The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lord Protector of the Realm

I did my undergraduate thesis on King Edward VI of England, and the coups (attempted and successful) against his two Lords Protector. A Lord Protector watches over a King basically by being acting King until the King reaches majority around age 18. Edward died at 15, so his Lords Protector were really the monarchy for the six years Edward sat on the throne.

Fast forward 450 years, and it looks like we're back to that arrangement:

[President Trump is] still unprincipled, ill-informed, lazy, and mercurial. Trump continues to act like a 13-year-old trapped in the body of a 71-year-old world leader, as if his prefrontal cortex never developed beyond adolescence. Trump is all libido, lacks impulse control, and is prone to poor decision-making.

By this account, Trump is so immature that he needs his media diet and social life heavily controlled; he can’t be trusted not to make a rash decision based on the incomplete or conflicting information he’s given.  In other words, he’s a man-child more than a world leader.

Giving this much power to Kelly is disturbing for a number of reasons. If [Chief of Staff John] Kelly did control Trump, that would make the presidency closer to a monarchy with a child ruler, with the real power residing in close advisers. Moreover, despite claims that Kelly is a non-ideological pragmatist who runs a tight ship, there’s little reason to trust him; he can be as extreme as Trump’s other advisers. According to The New York Times, in a discussion about the fate of the Dreamers, Kelly “likened Mexico, one of the United States’ most important trading and law enforcement partners, to Venezuela under the regime of Hugo Chávez, the former leader, suggesting it was on the verge of a collapse that would have repercussions in the United States.” This is a false and hysterical view of Mexico, one of the most stable democracies in Latin America.

In short, Kelly is trying to exert a level of power no White House official should have, and he’s not even succeeding.

Woe to thee, O Land, when thy King is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning.

Sit down, Don, you fat motherf----r

Jeet Heer grapples with the depressing reality that we'll never be completely free of Donald Trump during his lifetime:

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the best-case scenario: that we somehow manage to survive Trump’s first term and send him packing in 2020. At the moment, the odds of him winning reelection appear about equal to those of the Titanic triumphantly resurfacing under its own steam. His approval ratings are at historic lows, and he evinces no interest in finding a way to expand his base. The doting crowds he still draws at his campaign-style rallies convince him that he’s beholding—and beloved by—a majority of Americans, since those are the only moments he ever comes face-to-face with a citizen unpossessed of either a trust fund or a hedge fund.

So: What happens after Trump finds out that America has rejected him in favor of whatever crooked, terrorist-loving, jobs-destroying candidate the Democrats have decided to nominate? Nothing dignified. For starters, he’ll likely skip his successor’s “fake inauguration” and stage his own swearing-in, surrounded by what he will tout as the biggest crowd of onlookers in the history of onlooking. There is no scenario in which Trump will accept that he has lost fair and square; no matter how resounding his margin of defeat may be, he will begin his post-presidency by howling about massive voter fraud and political witch hunts and the failure of whatever attorney general has replaced Jeff Sessions to put his opponent behind bars. In his mind, Trump will still be president, and he will devote himself to a lifelong and evidence-free campaign to expose the conspiracy that illegally deposed him.

All Trump ever wanted to do was to play the president, a role that will be immeasurably easier once he’s actually out of office. Sarah Palin tried and failed to become a TV star after leaving office. Trump enacted that strategy in reverse. As ex-president, he will be perfectly positioned to return to his natural habitat, the simulacrum of “reality TV.”

He's right, sadly. And we still have 1,225 days until this term is over.

Challenge to the Arpaio pardon

It took less than a week for two separate entities to challenge President Trump's pardon of racist thug former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio. Via Jennifer Rubin, the Federal judge who convicted Arpaio of criminal content has stopped short of vacating the conviction:

Instead she ordered Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn't grant Arpaio's request.

Bolton has scheduled oral arguments on the matter for Oct. 4, the day before Arpaio was supposed to be sentenced.

There is case law that says a pardon implies an admission of guilt, and that will have to be argued in open court.

Rubin adds:

Meanwhile, Protect Democracy, an activist group seeking to thwart Trump’s violations of legal norms, and a group of lawyers have sent a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department, arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits.

Put simply, the argument is that the president cannot obviate the court’s powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others are at stake.

Lurking in the background is the potential for Trump to pardon associates involved in the probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and the possible obstruction of justice that followed. The Arpaio pardon may well have been an attempt to signal to those officials and ex-officials that they can resist inquiries with the assurance that Trump will pardon them. (Recall Trump’s unprecedented remarks that Michael Flynn should hold out for a grant of immunity.) Using the pardon power to obstruct an investigation into his own possible wrongdoing would signal a constitutional crisis.

A crisis that the Republicans in Congress could resolve simply by, I don't know, doing their fucking jobs. But the Party of Lincoln is happy to allow the President to destroy his office for personal gain, as long as they get their tax cuts.

Makes you long for the more-ethical days of Caligula and Nero, doesn't it?

Monday afternoon I'll-read-this-later summary

Articles I haven't got time to read until later:

That's all for now. Busy weekend behind me, another one ahead.

Scott Adams isn't a Nazi collaborator, he's just a disingenuous partisan

I've watched Scott Adams defend President Trump for years now, and I'm always fascinated by his ability to accuse people who disagree with him of any number of mental deficiencies. I am surprised that it took until today for him to pipe up about Trump's latest self-inflicted wound, but not by how he approached it.

In today's post, Adams continues his longstanding argument that, when it comes to Trump, we're experiencing a "mass hysteria bubble." How does he know? Because lots of people disagree with him:

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.

The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

Right. So, if you agree with Adams, you're not hallucinating. If you disagree with him, or if you agree with the proposition he leads with ("the United States intentionally elected a racist President"), you're hallucinating.

First, let's remind ourselves that the United States has intentionally elected racist presidents about 40 times. I'm trying to think of the few who weren't racist in the sense that we typically use the word, and the candidates I come up with are: Lincoln, Obama, Carter...maybe Truman? Possibly Teddy Roosevelt? On good days, LBJ and Kennedy? (I don't think Ford was racist but he was never elected.)

Second, the fact that a candidate is racist doesn't typically come up in elections because most of them in the past 50 years tried to keep that to themselves, and before that it would never have occurred to anyone to care. Casual racism has been a feature of American life since two hundred years before the country was founded. Hallucination? Not so much.

Third, people have known about Trump's racism since he was a young adult throwing black people out of his apartment buildings. So this isn't exactly news.

But all of that together lands on a pretty simple theory: people who voted for Trump didn't care that he was a racist, or knew and approved of it. I would bet the proportions of those two groups were 80/20. People who cared and disapproved of it most likely voted for Hillary Clinton.

Adams then sets up a set of straw men to torch:

One sign of a good mass hysteria is that it sounds bonkers to anyone who is not experiencing it. Imagine your neighbor telling you he thinks the other neighbor is a witch. Or imagine someone saying the local daycare provider is a satanic temple in disguise. Or imagine someone telling you tulip bulbs are more valuable than gold. Crazy stuff.

Compare that to the idea that our president is a Russian puppet. Or that the country accidentally elected a racist who thinks the KKK and Nazis and “fine people.” Crazy stuff.

Let's parse that. In the three historical examples Adams lists in the first paragraph, people contemporaneously identified the insanity of what was going on, but there were not-so-crazy incentives for people to keep the "mass hysteria" going. Salem had land disputes at its core; McMartin was as much about attention-seeking as it was about child abuse; the tulip bubble was a pyramid scheme that we would call criminal today. So even before we get to Adams' straw men, we have to deal with his oversimplification of some pretty disturbing historical events.

And then he posits as the issue before us that people believe Trump is a Russian puppet. But actually, that's not the fear of people who know Russian methods and tactics. That Trump got elected was a bonus to Russia's rulers, not their goal. They want to discredit Western democratic systems to bolster their own internal political controls, not because they care about the West per se. Supporting Trump and interfering in our election was about that, not about Trump's allegiances, which they know as well as we do are entirely to himself.

Moreover, even if Trump didn't intend to do so, his words have emboldened the far-right groups that threaten not just our institutions and values but our property and lives, too. So whether Trump actually said Nazis are fine people, that's what the Nazis themselves heard, and why any other President would have slammed the door on the crazies.

Adams seems to concur in part: "If you already believed President Trump is a racist, his weak statement about Charlottesville seems like confirmation. But if you believe he never offered moral leadership, only equal treatment under the law, that’s what you saw instead. And you made up your own mind about the morality," he writes. Maybe people made up their minds about the morality because of the weak statement itself, not because they imagined Trump was supporting the racists?

Adams concludes: "If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service. If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator."

No, Scott, you are neither providing a valuable public service nor are you a Nazi collaborator. You are, however, an apologist for a deeply flawed president who is, intentionally or not, exacerbating the divisions in our country to increase his own power and personal wealth.

We've seen this playbook before

Huffington Post Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman explains how President Trump dividing the country is a feature, not a bug:

Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, his aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way.

Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him.

The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.

Fineman goes on to enumerate the ways we can expect Trump to continue this strategy.

This is how people with deeply unpopular messages come to power in democracies. It's important that we keep this in mind. (That Trump is openly siding with people who venerate Adolf Hitler makes it a lot easier to see, of course.)

It doesn't help that the Republican Party continues to abet his behavior, even if only by keeping quiet. It's time for them to disband. As commentators across the spectrum are pointing out, the Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln; it's the anti-Lincoln party.

We haven't been making this up

Those of us saying for years now that President Trump is a racist twat and that you should apply Occam's Razor (or Trump's Razor) to his behavior got quite a shock yesterday when he proved our point spectacularly. We can't pretend anymore that his policies and rhetoric come primarily from "inexperience" or "stupidity." Josh Marshall lays it out plainly:

The simpler explanation that accounts for all the available facts is not always right. But as Occam noted, it is always to be preferred. What we need is a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Trumpism, or at least some of us need it. The breakthrough for Copernicus was in positing the unimaginable, indeed the terrifying possibility that the Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a peripheral, secondary celestial body. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place.

With Trump, he has a revanchist racist politics because he is a revanchist racist. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place. All the heroic and increasingly nonsensical perambulations of misunderstandings, inexperience, missed opportunities, stubbornness and all the rest are not needed. It all falls into place.

What we have in this Times article is the more direct evidence, a confirmation of what we should already know. His advisors know this is what he thinks. They apparently hear it frequently. They were shocked to here him say in public “opinions that the president had long expressed in private.”

Stop pretending he's going to learn or grow. He won't. This is the president. Supporting him means supporting these views, which should not be aired—or held—by any serious politician anywhere. And it's shocking that people like Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn can stand next to him.

Reactions to the weekend

Apparently, life went on in the US while I was abroad last week. First, to James Damore:

Of course, that wasn't the big story of the weekend. About the terrorist attack and armed ultra-right rally in Virginia, there have been many, many reactions:

Can we have a discussion about domestic right-wing domestic terrorism now? Before we have another Oklahoma City?

Noted, with sadness

I'm back from the UK, and I hope my laundry will be done soon because my body thinks it's 1:30 in the morning.

I did want to note the horror in Virginia over the weekend, and James Fallows' observations about the President's abject failure to respond appropriately:

Donald Trump had an opportunity yesterday to show that he was more than the ignorant, impulsive, reckless opportunist he appeared to be during the election. To show, that is, that the  burdens and responsibilities of unmatched international power had in fact sobered him, and made him aware of his obligations to the nation as a whole.

Of course, he failed.

And those who stand with him, now, cannot claim the slightest illusion about what they are embracing.

It was so tempting, being at O'Hare with my passport and a packed bag, just to hop on another plane...