Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Here are excerpts from messages sent by Peter Strzok, the FBI agent removed from Robert Mueller's investigation for anti-Trump bias:
Let no one be mistaken Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded....

Donald Trump the candidate is a sore of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican Americans for political sport....

[Trump] offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism: a toxic mix demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense....
No, wait -- those weren't texts from Peter Strzok. They're excerpts from a speech given by one of the members of Trump's cabinet, Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The speech was delivered July 22, 2015.

In January 2016, Nikki Haley, then the governor of South Carolina, delivered the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, in which she said this:
During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
Subsequently, on the Today show, she said that Trump was "one of" the people she was referring to. She told Matt Lauer, "Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk."

So, yes, Peter Strzok and fellow FBI agent Lisa Page exchanged a lot of anti-Trump messages:
A series of text messages exchanged between top FBI employees referring to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as an "idiot" and "d*uche," while fearing his potential victory as "terrifying," were released to lawmakers Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill amid increasing demands to see them....

Throughout the primary season in 2016, Strzok and Page appeared to dread a Trump victory....

"I cannot believe Donald Trump is likely to be an actual, serious candidate for president," Page texted Strzok on March 16, 2016.

"God(,) Trump is a loathsome human," Page added in another, to which Strzok replies: "Yet he may win."
But as Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, Strzok and Page "did not say anything about Donald Trump that the majority of Americans weren’t also thinking at the same time." That includes a couple of people Trump hired for key positions.


And yes, I know: It's been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "fucking moron," while Ntional Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called him an "idiot" and a "dope." But those were deniable private utterances (even though I'm sure they've been accurately reported). Perry and Haley attacked the president in public, and he hired them anyway.


Yesterday Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, a man who never apologizes, never concedes a point to an opponent, and never admits error. Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, who has the same attitude toward those who disagree with him, and who takes the Breitbart #WAR mentality so seriously he defied the president he used to work for by not backing that president's candidate in the primary of this race. Bannon's support of Moore was also part of a #WAR against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful congressional Republican.

McConnell for his part, has declared #WAR on regular order in Congress, ramming through a tax bill with no effort to hold hearings or consult with Democrats. He nearly rammed through an Obamacare repeal the same way.

And then there's the president, who declares #WAR on someone every day on Twitter, and who has utterly rejected compromise and consultation as president, while making no effort to reach out to Democrats and independents in the general public. His favorite form of outreach to the public is a pseudo-campaign rally before a crowd made up exclusively of hardcore supporters.

In the past, Republicans -- no, not all of them (certainly not Newt Gingrich), but especially Republican presidents -- have tried to consolidate support by portraying their ideas as mainstream and pitching their message as conciliatory. This could be maddening -- "enhanced interrogation" was mainstream? -- but even while scoring victories over Democrats, these Republicans frequently tried to seem as if they weren't taunting Democrats. It was purely strategic, but it could be disarming: Our ideas are where the center lies. Won't you join us?

Trump, Moore, and Bannon dispense will all that. Legislatively, so does McConnell. They don't want to make converts. They just want to crush their enemies (including, at times, one another). The Bannon/Moore response to the pedophilia allegations was #WAR against the accusers and the press, even though the news stories were solid and the accusers believable.

Yesterday's results were a rejection of pedophilia, but they were also a rejection of #WAR politics. Some Alabama Republicans have been tired of Moore's culture-war absolutism for years; many of them stayed home or voted Jones or third party. Black voters turned out in large numbers, determined to return fire not just against Moore but against national Republicans. And those national Republicans fought among themselves, which made it impossible for them to formulate a unified strategy after the pedophilia allegations surfaced.

So maybe there's a limit to the effectiveness of #WAR. That's good. However, I don't believe that the GOP will accept this notion until after the polls close in 2018 or 2020, if then.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


And I couldn't be happier.


As we wait to learn the outcome of the Alabama Senate race, let's pause to note that Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls today -- and was mocked mercilessly by people who actually know how to ride horses:

But do you know what we're not hearing? We're not hearing any of the usual mainstream-media pundits talking about Moore's lack of "authenticity" -- which is exactly what we'd hear if a Democrat tried riding a horse to the polls and did so as embarrassingly as Moore.

Is a Republican in a general election ever derided as "inauthentic"? Mitt Romney is the only one who comes to mind. A few of the candidates who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries were derided as "inauthentic" -- but once a Republican heads to a general election, he or she is almost invariably presumed to have "authenticity," while the Democrat, if he's not named Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, is usually deemed "inauthentic."

That was true even last year, when Donald Trump was a self-evident phony -- a phony populist, a phony Christian, a phony isolationist, a phony patriot.

Now Roy Moore is the phoniest of cowboys. But it's okay, because he's a Republican.


I'm sure you know about this:
President Trump aggressively returned to the issue of sexual harassment on Tuesday, again dismissing his own accusers as fabricators and attacking a female Democratic senator as a “lightweight” who “would do anything” for campaign contributions.

The president’s attacks came in early morning Twitter posts after three of the accusers had come forward on Monday to renew their charges from last year that Mr. Trump had sexually assaulted them before he entered politics, and after the senator, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, had called for him to resign.

Amanda Marcotte has it right:

It's easy to do this if you're gaslighting yourself, as Trump routinely does. This is a guy who now says he hasn't even met the women who are accusing him of sexual misconduct, even though one was a contestant on The Apprentice and he's been photographed with others. He says he thinks the Access Hollywood tape is a fake, even though it clearly isn't; I think he's persuaded himself that he wasn't there and didn't say what he said.

When Trump writes something like this, I think he knows precisely what his words mean. But I think he'll tells himself now that the innuendo wasn't really there. We're the one whose minds are in the gutter -- we want to impute some hidden meaning to him because we're part of the liberal mob that wants to destroy him.

Trump is a monster, but I want to point out that at least one "respectable" Republican thinks he's just responding in kind:
“Historically members of Congress have used mean, crude, over-the-line words to attack sitting presidents, and many presidents try to rise above and not return the fire,” said Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman for President George W. Bush. “Donald Trump has made a conscious decision to return the fire. That’s his style and I cannot say he’s wrong to do it. It wasn’t my style. It wasn’t President Bush’s style. His instructions were to rise above it.”
Seriously, Ari? You're saying that this is a proportional response? That Trump is responding in kind?

This would be valid if Gillibrand had ever insinuated that Trump sexually services Vladimir Putin in return for business favors or campaign aid. But she's never said anything like that. She's a harsh critic who's called on Trump to resign, but she's kept it high-minded. Yeah, there was that one time when she said "Fuck no" when addressing the question of whether Trump had kept his campaign promises. But Trump's tweet today is on another level entirely.

And while we're on the subject of Ari Fleischer: Yes, President Bush didn't go low, but that was mostly because he had other people, primarily Dick Cheney, to go into the gutter for him. But I imagine Fleischer has forgotten that. Trump isn't the only one who self-gaslights.


So this happened at Roy Moore's campaign rally last night:
... on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife Kayla Moore attempted to shoot down one of the lesser known allegations against her husband.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said....

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
She's being widely mocked in parts of the country where there are more Jews than there are in Alabama.

This happened at the same campaign rally:
Speaker at Moore event says he accidentally went with Moore to a brothel with child prostitutes

... One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.” ...

Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel...

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.

... Staehle and Moore took [the third man's] Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage....

Staehle viewed this story as a triumphant example of Moore’s sterling moral character. Although Staehle hasn’t seen Moore in 45 years, he said, “He’s the same guy....He’s honorable. He’s disciplined. Morally straight. Highly principled.”
And prior to that, there was this:
A pro-Trump group arranged this week to have a 12-year-old girl interview Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whose special election campaign is entering its final 24 hours.

Millie March went viral at the Conservative Party Action Conference (CPAC) in February, where she offered a full-throttle defense of President Trump’s legislative agenda. Since then, she has become a darling of the right-wing, being interviewed by Fox and Friends in July and meeting Trump himself in September.

As a result, the America First Project — a pro-Trump group founded by former Breitbart writers — decided that Millie would be the best person to interview Moore
Lefties are mocking all this as terrible campaign strategy:

But this isn't terrible campaign strategy if you assume that Moore's goal is to fire up hardcore GOP voters.

Moore's Christian, rural base probably finds Jews as exotic as Kayla Moore does, so her assertion about the lawyer probably comes off as not at all tone-deaf. On the other hand, these days most conservative Christians nationwide regard themselves as philo-Semitic -- no, they don't like George Soros, but they have positive feelings about Judaism in the abstract, although those positive feelings tend to involve the notion that Christianity is the fully evolved version of Judaism. (They like the idea of Trump moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem because that will bring us closer to Armageddon.) Beyond that, they know that when Kayla Moore says that she and her husband "also do fellowship with" Jews, that goes way over the heads of us evil secular humanists, who don't even know what it means to "do fellowship." They feel really smug about that.

The base also believes that all the stories about Moore and teenagers are lies, and that Moore is far more moral than the average person. So the brothel story isn't weird to the base -- it's a Christian parable of temptation avoided.

And the interview by the 12-year-old? Same thing -- and it's no surprise to me that this idea was cooked up by former Breitbart staffers. This is no-retreat, no-surrender Bannonism. They want us to howl and send mocking tweets, while the base responds with whataboutist denunciations of our hypocrisy (Harvey Weinstein! Bill Clinton! Ted Kennedy!). Acknowledge no wrongdoing and go on offense. That's the strategy.

And I bet it works. I think Moore will win by 5.


UPDATE: Good catch from Mark Mucci in comments:
The story about Roy Moore leaving the brothel was in my local paper (NJ Star Ledger) two weeks ago. It's changed slightly. It's just "women" in the older version, now it's "girls" in the brothel. Maybe the storyteller was practicing with my local thinks-he's-a-big-deal conservative columnist.
The story is here. Curious that it evolved in the retelling.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Nate Silver has published a long piece on the Alabama Senate polls, which are predicting everything from a Roy Moore blowout to a Doug Jones blowout. But I remain pessimistic, because of this:
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.
So polls in which respondents talk to a live caller are favoring Jones. That suggests to me that some Republican voters don't want to tell a live human being -- quite possibly someone who sounds like a Yankee -- that they're voting for Roy Moore, whereas they're more willing to acknowledge that in a robo-poll. Silver notes that in recent elections we haven't seen evidence of "shy voters," but media reports are telling us that Alabamans are acutely aware of how the rest of the country is judging them. If there are going to be "shy voters" in any election, I think it's going to be this one.

I could be wrong, but reluctance to talk to a live pollster might explain the surprising Democratic skew in the two recent Fox polls I've expressed doubt about. It could also be that some Republicans just don't want to participate at all in this election, but in that case I think you'd see Jones doing better in other polls.

Automated polls have their own biases, as Silver notes -- they can't legally call cellphones. It's my understanding that older people are much more likely to have landlines than the young (and older people are more likely to favor Moore). But older people vote more, too, so I'm not ure how much that's skewing the results.

My conclusion is that Moore's going to win -- unless apparent "shy voters" shy away from the polls altogether.


I sure hope this is true, but I don't believe it.
Democrat Doug Jones holds a 10-point lead over Republican Roy Moore among likely voters in deep red Alabama.

Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That’s according to a Fox News Poll of Alabama voters conducted Thursday through Sunday....
Alabama is a very Republican state: It voted Trump 62%-34% and is split 51.8% Republican, 34.8% Democratic, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. I told you I didn't believe the previous Fox poll of the race, in part because the party breakdown of the poll wasn't GOP enough: 48% Republican, 40% Democratic. The party split in the new poll is even more implausible: 44% Republican, 42% Democratic among likely voters. That's not representative of Alabama. The turnout won't be anything like that.

A skewed poll is useful to Fox for two reasons. First, Fox, as an arm of the Republican Party, wants to goose GOP turnout. Recent polls have been looking very good for Moore. A bad poll for Moore on Fox is a warning to pro-Moore voters in Alabama that they shouldn't be complacent. It also helps goose the ratings. More right-wingers around the country are going to watch Fox's coverage of the race if they think it's a toss-up rather than a likely Moore blowout.

I'll be thrilled if I'm wrong. But I'm predicting a fairly comfortable Moore victory.


In The New York Times, Charles Blow expresses some conventional wisdom:
If Alabama voters on Tuesday elect Roy Moore to the Senate, the Donald Trump-diseased party once known as the Republicans may as well call themselves Roypublicans.

There will be no way to shake the stench of this homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, racist apologist and accused pedophile. He is them, and they are him....

The pre-Trump Republican Party is dead; The zombie Trump party now lives in its stead, devoid of principle, feasting on fear and rage, foreign to moral framing.

Trump was the gateway to the Roypublicans.
Yeah, it's all Trump's fault that right-wingers are crazy now, as we can see in a radio clip from ... 2011:
Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured....

Moore made his comments about constitutional amendments in a June 2011 appearance on the "Aroostook Watchmen" show, which is hosted by Maine residents Jack McCarthy and Steve Martin. The hosts have argued that the US government is illegitimate and who have said that the September 11, 2001, attacks, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, the Boston bombing, and other mass shootings and terrorist attacks are false flag attacks committed by the government....

In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth.

"That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."
Trump didn't make right-wingers crazy -- the crazy was out there long before Trump announced his candidacy. This was four years before Trump decided to run. The crazy was already there, hiding in plain sight.

And if you want to argue that this radio show featured an out-of-power Alabaman talking to a couple of lunatic-fringe Mainers who had no influence, consider this 2014 story about the men from Maine:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is facing questions over his decision to repeatedly meet with activists who have ties to a group the FBI and Maine law enforcement consider a domestic terrorist organization.

Talking Points Memo published ... an excerpt from author Mike Tipping’s new book, in which he details how LePage engaged with members of the Constitutional Coalition, which is affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen movement. Members of the organization believe the government is planning an attack on Christian Americans by collecting firearms, that it runs mind-control operations and that it was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LePage reportedly met with members of the group eight times from January through September of 2013.

Tipping, who works for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group, wrote that when the coalition’s members met with LePage they discussed arresting and executing state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) and Senate President Justin Alfond (D) for treason and violating the U.S. Constitution.
According to that book excerpt, members of the Aroostook Watchmen were among the participants in several of those meetings with the Constitutional Coalition. Jack McCarthy described one of the meetings on the radio shortly after it took place:
As McCarthy later revealed in his conversation with Martin on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show, the meeting that weekend covered a wide range of topics. The members of the Constitutional Coalition informed LePage that the United Nations and the Rockefellers were plotting to take over Maine’s North Woods. They discussed the illegitimacy of the U.S. Department of Education and argued that the state should refuse to accept federal education funding. (According to McCarthy, the governor “hung his head and said you’re right” in response.) They also informed LePage that U.S. paper currency is unlawful. (“He was mesmerized by that,” said McCarthy.)
This would seem like boasting if not for the fact that government records confirm the multiple meetings:
McCarthy’s description of LePage’s participation and remarks might be dismissed as simply an unfortunate series of miscommunications and exaggerations of the actions of a governor just trying to appease some constituents and supporters without really understanding who he was talking to or what he was talking about. The fact that the meeting was far from a one-off event makes this less likely, however. The Watchmen describe—and e-mails and documents obtained from LePage’s staff through Maine’s Freedom of Access laws confirm—at least eight meetings over a period of nine months in 2013, almost all more than an hour in duration and some lasting almost three hours.
The Watchmen have had a significant amount of influence in Maine politics:
The Aroostook Watchmen show isn’t just a voice in the wilderness. It has hosted a who’s who of the conservative far right in Maine, including leading Christian conservative activists, the heads of the various Tea Party groups, state legislators, members of LePage’s administration, presidential candidate Ron Paul, and, during the 2010 primary, LePage himself. LePage was one of three candidates who sought the support of the show’s listeners and the endorsement of hosts Martin and McCarthy. He even participated in a live debate on the program opposite fellow Republican primary candidate William Beardsley.

Members of the Constitutional Coalition and their supporters are well connected within the larger conservative and Tea Party establishment in Maine. They have taken leadership roles in a number of local and statewide Tea Party groups, and some have sat on the Republican State Committee.

Aroostook Watchmen host Steve Martin worked closely with LePage campaign staffer Cynthia Rosen and a group of LePage supporters and Tea Party members to rewrite the state GOP platform in 2010. Some of its planks, including a mandate that the party “prohibit any participation in efforts to create a one world government,” echo Sovereign Citizen rhetoric.

During the Republican primary campaign for governor in 2010, Martin and McCarthy hosted a regular conference call that served to unite the disparate Maine Tea Party groups toward a common purpose and, eventually, toward the election of Paul LePage. They played a significant role in organizing and energizing the army of grassroots volunteers that helped him to win first the Republican primary and then the general election.
And because it wasn't noted above, let me point out that, of course, these guys are anti-Semites:
They warned that Jewish Senators Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Lieberman were attempting to disarm the patriots of America so that they could begin their “holocaust against America’s Christian population.”
This stuff wasn't banished to the margins before Trump. It was a significant part of the conservative mix. We're just noticing it now.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


I was surprised when this became a big story today:
Sen. Richard Shelby says he wants a Republican elected to the Senate on Tuesday to represent Alabama, but that he didn't vote for GOP candidate Roy Moore in the special election.

The Alabama Republican said he's already cast his ballot, and that he chose a write-in candidate.

"I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore," Shelby told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."
This was breaking news today? Why? We've known about Shelby's vote for nearly two weeks. It was first reported on November 27.

Shelby said this today on CNN's State of the Union, while Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, was on NBC's Meet the Press saying this:
Sen. Tim Scott said Sunday that there is “very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly,” a response to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s veneration of the period of U.S. history when slavery was legal and Rep. Steve King’s online comment that “diversity is not our strength.”

“Well, [there is] very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly. And you just have to call it for what it is, No. 1,” Scott (R-S.C.), the only African-American Republican in the Senate, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No. 2, the bottom line is both when Steve King and Tim Scott arrived in this country, we were actually creating diversity because the Native Americans were already here. So that is just a ridiculous statement.”
And, for good measure, on CBS's Face the Nation UN ambassador Nikki Haley said this:
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that the women who have accused President Trump of touching or groping them without their consent “should be heard.”

Haley’s comments, made on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” diverged from the White House position on the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of misconduct....

Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a “settled issue,” given last year’s election results, Haley responded, “You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.”
So much wokeness from these Republicans, two days before Roy Moore is likely to win a Senate seat. If I were a cynic, I'd think the Republican establishment urged these three, or at least Shelby and Scott, to be the face of the GOP on the Sunday talk shows, in order to send the message that the party isn't really the party of Moore (or sex predator Trump).

Of course, a party that isn't the party of Moore and Trump would have rejected their candidacies, the way the party rejected David Duke's candidacy a couple of decades ago. But Republicans don't actually want to do that. They want to pocket the Moore win, as they pocketed Trump's, and persuade right-thinking citizens that Moore and Trump are anomalies and Republicans can be trusted with governance.

Republicans have been doing this for years: relying on knuckledragger politicians (Steve King, Joe Arpaio) and demogogic media figures (Michael Savage, Alex Jones) to rouse the rabble all week, after which "nice" Republicans show up on Sunday morning to reassure upmarket voters that the party can be trusted to steer the ship of state in a sober and responsible manner. The mainstream media never calls the Republicans on this, and apparently never notices that the knuckledraggers and the polite Sunday guests belong to the same party, and really have the same extreme goals.

See, for instance, Chuck Todd a few days ago:

In the MSM, they'll never learn -- or, rather, they just don't want to know.


It's been said that a Roy Moore win on Tuesday will be a burden for Republicans, because Moore will take office as a political and cultural throwback and a suspected pedophile. He may face an ethics investigation in the sentence; his past and his rhetoric will hung around the necks of other Republicans running in 2018.

But there's one other reason Republicans might live to regret a Moore victory. In response to a tweet from Dave Weigel...

... CNN's Andrew Kaczynski writes this:


It's not at all clear that Steve Bannon should get the credit for Moore's primary win, and he won't deserve credit for Moore's general election win if it happens. But Bannon will certainly claim credit. The media loves covering Bannon, so we'll have another wave of stories telling us that he's the fear-inspiring kingmaker who's reshaping the Republican Party.

He'll attract more money. He'll proclaim that he intends to replicate the Moore campaign all over the country in 2018. And radical, Trumpy candidates will try to use the Moore campaign as a model for their own wins. Many will run with Bannon (and Breitbart) backing.

But Moore will have pulled off his victory (assuming he does so) in Alabama. The rest of the country isn't Alabama -- it isn't Trump country and it isn't Bannon country.

I could imagine, for instance, a Muslim-bashing, Trump-worshipping, God-bothering Bannon candidate defeating the far more electable Tim Pawlenty or Norm Coleman in Minnesota, thus ensuring that whoever wins the Democratic primary will secure Al Franken's seat for the Democrats.

Even though Trump didn't endorse Roy Moore in the Alabama primary, a Moore win makes the GOP Trumpier -- and more Bannonesque. Yes, Republicans, you go ahead and use that as your model next year.

Saturday, December 09, 2017


Jonathan Chait thinks Robert Mueller's investigation is in "mortal danger" because congressional Republicans have lost their moral compass in the Trump era. Trump's depravity, Chait believes, has rubbed off on other Republicans, and that's why they won't lift as finger in response to Mueller's dismissal:
As recently as a few weeks ago, Republicans were debating whether to shun [Roy] Moore or, should he win, vote to expel him from the Senate. They have settled on a course of action that had initially been off the map altogether: endorsing their lecherous ayatollah and providing financial support from the Republican National Committee.

What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct.... And no Republican who wishes to stay in office can afford to offend the president, who commands overwhelming support among the party base.

This was the dynamic last year, when a tape revealed Trump casually confessing to sexual assault, and it was briefly impossible to imagine that he could continue the campaign.... Then the incomprehensible became inevitable. The same thing happened in May when a Republican House candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter and then lied about it. Would Republicans denounce him? Expel him? It turned out they would do nothing. By the time Moore came along, the party’s moral sensibilities had been worn to a nub.

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election...

It is almost a maxim of the Trump era that the bounds of the unthinkable continuously shrink. The capitulation to Moore was a dry run for the coming assault on the rule of law.
"What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct"? No, that's not what mattered most, because the rest of the GOP has made its own contempt for standards of conduct clear for years. Trump may have accelerated the Republican Party's descent into amorality, but he didn't start it.

Remember that congressional Republicans never opposed the Bush administration's decision to build a prison at Guantanamo that mocked the notion of due process; long before Trump promised to send more "bad dudes" there, it was that nice Mitt Romney, in the 2008 campaign who promised to "double Guantanamo." Republicans defended Bush-era torture and illegal surveillance. Republicans were fully on board with Bush administration efforts to suppress the votes of blacks and other Democratic-leaning groups. Republicans shrugged when the John Roberts Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Republicans launched an all-out assault on regular order in Congress when they held a Supreme Court seat open for a year starting in March 2016, months before Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Republicans launched multiple Benghazi investigations against Hillary Clinton even though they could never find a genuine reason for outrage. I could go on.

If their initial response to the appointment of Mueller was that they'd raise hell if Mueller was fired, that was Republicans saying what they thought they had to say. Only the most naive person thought they really meant it.

Trump hasn't worn down congressional Republicans' moral scruples -- he's just showing them how much they can get away with.

Friday, December 08, 2017


Here's a disturbing story, summed up succinctly in a Reason headline:
Arizona Cop Acquitted for Killing Man Crawling Down Hotel Hallway While Begging for His Life
That's accurate. Watch the video, which is disturbing:

Here's the story:

A Maricopa County jury on Thursday found former Mesa police Officer Philip "Mitch" Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder charges in the 2016 shooting of an unarmed Texas man who was on his knees begging for his life.

Jurors deliberated for less than six hours over two days, finishing Thursday afternoon. The eight-member jury also found Brailsford not guilty of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter....
Shaver was a pest-control worker who was drunk and had a couple of people in his hotel room when he started waving around a pellet gun he used on the job. He was brandishing it near a window, and someone called the cops.

You can understand why there was a confrontation -- the cops didn't know what they were dealing with. But did it have to end this way?
Shaver was kneeling, crying and begging not to be shot after he was confronted by six Mesa police officers in a La Quinta Inn & Suites hallway Jan. 18, 2016. Brailsford, who was fired two months after the shooting, testified that he fired his AR-15 rifle five times because it appeared Shaver was reaching for a gun....

The police video, which was released Thursday evening by Mesa police, shows Shaver was confused by some of Sgt. Charles Langley's commands when he exited his hotel room.
You see Brailsford firing the shots, but there's a lot of blame to be shared. This confrontation goes on for several minutes. Shaver struggles to comply with orders that could be confusing to a sober person ("Take your feet and cross your right foot over your left foot"). Meanwhile you have six police officers in the hallway, confronting two people who are face down on the ground. Why is there no opportunity for one of the officers to just move in and put the cuffs on the two of them? How much more compliant did these people have to be? Why the necessity for all this melodrama?

Maybe I'm ignorant, but it seems that these cops are primed to expect every situation to be a scene from a videogame apocalypse. I know that cops are trained to establish their authority forcefully, but in this situation that was accomplished several minutes before the shooting. These cops refused to take "I surrender" for an answer.

The last word on this:


Breaking story, from The Hill:
Moore accuser says she added notes below Moore's yearbook signature

A woman who has accused Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore of sexual misconduct says she made her own notes below a yearbook signature she claims was made by Moore.

Beverly Young Nelson, who has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her decades ago when she was 16 years old, told ABC News in a Friday interview that she made notes underneath Moore's alleged yearbook signature, but defended the veracity of the message itself.

"Beverly, he signed your yearbook?" ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked.

"He did sign it," Nelson replied.

"And you made some notes underneath?" Llamas followed up.

"Yes," she answered.
That's a straightforward, accurate story. And say what you will about Ben Shapiro, he's exactly right about Nelson's lawyer, about the facts, and about the impact of this revelation:

This will be used to dismiss her story in large part because a lot of people are not going to read a full story, or even watch the ABC clip. They'll just see headlines like this:

She's not admitting that she forged anything. She's saying she (foolishly) added her own words to what Moore wrote. But most rank-and-file right-wingers will never make that distinction.

Fox initially went with "forged" as well:

Because Fox tries to maintain the appearance of hewing to journalistic standards, it's since changed the headline to "Roy Moore accuser admits she wrote part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama Senate candidate." But your right-wing uncle probably forwarded the Fox story when it still had the original headline, and the tweet hasn't been pulled. (Update: It's been pulled now.)

Years ago, I came up with a name for this: "truth creep." It didn't catch on, obviously. Some people told me that what I was describing was what Stephen Colbert called "truthiness." But even the fakest news can be "truthy" (as I think we learned in 2016). I was referring to the specific practice of pretending to report a story straight while given the facts a skew that seems slight but pushes the story into an entirely different category.

If you explain to your right-wing uncle that Nelson added new writing to the inscription but didn't attempt to generate a fake Moore inscription, he'll say, "Yeah, that's forgery." It's a huge distinction, but it's a fine one. Call it truth creep or whatever you want. It works. The right-wing media will never stop doing it.


To me, the most striking part of this Roy Moore quote is the phrase "Even though":
Back in September, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd asked the candidate when he thought was the “last time” America was great.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. ... Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore responded, according to a Los Angeles Times report in September.
It doesn't surprise me that Moore is nostalgic for the antebellum South -- I assume most white Southern conservatives feel the same way, as do quite a few white non-Southern conservatives. It doesn't surprise me that he looks back on slavery days as a time "when families were united," even though slavery, among its other horrors, routinely separated slaves from spouses and children -- I don't expect conservatives to care much about the well-being of non-whites.

What surprises me is that he says that those were good times "even though we had slavery." He wants to have it both ways -- even as praises the slavery era, he wants credit for recognizing that slavery was wrong.

I see a lot of conservatives engaging in this kind of doublethink. They tell themselves that sexual harassment and assault are wrong (that Democrat donor Harvey Weinstein is a terrible person!), but suddenly they're concerned about a moral panic now that Al Franken has stepped down after fellow Democrats demanded his resignation. They rallied to Donald Trump's Bernie Sanders imitation in 2016, agreeing that "the system is rigged" in favor of the wealthy and powerful, but they mostly support a tax bill that shovels everyone else's money into the pockets of the wealthy and powerful. And, of course, they abhor pedophilia, but in Alabama that's not enough reason to vote for a Democrat.

I don't know how Roy Moore really feels about slavery, but I bet he believes he finds it abhorrent. I'm sure most white Southern conservatives have persuaded themselves that they find it abhorrent, too, and some of them may abhor it sincerely. But I think what they believe is that it's not as abhorrent as what non-Southerners did to end the practice. And that's conservatives' view on a lot of subjects: Yes, the elites have too much money and power, but we certainly can't alleviate that problem through ideas that are liberal -- progressive taxation, unions, strong regulation. Pedophilia is wrong, but we can't have Yankee journalists prowling around and bringing it to light.

When pressed, conservatives will concede that certain wrongs should be righted -- they just don't want anyone to come in and right them. Slavery, many of them claim, was untenable and would have ended on its own. Pedophilia and sexual misconduct would end if we'd just leave them to their churches, where Jesus will lead them on the righteous path.

Yeah, evil is evil. But liberalism is worse. That's what they think.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Watching the fall of Al Franken, Charlie Pierce and Dahlia Lithwick conclude that there's no good reason for Democrats to try to attain the moral high ground. Pierce writes:
I was going to let Dahlia Lithwick’s angry, lucid account in Slate of the end of Al Franken’s senatorial career speak for me, since Lithwick said everything I felt about this tawdry episode, and probably better than I could. Especially this part:
Is this the principled solution? By every metric I can think of, it’s correct. But it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because we no longer inhabit a closed ethical system, in which morality and norm preservation are their own rewards. We live in a broken and corroded system in which unilateral disarmament is going to destroy the very things we want to preserve.
... Lithwick is dead right. There is no commonly accepted Moral High Ground left to occupy anymore, and to pretend one exists is to live in a masturbatory fantasyland.
Pierce is right: There isn't a "commonly accepted" moral high ground, because "commonly accepted" would have to include Republicans, whose only morality is "Just win, baby." I'll grant that. But if we look at the results of the 2016 presidential election and conclude that morality doesn't matter anymore because a con man and confessed sexual predator won the presidency, remember that voters did make a moral judgment in that election -- it's just that many of them concluded that Hillary Clinton was the less moral candidate.

Remember polls like this?

By late October, voters thought Trump was more honest than Clinton by 8 points. That perception didn't win Trump the popular vote, but it probably won him the White House.

And why did they believe this? The Columbia Journalism Review can tell us:
[Our] research team ... count[ed] sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classif[ied] each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues.... They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.

... in just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.
Democrats have to do the right thing -- and they have to fight like hell to demand fair treatment in the press, as well as adequate treatment of Republican misdeeds. You want to imitate Republican tactics? Then work the refs the way Republicans do. Don't abandon common decency the way they do.

In his resignation speech today, Franken spoke of Paul Wellstone. Pierce writes:
It seemed fitting that Franken invoked the name of his mentor, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, in his valedictory address on Thursday, because it was his account of the indecent political hijacking of Wellstone’s memorial service by the flying monkeys of the right that first made me think that Franken was more than simply a gifted satirist. Very important people in American politics, and in the elite American political media, most of whom still have their jobs today, lied about what went on at that service. They did so deliberately, and for cheap political advantage.

(This was the funeral after which conservative commentators told America that the crowd was being prompted to applaud because the closed-captioning on the big screen in the hall said, “Applause” when there was applause.)

I know they lied about it because my wife and I watched the whole thing on CSPAN and the conservative accounts of it did not match the reality of the service in any way. In his first book, Franken ran all these lying liars to ground and left them there. That was an early example of the broken and corroded system of which Dahlia Lithwick wrote....
But I'm not sure the right could lie about the Wellstone memorial service now the way it did then. Liberals understand social media and know how to use it. Notice that our side got Sam Seder his job back. Liberals quickly made the case that the child-rape tweet for which Seder was fired was a bitter joke about those who excuse pedophilia by the famous. Seder's defenders also recounted the slimy career of his accuser, Mike Cernovich, and reproduced Cernovich's own grotesque defenses of rape. No one said this was easy. Sometimes you need to fight back.

When Lithwick writes about the high ground and its apparent uselessness, she's thinking about more than just matters of personal morality:
Remember “when they go low, we go high?” Yep. So do I.

I remembered it in the fall of 2016, when Senate Republicans and then-candidate Donald Trump first made it irrevocably clear there would be no hearing for anyone Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court, ever, even though Obama had put up a moderate, centrist nominee who was once acceptable to Senate Republicans. I remembered it when Trump won, and we realized that that seat would stay stolen.

I remembered it this week when the Senate passed a tax bill at 2 a.m. that apparently contains a $289 billion error, thanks to the fact that it was drafted in the margins rather than adjudicated through normal congressional standards, as, say, Obamacare was....

This isn’t a call to become tolerant of awful behavior. It is a call for understanding that Democrats honored the blue slip, and Republicans didn’t. Democrats had hearings over the Affordable Care Act; Republicans had none over the tax bill. Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it?
But again, our side has to fight. I know, I know -- it's exhausting. But Shannon Watts is right:

Beyond that, we have to focus on the pattern Lithwick describes and communicate the clear message that the Republican Party is the problem. The GOP's legislation is extreme, its contempt for democratic norms is dangerous, and it lacks all morals. We need to make that point, persistently. There is a high ground -- but voters need to be reminded again and again that Republicans individually and collectively occupy the lowest possible ground.


Al Franken announced today that he's resigning from the Senate, after most of his Democratic colleagues asked him to step down yesterday. News of the impending resignation was greeted by Laura Ingraham and Newt Gingrich with horror last night on Ingraham's Fox News show:
In her opening monologue, Laura Ingraham cautioned her viewers before they joined the pile-on with dozens of Senate Democrats who have called on Franken to resign because it is all a “political calculation” ....

She explained that Democrats “only have two paths” if they wanted to destroy his presidency: one being the Robert Mueller investigation and the other being the “war on women.” And they determined that it’s worth throwing Franken and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) “overboard” in order to “save the political Titanic that is their party” in order to drive Roy Moore out of office if he wins the Senate race and to ultimately impeach Trump....

“So I’ll tell you this tonight, be weary of the lynch mob you join today,” Ingraham continued. “Because tomorrow, it could be coming for your husband, your brother, your son, and yes, even your president.”
Right -- we're just coming for random right-wing men farting into their Barcaloungers while they watch Fox. That's how evil we are.
She had on Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who agreed with her that the avalanche of Democrats speaking out against Franken were a “lynch mob” that would rather “feel pure” than allow due process....

“These are people who grew up in a party which used to preach free love, which used to think that all of the hippiedom was wonderful, who used to think they were somehow representing the future,” Gingrich elaborated. “And now they have suddenly curled into this weird puritanism which feels a compulsion to go out and lynch people without a trial.”
It will not surprise you at all to learn that two months ago Gingrich thought Democrats were a vicious mob because we had failed to do anything about Harvey Weinstein. Here was Gingrich in conversation with Sean Hannity:
NEWT GINGRICH: If Hillary [Clinton] had won, [Weinstein] would not be a story -- they would have smothered it because it so directly brings up Bill and Hillary.

And so, in that sense, this is a story that could only emerge when we have someone new in the White House....

What gets to people like you and me, and most of our audience is that the Left is determined to say that they are morally superior. And that is what makes their -- they have to come in and say, whatever the topic is, you're a bad person. Not just you disagree because you're a conservative, but you're a bad person. They come up with all these nasty big terms....

HANNITY: Do you think these people, deep down in their hearts, know how hypocritical they are?

GINGRICH: No. That is what is frightening. These people are totalitarians. These are the people that Orwell wrote 1984 about. These are people who believe sincerely in their right to crush you...

These people are people who would destroy you, not just you Sean Hannity. Any conservative. Anyone on a college campus who speaks inappropriately.
So Democrats were hypocritical fascists when we took money from Weinstein, then we allowed him to be exposed when he was no longer needed to back Hillary Clinton (even though I'm pretty sure the party will run other candidates who'll need money in future races) -- and now we're pushing Franken and Conyers out, but we're still fascists. Denouncing someone without due process is fascist -- except please note that even Harvey Weinstein hasn't had a jury trial, which hasn't prevented any conservative from denouncing him (or non-conservative, of course).

Republican voters are used to taking marching orders from Fox, so they'll segue effortlessly from "Only libs are sexual predators!" to "All this talk about sexual predators is a sneaky attack on Saint Trump!" But I don't think the rest of America will be fooled. What scares Gingrich and Ingraham is that we're serious about this. They know we've got the high ground now. They know their position is untenable. They know Republicans will be haunted by questions about sexual predation for as long as Roy Moore and Donald Trump hold office.

We're being told that pushing out Franken and Conyers was "unilateral disarmament" on the Democrats' part. But Republicans wouldn't be trying so hard to change the narrative if they thought this was a win for them.


President Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel rewards his conservative Christian backers and lets the president tell himself that he's a macho man who doesn't fear "boldness" -- but it's also a policy decision that was bought and paid for by Sheldon Adelson, as Mark Landler of The New York Times reminds us:
Ten days before Donald J. Trump took office, Sheldon G. Adelson went to Trump Tower for a private meeting. Afterward, Mr. Adelson, the casino billionaire and Republican donor, called an old friend, Morton A. Klein, to report that Mr. Trump told him that moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a major priority.

“He was very excited, as was I,” said Mr. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a hard-line pro-Israel group. “This is something that’s in his heart and soul.” ...

Under a 1995 law, the president is required to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless, citing national security concerns, he signs a waiver, which has to be renewed every six months. The first time he faced that decision, in June, Mr. Trump grudgingly signed it....

Mr. Adelson and other pro-Israel backers were deeply frustrated. He pressed Mr. Trump on the issue at a private dinner in October at the White House that included his wife, Miriam, and [Jared] Kushner. Mr. Adelson also vented to Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, who argued internally for moving the embassy in June....

Early in Mr. Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he privately courted the Adelsons....

In March 2016, Mr. Trump sought to burnish his credentials as a friend of Israel, telling the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

The Adelsons were persuaded and donated $20 million to a political action committee that supported Mr. Trump’s campaign, and another $1.5 million to the committee that organized the Republican convention.
We know that the rich get what they want from the government. We know that no one likes the Republican tax bills except for rich donors, and we know that it's wealthy executives who want the president to shrink national monuments and make more land available for mining and drilling. The Jerusalem move is also a government decision custom-tailored for a rich donor.

Let's call it "concierge government" -- a rewards program for the government's best and most elite customers. I expect politicians to provide concierge service to big donors on matters that affect their bank accounts, but Trump gave a rich individual undue influence over a major foreign policy decision. That's a little less common, isn't it?