Friday, October 20, 2017

Required viewing: How the Trump administration got Chad to withdraw from the fight against ISIS in Niger

Yes, you read that title correctly.

If you keep up with the political news, and, worse, If you write about it, at some visceral level, you get a little numb. But sometimes the news is so foul that it breaks through that emotional firewall and you get seriously pissed off. That happened to me last night as we were watching the Rachel Maddow show.

Here’s the bare bones account.

If you look at the map of subsaharan Africa, from west to east, you find three land-locked countries: Mali, Niger, and Chad. The latter, Chad, has a competent, respected military force with lots of experience fighting terror groups, ISIS and Boko Haram, active in that region. Chad functions like the command post for that fight. But the Trump administration managed to put Chad on the most recent travel ban. Arguably the most important ally we have on that piece of ground in Africa is Chad and we severely insulted that country by banning its citizens from travel to the US. (Chad’s ongoing tussle with Exon Mobile over oil revenues might have contributed something here as might some bureaucratic bungling over passports at State and DHS.) When that travel ban was announced, Chad started withdrawing its troops from Niger. The immediate consequence was that there was a reduced military presence and lessened security in Niger. Why is that important? Remember that Niger was where the four US special forces soldiers were killed. And Trump and the administration and our military do not want to talk about that. For if they did, they would have to connect some dots as did Rachel on her show last night. When they do talk about all this, as did Chief of Staff John Kelly did yesterday, the focus is on communicating with the families of those fallen.

With all due respect to John Kelly, and with sympathy for those families, I still must ask: How can we not be outraged by this incredible incompetence?

Some serious bowing, scraping, and groveling is in order. The administration needs to do whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to bring Chad back into the fight against ISIS and Boko Haram. The problem is that Trump never admits guilt or takes responsibility. Therefore, Chad will be sidelined and that part of Africa, at least, and our fight against terrorism, will be damaged as a result.

Below is a link to Rachel’s reporting last night. Consider it required viewing.

Inexplicable Trump travel ban decision preceded US Niger exposure.
Rachel Maddow looks at the utterly confounding decision by the Donald Trump White House to add important partner Chad to the latest iteration of the travel ban, and how it might put U.S. military lives in danger in places like Niger. Duration: 25:22

Here’s a summary from AlterNet. [Rachel Maddow Reveals the Sickening Reason Trump Hasn’t Talked About U.S. Soldiers Killed in Niger][alternet].
He made a terrible decision and hopes to keep his critics distracted.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained how President Donald Trump’s decision to include Chad on his travel ban may’ve endangered the lives of servicemembers in Niger, four of which were recently killed under circumstances that have not been properly explained.

By including Chad on the travel ban, against the advice of foreign policy experts and multiple officials, U.S. soldiers lost Chadian ground support in Niger. Multiple terrorist groups, including ISIS and Boko Haram, are active in Niger. But Chad began to remove its soldiers immediately following Trump’s travel ban.

“[T]hose Chadian troops were really doing something in Niger. They were protecting those villages in that whole region from ISIS militant groups being able to operate freely and be able to take more territory from there once again,” Maddow explained. “And pulling those troops out had an immediate effect in emboldening those ISIS attacks.”

Less than one week after Chad began removing troups from the region, four American soldiers were killed in an ambush.

“So, no wonder the president doesn’t want to talk about it,” Maddow said.

Republicans pass scary budget

Katrina vanden Heuvel At The Nation asks the scary question: What’s Even Scarier Than Donald Trump?
Her answer: Republicans have put forward a budget that would have truly terrifying consequences.

Donald Trump’s flailings are ever more terrifying. In the course of a few days, he tossed a grenade into the health-care markets that millions rely on, traduced the Iranian nuclear deal, threatened to abandon US citizens ravaged by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, continued to sabotage action on climate change, tweeted about censoring the media, and so undermined his own secretary of state that Republican Senator Bob Corker accused him of castration. For all of that, Trump’s grotesqueries are exceeded by a Republican Congress intent on a course so ruinous as to be, one hopes, impossible to sustain.

This week, Senate Republicans will seek to push through a budget resolution for the current fiscal year. The resolution provides guidelines for spending and tax cuts, with projections for the next decade. Although its provisions are destructive and absurd, it has the support of virtually all of the Republican caucus.

The resolution is designed to facilitate the passage of tax cuts with Republican votes only. The final package hasn’t been written yet, but Republican leaders have produced a “framework.” Its elements are perverse. We know that extreme inequality corrupts our democracy and impedes economic growth. As a detailed analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center makes clear, this bill will make it worse, with the top 1 percent pocketing over half of the tax cuts next year—and an obscene 80 percent by year 10. The multinational corporations that book profits abroad to avoid taxes will be rewarded with a retroactive tax cut for $2.6 trillion stashed overseas. The proposal would also expand that tax dodge by virtually eliminating taxes on profits they report as earned abroad. And at a time when hedge-fund operators pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers, this bill would enlarge the outrage with a massive tax break for real-estate barons, hedge-fund managers, and lawyers, delivered by taxing “pass-through” income at a reduced rate. Instead of closing loopholes, this bill adds to them.

The spending side of the Senate bill has received less attention, but it’s even worse. As a comprehensive analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details, the bill projects $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. At a time when the baby boomers are retiring, it calls for cuts of $473 billion in Medicare, over $1 trillion in Medicaid, and hundreds of billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to medium- and low-income workers. It projects cuts of over $650 billion in income-security programs for low-income workers—primarily food stamps, the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit, and supplemental security income for disabled seniors, adults, and children in need. Another $200 billion will be cut from the Pell grants and student loans that help working families afford college. These cuts will leave millions without affordable health care and make millions of disabled and low-income Americans even more vulnerable.

The budget also contains stunning cuts in what is called “non-defense discretionary spending” (essentially everything the government does outside of the military, entitlements, and interest payments on the national debt). These include cuts to agencies that contribute to our safety—law enforcement, the Coast Guard, the FBI, the DEA—as well as services vital to our health, like environmental protection and water and sewage systems. The public investment crucial to our economy and our future—science and technology, medical research, modern infrastructure, education and advanced training, and more—would also be slashed. These programs are already projected to sustain deep cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but the Senate bill decimates them. By 2019, it cuts this spending by 10 percent from 2017 levels; by 2027, that number is nearly 20 percent. As a share of the economy, our spending on domestic services will be reduced to levels not seen since Herbert Hoover.

This is a suicide budget. In a country dealing with a growing population, rising global competition, and pressing new challenges like catastrophic climate change, the Republican Senate would cash in our future to provide endless tax cuts for the richest among us.

The United States will lag rather than lead the industrial world in education and training. We will squander our edge in innovation. We will suffer the rising perils and costs of a decrepit and outmoded infrastructure. We already witness all these trends today. The Senate budget is on course to accelerate them.

This folly, one hopes, is too extreme to be passed. Yet this week, all of the Senate’s Republicans—save perhaps for one or two dissenters—will vote for a budget that is truly a road to ruin. Why? Partly, of course, to reward the wealthy special interests that fund their party. They may also fear right-wing challengers if they don’t toe the line. Or they may be motivated by purblind ideological conviction, although it’s hard to imagine that any of them really believe these measures would make things better. And then there’s sheer desperation: At this point, the GOP has to get something done, even if it does more harm than good to most Americans. President Trump’s increasingly manic careenings are terrifying to behold, but the remorseless suicide mission of the Republicans caucus in Congress should horrify us as well.

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) thinks the real action will be on the tax breaks for billionaires bill. In His post yesterday (this morning’s email), Kabuki theater: budget vote-a-rama in the Senate today, he wrote this.

The U.S. Senate is voting on the GOP’s budget resolution today, which is really not about the budget at all, but rather, rigging the procedural rules in the Senate so that the GOP can vote on its so-called “tax reform” (tax cuts for Plutocrats) bill at some point with a simple majority vote of 50 senators plus the Vice President, and bypass the Senate cloture rule of 60 votes to forestall a Democratic filibuster through adoption of reconciliation rules.

There is little chance that the budget resolution will not pass. The real drama will come over the tax cuts for Plutocrats package. Deficit hawks like Sen. Rand Paul insist on maintaining the budget sequestration caps adopted several years ago. Defense hawks like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham want the sequestration caps for defense repealed. Mythical moderate Republicans such as Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are opposed to the draconian cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the budget. And Sen. Bob Corker, whom Trump has chosen to vilify in his Twitter rages, is on record saying of the tax bill “Unless it reduces deficits – let me say that one more time – unless it reduces deficits and does not add to deficits with reasonable and responsible growth models and unless we can make it permanent, I don’t have any interest in it.”

With Paul and Corker opposed because the GOP tax bill adds to the federal deficit, it only takes one more GOP defection to defeat the tax cuts for Plutocrats bill.

The Senate GOP leadership adopted reconciliation rules to repeal “Obamacare” and failed miserably. There is a very good chance that the tax cuts for Plutocrats package will also fail despite adoption of reconciliation rules. Bad policy is bad policy, and there is more than enough to dislike in what has been proposed to garner at least three GOP defections on the GOP tax bill.

We now have to count on a severely divided Republican caucus in the Senate to realize those defections. See my post from Wednesday, McSally champions Trump tax breaks, but will anything survive a divided Congress?

UPDATE: They did it. The New York Times reports that the Senate Approves Budget Plan That Smooths Path Toward Tax Cut.

The Senate took a significant step toward rewriting the tax code on Thursday night with the passage of a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut from a Democratic filibuster.

The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes.

Despite having full control of the government, Republicans have so far been unable to produce a marquee legislative achievement in the first year of President Trump’s tenure, putting even more pressure on lawmakers to succeed in passing a tax bill. The budget’s passage could keep Republicans on track to approve a tax package late this year or early in 2018.

As early as next week, the House plans to take up the budget blueprint that the Senate approved on Thursday by a 51 to 49 vote. Doing so would allow for the tax overhaul to move ahead quickly.

Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican “no” vote - and that’s because he thinks the blueprint calls for excessive spending.

“This is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Budget Committee, who warned that the consequences would be ruinous if the party failed.

“That will be the end of us as a party,” he said, “because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”

Right question, wrong assumption. Instead, let’s ask: if you are a Republican and you want tax breaks for the wealthy, what good are you to anybody?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Message for Trump supporters: You knew what you signed up for - and you voted for him anyway

Never let it be said that our President Donald Trump missed an opportunity to diss someone or some group. That’s particularly true of those now in the military and veterans.

The latest PR shit storm started when Trump was asked about four special forces soldiers who were ambushed and killed in Niger. The question asked was about what they were doing there and why Trump had not contacted the families. Trump deflected and redirected the question by claiming, falsely, that other presidents, notably Obama, had not called or written to families of solders killed in action. The redirection worked, according to Rachel Maddow on her show last night. The media is now consumed with what Trump said - or did not say - to one army widow. We’ll come back to the misdirection issue in a moment.

The Huffington Post reports that Trump Claims Congresswoman Lied About His Call To Army Widow.

The president was said to have told the woman her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”

Said Congresswoman was not having any of that.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) of fabricating the claim that he told the widow of a soldier killed in combat that she “must’ve known what he signed up for.”

“I have proof,” Trump tweeted. He offered no evidence.

Wilson stood by her account of the president’s phone call with the widow, telling CNN’s “New Day” that she, too, has proof of Trump’s conversation. “He is a sick man,” she said. “He’s cold-hearted and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone.”

Army Sgt. La David Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger earlier this month. Myeshia Johnson, his pregnant widow, received the call from Trump on Tuesday.

The fallen soldier’s mother said she also heard the call, and confirmed Wilson’s account was accurate.

In an interview before Trump’s tweet on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Wilson called Trump’s conversation with Johnson “absolutely crazy” and said the president didn’t even remember La David Johnson’s name.

Pressed for said proof later on Wednesday, Trump told White House pool reporters to “let [Wilson] make her statement again and then you’ll find out.”

Shortly after, Wilson reiterated her claim in a tweet.

I still stand by my account of the call b/t @realDonaldTrump and Myesha Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not “the woman” or “the wife.”
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 18, 2017

Wilson was with Johnson at the time of the Tuesday call and said she heard the conversation on speakerphone. She recounted the exchange to South Florida’s NBC affiliate.

“Sarcastically he said: ‘But you know he must have known what he signed up for,’” Wilson told NBC6. “How could you say that to a grieving widow? I couldn’t believe … and he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”

The fallen soldier’s mother, who said she also heard Trump’s speakerphone conversation, confirmed that Wilson accurately repeated what the president said.

OK. Enough already. All this is typical Trump. We already have evidence that he disrespects members of our military. Recall, please, his war of words with the gold star parents (the Khans) of an army captain killed while saving members of his command. Recall, please, Trump’s claim that he did not consider Senator John McCain a real hero because Trump respects those who did not get captured and tortured for 5 years.

Is the implication here that McCain is at fault for getting captured? Does that extend to Sergeant Johnson’s getting killed? Is that Johnson’s fault? Should McCain and Johnson have been smarter?

But what were those American soldiers doing in Niger? The Washington Post has the story, such as it is known to date. Phillip Rucker and Dan Lamothe report on Twelve days of silence, then a swipe at Obama: How Trump handled four dead soldiers. Here is their reporting on the Niger mission.

The White House has not explained why Trump took so long to comment publicly about the Niger ambush, but officials said Tuesday that he was regularly briefed on the incident during that period. They declined to provide details.

It’s looking like the White House did not want to talk about the existence of American troops in Niger. Here is more.

This month’s deadly operation in Niger was unusual and highly sensitive, and the military has not yet disclosed many details. It was something of a surprise that the Special Forces unit came under fire — and the remains of one of the fallen soldiers, Johnson, 25, were not recovered until two days afterward.

Marine Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told reporters Oct. 12 that the ambush marked the first time in at least six months that the U.S. military had faced enemy fire in the region.

McKenzie said the operation was meant to be an outreach effort in which the U.S. soldiers went out alongside local forces; it was “not designed to be a combat patrol.” But he defended the support the soldiers had, saying that there was a “pretty good level of planning” and that French forces responded within 30 minutes with helicopter air support.

The general said the Pentagon believes there is some connection to an affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group in the attack.

So maybe that is the real story - ISIS in Africa and America’s reaction to it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Checking in with Randy Rainbow: How do you handle a problem like Korea?

Randy Rainbow interviews Nikki Haley about Trump, Rocket Man, Korea, and WW III. Then he does a rendition of The Sound of Music.

McSally champions Trump tax breaks, but will anything survive a divided Congress?

Perry Bacon (fivethirtyeight.com) is pessimistic about the chances for a tax reform break passing the Congress. Here’s why: The GOP Had One Big Divide On Health Care. It Has Three On Taxes..

This one has been on my to-do list for a while, so now snippets follow with some new reporting on what our own Southern Arizona Rep. wants to do to us.

Remember how divided Republicans in Washington were on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Well, they are even more divided so far on their push to change America’s tax system — a bad sign for a party desperate for a big achievement in a year in which they control both houses of Congress and the presidency.

With taxes … there are three dimensions on which key figures in the party disagree:

  1. How much does increasing the deficit matter?
  2. Is it temporary tax cuts or permanent tax reform?
  3. Who gets the cuts?

I’ll (briefly) unpack each one.

The deficit matters …

… even though Dick Cheney didn’t think so.

This divide is fairly similar to the main fault line on health care, pitting the most conservative members of the GOP, like the Freedom Caucus, against more traditional establishment Republicans such as Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, an increasingly sharp critic of President Trump. I emphasize Corker because he has been the most vocal Republican in insisting that the party’s tax plan not increase the federal budget deficit. …

Freedom Caucus members, meanwhile, are pushing for a big tax cut on corporations and small businesses, and placating them is important, since they initially blocked the Obamacare repeal. … The draft proposal released by congressional leaders and Trump last month included a 20 percent corporate rate, and the Freedom Caucus has praised it.

But an estimate by the Tax Policy Center of the draft proposal suggested that it would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over 10 years and $3.2 trillion over the following decade. So the draft is not addressing Corker’s concerns. And Trump’s attack of Corker via Twitter on Sunday could further embolden the Tennessee senator; he now has the opportunity to play a leading role in killing a cherished policy goal of a president he seems to loathe.

In that, Corker may have a powerful ally in our own Senator McCain. (Remember how Trump likes people who weren’t captured? Remember thumbs down on the last senate attempt at ACA repeal?)

The trio that opposed the Obamacare repeal (Arizona’s John McCain, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Collins) has been circumspect so far on the tax plan. But if they align with Corker, this is a huge barrier.

Temporary cut or permanent “reform”?

… a simple tax cut that increases the deficit may be easier to pass in the short term because Congress wouldn’t have to raise taxes on anyone. But in the long term, the entire policy might go away. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady has emphasized that he wants the tax cuts to be permanent, as has Ryan.

Here’s the problem: The draft Republican plan would raise a lot of people’s taxes. Estimates from the Tax Policy Center suggest that limiting tax deductions and going from seven tax brackets to three would cause tax increases for about 12 percent of taxpayers,1 including a third with incomes between $150,000 and $300,000, who would pay on average $1,800 more in taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which is affiliated with the left-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice, estimates that about 17 percent of U.S. taxpayers would pay more under the GOP draft.

The sound you hear from Capitol Hill is a squawky “Oops!”

And Ryan doesn’t only have to worry about GOP members from high-tax states. Trump has reportedly told GOP allies that he thinks the party should define this policy as tax cuts, not tax reform. It’s not clear he cares that much if this tax policy will be around in, say, 2027, when he will be long gone from the White House.

Make that tax cuts for the wealthy and tax “reform” for the rest of us.

So who wins, who loses?

Beyond the debate over how big a tax cut the GOP should pass, there are disagreements in the party about which Americans should get the cuts.

I haven’t seen any Republicans explicitly call for tax cuts that disproportionately go to the rich (doing so might be a bit politically risky), but their draft tax proposal does exactly that. Some Republicans, though, are pushing for a less regressive plan.

For example, Rand Paul.

Kentucky’s Rand Paul, one of the key roadblocks for Republicans in the Obamacare repeal effort, is now blasting the draft tax plan, arguing that “it just should not be a tax hike on anyone.” …

It’s not clear if [Mike] Lee, Paul or [Marco] Rubio have tax increases they favor to make up for the additional tax cuts they want. So this stance is likely to make this proposal even worse in terms of deficit reduction, cutting against the goals of Corker (deficit neutrality as a policy ideal) and Brady and Ryan (permanent tax cuts).

What, if anything, is likely to survive these divides?

I’m not doing a whip count of which members are likely to vote for this proposal, in part because Republicans in Congress are still writing it and its contours could change dramatically, in ways that address some of these tensions.

But even more so than on health care, Republicans are trying to write a bill that reconciles a bunch of competing goals from their members.

I’m not saying it will be harder for Republicans to pass some kind of tax policy than repealing Obamacare. The GOP always has the option of shifting to a tax policy that cuts taxes for almost everyone, doesn’t raise them on anyone, increases the deficit and isn’t permanent, the approach George W. Bush took in 2001. This might irritate Corker, but I suspect the coalition of congressional Republicans who will vote against a tax policy that increases taxes on millions of middle-class people is larger than the group that will oppose a policy because it increases the deficit too much.

Right now, though, Republicans have a tax policy that increases taxes on the middle class and also increases the deficit. That is going to be very hard to pass.

But not for wont of trying. Here at home CD2 Rep. Martha McSally has taken to the road defending voodoo economics. You know, cutting taxes will magically increase revenues. I thought she was not that dumb. It’s Kansas, Toto! Remember when KS Gov. Sam Brownback tried to substitute brownbacks for greenbacks? It didn’t work out so well for Kansas.

In spite of counter examples, Daily Star writer Joe Ferguson reports on McSally’s beliefs that Trump’s tax proposal would help local businesses, middle class. That would be an “Oops”. Anything that is branded Trump is immediately suspect. The proposed tax breaks will be a huge windfall for folks in the Trump bracket but not for the rest of us. Moreover, it will balloon the deficit.

But, apparently from the reporting, those are not the issues discussed by McSally with the local business leaders - unless they were discussed in private.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally signaled her support Tuesday for President Trump’s tax proposal, saying it represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to simplify the country’s tax codes.

Sitting in her Tucson office and flanked by business leaders she had met with privately for 90 minutes, the two-term Republican stressed the proposal is still in the most nascent of stages as lawmakers wrestle with core concepts.

She outlined her goals for tax reform, saying she wants to help the middle class with tax cuts, help small businesses grow, simplify the entire tax code and reset the tax code so that the United States can compete globally for new and growing businesses.

And how to pay for all that was high on the list, right? Well …

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Randy Rainbow interviews the “Desperate Cheeto” in chief

Randy Rainbow does a musical interview with the Desperate Cheeto himself. Not to be missed!!!!

That Trump should not be president seems axiomatic. But is the alternative any less bad?

There are thousands of reasons to get rid of President Donald Trump - for starters, he lies incessantly about everything, the estate tax for example. Nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond contamination by Trump’s dishonesty, even presidential behavior toward fallen warriors and their families: Trump forced to walk back ridiculous falsehood about Obama. Steve Benen reports.

Nearly two weeks ago, four American soldiers were killed in Niger, and before this afternoon, Trump had said literally nothing about it. Asked about his silence at a White House event, the president said he had not yet contacted the fallen Americans’ families because he wanted “a little time to pass.” He added that he’s written letters to those families, but they haven’t been sent yet.

Let’s note for context that since the ambush that claimed those four servicemen’s lives, Trump has golfed five times.

The president then decided to brag about how awesome he thinks he is as compared to his predecessors.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”

Even by Trump standards, this was a breathtaking lie. In fact, Alyssa Mastromonaco‏, a deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, quickly explained that Obama (and other previous presidents) often called the families of Americans killed in action. Disgusted by Trump’s smear, Mastromonaco went to describe Trump as “a deranged animal.”

First, Obama didn’t call the families, then Obama didn’t call them “often.” Initially, Trump said he had the facts about what previous presidents did, then Trump said he didn’t have the facts and it’s the generals’ fault if the claims were wrong.

Regardless, this was a rare example of Trump being pressed on one of his lies at the same event in which he told the lie. And confronted with reality, the president folded almost immediately.

Quite possibly Trump makes shit up because he doesn’t know anything. He’s dumber than a brick and does not care that a common brick in my driveway is smarter than he is. Check out this from the Daily Kos Former Wharton Professor: “Donald Trump Was the Dumbest Goddam Student I Ever Had.”.

Part of the comorbidity that defines this president is an amazing shirking of responsibility, as reported by Steve Benen in another report from the Rachel Maddow blog, Trump rationalizes his failures: ‘I’m not going to blame myself’.

… in Trump World, the buck always stops somewhere else.

Trump drove this point home during remarks at a White House cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon:

“Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators. But we’re not getting the job done.

“And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done…. We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done.”

It was a rare example of the president correcting himself in public. Initially, Trump said “we’re” not getting the job done, suggesting he and other Republicans collectively need to pick up their game, before he realized that he should clarify matters. “They’re” not getting the job done.

The president’s responsibility allergy has never been clearer.

Psychologically Trump should scare the hell out of everyone. You don’t have to conduct a personal interview with Trump to know that there is something very, very wrong with this guy. The public record of his statements and actions indicate a psychological disorder and that in turn suggests a mechanism for his removal from office, the 25th amendment. Jeannie Suk Gersen (“a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and a professor at Harvard Law School”) reports on How Anti-Trump Psychiatrists Are Mobilizing Behind the Twenty-Fifth Amendment

… the former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned Trump several months ago that “the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment.” That Amendment to the Constitution provides that the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet—or, alternatively, a congressionally appointed body—can determine that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and remove him.

The removal of Trump using the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the aim of a newly launched social movement composed of mental-health professionals. The group, called Duty to Warn, claims that Donald Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism that makes him incapable of carrying out his presidential duties and poses a danger to the nation.” On Saturday, the organization held co√∂rdinated kickoff events in fourteen cities, where mental-health experts spoke out about Trump’s dangerousness and, in several, took to the streets in organized funereal marches, complete with drum corps.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of American voters now believe that Trump is not “fit to serve as President.” While many lay members of the public have observed Trump’s increasingly erratic and unstable behavior, commentary from mental-health experts about Trump’s mental state was slow to gather steam because of the Goldwater Rule, an ethical principle of the American Psychiatric Association that says that psychiatrists cannot express professional opinions about public figures they have not personally examined. …

… Many appear to have given up on the impeachment of President Trump for the moment. But it’s a real turning point when mental-health professionals are so willing to organize politically, break brazenly with long-standing protocol, and even risk discipline by licensing boards. After this, talk of Trump’s removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment may not seem so crazy.

The trick here is who gets to make that move. The 25th amendment specifies the cabinet (appointed by Trump) or other body appointed by congress (dominated by Trump’s own party, a group not known for their bravery).

That aside, successfully using the 25th to remove Trump would carry some worrisome consequences.

Jane Mayer, also writing in the New Yorker, exposes The Danger of President Pence. Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.

Note from Scriber: Mayer has an excellent and very long biography of Pence. I’ve had to be very selective in choosing my snippets with the result that a lot more of why we should be apprehensive about a Pence presidency is not covered here. You need to read the original.

In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat [Democratic Congressman Phil] Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries. It wasn’t technically illegal, but it violated the trust of his supporters and sullied his pious image. “Mike burned a lot of bridges,” Gregory recalled. “He upset a lot of his backers. It was partly because of immaturity, but he really was kind of full of shit.”

The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.” Sharp, who after two more terms joined the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is now semi-retired, remains unimpressed by Pence. “This is not a person, in my limited exposure, about whom I’d ever say, ‘Wow, he should be President!’ ”

After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)

Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise. A key link to these groups was provided by Marc Short, the current White House official, who in 2008 became Pence’s chief of staff at the Republican Conference. Short had grown up in moneyed conservative circles in Virginia, where his father had helped finance the growth of the Republican Party, and he had run a group for conservative students, Young America’s Foundation, and spent several years as a Republican Senate aide before joining Pence’s staff. His wife, as it happened, worked for the Charles Koch Foundation, and he admired the brothers’ anti-government ideology. A former White House colleague described Short to me as “a pod person” who “really delivered Pence to the Kochs.”

… the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson [executive director of the Checks & Balances Project] went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

And in a rare moment of national unity, we should all share Steve Bannon’s concern.

The bottom line is simply this. There are lots of reasons why Trump is unfit to be president. But there is no good alternative in the succession. If Pence is not a welcome alternative, then consider that the next in line is Paul Ryan.