Monday, August 31, 2020

Trump losing support in the military

There are groups of voters who are known to be, or presumed to be, highly conservative who are not conforming to our expectations. High-ranking generals, for example, are breaking away from Trump. But a recent poll shows that the distrust (or disgust) runs even deeper in the military than what one would expect based on traditional voting patterns.

That Poll shows military vote leaning away from Trump, toward Biden reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). In 2016, a Military Times Poll found Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by a roughly two-to-one margin. Four years later, it’s a very different story.

Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, that year’s Military Times poll found Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by a roughly two-to-one margin. Four years later, it’s a very different story.

The latest Military Times poll shows a continued decline in active-duty service members’ views of President Donald Trump and a slight but significant preference for former Vice President Joe Biden in the upcoming November election among troops surveyed…. [T]he Military Times Polls, surveying active-duty troops in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, have seen a steady drop in troops’ opinion of the commander in chief since his election four years ago.

The conventional wisdom tends to be that Americans in uniform are more conservative than the civilian population at large. But in this case, the results of the Military Times survey suggest that political attitudes between the two groups aren’t that different: roughly half of active-duty troops, for example, have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. That’s comparable to the 52% who said they have a negative view of the president in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Looking ahead to Election Day, the same results showed Joe Biden leading the incumbent, 43% to 37%, with the remaining active-duty service members planning to either not vote or to support a third-party candidate. And while the Democrat’s advantage tends to be a little larger in other recent 2020 polling, this is a constituency Trump assumes is on his side.

To be sure, this doesn’t come out of nowhere. In a piece for The Atlantic last fall, Mark Bowden took a closer look at what it’s like for U.S. troops to serve under Donald Trump, interviewing “officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees.” The results were striking.

“In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president,” the article noted.

More recently, an astonishing number of retired American military leaders have stepped up in recent months to denounce and rebuke Trump – to a degree without modern precedent. The list includes four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, each of whom have publicly slammed the incumbent president ahead of his re-election bid.

Peter Feaver, a White House adviser to former President George W. Bush who now works as a political science professor at Duke University, told the Military Times, “It’s fair to say that Trump is not as popular as Republican nominees have been in the past among this group. The bottom line is that in 2020, Trump can’t be claiming to have overwhelming support in the military.”

Of course, if recent history is any guide, he’ll make the claim anyway.

And that is exactly why the military is not pleased to be professional soldiers commanded by a most unprofessional man.

FYI - new ads

The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump unveil three new Ads reports David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What Republicans knew about Trump all along

They all knew: Video compilation shows what Republicans really think about Donald Trump observes Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff.

A new video from Act TV sets the perfect stage for the upcoming Republican National Convention by showing what Republicans really think of Donald Trump. Every single speaker who appears at the RNC next week should be confronted with what they said about Donald Trump before they buckled under to his bullying and abandoned their last shred of dignity.

Here is the link to the video.

Steve Schmidt charges Lindsey Graham with failing to defend what is right and good in America

Steve Schmidt is one of the founders of the Lincoln Project. Here, in a fundraising letter, he skewers Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham was my friend.

I loved him like a brother.

I thought I knew him.

I thought I could trust him.

I thought I could count on him.

I thought America was well-served by him.

I was proud to be a supporter.

I was wrong.

I traveled thousands of miles across America with Lindsey Graham. I believed he was a man of courage and conviction like his mentor, John McCain. I thought he believed in the American idea and ideal, but he did not.

This will be the first election when the voters of South Carolina—and Americans from every walk of life—get to cast a verdict about the real Lindsey Graham. The one who became complicit as the best friend of a vile and lawless president who has desecrated his office, divided America, incited extremism, stoked racism, and whose incompetence has led to the deaths of more than 180,000 Americans.

Lindsey Graham knows Donald Trump is crazy because he has told us that he is. He seeks nothing but personal power and position.

He loves being a Senator—not because of the privilege that comes from fighting for you, but because of the affirmation that comes from the proximity to ultimate power. This is Lindsey’s drug, and it’s bad for you, and it’s bad for us.

Lindsey Graham failed his test. His job was to raise his voice in defiance, in dissent, for the high purpose of defending what is right and good in America. Instead, he became a quisling and a collaborator.

He is a weak man who does not deserve the honor of sitting in the United States Senate as the representative of the people of South Carolina.

… it is one of the great disappointments of my life that Lindsey Graham has chosen Trump over of America.

Voters must now choose America over Lindsey Graham.

— Steve

I’m going to chip in some $$$ because I value the Project’s work. They make juicy ads!

Trump will Make America Dead Again

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) has some thoughts about the RNC.

Trump has made it clear he will run on the idea that he has defeated the coronavirus and rebooted the economy, while rioters from the “radical left” are destroying American cities, aided and abetted by Democrats. But the convention’s picture of the president and the nation America were so wildly untrue that fact-checkers have stayed busy ever since.

Vice President Mike Pence rewrote history to argue that Trump managed the pandemic wonderfully. “President Trump marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset,” Pence said. “He directed us to forge a seamless partnership with governors across America in both political parties.”

In fact, there is really no debate over the reality that Trump did not acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis for six to eight crucial weeks, despite warnings. He refused to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of critical medical supplies and instead told states they were on their own. When states then tried to buy their own supplies, the federal government often intercepted the shipments and handed them to private distribution systems to send to places the administration determined needed them most, redistributions that were often attributed to political favoritism.

Most attendees at the president’s speech did not wear masks, and speakers at the convention referred to the pandemic in the past tense. But coronavirus has not gone away. Although the overall number of new cases is declining, hot spots remain, especially as schools and universities have reopened over the past two weeks. At the University of Alabama, 1200 students have tested positive for Covid–19 since classes resumed less than two weeks ago; Florida has seen nearly 900 students testing positive in the same period. America is still suffering close to 1000 deaths a day from Covid–19, bringing our numbers over 180,000 people.

It seems like Trump aims to Make America Dead Again. Perhaps he will wear a MADA baseball cap?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Fallen Navy SEAL victim of 'Trump playing big man going to war'

Father of fallen SEAL: ‘Don’t trust Donald Trump with your kid’s life’. Three years later, fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens’ father is still furious with how Trump handled his son’s mission, and he’s telling the nation in a new ad.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) explains.

There’s been plenty of presidential campaign advertising of late, but the Washington Post yesterday highlighted a striking new ad from a PAC linked to VoteVets, the progressive veterans’ group.

The father of a Navy SEAL who died in battle days after President Trump took office has condemned the president in a new political ad, saying that Americans should not trust the president with their lives or those of their children. William Owens’ son, Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, was the first person to die in combat during the Trump presidency following a Jan. 29, 2017, raid in Yemen.

“Just five days into his presidency, Trump ordered Ryan’s SEAL team into Yemen, not in the situation room with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table from Steve Bannon,” Owens tells viewers as the narrator of the ad. “There was no vital interest at play, just Donald Trump playing big man going to war.”

He concludes, “If you hear one thing, let it be this: Don’t trust Donald Trump with your kid’s life – or your own.”

The ad was released to coincide with the president’s remarks at the Republican National Convention last night.

If this story sounds at all familiar, it may because Trump pointed to Owens’ death in the Republican’s first congressional address, about a month after his inauguration. “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity,” Trump declared with the fallen Navy SEAL’s widow in the chamber as a featured guest.

As we discussed at the time, however, there was more to the story than the president acknowledged. Phillip Carter, a former Army officer and former Pentagon official, wrote in Slate, for example, “Words cannot convey my compassion and sympathy for Owens and her family. And yet, at the same time, I can barely contain my anger and disgust at the way that Trump put her on display, seeking to appropriate her grief – and her deceased husband’s heroism – for his political gain. This was stolen valor on a presidential scale.”

BuzzFeed had a related report, quoting military officers who were not at all impressed with the president’s display on Tuesday night. “Several used the word ‘distasteful’ to describe what happened during the address,” the article noted.

Complicating matters, the president told the nation the operation in which Ryan Owens was killed was “a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” NBC News, citing 10 sources, reported that Trump’s claim wasn’t true.

What’s more, the closer one looks at what transpired, the more controversial the circumstances appear. Initially, some in the Trump White House made the case that it was the Obama administration that approved the mission. The evidence suggests the opposite is true.

In fact, U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved the raid – the first operation he approved as president – “without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” He green-lit the mission over dinner at the White House residence, and while the raid was underway, Trump reportedly did not go to the Situation Room and did not monitor the developments in real time.

And in case all of this weren’t quite enough, there’s also the president’s efforts to deny responsibility for the raid he personally approved. Asked about the deadly raid by Fox News, Trump said in February 2017, “Well this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do. They came to see me they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe, and they lost Ryan.”

In light of all of this, is it any wonder Ryan Owens’ father is still furious?

Washington Post's coronavirus update via email

President Trump celebrated his renomination Thursday with a crowded party on the White House’s South Lawn — a spectacle that broke with decades of presidential tradition, not to mention health and safety recommendations.

More than 1,500 guests gathered at the venue, which previous presidents have avoided using for partisan rallies. Most of the crowd were allowed in without masks and without being tested for covid–19. They squeezed into closely spaced folding chairs, just yards away from Trump and his top aides, horrifying some health experts.

“When you see this type of event and the way he is acting and the way he is allowing his supporters to act, it cements the fact that they have never taken this outbreak seriously from the beginning,” Amesh Adalja, an ­infectious-disease expert at Johns Hopkins University Center, told The Post.

[For example:] “The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world,” Trump said. False, our Fact Checker wrote. Unless Japan, Turkey and South Korea are not major countries.

[Scriber:] Now that is just plain bullsh!t. What is there in the Declaration of Independence, you know, the business about Life being an unalienable right, that Trump does not get. Instead, he is fine with 182,000 lives lost ON HIS WATCH.

Who is the registrant for keepamericagreat.com - hint - not the Trump campaign.

This is, as we say, CHOICE! It is another indicator of the incompetence of the Trump bunch.

take a look at what the biden campaign did: they registered keepamericagreat.com writes the old 60s radical in the Daily Kos.

Apparently the Biden campaign has been busy. Take a look at keepamericagreat.com. It’s a compendium of Trump’s broken promises:

Economy and Jobs
Immigration
Foreign Policy
National Defense and Security
Covid–19
Farmers
Law and Justice
Government Accountability
Health Care
Education
Veterans

For example, under Law and Justice:

Law and Justice
PROMISE MADE
President Trump said, “I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do…I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order.”

Twitter, 7/1/20
Law and Justice
PROMISE BROKEN
President Trump has tear-gassed peaceful protestors for a photo op, stacked the courts with unqualified, partisan judges, and steered as much taxpayer money as possible into his own pockets. His administration gleefully boasts that they regularly break laws like the Hatch Act.

I am a bit surprised no one in the Trump campaign bothered to register that domain, particularly since it was going to be his campaign slogan. Anyway, it’s a brilliant move.

Thanks to Mrs. Scriber for the tip.

Trump's conversion of the peoples house into the Family Trump palace

Our founding fathers fought our revolutionary war to put and end to this kind of monarchic sh!t.

Writing in thebulwark.com Richard North Patterson describes Four days of staggering cynicism and deceit in RNC 2020: Virtual Unreality .

One of the themes from the last four days was the shameless appropriation of public goods in service of private political profit. Just for example of this wholesale violation of the Hatch Act is the conversion of the White House and its grounds from the peoples house into the Trump Palace.

… Trump misappropriated the most iconic American symbol, the White House, as the setting for a blatantly divisive, dishonest, and self-celebratory political speech. He spoke on the South Lawn, with the building behind him bathed in light and fronted with a plethora of American flags, conflating patriotism with Trump’s stunning assertion of proprietorship. Among the human props in his audience were uniformed police; his speech hailed the presence of officers from the Department of Homeland Security.

At moments one imagined a virtual Nuremberg rally, with Trump as America’s Leni Riefenstahl. Near the climax of the speech, he turned to point at the White House, glowing and white, and said mockingly to Democrats: “We’re here, and you’re not.” It was hard to know what was more distasteful—the words themselves, or Trump’s pleasure in uttering them.

… were there any doubt before, one now knew with certainty that Trump meant to ride fear and racial animus to a second term in the majestic mansion backlit behind him. At that moment his misuse of this storied site seemed not merely an abuse of office but a kind of civic sacrilege.

So ended the Republican convention.

Patterson covers far more ground. If you missed any or all of the RNC’s mendacity machine, his review would be a good read.

-Richard North Patterson is a lawyer, political commentator and best-selling novelist. He is a former chairman of Common Cause and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Latest political ads

Here are the latest ads from David Gordon at Blog for Arizona.

Watch the latest ads from The Lincoln Project, Unite the Country, Priorities USA, Republican Voters Against Trump, and the Biden/Harris Campaign

The Biden/Harris Campaign Presents “This is Trump’s America”.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Republican support for Biden increases

Republican support for Biden’s candidacy reaches new heights reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). The number of Republicans backing Biden in 2020 is qualitatively and quantitatively different than anything Americans have seen in recent memory.

Last week, the public was introduced to Miles Taylor, a Republican political appointee who served as a top official in the Department of Homeland Security, and who offered a first-hand assessment that Donald Trump has made the United States “less secure.”

In a widely seen video, Taylor added, “Given what I have experienced in the administration, I have to support Joe Biden for president and even though I am not a Democrat, even though I disagree on key issues, I’m confident that Joe Biden will protect the country and I’m confident that he won’t make the same mistakes as this president.”

Yesterday, one of Taylor’s former DHS colleagues made a very similar announcement.

A second former Trump administration Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official spoke out against the president and threw her support behind Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in an ad released Wednesday. Elizabeth Neumann, a former DHS assistant secretary for threat prevention, said the U.S. is “less safe today” because of President Trump’s leadership.

Neumann, who also spoke to MSNBC last night, pointed specifically to the effects of Donald Trump’s racism and his failures related to the coronavirus response. She conceded she voted for the Republican ticket in 2016, but this year, she’s backing Biden.

And she’ll have plenty of company. Former Republican Sen. Bill Cohen of Maine endorsed Biden yesterday, joining more than two dozen other former GOP members of Congress who’ve done the same thing.

Also making headlines today, more than 100 former staffers for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are throwing their support behind Biden. Several veterans of Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign are doing the same thing, as are dozens of officials from former President George W. Bush’s team, including two former cabinet secretaries.

Politico also reported this week, “A group of onetime Republican presidential appointees who served as senior ethics or Justice Department aides are endorsing Joe Biden for president, warning that Donald Trump has ”weaponized“ the executive branch and is putting in peril the legitimacy of the Justice Department.”

This comes on the heels of last week’s Democratic convention, when Americans heard from some prominent GOP voices – former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), et al. – who threw their support behind the Democratic ticket. The day after Powell spoke, several dozen Republican national security officials – from the Reagan, Bush/Quayle, and Bush/Cheney administrations – also endorsed Biden.

To be sure, those who’ve watched the Republican convention closely this week have heard from a handful of Democrats supporting the incumbent president, including a small-town mayor in Minnesota and a state lawmaker in Georgia.

But to see any kind of equivalency here is ludicrous. As we recently discussed, every four years, voters will see a handful of partisan apostates throw their support behind the other party’s nominee – Georgia’s Zell Miller, for example, delivered an unfortunate keynote address at the Republican convention in 2004 – and these isolated voices are often exaggerated to make it appear as if White House hopefuls enjoy broad, bipartisan support.

But 2020 is qualitatively and quantitatively different. There’s no modern precedent for the sheer volume of high-profile Republicans rallying behind the Democratic ticket.

Is it possible the electoral impact of this will be muted? Sure. Circling back to our earlier coverage, Trump’s intra-party backing is relatively strong, and many far-right voters, if they hear about these GOP Biden backers at all, will simply assume they’re a bunch of centrist RINOs who deserve to be ignored.

But let’s not overlook another group of voters: traditional Republicans whose support for their party is soft. They reluctantly backed Trump in 2016, largely because of their contempt for Hillary Clinton, and every day since, they’ve grown weary of their president’s tweets, failures, and scandals.

These voters aren’t satisfied with the status quo, and while they’re reluctant to back a Democratic ticket, they’re open to change. This is a constituency basically waiting for allies to tell them it’s OK to choose Biden over Trump.

And for this contingent, a whole lot of prominent Republican voices are now encouraging them to do exactly that.

Trump's lickspittle spoke - just not truthfully

It was awfully difficult to sit through the NRC. I don’t have the relevant data, but I suspect that most of the speeches were replete with falsehoods, exaggerations, and even exonerations. Perhaps the most egregious was the speech by VP Pence.

At the The New Yorker, John Cassidy exposes Mike Pence’s Big Lie About Trump and the Coronavirus at the Republican National Convention.

Here are a few passages.

From the opening of their Convention on Monday, the Republicans have been propagating a huge falsehood about the coronavirus pandemic. Amy Ford, a nurse from West Virginia, got things going when she said, “As a health-care professional, I can tell you without hesitation, Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during covid–19.” Carefully edited videos and other testimonials have been used to reinforce this bogus narrative, but the ultimate rewriting of history was left to Vice-President Mike Pence, whose speech on Wednesday night from Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, amounted to a travesty of the truth.

The great irony, and outrage, of Pence’s speech is that, as the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force since February, he’s had a unique and closeup view of Trump’s actual response to the pandemic: the constant belittling of the virus’s threat; the claims that it would go away of its own accord; the quack remedies, including injecting disinfectant into stricken patients; the squabbling with governors, even Republican ones, who called out the inadequacy of his actions; the urging of states to reopen their economies even as they failed to meet the guidelines that Pence’s task force had laid down; the months of defiant refusal to wear a mask; and, in the end, the decision to effectively give up on the whole thing and move on.

Pence didn’t mention any of these things, of course. He focussed on the one significant policy decision Trump made early—to ban travel from China. Of course, the Vice-President didn’t point out that the ban was only a partial one—more than forty thousand people subsequently entered the United States on flights from China. And the first confirmed cases in New York, where the virus has killed more than thirty-two thousand people, arrived from Europe, not Asia. Nevertheless, throughout his speech, Pence presented Trump as everything he isn’t: engaged, diligent, and dedicated solely to acting in the interests of the American people. “In a city known for talkers, President Trump is a doer,” he said with an impressively straight face. “Few Presidents have brought more independence, energy, or determination to that office.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pence’s bowing and scraping to Trump is that he seems to revel in it. In an interview with the Times, his chief of staff, Marc Short, said Pence has studied previous Vice-Presidencies, and he “exemplifies servant leadership.” Even in these twisted days, when Trump’s takeover of the G.O.P. seems virtually complete, it isn’t every elected Republican who would like to go in the history books as the forty-fifth President’s most loyal and obsequious servant. As he demonstrated on Wednesday night, when he once again acted as Trump’s lickspittle, Pence seems to fill the role naturally.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

'Country First' - McCain and Romney staffers endorse Biden.

From the NY Times: Over 100 Ex-Staff Members for John McCain Endorse Joe Biden The group endorsement of Mr. Biden is the latest effort from anti-Trump Republicans to lure conservatives and moderates away from the president, who often clashed with the former Arizona senator.

More than 100 former staff members for Senator John McCain are supporting Joseph R. Biden Jr., a show of support across the political divide that they hope amplifies the “Country First” credo of the former Arizona senator.

That motto and “his frequent call on Americans to serve causes greater than our self-interest were not empty slogans like so much of our politics today,” the group of aides, most of them still Republicans, wrote in a joint statement, praising Mr. McCain and implicitly taking aim at President Trump. “They were the creed by which he lived, and he urged us to do the same.”

The list of signatories includes a range of people — from chiefs of staff in Mr. McCain’s Senate office to junior aides on his campaigns — who worked for him over his 35 years in Congress and during two presidential bids.

The statement alone is unlikely to affect the presidential race. However, an allied Republican group is hoping to capitalize on it by airing a new television ad in Arizona, a highly competitive state, that contrasts Mr. McCain’s acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 with a series of Mr. Trump’s more inflammatory statements.

"A word to Senator Obama and his supporters,” Mr. McCain said at the time, in words that the group, Republican Voters Against Trump, uses in the ad. “Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that’s an association that means more to me than any other.”

The statement is also slated to run in The Washington Post on Friday, the morning after Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech.

The quadrennial nominating conventions usually offer tributes to party leaders who have died since the last gathering. But at this week’s Republican convention there has been no mention of Mr. McCain, who clashed bitterly with Mr. Trump and did not want the president at his funeral. (Mr. Trump continued attacking Mr. McCain after his death.) Nor has anything been done yet to honor former President George Bush, who also died in 2018.

Indeed, it’s most likely that Mr. McCain will end up having had more of a tribute at the Democratic convention than at his own party’s. His widow, Cindy McCain, participated in a video recounting his friendship with Mr. Biden but did not address the virtual Democratic gathering.

It remains unclear how far she’ll go with her support for Mr. Biden, who is hoping to put Arizona in the Democratic column for the first time since 1996.

Mr. McCain’s closest advisers were particularly touched by the kindness of Mr. Biden in his former colleague’s final months and how he traveled to Arizona to visit Mr. McCain at his cabin.

… most of the senior officials from Mr. McCain’s two presidential campaigns are publicly supporting Mr. Biden.

“These are unusual times, and this is not an easy decision for Republicans to make,” they conceded in the statement, “but we are heartened by Joe Biden’s history of bipartisanship.”

Staff members of Mitt Romney also are backing Biden. Also from the NY Times: Dozens of former McCain and Romney staff members back Biden.

In contrast to the Democratic Convention, where three former presidents and the party’s 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, made the case for Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Republican convention has been devoid of such standard bearers this week for President Trump.

Now dozens of former staff members of the G.O.P.’s previous two presidential nominees — Senator John McCain and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah — have endorsed Mr. Biden.

Both have been targets of Mr. Trump — Mr. McCain, who died in 2018, for his role in helping to preserve the Affordable Care Act, and Mr. Romney for voting his year in support of one of the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.

The cross-aisle alliance between Mr. McCain and Mr. Biden, one a conservative war hero from Arizona and the other an Irish Catholic senator from Delaware, has been pointed to by Mr. Biden’s supporters as an example of Mr. Biden’s bipartisan spirit.

The group of more than 100 former McCain staffers hope that their endorsement amplifies Mr. McCain’s “Country First” credo. That motto and “his frequent call on Americans to serve causes greater than our self-interest were not empty slogans like so much of our politics today,” the group of aides, most of them still Republicans, wrote in a joint statement, praising Mr. McCain and implicitly taking aim at President Trump. “They were the creed by which he lived, and he urged us to do the same.”

Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s longtime chief aide and speechwriter, helped organize the letter.

“We have different views of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party platform — most of us will disagree with a fair amount of it — but we all agree that getting Donald Trump out of office is clearly in the national interest,” Mr. Salter said.

The list of signers includes a range of people — from chiefs of staff in Mr. McCain’s Senate office to junior aides on his campaigns — who worked for him over his 35 years in Congress and during two presidential bids.

Over 30 of Mr. Romney’s former staff members signed a statement repudiating Mr. Trump, which was posted online.

“What unites us now is a deep conviction that four more years of a Trump presidency will morally bankrupt this country, irreparably damage our democracy, and permanently transform the Republican Party into a toxic personality cult,” they wrote. “We can’t sit by and allow that to happen.”

Thanks to Editor-at-large Sherry for tips motivating this post.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

RNC is 'grandstanding at the confluence of audacity and absurdity'.

Frank Bruni of the NY Times reviews The Epic Shamelessness of the Republican Convention. In TheTrump world, he reminds us, Norms are for chumps, not for Trumps.

Here are some excerpts.

… I … don’t recognize [the speakers’] version of Trump. Their Trump brims with empathy. Their Trump burns with passion to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Their Trump heroically spared the country from the worst ravages of Covid–19, which is surely news to the relatives and friends of more than 175,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from it.

On the convention’s first two nights, you didn’t hear that figure. You didn’t hear any explanation for why the United States has the world’s highest number of recorded deaths related to the coronavirus and the highest number of reported infections.

No one examined why much of the world won’t let Americans in: because we’re too contaminated — by the virus, yes, but also by a faith misplaced in a government that doesn’t deserve it and in a president who doesn’t have the foggiest clue how to govern.

To recast Trump’s record on the coronavirus as a triumph isn’t revisionist history. It’s science fiction. It’s historical erasure: of all the times that he said or suggested that the virus was some hoax; of all the times that he or his enablers charged Democrats with hyping its threat just to hurt him; of “it is what it is”; of his ruminations about the potentially curative ingestion of bleach; of briefing after briefing in which he crowed about his ratings and bellyached about his critics, caroming from self-love to self-pity and back again.

… Tuesday night was a special showcase for their shamelessness.

Shameless: Tiffany Trump, the president’s younger daughter, accused his opponents of suppressing truth and pressing falsehoods. “This misinformation system keeps people mentally enslaved,” she said. Apparently she’s unacquainted with that adage about the pot and the kettle.

Shameless: Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, charged Biden’s family with rank nepotism and opportunism, focusing on Ukraine. Apparently she’s unacquainted with Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Jared, and she somehow missed that sordid chapter of Trump’s presidency in which he tried to extort the president of Ukraine and was rightly impeached for it.

Bondi went further, praising Trump for donating his presidential salary to charity. She left out the part where he had to shut down the Donald J. Trump Foundation because of various legal and ethical violations and was ordered to pay a $2 million settlement for misusing its funds for his own benefit.

In this convention’s upside-down vision, Trump’s big tax cut was for the middle class, not the rich. He loves Black people and they love him back.

He’s also a champion of women — the first lady floated that screamer. It’s as if the “Access Hollywood” tape was apocryphal. It’s as if his put-downs of Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris don’t have the barest hint of sexism in them.

[The speakers at RNC] are scaring me, because they are demonstrating Trump’s most formidable advantage over Joe Biden, which isn’t incumbency. It’s shamelessness.

Thanks to our Editor-at-large Sherry for this tip.

If you depend on Social Security you should be terrified at what Donald Trump has in store for you

Quote of the Day: “… when the chief actuary of Social Security tells us that Social Security would be dead and gone before the end of Trump’s second term, it’s not alarmist. It’s a statement of fact.”

Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos Staff warns that Trump’s plan to ‘terminate’ payroll taxes would ‘terminate’ Social Security by 2023.

The chief actuary for Social Security has grim news for Trump supporters on Social Security: There wouldn’t be any more of it before his second term ended if he gets his way on the payroll tax. His plan to eliminate payroll taxes would deplete the Social Security Trust Fund by 2023, “with no ability to pay benefits thereafter.” That’s the “Old Age and Survivors Insurance” portion of the fund. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund would be gone next year.

Stephen Goss, the chief actuary, detailed this in a letter in response to a query from Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), and independent Bernie Sanders (Vermont) about hypothetical legislation passed by Congress to enact Trump’s plan to defund Social Security. This is what would happen in Trump’s plan to “terminate” payroll taxes permanently in his second term. Trump announced this plan when he signed his executive order to allow employers to suspend taking payroll taxes out of employees’ pay. That order was so poorly conceived and executed that employers are having a hard time figuring out whether or not to do it, which bodes poorly for what would happen if Trump were given a second term and a chance to see his vision through.

CNBC reports: “Payroll companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business associations say it would be difficult to implement the deferral. They’re concerned about the liability employers and employees may face.” Which bodes poorly for saving the programs if Trump gets his way. Or if Republicans retake Congress. Goss wrote this under the specification from the senators that “there would be no other changes to current law.” Legislation could create some kind of funding stream for the programs, but that part of it clearly hasn’t been figured out by team Trump, which hasn’t even figured out how to explain what Trump actually means when he says “terminate” the payroll tax.

Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, makes a key point. While analysis is based on hypothetical legislation that would do what Trump says he wants to do, which is get rid of the payroll tax, "in fact, Trump is claiming the authority to defund Social Security with no action from Congress whatsoever." Trump is exerting the power, and believes he has the power, to do this on his own.

In his (sic) order, Altman continues, “Trump claimed the authority to unilaterally stop collection of Social Security’s dedicated funding under 26 U.S Code §7508A upon his declaring a federal emergency.” There’s Trump acting with the unitary executive power he feels Senate Republicans granted him when they refused to impeach him. “The law permits deferral for up to a year,” Altman explains, “long enough to defund and destroy Social Security disability insurance. If he declared additional emergencies through 2023, he could, on his own, end all of Social Security.”

Given Trump’s willingness to destroy the U.S. Postal Service, an institution that predates the Constitution and even predates American independence, he’s not going to hold Social Security sacred. He holds nothing sacred—not even human life, as his response to the pandemic has made abundantly clear.

So when the chief actuary of Social Security tells us that Social Security would be dead and gone before the end of Trump’s second term, it’s not alarmist. It’s a statement of fact.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Michael Cohen on why we must defeat Trmp

Michael Cohen speaks his piece on this YouTube video.

“This video takes 1.63 minutes to watch. Click on the photo. Send this to everyone you know - especially Republicans”

(Thanks to the Quail Creek dems web site.)

Watching Jerry Falwell Jr. watch

There are times when all you can do is laugh.

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) reports on the latest Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal. Juicy!

Former president of Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr., has resigned from his position after a former pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, went public about a sexual arrangement he had with Falwell and his wife for six years, in which Granda and Becki Falwell had sex while Jerry Falwell watched. Yesterday, the Washington Examiner published a story in which Falwell claimed that he and his wife were being blackmailed because Becki had had an affair, and the fallout from the affair had driven Falwell into depression.

This is a major political story because Falwell Jr., the son of the Reverend Jerry Falwell Sr., is an important figure in the evangelical community, and his sudden and unexpected endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016 brought evangelicals to the thrice-married and unreligious long-shot candidate, rather than to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who expected Falwell’s support. Falwell, who is a lawyer and real estate developer rather than a minister, said he was endorsing Trump out of respect for his business experience.

Now, of course, that picture looks different. There were apparently photos that reflected the Falwell-Granda arrangement in some fashion, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, in 2015 was involved in making them go away and so got his hands on them. He also brokered Falwell’s endorsement of Trump. How exactly all that transpired is unclear, but it seems likely that Falwell’s endorsement was related to his desire to make sure the story of his unusual marital arrangement did not become public. As Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo put it: “Trump Owned Jerry and Jerry Knew It.”

You cannot make this sh!t up.

Charlie Sykes in this morning’s bulwark.com has some things to add.

The scriptwriters for 2020 have really upped their game with the latest developments about Jerry Falwell Jr. and the pool boy. Falwell apparently liked to watch.

We got mixed reports yesterday about whether he has resigned, would resign, or would be fired. And no, it won’t make any difference at all to evangelical voters in the election.

Finally, consider this tweet, also reported by Sykes:

Chris Regan
@ChrisRRegan
Jerry Falwell Jr steps down, says he wants to spend more time watching his family.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Trump's ineptitude extends to bad campaign decisions

There can be no doubt that Trump is incompetent and surrounds himself with equally inept sycophants. Here are two instances, in the Daily Kos, of that ineptitude spilling over to negatively impact his campaign.

kos for Daily Kos reports how Stupid Trump digs himself an even deeper hole with these convention speakers.

… college-educated women hate Trump for the same reason partisan Democrats do. …

Trump’s response? Let’s see: He’s humped confederate generals, called Black Lives Matter a hate group, defended police brutality, engaged in a systematic pattern of overt misogyny against public figures who are women, used his rallies and press conferences to spew conspiracy theories and air petty grievances, ignored the coronavirus pandemic (and continues to do so), stopped help from reaching pandemic-impacted families (and continues to do so), sabotaged the U.S. Postal Service, declared that he’d stop Black people from moving into the suburbs (not realizing that they’re already there, and the locals don’t mind), and has created this fantasy suburban world dominated by “housewives.” And wouldn’t you know it, his fantasy housewives are oh so afraid of the Blacks and browns. (These “suburban housewives” don’t actually exist in any meaningful numbers.)

Thus, Trump’s continued inability to speak to the concerns of this election’s biggest swing demographic hamstrings any Republican effort to cobble together a majority.

Now here comes the Republican Party’s national convention, a chance to perhaps reset the terms of the debate and give those swing suburban voters a chance to reconsider their choices. And who does Trump get on the speaker’s list?

These assholes, who waved panicky guns as a protest marched peacefully on the street in front of their mansion.

Guns

You can see why Trump would take a liking to them, right? In fact, they are such monumental assholes that, well, I’ll just use Mark Sumner’s summary:

Mark McCloskey isn’t just the kind of raging a-hole who is hated by all of his neighbors, he’s not just a guy who has sued his own sister and his own father, he’s also a guy who did this: He destroyed bee hives on a neighbor’s property and left behind a note not only admitting that he did it, but threatening to sue if they didn’t clean up the mess promptly. That neighbor was a Jewish synagogue which had planned to use the honey for Rosh Hashanah. “The children were crying in school,” said Rabbi Susan Talve. “It was part of our curriculum.

Aldous J Pennyfarthing at the Daily Kos reports how Trump woos women voters with attack on Michelle Obama at event commemorating suffrage.

All of Donald Trump’s favorite pickup strategies — meeting porn stars at golf tournaments, asking to be spanked with magazines sporting his pug-ugly mug, calling women who turn him down fat slobs, grabbing unsuspecting women by their privates — are pretty much worthless in a political context. So the guy is flailing.

That was on full display this morning as Trump announced he will pardon legendary women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony — who is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.

Oh, wait, he’s serious! Pig-man is pardoning Susan B. Anthony! Applause, applause

So of course Trump — amply demonstrating the discipline, shrewdness, and political chops that got him where he is — stayed on message, attacking Michelle Obama over the speech she gave on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

It was so unexpected coming from him (let’s be serious, he didn’t think of it; I’d be surprised if he knew who she was), that women at the event literally laughed at his announcement.

At an event aimed at highlighting the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, President Donald Trump disparaged the country’s most admired woman, Michelle Obama as “over her head” after she delivered a scathing, direct-to-camera speech criticizing him at the Democratic National Convention Monday.

“Well she’s in over her head, and frankly, she should’ve made the speech live, which she didn’t do,” he said Tuesday when asked his reaction to Obama’s remarks, calling her speech “extremely divisive” before quickly pivoting to talk about drug pricing.

Obama has frequently topped the list of the nation’s most admired women and left office with a 69% favorability rating.

Now there’s the Donald Trump I know.

Not sure how this will play among the “suburban housewives” he needs to bring back into the fold before November, but I’m guessing the response will be chilly at best.

Most Republicans regard COVID-19 deaths as 'acceptable'

You may recall that I have blogged about the attitudes of Americans regarding gun ownership and the killing of kids. Specifically, I have commented on the acceptability of trading off some number kids’ deaths against gun rights. I have gone so far as to suggest that this tradeoff reflects a semi-official American policy.

Now we can extend such policy-making to the acceptability of COVID–19 deaths. Charlie Sykes (thebullwark.com) reports on a new poll. The poll answers the questions of how many deaths are “acceptable” and to whom?

This weekend was the calm between the quasi-virtual conventions, but we start the week with wildfires, audiotapes, bickering over the Rose Garden, a fight over the Postal Service and a politicized FDA, and more than 177,000 coronavirus deaths. So far this month, the United States has been averaging more than 1,000 deaths and 50,000 new infections a day. A widely used model now predicts that the country will have 252,000 deaths by Election Day and nearly 310,000 by December 1.

Over the weekend a new poll found that 57 percent of Republicans said that the number of pandemic deaths was “acceptable.”

The USAtoday poll found that:

More than 176,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID–19. According to the poll, a 57% majority of registered Republican voters consider that number “acceptable” when “evaluating the U.S. efforts against the coronavirus pandemic,” compared with 31% of voters overall. Ninety percent of Democrats and 67% of independents said the death toll was “unacceptable.”

Republicans were also more likely to believe the official death toll is inflated – though public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci have said the actual number of deaths from the virus is likely higher. Forty percent of registered Republicans believe the number of deaths is lower than reported, while 18% said it was probably about right and another 18% said the actual number of deaths was likely higher than reported. Overall, 44% of voters said the number of deaths was actually higher, 36% said it was lower and 20% said the reported number is likely correct.

When asked their opinion of how President Donald Trump has managed the response to the pandemic, 42% of overall voters said Trump has done a good job. Among Republicans, the number saying the president has done a good job jumped to 86%, while 92% of Democrats said he has performed badly. Forty-four percent of independents said the president has done a good job with the outbreak and 56% said he hasn’t.

When asked about the survey Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” and why there was such a discrepancy between how Republicans other voters view the pandemic, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said it was “a really unfair poll.”

Unfair. What’s unfair is the casual attitude toward deaths of American citizens by GOPlins.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

How can we survive four more years of Trump's 'malign ineptitude'

Here’s the theme of his post. Think about four more years of Trump’s ‘malign ineptitude’ - then go vote for Biden/Harris

Washington Post columnist Max Boot contrasts what Biden and Trump bring to the presidency. He says Trump relies on grifters and misfits. Biden is bringing the A Team.

The Democratic convention did a superb job of highlighting Joe Biden’s strengths — his empathy and decency, his perseverance through personal tragedies, his commitment to public service — while obscuring his weaknesses. A partial list of the latter would include his verbosity, his gaffes, his inside-the-Beltway mind-set and his sometimes questionable judgment (he opposed the successful 1991 war against Iraq and supported the disastrous 2003 invasion).

Yet I’m not worried about Biden’s shortcomings — and not merely because the alternative is quite possibly the worst president in U.S. history. Biden enjoys a key advantage over President Trump that was hardly mentioned during the convention. As former president Barack Obama said when endorsing his vice president, “I know he’ll surround himself with good people."

Biden has surrounded himself with good people throughout nearly half a century in Washington .. four men have roughly 150 years of Washington experience. All are effective operatives. Not one is a bomb-thrower.

Biden’s foreign policy team includes … veterans of high-level government service… This is the A Team. They are seasoned professionals, ready to govern on Day One.

We know what they can do because Biden and his aides already have plenty of experience cleaning up after a Republican president. They oversaw the passage and implementation of the 2009 Recovery Act, which is now lauded as “an effective and remarkably fraud-free response to the financial crisis.”

During their many years of service, Biden and his aides have been commendably scandal-free. (A sexual assault accusation against Biden has fallen apart.) The worst that can be said about the Democratic nominee is that he was caught plagiarizing a British politician more than 30 years ago and that he has sometimes been too physically affectionate with supporters. Trump and his aides commit far more serious transgressions on a daily basis. Lacking real scandals to exploit, Trump has sought to concoct, with Russian help, phony allegations of influence-peddling involving Biden’s son Hunter.

Normally, competence and ethics are taken for granted; seldom are they strong selling points with cynical voters. Just ask Michael Dukakis, who tried to run as a skilled manager in 1988. But after four years of Trumpian chaos and crookedness, competence and ethical conduct would be as welcome as a president who reads his briefing book — something else we used to take for granted.

Trump came into office not knowing the first thing about government, and he surrounded himself with equally inexperienced and unethical people. Most qualified Republicans wanted nothing to do with him. (They still don’t: A new open letter signed by more than 70 GOP national security veterans excoriates Trump and endorses Biden.)

This helps to explain why so many Trump aides have been grifters and misfits. His personal lawyer Michael Cohen, national security adviser Michael Flynn, campaign manager Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, pal Roger Stone and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos are all convicted felons. Now, Stephen K. Bannon — former Trump campaign CEO and onetime White House strategist — has been indicted for allegedly defrauding Trump supporters eager for a border wall. This populist mountebank was arrested on a mega-yacht owned by a Chinese billionaire.

To be sure, a few qualified and ethical appointees somehow made it into the administration — e.g., Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and economic adviser Gary Cohn — but most are long gone. Trump is left with second-raters and sycophants such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien. All were promoted multiple ranks above their level of competence. But even they are superior to third-raters such as Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Peter Navarro, who would be allowed into a normal White House only as part of a tour group.

Little wonder that the administration has been such a shambles. While Trump has done many awful things on purpose, the greatest carnage during his presidency — his mismanagement of the coronavirus — is the result of sheer incompetence. If a few more people in the White House knew what they were doing, at least 172,000 Americans might not be dead.

Having a president who can do the job — and who hires similarly qualified aides — would be unremarkable in normal times. Today it would be revolutionary. That is what Biden offers and why it is essential that he win. America cannot survive four more years of Trump’s malign ineptitude.

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam," a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography.

Sarah Cooper delivers a brutal bashing of Trump

Guess I’m coming a little late to this table: Daily Beast reports that Sarah Cooper Crashes DNC With Brutal Trump Impression. It’s a hoot but also is a call to use your vote to dump Trump.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Required watching - Joe Biden's other speech on coping with grief

Tim Miller writing in thebulwark has comments on Biden’s speech at the DNC. But, and more, he recommends what he thinks as an even better speech Biden delivered back in 2012.

In yesterday’s newsletter I expressed a weariness with the Zoom convention and wondered if four days were really necessary. Some readers objected to this and, well, score one for the readers.

The fourth night of the Democratic convention was brilliantly executed, kudos to Stef Cutter and my friend Addisu Demissie and the whole team over there for putting together a climactic evening that even left the cold hearts at Fox News gushing.

I knew things were beginning to turn when 13 year old Brayden from New Hampshire spoke about the stutter that he was overcoming in front of a nation-wide audience and by his mere presence showing not just telling the viewers about the contrast between courage and Trump’s cruelty.

But it wasn’t just Brayden. That was just the appetizer. What followed is what broke me. First the Biden grandchildren speaking so lovingly and earnestly about their Pop broke through amidst the sea of stilted politician Zooms. When they said that they called the family meeting to surprise their Pop by telling him they thought he must run for president for the country and for their dad/uncle Beau. Man. It started getting dusty in Oakland and it wasn’t just the air from the fire.

Then it was time for the VP. And I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a tough format, and excellent public speakers like Kamala struggled to get in the flow a little bit. Plus while I recognize that the “mental acuity” attacks on Biden are noxious hyperbole, if we are being honest his performances to date on the trail have been uneven. All he really needed to accomplish last night was a check the box acceptance speech that didn’t make anyone question whether he was in command. (and btw thank you Trumpers and conservative media for setting the bar there!) And frankly that’s all I was expecting.

But then the closer came out of the pen and well…

Biden brought the mustard. The speech had a clear theme. He demonstrated passion and empathy and decency. He let loose some righteous anger. He did what everyone has been yearning for since March and spoke directly to the families who have lost loved ones to this plague. And he closed with a damn Irish poet saying “make hope and history rhyme.” It was 100% unadulterated Joe and I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t shed a tear.

I was on Charlie [Sykes’] podcast this morning and so you can hear more of our thoughts on the Biden performance there but I wanted to share one thing that we discussed after the show was over. Both of us we were caught off guard by how emotionally attached we were last night to this candidacy. We had sort of expected to feel this reluctant, begrudging support for the Democratic nominee, to have been left in a tough spot between one normal bad choice and one existentially bad one. But that isn’t what happened. Joe Biden has me energized. And frankly, that he has both Charlie and I reflecting on whether maybe in the past we were just…in the wrong…

One final thing. I did see a lot of people saying last night that this was his best speech ever. And while it was certainly his best speech of the campaign, if you have not seen his speech to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) speech in 2012, it’s worth your 19 minutes.

After just watching that speech on YouTube, I second Tim’s recommendation.

Below is the teaser and the link to that speech.

Vice President Biden Discusses Grief at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).

Vice President Joe Biden talks with surviving families of our fallen military heroes at the opening session of the 18th Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar, held over Memorial Day Weekend in 2012. Biden discussed the death of his wife and young daughter in a car accident and how he dealt with grief in an emotional speech for the families of fallen military service members. More than 2,000 people participated in the four-day weekend event offering comfort and care to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military, regardless of where they died or how they died. More information about TAPS is available at www.taps.org

Martha McSally's Hunger Games

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) reports on the evolution of the Republican party toward the far right, embracing the QAnon extremists. Some GOPlins are worried about that trend. But so long as Trump hugs QAnon your average rank and file GOPlin will come around.

… Republican leaders have been quiet about the QAnon believers in their midst, but there are rumblings of discontent from lower lawmakers at the inclusion of conspiracy theorists in their caucus.

There are signs that some Republican candidates are desperate. In Arizona, Martha McSally, who was appointed to her seat by Governor Doug Ducey in late 2018 after losing an election for Arizona’s other senate seat, is running significantly behind her Democratic challenger, former astronaut Mark Kelly. (Kelly is married to former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords.) Tonight, news leaked that at a recent event McSally said: “We’re doing our part to catch up, you know, to get our message out. But it takes resources. So, anybody can give, I’m not ashamed to ask, to invest. If you can give a dollar, five dollars, *if you can fast a meal and give what that would be.*”

Wow. Think about how McSilly could amplify her pitch. Can you fast a meal? Can your spouse fast a meal? How about your kids? How about Fido? (Save those table scraps!) How about extending her ask to all of Arizona? That’s the fodder for a great ad. Maybe McS could enlist Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence.

After pushback on Twitter over the statement that people should go hungry to fund her campaign, a spokesperson said McSally had been joking.

What’s your take? Was she joking?

Methinks not. That’s the ploy Trump’s apologists use after one of his stupid, harmful tweets.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Joe Biden's acceptance speech

NBC News, via The Rachel Maddow Show, has the full version of Biden’s speech at the 2020 DNC.

If you are short on time, here is a summary from Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American).

Tonight was the night that former Vice President Joe Biden gave his acceptance speech in response to the Democratic Party’s nomination of him as their presidential candidate.

Tonight was Biden’s, as military families and former service people testified to his support for them, 13-year-old Brayden Harrington explained how Biden helped him deal with his own stutter (huge props for this young man taking on this assignment and executing it so well), Biden’s former rivals for the nomination talked of Biden’s kindness and decency, and, above all, Biden’s family emphasized again and again that for Biden, family and faith is everything. The picture was of a fundamentally decent and moral man, a striking contrast to his Republican rival.

The Democratic National Committee has pulled off an astonishing accomplishment with this, the nation’s first virtual political convention. It was tightly choreographed, inclusive, passionate, and fun, drawing in viewers with its variety and quick pace. It demonstrated professionalism, talent, and skill even without taking into account its content.

But the content was key. Rather than weakening the event, the lack of audience created an intimacy between speakers and viewers that lent a shining new authenticity to the voices the convention highlighted.

Biden is always a better speaker than people who know him for his gaffes expect, and tonight he hit it out of the park. On FNC, Chris Wallace noted that the Trump campaign’s attempt to convince voters Biden is mentally impaired backfired badly as he delivered “an enormously effective speech.”

Rather than simply outline his plan for his presidency, Biden also gave an impassioned plea for the nation, tying his love for it to his own life and values. He treated voters not as tools to be manipulated, but as people who can be trusted to choose their own future.

“America is at an inflection point,” he said. “A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities. We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light. This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot. And the choice could not be clearer.”

Letter from national security officials documents how Trump has 'failed our country'

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) features the letter from 70 national security officials, all Republicans, pronouncing Trump as unfit and urging votes for Biden.

… shortly before the Democratic National Convention kicked off tonight [August 20th], more than 70 senior national security officials from the Republican Party released a letter announcing that they are supporting Biden in 2020. Their letter lists ten reasons Trump has “failed our country.” Donald Trump, they write, “is dangerously unfit to serve another term.”

Following is the text of the letter from the NY Times (with just a little reordering).

We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.

For the following reasons [after the break], we have concluded that Donald Trump has failed our country and that Vice President Joe Biden should be elected the next President of the United States.

While we – like all Americans – had hoped that Donald Trump would govern wisely, he has disappointed millions of voters who put their faith in him and has demonstrated that he is dangerously unfit to serve another term.

In contrast, we believe Joe Biden has the character, experience, and temperament to lead this nation. We believe he will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert America’s role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals.

While some of us hold policy positions that differ from those of Joe Biden and his party, the time to debate those policy differences will come later. For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.

To that end, we are firmly convinced that it is in the best interest of our nation that Vice President Joe Biden be elected as the next President of the United States, and we will vote for him.

A culture of lawlessness

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on how Trump struggles to explain the ‘culture of lawlessness’ around him. Following Stephen Bannon’s indictment, a reporter asked Trump to explain the “culture of lawlessness” surrounding him. The answer really didn’t go well.

Not long after Stephen Bannon was indicted as part of an allegedly fraudulent wall-building scheme, Donald Trump was asked for his reaction. True to form, the president pretended to barely know his former chief strategist – a go-to move Trump has relied on throughout his presidency.

The president also feigned ignorance about the We Build The Wall venture, which is a claim that’s very difficult to take seriously for a variety of reasons.

At the same White House event today, NBC News’ Geoff Bennett followed up with the right question.

“Respectfully, sir, it’s not just Steve Bannon. It’s Roger Stone, it’s Michael Flynn, it’s Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen. What’s that say about your judgment that these are the kind of people who you affiliated with, and the culture of lawlessness around people who were involved in the leadership of your 2016 campaign?”

Trump began by saying, he “had no idea” – about what, he did not specify – before adding, “There was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally.”

At this point, we could note that the Obama administration was a modern marvel for scandal-free governance. We could also reemphasize that no one spied on the Trump campaign. While we’re at it, we could note how pitiful it is to see the president peddle whataboutism when he can’t think of anything credible to say.

But in this instance, the forest is vastly more interesting than the trees.

In recent years, Donald Trump’s personal attorney (Michael Cohen) was charged and convicted. His White House national security advisor (Michael Flynn) was charged and convicted. His campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) was charged and convicted. His deputy campaign chairman (Rick Gates) was charged and convicted. Two of his former campaign advisers (Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos) were both charged and convicted.

And these are just the top-line indictments, and don’t include others in Trump’s orbit, including folks like Corey Lewandowski, who’ve faced charges.

Ten months ago, the Washington Post highlighted “the remarkable universe of criminality surrounding President Trump,” and that was before the list grew longer.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, the number of criminals is important, but so too is the degree to which this dynamic conflicts with the message Trump has been eager to trumpet. As regular readers know, the president presents himself as being aggressively “tough on crime.” which he frequently tries to incorporate into his agenda. Last year, for example, while making the case for a border wall, the Republican declared, “The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about crime…. But I care about crime.”

Of course, given recent events, it’s hardly unreasonable to wonder whether he cares about crime or about surrounding himself with people who’ve committed crimes?

The president’s newest campaign manager, Bill Stepien, recently argued, “I think you need to judge Joe Biden by the people he’s surrounding himself with.” I’m curious whether he’d encourage voters to also judge Donald Trump by the criminals he’s surrounded himself with.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Understanding what Republican voters want

In thebulwark.com, Jonathan V. Last characterizes the “Republican voters”.

There are a lot well-meaning conservatives and Republicans who believe that the aftermath of Trump will be a period of intellectual ferment and so they are committed to staying engaged with these two overlapping movements in order to be part of the reform, or tend to the green shoots, or whatever.

There are a couple problems with this view of the world. The biggest one is the voters.

Because if Republican voters want one thing, then all of the position papers and conferences coming out of Conservatism Inc. aren’t going to convince them to choose another thing.

Which brings us to Laura Loomer. She won the Republican primary for Florida–21 last night. Not in spite of being a crazy, but because she is a crazy.

This is what Republican voters want.

A few more data points:

  • Six QAnon believers have won Republican primaries this cycle.
  • One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has been warmly embraced by both Republican House leadership and President Trump.
  • There’s Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 over a bevy of actual conservatives, including Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Perry.
  • There’s this little nugget of Republican primary preferences for 2024, where Donald Trump Jr. was in second place and polling at 17 percent. Which is—let’s just be honest here—bonkers unless you view the party as a cult.

In fairness, this is not all Republican voters. But it’s enough.

  • Less than half of Republicans believe that COVID–19 is a major threat to public health.
  • 63 percent of Republicans say that the extent of the coronavirus is exaggerated.
  • A quarter of the public thinks that the pandemic is the result of a planned conspiracy.
  • 40 percent of Republicans say COVID–19 is no more deadly than the flu.
  • 50 percent of Republicans say the COVID–19 death toll is an exaggeration.
  • 23 percent of Republicans say masks should be worn “rarely” or “never.”

These are The People. And you’re going to win a lot of primary races with a bloc of voters that size.

It is unclear to me what suite of policy options professional Republicans and conservatives could possibly offer these voters to compete with the psychic payoffs they get for voting for the Trumps and Loomers of the world.

Never forget: A political party is only as good as its voters will let it be.

Trump hugs QAnon

Charlie Sykes (thebulwark.com) exposes Trump’s embracement of QAnon.

How do you spell QAnon? C. R. A. Z. Y.

… it was still flabbergasting to watch President Trump fully embrace The Crazy from the podium in the White House. It was a genuine WTF moment, even for people who don’t use that kind of language in polite society.

Maybe this was inevitable, since we have had ample warnings about how the president’s mind works: his fetish for conspiracy theorists, his fascination with the fever swamps, and his enthusiasm for anyone who says nice things about him.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday offered encouragement to proponents of QAnon, a viral conspiracy theory that has gained a widespread following among people who believe the president is secretly battling a criminal band of sex traffickers, and suggested that its proponents were patriots upset with unrest in Democratic cities.

“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Mr. Trump said during a White House news conference ostensibly about the coronavirus. “So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”

A reporter gave him a chance to clarify this, by telling Trump that one of the central tenets of QAnon is that Trump is saving the world from a satantic cult of pedophiles and cannibals connected to prominent Democrats, celebrities, and denizens of the Deep State.

Trump said: “I haven’t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it, and I’m willing to put myself out there,.And we are, actually. We’re saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country. And when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow.”

As the Times deadpanned this morning, “Mr. Trump’s cavalier response was a remarkable public expression of support for conspiracy theorists who have operated in the darkest corners of the internet and have at times been charged with domestic terrorism and planned kidnapping.”

Loomer the looney is Trump’s BFF

And what is this president actually saying? Let’s be clear, because there’s a tendency to lapse into euphemisms like “crazy,” and “far right,” and “provocateur” to describe figures like Trump’s new BFF, Laura Loomer, who won a congressional primary this week. Because she’s running in a heavily Democratic district, she’s not likely to actually make it to Congress, but that makes the presidential shout- out even stranger.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!

As our friends at Reason magazine note: “This is embarrassing because Loomer is a lunatic. She previously said that someone should create a ‘non Islamic’ ’version of Uber so that she could avoid giving money to immigrant drivers. She celebrated the deaths of 2,000 migrants and expressed hope that more would die. She went to Parkland, Florida, on behalf of InfoWars to spread misinformation about the 2018 mass shooting, and also teamed up with far-right grifter Jacob Wohl.”

None of this is an exaggeration. Loomer is not simply “far right,” she is a thoroughly detestable human being, who openly relishes cruelty and human suffering. After 51 people were murdered in Christchurch, New Zealand by a white nationalist, she made it clear on social media that she didn’t care.

And now the president is all-in. David French tweeted: “Trump won’t stop hyping the bigots and the nuts. This is the kind of GOP he loves.”

But, notes Lucy Caldwell, “Not just ‘the kind of GOP he loves.’ This IS the GOP now.”

Yes, there was collusion. Trump is a counterintelligence threat to the U.S.

Quote of the Day: “the president of the United States is a clear counterintelligence threat to the country.” - Max Bergmann.

In response to the new Senate bipartisan committee report, Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin reports As it turns out, there really was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) summarizes:

… Norman Eisen, lawyer for the House impeachment managers, told her: “Collusion simply means Trump and those around him wrongly working together with Russia and its satellites, and the fact of that has long been apparent…. Indeed, it was clear to anyone with eyes from the moment Trump asked, ‘Russia, if you’re listening.’… The Senate report is a valuable contribution advancing our understanding, including explaining former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s nexus to Russian intelligence. The report further elucidates our understanding of collusion via WikiLeaks, which acted as a Russian cut-out.”

Rubin continues:

The new findings "include a determination “that a longtime partner of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was, in fact, a Russian intelligence officer.”

Max Bergmann, who runs the Center for American Progress’s Moscow Project told me, “He did it. He colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.” He added, “The bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee should erase any lingering doubt that Trump and his campaign deliberately sought out and coordinated with Russia and its influence operations during the election.” Moreover, “the report also demonstrates that the president of the United States is a clear counterintelligence threat to the country. He is not only compromised by his close contact with the Kremlin but he eagerly sought out covert Russian support in 2016.” Bergmann warns that “Trump is certainly willing to cheat again in 2020, and there is no doubt the Kremlin will do what it can to help him.”

The bipartisan committee report should leave us with a number of troubling loose ends.

First, it is almost inconceivable that Mueller did not find the same factual tidbits that the Senate did. Whether the special counsel was unable to obtain cooperation of certain witnesses or felt constrained by Trump’s constant bullying is unknown. We come away with the conclusion that he did not find the facts that were there, and that he did not explain with enough clarity and urgency what significance they had.

Second, Rubio and every Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee had access to information pointing to a clear pattern of collusion. For them to continue to defend Trump, look the other way when more evidence of improper conduct with a foreign government (i.e., Ukraine) and impugn Democrats for following the facts is nothing short of reprehensible.

Finally, we are left with the question of why Trump behaved as he did. Was he trying to cement a business deal underway during the 2016 campaign, or was he simply disloyal to the United States, willing to use an enemy’s help and then lie to cover it up? Given the president’s current behavior and his willingness to wreak havoc on our elections to hold on to power, I suspect it is the latter. Whatever the reason, as Eisen put it: “With this latest and bipartisan exposure of the whole sordid tale, there can be no remaining doubt. Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to help them win the 2016 election.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Our democracy is in peril

I’m short on time this morning so I will just recommend this piece from the NY Times

Thomas L. Friedman asks Will 2020’s Election Be the End of Our Democracy? A free and fair vote and the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power are both in question.

Thanks to our Editor-at-Large Sherry.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Homeland insecurity under chaotic Trump

Former Trump DHS official endorses Joe Biden, calls Trump ‘dangerous’. Miles Taylor, DHS chief of staff for two years, claims Trump made decisions for political self-interest and accused him of damaging national security.

Above is the link to the WKYC report which has videos (like Lincoln Project ad) of what Taylor has to say. Following is the accompanying op-ed in the Washington Post.

At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America is an Opinion by Miles Taylor at the Washington Post. Taylor served at the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019, including as chief of staff.

After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Trump administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions.

Like many Americans, I had hoped that Donald Trump, once in office, would soberly accept the burdens of the presidency — foremost among them the duty to keep America safe. But he did not rise to the challenge. Instead, the president has governed by whim, political calculation and self-interest.

I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.

The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.

Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.

The decision-making process was itself broken: Trump would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.

Incredibly, after this ill-conceived operation was rightly halted, in the following months the president repeatedly exhorted DHS officials to restart it and to implement a more deliberate policy of pulling migrant families apart en masse, so that adults would be deterred from coming to the border for fear of losing their children. The president was visibly furious on multiple occasions when my boss, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, refused.

Top DHS officials were regularly diverted from dealing with genuine security threats by the chore of responding to these inappropriate and often absurd executive requests, at all hours of the day and night. One morning it might be a demand to shut off congressionally appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him, and that evening it might be a request to sharpen the spikes atop the border wall so they’d be more damaging to human flesh (“How much would that cost us?”). Meanwhile, Trump showed vanishingly little interest in subjects of vital national security interest, including cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and malicious foreign interference in U.S. affairs.

How can you run a huge organization under those conditions? You can’t. At DHS, daily management of its 250,000 employees suffered because of these frequent follies, putting the safety of Americans at risk.

The president has similarly undermined U.S. security abroad. His own former national security adviser John Bolton made the case so convincingly with his recent book and public accounts that there is little to add, other than to say that Bolton got it right. Because the commander in chief has diminished America’s influence overseas, today the nation has fewer friends and stronger enemies than when Trump took office.

Trump has also damaged the country in countless ways that don’t directly involve national security but, by stoking hatred and division, make Americans profoundly less safe.

The president’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic is the ultimate example. In his cavalier disregard for the seriousness of the threat, Trump failed to make effective use of the federal crisis response system painstakingly built after 9/11. Years of DHS planning for a pandemic threat have been largely wasted. Meanwhile, more than 165,000 Americans have died. (Scriber: now over 170,000).

It is more than a little ironic that Trump is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president. His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.

Biden's position of strength

John Cassidy, writing in the New Yorker, anticipates Joe Biden’s Moment at the Democratic National Convention. This year’s virtual Convention presents unique difficulties, but the Democrats have at least three things going for them, all related to the repellent nature of their opponent.

DNC

As the 2020 Democratic National Convention opens later today, there are indications that Joe Biden is in a stronger position than any challenger to a sitting President since 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush. The FiveThirtyEight poll average shows him with an eight-point lead over Donald Trump. Biden’s choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate has generated a highly positive reaction among Democrats and pundits. His opponent has just embroiled himself in yet another avoidable controversy—this one centered on the U.S. Post Office, a venerable institution that plays a key role in many Trump-supporting areas.

For the Biden campaign, the overwhelming priority this week is to maintain its momentum. Democrats are hopeful. But, with the agony of 2016 still fresh in their collective memory, many of them are understandably nervous, too. On Sunday, a new CNN poll showed Biden just four points ahead. But three other new surveys show him with considerably bigger leads: twelve points in a Washington Post-ABC News survey, ten points in a CBS News/YouGov poll, and nine points in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. It should also be noted that Biden’s advantage over Trump is a long-standing one. Back in mid-March, shortly after it became clear that he was going to win the nomination, an earlier Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also found him with a nine-point advantage.

A Convention is an opportunity for a political party to rally behind its candidates and engage the broader electorate. With the coronavirus pandemic having upended Convention planning, along with much else, the organizers are facing new challenges this year. In putting together a program of speakers under the theme “Uniting America,” the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have combined Party elders—the Obamas, the Clintons, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi—with a bevy of female senators and governors—Amy Klobuchar, Catherine Cortez Masto, Gretchen Whitmer, Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth—and some rising stars, including Andrew Yang and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The planners are obviously held hostage to the technological difficulty of co√∂rdinating segments, and speeches, from many different locations. But they have at least three things going for them, all of which are directly related to the repellent nature of their opponent.

One is Party unity. On the day before the start of the 2016 Democratic Convention, thousands of supporters of Bernie Sanders marched through Philadelphia, chanting, “Hell, no, D.N.C., we won’t vote for Hillary.” A few days earlier, Wikileaks had released a batch of e-mails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, which showed Party officials trying to undermine the Sanders candidacy. The fissures in the Democratic Party were impossible to ignore.

The situation today is very different. In running for a second term, Trump has united Democrats like virtually nobody before him. “What almost all progressives understand, that in this moment, we have got to do everything we can to come together to defeat Donald Trump,” Senator Sanders told Chuck Todd, the moderator of “Meet the Press,” on Sunday. On Monday night, Sanders will feature in a slate of speakers that also includes Michelle Obama, the former First Lady, and John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio. When Todd asked Sanders how he felt about sharing the stage with Kasich, he reiterated his point: “Look, John will do his thing; I will do my thing,” he said. “I expect they will be different types of speeches, but we are united. We are united in the understanding that Trump has to be defeated, and Biden has to be elected.”

[Second, ] In addition to unifying Democrats, Trump is helping to keep the focus on himself, … Evidently, some of Trump’s advisers, if not he, have realized that he is on to a losing plan, but the Post Office story won’t go away. House Democrats have scheduled a hearing for August 24th, at which Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, will be called to testify.

The third service that Trump has afforded Biden is to provide him with a compelling message. Even some of the Democratic candidate’s advisers privately concede that he isn’t a politician with strong ideological convictions or a clearly defined policy agenda. … This year, it is arguably a big advantage, because it allows him to portray his campaign as a welcoming vessel that anybody who wants to save the country from Trump can clamber aboard: moderate Democrats, progressive Democrats, independents, Never Trump Republicans, and Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 but have come to regret it. From April of last year, when he launched his campaign, Biden made clear that his primary agenda was ridding the United States of a pestilence. In the video announcement he posted online, he cited the infamous comments that Trump made after the clashes between white supremacists and anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and he described the coming election as “a battle for the soul of this nation.”

During the past sixteen months, Biden has used this same language repeatedly, including last week, when he introduced Harris as his running mate. It sometimes sounds a bit stilted, but it also has the merit of being frighteningly accurate. “I believe history will look back on four years of this President, and all he embraces, as an aberrant moment in time,” Biden went on to say in his launch video. “But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.”

On Thursday night, Biden will deliver this message again, almost certainly combining it with pledges to confront the pandemic on the basis of science and compassion, to build a cleaner and more equitable economy, and to fulfill the civil-rights legacy of John Lewis, the late Democratic congressman, who will be the subject of a video tribute introduced by Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta. Even though there will be no crowds to cheer him in person, and no balloons poised to drop on his head, Biden will have a unique opportunity to reassert the values of decency, truth, and democracy, as well as the virtues of competent Presidential leadership. Let’s hope he rises to the occasion.