The Idea of America

The idea of America has been at the heart of our success in the world for 70 years. For all our imperfections, we have embodied political and economic openness, respect for human dignity and a sense of possibility. The power of our example has mattered more than the power of our preaching, and enlightened self-interest has driven our strategy.

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Because you won’t go away

The Washington Post: After a day of marches, Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes

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Here’s why:

  1. You’re the damn president now, and we need to know how much your own policies are about enriching yourself (I’m guessing a lot). You’ve given us very little reason to trust you, and lots of reasons not to.
  2. You filed for reelection the day you were inaugurated. 2016 may be over, but 2018 and 2020 are coming. You’re president in a democracy, not King of America.
  3. We know you’re hiding something.

A quickie

I tend to think of Nixon’s second term as “Watergate break-in, yada yada yada…Nixon resigns.” But there were two years between those events. I continue to hope that Trump will meet a similar end, but even if we follow a similar timeline, we’re not even through the first “ya.”

Ugh. 

Fire, BAA-AD!

Really good piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today on the state of US politics today, although I do have some criticism. A couple key paragraphs are below. You can see the charts in his piece, but they basically show a couple cases where Democrats have stayed pretty consistent over the years, while Republicans have radically changed.

It also explains how Trump was able to tramp all over traditional conservative ideology in the primaries and still emerge victorious. He understood when no else did that loyalty to that ideology was an inch deep among the GOP base, and that the true unifying force was resentment. Even now, with the incompetence of the Trump administration on full display, and after a clear betrayal of his anti-elitist campaign promises, he retains significant conservative support based on his unrivaled ability to outrage liberals. He is proving once again that people will vote even against their own self-interest as long as their resentments are validated and appeased.

And on and on it goes. When you marvel at Republican inability to formulate coherent policy on health care, on Syria and the Middle East or any other issue, I again refer you to the charts above. For decades now, the centerpole of conservative thought has been to oppose liberal thought. As a result, when put in a position to enact policies of their own, they have none. It’s like a drunk who has spent all night leaning against a lamppost for support. Take away the lamppost, and he collapses.

My primary criticism with this piece is that it’s initially framed as a look at the “growing divide” in US politics. This is of course a refrain you hear a lot, but I don’t think it’s right. When people talk of the political divide in America today, that always implies some kind of equal division— as if for every step Republicans take to the right Democrats are also taking a step to the left. Look at those charts, though. Wherever Democrats stand on the left/right scale, they are more or less holding steady. Republicans, on the other hand, are lurching further and further away.

There’s also an offhand reference in the article to “a media culture that conservatives find increasingly antagonistic and dismissive, and often, I’ll admit, for very good reason.” (emphasis added) This seems to imply that conservatives are justified in their resentment of the media, as if their own behavior has had no role in driving the antagonism they claim to see.

Let me put it this way— with the rise of Trump, you will sometimes find references to “principled Republicans.” John McCain occasionally plays one of these on TV, at least in the sense that most people think of when they use that phrase. However, based on the continuing support of Trump by the Republican party, the only principle they have is “GOP good! Democrats bad!” I guess it fits on a bumper sticker, so they have that going for them.

Trump’s trail of tears

I’m assuming this is more or less how the whole “Let’s bomb Syria!” thing went down.

INT. White house

DONALD TRUMP is sitting with several aides discussing recent events in Syria. There is a loose pile of documents and photos on the table in front of them.

AIDE #1

We have an update on Assad’s recent chemical attack. There are some indications‑‑

TRUMP

Oh my god, are these babies?

AIDE #1

Sir?

TRUMP

That photo. Are those babies who were hurt in the bombing?

AIDE #1

Yes, sir. Current reports are that there were seventy or more casualties, most civilian.

TRUMP

(Starting to weep)

But they’re just babies!

AIDE #1

Yes, sir.

TRUMP

But‑‑ but that’s horrible! Babies!

TRUMP’s eyes well up with tears as he stares at the photos. There is a moment of silence as if everyone around the table is holding their collective breath. Then TRUMP suddenly bursts into tears, wailing inconsolably.

TRUMP

No! They’re babies! How can this happen? And that one! That one! I can’t believe it!

AIDE #1

Sir?

TRUMP

Look how hot that one’s mother probably is!

TRUMP continues to wail, while everyone else looks uncomfortable. TRUMP starts slowly beating his head on the table.

AIDE #2

Sir? If I may make a suggestion? Sir?

The AIDE tentatively puts his hand on TRUMP’s shoulder. TRUMP lifts his head. His face is streaked with tears and he has snot bubbling out of his nose.

TRUMP

What?

AIDE #2

Perhaps we could bomb them?

TRUMP

(Still sniffling, but this idea clearly brightens his mood)

Really?

AIDE #2

Yes, sir. This is America. It’s what we do.

TRUMP

Could we bomb them a lot?

AIDE #1

Well, let’s start small and see how it goes.

TRUMP

Can I watch it on TV?

AIDE #1

Uh, sure.

AIDE #2

This is America.

George Clinton was right

I’ll be blunt. Trump’s bombing of Syria is a Whole Lot of BS. You can’t wake up one day not caring about the brutal leader in a country torn by civil war, and two days later be bombing the same country. That’s not decisive leadership, that’s capriciousness. And we’re supposed to believe this was precipitated because he saw footage of children who were injured in Assad’s recent chemical attack? I’m sure those pictures were rough to look at, but were they somehow more heart-wrenching than other images of children caught up in the Syrian civil war? And I know I’m not alone in asking what comes next.

Even the bombing itself doesn’t seem to have accomplished the immediate goals Trump is claiming. Word is that he gave Russia a heads-up about it, and even if they didn’t explicitly warn Syria about the impending attack, a sudden mass exodus of Russian personnel and equipment from the area would have been a big tipoff. In fact, Syria launched another attack from the same air field later the same day.

As an aside, I’ve seen some hint that our warning the Russians is more evidence that Trump is beholden to them, but I’m not so sure. Assuming we don’t want to start a war with Russia, it was a good idea to give them a heads up. Better to pockmark a largely empty air field than risk military confrontation with a major nuclear power.

What particularly sickens me is how Congress and the media have been so immediately, uncritically supportive of this. I can’t be the only one who remembers this same kind of behavior leading up to the Iraq War part deux. Have they learned nothing about the dangers of being sycophantic cheerleaders for war?

Deep breath…

Beyond whatever the hash of our Syria policy is now, what I’m most interested in seeing next is what public reaction to all this is. Historically, military action has a tendency to rally people around a nation’s leader. However, I don’t know how much effect that a limited strike like this is likely to have. Trump has also done absolutely nothing to prepare the country for this or any other actions he may take, so most of us were blindsided by it. He’s now going to have to justify his actions after the fact and explain what the hell he’s doing (presumably after yet another weekend golfing), with a good chunk of the country already looking at anything he does with a jaundiced eye.

That’s MAJORITY LEADER Ambulatory Scrotum to you, sir

First, there’s this pair of quotes, which I found on Twitter (I lost the actual tweet, unfortunately).

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Then there’s this lovely sentiment from Lindsey “moderate cosplayer” Graham:

Asked if McConnell would invoke the nuclear option if faced with a a filibuster, Graham responded, “Oh yeah, we have no other choice.”

“We’re not going to have a rule, a tradition in the Senate where they get their judges and President Trump can’t get his,” he said.

On one hand, Lindsey’s right. According to the GOP, we’re going to have a world where the GOP gets its judges and Democrats do not. Remember, in addition to Garland not even getting a hearing, there were plans to deny Hillary Clinton any judges for the duration of her presidency.

I should say that as far as eliminating the filibuster goes, I’m actually for it. It would make the next few years suck harder, but in the long run we’re better off without requiring a supermajority for everything in the Senate. However, this notion that Democrats are the ones responsible for current breakdowns in the Senate is insulting to anyone with a memory longer than a goldfish. 

There’s also an easy way out of this whole thing, but they’ll never take it. The GOP could allow the filibuster and acknowledge that Gorsuch won’t be confirmed. Trump could then re-nominate Merrick Garland. Garland would sail through the confirmation process, and would do a lot to heal current rifts in the Senate that have been caused by Mitch and his GOP cronies.

Satire vs. News

Vox has a good piece on how satirists are doing a better job covering the Trump administration than news networks. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who remembers what it was like during the last GOP administration, but it’s a good reminder. However, as far as I can tell they neglected to provide links to the various shows they reference. So as a public service, here are links to the YouTube channels for the key folks they showed clips from:

FWIW, I’ve been watching all of these on a regular basis, and they are all killing it. Seth is probably the least barbed of the bunch, but his “A Closer Look” segment is very good. John Oliver easily goes into the most depth on his show, with Samantha Bee close behind (I may give her the prize for “most barbed”). Colbert probably has the most enthusiastic audience at this point, and it’s good to see the occasional “The Word” segment in addition to his monologues. None of them are pulling any punches.