The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A frustrating time to be alive

Or, as Tom Lehrer once remarked, "I'm beginning to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis."

The latest exhibit: how the press reacted to Robert Mueller's testimony on Wednesday. Adam Serwer:

In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt. But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.

All of this, of course, was in Mueller’s report, which most members of Congress still have not read. The press, for its part, first accepted a false summary put forth by Attorney General William Barr, and then largely persisted in repeating his mischaracterizations, even after the bulk of the report was released.

On Wednesday, media outlets had the chance to get the story right. Instead, they largely chose to focus on Mueller’s performance instead of on his findings.

Andrew Sullivan saw in this, and in the Democratic leadership's refusal to hold President Trump accountable for his crimes, as fresh evidence that "the American constitutional system is failing on every level":

The system, it turns out, is not even strong enough to withstand one Trump term, let alone two. Trump intuited this in 2016, and if he wins reelection, as he now has a good chance of doing, what’s left of liberal democracy will be under acute duress.

The “extinction-level event” that I feared in the spring of 2016 is already here. Look around you. And it wasn’t even a fight.

Now, Sullivan has been a pessimist on almost every level for years. But both he and Serwer have a point that it looks like our side don't know how to fight this insanity.

Democratic Party strategy?

Adam Eichen bemoans the left's obtuseness in creating, sustaining, and funding a long-term strategy to regain power, the way the radical right has done for 50 years:

Republicans and their donors, on the other hand, got the message. In fact, not long after the memo was written, a handful of billionaires—including John Olin, who made his money in chemical and munitions manufacturing, newspaper publisher Richard Scaife, heir to Mellon fortune, and petrochemical scions David and Charles Koch—began to create an apparatus to shift politics rightward in much the way Powell outlined.

The realization of [Justice Lewis] Powell’s vision and America’s rightward shift did not happen overnight⁠—as Jane Mayer of The New Yorker exposed in her book Dark Money, the road to power took decades, with many disappointments along the way. But, from the formation of think tanks to legitimize radical economic viewpoints to the funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to create corporate-friendly, right-wing bill templates for state legislators; from corporate lobbying and targeted political campaign contributions to Astroturf political mobilizations; from the bolstering of the Federalist Society to reclaim the federal judiciary to the attacks on unions and education, the Kochs and their billionaire allies ultimately succeeded. And once power was obtained, they began rigging the system, via voter suppression and gerrymandering, to prevent Democrats from contesting elections on an even playing field.

What would such an electoral strategy look like?

Daily Kos election expert Stephen Wolf told TNR that, for maximum results, the Democrats should target the Texas State House, Florida State Senate, and both legislative chambers in Pennsylvania in 2020. Each of these chambers only require a handful of seats to flip to win Democratic control. Doing so, in the case of Texas and Florida, would block some of the worst and most devastating partisan gerrymanders of the next decade. Creating a Democratic trifecta in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, would open the door to a major voting rights expansion in a key swing state.

Similarly, Wolf suggests Ohio’s two Supreme Court races should be a priority, as a dual victory would give liberals a majority on the bench, providing the only vehicle moving forward to striking down GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression in the Buckeye State.

On the other hand, there may be a deeper problem. Our side wants to govern, not to rule. Our side believe in the back-and-forth of politics, the need for other voices to be heard, etc., etc. We always have. The fundamental difference between the right and left in the U.S. is the difference between closed and open. And those of us with open minds spend our energy thinking of how to solve real problems, not take power from the opposition. I'm not sure if that can change.

The thing you're not supposed to look at

So, it turns out, the President of the United States is a racist bigot, who has calculated that the best way to win re-election is to smash all the norms we've had for a century and a half.

OK, noted. Now let's see what all that sound and confusion might be covering up? How about the dismantling of the administrative state and the removal of any meaningful checks on corporate power:

There are daily proof points that the former lobbyists in the administration are advancing Trump’s quest to eviscerate the administrative state. Just last night, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency quietly rejected a petition by environmental and public health groups to ban a widely used pesticide that has been linked to neurological damage in children, even though a federal court said last year there was “no justification” for such a decision.

“The Obama administration had proposed in 2015 to revoke all uses of chlorpyrifos after EPA scientists determined that existing evidence did not meet the agency’s threshold of a ‘reasonable certainty of no harm,’ given exposure levels in Americans’ food supply and drinking water,” Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report. “EPA staffers cited studies of families exposed to it in apartment buildings and agricultural communities that found lower birth weight and reduced IQ, among other effects. But before the ban was finalized, in March 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the agency’s own analysis, saying the agency would reassess the science underpinning that decision.”

Part of the battle to deconstruct the administrative state is a war of attrition. Two research agencies at the Agriculture Department are uprooting from D.C. to Kansas City this fall, for instance, but many staffers have decided to give up their jobs rather than move, prompting concerns of hollowed-out offices unable to adequately fund or inform agricultural science.

This is the flipside, the actual goal, of all the anti-American rallies and palling around with terrorists that the president has done in his administration. All of that is just to stay in power. It's what he has done with the power that will have the longest and most dangerous effects on the country.

Because they're racists themselves

After a contentious session during which Speaker Pelosi was found out of order, the US House of Representatives voted 240-187 to condemn "President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress." Only four Republicans joined House Democrats in supporting the measure.

We know the Republican Party has descended into white nationalism and outright racism. Individual Republicans can't criticize the president because they depend on his supporters to keep them in office. Meanwhile, all this nonsense detracts from the work of actually governing the country.

But remember: the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And they will if we keep getting distracted from that simple premise.

More on the whack-a-mole White House

Yesterday David Frum wrote that every time the President sends out another outrageous Tweet, he's doing it to distract and divide his opposition. Josh Marshall extends the thought:

There’s a pattern: Outrage. Some still remaining levels of shock. Demands for apologies. Demands for denunciations from Republicans and for Democrats to do something. Each of these steps in the process makes sense and is inevitable and right. But taken together there is a Groundhog Day quality to it. It generates a unique form of literal and moral exhaustion. Haven’t we been through this storyline – the “Mexican” judge, “very fine” nazis? We know this. Right? We know this person. This is no different from a feral animal on its 10th attack.

Demanding denunciations, asking for Republicans officeholders to say it’s wrong, somehow gives them all too much credit. Better to say this is who you support. We knew this was him yesterday just as much as today and whether you express “deep concern” or even a more fulsome criticism hardly matters because you supported him and followed him yesterday and you’ll be doing exactly the same thing tomorrow. And because of that support, to voters, to everyone who isn’t a diehard in Trump’s camp the message should really always be the same: You have one chance to end this in 18 months and you have one chance to send a real message to every elected official who supports it. Everything else is just preening or deflection or playing again a record we’ve heard before.

Exactly. Our priorities as a party for the next 16 months are, in order: winning the White House; holding the House; keeping the Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, and Virginia Senate seats; and picking up Senate seats in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, and Georgia.

We can win the table, if we hammer the Republicans on their deeply disturbed and dangerous party leader, as well as their ongoing efforts to enrich billionaires and keep everyone else in debt and close to poverty.

As one of my friends says, this isn't rocket surgery. We can do this. Let's stop getting distracted and start grinding the Republicans down.

If Zaphod Beeblebrox were a racist asshat

Woe to the, O Land, when thy King is a child.

Fully understanding that the President's job is to distract from the actual work of the Republican Party in consolidating wealth and power, sometimes he does something that I really have to acknowledge.

Yesterday morning, President Trump Tweeted something that looked a lot like he was telling four members of the House of Representatives—citizens all, three of them born in the US—to "go back where they came from:"

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”

Mr. Trump added: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

Delivered on the day he had promised widespread immigration raids, Mr. Trump’s comments signaled a new low in how far he will go to affect public discourse surrounding the issue. And if his string of tweets was meant to further widen Democratic divisions in an intraparty fight, the strategy appeared quickly to backfire: House Democrats, including Ms. Pelosi, rallied around the women, declaring in blunt terms that Mr. Trump’s words echoed other xenophobic comments he has made about nonwhite immigrants.

I mean, just wow.

Then, this morning, after withering criticism in the media and from Democrats in Congress calling him a racist, he responded (essentially), "I know you are but what am I?" That's right: the President of the United States is six years old.

So far, not one Republican federal official has said anything about this. But plenty of other people have: Charles Blow, Greg Sargent, Theresa May, and other politicians around the world.

This is what we have for the next 556 days. What will it take to start really holding this putz to account?

Pelosi to AOC: Simmer down, kid

Jennifer Rubin lays out how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has dealt with, and delegated some of the dealing-with, freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):

If you did not catch it, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, tweeted that the moderate Democrats were “New Southern Democrats. . . hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.” That’s simply outrageous by any measure, especially considering that a healthy number of moderate members are nonwhite. Ocasio-Cortez’s staffer deleted that tweet, but his boss refused to take back her nearly equally obnoxious insinuation that Pelosi was singling her and her three colleagues out because they were not white. 

The moderate members want Chakrabarti gone, a not unreasonable request, given that he is threatening to launch primary challenges to some incumbents. If they want Ocasio-Cortez to completely capitulate, they could instruct their chiefs of staff not to deal with Chakrabarti, but it’s not clear they want to push it that far.

Pelosi is right in one regard: that Democrats’ “diversity is their strength.” Hardcore progressives can win in deep-blue districts and motivate their followers; moderates can win in swing areas. But the thing about a caucus or a coalition is that no one can promote themselves at the expense of and detriment to others. Now that this message has been delivered loud and clear, perhaps Democrats can return to their agenda and to their battle against Trump. For the good of the country, let’s hope so.

Also today, Andrew Sullivan slams the Democratic caucus for not being more aggressive fighting executive overreach (and corruption) while at the same time worrying that Jeremy Corbyn might become Prime Minister of the UK someday.

More reactions to the UK ambassador's departure

Unlike the Woody Donald Trump thrust into the Court of St James's, the UK's ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, has been a model of Britain's diplomatic civil service. Even his leaked cables (ask: who benefited from the leaks?) show a certain level of restraint that, as a professional diplomat, he didn't need to show.

Contrast that with the behavior of our diplomats overseas, let alone the guy who appointed them:

In Berlin, one U.S. ambassador openly undermines the government; another in Amsterdam became a laughingstock for refusing to answer journalists’ questions, and yet another in Jerusalem openly shows bias in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. From Kenya to New Zealand, the ambassadors appointed by Trump have offended their hosts.

Ultimately, the rot comes from the top.

It took mere hours for Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to offend his hosts in May with a tweet that appeared to give an order: “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” A month later, Grenell gave an interview with the conservative news site Breitbart in which he said he wanted to “empower” hard-right conservatives in Europe.

Meanwhile, David M. Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel and Trump’s former lawyer, often appears much too cozy with his host government — and only interested in talking to one set of people in the Israeli and Palestinian territories. ... Along with Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the closure of its consulate in East Jerusalem and much more, it was yet another sign that the United States had picked a side.

The UK knows a thing or two about squandering good will in the world. And they still haven't completely recovered, despite (or perhaps because of) how much Russian money has flowed into London. So here we are, bankrupting ourselves diplomatically nearly everywhere we go. It's not so far from where we are today to two vast and trunkless legs of stone standing in the desert.

Things I don't have time to read right now

But I will take the time as soon as I get it:

Now, I need more tea, and more coding.

Trump's National Mall event is both better and worse than you think

That's what screenwriter Jeff Greenfield, writing for Politico, says:

Celebrations of the Fourth do not tend to benefit both parties equally, and here, Trump may well be demonstrating his instinctive grasp of which way a big event tends to nudge the populace. In 2011, two academics who studied the political effect of Fourth of July festivities concluded that: "Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party. … The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century, [so] there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican Party.”

For all that, history also suggests there's good reason that his plan is rubbing people the wrong way. For one, it really is rare; it's far more common for presidents to vacate Washington on the Fourth of July, or to remain at the White House, than to insert themselves into the proceedings.

Someone who can say of himself that he has been treated worse than any president in history—four of whom were assassinated—has an impressively unique understanding of his own role in the American story, to say the least.

NPR says the event will cost taxpayers millions. And Rick Atkinson takes a broader view, comparing us on our 243rd anniversary of independence from Britain to Britain of that time.