Friday Talking Points [457] -- Buck-Passer In Chief

[ Posted Friday, October 13th, 2017 – 17:48 UTC ]

On Harry Truman's desk famously sat a sign which proudly proclaimed: "The Buck Stops Here." If Donald Trump had such an item, it might read: "Buck-Passer In Chief." His governing style (if it can even be dignified as such) is to cause a crisis on his own, and then dump the entire problem on Congress to deal with. Because we all know what masterful problem-solvers the Republican-led Congress are, or something. This could lead to utter disaster on many fronts, within the next few months.

Consider the "bucks" Trump has passed to Congress recently. First, he created a crisis out of thin air by setting an end date for the DACA program (for the Dreamers). At least with this one, he announced a six-month pause before full implementation, which (in normal times) would give Congress enough time to act. This year's budget process was also punted to early December, along with a necessary raise in the debt ceiling. That's a pretty full plate already, but Trump didn't stop there.

This week, Trump shoved two more issues off onto Congress (to, in effect, clean up his messes). He announced he will officially be sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. Since it wasn't living up to his claims of failure, he will be doing everything in his power to assure that it does, in fact, fail. Health insurance for twenty or thirty Americans is on the line, but that doesn't seem to concern him a bit. Congress could save Trump from himself on this one, but it would have to act quickly and on a bipartisan basis, which seems like a pretty slim chance.

Then today, Trump announced he will not be pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, but instead (once again) shoving the entire issue onto Congress instead. Congress officially has 60 days to act, after which time it's anyone's guess what will happen. If they don't act and if Trump does nothing, then nothing will actually change about the deal. It will all be an internal U.S. political squabble over "certification," which won't affect Iran or any of the other signatories. But Congress could pass additional sanctions or decide to pull out of the deal on their own. Trump just successfully passed this particular buck to Congress with a two-month deadline -- which should put it squarely in the middle of the budget fight in December.

So, to review: a Congress which has no notable achievements yet is going to, in the next few months: pass a massive Republican tax cut, come together on a 2018 budget, raise the debt ceiling, restore the Obamacare subsidies Trump just torpedoed, and figure out what American foreign policy towards Iran should be. That's all supposed to happen before Christmas, mind you. Then next year, they'll be able to pass DACA relief and immigration reform inside of two months.

Sure. No problem. And then we'll all get unicorns and rainbows for Christmas. Does any sane person believe this entire list will be accomplished? We'd be amazed if even half of those problems were solved before next spring. And most of them are problems entirely created by Donald Trump. So who knows what else he'll manage to destroy in the meantime?

Maybe this is all somehow for the best. We doubt it, but feel honor-bound to explore the possibility. Maybe punting all these things to Congress (after lighting them all on fire) is better than Trump actually trying to govern on his own. Because this week saw a raft of stories about how unhinged Trump is fast becoming.

We were kind of astonished at these stories, to tell you the truth, because who among us still believed a few weeks ago that the president was in any way "hinged"? He's been unhinged since Day One, as far as we can tell, and now doesn't seem any worse than the past ten months or so, really. Maybe that's just us, but we were kind of astonished at all the astonishment. At least from journalists who really should know better by now.

The biggest and most astonishing condemnation of Trump-as-cranky-toddler came from Senator Bob Corker, who was actually a big supporter of Trump during the campaign. Now, though, Corker is singing a very different tune. Last week he said he was thankful for the few solid adults surrounding Trump in the White House, saying they "are those people that help separate our country from chaos." This week Corker warned Trump was setting us "on the path to World War III." In response to a nasty (and inaccurate) Trump tweet, Corker tweeted back: "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning." This, mind you, is all coming from a former supporter of Trump, who is a member of the president's own political party.

In the interview with the New York Times, Corker also said most Republicans agree in private about Trump: "Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we're dealing with here. Of course, they understand the volatility that we're dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road."

This then led to a Vanity Fair dish-the-dirt article on the current state of the Trump White House:

[The Corker spat] brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is "unstable," "losing a step," and "unraveling."

. . .

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump's ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. "Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche," a person close to Trump said. "He saw the cult of personality was broken."

According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, "I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!" (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.

From Politico comes a similar report:

Interviews with ten current and former administration officials, advisers, longtime business associates and others close to Trump describe a process where they try to install guardrails for a president who goes on gut feeling -- and many days are spent managing the president, just as Corker said.

"You either had to just convince him something better was his idea or ignore what he said to do and hoped he forgot about it the next day," said Barbara Res, a former executive in the Trump Organization.

Trump, several advisers and aides said, sometimes comes into the Oval Office worked into a lather from talking to friends or watching TV coverage in the morning. Sometimes, a side conversation with an aide like Stephen Miller on immigration or a TV host like Sean Hannity would set him off.

Then, staffers would step in to avert a rash decision by calming him down.

The Washington Post also chimed in:

Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.

In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.

. . .

One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. "I think we are in pressure cooker territory," said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.

Maybe we need a new word for all this. As we mentioned, we've considered Trump unhinged all along. Maybe he's now moved into "dehinged" or had a "hingectomy" or something? We leave it to readers to suggest another snappy term for the state of Trump's mental health these days, down in the comments. It doesn't even have to be hinge-based!

In the midst of all this, Trump did his best to sink any chances of following through on his deal with "Chuck and Nancy" on DACA and immigration reform. He turned over the job of coming up with his priorities list to Stephen Miller, who dutifully came up with a list so odious it was guaranteed to end any talk of a deal with Democrats. Representative Luis Gutiérrez responded by calling the White House proposal "an extension of the white supremacist agenda." Several Democrats in the House are already threatening to withhold their support on any budget agreement unless Trump passes a clean DREAM Act bill instead, as he initially agreed to, so this may come to a showdown in December.

What else? Trump picked a fight with NBC News, and issued dark warnings that maybe the First Amendment needs reinterpretation when it comes to that whole "freedom of the press" thing. Borrowing yet another tactic from Richard Nixon, Trump threatened to challenge or "revoke" network licenses. Of course, this is not the way things work, because once again Trump hasn't even bothered to figure out if the thing he's threatening to do is even possible. Trump's disdain for the media is legendary, of course, but he seemed to be heading into darker possibilities, saying things like: "It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it." Look into it? It's the First freakin' Amendment, Mister President! See? There it is, right there atop the Bill of Rights.

Sigh. In other amusing but minor news, Mike Pence spent a whole bunch of taxpayer money so he could go not see a football game. This was to protest the protest during the national anthem. Later in the week, Trump disrespected a military service for the U.S. flag, not only talking through what is supposed to be a silent moment, but saying to Sean Hannity: "What a nice sound that is. Are they playing that for you or for me? They’re playing that in honor of his ratings. He's beating everybody!" Um, no... they're playing it to honor the flag -- exactly the thing you're upset at football players for supposedly not doing.

And finally, also from the "you can't make this stuff up, folks" file, the president challenged his own secretary of state to I.Q. tests at ten paces. Or something. Since the news broke that Rex Tillerson called the president a "fucking moron" after a meeting where Trump reportedly wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal approximately tenfold, Trump has seethed. So he all but challenged Tillerson to duelling I.Q. tests, and Trump guaranteed his would be higher. Mensa, the high-I.Q. group, immediately offered to referee such a battle of tests.

Now there's something to hope for -- the public release of Donald J. Trump's I.Q. test results. This would be so highly amusing that we even promise that if such a thing should ever come to pass, we'll never again even ask to see any Trump tax return. How's that for fair?


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, the first to an Illinois state representative, for successfully passing a bill to vastly improve working conditions for temporary workers. This is a little-noticed issue that Democrats would do well to champion, because it has become so common for businesses to avoid all sorts of regulations by calling their workers "temporary." In These Times has the whole story, which is well worth reading in full:

The law will require staffing agencies to make an effort to place temp workers into permanent positions as they become available -- a step forward in the fight to end "perma-temping." To address racial bias in hiring, the new law requires temporary staffing agencies record and report the race and gender of all job applicants to the Illinois Department of Labor. And in an effort to reduce the workplace injuries that temps frequently suffer, agencies will also now have to notify workers about the kinds of equipment, training and protective clothing required to perform a job.

State Rep. Carol Ammons -- a Democrat from Champaign-Urbana who supported Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign -- was the bill's chief sponsor. Activists credit her with getting the bill to the governor's desk.

"Legislators don’t always get down into the deep part of the process, but this was so personal to me," Ammons tells In These Times. After her son told her about the problems he had experienced as a temp worker in another state, she began looking into the temp industry in Illinois and became convinced that it needed reform.

Well done, Representative Ammons! This new law will improve the lives of millions of workers in your state, and you should be proud of it.

Our second MIDOTW this week goes to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, for fighting the good fight against Donald Trump's fantasy of what a good job he's doing in Puerto Rico.

Here is but a sample of what Cruz has been saying about Trump:

[Donald Trump] is simply incapable of understanding the contributions, the sacrifices and the commitment to democratic values that Puerto Ricans have shown over decades... every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts... stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE.

And, after Trump tweeted he might just pull federal disaster response teams out, Cruz shot back:

Tweet away your hate to mask your administration's mishandling of this humanitarian crisis. While you are amusing yourself throwing paper towels at us, your compatriots and the world are sending love and help our way. Condemn us to a slow death of non drinkable water, lack of food, lack of medicine while you keep others eager to help from reaching us since they face the impediment of the Jones Act.

From an article on a letter she sent to a member of Congress, begging for a better response:

"Stop the genocide," the mayor implored.

After reviewing how the two hurricanes which recently slammed Puerto Rico have left its citizens without water, food, medicine, homes or an electrical infrastructure, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital city described how Trump's "tweets, comments and actions seem to be taken out of a book on 'how to add insult to injury' rather than a book on 'how to help during a humanitarian crisis'" and argued that his actions were "unbecoming of a leader of the free world."

Cruz also pointed out that Trump's decision to replace the FEMA coordinator in Puerto Rico "is an admission that things are not going the way they should." As she pointed out, "It is not that you do not get it, it is that you are incapable of empathy and frankly simply cannot get the job done."

Her unflagging criticism of the disaster response so far has been just about the only thing keeping the story alive in the mainland American news. She has been the strongest voice for Puerto Rico during the crisis, far stronger than that of the island's governor. She will not back down from Trump's bullying, instead she continues in the attempt to get her citizens treated the same way hurricane victims in Texas or Florida are routinely treated.

For being such a standout voice, she has more than earned herself the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Keep getting your message out, Mayor Cruz. Some of us are listening.

[Congratulate Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons on her official contact page, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on her Twitter page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

This one is personal, we have to admit. The Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week was none other than our own senior (very senior, in fact) senator, Dianne Feinstein. What earned her this award (her sixteenth, putting her in third place on the all-time MDDOTW list) was her announcement that she'll be running for re-election next year instead of gracefully stepping down.

We spent two whole articles ranting about this, earlier in the week, if anyone's interested in the long-play version, but in short, Feinstein's particular brand of centrism does not accurately reflect the California electorate of today. Also, she'll be 85 on Election Day and a full 91 years old on the last day of the term she's running for.

A few years ago, Barbara Boxer decided to gracefully retire, and this ushered in some young blood in the form of Kamala Harris. Dianne Feinstein really should have taken this route, and bowed out in favor of a generation who grew up after F.D.R. was president.

Feinstein has already drawn one serious primary challenger, so perhaps she can be influenced if the race is at all close. At this point, that's the only thing a California progressive can hope for, really. So for disappointing millions of Democrats with her announcement, Dianne Feinstein was definitely the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to us, this week.

[Contact Senator Dianne Feinstein on her Senate contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 457 (10/13/17)

We're devoting our entire Talking Points section this week to the ongoing disaster of a disaster recovery effort in Puerto Rico. The media has largely moved on, chasing fresher disasters (last week: "Oh, no, another hurricane!"; this week: "California's on fire!"; next week: who knows?). But Puerto Ricans have not moved on.

Imagine living for three weeks with no electricity and no running water. Just imagine that for a moment. No refrigeration, no light, no power for phones or radios or any other means of communication. Having to collect rainwater or runoff water without knowing how safe it is. For three weeks. And that's even before you imagine what state your house would be in, after a monster hurricane. That's where most of Puerto Rico's population still is, and that's where they are likely going to be for a long time to come, if the response so far is any indication.

These are Americans. These are not foreigners. They are our own. And we don't seem to care about their suffering all that much. What is it going to take for America to pay closer attention -- an outbreak of cholera, perhaps? We've got international organizations who normally aid third-world countries now on Puerto Rico, because we have been so ineffective.

The only way to get the media to pay attention is for Democrats not to let the issue go. This whole episode should be downright shameful to every American, except Trump, who doesn't know the meaning of the word "shame."

So we're turning over the whole Talking Points section to addressing Puerto Rico this week, in the hopes others will also keep beating this drum.


   Stop the victim-blaming, Mr. Trump!

This really needs to be called out in no uncertain terms.

"Donald Trump has responded to a vast humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico by victim-shaming, insults, and threats to cut off aid. He warned this week that the federal responders won't be there 'forever,' even though they were pathetically slow to arrive and haven't even been there a month yet. Mister Trump, you need to stop the victim-blaming. Puerto Ricans did not cause Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans did not stop you from sending aid faster or more efficiently. Puerto Ricans didn't destroy the entire electrical grid on their island. Please, if you have a shred of humanity or decency, start fixing the problems and stop blaming the victims!"


   Guys, it's been three weeks

Both the president and a member of his cabinet came down with foot-in-mouth disease this week.

"Over three weeks after Hurricane Maria caused so much devastation to so many United States citizens, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry still hasn't learned that Puerto Rico is not actually a separate country. Donald Trump did him one better, by saying during a speech that he had met with the, quote, president, unquote of the Virgin Islands. In reality, they have a governor. Since they are American citizens, Donald Trump is their president. Perhaps this 'meeting' happened while Trump was looking in the mirror shaving? It's hard to tell...."


   Are your freakin' kidding me?!?

This deserves much more attention than it has been getting.

"A doctor who worked with the National Disaster Medical System (N.D.M.S.) for 20 years -- a veteran of humanitarian missions in 10 countries -- just quit, because, as she put it, she could 'no longer serve with honor.' What pushed her over the edge? As Rachel Maddow explained, medical workers supposed to be aiding Puerto Ricans 'used the triage tents that are supposed to be for medical care and instead they brought in local Puerto Rican residents to give the medical workers cut-rate manicures and pedicures.' In the doctor's resignation letter, she berated the 'optics of N.D.M.S. medical personnel responsible for seeing injured and ill Puerto Ricans who have no homes, food or supplies having a spa day on taxpayer money,' and concluded: 'I find this gross misuse of taxpayer funds and abuse of our privileged positions personally abhorrent.' Millions of other Americans would likely feel the same, if this story had been covered adequately. Health workers taking a spa day in freakin' disaster zone? Are you kidding me?!?"


   Heckuva job!

Another Puerto Rico story that is not getting much airplay.

"Remember all the outrage over Michael "heckuva job, Brownie" Brown's inadequacy, in the aftermath of Katrina? So why is there not equal outrage over the fact that the FEMA coordinator in Puerto Rico was just replaced? This is, as the San Juan mayor pointed out, 'an admission that things are not going the way they should.' Over three weeks after the hurricane hit, as you can see on the Puerto Rican recovery-tracking website, the vast majority of the island is still without power. But, you know, they had a fun and successful spa day for the healthcare workers, so I guess they're all doing a 'heckuva job,' eh?"


   Oxfam helps out

This is just downright embarrassing.

"The international aid agency Oxfam put out a statement that said: 'After witnessing the slow and inadequate response from the US government in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Oxfam has decided support local efforts to meet the most urgent needs in this disaster. We also intend to help Puerto Ricans advocate in Congress and to federal agencies in Washington to allocate more and better resources for the response to the storm to build back better.' Oxfam, for those who don't know, is an organization that usually responds to disasters in third-world countries. They normally don't involve themselves in first-world disaster relief, because they fully expect the first world to be able to respond to disasters on their own, so the fact that Oxfam is in Puerto Rico is really a gigantic black eye for American in general and Donald Trump in particular."


   Waive the Jones Act!

The following came from a strongly-worded statement by the San Juan mayor, which points out that allowing foreign ships to deliver supplies to the island for 10 days was nice, but wholly inadequate, and the waiver needs to be extended. It expired this week. So she wrote to Trump:

Tweet away your hate to mask your administration's mishandling of this humanitarian crisis. While you are amusing yourself throwing paper towels at us, your compatriots and the world are sending love and help our way. Condemn us to a slow death of non drinkable water, lack of food, lack of medicine while you keep others eager to help from reaching us since they face the impediment of the Jones Act.


   Achtung, baby

But our final talking point is the best of the week, by a longshot. This is from a speech delivered on the House floor by Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez on Thursday. He makes a compelling point.

Three weeks after D-Day in 1944, the Allies liberated the deep water port of Cherbourg, one of the most important objectives in France. It took 20 days and we built bridges and communication lines along the way. We made better progress in the three weeks after D-Day than we are making on Puerto Rico, and in Puerto Rico, to the best of my knowledge, there are no Germans shooting at us.

-- Chris Weigant


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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


37 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [457] -- Buck-Passer In Chief”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    Blotus continues to be Blotus and every day he simultaneously shows how utterly rock-bottom skanky is the Republican party, as GOP leaders sit on their hands while the thug-in-chief and his thug-helpers tear the country down. Coz they want their tax cuts. And because they're cowards, afraid of the thugs they themselves fostered and unleashed on the rest of us.

    A pox on them all.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    (This comment was posted to the wrong thread and really belongs here)

    I had a non-brief dissenting comment all set to go Re. MDDOTW based on your desire to see DiFi retire.

    Then I read your two columns on the subject, in their entirety, and concluded that your arguments win the day. They were very persuasive. So much so that the two pieces form a kind of primer which should be read by anyone who wishes to win an argument based on reasoned analysis of the facts. And, that goes especially for me!

    In essence, I was reminded, once again, why I love your blog so much!

  3. [3] 
    neilm wrote:

    The Republicans might regret their disregard for Puerto Rico - if several hundred thousand basically become refugees and resettle in Florida it could tip the voter balance in favor of the Democrats a decade sooner than the current demographic trend anticipates.

    Wouldn't that be some righteous karma!

  4. [4] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Health insurance for twenty or thirty Americans is on the line, but that doesn't seem to concern him a bit.

    Being a tab bit conservative, aren’t ya? I am guessing it’s gonna be a few more than that...

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i'm guessing CW meant twenty or thirty million. also guessing you knew that. you get the credit though, since i was too lazy to point it out.


  6. [6] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Yeah, just poking fun at CW!

  7. [7] 
    neilm wrote:

    November 2020 - January 2021

    Can you imagine the wanton destruction this clown will try to invoke if he suffers a humiliating defeat to Kamala Harris in November 2020?

    It is obvious that he doesn't understand the implications of his actions, and it is quite clear from Republican sources that they are basically trying to keep crazy Grampa from going completely out of the ball park even at the best of times, but if he truly understands how hated he is, and is a lame duck to boot so is irrelevant to even his own party, the fun could really start.

    Some possible EOs:

    1. Insist that Paper Towel throwing be the primary response to all future disaster recovery efforts
    2. Abolish Germany
    3. Declare war on Rosie O'Donnell
    4. Establish a new government department to "Declare Donald Trump the Best Ever President of the United States"

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    Maybe Trump is shrewd in one sense. Tweeting is a useful distraction. While everyone is focusing on what he said in his latest tweet, no one is loudly playing attention to what he is actually doing policy wise on actual federal policy and programs, like clean air rules, Obamacare, the Iran deal, and MOST ESPECIALLY, his highly successful and totally under reported packing of the federal benches with new right wing judges.

    Because of the hold the Republicans put on Obama's appointments, Trump will end up filling HALF of all federal judges. That is a Democratic and liberal nightmare that nobody except the right wing seems to care about!

    Some of them have been downright nasty individuals. One example, The Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the same John K. Bush who; compared abortion to slavery, and wrote that consensual homosexual sex should be illegal. Only John McCain among the Republicans voted against him.

    Why is no one loudly reporting about this?

  9. [9] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Because Trump is in one sense right about Fake News. It's their job to report on the distractions and ignore the real news.

    With all due respect, I disagree with you both. 'News' and 'fake news' are separate things.

    News is traditionally a summary of current events, presented with varying degrees of context. It may or may not be factually correct, depending on the reliability of the information being reported.

    "Fake News" is the deliberate reporting of information known by the reporter to be factually incorrect.

    But there should be a third category: False news.
    'False News' is the reporting of information that is factually correct, but misleading, due to omitted facts or context. We've been barraged by false news in the form of advertising all of our lives.

    I'd bet that 4 out of 5 stories labeled 'fake' are actually 'false' - with much of the disagreement being the result of our present media environment. And most of American media is controlled by just seven companies, each eying market share and audience numbers as they decide what you will watch.

    So how many news stories do you think will mention that Harvey Weinstein's company, Miramax, which used used company lawyers to quash complaints about his behavior, is owned by the Disney Corporation?

    Is our present political gridlock really a result of deep philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans, or actually just a cable market-share battle between Comcast and 21st Century Fox?

    Food for thought.

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    John M

    Maybe Trump is shrewd in one sense.

    He is not shrewd; there is no grand plan for _____ <--- insert topic here. He is NOT a brilliant negotiator and isn't a great businessman. He has a short attention span and so cannot and does not have a strategy; he's an opportunist and pathological liar who just plays to win the day and thus contradicts himself continually and constantly... everything is impulse, whatever comes to his mind at that instant, playing to one needy crowd after another who want to believe, telling them what they want to hear. He is a bully who takes what he wants, doesn't care who is injured in the process, and then passes the buck to someone else to fix the mess that invariably follows in his wake... whether it's a team of lawyers or lately, Congress.

    Above all else, he believes he doesn't get enough credit for his perceived brilliance and believes the measure of a man is money. That is who he is and has always been... a needy sociopath seeking praise and wealth in a world that could never contain enough to satisfy him, and he'd turncoat on his own country for his own glory and when caught in the act would insist "to the inhabitants of America" that it was done to save the country. Sound familiar? He's Benedict Donald.

  11. [11] 
    John M wrote:

    Kick [16]

    I actually don't think I have ever heard it described better. You hit the nail right on the head. That all makes so much sense.

  12. [12] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    [19] Pick a side.

    You need to pick a side. Your "big money vs. small money" paradigm doesn't exist beyond the local level of politics anymore, and both sides are engaged to the point that any serious effort to disarm both camps would have to be negotiated like a strategic nuclear arms deal. You have the Citizens United ruling to contend with, an advantage that corporate players won't give up without a fight. There are tax code provisions that foster and promote bundling, shell entities, non-profits, NGO's, and a host of trade associations, private and public interest groups, and other special interest groups who would certainly assert their constitutional right to throw money at their candidate of choice. And all of that comes before the candidate's personal choice of donation amounts is taken into consideration.

    For instance, although Bernie was rightfully proud of all of the $25 donations he received, he was also the beneficiary of tens of millions of dollars spent by anti-Democrat and anti-Hillary interests,
    much of which continued to be poured into the campaign even after he'd dropped out of the race and thrown his support to Hillary.

    And even if you could pull off the legislative and constitutional wrangling that you'd need to remove most of the money from the formal process, how do you assert that special interest groups (SIGs) like the NRA, Planned Parenthood, The Club for Growth, and Black Lives Matter have no right to participate in the campaign as a first amendment issue? The big money would simply shift over, as it did after McCain-Feingold, to the SIGs, and you're back where you started, but with less control over the spending.

    And even if you could somehow get a handle on all of that, there is still the issue of 'dark money' and 'dark influence' that's become a feature of modern elections - money from anonymous sources, spent below-the-radar by groups and individuals that is untraceable and largely unseen. How, in an open-internet world, do you keep actors like the Russians from spending billions to influence the election from afar?

    You would also have to find a way to ensure that the media treated all candidates with equal respect, and not, for instance, accidentally or deliberately give one candidate massive amounts of free air time, as they did for Trump in 2015-16 (close to $2 billion dollars worth, by some estimates).

    "Well," you would reply,"it's what the candidate pledges he will do that matters."
    Sure it is. But as I've explained above, the wishes of the candidates themselves hardly matter. Politics is a team sport, and just because one player decides that he won't play 'dirty' to win, doesn't mean that his entire squad will follow suit. Remember: there are no reliable referees on the field.

    Besides, the candidates themselves could just be disingenuous. Trump famously declared that his campaign was 'self-funded', but we learned later that he was taking huuuuge donations from his billionaire buddies, and billions more worth of donated services from the likes of the Mercers, whose data-mining operations helped turned the BREXIT vote.

    In the end, none of that money and outside influence matters. It's about one man (or woman) with one vote, which can't be bought outright. That voter can be influenced, manipulated, lied to, cajoled and recruited, but can't be forced to cast his vote for anyone in particular, yet.

    In my opinion, it comes down to a binary choice: you're either on team "help the downtrodden" (Democrats) or team "screw the downtrodden" (Republicans), and any vote that isn't cast for one helps the other, because the spoilers have no chance to win, and the margins are slim.

    So pick a side. It's not rocket science.

  13. [13] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Whoa, didn't realize that was so long. Sorry about that!

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthasar - It's ridiculous to imply that the press gave so much air time to the Trump moron because they favored him over Clinton or Sanders. He "merited" all that coverage because his pronouncements were so consistently outrageous, and because viewership is always the first principle of what gets media coverage, sorta on the "If it bleeds it leads" principle.

    And an alternative to your "binary" nomenclature could be "Help the unproductive", or "Screw the productive".

  15. [15] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    They are on the same side- the side of Big Money. You cannot pick between the two and claim to have picked a side.

    So let's see: I'm on the side of delivering as much health care for as little cost to as many people as possible. The Republicans are not. Most Democrats would agree with me, however.

    I am on the side of sane and well considered foreign policy, domestic policy and military posture. I favor diplomacy over force of arms, whenever possible, to advance the interests of the US in the world arena. Most Republicans do not. Most Democrats would agree with me, however.

    I agree with the Keynsian philosophy that government should invest in, not just provide for its populace. I believe that a well-regulated market is more prosperous and stable market, and that we should be ever mindful that individual prosperity is not equivalent to general prosperity, a lesson that should have been learned in the middle ages. Republicans oppose every bit of that. Most Democrats, however, would tend to agree.

    I haven't yet mentioned my support for science, women's reproductive rights, all lifestyle and gender choices, free expression, freedom from religion, and a raft of other issues ranging from stem cell research and evolution to racial expression and the justice system, all of which I disagree with Republican majorities, and find well represented in Democratic ranks.

    D'ya get the idea? These aren't slogans or mere talking points, they're important to me and to millions of others. There are SIDES to these issues. Pretending that there is no difference between the parties does no one any good, and advances your own set of priorities exactly zero.

    You claim that spoilers have no chance to win is based on outdated conventional political wisdom that is no longer valid.

    Have you noticed which spoilers have been winning? The Nationalist Right, mostly by dividing their opposition, and shouting down the establishment.

    Where the left has prevailed, it has done so by way of mainstream politics (i.e., Trudeau in Canada). Only by way of coalition building can majorities promote progressive agendas and resist populist fantacism and divisive fear-mongering.

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    [22] C. R. Stucki:

    All true, and therein lies the disagreement that I have with both.

    The problem with the way that Trump plays the media, is that it requires that he keep upping the ante, lest their attention wanes. As we've already seen, that's a potentially dangerous prospect.

    And the problem with the 'We Built That" philosophy of Romney, all sticky with the goo of stereotyping and racial and economic superiority, is that it simply isn't true. It misses entirely the government-provided infrastructure upon which 'producers' rely - from the roads and utilities to the regulatory structure on which their wealth is premised.

    It also misses the sweat and toil of the lowest paid workers in our society: comedies are written about the rich trying to do the work of the poor. No member of the underclass is spending their weekends jetting to Florida for a few rounds of golf. That's only for 'producers'. hah.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthasar -

    You state that "The 'We Built That' philosophy of Romney . . . misses entirely the government-provided infrastructure upon which their wealth is premised."

    I perceive that you mean to imply by that that because said infrastructure is "government provided", that it is the fruit of the labors of those "lowest paid workers" in equal measure as it is of the labors of the high income earners.

    A quick visit to the IRS website belies that belief. The bottom half of American taxpayers pay just a whisker over 2% of all the income taxes collected, which go to create that infrastructure.

    The "government-provided infrastructure" is the fruit of the labors of those same highly productive people "upon whose wealth it is premised", is it not?

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I'm on the side of delivering as much health care for as little cost to as many people as possible.

    What about being on the side where all people should have healthcare, whether they think they need it or not, and it gets paid for in the same way that infrastructure gets paid for.

    In other words and to quote a wise president, " didn't build that."

    That last bit was specifically aimed at C. R. Stucki.

  19. [19] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    Actually, in an ideal world, all people WOULD have health care, all would have food, shelter, all the necessities of life, plus a nice car to drive and a garage full of fun big-boy toys, ALL of it paid for the same way infrastructure is paid for, and in principle, I'm totally in favor of an ideal world.

    Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, we just have the real world, and in the real world, whenever people have tried that system, it has broken down.

  20. [20] 
    John M wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [22]

    And an alternative to your "binary" nomenclature could be "Help the unproductive", or "Screw the productive".

    I have to take issue with that. That seems like dangerous ground. Blaming the victim. Saying that the unfortunate are somehow unfortunate totally through their own fault, which is not always the case. Kind of like the Ayn Rand / Paul Ryan Republican philosophy, which doesn't take into account real external factors at all. That's like blaming the slaves in the 1860's for the condition of slavery that they were in, instead of the slave masters who totally controlled, set up the system, and deliberately stacked the deck against the slaves through the power they held, acquired and accumulated at the deliberate expense of others.

  21. [21] 
    John M wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [30]

    "Actually, in an ideal world, all people WOULD have health care, all would have food, shelter, all the necessities of life, plus a nice car to drive and a garage full of fun big-boy toys, ALL of it paid for the same way infrastructure is paid for, and in principle, I'm totally in favor of an ideal world.

    Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, we just have the real world, and in the real world, whenever people have tried that system, it has broken down."

    I would adjust that to say that in a modern, humane, and just society as rich and prosperous and democratic as ours is the the West, all people would be provided basic health care, food and shelter. No one should die, just because they are poor. There is absolutely no reason in fact why that cannot be the case. Nations less wealthier than the USA manage to do it. No one expects a nice car or luxury toys. Basic public transportation would do. Yours is just a straw man argument used to justify doing nothing to mitigate conditions where we can in the first place.

    It's totally not true that wherever it has been tried in the real world it has broken down. There are many places where it has been an absolute success. Health care in Canada. The welfare state in Sweden, Denmark, Norway. Even here in the USA with a program like Food Stamps, which prevents a famine taking place here like happened a few years ago in North Korea.

    If you want to make any sensible argument at all, then it should be only one of degree, not of kind.

  22. [22] 
    Paula wrote:

    Balthasar: Yes to all your posts!

    John M [32] Also Yes!

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M -

    Re "No one should die just because they're poor." Perhaps that's true, but it happens every day, even in countries with gov't-paid health care. When your 85 yr-old granny needs a $600k heart-lung transplant in Canada, England, Denmark or wherever in order to live 90 days more, she's a goner, believe me.

    In a world of limited resources, every system has to draw lines somewhere, it's just a case of where they will be drawn.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CR Stuckie,

    Get ready for the UBI.

    Google it if you have to. :)

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I liked Michale much better.

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well said, John!

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, C, Canada is an ideal world cf USA. :)

  28. [28] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I support big money. And also, no whammies.

  29. [29] 
    John M wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [34]

    "Perhaps that's true, but it happens every day, even in countries with gov't-paid health care. When your 85 yr-old granny needs a $600k heart-lung transplant in Canada, England, Denmark or wherever in order to live 90 days more, she's a goner, believe me.

    In a world of limited resources, every system has to draw lines somewhere, it's just a case of where they will be drawn."

    I don't disagree with you. No one says it doesn't. That's kind of sort of my point. But at least that's a debate about the degree of help given, not the merits of giving any kind of help in the first place. At least 85 year old grandma was helped in the first place. Not left in a state where we throw up our hands, say well it's all her own fault, she deserves what she gets, it's dog eat dog survival of the fittest, as some right wing politicians would have us run society. I've got mine, too bad about you, you're the way you are because your kind of person is simply not deserving of what I have.

    Put it another way. If you, as a person in power, deliberately use your power to take away somebody else's arms and legs, then you throw them in the water and watch them drown, and then blame then for drowning saying it was their fault for them not finding their own life raft and hauling themselves up onto it, and you are shocked for being criticized for not providing the life raft, what other outcome were you really expecting?

  30. [30] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    You sketch out a seriously drastic (and unrealistic) scenario there. Maybe you'd allow me to also "put it another (more realistic) way".

    Lets say the guy in distress here still has all his limbs, but maybe he, while never working a day in his life, smoked himself into lung cancer and actually fell into the pond he's in in a drunken stupor.

    Yeah, I likely would be "shocked for being criticized for blaming him for not providing his own life raft".


  31. [31] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    CR [42]: Lets say the guy in distress here still has all his limbs, but maybe he, while never working a day in his life, smoked himself into lung cancer and actually fell into the pond he's in in a drunken stupor.

    Puritanical stereotyping. perfect. I'm assuming that anyone using this example had never smoked, drank, or been unemployed, lest empathy result in the urge to jump in to save him.

    Because he shouldn't have to think that he's alone - there are millions more of us willing to give him a hand. Because he's a human.

    What is asserted there is a hierarchy of deserved-ness, in which folks with healthier lifestyles are higher on the list. You're probably aware that there are other hierarchies based on income, power, sex, race and country of origin. One could, as one aspiring herrenvolk did, get even more granular, and filter for light skin, blond hair, and blue eyes.

    The US is the last large industrial nation not to make health care available to everyone cost-free, and it's actually high time we did. There are tons of cost-effective models: most of those countries spend less for better outcomes than we do.

    Then we can stop worrying about whether someone 'deserves' health care, and start worrying about whether everyone 'gets' health care.

  32. [32] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Any and All CW followers

    For whatever it's worth, I probably need to point out that I have long been an advocate of single-payer national health care, not that I believe it's automatically the best possible system, but basically because 1), the current health care delivery system in this country is hopelessly mucked up. It was never designed, it simply evolved haphazardly, under the influence primarily of greed, and 2), because it's most likely the only viable and even remotely possible alternative at this stage of things.

  33. [33] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    C.R. [44]: Glad to see that.

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:


    Trump is a master manipulator and what you are doing is buying into what he wants you to believe.

    Congratulations, Don. If you honestly believe that Donald Trump is a "master manipulator" then it's actually you who are "buying into what he wants you to believe." It appears you have simply confused Trump's con artistry with master manipulation. A true "master manipulator" would have already gotten the ACA "repealed and replaced" in the manner he promised versus giving it lip service in multiple ways and then blaming his inability to accomplish anything on either/both Parties in Congress. A "master manipulator" also wouldn't have an excuse for failing to pass any major legislation because a "master manipulator" would have already gotten something substantive passed through Congress through the masterful use of his manipulation. A con artist, on the other hand, makes lots of promises and then blames everyone else and passes the buck when he can't deliver (and never could). Master manipulators don't need to deliver excuses because they're too busy delivering results through masterful negotiation.

    Trump is not trying to win your vote, he is manipulating the people that think the things you find abhorrent are good.

    Oh, I doubt that, Don... since there is quite simply not too many things I find abhorrent... had all that trained out of me decades ago.

    And Trump is doing the same thing to the people he is manipulating as the Big Money Democratic Party establishment is doing to the people they are manipulating.

    Your simplicity is on display here, Don... not at all unlike Don Trump's modus operandi, too.

    As I said in comment 15 and 17, if keep voting for them they will keep screwing you. Pick a side.

    No. I am NOT buying into what you want me to believe; I've got this radar against the rhetoric of manipulating Dons.

    It's not rocket science.

    Of course it isn't "rocket science;" that would imply it actually had some modicum of educated thought processes and proven theory contained therein... versus the utter nonsensical belief that anyone who has money or raises money is inherently evil. Duh. :)

  35. [35] 
    Kick wrote:


    I support big money. And also, no whammies.

    Hey, don't "press your luck," pal! :)

    Remember when that game show was new and the board was predictable? The 4th and 8th squares counting from top left and clockwise always contained cash (square 4 with larger cash values) and never a Whammy in either and with an additional spin in round 2. All one needed to do was time the board to land on squares 4 and 8... until they fixed the discernible pattern and randomized it.

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Your intentions are quite clear.

  37. [37] 
    Kick wrote:


    I agree that Trump is a con artist. A con artist is a master manipulator that picks on easy marks. They do not try to manipulate everything which is why your list of what you think Trump would have accomplished is not relevant to what Trump manipulates.

    It wasn't a list, Don. It was one example... health care.

    So then Trump isn't all that bad, after all?

    So then those you label "Establishment Democrats" aren't that bad after all?

    Again I agree with you. It is simple. But it is not simplistic. But this, like the rest of your comment does not address the issue- it avoids it.

    You're actually NOT agreeing with me; in fact, I'm saying you're being simplistic... treating complex issues as if they were much simpler than they really are when you make statements like: "Trump is doing the same thing to the people he is manipulating as the Big Money Democratic Party establishment is doing to the people they are manipulating." That's very Trumpian, too, to take complicated issues and blame them on a single thing or decide that people are "doing the same thing."

    But you said that Trump was NOT a manipulator.

    No, Don. I said Trump wasn't a "master manipulator," and obviously that's just my opinion. I believe that labeling someone a "master" denotes that they're actually an expert at something, and I see Trump as a con artist who believes his own bullshit that he's a "master" manipulator/negotiator. I see Trump as an intellectually challenged, pathologically lying con artist and traitor who couldn't negotiate his way out of a paper bag with a pair of scissors, who relies on bullying by lawyer and threats of injury to person(s) rather than negotiation. I also believe he is a "malignant narcissist" (a disorder that includes narcissistic personality disorder plus antisocial personality disorder with paranoia and delusional beliefs).

    If you support the Big Money Democrats then you have picked a side.

    Wrong, Don... I have chosen neither side. Not only that, it's quite possible I will support candidates on MULTIPLE sides... those who insist I can't contribute to their campaign beyond self-imposed limits and those who will accept my individual contribution in larger amounts that are already limited as mandated by law.

    Honestly, I have not and will not pick a side. If some fool politician insists he/she will not take my $2,700 campaign contribution (the legal limit for 2016), I am likely to think they're barking mad but will gladly write a check for demonstrably less if that is their idiotic preference.

    I vote for candidates as a whole. I don't think taking/having "big money" or taking/having "small money" is the measure of a man/woman.

    "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice."

    Utter nonsense when I am human and NOT remotely limited to one choice. I can and have supported multiple candidates in the past, and I am likely to do so again in the future.

    I have demonstrated proven theory. The Tea Party proved that taking on the establishment candidates in the primaries. Bernie has proven the viability of raising small contributions and many internet campaigns like the Women's March have moved the public discourse in ways and time frames previously thought impossible.

    No, Don. You haven't remotely demonstrated proven theory based on Tea Party candidates who are heavily financed by the Koch Brothers and/or Bernie Sanders who actually meets your definition of "Big Money" candidate.

    What is utter nonsense is to believe that any candidate/legislator that takes Big Money will represent average citizens instead of the Big Money contributors.

    Apply that to your support of Bernie Sanders, and you meet your own definition of "utter nonsense." No need to explain how Bernie got closer to your fantasy of a candidate who doesn't take "Big Money" because that's simply a case of Bernie's rhetoric versus Bernie's reality. There are no candidates at the national level who are "Small Money" candidates regardless of their campaign rhetoric.

    And 30 plus years of broken promises and excuses while average citizens are stagnant or losing ground while the rich get richer is irrefutable proof that your contention that Big Money does not corrupt the candidates/legislators and our political process is utter nonsense.

    I think your example is more indicative that trickle-down/supply side economics does not work for the "average citizen." "Thirty plus years of broken promises and excuses" from who? Democrats? Which promises are those? Minimum wage promises? You think a candidate wouldn't love to be King and fulfill all their campaign promises by edict? You think a person who only takes small campaign contributions couldn't break a promise and one that took larger ones couldn't keep a promise?

    The real problem, of course, is more complicated than simply campaign finance. People that actually bother to vote tend to be more polarizing and extreme these days, and then there's the issue of gerrymandering wherein people's votes are diluted at the outset. So our system is currently favoring extreme candidates with polarizing messages rather than producing candidates that represent the "average citizen." If the "average citizen" would simply get involved and vote, I believe we'd have less partisan lawmakers and less extreme and polarizing issues and rhetoric, and that's where I believe your "One Demand" could be helpful. To encourage "average citizens" that they can contribute "Small Money" and make a difference by getting involved rather than allowing the far left and/or far right to govern by the dictates of the extremes on either side.

    It's a good thing it's not rocket science as you seem to be having enough trouble comprehending 1+1= 2.

    And therein lies your problem, Don. You've decided that a complicated issue has a simple solution and that anyone who doesn't agree with you 100% has chosen the other side, but the fact is that any time you're dealing with humans with different ideas about "big" and "small" and "right" and "wrong," it's best to remember that people aren't integers and when dealing with humans, 1+1 might produce a result of 3 or more... dependents that can be written off in order to lower your tax burden. :)

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