As the night follows the day, now that Republicans have lost power they're once again all a-flutter about deficits. This time, Democrats aren't having it:
Twelve years ago, Barack Obama entered the White House amid somewhat similar circumstances: The economy was in a tailspin; stimulus and relief were desperately needed. His administration spent weeks watering down a bill that was more aimed at winning Republican support than adequately filling the yawning hole in the economy: The bill’s bottom-line figure was kept below $1 trillion so as not to spook the deficit hawks, and much of the relief it did include was engineered to flow into the gap with such subtlety that it was destined to be barely felt at all.
For all of Obama’s entreaties to his political opponents, Republicans rejected it anyway. They were rewarded for all that intransigence first with a big opinion swing against the stimulus and then by a wave election that took back control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
Despite all that has happened between January 2009 and February 2021, Republicans are running the same plays: fighting against economic relief in the hopes that they can use the immiseration that would follow for their political benefit.
But this is not 2009. The situation may be vaguely similar—an economic crash following catastrophic Republican governance—but the world has changed a great deal. The Black-Eyed Peas have faded toward irrelevance; most people now acknowledge that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was bad. And the attacks on Democratic spending have lost some of their spicy tang after another deficit-busting GOP administration.
The media also seems to have learned some lessons from the radicalization of the GOP. Once, a lack of opposition votes was a scandal in miniature. In 2009, McConnell was able to weaponize that idea, pushing the Obama administration to downgrade its asks without ever having to give anything up in return. McConnell got cover from media luminaries such as David Broder, who approvingly cited Obama’s bipartisan yearnings: “The president has told visitors that he would rather have 70 votes in the Senate for a bill that gives him 85 percent of what he wants rather than a 100 percent satisfactory bill that passes 52 to 48.” It’s taken a while—and a deadly pandemic—but many in the often fabulously naïve Beltway press have gotten smarter. Now the narrative is increasingly centered on McConnell’s intransigence, rather than some failure on the part of Democrats to persuade Republicans to vote for legislation that would have been bipartisan not that long ago.
Right. It only took a Republican administration's incompetence allowing mass death from a pandemic to finally—finally!—get people understand they have no interest in governing.
Might we soon enter a truly progressive era in American politics? It's about damn time if we do.
Fox News has a habit of hiring the XPOTUS's press secretaries (even when no one else will), for a very simple reason:
The appeal of all four to a network like Fox News is that, more than any cluster of unprofessionals in former president Donald Trump’s orbit, his former press secretaries have the most experience in covering up, promoting and articulating lies. Fox News hired [Sarah] Sanders, for instance, just months after the Mueller report showed she lied about alleged support within the FBI for the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey. [Kayliegh] McEnany carried forward the tradition of disinformation stemming from the Trump White House, most egregiously in the final two months of her tenure, as she pushed specious report after specious report in service of the lie that the election had been stolen from her boss.
Meanwhile, current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will appear on tomorrow's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on NPR, after giving almost a dozen mercifully boring and accurate press briefings. It's so delightful I could cry.
In just four years, the XPOTUS lied over 30,000 times:
“We also built the greatest economy in the history of the world…Powered by these policies, we built the greatest economy in the history of the world.”
This is Trump’s favorite false claim, so there should be no surprise he said it twice in his farewell address. (In this database, we only count a falsehood once per venue.) By just about any key measure in the modern era, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton presided over stronger economic growth than Trump. The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Yet even that period paled in comparison with the postwar boom in the 1950s or the 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953. (After the novel coronavirus tanked the economy, Trump jacked up his claim even more, falsely saying it had been the greatest economy in the history of the world.) This marks the 493rd time that Trump used a variation of this line, meaning he said it on average every other day.
REPEATED 493 TIMES
You have to check out the graph, especially for the nearly vertical rise from September to November of this year.
The US Constitution, Amendment XX, section 1, says point blank that the STBXPOTUS will be XPOTUS in less than 24 hours. Between now and then, I have no doubt he'll shit the bed (possibly even literally) on his way out the door. Just a few minutes ago the Times reported that the outgoing administration has declared China's treatment of Uighurs "genocide," which may complicate President Biden's plans to pressure the country diplomatically. (Biden apparently supports this designation, however.)
From completely bollixing the vaccine rollout to failing in the most basic acts of class and decency with the Bidens to appointing crazy people to civil-service roles to executing more people in the past month than the US Government has executed in the past 12 years, he has done everything in his power to make 60% of Americans ready to see the back of him. We haven't even seen today's pardon list yet; I can only guess how much fun I'll have reading it.
For all of that, though, one thing has absolutely delighted me these past two weeks: he hasn't posted anything on social media. Consequently, as the Post reports, misinformation online has dropped 73% since he got booted from Twitter and Facebook:
The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.
Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.
The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, highlight how falsehoods flow across social media sites — reinforcing and amplifying each other — and offer an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference.
The research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem — composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Trump himself — was central to pushing millions of Americans to reject the election results and may have trouble surviving without his social media accounts.
Researchers have found that Trump’s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, no matter the subject, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online. University of Colorado information science professor Leysia Palen declared in October, after months of research: “Trump’s amplification machine is peerless.”
Glory, hallelujah. Despite 25,000 Guard troops defending the capital, and an inauguration ceremony tomorrow without a huge cheering crowd, things seem better than they did a month ago. I think once we're past the 2020 hangover, 2021 will turn out all right.
Where to begin.
Yesterday, and for the first time in the history of the country, an armed mob attacked the US Capitol building, disrupting the ceremonial counting of Electoral Votes and, oh by the way, threatening the safety of the first four people in the presidential line of succession.
I'm still thinking about all of this. Mainly I'm angry and disgusted. And I'm relieved things didn't wind up worse. But wow.
Here are just some of the reactions to yesterday's events:
- American late-night hosts Seth Myers, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon didn't hold back. Neither did usually-staid reporters like Times White House correspondent Peter Baker and columnist Gail Colins.
- Even Bill Barr—yes, that Bill Barr—came out with a strong statement condemning the president.
- Vice President Mike Pence may have given the order to activate the National Guard, which raises two questions, both troubling: what legal authority did he have to do so, and why did the Guard obey the order? A 1949 Executive Order vests the authority with the Defense Secretary, explaining later "clarifications" that suggested Pence "consulted" with acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who actually ordered the Guard into action.
- Maybe he should have the authority on application of the 25th Amendment, suggested incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and much of the Democratic delegations to both houses. Republicans also joined the call, including Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and former NRSC chair Jay Timmons. (Pundits like Greame Wood, Bret Stephens, Greg Sargent, and Frida Ghitis, were gimmes.)
- Some Cabinet members didn't wait. Among the resignations: Transportation Secretary (and wife of incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY) Elaine Chao; White House Council of Economic Advisers acting chair Tyler Goodspeed; deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger; special envoy to Northern Ireland and former White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; the First Lady's Chief of Staff, Stephanie Grisham; Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews; senior administration cybersecurity adviser John Costello; and even the White House Social Secretary, Rickie Niceta. ("Now they leave?" asks Jennifer Rubin, quite reasonably.)
- Where were the Capitol Police? Maybe not as invested in their jobs as one would hope. But the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, resigned, and Schumer has asked for Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, also to resign.
- Twitter finally suspended the STBXPOTUS's account for 12 hours; Facebook suspended him until after the inauguration.
- The president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police (along with some of my right-wing acquaintances) equivocated to the point of appearing to support the events of the day.
- Anne Applebaum mourns the loss of our standing as the symbol of democracy in the world.
- Adam Davison is "furious" at his friends at major news organizations like NPR and the Times for "normalizing [the president] and his followers."
- John Scalzi finally comes around to the STBXPOTUS being our worst president ever, instead of just 43rd-worst ahead of James Buchanan. (NB that only 44 men have been President; Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms.)
Meanwhile, amid the violence and the insanity, the United States set a new record for Covid-19 deaths in one day.
Oh, and also, now that you mention it, both Democratic candidates for US Senate in Georgia won their races.
With apologies to Radio Netherlands, Goldberg hits Jeffrey Toobin's latest HR incident with frequency until it hertz:
There’s been a lot of handwringing—so to speak—about Toobin, the New Yorker’s legal correspondent. One writer, after running through a string of jokes about Toobin’s prosecution of his “southern district,” insists that we should act like a jury ordered by the judge to ignore evidence. In one of the greatest understatements ever written, he says, “Granted, there are few things more unprofessional than masturbating during a company meeting,” and then goes on to say that Toobin’s just too good at providing perspective to be shunned for toobin’.
Over at the Daily News, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wants to make this seminal moment into a seminal moment. You see, the people who should really be embarrassed are the ones making a big deal about this. Zimmerman makes the perfectly fine point that people should be more upset about Toobin’s past behavior, specifically his adultery, and not hoist him on a petard for hoisting his own petard on a Zoom call. We’re all prudes, you see, because everybody does it, but doing it has been “a big no-no since the advent of the Enlightenment.”
In a country with over 1.3 million lawyers, I love the idea that the one guy caught badgering his own friendly witness is just too indispensable.
I won't spoil the rest of it, except to say Goldberg really pulls it out. He's not dicking around here, he grabs it with both hands. And he's not just writing for the house organ; he let it hang out for all to see.
Bonus: Here's Sir Paul McCartney explaining Jeffrey Toobin's new reality:
I cracked the code on an application rewrite I last attempted in 2010, so I've spent a lot of my copious free time the past week working on it. I hope to have more to say soon, but software takes time. And when I'm in the zone, I like to stay there. All of which is why it's 9:30 and I have just gotten around to reading all this:
I'm now going to turn off all my screens, walk Parker, and go to bed. (Though I just got the good news that my 8:30 am demo got moved to a later time.)
It could be worse. It might yet be:
And hey, we're only 95½ days away from Joe Biden's inauguration.
On 30 April 2011, President Obama addressed the White House Correspondents Dinner.
The funniest bit starts 9 minutes in, when he takes on his successor, so many years before anyone thought that would ever be a true sentence. And at 12:45, roasts the 46th president, even more years before anyone expected that to happen.
And he's really funny:
Oh, one other thing. Don't forget that the next evening (Washington time), the US Navy killed Osama bin Laden, for which Obama took complete responsibility—as he would have done had the raid failed. Which Obama had ordered just a couple hours before attending the dinner.
After that, watch his roast from 2015 for another dozen laughs. Man, I miss him.
Take 20 minutes to fully understand the incompetence that brought us to 205,000 Covid-19 deaths when our peer countries have only a fraction: