Politics postsFriday March 31, 2017
Yesterday, Clinton Watts Dropped a Bomb No One Is Hearing
Amid the New York Times reveal that two White House officials helped Devin Nunes, Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, view secret documents, which he then refused to share with fellow committee members, and the fact that former national security adviser Michael Flynn wants immunity to testify before the Senate committee now investigating Trump-Russia entanglements because Nunes has screwed up the House's investigation so badly , the testimony of Clinton Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute before that same Senate intelligence panel didn't get the attention it deserved.
But it's like a bomb. It's a wake-up call. It should be. Here's part of what he said.
Why did Putin think he could get away with it now?
I think this answer is very simple and it's what no one is really saying in this room: Which is, part of the reason [Russian-style] active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander-in-Chief [Trump] has used Russian active measures, at times, against his opponents. ... On 11 October, President Trump stood on a stage and cited what appeared to be a fake news story from Sputnik News that disappeared from the internet. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged—that was the No. 1 theme pushed by RT, Sputnik News, white outlets, all the way up until the election. He's made claims of voter fraud, that Pres. Obama is not a citizen, that, you know, Congressman Cruz is not a citizen.
So part of the reason active measures works—and it does today in terms of Trump Tower being “wiretapped”—is because they parrot the same lines. So Putin is correct: He can say he's not influencing anything because he's just putting out a stance. But until we get a firm basis of fact and fiction in our own country, get [garbled] about the facts, whether it be do I support the intelligence community or a story I read on my Twitter feed, we're going to have a big problem. I can tell you right now, today, that gray outlets, that are Soviet-pushing accounts, tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he's online, and they push conspiracy theories.
Again: Why now? They look more prepared: probing, evaluating states, trying to get into voter records, trying to be more active in the process.
If you wanted to run this during the Cold War, you would've had to put agents inside the United States. They would've been stalked by counter-intelligence professionals, the would've been run down. You couldn't have gained an audience on a communist newspaper, for example. Today, you can create the content, gain the audience, build the bots, pick out the election and even the voters that are valued the most in swing states and actually insert the right content in the deliberate period. They pre-planned it, they were based a year and a half out, they're doing it today on the European elections. And here's the other thing that needs to come up: They tried all messages. We've been very focused on our presidential election, and the Republicans tend to come up, but the Democrats, they were there, too. They were there with Bernie Sanders supporters, trying to influence them in different directions. So they play all sides—much like I learned in infantry school about how they use artillery. They fire artillery everywhere and once they get a break in the wall, that's where they swarm in and they focus. ...
So I think the important point moving forward is we have to educate our public and even our institutions. And the mainstream media is right to be taking some on the chin right now. They've fallen for a lot of these fake news stories. They've amplfied it and not gone back and done good fact-checking. The media needs to improve, our U.S. government institutions need to improve, and we've got help Americans understand what the facts are. Because if we don't, we are lost. We'll be come two separate, maybe three separate, worlds in the United States, just because of this little bitty pinprick that was put in by a foreign country.
How should the committe do its work and parse the various layers of Russian society?
Follow the trail of dead Russians. ... There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation, who have assets in banks all over world. They are dropping dead even in Western countries.
How is the Trump administration helping? It's not.
I'm going to walk out of here today, I'm going to be cyberattacked, I'm going to be discredited by trolls. My biggest fear isn't being on Putin's hit list or psychological warfare targeting me — I've been doing that for two years. My biggest concern right now is I don't know what the American stance is on Russia, on who is going to take care of me. After years in the Army and the FBI, working in the intel community — today, I'm going to walk out of here and ain't nobody going to be covering my back. I'm going to be on my own, and so that's very disconcerting.
Could've Been Worse; Could've Been Jeter
What does it say that my favorite person in this picture—by far—is a New York Yankee?
Mo was at the White House yesterday to discuss how to combat opioid abuse. Looks like they took it seriously.
The Demand of a Dictator
The headline is about Trump fighting with the Freedom Caucus, the right-wing idiots that didn't repeal Obamacare because it wasn't draconian enough—it didn't hurt enough people—so the fact that they're fighting should gladden my heart. I should be happy that Trump is scolding them via tweet. I want them pecking at each other. But the end of Glenn Thrush's story in the Times, which details a meeting between Trump and the Caucasians yesterday at the White House, is the worrisome part:
One administration official, speaking as were others on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meetings, said it was a long overdue attempt to keep conservatives from criticizing Mr. Trump publicly.
This would worry me even if we weren't talking heartless, reactionary clowns, who every day, it seems, work harder to make the world uglier and your place in it more difficult. Trump's demand is the demand of the dictator.
Rich to Trump Voters: 'Drop Dead'
Frank Rich's New York Magazine piece, “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly: Democrats need to stop trying to feel everyone's pain, and hold on to their own anger,” is like a breath of fresh air amid the post-Trump Democratic hand-wringing. What can I say? I'm sick of stupid people ruining the world. They mock empathy, think government is the problem, belly up to corporations, buy the bullshit hucksterism of people like Reagan and Trump. Done. See ya, don't want to be ya. Just telling it like it is.
Rich is probably better, sharper, when attacking the Dems:
While the right is expert at channeling darker emotions like anger into ruthless political action, the Democrats' default inclination is still to feel everyone's pain, hang their hats on hope, and enter the fray in a softened state of unilateral disarmament. “Stronger Together,” the Clinton-campaign slogan, sounded more like an invitation to join a food co-op than a call to arms. After the debacle of 2016, might the time have at last come for Democrats to weaponize their anger instead of swallowing it? Instead of studying how to talk to “real people,” might they start talking like real people?
But the closer is a killer:
So hold the empathy and hold on to the anger. If Trump delivers on his promises to the “poorly educated” despite all indications to the contrary, then good for them. Once again, all the Trump naysayers will be proved wrong. But if his administration crashes into an iceberg, leaving his base trapped in America's steerage with no lifeboats, those who survive may at last be ready to burst out of their own bubble and listen to an alternative. Or not: Maybe, like Hochschild's new friends in Louisiana's oil country, they'll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.
Instead of Feet to the Fire, NPR's Steve Inskeep Gives Sen. Orrin Hatch a Footrub
I'd like it if NPR's “Morning Edition” made me want to throw the radio across the room a little less often.
This was an exchange this morning between NPR's Steve Inskeep and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) about the hearings for SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch:
INSKEEP: You know that Democrats were very unhappy that President Obama made a Supreme Court nomination last year and Republicans declined to give him a hearing. We have heard, of course, the Republican explanation that it was an election year. But I wonder if I can get you to speak to people who've heard those arguments and just think there has been an injustice here. Why should a Democrat who feels that way give a fair hearing to Neil Gorsuch and not block Senate confirmation?
HATCH: Well, first of all, from the whole history of the country, almost everybody has indicated there should not be a confirmation of a judge during a presidential election year. Joe Biden made that point. You know, this is not unusual.
“Almost everybody,” Senator? “From the whole history of the country”? “This is not unusual”?
The sad thing isn't that Hatch made this bogus claim again; it's that Steve Inskeep, who's had more than a year to research the matter, didn't ask a proper follow-up. He hasn't done the due diligence for his job that I did on my own on the day Justice Scalia died and the GOP first trotted out this argument.
- In our history, 15 SCOTUS justices have been nominated and approved during election years or during post-election lame-duck periods; most of these (8) occurred during the 19th century.
- The last justice to be nominated and approved during an election year was Frank Murphy, an FDR pick in January 1940.
- The last justice nominated but not approved during an election year was then-sitting justice Abe Fortas, whose name LBJ put forth for chief justice upon the retirement of Earl Warren in June 1968. The GOP fillibustered him during a weeklong debate, but he got a vote. What didn't happen back in 1968? No Republican (or Dixiecrat) claimed that presidents shouldn't fill SCOTUS seats during an election year. That was an argument that wasn't made, despite Hatch's assertion today.
- The last justice to be approved during an election year was Justice Anthony Kennedy in Feb. 1988, whose name was put forth in Nov. 1987.
If it hasn't happened since it's because, well, it hasn't happened. No SCOTUS seat has opened during an election year. Until 2016. And then the GOP, and the press, behaved with a kind of massive collective irresponsibility.
And it's still going on, Daniel. This was Inskeep's follow-up to Hatch:
INSKEEP: But can you give Democrats who interpret the history differently a reason that they should move forward? Is there a reason it is important for the country that they should look past whatever they believe was wrong in the past?
Good god. Democrats who interpret the history differently? As opposed to, you know, history. Facts. As opposed to Sen. Hatch lying to us again about that history. And once again, thanks to Steve Inskeep, getting away with it.