Friday, September 18, 2020

Republicans, the 'imposters', are STILL not ready to govern.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has a new book out titled “The Imposters.” He shows how little regard Republicans have for serious governance. They don’t even show up in support for their own priorities. And they just get in the way of those who have serious policies to guide our country and the skills to implement them. They are the party of no know. And you cam parse that however you choose.

The latest in this travesty is their so-called “Commitment to America.” Benen dismantles it.

House GOP’s new policy blueprint shows a party running on empty. Republicans hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party. Their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

In recent decades, House Republicans looking to regain power have had some success unveiling election-year policy blueprints. Ahead of the 1994 midterms, for example, GOP leaders presented voters with the “Contract with America.” Ahead of the 2010 midterms, the party pitched the “Pledge to America.”

Though voters’ familiarity with the plans may have been limited, Republicans went from the minority to the majority in both of these election cycles.

And with this in mind, GOP leaders are giving it another try, hoping for similar results. Roll Call reported yesterday:

Less than two months before the November election, House Republicans on Tuesday revealed their agenda which aims to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, rebuild the economy and increase funding for the police. The House GOP’s “Commitment to America” outlines their legislative priorities if they win the majority this fall.

To a very real extent, this is the first and only attempt the Republican Party has made to tell voters what the GOP would do with power after the 2020 elections. Donald Trump has no policy agenda – indeed, his campaign website doesn’t even have an issues page – and for the first time since 1854, the Republican Party didn’t bother to write a platform.

All of which makes the “Commitment to America” all the more significant: voters who want to know what GOP officials would do if rewarded by the electorate have this, and nothing else, to go on.

The trouble, however, is that the new Republican policy agenda appears to lack an actual policy agenda.

The full blueprint is online here (pdf) and aside from category headings, it includes 17 bulleted goals. That may seem like a lot for a party that’s been indifferent toward governing for more than a decade – you’ve all picked up a copy of my book, right? – but many of the 17 points are commitments to keep doing the same thing both parties are already doing.

The GOP agenda, for example, vows to continue to fund law enforcement, fund the military, “uphold” the First Amendment, and pursue the kind of tax measures the party has long supported. Those aren’t exactly surprising goals, but just as importantly, they’re evidence of Republicans promising voters more of the status quo. “Vote for us and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing” is hardly the stuff of a meaningful policy agenda.

Similarly, the blueprint is filled with anodyne goals such as “slashing drug prices,” “reducing our debt,” and “investing” in education. As is always the case in governing, the details matter, and GOP officials haven’t expressed any real interest in fleshing out how it might implement any of these ideas.

For the most part, the “Commitment to America” is less a policy agenda and more of a list of pleasant-sounding priorities. Republicans want to “defeat” the coronavirus, for example, with uncontroversial goals. They want to “modernize America’s infrastructure,” just like Democrats do. The problem is not with the priorities, but rather, with the party’s capacity for pursuing these priorities in an effective way.

There are plenty of predictable elements – GOP officials promise through the document to “defend the unborn” and subsidize private schools through vouchers – but even here, it’s simply more of the same from the party that’s pushed these same lines for decades.

If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) and the rest of the Republican leadership team hoped to prove that they’re ready to be an innovative governing party, their “Commitment to America” does largely the opposite.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Latest polls from Wisconsin and over-65 land are positive for Biden

Charlie Sykes reports via The Bulwark on the latest polls;

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin.

Why the obsession, you ask? Because I live here and because it will decide the outcome of the election.

Two polls of note: yesterday’s CNN poll has Biden up by a rather stunning 10 points– 52% to 42%. Today’s Washington Post/ ABC poll shows a more modest lead: 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters, and 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters.

The Post/ABC poll also shows Biden with a much wider: 57 percent to 41 percent lead among Minnesota likely voters

The olds may tip this election.

New numbers from a poll commissioned by AARP confirm the shift of older voters away from Trump.

According to the survey, Biden leads Trump among 65-plus voters in eight states: Colorado (51% to 44%), Iowa (55% to 38%), Maine (62% to 32%), Michigan (57% to 39%), Montana (50% to 45%), North Carolina (52% to 45%), Pennsylvania (53% to 42%), and Wisconsin (56% to 39%). Trump leads Biden in one state: Georgia (54% to 42%). Biden and Trump are statistically tied in two states: Arizona (49% to 47%) and Florida (49% to 48%).

Herd mentality runs amuck among Congressional Republicans

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Scientists Believe Congressional Republicans Have Developed Herd Mentality.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that Republican members of Congress have obtained “extremely high” levels of herd mentality, a new study shows.

According to the study, the researchers found that, in obtaining herd mentality, the G.O.P. lawmakers have developed “near-total immunity” to damning books, news reports, and audio tapes.

Herd mentality was observed in congressional Republicans from every region of the country, with the exception of one senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who was deemed an outlier and therefore statistically insignificant.

Davis Logsdon, the scientist who supervised the study, said that Republicans were exhibiting herd mentality to a degree never before observed in humans.

“Herd mentality at these levels historically has appeared only in other mammal species, like lemmings,” the researcher said.

What scares McConnell and the GOPlins in the Senate

Dartagnan at the DailyKos thinks that McConnell and the GOP Senate must be scared about something.

When Republicans are scared, they can always be counted on to gin up the race-baiting. And right now, Mitch McConnell is scared.

As reported by The Hill:

“I think the American people should know what it means if the Senate shifts control and you heard it. Eliminating the filibuster, D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood and packing the courts. That’s what you get if you change the Senate,” McConnell said on Tuesday, asked if Republicans were highlighting these issues because they were worried they could lose the Senate.

Really? Filibuster, court packing, D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? That’s what the American people should be worried about?

To be sure, the Republicans in the Senate are freaking out about losing the filibuster if—as is looking increasingly possible– they get shellacked in November and find themselves in the minority. In fact, losing the filibuster is their whole menu of talking points for the week. Apparently someone decided that talking about how important it is to preserve the GOP’s right to obstruct the legislative process is better than talking about why they’re not actually helping Americans in need during the worst public health crisis this country has seen in over a century:

GOP senators, during floor speeches and press conferences this week, are pointing to chatter that a Democratic-controlled Senate could nix the 60-vote filibuster to make their case to voters that the party has shifted too far to the left in the run up to the election.

The fact that they’re talking so much about what amounts to a procedural rule change suggests just how concerning their internal polling must look. But since the average American couldn’t explain the difference between the filibuster and a Phillips screwdriver, that one’s pretty much a nonstarter with the public. Nor is McConnell’s vague allusion to Democrats “packing the courts” likely to inspire much concern, since Vice President Biden has already explicitly rejected the idea of “adding seats” to the Supreme Court, for example. In reality, “packing the courts” is just what McConnell and his henchmen have been doing for the last three years, since they’ve controlled the Judiciary Committee by virtue of their majority. In fact, it’s the only thing they’ve been doing, routinely confirming ideologically extreme Judges, many of whom were considered “unqualified” by the ABA. At this point there really aren’t very many courts left to pack. So while that may be a shout-out to their Evangelical base to get out and vote in places like Georgia and North Carolina, there’s nothing particularly new there.

But of all the things Democrats might do with a Senate majority, why ever would McConnell mention D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood? Those are important concerns, to be clear, but it’s not as if those issues are exactly at the top of ordinary Americans’ radar right now. Honestly, the issues foremost in most Americans’ minds are hanging on to their jobs and surviving the COVID–19 plague that Donald Trump has allowed to endlessly metastasize.

But there’s not much that Mitch McConnell can say about either of those things, since his party and its Dear Leader bear responsibility for the current state of the country. Nor can he talk about what the Democrats plan to do to fix either the pandemic or the economy, because he knows those measures—like direct aid to those out of work, child care subsidies, improved health care services, assistance to state and local governments and schools– are going to sound pretty damn good to most voters, come November. And they’re all things that the GOP-controlled Senate under McConnell has blocked from happening during the past six months.

So instead he’s left with conjuring up visions of African-Americans in our nation’s capital, and brown people in Puerto Rico, clamoring for equal representation in the electoral process. Apparently that’s McConnell’s “go-to” nightmare scenario for the average white Republican voter, the number one worry that keeps them tossing and turning every night after they switch off Fox News: “Why can’t you sleep, honey?” “Leave me alone, I’m worried about D.C. statehood!”

I guess if you have no ideas, no plan, and no solutions, that’s all you have to go with.

Flippable Senate seats

The Senate seats most likely to flip in November.

Flip

Republicans have a slim, three-seat majority in the Senate that they’re trying to hold on to in November. And they are in for a battle to do it: There are 13 chances on this list for Democrats to flip Senate seats and just two for Republicans.

But Republican strategists say they’re seeing evidence that Republican-leaning voters turned off by President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus are starting to come home to the party in the final stretch, and they think it might be enough for some of these vulnerable Republican senators to hang on and deny Democrats the majority.

Democrats’ path to the majority is to net at least four Senate seats or net three and win the White House to get the majority, but that requires going through some Republican-leaning states.

Because so many of the races could go either way — while others are more of a stretch — we divided them in three categories: More likely to flip than not, toss-ups, and could flip under the right conditions.

I’ve nominated three that I think have a chance of flipping from R to D.

More likely to flip than not: Alabama, Colorado and Arizona

Colorado (Republican-held): Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is trying to pull away from Trump in this purple-blue state by talking about an outdoors conservation bill he wrote, rather than how he voted to acquit the president on impeachment. His opponent, former governor John Hickenlooper (D), hasn’t seen an ethics scandal hit his polling in a significant way. A new AARP poll of all likely voters shows Hickenlooper leading 51 percent to Gardner’s 46 percent. Gardner will need Trump to perform better than expected here to keep this seat. Said one Republican strategist: “If the president is really struggling in Colorado, that makes the math difficult for Cory.”

Arizona (Republican-held): Former astronaut and gun-control activist Mark Kelly is one of the Democrats’ strongest candidates of 2020. He has outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) the entire race and is leading in recent major polls. Republicans are hopeful this could become more of a toss-up race, because Arizona is a Republican-leaning state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president in decades, and Kelly would also be just the second Democratic senator from this state in 25 years. (Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in 2018.) A new CBS/YouGov poll in Arizona finds Kelly leading by seven percentage points.

Toss-ups: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia, Montana

Maine (Republican-held): One Democratic strategist predicted the battle for the majority could come down to these next two races. Maine and Iowa are going to be down to the wire, but as the home stretch to the election begins, Republicans say they feel good about where they are in both.

In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R) is trying to lean on her expertise and history representing the state for more than 20 years to overcome Democratic attacks, led by her opponent, Maine’s House Speaker Sara Gideon (D), that she is no longer independent from Trump. (Maine is not a state Trump is expected to win.) Collins was also a co-author of the small-business loan program when the coronavirus shut down the economy, which Republicans say can help buoy her. A new Quinnipiac University poll that was released after this story published has Gideon leading Collins 54 percent to 42 percent — and Collins more disliked than liked by voters in her state. As another Democratic strategist put it: “It takes a perfect storm to unseat someone like Collins, but that storm is happening.”

Trumpers push martial law, have little else to offer America as Biden stays ahead in the polls

Molly Jong-Fast, Editor-At-Large, at the Daily Beast SAW THIS ONE COMING Trumpworld Martial-Law Talk Might Be More Than Talk Soon

They’re starting to say it out loud now: Michael Caputo, Mark Levin, and Roger Stone all hint or just say that Trump might have to “put down the enemy.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that as the election grows closer, Donald Trump’s allies and sycophants are trying to shop a low-key civil war via the Insurrection Act of 1807, which Trumpworld learned about in early June when Trump gassed protesters so he could do a photo op in front of a church holding a Bible upside-down. Trumpworld is now very jazzed to use this 1807 act. Not entirely clear they know much about it except that they think they can do martial law with it.

Trumpworld has every reason to be worried. They can read the polling on the internet, and it’s not great. Trump’s economy is even less great, and coronavirus has already killed 195,000 Americans. And then there’s the Woodward tapes, which show the president knew the coronavirus was “the plague” while still holding indoor rallies and tweeting about liberating states from lockdown. There is not much American greatness happening, despite Trump’s promise of it. This is so true that the campaign slogan “make America great again, again” feels like something right out of Veep.

Trump’s civil war pitch started in June with an opinion piece by one Tom Cotton, or as I like to think of him, the worst senator in the Senate except for Rand Paul. Tom Cotton loves war. Tom Cotton has embraced the idea of war with two countries so far, Iran and China; and now he’s casually shopping the idea of a low-intensity civil war by deploying federal government forces “to protect law-abiding citizens from disorder.” He added, “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” This was in response to one night of looting in SoHo, where a Chanel store was broken into. I mean the federal government does not need to be harnessed for one night of looting in SoHo.

From there it was all of Trump’s most deranged sycophants supporting this idea of Trump’s civil war to own the libs. Nasty online troll Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said on Facebook, “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” Just the kind of normal stuff a person who works for Health and Human Services says. Caputo later apologized, which is very off-brand for Trumpworld.

And then there was Trump-humper Mark Levin, who said on his radio show, “And I have a sneaking suspicion—and no, I have no firsthand knowledge, but a sneaking suspicion—should our president be re-elected, God willing, that he will dust off the Insurrection Act that was first passed by the Jeffersonian Republicans and used by Jefferson and used by so many presidents since Jefferson. And he will have to use it to put down the enemy.” The idea here is that Trump will need to seize power if he wins… or who knows, maybe even if he loses.

And then there’s Trump friend and prison sentence-commutation recipient Roger Stone. You may remember Roger Stone from his direct communication with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the jail sentence he’s supposed to be serving, or the Nixon tattoo he has on his back. Either way Roger went on the famous “banned from all platforms” Infowars show and suggested that Trump should form “an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.” Or as layman call it, contesting election results and then enacting civil war.

But that was not all. Roger also gave a special shout-out to The Daily Beast, saying “If The Daily Beast is involved in provably seditious and illegal activities,” he said, “their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down. They wanna play war, this is war.” But The Daily Beast is not involved in “provably seditious and illegal actives,” and arresting journalists for not writing nice things about you is against the law, at least for now.

And then there’s Michael Scheuer, the former senior CIA official who was once in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden but “has spent the summer calling for the slaughter” of the members of Black Lives Matter.

It’s not just Trump’s crazy fringe sycophants who are shouting civil war as loud as possible. Trump himself told Judge Box of Wine that if left-wing protesters start making trouble, law enforcement agencies should “put them down very quickly if they do that.”

This civil war business, rather like the Trump presidency itself, started out very stupidly, with crazy people saying insane stuff on right-wing outlets. But like everything in Trumpworld, these people will go as far as you let them. If Democrats and the one Republican who has a spine (I’m looking at you Mitt Romney) don’t push back on this, Trumpworld will happily litigate this election into another term for the president.

I remember something Mary Trump wrote in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. She explained that Trump will do as much as he can get away with. If Trump can get away with installing himself as the American Vladimir Putin, he will. If democracy is to survive, what’s left of our federal government must push back on the moronic autocrat who is holding our country hostage.

Scientific American endorses Biden, dumps Trump

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden. We’ve never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now.

That’s a long article spelling out in detail why the magazine endorses Biden over Trump. It’s worth the read but if you are strapped for time, here is a synopsis by Heather Cox Richardson in her Letters from an American.

For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American has endorsed a presidential candidate. The editors wrote: “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID–19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.”

It is an enviable endorsement, but for his part, Biden seems aware that Americans are just tired of the constant drama and chaos of the Trump presidency. Tonight he tweeted simply: “We’re going to get this virus under control and get your life back on track.”

This article was originally published with the title “From Fear to Hope” in Scientific American 323, 4, 12–13 (October 2020)
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1020–12

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Trump vs. Latinas

While reports surface of Performed Hysterectomies on Detained Latina Immigrants, the Lincoln Project shows Trump’s Disdain for the Latino Community.

In this post by David Gordon at Blog for Arizona, as usual the Lincoln Project nails it.

In their latest ad, “Trump No Nos Quiere,” the Lincoln Project clearly shows that Donald Trump is no friend of the Latino Community and does not want them in the United States.

The narrator concludes:

“This man is not making America great again, especially for Latinos, because the President considers us second class citizens.”

And then …

If Arizonans and other American Voters (including Latinos) are not convinced by Trump’s rhetoric and past deeds (like caging children,) they should read the news reports coming out of a whistleblower revelation that accuses ICE of performing hysterectomies on detained Latina Women.

If true, that is a NAZI program and reminiscent of the discredited (and condemned) early Twentieth Century American Eugenics Program and Methods of Social and Genetic Engineering.

This is not supposed to happen in Twenty-First Century America.

Biden's economic plan

John Cassidy (The New Yorker) is up for Broadcasting Joe Biden’s Economic Program

A few days ago, Bernie Sanders warned Joe Biden’s campaign that it needed to broaden its focus from attacking Donald Trump. “You got to give people an alternative or reason to vote for you other than saying, ‘I’m not Donald Trump,’ ” Sanders, who is supporting Biden, told PBS. “And that means talking about an economics program, which Biden has. It’s not as strong as I would like it—it’s not the Bernie Sanders program, despite what Trump will tell you. But it is a strong program that will improve the lives of many millions of people.”

… if Congress passed Biden’s economic policy agenda, and it worked as designed, it would make life easier for countless working Americans who need a helping hand.

Skipping many details …

Here are some specifics. Targeting working parents who have kids under school age and are struggling to afford day care, Biden has proposed a national pre-K program for all children ages three and four. (Other rich countries, such as France and Germany, already have such a program.) For people nearing retirement age who can’t find an affordable health-care plan, Biden has pledged to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from sixty-five to sixty. For low-income families struggling to find an affordable place to live, he has promised to make rent subsidies more widely available by expanding the Section 8 federal-housing-voucher program. For young people who want to go to college but are worried about racking up student debt, he has pledged to eliminate tuition payments entirely at two-year community colleges and to eliminate tuition payments at four-year public colleges and universities for students from families that earn less than a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year.

… the sums involved in rolling out these and other Biden programs would be considerable.

You might ask where all this money would come from. A Biden Administration would raise most of it by reversing the tax cuts for corporations and high-income households that were enacted in the feed-the-rich tax bill that Trump and the Republicans pushed through in 2017, and also by raising some other taxes targeted at the wealthy. …

… To break through the cacophony of Trump noise, Biden, Harris, and other Democrats need to be out there every day ballyhooing their spending plans, as well as other proposals that wouldn’t affect the federal budget but that would boost the budgets of working families.

The Biden-Harris ticket wants to guarantee all Americans twelve weeks of paid medical and family leave. It would increase the national minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, which would have a big impact on low-paid workers …

Of course, Biden’s policy platform could be better. A couple of personal quibbles: it doesn’t address the self-dealing and greed of top corporate executives, which has been evident again during the pandemic; and it doesn’t adequately confront rising monopoly power, especially in the tech sector. But it contains a lot of other progressive proposals, and compared to the alternative—four more years of plutocracy thinly disguised as populism—it’s infinitely preferable. Between now and November 3rd, everyone associated with the Biden campaign, and, indeed, everyone who wants to see the back of Trump, should seize every opportunity to make this clear.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

On the way out of town, burn it down is what we can expect from Donald Trump

Rick Wilson is the source of a now well known quote about Trump: “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”

  • COVID–19 deaths - check.
  • Western fires - check
  • Our democracy - check

I do not trust Trump to do anything positive for America. The question is: why would anyone trust him. Read on.

Egberto Willies at the Daily Kos reports on how Meet The Press nailed Trump: OUCH! Chuck Todd destroys Trump with his own words & that of his experts. And no whataboutism?].

Chuck Todd producers on Meet the Press came out with a piece that decimated Trump for lying about COVID–19 and the fatal results.

This piece is one of the best takedowns of the president that Chuck Todd and his producers have done to date. For once, they did not try to create a rationale or a whataboutism.

Todd queued up the piece reminding Americans that the Atlantic reported that Trump called soldiers losers and suckers. He then pointed out that Bob Woodward’s new book Rage and the released tape proved that the president knew all along with the danger, the deadliness, and infectiousness of COVID–19.

Trump, with his wording, admonished the president for lying to Americans as he spoke in public. He also made it clear that Republicans were complicit in the deceit.

Todd had a memorable phrase to debunk the president’s excuse that he lied to Americans to prevent panic, given that you do not yell fire in a crowded theater.

“Some Conservatives, but not many elected ones, defended the president for remaining calm saying you don’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater,” Todd said. “It’s true. But you do if the theater is actually on fire.”

Chuck Todd continued the piece by allowing the president’s secret vs. public words to become his judge, jury, and, hopefully, executioner. When one watches it side by side, it is devastating. Even a cult member could see the deception.

Subsequently, Todd had Dr. Anthony Fauci on who, unlike other times, was more forceful in his challenge of the president’s words. The president is an evil human being. What he has done is tantamount to voluntary manslaughter.

So much for trusting Trump

What Trump says doesn’t matter if voters don’t trust him says Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post.

Recent reporting on President Trump’s private contempt for U.S. troops resonates because it echoes what he has said in public. His decision to lie to Americans about the covid–19 virus threat, reported in Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage,” has now been acknowledged by Trump. That, too, makes an impact in a country with at least 190,000 dead. What does not make an impact and what has not moved the polls are Trump’s serial attacks and conspiracy theories meant to convince the public that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a socialist or “sleepy” or drug-enhanced (not sleepy then, but peppy) or a patsy for China.

Trump’s attacks bounce off Biden in part because he is a well-known and well-liked fixture in American politics. No one outside of the Trump cult actually thinks Biden is a socialist; no one in his right mind thinks Biden uses drugs to improve his performances in public. Equally important, however, is Trump’s utter lack of credibility with a supermajority of Americans. Frankly, they are not inclined to believe much of anything that comes out of his mouth.

The latest ABC News-Ipsos poll underscores the president’s problem. “Trump’s approval for his handling of COVID–19 lands at 35% in the new survey … compared to 65% who disapprove,” ABC News reports. “This marks the fourth straight poll with Trump’s COVID response approval hovering in the low-to-mid 30s since early July.” The public’s view of Trump is deeply entrenched and overwhelmingly negative. A huge majority (68 percent) simply do not trust what Trump says and remain convinced he acted too slowly (67 percent). (Also notable — 61 percent think Biden has more respect for the military; only 37 percent say Trump does.)

Trump can tell whatever fables he wants to his unmasked crowds. Right-wing media will uncritically report it. Supposedly respectable conservative pundits will credulously accept his excuses and then change the subject. (Hey, how about Bahrain!) His cultist spokespeople cannot provide a coherent explanation for the pandemic’s U.S. death toll. (Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says we have more fatalities because we test more. Huh?)

Thankfully, news interviewers are becoming more insistent that administration figures address the Trump covid–19 lies that surely encouraged many Americans to forgo precautions. On Sunday, CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper masterfully refused to let trade adviser Peter Navarro duck a question about Trump’s deceit. “I said you’re not answering the question,” Tapper told Navarro. “I would just like to remind the American people watching that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths. That is a fact. It does not matter how many times [Trump] insults CNN.” Like most Americans, the news media has run out of patience with the president’s lies and those who enable him, amid a death toll more than three times that of U.S. troops lost in the Vietnam War.

Once the public stops believing a president, there is little he can say to change their minds. As a flawed character witness he no longer has the capacity to defend himself. The cynical meme that “nothing matters” could not be more mistaken. After four years of habitual lying, Trump has lost all credibility — and with it the ability to explain away nearly 200,000 American deaths.

Breaking with Trump - the last straw

We know that lots of high profile Republicans are breaking with Trump. Colin Powell is one such person. But it is instructive to hear from those who have worked in the Trump administration about why they finally abandoned Trump - about their personal breaking points.

Breaking Points. What led Trump’s most prominent former supporters to give up on him.

And that from a credentialed Republican, the author “Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint”

Here’s the short list stripped of most details.

  • Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis. Theoretically, the “warrior monk” General “Mad Dog” Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, who once led Central Command
  • John Bolton arrived at a similar conclusion after working directly with Trump as his national security advisor.
  • Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
  • Elizabeth Neumann, Trump’s former assistant secretary for counterrorism and threat prevention at DHS,

Significant cracks have emerged as well in Trump’s support among individuals outside the administration.

  • It was Trump’s callousness toward others that moved Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director for Ohio Right to Life, to quit her job rather than endorse Trump and help him win a second term.

Other committed Republicans have found Trump’s attitude towards the elections appalling.

  • Steven G. Calabresi, cofounder of the Federalist Society and a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law who supported Trump through impeachment, said in July that Trump’s tweets raising the possibility of postponing the election were causes for removal.

Other casualties include Anthony Scaramucci (former press secretary), Omarosa Manigault Newman (a Trump hanger-on from the first season of The Apprentice), and Ann Coulter (who wrote a book extolling Trump’s virtues. By this year, she’d had enough; she called Trump “the most disloyal actual retard that has ever set foot in the Oval Office.”)

These tales are easily lost in the deluge of news pouring out of the Trump Administration. Such complaints are routinely dismissed by Trump’s latest surrogates as sour grapes from disgruntled former employees. Trump taps out tweets disparaging the character of these former loyalists and, just like that, their names melt into the social media white noise of the Trump era.

Except when you take a step back, a few common chords ring through and rise above the petty back and forth. We should pay attention because it matters far more than Trump’s personal relationships with these people.

The people most willing to assist Trump tell us he is a person with disastrous foreign policy ideas. They say he shows disrespect for the Constitution and displays a lack of empathy or concern for the humanity of others. He threatens our democratic process. He expects his allies to accept blame for his misdeeds.

The characters are different, but all their stories are the same. Trump pushes people to take unethical, dangerous, and even criminal actions for his benefit.

That’s just who Trump is. He tries to corrupt those around him. This is why—in addition to the desire to sell books—so many people have been coming out in recent weeks to explain their disenchantment with Trump. They know that if he gets a second term, he will keep corrupting America, too.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Breaking with Trump - the last straw

We know that lots of high profile Republicans are breaking with Trump. Colin Powell is one such person. But it is instructive to hear from those who have worked in the Trump administration about why they finally abandoned Trump - about their personal breaking points.

Breaking Points. What led Trump’s most prominent former supporters to give up on him.

And that from a credentialed Republican, the author “Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint”

Here’s the short list stripped of most details.

  • Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis. Theoretically, the “warrior monk” General “Mad Dog” Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, who once led Central Command
  • John Bolton arrived at a similar conclusion after working directly with Trump as his national security advisor.
  • Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
  • Elizabeth Neumann, Trump’s former assistant secretary for counterrorism and threat prevention at DHS,

Significant cracks have emerged as well in Trump’s support among individuals outside the administration.

  • It was Trump’s callousness toward others that moved Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director for Ohio Right to Life, to quit her job rather than endorse Trump and help him win a second term.

Other committed Republicans have found Trump’s attitude towards the elections appalling.

  • Steven G. Calabresi, cofounder of the Federalist Society and a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law who supported Trump through impeachment, said in July that Trump’s tweets raising the possibility of postponing the election were causes for removal.

Other casualties include Anthony Scaramucci (former press secretary), Omarosa Manigault Newman (a Trump hanger-on from the first season of The Apprentice), and Ann Coulter (who wrote a book extolling Trump’s virtues. By this year, she’d had enough; she called Trump “the most disloyal actual retard that has ever set foot in the Oval Office.”)

These tales are easily lost in the deluge of news pouring out of the Trump Administration. Such complaints are routinely dismissed by Trump’s latest surrogates as sour grapes from disgruntled former employees. Trump taps out tweets disparaging the character of these former loyalists and, just like that, their names melt into the social media white noise of the Trump era.

Except when you take a step back, a few common chords ring through and rise above the petty back and forth. We should pay attention because it matters far more than Trump’s personal relationships with these people.

The people most willing to assist Trump tell us he is a person with disastrous foreign policy ideas. They say he shows disrespect for the Constitution and displays a lack of empathy or concern for the humanity of others. He threatens our democratic process. He expects his allies to accept blame for his misdeeds.

The characters are different, but all their stories are the same. Trump pushes people to take unethical, dangerous, and even criminal actions for his benefit.

That’s just who Trump is. He tries to corrupt those around him. This is why—in addition to the desire to sell books—so many people have been coming out in recent weeks to explain their disenchantment with Trump. They know that if he gets a second term, he will keep corrupting America, too.

On the way out of town, burn it down is what we can expect from Donald Trump

Rick Wilson is the source of a now well known quote about Trump: “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”

  • COVID–19 deaths - check.
  • Western fires - check
  • Our democracy - check

I do not trust Trump to do anything positive for America. The question is: why would anyone trust him. Read on.

Egberto Willies at the Daily Kos reports on how Meet The Press nailed Trump: OUCH! Chuck Todd destroys Trump with his own words & that of his experts. And no whataboutism?].

Chuck Todd producers on Meet the Press came out with a piece that decimated Trump for lying about COVID–19 and the fatal results.

This piece is one of the best takedowns of the president that Chuck Todd and his producers have done to date. For once, they did not try to create a rationale or a whataboutism.

Todd queued up the piece reminding Americans that the Atlantic reported that Trump called soldiers losers and suckers. He then pointed out that Bob Woodward’s new book Rage and the released tape proved that the president knew all along with the danger, the deadliness, and infectiousness of COVID–19.

Trump, with his wording, admonished the president for lying to Americans as he spoke in public. He also made it clear that Republicans were complicit in the deceit.

Todd had a memorable phrase to debunk the president’s excuse that he lied to Americans to prevent panic, given that you do not yell fire in a crowded theater.

“Some Conservatives, but not many elected ones, defended the president for remaining calm saying you don’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater,” Todd said. “It’s true. But you do if the theater is actually on fire.”

Chuck Todd continued the piece by allowing the president’s secret vs. public words to become his judge, jury, and, hopefully, executioner. When one watches it side by side, it is devastating. Even a cult member could see the deception.

Subsequently, Todd had Dr. Anthony Fauci on who, unlike other times, was more forceful in his challenge of the president’s words. The president is an evil human being. What he has done is tantamount to voluntary manslaughter.

So much for trusting Trump

What Trump says doesn’t matter if voters don’t trust him says Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post.

Recent reporting on President Trump’s private contempt for U.S. troops resonates because it echoes what he has said in public. His decision to lie to Americans about the covid–19 virus threat, reported in Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage,” has now been acknowledged by Trump. That, too, makes an impact in a country with at least 190,000 dead. What does not make an impact and what has not moved the polls are Trump’s serial attacks and conspiracy theories meant to convince the public that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a socialist or “sleepy” or drug-enhanced (not sleepy then, but peppy) or a patsy for China.

Trump’s attacks bounce off Biden in part because he is a well-known and well-liked fixture in American politics. No one outside of the Trump cult actually thinks Biden is a socialist; no one in his right mind thinks Biden uses drugs to improve his performances in public. Equally important, however, is Trump’s utter lack of credibility with a supermajority of Americans. Frankly, they are not inclined to believe much of anything that comes out of his mouth.

The latest ABC News-Ipsos poll underscores the president’s problem. “Trump’s approval for his handling of COVID–19 lands at 35% in the new survey … compared to 65% who disapprove,” ABC News reports. “This marks the fourth straight poll with Trump’s COVID response approval hovering in the low-to-mid 30s since early July.” The public’s view of Trump is deeply entrenched and overwhelmingly negative. A huge majority (68 percent) simply do not trust what Trump says and remain convinced he acted too slowly (67 percent). (Also notable — 61 percent think Biden has more respect for the military; only 37 percent say Trump does.)

Trump can tell whatever fables he wants to his unmasked crowds. Right-wing media will uncritically report it. Supposedly respectable conservative pundits will credulously accept his excuses and then change the subject. (Hey, how about Bahrain!) His cultist spokespeople cannot provide a coherent explanation for the pandemic’s U.S. death toll. (Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says we have more fatalities because we test more. Huh?)

Thankfully, news interviewers are becoming more insistent that administration figures address the Trump covid–19 lies that surely encouraged many Americans to forgo precautions. On Sunday, CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper masterfully refused to let trade adviser Peter Navarro duck a question about Trump’s deceit. “I said you’re not answering the question,” Tapper told Navarro. “I would just like to remind the American people watching that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and the United States has more than 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths. That is a fact. It does not matter how many times [Trump] insults CNN.” Like most Americans, the news media has run out of patience with the president’s lies and those who enable him, amid a death toll more than three times that of U.S. troops lost in the Vietnam War.

Once the public stops believing a president, there is little he can say to change their minds. As a flawed character witness he no longer has the capacity to defend himself. The cynical meme that “nothing matters” could not be more mistaken. After four years of habitual lying, Trump has lost all credibility — and with it the ability to explain away nearly 200,000 American deaths.

More on the mad king Donald's coup against America. Roger Stone back in the role of consigliere

The AZBlue Meanie at Blog for Arizona issues this Fascism Alert: Roger Stone Advises Donald Trump To Do a Coup d’√Čtat.

Donald Trump brought his “covid super-spreader” carnival show to Nevada on Saturday, defying local authorities by holding a Saturday night rally in tiny Minden after his initial plan to hold one in Reno was stopped out of concern it would have violated coronavirus health guidelines. Trump pushes into Nevada, questions integrity of election:

Unleashing 90-plus minutes of grievances and attacks, Trump claimed the state’s Democratic governor tried to block him and repeated his false claim that mail-in ballots would taint the election result.

"This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him?” Trump said of Gov. Steve Sisolak. “The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”

As part of his ongoing crusade against mail-in voting, lawyers for the president’s reelection campaign are urging a federal judge in Las Vegas to block a state law and prevent mail-in ballots from going to all active Nevada voters less than eight weeks before the election.

The American public needs to know the context in which this attack on Nevada’s mail-in balloting is occurring.

Long-time Trump advisor and GOP ratfucker Roger Stone, who recently had his sentence commuted by Donald Trump, is once again advising Trump and everyone should be alarmed at what he is advising, because the mentally unstable Donald Trump listens to him.

Media Maters reports, Roger Stone calls for Trump to seize total power if he loses the election:

Roger Stone is making baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and is urging Donald Trump to consider several draconian measures to stay in power, including having federal authorities seize ballots in Nevada, having FBI agents and Republican state officials “physically” block voting under the pretext of preventing voter fraud, using martial law or the Insurrection Act to carry out widespread arrests, and nationalizing state police forces.

Guns
From AZ BlueMeanie's post

Stone’s efforts are now underway, and his aim appears to be to spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud and call for actions that would likely intimidate potential Joe Biden voters.

During his September 10 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Stone declared that the only legitimate outcome to the 2020 election would be a Trump victory. He made this assertion on the basis of his entirely unfounded claim that early voting has been marred by widespread voter fraud.

Stone argued that “the ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshalls and taken from the state” because “they are completely corrupted” and falsely said that “we can prove voter fraud in the absentees right now.” He specifically called for Trump to have absentee ballots seized in Clark County, Nevada, an area that leans Democratic. Stone went on to claim that “the votes from Nevada should not be counted; they are already flooded with illegals” and baselessly suggested that former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) should be arrested and that Trump should consider nationalizing Nevada’s state police force.

Beyond Nevada, Stone recommended that Trump consider several actions to retain his power. Stone recommended that Trump appoint former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) as a special counsel “with the specific task of forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Stone also urged Trump to consider declaring “martial law” or invoking the Insurrection Act and then using his powers to arrest Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clintons” and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.

There’s lots more about the mad king’s evil consigliere in the Blue Meanie’s post.

How the mad king Donald will try to steal the election ... and what we can do about it

Following are portions of two reports related to the title of this post.

Is Trump Planning a Coup d’√Čtat? asks Sasha Abramsky at The Nation. Many observers—including Republicans—worry that he is. They’re organizing now to stop him.

This summer, shortly after scores of camo-wearing, heavily armed federal agents descended on Portland, Ore., to attack protesters, Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, pondered the implications of what he was seeing on the streets. What he saw scared him; he remembered the use of paramilitaries by fascist leaders in 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into paramilitarism in the United States. (His family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.) Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. You might as well put brown shirts on them. It’s a very bad thing.”

A Harvard Law School professor who still counts himself as a Republican and a board member of groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Checks and Balances, and Republicans for the Rule of Law, Fried has grown increasingly worried in recent months about Trump’s willingness to stir chaos and violence as an electoral strategy in the run-up to November’s vote and about the willingness of his attorney general, William Barr, to burn the country’s democratic institutions to the ground to preserve this administration’s hold on power. Like earlier authoritarians, Trump could, Fried fears, utilize “agents provocateurs, getting right-wing people to infiltrate left-oriented and by-and-large peaceful demonstrations to turn them violent to thereby justify intervention.”

Fried, a student of history who chooses his words carefully, has concluded that Trump and his team are “certainly racist, contemptuous of ordinary democratic and constitutional norms, and they believe their cause, their interests, are really the interests of the nation and therefore anything that keeps them in power is in the national interest. Does that make you a fascist? It kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?”

Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, has come to share Fried’s conviction that Trump is a threat to the Republic, although Steele believes the Trump cult is more about naked political opportunism than any grand fascist ideology.

Steele bitterly resents Trump’s takeover of the GOP. He feels that Trump and his acolytes are trying to drive genuine Republicans out of their political home. As Steele piquantly puts it, “I come into your house and shit on the carpet. I tear down your drapes, write on your walls, offend the people who live in the house. Do you leave or kick my ass out? I don’t know anyone who leaves their house without a fight. What kind of America, what kind of country do you want? What kind of leader do you want?”

Like Fried, Steele in recent months concluded that Trump, aided and abetted by the GOP’s congressional leaders, is willing to “open up a Pandora’s box of mischief” to remain ensconced in the White House, Steele says. “He’s laying down the predicate—taking shots at vote by mail and saying he already knows there’s fraud— and therefore it’s likely he won’t accept the results of the election.” For Steele, Trump is “the P.T. Barnum of the 21st century, on steroids,” a man with a mastery of the art of manipulation. “He doesn’t give a shit about the people of Portland. He doesn’t give a crap about Chicago,” Steele avers. “This is not complicated. I don’t know why people keep overthinking this man. His goal is to protect himself. He uses the system against itself.”

This summer, Fried, Steele, and other devotees of traditional conservatism began coordinating with fellow anti-Trump conservatives around the country, as well as with progressive organizations, to strategize responses should Trump attempt to maintain power despite rejection at the polls. Some participants formed the Transition Integrity Project, which includes campaign experts such as Michigan Democratic ex-governor Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Party consultant Donna Brazile, along with Steele and other old-guard GOP stalwarts. They fear that if mail-in votes are still being tabulated weeks after the election and—as seems increasingly likely—barrages of lawsuits are filed by the candidates’ campaigns, conditions could be ripe for Trump to create maximum mayhem.

In their sobering 22-page report, they write of the potential for “escalating violence” if Trump loses and refuses to bow out gracefully. Given the administration’s record of embracing “numerous corrupt and authoritarian practices,” huge numbers of Americans must be ready to take to the streets should Trump and his henchmen try to illegally curtail the counting of mail-in ballots. The administration could deploy federalized National Guard troops to stop vote counts. Indeed, on the day Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump suggested on Fox News that he could order federal agents, even local sheriffs, into polling stations ostensibly to monitor fraud. Trump and his allies could also challenge the results in numerous states simultaneously, send federal forces into Democratic-controlled cities, and through social media accounts and speeches, activate right-wing paramilitary groups.

The report warns that a desperate Trump could push the American republic to the breaking point. …

Taking it to the streets

Dartagnan at the Daily Kos writes about how Progressive groups prepare voters to take to the streets if Trump tries to steal the election.

I’ll pick up the story here.

Donald Trump has made it clear he will contest any result of the 2020 election that does not confirm him as the victor. He has already indicated he is prepared to incite violence among his supporters in order to secure that victory, and, as recent events in Kenosha and Portland have illustrated, his supporters will respond by armed threats to American citizens. Because mail-in ballots this year overwhelmingly favor Democrats, due to well-founded concerns about in-person voting in the midst of the COVID–19 pandemic, there is a significant possibility that at the end of the evening on November 3, Trump, who has systematically tried to disparage mail-in voting and has urged his supporters to vote in person, despite the pandemic, will have eked out a lead among the in-person ballot tally. At that point, it is likely that Trump will declare victory, and claim that any count of the remaining mail-in ballots are tainted by “fraud.” His supporters will then attempt to mobilize and harass ongoing vote-counting efforts in select swing states, in particular, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, much as the “Brooks Brothers” brigades successfully harassed vote counters in Miami-Dade 20 years ago.

This is not the stuff of an active imagination, but instead a highly likely scenario.

The Trump campaign is already taking steps to intimidate local officials and lay the groundwork for legal challenges to mail-in ballot counts. And the same faces featured in the theft of the 2000 election are again making an appearance. For example, Mercedes Schlapp, whose husband’s efforts were so successful in 2000, is already laying the groundwork for the Trump campaign to accuse local officials of fraud. Further, there are already concrete efforts underway by the GOP to harass and intimidate Democratic voters at the polls, including the use of “poll monitors” to challenge the validity of African-American and Latinx votes. But as we saw in 2000, the more “physical” manifestation of this effort is likely to occur after the polls have closed.

As Ron Brownstein, writing for the Atlantic, reports, it is the memory of the stolen 2000 election that has prompted several progressive organizations to band together in order to ensure that 2020 does not feature another bad result dictated by a “Brooks Brothers riot,” and in particular to counter any anticipated Trump-inspired protests after November 3.

No one can say what exactly will happen if Donald Trump contests an apparent loss on November 3 by insisting that the results are riddled with fraud. But one prediction is safe: Democrats won’t cede the streets to the GOP again in the weeks after the election.

A wide array of progressive groups is already coordinating efforts to ensure substantial public protest after the election to defend the vote counting. Their assumption is that Trump will try to intimidate state officials tabulating mail-in ballots by mobilizing the same sort of armed supporters who poured into midwestern capitals to protest the coronavirus lockdowns in the spring and confronted Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. The intent on the left, if it comes to that, is to meet Trump’s demonstrators with overwhelming numbers; the goal is to establish a presence more reminiscent of the street uprisings in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the more recent prodemocracy protests in Ukraine and Hong Kong, than of anything in modern American experience.

The effort is called Protect the Results, and includes a broad coalition of liberal and Democratic groups such as Indivisible, CREW, Public Citizen, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Color of Change, Greenpeace, People for the American Way, and yes, Daily Kos.

The ultimate purpose of the effort, of course, is to ensure a fair election, but the added spectacle of hundreds of thousands of potentially disenfranchised voters peacefully marching in the streets is intended to convey a message not only to those counting the votes that we are on their side, but to the media as well.

From the Protect the Results website:

A core principle shared by supporting organizations is a commitment to nonviolent, peaceful actions. All actions that are sponsored, organized, or listed on this page are intended to be nonviolent and peaceful. We expect all participants to act lawfully at all times and to seek to de-escalate any potential confrontation with those who disagree with our values.

The Biden campaign has preemptively announced it is well-equipped to handle the bogus legal challenges that the Trump campaign intends to mount in the event Trump cannot fairly win the election. But the Biden campaign cannot overshadow the threatening aspect of armed neo-Nazis and “militia” terrorists banging the doors at local election boards and auditoriums where these recounts will take place. That can only be achieved by sheer numbers of people demanding that the ballots be counted.

In sum, it isn’t going to be pretty, and for the most part we Democrats will be on our own, faced with a party now quite literally in thrall to fascism. These groups and the many sure to join them in the next few weeks will have our back, but ultimately it may come down to every one of us taking a stand, in the streets.

Thanks to Editor-at-large Sherry for alerts on the “coup”.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Republicans sacrificed their principles 'on the bonfire of Trump’s vanity.'

Here’s a first for the Scribers’ community: a yard sign saying “Republicans for Biden.” It’s emblematic of a broader trend as sensible, true conservatives abandon the party of Trump.

I’LL NEVER QUESTION 1938 IN GERMANY AGAIN”: AN EX-REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST SURVEYS THE WRECKAGE OF TRUMP’S GOP. Republicans “all know that Trump is an idiot,” says Stuart Stevens, but “they convinced themselves that he was a necessity.” Now they’re facing the consequences, as Stevens—and others—jumps ship.

On the latest episode of Inside the Hive, former Republican strategist Stuart Stevens described the GOP under Donald Trump as a party of cynics, stooges, racists, and obsequious enablers whose profiles in cowardice bear an uncomfortable resemblance to 1930s Germany. “When I talk to Republican politicians, I hear Franz von Papen,” he says, referencing the German chancellor who convinced Germans that so-called radical leftists were a far greater threat than Adolf Hitler. “They all know that Trump is an idiot. They all know that he’s uniquely unqualified to be president. But they convinced themselves that he was a necessity.”

Not surprisingly, Stevens, an adviser to two George W. Bush presidential campaigns and a top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid against Barack Obama, has become the latest apostate to his party, declaring in his best-selling book, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, that Republicans have sacrificed every last belief and principle they held dear on the bonfire of Trump’s vanity. And now, not even the catastrophically mismanaged coronavirus pandemic can wake them from their stupor.

“It is the combination of the anti-intellectualism, the anti-education elements of the Republican Party, and the anti-elite elements of the Republican Party, so-called, that have culminated in this toxic brew that is killing tens of thousands of Americans,” says Stevens, who recently joined the independent Never Trump organization the Lincoln Project. “I mean, more Americans are going to die because of this combination of political beliefs than major wars. This virus [is] attacking Americans. And Donald Trump is making it a lot worse, and we all know this. But Republicans won’t even stand up to defend America.”

Consequently, Stevens calls Trump a “traitor” to his country. “I really think he is against America,” he says, blaming the Republican Party for “a complete collapse of responsibility that they had to defend democracy in America.”

There is more in an edited transcript of two conversations with Stevens conducted by Joe Hagan.

There are more GOPers now having come to their sense and are jumping ship.

Rank-And-File Republicans Reel Off Very Long List Of Reasons They Can’t Vote For Trump. Conservatives have 113 reasons for dumping Trump in Republican Voters Against Trump’s new video.

These rank-and-file Republicans are well and truly done with President Donald Trump.

The group of conservatives list 113 damning reasons for not backing Trump over Democratic nominee Joe Biden this November in an 11-minute video that the Republican Voters Against Trump group released Thursday.

Their rationales range from the president’s racist, sexist, Islamaphobic and divisive rhetoric to his alienation of U.S. allies, attacks on the military and cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is also a key explanation.

Republican Voters Against Trump is part of conservative commentator Bill Kristol’s anti-Trump Defending Democracy Together advocacy organization and just one of a slew of groups on the right seeking to oust Trump from office.

Thanks to Editor-at-Large Sherry for tips about the featured reports.

Latest ad from the Lincoln Project honors first responders - no 'suckers and losers' there

Lincoln Project calls Trump the “Fool in the Oval Office” who is Responsible for a “9/11 Death Toll every Three Days”.

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona reports on a new Lincoln Project ad, saying “On this hallowed day in United States History, the Lincoln Project did not shy away from attacking Donald Trump for his lies and incompetence before and during his Presidency.”

In their ad, “9/11,” the Lincoln Project honors the first responders and soldiers who responded to the call to save others and defend the nation during and after the 9/11 attacks.

The narrator then pivots to criticizing Donald Trump for calling soldiers who sacrificed their lives defending the country “losers and suckers.”

The ad then recounts how Donald Trump marveled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 how he now had the tallest building in New York City.

The narrator also reminded viewers that Trump lied about being at Ground Zero helping to clear the rubble.

The ad does forget to cite Trump’s most glaring 9/11 lie that many New Jersey Muslims cheered when the Towers came down.

The narrator then concluded:

“Today, Donald Trump is more than just a terrible person. He’s the worst President in American History. He’s divided the country and lied to all of us about everything tens of thousands of times, and now 200,000 of us are dead. A 9/11 death toll every three days because of the fool that sits behind the President’s desk in the Oval Office.”

Do check out the video - it may be the hardest hitting of all the Project’s ads so far.

Friday, September 11, 2020

9-11 and the pandemic

Today is the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center resulting in 2,977 dead (according to Wikipedia). Today we know of over 192,000 U. S. citizens dead from the COVID–19 virus.

Another way to look at the pandemic’s toll in America is 64.5. That’s the number of nine elevens due to the virus.

What may be coming our way? Likely, well over 200,000 COVID deaths. A ghastly possibility: over two million dead if Trump’s latest hire, Dr. Atlas (aka Dr. Death) has his way and goes for herd immunity. Look on the bright side. At least Trump could use that as justification for his not doing anything.

Outrage - the proper response to the mad king's behavior described in 'Rage'

Here are two reports resulting from Boob Woodward’s book “Rage.” The first summarizes the main points of the book. The second punctures Trump’s defensive response.

5 Takeaways From ‘Rage,’ Bob Woodward’s New Book About Trump. Mr. Woodward reveals that President Trump sought to play down the severity of the coronavirus and repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military.

"This is deadly stuff,” President Trump said of the coronavirus in a Feb. 7 interview with the journalist Bob Woodward for his upcoming book, “Rage.” But it was a vastly different story than he was telling the public at the time. Mr. Trump would later admit to Mr. Woodward that publicly, he “wanted to always” play down the severity of the virus.

Mr. Woodward conducted 18 interviews with the president for the book, which goes on sale next week. Mr. Trump also granted Mr. Woodward access to top officials inside the White House, revealing the inner workings of the president and his administration.

Here are five takeaways.

Mr. Trump minimized the risks of the coronavirus to the American public early in the year.

Despite knowing that the virus was “deadly” and highly contagious, he often publicly said the opposite, insisting that the virus would go away quickly.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

And while he was saying publicly that children were “almost immune” to the virus, he told Mr. Woodward in March: “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people too — plenty of young people.”

In April, as he began to urge the country to reopen, Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward of the virus, “It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it.”

Two of the president’s top officials thought he was “dangerous” and considered speaking out publicly.

Gen. Jim Mattis, Mr. Trump’s former defense secretary, is quoted describing Mr. Trump as “dangerous” and “unfit” for the presidency in a conversation with Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence at the time. Mr. Coats himself was haunted by the president’s Twitter feed and believed that Mr. Trump’s gentle approach to Russia reflected something more sinister, perhaps that Moscow had “something” on the president.

“Maybe at some point we’re going to have to stand up and speak out,” Mr. Mattis told Mr. Coats in May 2019, according to the book. “There may be a time when we have to take collective action.”

Ultimately neither official spoke out.

Mr. Trump repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military and his top generals.

Mr. Woodward quoted Mr. Trump denigrating senior American military officials to his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, during a 2017 meeting.

"They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals,” the president said.

And in a discussion with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Trump called the U.S. military “suckers” for paying extensive costs to protect South Korea. Mr. Woodward wrote that he was stunned when the president said of South Korea, “We’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist.”

Mr. Woodward also reports that Mr. Trump chewed out Mr. Coats after a briefing with reporters about the threat that Russia presented to the nation’s elections systems. Mr. Coats had gone further than he and the president had discussed beforehand.

When asked about the pain “Black people feel in this country,” Mr. Trump was unable to express empathy.

Mr. Woodward pointed out that both he and Mr. Trump were “white, privileged” and asked if Mr. Trump was working to “understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country.”

Mr. Trump replied, “No,” and added: “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

Mr. Woodward writes that he tried to coax the president into speaking about his understanding of race. But Mr. Trump would only say over and over that the economy had been positive for Black people before the coronavirus led to an economic crisis.

Mr. Woodward gained insight into Mr. Trump’s relationships with the leaders of North Korea and Russia.

Mr. Trump provided Mr. Woodward with the details of letters between himself and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in which the two men fawn over each other. Mr. Kim wrote in one letter that their relationship was like a “fantasy film.”

In describing his chemistry with Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said: “You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it’s going to happen.”

Mr. Trump also complained about the various investigations into ties between his campaign and Russia, saying that they were affecting his abilities as president and his relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“Putin said to me in a meeting, he said, it’s a shame, because I know it’s very hard for you to make a deal with us. I said, you’re right,” Mr. Trump said.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports There’s a big hole in Trump’s frantic spin about the Woodward revelations.

Faced with the damning revelation that President Trump admitted he downplayed the coronavirus despite fully grasping the urgency of the threat, he and his propagandists have settled on their counter-spin: Trump was acting as a kind of modern-day FDR, sagely calming the country to prevent an outbreak of self-destructive mass “panic.”

But there’s a serious problem with this account. The facts already on the public record demonstrate that whatever desire Trump had to avert any panic was largely about doing what he perceived was in his own personal and political interests, not those of the nation or the American people. Trump and his defenders have fixated on the word “panic” in this quote, which Trump gave to Bob Woodward on March 19:

Well I think Bob, really to be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.

That came after Trump admitted on Feb. 7 to Woodward that he understood the coronavirus was airborne, making it particularly contagious, and even that “it’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Trump conceded he knew how bad the threat was and then admitted to downplaying it.

Yet Trump’s defenders now insist his stated desire to avoid a “panic” demonstrates that he was operating from the belief that he had good reason to downplay the virus threat — and that in so doing, he was acting in the public interest.

192,000 dead and that number likely will double by year’s end.

"We don’t want to instill panic,” Trump told reporters Wednesday, in defending himself. “We don’t want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem,” Trump continued, because this would “scare everybody.”

Similarly, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asked about the new revelations and Trump’s own repeated refrain that the coronavirus will “go away,” responded by claiming that Trump had merely “expressed calmness” and sought to avoid “inciting fear.” Other defenders have pushed versions of the same nonsense.

But a look at the timeline before and after that admission to Woodward shows that even if Trump did want to avoid provoking “panic,” it was largely for self-absorbed reasons, not out of any discernible conception of what was good for the country.

The timeline is damning

In February, for instance, Trump did repeatedly rage over the idea that the coronavirus was creating a panic. But, crucially, his own public statements explicitly revealed that he saw the possibility of a panic largely through the prism of his own interests.

Throughout February, Trump was utterly obsessed with the impact that public news about the coronanvirus was having on the markets. And as Slate’s William Saletan demonstrated at the time, Trump openly cast the markets as inextricably linked to his own political fortunes, regularly suggesting efforts to use the coronavirus to rattle them were the work of political enemies out to tank him.

Indeed, Trump repeatedly raged at the media for deliberately trying to panic markets to harm him politically. Trump approvingly tweeted a media ally accusing CNN of trying “to stoke a national Coronavirus panic” as part of its “anti-Trump” agenda. He blasted the media for trying to make the coronavirus “look as bad as possible” and “panicking markets” to help Democrats.

Trump’s aversion to a “panic” was primarily resistance to something he thought would damage him.

Worse still, Trump’s obsession with panicking the markets — and harming his reelection chances — deeply hampered his governmental response to the coronavirus crisis.

In late February, after one of Trump’s most senior health officials publicly warned about the threat of the virus spreading, which Trump’s own officials wanted to do so the American people could protect themselves and each other, Trump privately raged because it “was scaring the stock markets,” as The Post reported.

Even into early March, Trump was still resisting pressure from senior officials to take big steps to halt the spread, such as making a full-throated call for major social distancing efforts and lockdowns, out of fear that it would harm the markets.

As he dug in, Trump regularly listened to counsel against such quarantining and restrictions from business leaders. Why? Because, as the New York Times reports, he was “always attuned to anything that could trigger a stock market decline or an economic slowdown that could hamper his reelection effort.”

Trump’s spin isn’t remotely exonerating

Even if you grant that Trump worried to some extent about panicking the public in addition to hurting the markets and his reelection hopes — which is highly unlikely to have weighed heavily on him in the least — this only incriminates him further.

The whole reason Trump’s own officials urged him to tell the full truth was so he’d use his presidential authority and megaphone to prep the American people for the excruciatingly difficult and self-sacrificing steps that would be needed to combat the virus and limit more loss of life.

He refused to do that for weeks and weeks. And that helped allow the virus to rampage out of control here, ironically leading to an even worse economic lockdown than might otherwise have been necessary.

Trump’s stated desire to avoid what he called a “panic” isn’t exonerating in the least. In yet another wretched perversity, this excuse reflects a harsh light right back on the same depravity, malevolence and incompetence that has characterized his mishandling of the pandemic all along, with unthinkable consequences.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Scriber's absorption day

Scriber is taking a day to absorb the latest blockbusters. It does seem that each news cycle is pumped up with more of that.

The Woodward tapes prompt us to ask: What did the President know? When did he know it? Yeah, I think those tapes are analogous to those that brought down Nixon.

I detect two lines of explanation for why Trump got caught on tape. One is from Faux News - Lindsey Graham made him do it. The other is summed up in one word: VANITY.

What are the chances of Biden winning in a landslide? Pretty good thinks one of my sources. Another argues that it is no use trying to reduce Trump’s base. Rather, just keep Trump from expanding it.

I’ll be back later today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

America in decline - The Cost of Contempt for Competence, Part 1

“Trump reminds one of someone trying to fake fluency in a foreign language. Over and over, he makes glaring errors because he has no idea what he is talking about.

But he says those things anyway. There’s a lot of projection (and other ego defense mechanisms) at play here as Trump trashes the military in general and especially Pentagon leaders.

Three essays constitute Part 1 of this feature. Jennifer Rubin leads off with a summary of Trump’s disrespect for the military, his counter-charges not withstanding. Then Steve Benen has essays picking apart Trump’s defenses and counter-charges.

Maligning the military

Trump keeps insulting the military reports Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post.

President Trump is fighting a losing battle against reports of his talk about the military, which he claims to revere but deeply resents. Multiple news organizations, including The Post, have confirmed private comments he made disparaging those who served as “suckers” and “losers.” These and his previous remarks — disrespecting POWs and allegedly telling the wife of a slain serviceman that her husband Sgt. La David T. Johnson “knew what he signed up for” — are consistent with the narcissist’s felt need to maintain an unduly high opinion of himself by diminishing others who have plainly surpassed him in courage and competence. Trump ducked military service; the valiant men and women who went in his place therefore must be denigrated, pitied and scorned. How foolish they went to war for me!

Trump can deny his animosity until the cows come home but he remains unable to articulate real respect for those who have served. Recall the scene in “A Very Stable Genius,” by Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, in which Trump called the service chiefs “a bunch of dopes and babies” and barked, “You’re all losers. You don’t know how to win anymore.” Trump did it all over again at a Monday news conference.

He insisted (contrary to polling) that the rank and file troops are in love with him. However, he declared, “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies — that make the bombs, and make the planes, and make everything else — stay happy. But we’re getting out of the endless wars.”

In other words, they are bloodthirsty warmongers. The notion that generals want wars reveals his utter lack of understanding of the sacred responsibility commanders have for the troops and the sacrifices their own families have endured. Only a man shamed for having avoided war could imagine that those who serve are bloodthirsty savages.

He simply cannot help himself. His niece, Mary L. Trump, reminds us that in the peculiar Trump family, military service was scorned and not celebrated. “Growing up in a mansion in Jamaica Estates in Queens, Trump heard the family criticize those who joined the military instead of going into business. Trump and his father, Fred Trump Sr., were especially harsh in criticizing the decision by Donald’s older brother, Fred Jr., to join the U.S. Air National Guard‚” my colleague Michael Kranish reported, quoting Mary Trump. “My father was frequently ridiculed for his career choices and disparaged for serving our country by both his father and by his brother Donald," Mary Trump said.

Trump not only resents those who serve but also is at a loss to understand concepts like honor, discipline, sacrifice and loyalty. He thinks pardoning war criminals will make him popular with men and women in uniform who have sworn to uphold the Constitution and live by the military code of conduct. (Likewise, he thinks it will impress decent and law-abiding police officers when he says they should not "be too nice” putting suspects in patrol cars.) Likewise, he once thought his cheering for war crimes — bombing the wives and family members of terrorists — would be impressive, until soon-to-be secretary of defense James Mattis set him straight.

Trump reminds one of someone trying to fake fluency in a foreign language. Over and over, he makes glaring errors because he has no idea what he is talking about.

At this point, only the most committed cult members believe Trump’s denials. The rest of us can see and hear for him for ourselves. Trump’s enormous ego and his shameful conduct when asked to serve mean he can never accord our military men and women — at whatever rank — the respect they deserve.

Trump’s charges military leaders as corrupt warmongers, asserts soldiers’ love for him

Trump targets Pentagon leaders with ironic criticisms reports Steve Benen. _To hear Trump tell it, Pentagon leaders are corrupt war mongers, principally concerned with arms manufacturers’ financial interests. That’s … curious.

Donald Trump was already in the midst of an ugly controversy in which he’s been accused of denigrating military service. It was against this backdrop that the president held a Labor Day press conference in which he accused his own country’s military leaders of being beholden to defense contractors.

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy. But we’re getting out of the endless wars.”

In American history, there are plenty of examples of presidents disagreeing with the brass on matters large and small, but I’m not aware of any previous instance in which a sitting president effectively told the public that Pentagon leaders are corrupt war mongers, principally concerned with the financial interests of arms manufacturers.

But as strange as it was to see Trump malign the U.S. military during a press conference in which he insisted he doesn’t malign the U.S. military, that wasn’t the only problem. The president’s unscripted comments generated three key questions:

(1) “The soldiers” are “in love with” Trump? According to the latest Military Times poll, they’re really not.

(2) Is Trump standing up to the Military Industrial Complex? It was amusing to see the president make the case that he’s unpopular among Pentagon leaders because he stands up to defense contractors, since the truth is the exact opposite. Trump did, after all, name a Raytheon lobbyist as his current Defense secretary, and arms manufacturers have had extensive access to power players in the Republican administration.

For that matter, Trump has spent much of his term bragging to anyone who’ll listen about how much money he’s thrown at the Pentagon, celebrating “the bombs and the planes and everything else.”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added, “It drives me nuts to watch Trump attempt to position himself as some kind of anti-war president when he has expanded U.S. bombing and civilian casualties in basically every theatre of combat.”

(3) Is Trump getting the United States “out of the endless wars”? A Washington Post fact-check piece recently explained, “While there have been some relatively minor shifts in distribution – and since 2017, the Defense Department no longer includes troops in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq in its unclassified, published tallies – the overall total of those serving abroad is believed to have slightly increased since Barack Obama left office.”

Taken together, Trump’s incoherent boasts are only impressive to those who haven’t paid close enough attention to the details.

Five ways Trump’s offense is wrong

In another critique, Steve Benen shreds Trump’s defense:Accused of denigrating military service, Trump’s response falls short. Accused of denigrating military service and fallen heroes, Trump’s response has had five key elements. Each of them is ridiculous.

It’s been five days since The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a staggering report on Donald Trump, his denigration of those who serve in the military, and his condemnation of fallen American heroes as “suckers” and “losers.”

As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote, the resulting firestorm has exploded the “bad marriage” between the Republican president and American military leaders.

The quotes were anonymous, but it has been an open secret in Washington that many prominent retired four-stars have regarded Trump with growing horror as he assaulted the traditions of discipline and professionalism that are bedrocks of military life…. The military understand their role in a democracy. They have obeyed Trump as their commander in chief, even amid his tirades and insults. And they will continue to do so if he’s reelected. But many of them won’t like it: Trump just isn’t a guy with whom you’d want to share a foxhole.

Part of what makes the political impact of the controversy so potent is the degree to which it fits into what’s already been well documented. Trump has spent much of his term belittling American troops and mocking the military leaders of his own country. Complicating matters, the Republican’s willingness to disparage military service predates his political career.

For his part, the president hasn’t just furiously denied the accuracy of the reporting, he’s also begun an offensive that includes several key – but badly flawed – components.

(1) Pretend the reporting is fiction. Trump has said the reporting is “made up” and a “fake story.” That’s extremely unlikely: not only is Goldberg’s reporting reliable, and not only does the reporting comport with what we know, but much of The Atlantic piece has been corroborated by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and even Fox News. Are we to believe five major news organizations manufactured a fictional tale as part of an elaborate conspiracy? It’s a tough sell.

(2) Attack freedom of the press. Trump told reporters on Friday, “It’s a disgrace that somebody is allowed to write things like that.” Of course, in the United States, at least for now, journalists are “allowed” to publish reports the president doesn’t like.

Similarly, on Twitter, the president called for Fox News to fire its Pentagon correspondent. This brazen example of “cancel culture” is extraordinary: American presidents don’t generally call for the ouster of journalists whose reporting upsets the White House.

(3) Target suspected sources. Trump doesn’t know who served as the sources for last week’s reporting, but he clearly suspects former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The president told reporters late last week that Kelly, a retired four-star general, “didn’t do a good job,” “had no temperament,” “wasn’t even able to function,” “and ”was unable to handle the pressure of this job."

Of course, even if each of these attacks were true – and there’s ample reason for skepticism – it doesn’t mean that Kelly, if he did serve as a source for journalists, was wrong about what he heard Trump say behind the scenes about veterans and military service.

(4) Target perceived media foes. It was bizarre to see a sitting American president deliberately encourage allies to harass a private citizen, but on Sunday, Trump called on his followers to go after Laurene Powell Jobs, a co-owner of The Atlantic, because the magazine published a report he didn’t like. “Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!!” the Republican wrote on Twitter.

If he weren’t ostensibly the Leader of the Free World, isn’t this the sort of misconduct that would get someone suspended from the social-media site?

(5) Assert that the reporting simply could not be true. Reflecting on the quotes attributed to him, Trump said at a Labor Day press conference, “Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say things like that.” In other words, the public is supposed to believe the president is simply too good a person to disparage those who wear the uniform, despite his years of public disparagements against those who wear the uniform.

The quote reminded me of Trump’s presidential campaign, when he denied mocking Serge Kovaleski’s physical disability. “I would definitely not say anything about his appearance,” Trump said shortly after publicly deriding arthrogryposis.

In effect, Trump was saying then, as he’s saying now, that even he wouldn’t stoop to something so low. The trouble, however, is that Trump really did ridicule Kovaleski’s disability, and given the weight of the evidence, it’s painfully easy to believe he disparaged American heroes who served in the military.