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Not even Republicans want a shutdown

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Jennifer Rubin has a very interesting—brilliant, even—analysis in the Washington Post:

When Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the floor on Thursday, he had an extra spring in his step and a barely suppressed grin. Who could blame him? As he said, “From what we saw in the Oval Office and news reports about his reaction after our meeting, President Trump is willing to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government unless he gets his way.” But Republicans don’t have the stomach for that, knowing that voters would see a shutdown as proof positive that Trump and his party cannot govern. That gives Schumer all the incentive in the world to hold firm. “I want to be crystal clear: There will not be additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done,” he said. “The president repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for his unnecessary and ineffective border wall, in his words: ’100 percent.’”

Schumer then called Trump’s bluff. “Well, Mr. President: If you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, then I guess we don’t have to! Let’s fund the government,” he said. Following Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi’s example, he declared, “The president’s position on the wall is totally contradictory, ill-informed and frankly irresponsible. It’s not a serious proposal; it’s a throwaway idea the president used in the campaign and still uses to fire up his base. A Trump temper tantrum and shutdown threat isn’t going to change any minds here in Congress.”

Much focus has been on the new Democratic House’s oversight and subpoena powers. However, the power to set the agenda and to pass one bill after another (under Pelosi’s iron control) is equally if not more significant. As Schumer said, “When Democrats take control of the House in January, Democrats will pass one of our two options to fund the government, and then Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans will be left holding the bag for a Trump shutdown if they don’t pass our bill now.”

The same will be true on a bill to bolster the Affordable Care Act, a revision of the Voting Rights Act, new ethics rules, and legislation on infrastructure and immigration. (On the latter, Democrats might consider passing the same Gang of Eight bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly with the votes of many Republican senators who still serve.) Provided Pelosi can control her left flank and not endanger moderate members, an assembly line of completed legislation by the House would do three things.

First, it would put many GOP senators, especially those from swing states (Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado) on the ballot in 2020, in a tough spot. If they decline to act on House-passed bills, their Democratic challengers will ask, not unreasonably, “Why isn’t the Senate taking up some of these items?” A do-nothing Senate whose only action is circling the wagons around a floundering president puts the GOP’s Senate majority at risk in 2020.

Second, House legislation could provide an agenda for 2020 that incumbent Democrats and a Democratic presidential nominee can run on (or modify as need be). Part of what got Democrats the House majority was the promise they would end dysfunction and bickering and start solving problems. Now is their chance to show what they are for, not simply that they are against the president.

Third, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2018 at 12:02 pm

The Protagonists — Only White Men Need Apply

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writes in Vox:

The boy meets the girl, just like he always does. He falls in love with her, and after a brief and frenzied courtship, she falls in love with him too. There are setbacks and hardships, but the story is headed where you expect: toward bliss. Toward an easy, uncomplicated love. Toward marriage and family, even.

This is the framework for a million, million stories, throughout human history. It is also the framework for Lifetime’s new drama You, based on the novel by Caroline Kepnes and adapted for TV by Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti. The brilliance of You (my favorite new series of the fall) comes from how relentlessly it grounds you, the viewer, in the age-old story you already know, in order to tell you a different but related one that has been happening all around you for ages, maybe without you even noticing it.

The boy who meets the girl in You is Joe, played by Penn Badgley; the girl is Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail. And even their casting is primed to help you understand what the show is attempting to subvert. Badgley is well-known to TV fans for his six seasons on Gossip Girl (his character Dan was eventually revealed, believe it or not, to be the titular character). Lail, meanwhile, isn’t exactly a newcomer — she had a stint on Once Upon a Time — but she’s not the face you recognize in the cast, not the person Lifetime built the ad campaign around.

The resulting disparity in who we instinctively trust, as viewers, is part of what makes You so devilish and terrific. Joe reveals himself (to the audience, at least) as a stalker at his earliest opportunity, first invading Beck’s life to find out what she wants in a guy and then turning himself into that very guy. And if he can slowly isolate her from the rest of her support network at the same time, well, that too could serve his purpose.

Again and again, You demonstrates the monstrousness of Joe’s reasonable nature. He cannot understand Beck as anything other than an adjunct to his story, because stories where men are the focus and women mostly exist to support them are the stories he’s been told his whole life. And because You situates us firmly in Joe’s point of view, via narration and other tricks, it leaves us no real exit from that perspective.

Joe wants so badly to make Beck’s life perfect and to make himself perfect for her that he fails to recognize that even her bad choices are her choices, her questionable taste is her taste, her two-faced friends are still her friends. He tries to rob her of the luxury of making her own mistakes, of the ability to have a story that is not his.

By the time we finally get to see this story through Beck’s point of view, we’re so desperate to escape Joe’s toxicity that it’s almost a relief — but we can still feel his poisonous attraction all the same. He’s right there, and he smiles so kindly. What could go wrong?

I’ve thought about Joe a lot these past few weeks.

Outwardly, former CBS head Les Moonves and newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh don’t have all that much in common. Kavanaugh is a prep school alumnus and an Ivy Leaguer and a die-hard conservative jurist. Moonves attended the small Pennsylvania college Bucknell University and later became a massively powerful entertainment executive who occasionally gave money to Democratic political candidates. They operated in entirely different worlds, at least superficially.

But what links Kavanaugh and Moonves, for me, is their belligerence, their obvious inability to understand what it means that others have accused them of terrible things. The accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against Kavanaugh have been national news for the past several weeks, while those made against Moonves are already slipping into our collective memories. But the acts that men both have been accused of — and which both men have roundly denied — involve women and sexual misconduct and an abuse of privilege and power. This is America, 2018. You already know the rest of the story.

But I’m not here to adjudicate what these men might have done all those years ago. Instead, what I’m interested in is the similar fury that both men displayed upon having to deal with an adversity they hadn’t expected. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. Later in the article:

Straight white men in America are taught that they are the protagonist of the story from birth. Their number includes me — I’ve always intuitively understood myself as the protagonist too. And this mindset has only become more ingrained in the past 20 years. Under Moonves, CBS became America’s most powerful network, but also went from broadcasting shows like Murphy Brown and Designing Women to mostly being a place where women were corpses, whose murders were solved largely by steely, determined men, with occasional help from quippy female sidekicks.

Update: It occurs to me that conservatives get so angry also for the same reason they fight so hard (cf. the Wisconsin effort to gut offices to be occupied by Democrats in January: that is some serious anti-American stuff there) and work together so much and over such a long term: it’s because they have a lot of power, and they consider that power extremely valuable and are willing to do anything in a fight to keep it and make it greater. It’s all about power, and you can judge the extent of that power by the extents to which they will go to keep the power. And that is pretty damn far.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2018 at 11:54 am

The Republican Party, completely corrupted by a lust for power

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George Packer has an interesting article in the Atlantic, which concludes:

. . . It took only 16 years, with the election of Ronald Reagan, for the movement and party to merge. During those years, conservatives hammered away at institutional structures, denouncing the established ones for their treacherous liberalism, and building alternatives, in the form of well-funded right-wing foundations, think tanks, business lobbies, legal groups, magazines, publishers, professorships. When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the products of this “counter-establishment” (from the title of Sidney Blumenthal’s book on the subject) were ready to take power.

Reagan commanded a revolution, but he himself didn’t have a revolutionary character. He didn’t think the public needed to be indoctrinated and organized, only heard.

But conservatism remained an insurgent politics during the 1980s and ’90s, and the more power it amassed—in government, business, law, media—the more it set itself against the fragile web of established norms and delighted in breaking them. The second insurgency was led by Newt Gingrich, who had come to Congress two years before Reagan became president, with the avowed aim of overthrowing the established Republican leadership and shaping the minority party into a fighting force that could break Democratic rule by shattering what he called the “corrupt left-wing machine.” Gingrich liked to quote Mao’s definition of politics as “war without blood.” He made audiotapes that taught Republican candidates how to demonize the opposition with labels such as “disgrace,” “betray,” and  “traitors.” When he became speaker of the House, at the head of yet another revolution, Gingrich announced, “There will be no compromise.” How could there be, when he was leading a crusade to save American civilization from its liberal enemies?

Even after Gingrich was driven from power, the victim of his own guillotine, he regularly churned out books that warned of imminent doom—unless America turned to a leader like him (he once called himself “teacher of the rules of civilization,” among other exalted epithets). Unlike Goldwater and Reagan, Gingrich never had any deeply felt ideology. It was hard to say exactly what “American civilization” meant to him. What he wanted was power, and what he most obviously enjoyed was smashing things to pieces in its pursuit. His insurgency started the conservative movement on the path to nihilism.

The party purged itself of most remaining moderates, growing ever-more shallow as it grew ever-more conservative—from Goldwater (who, in 1996, joked that he had become a Republican liberal) to Ted Cruz, from Buckley to Dinesh D’Souza. Jeff Flake, the outgoing senator from Arizona (whose conservative views come with a democratic temperament), describes this deterioration as “a race to the bottom to see who can be meaner and madder and crazier. It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” The viciousness doesn’t necessarily reside in the individual souls of Republican leaders. It flows from the party’s politics, which seeks to delegitimize opponents and institutions, purify the ranks through purges and coups, and agitate followers with visions of apocalypse—all in the name of an ideological cause that every year loses integrity as it becomes indistinguishable from power itself.

The third insurgency came in reaction to the election of Barack Obama—it was the Tea Party. Eight years later, it culminated in Trump’s victory, an insurgency within the party itself—because revolutions tend to be self-devouring (“I’m not willing to preside over people who are cannibals,” Gingrich declared in 1998 when he quit the House). In the third insurgency, the features of the original movement surfaced again, more grotesque than ever: paranoia and conspiracy thinking; racism and other types of hostility toward entire groups; innuendos and incidents of violence. The new leader is like his authoritarian counterparts abroad: illiberal, demagogic, hostile to institutional checks, demanding and receiving complete acquiescence from the party, and enmeshed in the financial corruption that is integral to the political corruption of these regimes. Once again, liberals failed to see it coming and couldn’t grasp how it happened. Neither could some conservatives who still believed in democracy.

The corruption of the Republican Party in the Trump era seemed to set in with breathtaking speed. In fact, it took more than a half century to reach the point where faced with a choice between democracy and power, the party chose the latter. Its leaders don’t see a dilemma—democratic principles turn out to be disposable tools, sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient. The higher cause is conservatism, but the highest is power. After Wisconsin Democrats swept statewide offices last month, Robin Vos, speaker of the assembly, explained why Republicans would have to get rid of the old rules: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Politics

A devastating report details a ‘monumental’ assault on science at the Department of the Interior

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Michael Hiltzik writes in the LA Times:

Among the up-is-down, night-is-day practices of the Trump administration, one of the most dangerous and disturbing is its habit of turning America’s leading science agencies into hives of anti-science policymaking.

A new report lays out how this has produced a “monumental disaster” for science at the Department of the Interior. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists details how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his minions have in the space of two years turned Interior from a steward of public lands and natural resources into a front for the mining and oil and gas industries.

“The intent in rolling back the consideration of science in decision-making is always to progress the development of fossil fuel interests,” Jacob Carter of the union’s center for science and democracy and lead author of the report told me.

This results in cascading negative effects on the agency’s mission. “Under Zinke’s watch, we see a lot of federal lands being opened for sale, which means a lot of endangered species will no longer be protected, and which has damaging consequences for climate,” Carter says.

Just last week, Zinke appeared before the National Petroleum Council, a government advisory panel plump with fossil fuel executives. There he crowed about how President Trump had made the U.S. “the No. 1 producer of oil and gas in the world.” That should show where his heart is.

Interior isn’t the only science agency that has been turned into a billboard for political and ideological propaganda. The Environmental Protection Agency has been similarly hollowed out, and the Department of Health and Human Services has all but abandoned its duty to advance Americans’ access to affordable healthcare.

Interior has taken a multifaceted approach to wiping science out of its policymaking. Zinke and his political appointees have terminated research projects or canceled them before they start. Among the affected studies was one to evaluate the health effects of coal strip mining in Appalachia. Interior shut down a study into how to improve inspections of offshore oil and gas development, which had been requested by Interior itself after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Another case cited by the report concerns an environmental impact assessment of sulfide ore mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness, a hugely popular recreational area. The Obama administration put a two-year hold on the mining pending the study; the Trump administration shut down the study after only 15 months. By then, Interior already had renewed the mining leases that the Obama administration had put on hold. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2018 at 1:48 pm

Beto O’Rourke is not the progressive some imagine

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Elizabeth Breunig writes in the Washington Post:

If only the electric chill in the air were an augur of fast-approaching holidays and not the static generated by so many Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls jockeying for the attention of party leaders and donors.

Alas, with 2019 less than a month away, 2020 has already begun, and with it the fashioning of fresh new faces for the Democratic ticket. Among those early front-runners — at least in terms of intraparty enthusiasm — is Beto O’Rourke, the three-time congressman from El Paso, Texas, who recently lost a valiant Senate run against Ted Cruz.

For some well-positioned Democrats, O’Rourke — usually mononymously styled as Beto — is already heir apparent to Barack Obama’s empty throne. Tall and reedy with an affable air, he does seem fit to take up Obama’s mantle. But I can’t get excited about O’Rourke, though I am from Texas and had hoped as much as anyone for Cruz’s defeat. I’m not sure we need another Obama, or another of any Democrat we’ve had recently: I think the times both call for and allow for a left-populist candidate with uncompromising progressive principles. I don’t see that in O’Rourke.

There’s no denying that what O’Rourke’s campaign accomplished was genuinely impressive. With the help of veteran Bernie Sanders organizers, O’Rourke’s team built a grassroots army that put democracy — talking to constituents, listening to their points of view, inviting them to participate in the process not by mass mail but by name — first. People were genuinely inspired by that, and by the very notion that perhaps they could revive a dream that sometimes seems to have died with Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards: turning the Lone Star State blue. And — maybe, someday.

In the meantime, though, we have the national election to think about, and when it comes to national politics, O’Rourke is plainly uninspiring. As Zaid Jilani pointed out at Current Affairs, O’Rourke’s congressional voting record signals skepticism about progressive priorities. “While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O’Rourke sponsored neither House bill,” Jilani wrote, “During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus.” Instead, O’Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a centrist caucus with Clintonian views on health care, education and trade.

Where it comes to Medicare-for-all, O’Rourke has been carefully unclear about his stance: A Politico article from July notes that, at least for a time, he had sworn off using the terms “single payer” or “Medicare-for-all,” instead using the less-specific, policy-neutral phrase “universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care for all.” His campaign website remains unclear, stating that he aims for achieving universal health care coverage “whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise.”

O’Rourke’s other progressive-ish policy positions tend to follow along these lines. While some progressives, rallied by talk of a Green New Deal, have argued for higher taxes on oil and gas company profits, fossil fuel lobbyists to be banned from working in the White House and a whole-economy overhaul slotting Americans into jobs producing carbon-neutral infrastructure, O’Rourke’s statements on energy have been surprisingly thin. He has called the decision between oil and gas and renewable energy sources “a false choice” and proposes on his campaign website mainly to rejoin the Paris climate accord, empower the Environmental Protection Agency and enact energy reform.

None of this is to say O’Rourke’s policies are the worst there are, or that he couldn’t beat President Donald Trump. (I think that practically any Democrat has a good shot at beating Trump, judging by how many Obama-Trump voters in the Midwest seemed perfectly happy to flip back to blue during this year’s midterms.) But the primaries aren’t even here yet, so there’s no need to begin resigning ourselves to policies that are merely better than Republican alternatives. We still have time to pick a politician with a bold, clear, distinctly progressive agenda, and an articulated vision beyond something-better-than-this, the literal translation of hope-change campaigning. Beto is a lot like Obama, true; it’s perhaps time for left-leaning Democrats to realize that may not be a good thing. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 December 2018 at 11:52 am

Trump’s departure from reality is a national security threat

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

One of the most alarming aspects of President Trump’s unfitness for the job is the danger he poses to national security. The Post reports:

President Trump continues to reject the judgments of U.S. spy agencies on major foreign policy fronts, creating a dynamic in which intelligence analysts frequently see troubling gaps between the president’s public statements and the facts laid out for him in daily briefings on world events, current and former U.S. officials said.

The pattern has become a source of mounting concern to senior U.S. intelligence officials who had hoped that Trump, as he settled into office, would become less hostile to their work and more receptive to the information that spy agencies spend billions of dollars and sometimes put lives at risk gathering.

It is not clear whether he does not comprehend what he is told, does not remember it, does not want to understand or chooses to deliberately mislead. Whatever the cause, the effect is dangerous and deeply harmful. “Among [the issues involved] are North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence and implications of global climate change, and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the killing of a dissident journalist,” The Post reports. In short, on the most volatile and far-reaching international challenges Trump is operating in an a-factual world, making decisions based on ignorance, impulsiveness and/or disguised self-interest.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI official, tells me, “The president is engaging in willful ignorance and placing our nation’s security in peril.” He continues, “Claiming North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat or that the Saudi crown prince is not accountable for a murder may bolster Trump’s false narrative, but in the end, it erodes our standing in the world, gives license to our enemies and diminishes our intelligence professionals.”

Former FBI special agent Clint Watts agrees. “It’s dangerous for the country, because the president is making decisions with insufficient understanding of situations. Whether it’s Russia, Saudi Arabia, China or North Korea, he’s being outplayed in fights he picks because he doesn’t do his homework,” he says. “President Trump lives in a world of his own choosing that is devoid of reality. He has the best intelligence community in the world and it’s not helping inform any of our policies.” He adds, “It’s also demoralizing for those risking their lives at times to get threat intelligence.”

What can be done? “Those dedicated experts must continue to speak truth and attempt to influence those who can influence the president,” says Figliuzzi. Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin endorses that view. “In times like these, the best thing for intelligence officers to do is to just keep doing their jobs — striving to be models of objectivity and truth-telling at a time when such qualities are so elusive elsewhere,” he says.

At the very least, they should refuse to do what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did in carrying up to Capitol Hill the president’s blatantly false statements about evidence of Mohammed bin Salman’s culpability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. They sacrificed their own credibility and ultimately could not persuade lawmakers to disregard what they heard and what common sense dictated about the crown prince’s role in the murder.

I suppose at some point, officials (past and present) may be compelled to step forward publicly to warn the country if the problem worsens. If Trump turns his fantasies into orders, imperiling our security and the safety of our civilian and military personnel, we get into 25th Amendment territory. What, for example, would have occurred if Trump’s hysterical focus on the caravan resulted in not just a useless border operation but an invasion of or military attack on an ally? At that point, we’d be in the midst of a true constitutional crisis.

“The gap that is truly developing between . . .

Continue reading.

And read her previous column, “Pelosi puts an ignorant, irrational president in his place.” From that column:

. . . She ferociously held her ground in an Oval Office showdown, daring him to make good on his boast that he had the votes in the House for his wall. Pelosi declared that “there are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall — no matter where you start.” Trump insisted that he’d have the votes if he wanted them. ” Well, then go do it. Go do it,” she said confidently. Wham!

When Trump insisted that the Democrats’ package was not “good border security,” she replied: “It’s actually what the border security asked for.”

When Trump kept insisting that only a wall would provide security or that the Army would go ahead and build the wall anyway, she put her foot down. “What the president is representing in terms of his cards over there are not factual. We have to have to an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent, and how effective it is,” she said. “This isn’t about — this is about the security of our country. We take an oath to protect and defend, and we don’t want to have that mischaracterized by anyone.” Ouch.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) did his part as well, prodding Trump into accepting responsibility for the wall and ridiculing his triumphalism over winning deep-red Senate seats.

Nevertheless, it was Pelosi who did what the media has not done — interject, fact-check to his face and refuse to allow him to operate in a parallel reality. It’s not just that Trump has blurred the difference between facts and lies, but that so few have stood up to him in the moment for all the public to see. Perhaps Pelosi will start a trend.

She managed to get under Trump’s skin. Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times later reported, “It sort of spiraled out of control,  . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2018 at 4:02 pm

Are the Rats Preparing to Jump Off the Trump Ship?

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John Cassidy has a very interesting analysis in his New Yorker column, worth reading in its entirety. It begins:

Even in this news-addled Trump era, Sunday afternoon usually marks a lull: a time for reporters and politicos to indulge their social-media habits by tweeting about football, or even, perish the thought, to spend some time with their families. Not this week. Just before 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, the political class was jerked back to attention when Nick Ayers, the youthful chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence, let it be known on Twitter that he had turned down the chance to replace John Kelly as the White House chief of staff. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House,” Ayers wrote. “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #maga team to advance the cause. #Georgia.”

Journalists weren’t the only ones surprised by the Ayers development. It took many people in the White House unawares, including the President, it seems. The Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that “two people close to Mr. Trump said a news release announcing Mr. Ayers’s appointment had been drafted, and that the president had wanted to announce it as soon as possible.” Instead of showcasing as his new majordomo a blond, thirty-six-year-old Republican operative who has spent the past two years helping keep Pence out of any serious scrapes—quite a feat in the Trump White House—Trump was forced to engage in some Sunday-evening damage control.

Shortly after dinner hour, Trump tweeted, “I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff. Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #maga agenda. I will be making a decision soon!” Other White House officials emphasized that Ayers has three young children, and said that he had decided to return to Georgia, where he is from, to spend more time with them. “Those of us with young kids very well understand the personal decision he made,” Kellyanne Conway told the Times.

To say that the inhabitants of the media-political bubble greeted this explanation with skepticism would be an understatement. Summing up the general reaction, John Podhoretz, the New York Post columnist and editor of Commentarysaid on MSNBC, “That’s a lot of crap. I don’t know Nick Ayers. I’m not saying he’s a liar, but people don’t get offered the White House chief-of-staff job very often. He was the Vice-President’s chief of staff. This is the center of the action. This is the red-hot center of world politics and world power. And he is going back to Georgia after being the chief of staff to the less-important guy? I am not buying it.”

Neither am I, John. Regardless of Ayers’s personal situation, the takeaway here is that a savvy, ambitious young Republican—one with strong links to the donor class that plays such a key role in the Party—has spurned the President. This just two days after federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said that Trump had directed Michael Cohen, his former fixer and personal lawyer, to carry out two campaign-finance felonies, and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, said that Cohen had provided his team with“useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation.”

As Ayers’s tweet indicated, he isn’t abandoning Trump completely. The White House let it be known that he plans to head up a pro-Trump super pac for the 2020 campaign. Right now, though, 2020 is an eternity away. With the Democrats about to take control of the House of Representatives and the Mueller investigation seemingly reaching a climax, Trump needs all the help that he can get immediately, including a politically savvy chief of staff. Ayers declined to fulfill that role.

In a party in which allegiance to Trump among many elected officials has long been based on fear and self-interest rather than any genuine liking, this decision sends an alarming signal to Trump and his allies. After all, Ayers wasn’t in any sense an outsider. According to all reports, he had a good relationship with Trump, and with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who supported his promotion to Kelly’s job. If a figure this connected has decided to hop off the Trump train—or at least to move to a carriage farther back—how long will it be before other Republicans follow his lead?

Steve Bannon is warning that it might not take long at all. Over the weekend, the former Trump strategist told the Washington Post that 2019 would be a year of “siege warfare” for the White House, and he went on, “The president can’t trust the GOP to be there when it counts. . . . They don’t feel any sense of duty or responsibility to stand with Trump.”

Bannon isn’t a wholly reliable observer, of course. But, in this instance, what he said may well be true. Trump didn’t win over the Republican Party: he conquered it. And, over the weekend, in the wake of Mueller Friday, there was a notable shortage of senior Republicans coming to the President’s defense.

The task was largely left to Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of the Russia probe, and Chris Christie, an ally of the President. And even Christie, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the White House chief-of-staff job, wasn’t all that reassuring. Appearing on “ABC News This Week,” the former New Jersey governor, who also served for eight years as a federal prosecutor, conceded that if he were one of the President’s lawyers he would be concerned about the Southern District’s sentencing memorandum. “The language sounds very definite, and what I’d be concerned about is, what corroboration do they have?” he said.

Trump’s enduring strength, of course, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2018 at 3:19 pm

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