"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Where are you going, where have you been?"

Comment on the arguments of John Kelly:

Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. To demonstrate how little lay people know, Kelly provided a long, detailed explanation of what happens when a soldier is killed in battle: the body is wrapped in whatever is handy, flown by helicopter, then packed in ice, then flown again, then repacked, then flown, then embalmed and dressed in uniform with medals, and then flown home. Kelly provided a similar amount of detail about how family members are notified of the death, when, and by whom. He even recommended a film that dramatized the process of transporting the body of a real-life marine, Private First Class Chance Phelps. This was a Trumpian moment, from the phrasing—“a very, very good movie”—to the message. Kelly stressed that Phelps “was killed under my command, right next to me”; in other words, Kelly’s real-life experience was recreated for television, and that, he seemed to think, bolstered his authority.

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one per cent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”
The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one per cent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven per cent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one per cent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom. No Soviet general would have dared utter the kind of statement that’s attributed to General George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Government of the military, for the military, by the military....

He's certainly done more damage.....

I had this tweet, from Trump's feed (he re-tweeted it) as an example of Trump creating a bubble and then moving into it.  It's an echo of what Trump told the Heritage Society on the 17th:

“(We) have ended finally the war on clean, beautiful coal. People are going back to work,” he said. “Over the last nine months we have removed job-killing regulations at a record pace. In fact, in nine months, we have done more, they say, than any President in history.”

I was going to leave it behind among the drafts gathering dust, and then Huckabee Sanders took the podium to berate reporters who dare to question a "Marine general":

“She also had quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there,” Sanders said, referring to “what Gen. Kelly referenced yesterday.”

The reporter pressed: Would Kelly respond to reporting on his inaccurate statement?

“I think he’s addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday,” Sanders said.

“He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money,” the reporter countered.

“If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said. “But I think that, if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Just let that sink in a minute.  Gen. Kelly's veracity and authority is his uniform and military service.  Did Rep. Wilson say bad things off camera, where Kelly could hear it but not where the cameras could catch it?  Except that's not what Gen. Kelly said:

And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money — the $20 million — to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

So she stood up and sat down off camera, and "we were stunned."  Stood up and addressed whoever would listen after the speeches were over and the cameras turned off?  Sorry, not buying it.  But the point is, I dare to question a Marine general because he is not superior to me, and his lies are not better than the truth, and his word is not to be trusted any longer.

And I don't give a damn what uniform he wears or how many medals he has on his chest or what rank he holds.

And then we're back to what Trump said, which everybody agrees he said except Trump, apparently.  And if there was a "misunderstanding," the fault is on the family, because fault can never rest at the feet of anyone in this White House:

“Certainly if the spirit of which those comments were intended was misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate. As the President has said, as General Kelly has said, who I think has a very deep understanding of what that individual would be going through, his comments were very sympathetic, very respectful,” Sanders said. “And that was the spirit in which the President intended them. If they were taken in any other way, that’s certainly an unfortunate thing.” 

What is this childish perseverance in having this last word on this subject?  What is wrong with these people?  There is not a person in that building who is not beneath contempt and unworthy of the high office they serve.  And to defend this insanity, this pusillanimity, on the grounds that we can't question Marine generals?

Barack Obama is right; our democracy is at stake; and not just in an election in Virginia.

The Wages of Sin

Like most stories these days, you can't keep up with the pace of the details.  Already Charlie Pierce has said John Kelly "is better than this."  But he only means Rep. Wilson was a friend of the Johnson family from the time Sgt. Johnson was a child, and that she denied Kelly's story about bragging about getting funding for a federal building, and Kelly shouldn't have been so hard on her.

Turns out Kelly not only shouldn't have attacked her, but he lied about her, too:

In the speech, Wilson describes how she and congressional leaders worked together to pass legislation to name the FBI building, after the starting the process just four weeks prior to the dedication ceremony at the agency’s request. She said it was a “miracle” that the bill passed both chambers and was signed by President Barack Obama in time.

She said that her effort and that of her colleagues who also pushed for the bill “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”

She then honored FBI agents gathered in the room, as well as the two special agents who died in a gunfight in 1986, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, for whom the new building was named.

“We are proud of their sacrifice, the sacrifice for our nation. It is only fitting that their names be placed on the same mantel as the FBI,” she said in the speech.

Kelly lied; or he "misrepresented" her speech; or he was mistaken about what she said, his memory was faulty, he was confused; he was inadvertently in error.  Does it matter what the excuse will be?  He made it up out of whole cloth, presented it as true, and damn the consequences because it served his purpose.  Just like his boss does.

Kelly isn't "better than this."  We just thought he was, mostly because he once wore a military uniform, and we all still have a soft spot for tough men who talk about honor and tradition.  It makes it harder for us to see how dishonorable they are, and that their tradition is used to cover up lies.

George W. Bush, who is still being excoriated for not wearing a hair shirt in public when he made his remarks, had this remarkably Niebuhrian thing to say to us all:

Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.
Whatever Trump's best intentions in that phone call, he failed miserably.  Now the defense is to judge the critics by their worst examples, even if we have to invent them.  That's a very Trumpian defense.  To reach for it is not to reach beneath yourself, because so few people would ever try to reach that low.  Yesterday Pierce called this a "tragic error."  The tragic hero has a flaw that causes him to crack under the right pressure.  This is not the result of a flaw; this is an indicator of character.  The tragic hero is tragic because he takes responsibility for his error, for the consequences of his failure.  There is no hero here, tragic or otherwise, except the slain soldier.  What we are seeing, in what should be a inconsequential event, is the true nature of the people involved.

John Kelly is not better than this, and he doesn't work for Donald Trump as an amanuensis for the rest of us.  This is who we have allowed into the White House, and who he surrounds himself with.  Trump is not poisonous and inflicting his poison on others, and he's not bringing out the darkness in others.  They are there because they think like him and agree with him and want to work with him.

And that's where the darkness is coming from.


Stories matter.

And Josh Marshall is right; Kelly's speech could have come out of the movie version of "Starship Troopers," where the only citizens are those with military service.

Underneath this logic is a belief which Kelly actually stated much more clearly than most are willing to do. We don’t just owe respect to people who serve in the military. They are actually better than us civilians.

Kelly’s words …

"We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that."

Kelly made a similar point when he refused to take questions from any reporter who was not either from a Gold Star family themselves or personally knew someone who was. You may not even deserve your civic freedoms, the right to talk, to ask question, unless you are near to military sacrifice.
Beyond the appalling defense of the indefensible is Kelly's premise:  that the military are superior to civilians, and the POTUS is uber alles.  Let's be clear:  Kelly didn't have to defend Trump:  he chose to defend Trump.  He didn't have to make the argument he made in order to defend Trump; he chose to make that argument.  This is not Gen. Kelly being "poisoned" by association with Trump:  this is simply who Gen. Kelly is.  Maybe we imagined him to be something else:  we were wrong.  There is a reason he works for Donald Trump, and that reason is that he thinks like Donald Trump.

"What Planet Are We On?"

Trump really needs to start paying attention to what his staff is saying:

Kellyanne Conway admitted the news reports of the conversation were accurate:

“They are misrepresenting the President. You have to give the full quote,” Conway said.

She claimed Trump’s full remarks to Johnson’s widow “ended with him saying, ‘But it’s never easier,’ ‘It’s always difficult,’ or ‘This is very tough’ or ‘These are hard.'”
John Kelly said he was the source of the now-controversial remarks:

 Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.

That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day.
Maybe it's because neither statement has been covered on "Fox & Friends" yet.....

Thursday, October 19, 2017

John Kelly is an ass

The face of White House arrogance

NPR says John Kelly leant his moral authority to Trump by speaking out against Rep. Frederica Wilson.  No, Kelly provided no moral gravitas; what he provided was moral arrogance.  He proved why he works for a man like Donald Trump, and why Kelly is as beneath contempt as his boss is.

Kelly established that he was the source both of the story about Obama not calling when his son was killed in action, a story Kelly said he told Trump without criticism of Obama, and the story about "they signed up for this."   Trump, of course, immediately turned the Obama story into an insult.  When Kelly offered that he was the source of Trump's comment that Sgt. Johnson "knew what he signed up for", he abandoned all moral authority he might ever have claimed.

But let's start with Kelly being stunned by Rep. Wilson's comments:

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly at a White House press briefing. “A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife — and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero.”

It was on a speaker phone; she wasn't eavesdropping on the extension.  My guess is the widow pushed the button so everyone would know why she was crying.  As for the sanctity of the matter, that horse left that barn months ago, and the barn has long since burned down, and not because of an otherwise unknown representative with a fondness for cowboy hats.  No, the fault lies in the President, who is do disrespectful he says things everyone now agrees he said.  Such words lose any right to the "sacred" you may wish to impose on them just because of the office-holder that said them.  Insults do not deserve to remain private when a President speaks them in his capacity as President.  And Rep. Wilson was reporting on what had upset the grieving family of a fallen soldier.  She wasn't violating a confidence; she was doing a service for a constituent.  She was speaking their truth to power for them.

Kelly told the press that his best friend and former "casualty officer" advised Kelly that men like his son died knowing they had signed up for that risk, and surrounded by their friends, the best people on earth.  Good advice to a commanding officer bearing the burden of sending men to die, perhaps; terrible advice for the family of a fallen military member.  Worse than terrible advise when fed to the sewer that is the personality of Donald Trump.  It is moral arrogance to argue, as Kelly did, that what Trump said (which has now been confirmed by two White House officials on the record.  How many more staffers are going to call Trump a liar?  Trump never said he was misunderstood; he said he didn't say what Wilson said he did.  It is now beyond cavil that was a lie.) should have been understood by the widow and the mother and even Rep. Wilson the way Kelly understood it, or even the way Kelly intended it when he passed it on to Trump.

The man was actually lecturing the mother and wife, again, as Kellyanne Conway did, without ever mentioning them.  He did it by very carefully excluding any mention of the family from his remarks, but they are as much a source of this information as the Representative is.  Had he mentioned them, his entire argument would had dissolved before his eyes.  He knew what he wasn't mentioning, and he knew why.  This entire White House is a cess pool and a moral black hole.  George W. Bush looks like a paragon of virtue by comparison to these people, and Barack Obama comes off as a candidate for immediate beatification.

This is almost beyond belief.  There is no moral authority left in that building, and it isn't just because Trump is poison, as Josh Marshall keeps saying.  The staff are agents in their own right, and moral actors responsible for their own actions.  They cannot say Trump made them do it.  They are complicit on their own.  Kelly stood there and, while tacitly taking credit for everything Trump said that Trump explicitly said he didn't say, also agreed with Trump that this is personal, and it's all about Trump and what Trump said and how everyone should give Trump "the benefit of the doubt."  Yes, he used those words.  Josh Marshall says:  "President Trump is a blowhard and a phony and a liar. Kelly isn’t."  He is now.

This entire Administration is morally repellant and bankrupt.*

*and to comments like this that are apparently being bandied about because cable news, they have to fill the hours:

Toobin made his comments in response to claims by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins that it’s possible there was a breakdown in communication and interpretation between the Johnson widow and the president.

I call bullshit.

I have counseled grieving families over sudden deaths, and over deaths after long and lingering illnesses, and never once did I say:  "Well, you knew it was going to end like this sooner or later!"  Saying that is not a "breakdown in communication" or "interpretation," it is grotesque beyond measure.  And Kelly's argument is simply a variant on "blame the victim."  (Trump was "misunderstood.")  I know people want to make some sense of this nonsense, but even Toobin's frustration (“What country has controversy over condolence calls?” Toobin implored. “It’s an example of what a surreal moment we are in.”) is not an example of an errant zeitgeist, it is entirely the fault of one man and it is to be laid at the feet of this thoroughly incompetent human being who shouldn't be among civilized beings without a handler with a leash and a muzzle.

There is no excuse for what Trump said, and no controversy any more that he said it.  You don't get to blame the family because the would-be comforter was so abominably inept and so completely lacking in human feelings.  This planet is the one that allowed such a cretin to be in such a position of power, and to surround himself with people willing to serve him.  That we always thought this was impossible is our problem; that we allowed it to happen is our problem, too.

When you start thinking Cheney wasn't so bad....

I did not like George W. Bush as a President, at all.  He was installed by Scalia and the Supremes, and made a hash of things from Day One of his Presidency.  He was so bad the Nobel Committee gave Obama the Peace Prize just for winning the election that replaced Bush.  But I have to agree with the tweets:  in the age of Trump, even George W. Bush was a better President.

This is a transcript of George W. Bush's speech delivered Oct. 19, 2017 at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World" event in New York.

Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here.

And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries.

I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny.

Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie [Tom Bernstein], I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.)

It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and Applause.) Thank you.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other. 
And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.
For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.
We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.

Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions.

And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust.

For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

Thank you. 

And you may contribute a verse...or not

Not likely to ever be Neil Gorsuch

I hadn't seen/heard this until I came across it at Slate.  Nina Totenberg speaks about the newest member of the Supreme Court:

My surmise, from what I’m hearing, is that Justice [Elena] Kagan really has taken [Gorsuch] on in conference. And that it’s a pretty tough battle and it’s going to get tougher. And she is about as tough as they come, and I am not sure he’s as tough—or dare I say it, maybe not as smart. I always thought he was very smart, but he has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.

So, more Thomas than Scalia, eh?  I have to say, I never thought Scalia was as smart as he made sure to tell everyone he was.  That's a trick Donald Trump has exposed by not being nearly as smart as he says he is:  "Believe me!"  I find it interesting how much emphasis we put on "smart" as a qualification, and how few units of measure we have to truly assess such claims.  Trump says he is smart, and people eventually challenge it by examining his vocabulary (it's extremely limited).  We should measure intelligence by output, I suppose; but somehow judges and would-be justices who are not notable for their legal decisions (Al Franken, a non-lawyer, eviscerated Gorsuch's opinion on the freezing truck driver without once reaching for a legal dictionary.  That should have told us something about Gorsuch's legal intelligence.).  Scalia proclaimed himself an "originalist," as if that were a profound new school of jurisprudence, but ground-breaking thinkers are known by the followers they keep:  Socrates led to Plato, who led to Aristotle, for example.  And who follows Scalia?  Justice Thomas?

No, not even him.

I knew a student in school once, who came in in a blaze of glory, declaring herself a brilliant addition to the student body (it was a small one to begin with) and an important and profound thinker.  Word soon leaked out that the professors knew she was no such thing, and while she declared herself the smartest person in the room, the rest of us soon learned to ignore her.  She eventually conducted herself in ways ignominious to the ministry (no, nothing scandalous; much subtler and more disturbing than that) and I don't know what happened to her.  But she certainly had a tin ear and brought nothing to the conversation.

Funny how hard it is to figure that out, and how far people can get proclaiming themselves "smart."  Usually, they can't even make things go.

Perhaps the best part of this is that Trump keeps declaring Gorsuch his greatest accomplishment so far.  Yeah, about that:

Gorsuch is a pale imitation of his predecessor [Scalia], boasting a bratty attitude that has nettled justices across the ideological spectrum. He was supposed to build a new conservative consensus. Instead, it seems, his unctuous demeanor has given his colleagues something they can agree on.
Apparently he's the Ted Cruz of the Court.  Another guy who tells everyone how smart he is and, despite the evidence, some people are keen to believe it.

So it goes.

"They drag me back in!"

It was only yesterday Trump said:

He insisted on it again in front of cameras:  it was all lies!
And then the White House said Trump was just misunderstood.  By whom?  How disgraceful of you to ask!  Now Kellyanne Conway explains who misunderstood the President:  haters.

“It’s just the haters being presumptively negative, as they always are,” Conway said. “But you know what’s tragic? That family just suffered a loss … and yet it gets immediately politicized because people of privilege think they can score cheap political points against the president.”

“That’s what we do find to be most disgraceful,” she added.
"Disgraceful" and "nasty" are this White House's favorite words for people who don't kowtow to it.

But notice who the haters are:  the mother of LaDavid Johnson, the widow of Sgt. Johnson, and Rep. Frederica Wilson.  Apparently the "people of privilege" include the immediate family of the slain soldier.  Ms. Conway wasn't done there; she had to go on to confirm that everything we've already heard about this conversation was true:

“They are misrepresenting the President. You have to give the full quote,” Conway said.

She claimed Trump’s full remarks to Johnson’s widow “ended with him saying, ‘But it’s never easier,’ ‘It’s always difficult,’ or ‘This is very tough’ or ‘These are hard.'”

But that language was reported on the 17th, when the story broke:

So we have confirmation of the original story, complete refutation of the President's response to the story, and a new way to interpret it because when Trump said "but it still hurts" or some variation thereon, hey!  That made it all better!

Still, haters gonna hate, amirite?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"The Check is in the Mail"

Trump is crazy like a fox and just distracting us from all the clever things he's accomplishing while we aren't looking, because our "looking" has magical powers that prevents Mike Pence from getting Trump to do the bidding of the Koch brothers.

Or something.

Anyway, gaze up on his genius and be awed by his mighty powers:

Chris Baldridge told the Post that when Trump called him a few weeks after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, was killed by an Afghan police officer on June 10, he had mentioned to the President that his ex-wife was listed by their son as the beneficiary of the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity.

“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge told the Post, referring to Trump. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

(Actually, according to Josh Marshall, "I believe I remember that there are records of President Obama sending sums of money to private citizens who were struggling."  But let's not get bogged down in the fine print, or Trump's need to stroke his own ego even in private phone conversations.)

As you can guess, the check never arrived.  But it's only a cold sore, we're from the IRS and here to help you, and the check is in the mail.  No, really!

In a statement to the Post, White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said “[t]he check has been sent,” and that it was “disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”
"Disgusting" is, next to "nasty," the favorite adjective of the Trump White House.  Scholars will be parsing that for years.   And will the check ever arrive?  Probably right after Trump presents proof Obama's birth certificate was a fake, and that what was reported about his phone conversation with a grieving widow was the opposite of what actually happened.  But wait, there's more!

Trump also claimed — while admitting Monday and Tuesday that he had not yet been in touch with the four military families who lost loved ones in Niger on Oct. 4 — that he had spoken to “every” family of a service member killed during his presidency.

According to the Post, that’s not true: The paper found five families who lost service members during Trump’s tenure as President who had not heard from Trump over the phone. The Associated Press earlier on Wednesday contacted one family who had not been in touch at all with Trump, via phone or letter.

But he's managing to keep us from thinking about what a disgusting and nasty person he is, right?  Nobody has noticed how he flip-flopped on Obamacare subsidies, did they?

Man, that guy's a Houdini!

"I am come to tell you all...."

Oops!  That's the other Lazarus....

I am bemused that the "religious right" has now been "exposed" as the den of money-lenders and merchants in the Temple that they always were.  This is supposedly a great revelation and Bannon at the Value Voters summit has made the scales fall from many an eye as they finally have their Emmaus road experience and see in a flash who it is they were dining with, and it ain't Jesus.

Does no one remember Ralph Reed?  If I have to explain that, my point is made.  If you remember him for what he actually did (rather than what he said he did), my point is made.  Yes, Jennifer Rubin may have denounced the apostates, and Michael Gerson may have seen the light, and Jane Meyer may have written the definitive article on the perfidy of Michael Pence (I heard her interview on "Fresh Air" today, and no doubt she has the goods on him).  Then again, Mayer wrote the book on the Koch Brothers, and they're still around (backing Pence and influencing Trump, to hire Pruitt among other things. Hell, per Mayer, this is the Koch Brothers Administration, and removing Trump won't change a thing).  Ralph Reed is still around, too.  And still part of the "religious right."

The once-proud Religious Right, which bullied the country—and the often-cowed Democratic Party—with its claims of moral superiority and family values is now “a pitiful appendage” to the “squalid” Bannon–Trump agenda, “seeking preference and advancement from a strongman.”

Eh, it always has been.  I refer you, again, to Ralph Reed.

Even if someone returned from the dead, they wouldn't change their tune.  I think Jesus said something like that.....

Okay, let's wrap this up

The President as defiant, petulant child

It's gonna be "they said/they said," because sure, why not?

“What proof does President Trump have when he says Congresswoman Wilson is not telling the truth?” a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during her daily briefing. “Are there recordings of his phone call?”

“No, but there were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly,” Sanders replied.

Sanders later claimed “multiple people in the room believe that the President was completely respectful” and “very sympathetic.”

She did not specifically deny any points of Wilson’s account of Trump’s phrasing, and insisted that she was speaking “specifically to the sentiment” that he offered.

“I didn’t get into the details of a personal call because I don’t find that to be that appropriate,” Sanders said.

So, several people whose job depends on agreeing with whatever damn fool story the President wants to put out (including John Kelly, whom one would think had already reconsidered his career options after Trump shamelessly used him as a prop in Trump's ongoing narcissistic war with the world), v. the mother of a slain soldier and a Democratic representative no one had ever heard of before, and by implication a grieving widow who just wants to mourn her loss and wonder what she does now, with three kids and no husband.

Yeah, let's continue to have this discussion.  Because God forbid Trump should have his feelings hurt.  I actually don't disagree with Sanders on this topic; but heavens above, how can she work for a man so unfit to be among human beings?  How can any of those 'multiple people in the room'?  More to the point, how can she not specifically deny the stories and still say "the sentiment" was appropriate? The defense is not what he said, but how he said it?  Is this one of those "love the sinner, hate the sin" kind of distinctions?

It is a puzzlement.

Trump retreats to the sandbox

Perhaps appropriately, we could just let this be fought out on Twitter:

And the Representative from Florida accommodated the President:

And we're back to:  "What was the proof, Mr. President?"

Meanwhile, the White House is already waffling on what Trump said during the phone call:

According to a source close to the president, President Donald Trump was "misunderstood" in his comments to an army widow, and only meant to console her - though an early morning tweet issued by the president bypassed his condolences to tear into Congresswoman Wilson.
"This president cares deeply. Maybe he said something that was misunderstood, but he certainly cares about fallen servicemen and women," the source said speaking on background.

It is the first indication from anyone in the administration the president misspoke when speaking with U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Tuesday.

Clearly anonymous for a reason, since Trump is insisting he did nothing wrong.  Even his own staff don't believe him; or they overheard him, and know what he said.  Why are we all stuck on the playground with this man-child?

Raw Story says Trump was "pouty" when he repeated that he wasn't rude on the phone.  The video makes that point for them.  He looks like a child called on what he said to a schoolmate, and denying the whole thing because he won't admit what actually happened.  And not the least part, that he can't call the widow by name; news reports now say the widow, crying in the car, after the call, complained that Trump didn't know her husband's name.  Does anyone doubt it?

So I guess both women are liars....

Not that this really deserves to continue on, because the real story is the poor widow's grief: 
Cowanda Jones-Johnson was present when the president called her daughter-in-law, Myeshia Johnson, during the ride to greet the slain serviceman’s body, reported the Washington Post.

The call, which was taken over speaker phone, was overheard by Rep. Frederica Johnson (D-FL) and a county official riding in the car.

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson told the newspaper.

The soldier’s mother declined to elaborate, but she told the newspaper that Wilson’s account of the conversation was accurate.
But somebody somewhere is going to insist it was "he said/she said."

Amoris Laetitia

“I don’t understand those Catholics such as...Fr. Martin,” Yiannopoulos said, "who imply that if people don’t like what the Church says, maybe the Church is wrong or should apologize. The Church was founded on a rock and a cross, not on a hug.”

Leave aside the implication that Fr. Martin "implies" adherence to Church doctrine is not essential to Roman Catholics (it's a cheap shot), and notice that the real purpose of church is to decide who is in and who is out.  Which leaves Isaiah out, to begin with:

"Come for water, all who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come, buy grain and eat;
come, buy wine and milk,
not for money, not for a price.
Why spend your money for what is not food,
your earnings on what fails to satisfy?
Listen to me and you will fare well,
you will enjoy the fat of the land."--Isaish 55:1-2, REB)

Yes, I drag that one out repeatedly, but it's as compact a statement of inclusiveness without boundaries as anything in Scripture.  The invitation is not predicated on armed guards keeping "bad people" away, or ticket holders only being allowed in, or the approved streaming through while the disapproved are barred at the gate.  There is no gate, there is no judgment, there's not even a cover charge.   There can be a rock and a cross, but they aren't barriers to entry, or standards to which you must comply before you can eat and drink.  There is certainly no cross wielded as a sword rather than borne as a burden.  Since I don't have my REB with me and can't find that version on-line, here's the KJV of the entire chapter, just to keep it in context:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why {Wherefore} do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. 5Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD, thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He hath glorified thee. 6Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: 7Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

10For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there {thither}, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, 11So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. 12For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

I especially like v. 9 there, where the LORD says God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, God's ways higher than our ways.  Not a lot of room there for exclusion based on human preferences or even human interpretations of God's word.  In the end we must be humble before God, not childishly arrogant and sure of who is in, who is out.

Of course, "in" and "out" are crucial terms if you think your side is about to be overrun:

“We’re in the beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict...[if the church does not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”
That, too, is a directly un-Biblical view of history and creation.  It's a view that God is absent, or powerless in the most fundamental way (unable to act, v. powerlessness as real power) and that evil will win the cosmic battle if good doesn't join the fight directly through those who think exclusion is the way of God.  It's also the idea that God is not present in history at all unless we act for God; which puts God not higher than us, but merely a passenger in our hip pocket.  I'm sure that's appealing to some people, but to put it in terms the British Yiannopoulos would understand, it's got bugger all to do with Christianity, or a rock, or a cross, or a hug.

Yiannopoulos is welcome into the body of Christ; he's just not welcome to his own, exclusionary brand of Christianity.

Today on Twitter

Still not as crazy as Trump 

No, the NFL has decided you don't really matter:

The N.F.L. for now will continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military.

But, after a meeting Tuesday with union representatives and players, the league did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system.

The owners’ decision to not toughen the league’s stance on anthem demonstrations showed yet again the contortions they have been going through to display support for their players while wrestling with the political fallout of the sideline protests that have persisted since last season.

The players, largely on social media, had made clear they would not abide penalties for sitting or kneeling during the pregame anthem, while legal experts wondered if any punitive change would hold up in court. The gestures began last season, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, to draw attention to racial oppression and police brutality against black Americans.

Kinda hard to play football without football players; not so hard to play without a VP in attendance.

Yeah, that story just keeps getting better:

“He was almost like joking,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’ — something to the effect that he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway. You know, just matter of factually, that this happens —anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it, and it was horrible. It was insensitive, it was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

Even though the Representative seems to favor crazy cowboy hats for all occasions, she still has more credibility than Trump, who also had proof Obama's birth certificate was a fake.

Sadly, Joe Scarborough is right:

“Mika (Brzezinski) and I were walking out of a restaurant a couple weeks ago,” he said. “We heard people at every table talking about Trump — none of it was positive, none of it was positive. Everybody was concerned, everybody was nervous. This was in a Republican area, by the way. We get out of the restaurant, and I turn to her and I said, ‘You know, he doesn’t care that everybody in there thinks he is destroying America. The only thing he cares about is that they’re talking about him.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

There are literally no words

And yes, it's verified:
Rep Wilson herself said:  “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.”

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson’s surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson’s remains arrived in a commercial Delta Airlines flight at Miami International Airport.
The White House issued a statement on the reported conversation:

Well, not that private:

 “President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to a pool report. “He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”
We thought he'd reached his low point:

“The thing about Donald Trump that we’ve learned is it’s always about him and he can never be wrong,” former Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod noted. “Those two qualities ultimately will defeat him, but in the meantime, it’s a shame for the country and these families and it’s a shame that he would sully his predecessors this way.”

“The president himself is without shame,” [Anderson] Cooper replied. “There’s nothing off limits when it comes to when he feels he’s being attacked or asked a question.”

“What does it mean for the presidency as an institution?” Cooper asked David Gergen, who served in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton administrations.

“I don’t know where this compulsion come from, it must be a place of deep insecurity on his part,” Gergen suggested. “He has this compulsion when he’s facing criticism and must be feeling embarrassed about it to lash out at others and to blame others.” 

Donald Trump can always go lower than you imagine possible.  “He was talking off the cuff, saying the same thing over and over again."  Because, of course he was.

Donald Trump is even more of a failure than he appears to be.

This is the end, my beautiful friend, the end....

Donald Trump is crazy like a fox.  This is a favorite meme of the internet, where wisdom is seen as identifying something that isn't there, but you say it is, and you alone have returned alive to tell us all, and you shall tell us all.

Or something.  Anyway, Howard Fineman tried to engage it recently at HuffPost (I won't even bother) and now Slate, where the ghost of Michael Kinsley still whispers in someone's ear once in a blue moon, has fallen hard for the fear, the fear!  that Trump is not the fool you take him for.

Item one:

In the span of a few days, Trump has dealt a major blow to Obamacare by cutting government subsidies to insurance companies.
Which would be a really awful thing, if not for today's news, which is actually just context:

On Tuesday, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a deal that would fund the cost-sharing reduction payments for two years, make it easier for states to waive some health care regulations, and restore some of the budget for open enrollment outreach Trump gutted earlier this fall.

This is what Trump's been talking about since he "gutted" the ACA (I've read stories since that subsidies will continue, but CSR's won't.  Huh?  Seems to be some confusion over how actually deadly this executive order he almost forgot to sign, was.).  It seems Trump was relying on this bit of legislating to allow him to claim victory and seem relevant again.  So, for the moment, he's out in front of the crowd and can claim to be leading the parade.  I, for one, see no reason to help him in that endeavor by attributing to him qualities he clearly doesn't have.

Item two:

He has gone further in attacking the media than ever before.

Well, yes, that's bad, especially since his racist attitudes seem to be encouraging racism on the margins more and more.  But the upside is reporters are now doing their jobs and instead of tugging their forelocks at powerful people, they are challenging their blatant lies:

Item three:

He has rolled back key restrictions on coal plants. He has imperiled NAFTA. He has begun to unravel the Iran deal. And he has taken the United States out of UNESCO.

Coal plants are dead because coal is dead because natural gas is cheap.  EOD.  The market rules.  Get over it, Pruitt.  NAFTA isn't going anywhere because one of the major beneficiaries of NAFTA is the second most populous state in the Union.  And that's as red as state as there is.  He hasn't "begun to unravel the Iran deal," he's used a stupid law the GOP passed hoping to stick it to President Hillary that has now blown up in their face, and the easiest cure is to repeal the stupid law.  It has nothing to do with the Iran deal, which everyone in the Administration, including Tillerson and Haley, have insisted is not going anywhere (even if we pulled out, what good would it do us, it's not a bilateral agreement.).  And yes, pulling out of UNESCO is stupid, but you gotta expect minor stupid things under Trump.

Calm down.

But worst of all, apparently, is the ongoing football crusade:

This poll scared me more than just about any other I have seen in the past months. If Trump can turn his base against the NFL, then what can’t he get them to do? And if he can get his base to go along with just about anything he does, how can we be so sure that he won’t take more and more radical steps to overcome opposition to his agenda?
Well, yeah, I guess that is scary.  Until you remember Trump didn't win the popular vote, and his support in states he carried is down since the election.  As for the NFL kerfuffle, the players aren't backing down, the owners don't know whether to shit or go blind (because they can't force the players to stand, or even take the field for the anthem), and Trump is not winning that fight among people who aren't his base, i.e, the majority of the country:

Asked to identify from a list the main reason the players are protesting, a 57 percent majority of Americans surveyed said it was in response to “police violence.” That’s up from 48 percent in a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken in late September. (Respondents were allowed to select multiple options.)

The percentage of self-described football fans who say they believe the protests are meant to target police violence has risen to 66 percent, a 13-point increase.

Just 26 percent of the public now considers the protests to be in large part against President Donald Trump, down from 40 percent in the previous survey. As before, relatively few ― 14 percent in the latest poll and 12 percent in September ― agree with the Trump administration’s assertions that the protests are aimed at the American flag.
It's a tempest in a teapot, but I actually see reason to feel confident there.  Awareness of what the players are doing is rising.  The players are pressuring the owners (described by the one Muslim among them as "85 year old guys who think they aren't racists") to do give money to social justice actions (NPR news tells me the NFL is setting up such an effort).  Which part of this is nuts, again?  Oh, yeah, the shrinking number of people who still think Trump can do no wrong.

Yes, it's going to be a long four years; but there's no reason to make it worse than it already is; or not to see that most things Trump touches go the other way from what he intended.  This, too, is reason to be confident in the future.

Things You Don't Do, Dept.

(1) Tug on Superman's cape; (2) spit into the wind; (3)  Play "tough guy" with a man who was in the Navy and spent years in a Vietnamese POW camp:

Appearing on talk radio station WMAL in Washington DC, Trump was asked about the criticism McCain leveled at him this week, in which he lashed out at “half baked, spurious nationalism” that’s being “cooked up by people who had rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told WMAL radio host Chris Plante. “You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”
Especially when you need every GOP vote in the Senate to get anything resembling your legislative agenda passed into law.

I don't think highly of John McCain's politics; but in a political fight between McCain and Trump, my money is on McCain.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Who you gonna believe? Me, or what people tell me?"

'L' is for 'liar!'

Here's what happened in the Rose Garden press conference today:

QUESTION: Why haven't we heard anything from you so far about the soldiers that were killed in Niger? What do you have to say about (OFF-MIKE)?

TRUMP: I've written them personal letters. They've been sent, or they're going out tonight, but they were written during the weekend. I will, at some point during the period of time, call the parents and the families, because I have done that traditionally.

I felt very, very badly about that. I always feel badly. It's the toughest -- the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It's a very difficult thing. Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day -- it's a very, very tough day. For me, that's by far the toughest.

So the traditional way -- if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I am able to do it.

They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call.

I'm going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I'm going to be calling them. I have -- as you know, since I've been president, I have.

But in addition, I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we're talking about, and they're going to be going out either today or tomorrow.

QUESTION: Why did it take you -- Mr. President, why did it take you so long...

And that's where he left it, until later in the same press conference:

QUESTION: (inaudible) a quick question. Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?

TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no, no.
I was -- I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: I do -- excuse me, Peter.
I do a combination of both. Sometimes it's -- it's a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.

President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told.

All I can do -- all I can do is ask my generals. Other -- other presidents did not call, they'd write letters. And some presidents didn't do anything.


TRUMP: But I like -- I like the combination of -- I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.

So, follow that up with this from TPM:

“The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” Sanders said in an email to TPM.

“When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” she continued. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”
That last sentence is probably a reference to the comments of Alyssa Mastromonaco:

Trump also said the letters had been written over the weekend, but said only they'd be getting in the mail "soon."

Sanders did not respond to TPM’s questions about how frequently Trump delays contact with grieving military families for 12 days and counting. 

No one has claimed President Obama, or any prior President, called every family of the fallen.  That's the reverse of Trump's claim, and it was a lie.  Which the White House tries to deflect, by saying the same lie is being made in criticism of him.

Which is another lie.

But remember:  the people who dishonor our soldiers are professional football players kneeling on a football field.*

*And yeah, it'd be nice if he talked about how tough it is on the families of the fallen, rather than how tough it is on him.

And Mike Popovich speaks to the problem of Trump, and lackeys like Huckabee Sanders, better than I can:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others,” Popovich continued. “This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner–and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers–is as low as it gets.”

“We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day,” the NBA coach added. “The people who work with this president should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

Geez, even Bill Kristol gets it:

“At times the president seems removed from realizing he’s the head of state, the commander in chief,” former Bush deputy assistant Juan Zarate said. “He’s ultimately responsible for these actions. The fact that four brave men died in Niger on behalf of our country fight with our allies, that happened on his watch. He’s commander in chief. He not only has responsibility to communicate to the families of those fallen soldiers but also to the country with respect to what they were doing on the ground. I’m disappointed. I’m hurt.”

“He owes those two presidents [Barack Obama and Bush] an apology before the end of the day,” [Nicolle] Wallace said. “That’s a smear and slander, the likes of which I haven’t heard since, I don’t know maybe yesterday. But it’s appalling he said that.”

“I know we don’t diagnose him but it does put a little bit of steel behind your suspicion that there’s something wrong with him,” she added.

“He has no soul,” [Donny] Deutsch replied, matter-of-factly.
“Did we elect the worst person on this planet?” he later asked. “Any time you think you can’t go lower—I want to cry. This is not about politics. There’s something so deeply wrong, evil, soulless about this person that’s got his hand on the switch and there’s nothing else to say.”

“It is appalling,” Bill Kristol agreed, noting Trump used the word “I” 18 times throughout his remark on fallen soldiers. “It’s all about him,” Kristol said.

“7-year-olds have more humanity,” Wallace said. 
And now that he's cut off the CSR's under Obamacare, Democrats are going to be desperate to work with him.  Right?  After all, he's a legend in his own mind.


But they will work with him on health care!

Trump speaks, nobody understands him: 

I cutoff the gravy train. If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting. They would be having lunch and enjoying themselves. They are right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of health care. Where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare. Because Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. I said this years ago. It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

Okay, fine; but a "short term fix" can only mean a method of funding CSR's without Presidential oversight or control is in the offing, because nothing else will fix what cutting off the CSR's has caused:  a rise in premium costs (yes, it's already happened.  Many insurance companies planned for this and set out two tiers of rates; now they're going with the second one).

If Obamacare is dead, then health care is dead.  It took two years to implement Obamacare, and several more to make it actually functional.  And Trump, who hasn't been able to repeal it yet, is going to replace it in the spring?  Because, what, spring is a good time to pass legislation just before an election later that year?

It was called Obamacare, but I think we will have a short-term fix and a long-term fix and that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a very solid vote. It will be probably 100% Republican. No Democrats. 

Wait:  now the Senate will vote for it, but no Democrats will, even though Democrats will pass the short term fix?  I don't know who's more confused:  me or him.  And this will happen because:

I know the Republican senators and most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard and want to do a great thing for the American public. A few people disappointed us. Really, really disappointed us.

You still can't count, because it only takes a few.  Three at most, and you've insulted at least four of them, by my count, including some who voted with you on healthcare last time around.  Oh, and now the Democrats are going to help?

I feel very confident of that. I think we have the vote for health care. Sadly the Democrats can’t join us on that which will be the long-term fix, but I do believe we will have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess.

Again and again with the magical "short term fix":

So I think we will have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting together and after that have a successful vote.

Funny, I don't see that happening:

Yup, they're meeting right now to repeal and replace Obamacare.  You showed 'em!  Never get in the way of a man punching himself in the face.  Especially a man who is sure everyone else is to blame:

“Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with, actually, many senators, but, in particular, with most Republican senators,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with his Cabinet. “But we’re not getting the job done. And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest, they are not getting the job done.”
I'm sure that attitude is going to continue to win friends and influence people for him!