Politics postsFriday July 21, 2017
Sean Spicer Resigns
It's tough to keep up with the news about the Trump administration. Every day a new disaster. Is anyone double-checking productivity in the U.S.? Is it going down because it's so difficult to keep up with this soap opera? John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight” calls the Trump/Russia scandal “stupid Watergate” because it's like Watergate if everyone associated with that scandal was stupid. Similarly, you could call Trump “Stupid J.R.,” since he shares the unethical qualities of Larry Hagman's infamous nighttime soap opera character but without the smarts.
Anyway, the news this morning: Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary. On principle.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned on Friday morning, after denouncing chaos in the West Wing and telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. ...
Mr. Scaramucci, who founded the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News Channel contributor, is known for his spirited on-air defense of Mr. Trump, but he also enjoys good relationships with journalists from an array of outlets, including those the president has labeled “fake news.”
In a way this isn't really news, since Spicer will be replaced by someone just as awful or worse. Think of it as a “Meet the new WH press secretary, same as the old WH press secretary” kind of thing.
And while everyone is jokily sending their condolences to Melissa McCarthy, who killed with her Spicer imitation on SNL over the last six months, the New York Times offers a jokes-aside look at the ways in which Spicer, and the Trump admin., has effed up the White House press conference: Not only with its lack of civility but with rewarding and calling on right-wing propaganda outlets over legitimate, mainstream news sources.
Mr. Spicer has also awarded first questions to reporters in the new “Skype seats” that appear on two large flat-screens on either side of the lectern, including one to the CBS affiliate in his native Rhode Island. In addition to local TV networks, Skype seats have gone to conservative radio hosts and a Kentucky newspaper publisher.
All of that, I'm sure, will continue.
Hope Spicer took notes for his book. Hope he puts country above party. Not holding my breath on that last one.
UPDATE: The new White House press secretary, hardly a surprise, is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She'll be just as awful. Maybe worse.
UPDATE: Ryan Lizza doesn't pull punches for Spicer on the way out. He also writes about the odd way new communications director Anthony Scaramucci was chosen: over the objections of the White House chief of staff. I do find it interesting that in anticipation of being hired, Scaramucci sold his investment firm to prevent conflicts of interest. In this way, he's already leagues ahead of his boss. And yes, not hard.
UPDATE: The bigger story could be the resignation of two of his attorneys, including Marc Kasowitz, although maybe the shift is simply from the NY-based Kasowitz to the DC-based Ty Cobb and John Dowd. (There's also Jay Sekulow but the less said of him the better.) Cobb and Dowd could play good cop/bad cop for Trump's legal strategy, since Cobb's rep is easy-going while Dowd is known for combativeness. Then there's the baseball theme. Cobb is a distant relative of his more famous baseball namesake, while Dowd helped investigate Pete Rose in the 1980s and repped Ted Williams in a civil lawsuit.
Dirty, Russian Money
“Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. 'They saved his bacon,' says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump's developments in the 1980s...
”.. whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians...“
-- Craig Unger, ”Trump's Russian Laundromat," The New Republic, July 13, 2017
The Mess of Texas
Why did Trump happen? Why is there such political gridlock? Why aren't things getting done? Why is one political party insistent on taking away insurance from tens of millions of Americans for a tax break for the wealthy?
You might want to look not only to the post-Reagan obstinance of the GOP, (first exemplified, stridently, by Newt Gringrich in 1994), and to the rise of right-wing media and propaganda (Fox News, Rush, Breitbart, Sinclair, Drudge, and on and on and on), and to all that right-wing money being poured into races and so-called think tanks (see: Jane Mayer's “Dark Money”), but to redistricting and gerrymandering.
Native Texan Lawrence Wright has a piece on the history of politics in his state in the July 10th New Yorker, and it ain't pretty. An excerpt:
In May, 2003, the redistricting plan came up for a vote in the Texas House. .... The redistricting had a revolutionary effect. Today, the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives includes twenty-five Republicans and eleven Democrats—a far more conservative profile than the political demography of the state. The Austin metropolitan area, the heart of the Texas left, was divvied up into six congressional districts, with city residents a minority in each. All but one of these districts are now held by Republicans. I'm currently represented by Roger Williams, a conservative automobile dealer from Weatherford, two hundred miles north of Austin. Another Republican congressman, Lamar Smith, lives in San Antonio, but his district includes—and neutralizes—the liberal area surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. Smith, a member of the Tea Party Caucus, in Washington, denies that human activity affects global warming. He heads the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which oversees nasa, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Lloyd Doggett is the only Democrat representing the Austin area, and his district runs along I-35, from East Austin to East San Antonio, scooping up as many Democrats as possible in one basket.
Texas's redistricting process has since been replicated in statehouses around the country, creating congressional districts that are practically immune to challenge and giving Republicans an impregnable edge in Washington. “Texas became a model for how to get control,” Craddick told me.
And ever since, the GOP has been out of control. Wright's piece, by the way, is called “The Future is Texas.” God help us.
Ding Dong, Mitch is Dead
Sen. Mitch McConnell and Pres. Donald Trump were gearing up for a fight nobody wanted but that fight finally seems over. Even when it was over—even when Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) pulled support from a procedure to even debate the Republican's shitty healthcare bill—McConnell continued to flail about. Monday night, he said that rather than repeal-and-replace Obamacare, the Senate would just repeal it and figure on replacing it down the road. When they got ... what .. smarter? More immune? When they purged voter rolls of more Democrats so it didn't matter that 80% of Americans disliked whatever draconian measure the GOP came up with? When conservatives bought up even more media, as Sinclair Broadcasting is doing now, so they could propagandize further?
Both Trump and McConnell are awful. I figure Trump can't support Obamacare because it has someone else's name on it and you know how much he likes his own name—even on shitty products. But McConnell? Does his antipathy for Obama go beyond party lines? Is it personal? Racist? Some combination?
Either way, stick a fork in him. Senator McConnell? He dead.
- “It is time for the Senate GOP to replace Mitch McConnell so that President Trump can actually get some of his legislative policies advanced. It is not conservatives who are the obstacle, but the Senate leader himself.” — Erick Erickson, Fox News
- “Widely considered a brilliant tactician, in fact McConnell has never had to craft conservative legislation that would survive in the real world, as long as President Obama stood ready with his veto pen. Now, with control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, Republicans have had to confront the anti-government derangement that animates the party's right wing—while so-called moderates and even some conservatives come to terms with the ways that their constituents increasingly rely on government assistance, especially the ACA, and don't want any part of House Speaker Paul Ryan's fantasies of a world without Medicaid.” — Joan Walsh, The Nation
- “While the governors got a direct presentation of the budgetary impact of the Medicaid expansion reductions, The Washington Post reported that McConnell told members of his caucus last week that the cuts to core Medicaid would likely never be more than theoretical. ... it was enough to anger Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, a conservative who only reluctantly offered support for the BCRA. Johnson pulled his support from the motion to proceed to debate on the bill, claiming that McConnell had engaged in 'a pretty serious breach of trust.'” — Edward Morrisey, The Week
- “Many [GOP]senators are annoyed with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the rushed, secretive process that produced the health-care bill, and for threatening to cancel their August vacation for a potentially fruitless legislative session.” — Molly Ball, The Atlantic
- “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed the president and his party on health care twice in less than 24-hours...Despite having 7-years to prepare for this legislative moment. ... A recent Fox News poll shows McConnell's favorability just 25-percent.” — Lou Dobbs, Fox News
And on and on. It's fun to read. Does McConnell have any friends left? Is there a procedure to relieve him of Senator Majority status during a session? Will the GOP risk it? Is the bigger risk to do nothing? Could he finally lose in Kentucky in 2020?
I almost begin to feel for this man without feelings. Yes, McConnell is awful but then so is the GOP and Fox News and the pundits above blaming McConnell for failing to pass an impossible bill that would cut tens of millions from insurance, cut many billions from Medicaid, while presenting a huge tax break for the uber-wealthy. It's the bill, stupid. It's the heartlessness. It's your stupidity, stupid.
It's a good moment but nothing's over. To Dems, a reminder from Ben Bradlee: Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up... 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.
The Canadian Dream
“Afterward, the imam told the group that, if they were fearful, maybe they should consider moving to Canada. [Neighborhood activist Mohammad ”Moe“] Razvi was taken aback, though he understood the appeal. A decade earlier, he had visited Toronto and run into the man who had abandoned his barbershop. 'He had a house, his own business. He had everything happening for him,' Razvi recalled. 'He's, like, ”I'm living the American Dream—in Canada!“' Razvi's brother D.C., who runs a store across the street from Punjab Grocery, heard people talking about moving to Canada every day. 'Nobody has actually done it,' he said. 'But everyone is preparing.'”
-- from “Neighborhood Watched: Little Pakistan perservered after 9/11. Can it survive the age of Trump?” by Jennifer Gonnerman in The New Yorker, June 26, 2017. Also if the American Dream can survive the age of Trump.