less than it was earlier. One had the feeling that America was a strong, safe partner and I do not believe this anymore."

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv: "I think that the U.S. remains the beacon of democracy because the U.S. itself is much more than its president. The president can be less or more of a beacon. But, America is a beacon."

HAMZA ABU MARIA, Hebron, West Bank: "I'm about 30 years old, and since I grew up and started to understand and follow news, I don't think the United States up until today was a beacon of democracy. If it was truly democratic, then from a long time ago they would have done justice to the Palestinian people."

MOHAMMAD ALI, Damascus: "We should never bet on any American administration, either Republican or Democrat. It's the same front, supposedly to fight terrorism, but they didn't do any of that. Instead they carried out an aggression against a sovereign state, which is Syria. They attacked Syria and they attacked the air base of a sovereign state and a member of the Arab League."

DEQO SALAAD, Mogadishu: "The U.S. was once both the beacon of democracy and human rights, but nowadays, a big change has happened as we can see more segregation committed by President Trump, especially when he said he was going to ban Muslims coming to the U.S. And with that, he has damaged the reputation of the U.S. of being the beacon of democracy and human rights in this world that the U.S. government promoted for ages now."



DIANE LALLOUZ, Tel Aviv: "I don't think that we're existing in a post-truth world and I don't think that the way we consume information has anything to do with Trump. Actually over the last several decades we are getting information more and more on social media, so people are getting small amounts of information. Not too much real knowledge and that's part of the problem. People are making judgments based on tiny amounts of truth or half-truth or non-truths, and it's impossible to know, by the social media, what is really true. Is Trump the cause of this? I don't think so. I think Trump is just a part of the picture that we live in today."

DAN MIRKIN, Tel Aviv: "I don't think it affects the way that I consume information but it certainly changes the way in which the information is delivered, and the fact of alternative truth, alternative facts is a new invention, so we have to apply filters more than before."

MAHMOUD DRAGHMEH, Nablus, West Bank: "The world is far from the truth, despite the fact the technological development helped the news to reach. But I think that there is a distance from the truth, because the media, with all my respect to the different media outlets, everyone adopts his idea and exports it to the world."



UTE HUBNER, Berlin: "I find he is very honest — more honest than I thought in the sense that a lot isn't pushed under the table. He says it like it is, while here in our case so much is said and talked about that "everything is fine, wonderful and all is good," while we know that the reality is more often than not something else."

FATMEH (full name not given) Damascus: "Trump increased problems in the Arab world and the first proof is the strike on Syria. This has increased problems and confusion. He didn't do anything against terrorism; he only increased it. There is nothing new. His policy has been to oppress people, especially the Arab people. We didn't see anything new."

YADOLLAH SOBHANI, Tehran: "What shocked me most from Trump was a sudden shift in his policies toward Russia from a friendly position to a clash. I did not expect such instability in a politician's behavior."

PAYAM MOSLEH, Tehran: "What scared me most was the classification of human beings (under Trump's proposed Muslim ban). I think history has taught and shown us enough times that separating people from each other has never done anyone any good. Building walls either in Berlin or America has no results and is disastrous."

MAHDIEH GHARIB, Tehran: "What surprised me most was preventing Iranians from entering the United States or even barring those Iranians who were U.S. residents and had temporarily left that country. Bombing Syria was the second thing that surprised me."

SHIMON ABITBOL, Tel Aviv: "He's playing too much golf. That's the only thing I'm surprised by. I mean, how can he have so much time to play so much golf?"

It's interesting, isn't it, that people see him pretty much the same way all around the world. Some like him, some hate him, nobody really knows what to make of him.

I hope they go back and check in with some of these people in a year or so.


Poor Ivanka

by digby

She's a politician now:

As Ivanka Trump’s influence grows within the administration of her father, President Donald Trump, so too will the degree to which people hold her personally accountable for his actions.

This was evident in Germany on Tuesday, when Ivanka was booed at a women’s panel she attended along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“He’s been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive,” Ivanka said, as murmuring and booing became audible from the crowd. When the moderator asked Ivanka for her reaction to this — specifically mentioning Donald Trump’s history of misogynistic comments — the first daughter replied that “I certainly heard the criticism from the media and that’s been perpetuated by —”

After trailing off for a moment, Ivanka resumed, “I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women, and their ability to do the job as well as any man.”

Here's how he acts with women on the job:

Unknown: "She used to be great, she's still very beautiful."

Trump: "I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try and fuck her, she was married."

Unknown: "That's huge news there."

Trump: "No, no, Nancy. No this was [inaudible] and I moved on her very heavily in fact I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I'll show you where they have some nice furniture. I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn't get there and she was married. Then all-of-a-sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look."

Bush: "Your girl's hot as shit. In the purple."

Multiple voices: "Whoah. Yes. Whoah."

Bush: "Yes. The Donald has scored. Whoah my man."

Trump: "Look at you. You are a pussy."

Bush: "You gotta get the thumbs up."

Trump: "Maybe it's a different one."

Bush: "It better not be the publicist. No, it's, it's her."

Trump: "Yeah that's her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything."

Bush: "Whatever you want."

Trump: "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Bush: "Yeah those legs. All I can see is the legs."

Trump: "It looks good."

Bush: "Come on shorty."

Trump: "Oh nice legs huh."

Bush: "Get out of the way honey. Oh that's good legs. Go ahead."

Trump: "It's always good if you don't fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?"

[As Mr Trump attempts to leave the vehicle he struggles with the door]

Bush: "Down below, pull the handle."

[Mr Trump exits the bus and greets actress Arianne Zucker]

Trump: "Hello, how are you? Hi."

Zucker: "Hi Mr Trump. How are you?"

Trump: "Nice seeing you. Terrific. Terrific. You know Billy Bush?"

Bush: "Hello nice to see you. How are you doing Arianne?"

Zucker: "I'm doing very well thank you. [Addressing Trump] Are you ready to be a soap star?"

Trump: "We're ready. Let's go. Make me a soap star."

Bush: "How about a little hug for the Donald, he's just off the bus?"

Zucker: "Would you like a little hug darling?"

Trump: "Absolutely. Melania said this was okay."

Bush: "How about a little hug for the Bushy, I just got off the bus? Here we go, here we go. Excellent."

[Mr Bush gesticulates towards Ms Zucker as he turns to Mr Trump]

Bush: "Well you've got a good co-star here."

Trump: "Good. After you. Come on Billy, don't be shy."

Bush: "Soon as a beautiful woman shows up he just, he takes off. This always happens."

Trump: "Get over here, Billy."

Zucker: "I'm sorry, come here."

Bush: "Let the little guy in there. Come on."

Zucker: "Yeah, let the little guy in. How you feel now, better? I should actually be in the middle."

Bush: "It's hard to walk next to a guy like this."

Zucker: "Wait. Hold on."

[Ms Zucker changes position and walks between the two men]

Bush: "Yeah you get in the middle. There we go."

Trump: "Good. That's better."

Zucker: "This is much better."

Trump: "That's better."

Bush: "Now if you had to choose, honestly, between one of us. Me or the Donald, who would it be?"

Trump: "I don't know, that's tough competition."

Zucker: "That's some pressure right there."

Bush: "Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date."

Zucker: "I have to take the Fifth [Amendment of the US Constitution] on that one."

Bush: "Really?"

Zucker: "Yep. I'll take both."

[They reach the end of the corridor]

Trump: "Which way?"

Zucker: "Make a right. Here we go."

Bush: "Here he goes. I'm gonna leave you here. Give me my microphone."

Trump: "Okay. Okay. Oh, you're finished?"

Bush: "You're my man. Yeah."

Trump: "Oh. Good."



Freedom sans democracy

by Tom Sullivan

As I was saying: they want to rule.

When news came over the transom yesterday that NC Governor Roy Cooper had appointed Judge John Arrowood to the NC state Court of Appeals, the occasion for it and the context was a bit lacking. Think Progress provides some:

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the latest power grab by the North Carolina legislature: an attempt to reduce the number of judges on the state’s Court of Appeals to prevent Cooper from appointing judges to it.

GOP legislators haves enough votes in the legislature to override a veto. But even if they do, a Republican judge just retired early in an attempt to thwart the “court unpacking” scheme.

Judge Douglas McCullough faced the mandatory retirement age next month, but he instead resigned early, allowing Gov. Cooper to appoint a younger judge to replace him. If Judge McCullough had stayed and the court unpacking bill became law, then the governor would not have been able to replace Judge McCullough next month. Gov. Cooper appointed Judge John Arrowood, the first openly gay member of the court of appeals.
McCullough is a Republican.

“I did not want my legacy to be the elimination of a seat and the impairment of a court that I have served on,” McCullough said in a statement.

Think Progress continues:
Ever since the state’s voters elected Cooper and a newly-liberal state supreme court in 2016, the gerrymandered state legislature has passed a series of bills to limit the powers of the other branches of government.

The legislature has passed bills that curb the governor’s authority to appoint justices to empty seats on trial courts and specialized courts. The legislature even considered a bill to gerrymander judges in Charlotte in ways that could make it harder for African American judges there to keep their seats.
The Charlotte Observer provides more:
Republicans in the legislature have said the court should shrink to match what they have described as a reduced workload for the appeals court. McCullough said the statistical information the lawmakers have relied on is inaccurate and incomplete.

McCullough, while stressing that he was honored to serve on the bench, recalled a time when Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican, was in the executive office and the Democrats at the helm of the General Assembly “did not interfere with his power to make appointments to the judiciary.”
For all the "freedom fries" this and "Freedom Caucus" that and liberty (like Lubbock) on everything, there is not a lot of respect for the institutions of democracy across the aisle. Even with all the power Republicans now have in Washington and in legislatures across the country, it's not enough to assuage their internalized sense of grievance. They need to rule the way Trump the Insecure needs to be praised. They'll twist themselves and the law into pretzels to ensure they do.

In a Twitter thread last night, Chris Hayes focused on conservtive obsession with campus controversies: "You'd think liberals arts undergrads had the nuclear codes," Hayes continued.

A senior contributor at The Federalist replied that her concern over education is what the future may bring if "the next generation is not built for freedom," whatever in the world that means. Mandy Patinkin has a famous rejoinder for that.

It's not only Sen. Mitch McConnell and his merry band of SCOTUS seat thieves as transparent as the emperor's clothes. In North Carolina and other states where Republicans dominate the legislatures — and I choose that term deliberately — it is increasingly clear that elected Republicans have no use for democracy nor for the normal processes of governing when they cannot control the outcome. No amount of blathering about freedom can conceal that.

Monday, April 24, 2017

There is Only One President That Matters

by tristero

It's simply unbelievable. Barack Obama (who, whatever your politics, was a substantial public figure with actual accomplishments) gives his first post-presidential speech and the only thing - the only thing- that matters as far as the headline goes is - you guessed it:

Obama Steps Back Into Public Life, Trying to Avoid One Word: Trump

What the hell is wrong with the media? There really is one and only one person that matters as far as they're concerned, and there has been for over a year and a half. The amount of free unasked for publicity that fellow gets staggers the imagination. 

And as always, it doesn't matter at all what is written. What matters is that this one single individual crowds out everyone and everything else. It's utterly amazing, mass hypnosis on a global scale. And dangerous beyond calculation.


Why is Ivanka there?

by digby

I find this very strange:

I guess because he was talking to a woman in space he needed his daughter there to show how much he cares about women?

And she needed to be behind the desk with him along with another female astronaut because ... ?

I don't get it. But it could have been worse...


And then unicorns will fly out of his pants and give us all a million dollars

by digby

So the word is that Trump will introduce his "tax reform" plan so that he can say he has something on the table for his 100 days of executive order photo-ops. It looks as though they're going to call for huge tax cuts. Surprise.

As Jon Perr reminds us, Trump made a very big promise during the campaign:

Last April, lunching amid construction debris at his new hotel five blocks from the White House, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Washington Post he would get rid of the national debt “over a period of eight years.” It may have been the boldest promise he’s ever made, considering the U.S. hasn’t been debt-free since 1835. The debt at the time was more than $19 trillion, and rising.

Trump predicted he could turn back the tide even though he thought the country was headed for a “very massive recession.”

His great TV performance as President has turned the economy around, we know that. We're in great shape. But business needs to be unshackled from all its taxes and regulations so he's going to get that done. And then the national debt will start to shrink because of all the coal and steel jobs he's bringing back from China. Also, oil and Mexicans and something something.


A dispatch from the Resistance

by digby

Michelle Goldberg went down to the 6th district in Georgia to observe the Ossoff primary campaign. What she found was pretty interesting.  Remember, this is a district that hasn't voted Democratic since 1979.

[I]t’s not just Democratic spin to say that a remarkable political transformation is happening in Georgia’s 6th District: an affluent, highly educated suburb of Atlanta. Nearly overnight, progressive organizing has become the center of social life for thousands of previously disengaged people in the area. Whether or not the movement is enough to swing this election, Republicans may never again be able to win local offices here without a fight. And the intense activity in the 6th District is a sign of how the anti-Trump resistance is building a new, locally rooted progressive infrastructure nationwide.


Meanwhile, a tightly networked progressive movement has sprung up in the district with little help from national Democrats. Last year Elizabeth Murphy, a 35-year-old mother of three, wanted to get involved in politics to help stop Trump but said it was hard to figure out how. Progressive groups, she said, were “nonexistent here in Cobb County. There was no infrastructure.” That all changed once Trump was elected, horrifying many 6th District women. “Since Nov. 9, the fire and the energy has come into this area like I’ve never seen before,” Murphy said. Before the election, a typical Democratic Party meeting would draw 25 or 30 people. “They now have 400 to 500 people attending in one county. It’s incredible.” (Ossoff ultimately won 41 percent in the parts of Cobb that fall in the district, 8 points higher than the Democrat did this past fall and 1 point better than Clinton’s total.)

As Ossoff readily acknowledges, women are leading the progressive renaissance that made his near-victory possible. “This is a story about women in this community,” he said in his election night speech. “Those strong and determined women who have picked us all up, who are carrying us forward, who are going to carry us to victory tonight or in June.” Women lead the local Indivisible chapter. In March, two women formed a women’s group, called Pave It Blue, devoted to running progressive candidates in local races—contests where, in the past, Republicans often ran unopposed. A private, invite-only Facebook group called Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb, or LMRC, has swelled to 1,700 members. You see LMRC magnets on cars and minivans all over town, and its members have developed a ritual: When they come across an LMRC decal on a parked car, they turn it upside-down, so when the driver returns, she’ll know a friend was there.

A first-time candidate and LMRC member named Christine Triebsch ran for the state Senate seat vacated by one of the Republican candidates in Tuesday’s congressional election. Like Ossoff, she came in first and will proceed to a runoff.

This surge of progressive activity marks a social sea change in an area when many Democrats said they once kept their political sympathies quiet, assuming they were alone among their conservative neighbors. “I felt like I was a closeted Democrat,” said Rebecca Sandberg, 43, who I met on Monday as she stood with a cluster of other women holding Ossoff signs near a busy intersection. “The label ‘liberal’ always seemed like a bad thing. And now I’m realizing, the more we have this community, that it’s actually a good thing. Being surrounded by all of these ladies in this area—and men, too—has really empowered me to be more involved.” She’d joined Pave It Blue and become a precinct captain for the Ossoff campaign.

These newly minted progressive activists are drawing on the organizing skills they’ve learned in the PTA and the ties they’ve forged to each other as parents. I was introduced to Saravanan by Tricia Madden, 39, who helped coordinate LMRC volunteers for Ossoff; they knew each other because their kids went to preschool together. “The woman that’s in charge of the school auction and the PTA knows the room mom, [who] is also the woman that’s in charge of the homeowners association,” said Madden. “Those are also the people who are going to volunteer. This is years and years of built-up relationships. You can’t replicate that.”

I don't know where these mostly middle aged and older women fit in the ideological mosaic of the Democratic party. I'm sure we'll find out and it will likely be cause for much handwringing and disagreement. This is, after all, the Democratic party. But whether or not all these women pass the progressive litmus tests, there is no denying that this is authentic grassroots organizing. And it has sprung out of a very large faction of the public for whom this last election was an affront to their very beings.

That pig in the White House is so insulting to millions of women that they simply can't live with themselves if they don't do something to fight back. This movement isn't sexy but then doing the grunt work to get things done rarely is. These people are serious and they aren't waiting to be led by anyone.

Trump see the presidency only as a performance

by digby

I wrote about the media and their muse for Salon this morning:

Over the weekend the New York Times published a major story about FBI Director James Comey’s decision, in the final 10 days of the election campaign, to announce the investigation of some Hillary Clinton emails found on the laptop of her aide Huma Abedin. It’s an interesting story as far as it goes, suggesting that Comey and others in the FBI were sure that Clinton would be elected and therefore they needed to appease congressional Republicans by proving their willingness to keep after her once she took office. Evidently they were surprised to find out that rules against the Department of Justice or the FBI interfering in the period leading up to the election existed because such interference might actually affect the outcome.

I don’t want to get into the tiresome debate about whether or not the Comey letter was decisive. It was, as even Trump’s own analysts agree. Sure, Clinton might have run populist ads in the Rust Belt or spent her final days in Wisconsin, and it might have changed history. And certainly Comey could have followed the rules and kept his mouth shut. There have been millions of words written about both of those counterfactuals but very little, so far, about the mainstream media’s contribution to the unexpected election outcome.

With the benefit of hindsight it’s clear that the endless hand-wringing over Clinton’s emails was overblown, especially since we now know that the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus was on high alert over potential collusion between a foreign government and the Trump campaign. But like Comey, the editors of the New York Times apparently also believed that Clinton couldn’t lose. And that led to this collaboration between the FBI and the New York Times that changed the world:

It's a fairly open-and-shut case. But the media's election post-mortems have mostly ignored it because it implicates the media's judgement. pic.twitter.com/cBLifP9WLu

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 22, 2017

The media and the FBI are clearly not going to admit their complicity in the events that led to Trump’s upset victory so that’s a judgment that will have to be left to the historians. But it does raise the question of how these relationships will be handled going forward.

We have no idea where the FBI investigation of the Russian hacking of the campaign and its possible connections to Trump is going. We will have to wait and see. But we can judge the relationship between Trump and the press right now — and it’s not what it appears to be.

According to the Washington Post, Trump sees the presidency as a performance and he spends most of his time watching himself on TV and checking his reviews:
For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.
We knew that he watched TV obsessively during the campaign. But one might have expected that he would be too busy with the actual job of being president to keep it up once he was in the White House. He not only watches it in the early morning and all evening late into the night, but he checks in periodically during the day, sometime interrupting meetings to focus on what’s being said about him. And from the description of his habits, it’s not a matter of trying to manipulate the politics of the day or strategically influence other political players through the media. He’s just judging the public performances of his staff and seeing how he is personally being portrayed. That’s all he cares about

In a disturbing interview with the Associated Press on Friday, Trump seemed to indicate that he literally assesses his own success as president by the ratings he gets on television:
No I have, it’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know, Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning … It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.
The president of the United States actually compared his TV ratings to 9/11.

The image we have of Trump and the media is of an abusive relationship in which Trump continuously insults the press but they are forced to endure his scorn and disrespect because it is their job to cover him. But it’s really more like a phony wrestling match or a reality TV contest.

Politico also featured an article this weekend about Trump’s press operation and the media, and in this telling the relationship is not so much hostile as simply chaotic. This is mostly because nobody on Trump’s team knows what they’re doing and the entire administration is hard-wired to lie about everything, even if they are doing it simply for the fun of it, which they admit they do. It’s a profile of an organization that is dysfunctional on every level. And this is supposed to be the one area in which Trump is an expert.

A couple of major polls came out this weekend showing that Trump’s first hundred days have been disastrous. His base is still with him, but he’s lost independents and even many Republicans seem shaky. There was one decision that a solid majority supported: the Syrian airstrikes. That is very bad news. Trump reads polls as obsessively as he watches himself on TV, and he undoubtedly noticed that people liked him dropping bombs. For that we can thank the media as well. They were very excited about his “presidential” decision and conveyed that to their audience.

We’ve seen that reality show before too. It led us into the Iraq war, and the mainstream media has never fully accounted for themselves for their role in that disaster either. It’s not a good sign.


What about all those other Fox News harassers?

by digby

Over the week-end, Sean Hannity was drawn into the Fox News circles of sexist pigs when far right, bomb-throwing columnist Deb Schlussel accused him of being "creepy" toward her. (This was actually a walk-back from an earlier accusation of sexual harassment.)

Let's just say that even if Hannity has never once come on inappropriately to any women in the workplace, the place was obviously such a disgusting environment that he had to have seen it and condoned it. This kind of behavior is not only noticed by everyone, the boys in these workplaces talk about it amongst themselves. He knew.

But there's another Fox News sexist who seems to have escaped scrutiny and it's weird because he's at the center of it --- and has shown his colors on the air over and over again. Think Progress has the story:

It all started with Steve Doocy.

On July 6, 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Roger Ailes, alleging she was sexually harassed. The suit prompted an investigation of Ailes, his eventual firing, and a $20 million settlement for Carlson.

The investigation of Ailes, and the public standard it set for Fox News, set the precedent for the ouster of Bill O’Reilly last week, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment.

But Carlson’s problems with Ailes began when she complained to him about the conduct of Steve Doocy, her co-host on Fox & Friends.

According to Carlson’s complaint, Doocy “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson.”

Doocy was not named as a defendant. But Carlson claimed Doocy created a “hostile work environment” by treating her in a “sexist and condescending way,” regarding her as a “blond female prop.”

When Carlson complained to Ailes about Doocy’s conduct, he told her that she needed to “get along with the boys.” Things went downhill from there.

Ten months later, Ailes and O’Reilly are gone. But Steve Doocy is still on the air every weekday starting at 6AM, his conduct largely absent from discussions of sexual harassment at Fox News.

About a month after Carlson filed her lawsuit, a former staffer for Fox & Friends told Politico that “[e]veryone on staff knew about or saw Doocy make inappropriate comments, but most people just rolled their eyes at it.”
Some inappropriate and sexist treatment of Carlson by Doocy and co-host Brian Kilmeade made it on air. It was captured in devastating fashion by Bloomberg News.

There is no indication that they have any intention of doing something about Doocy. But there's good reason for that. While he is the single most brain dead member of any Fox show --- and that is quite a feat --- he has one very important fan:

Doocy sticks out as an especially strident supporter of Donald Trump in a network full of strident supporters of Donald Trump.

One thing that didn’t faze Doocy was the tape of Trump on Access Hollywood bragging about sexual assault. Doocy described the entire incident as a “covert attempt to derail the Trump train.”

Since becoming President, Trump has rewarded Doocy and his co-hosts with extensive access, including a recent interview in the Oval Office.

Gotta keep Orange Julius Caesar happy.

Mostly Mexicans

by digby

Jesus Christ this guy's a monster:
We're going to get paid for it one way or the other,” Sessions said of the wall. “I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago, that are going to payments to people — tax credits that they shouldn't get. Now, these are mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up — $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion.

"There are a lot of ways we can find money to help pay for this.”

Presumably the report that Sessions was citing was a July 2011 report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration that said individuals who are not authorized to work in the U.S. have been paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits. But it did not mention Mexicans or any other nationalities.

I guess he thinks there are a ton of kitchen workers and nannies filing federal income tax returns and getting billions of dollars in credits. And the federal government will claw back all that money when they are rousted out of their homes and sent back to Mexico. That way all those evil "illegals" will pay for that wall themselves.  Bwaaaahahahahaha!

But guess what? Those people also pay taxes and a lot more than what they're getting back in credits to society at large. But hey, whatever. As long as we "get 'em out!, amirite?

Sessions is a malevolent horror. I think people are understimating the threat of him at the helm of the Justice Department.

Schmaaht as a whip

by digby

TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we're doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We're going to be applying — I shouldn't tell you this, but we're going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. ... We've worked on it long and hard. And you gotta understand, I've only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do "Obamacare." I've been here 92 days, but I've only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I've been working on health care for 60 days. ... we're very close. And it's a great plan ... we have to get it approved.

AP: Is it this deal that's between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus? Is that the deal you're looking at?

TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They're great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don't seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don't have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it's fine. But you know there's a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of 'em. Now, we have government not closing. I think we'll be in great shape on that, it's going very well. Obviously that takes precedent.

AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?

TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the 100 days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the 100 days. But we've done a lot. You have a list of things. I don't have to read it.

That was some awesome gibberish. He's just stringing random words together at this point.

Here's a link to his speech at Gettysburg last October 22nd called "The 100 Day Plan to Make America Great Again for Everyone:"

What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington,

Yeah, he's never been great at fulfilling contracts, has he?


Macron and Le Pen in runoff

by Tom Sullivan

Emmanuel Macron took the top spot in first round of French presidential voting Sunday.

Voters in France Sunday were of a mood to turn out mainstream politicians, CNN reports:

Voters in France have comprehensively snubbed the country's political establishment, sending far-right populist Marine Le Pen and political novice Emmanuel Macron through to the second round of the country's presidential election, early results indicate.

With 96% of polling stations declared, newcomer Macron was leading the field with 23.7%. National Front leader Le Pen was close behind on 21.8%.

The result upended traditional French politics: Neither candidate hails from the establishment parties that have dominated the country for decades.
It was as if Ross Perot defeated incumbent president George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton in 1992, said French political scientist Olivier Duhamel.

The results Sunday night for once vindicated pollsters who correctly predicted this outcome. France now heads into "uncharted territory,"
... because whoever wins on May 7 cannot count on the backing of France's political mainstream parties. Even under a constitution that concentrates power in the president's hands, both Macron and Le Pen will need legislators in parliament to pass laws and implement much of their programs.
Those hoping to see extremist Le Pen defeated still have their chance. She is the underdog in the runoff. Defeated conservative candidate François Fillon who drew 20 percent of the vote called on his supporters to rally behind Macron the centrist and against Le Pen:
"Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right."

The selection of Le Pen and Macron presents voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It sets up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.
In the last days of her campaign, Le Pen touched on themes Trump supporters would find familiar, promising to immediately suspend all legal immigration until France, to use Trump's formulation, can figure out what's going on.

So the investment banker who has never run for office is set up to rescue France from the far-right nationalist called an "enemy of the Republic" by the Socialist Party's Benoît Hamon (fifth place).

For American voters, this exchange with Macron supporters brings back uncomfortable memories from last November: Should Macron win on May 7, France will preserve its open borders while an American political novice, Donald Trump, squanders tax dollars on a new Maginot Line.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is he delusional or just dancing as fast as he can?

by digby

According to this interesting article in Politico, it's the latter:
More than a belief in the power of positive thinking or the casual audacity of a tireless salesman, Trump has perfected a narrative style in which he doesn’t merely obscure reality—he tries to change it with pronouncements that act like blaring, garish roadside billboards. Unrelenting in telling his own story, he has defined himself as a success no matter what—by talking the loudest and the longest, and by insisting on having the first word and also the last. And it’s worked. Again and again, throughout his adult life, Trump in essence has managed to succeed without actually succeeding.

This, not his much-crowed-about deal-making prowess, is Trump’s most singular skill, I’ve heard in more than a dozen recent interviews.

“He’s not successful at what he claims to be successful at,” said Tim O’Brien, the author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. “He is, however, arguably the most successful self-promoter in United States business and political history. And that’s a form of success.”

“He knows of no other way,” former New York Daily News scribe George Rush said, “and that is to spin until he’s woven some gossamer fabric out of”—he searched for the right word—“garbage.”

Even his admirers, who dispute the notion that Trump has not accomplished important things in this first stage of his first term, grant that his ultimate success will depend in no small measure on his ability to convince people that he has succeeded. “I think by the power of persuasion he’s going to end up getting things done,” said Sam Nunberg, a political adviser early in his campaign who credits Trump with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and a flurry of executive orders that have undone or loosened Barack Obama-implemented policies and regulations. “He certainly could sell ice to an Eskimo—and I mean that as a compliment. He’s the spinner of all spinners.”

And he’s only upped the ante over the last month.

“I don’t lose,” he told the Financial Times.

“It’s been very much misreported that we failed with health care,” he said in the Fox Business interview. “We haven’t failed. We’re negotiating …”

“We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before,” he assured parents and their children by way of introducing them to the White House for the Easter Egg Roll. “We’re right on track. You see what’s happening.”

But what’s happening, many think, is that he’s failing, and that his transparent strategy to distract from his manifest lack of preparation is being exposed on this blinding-bright, highest-stakes stage. This is, after all, the hardest job Trump has ever had, and even he occasionally has alluded to that. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” he memorably said back in February as his reform efforts floundered.

In one significant way, though, Trump’s never had it easier. Attention is his oxygen, and always has been, and for most of his professional existence, especially before the hit debut of The Apprentice in 2004, he had to work for it. Now he doesn’t. He’s the president, which he views (not wrongly) as a kind of proof in and of itself of success. “I can’t be doing so badly,” he explained to a reporter from Time, “because I’m president, and you’re not.” And when he asserts his versions of reality, they come, unlike in the past, with an immense governmental apparatus to back them up and the inherent authority of the office he inhabits. Trump no longer can be ignored. He has to be listened to.

“He creates his own reality,” said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization vice president in the 1980s and ‘90s. “He created the reality that he was this big, successful businessman, and now he’s creating the reality that he’s a big, accomplished president.”

“He’s gotten away with this game his whole life,” Florida-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson said.

It worked for him as a businessman, and it worked for him as a presidential candidate—and if it doesn’t work for him in the long run as president as well, it will be a first.

Read the whole thing.
It's worth it.

I find this fascinating. He is the living embodiment of "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and it actually works for him. This particular form of shameless dishonesty, extreme braggodoccio, self-promotion and spin is very difficult to keep up over a whole lifetime, I think. But he's done it. Spinning failure as success is his real talent.

And what it says about him is that he has a high tolerance for the stress that comes with worrying about being "found out" and it may even be the fuel that keeps him going. He can never relax, admit to fatigue or fear or defeat. He's always dancing as fast as he can.

He's 70 years old now. The stakes are so much higher than ever before and his enemies are legion. He's never had to dance this fast before.

But he's trying:

It takes guts to call a poll fake news and then lie about what it says in your favor.

Nobody ever said he didn't lie boldly and without shame. It's what he does.

"You’ve got to read, you have to be thoughtful, and you have to be engaged"

by digby

A California congressman, inspiring the Resistance:

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s town hall was winding down, and as usual his audience had gotten its money’s worth.

And not just because it was free.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, treated the audience during a recent event at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette to the full dinner show: a fast-paced PowerPoint presentation; a civics lesson (want to know why the Congressional districts are numbered the way they are?); a dose of history (do you know which president was the first to issue his inaugural address from the West Terrace of the Capitol)?

Many familiar topics were touched upon, both in DeSaulnier’s talk and the Q&A that followed. Yes, more than a few dealt with the Trump in the room. Then came the final question card of the night, from a young girl, and it was a show-stopper.

“Eden wanted to have her question asked by staff because it’s past her bedtime,” explained a member of DeSaulnier’s staff, who then read the question:

“My name is Eden, and I’m 11 years old. My mom is worried about my future with President Trump. On election night, my mom cried. Kids at my school are worrying about being deported. I’ve read and heard awful things about him. Should I be worried about my future? As a kid, what can I do about it?”

“From the mouths of babes,” DeSaulnier said, apparently affected by the question. And who wouldn’t be? The toxic national discourse is dispiriting enough for adults. To hear that it is trickling down to affect 11-year-olds?

“It’s interesting,” he would say a few days later. “The night before in Richmond, something similar happened. Both instances were a little out of body for me. I sort of responded to the way people were responding to me.”

Back to Eden’s question: “I think you should be concerned,” DeSaulnier said. “This is dangerous stuff. I’ve said a few times, the most dangerous person in America isn’t a terrorist, it’s the person who’s president of the United States. So Eden, you’ve got to read, you have to be thoughtful, and you have to be engaged.”

It was as if DeSaulnier knew exactly whom he was talking to. Eden, bright-eyed and engaging, has accompanied her mother, Alissa Levy, to the polls every election day since she can remember. “Since I was a baby,” she said a week after DeSaulnier’s town hall. “I’ve done everything in politics with my mom.”

Back to the Q&A:

“So the Greeks’ (description of) the word ‘idiot,'” DeSaulnier said, warming to the subject. “If you were qualified to vote in the Athenian democracy, you were called an idiot if you didn’t participate. The Greeks are sending us a message.”

Eden participated in Trump protests at her school shortly after the election and marched for climate change awareness. But she’s not only a political activist. She also has volunteered at her temple, recently picking fruit for the homeless.

DeSaulnier: “If we don’t participate for ourselves, but more importantly if we don’t participate for Eden and for future generations … People died for this,” he said, his voice catching. “People have come from all over the world — I’m getting a little emotional — for this. American democracy is not some trite thing. It’s the epitome of human evolution in my view.

“How we govern each other and how we respect one another, that’s what this is about. It’s not about vilifying people because they don’t look like you. It’s about engaging and empathy and understanding you’re going to have differences of opinion, but that’s OK. That’s what democracy is all about. So to Eden, what I’d say is, do what the founders of this country wanted you to do. Do what your grandparents, your great-grandparents did when they went to the other side of the world and died and put their lives on the line. American democracy is worth fighting for. So we should all do that. And Eden, if we all do that … ”

Even if DeSaulnier had been able to finish the sentence, he wouldn’t have been heard above the applause.

The wingnuts are up in arms because he said the president is more dangerous than a terrorist. Of course he is. A narcissistic, domineering, corrupt, bigoted, imbecile is running the world's only superpower. He's the most dangerous man on earth.