Friday Talking Points [474] -- "Trade Wars Are Good!" (As Hope Leaves The Building)

[ Posted Friday, March 2nd, 2018 – 18:18 UTC ]

Once again, it is the end of another fun week at the White House. Let's see, we had the president's son-in-law stripped of his top secret security clearance (right as two brand new Jared Kushner scandals were revealed, just as icing on the cake). We had a cabinet member in hot water over buying a $31,000 table for his office, assumably so he could be more comfortable while slashing billions of dollars for poor people. The top North Korea expert at the State Department quit, out of frustration with Trump's incoherent policies. Trump met with the N.R.A., but then seemed to agree with everything Democrats proposed during a meeting on gun control -- after which, the N.R.A. met with Trump again in a desperate move to yank him back to their extreme positions. We had Trump smacking his own attorney general around again, and amusingly learned that Trump sometimes calls him "Mr. Magoo" behind his back. Trump so annoyed the president of Mexico in a phone call that he cancelled a planned meeting with Trump in Washington. We had Russia announce a new nuclear arms race, and Trump announce a new trade war -- apparently because he was so annoyed at all the other bad news that he wanted to create some of his own. After the inevitable pushback, he insisted on Twitter that "Trade wars are good, and easy to win!" Well, we're all about to find out, aren't we? And to cap the week off, one of Trump's closest advisors, Hope Hicks, testified before Congress that her job required her to tell "white lies" to the public on a regular basis. The next day, she announced she was leaving the White House.

In other words, business as usual!

The trade war announcement took the prize for being the most bizarre thing that happened this week, and NBC News got the frightening inside story on how it all came to pass:

According to two officials, Trump's decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.

On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.

A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks' testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.

Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade -- and against longstanding advice from his economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Ross threw together the meeting with steel and aluminum executives, but failed to list who they were -- meaning Secret Service background checks couldn't be done on them. Even John Kelly had no idea of who was going to show up. Everyone else at the White House had no idea what was going on -- no position papers were created, and the White House counsel's office reported it would take them two weeks to prepare a legal review of any tariffs. None of that stopped Trump, though.

There were no prepared, approved remarks for the president to give at the planned meeting, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners, there was no legislative strategy in place for informing Congress and no agreed upon communications plan beyond an email cobbled together by Ross's team at the Commerce Department late Wednesday that had not been approved by the White House.

No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced or given an opportunity to weigh in in advance.

The Thursday morning meeting did not originally appear on the president's public schedule. Shortly after it began, reporters were told that Ross had convened a "listening" session at the White House with 15 executives from the steel and aluminum industry.

Then, an hour later, in an another unexpected move, reporters were invited to the Cabinet room. Without warning, Trump announced on the spot that he was imposing new strict tariffs on imports.

By Thursday afternoon, the U.S. stock market had fallen and Trump, surrounded by his senior advisers in the Oval Office, was said to be furious.

If Trump is this disorganized when announcing a trade war -- one that had no external deadline to meet -- then what is going to happen if a real war ever happens on Trump's watch? It staggers the mind to even think about, really.

Trump wanted to create a distraction, and he was successful. The entire world reacted to his off-the-cuff comments, and not in a good way. Europe broadly hinted that they'd be coming up with a few tariffs of their own for U.S. goods, and that they'd be starting with Harley Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hails from Kentucky, and Harleys are built in House Speaker Paul Ryan's home district. Many other countries are also threatening tariffs on American goods as well. The White House will reportedly make the formal announcement of what it's going to do next week, so we'll have to see how it all plays out.

In other foreign policy news, the Mexican president cancelled a planned visit to Washington, after Trump refused to back down on his "Mexico will pay for the wall" fantasy during a phone call between the two presidents (where Trump reportedly "lost his temper"). Russia not only rattled their nuclear sabers, they also provided a video-game preview of how awesome their new missiles would be.

Speaking of Russia, a new poll out showed that Americans trust Bob Mueller's investigation more than they do Trump. Three-fourths of Americans said they take the charges filed by Mueller seriously, 58 percent said the have "a lot or some trust" in Mueller's investigation, while 57 percent said they have "little or no trust" in the president's denials. So it's pretty obvious who is winning that public relations battle.

Speaking of high-level investigations, Jared Kushner seems to be hanging on by a thread at the White House. His security clearance got downgraded two big notches, from "Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information" to just "Secret" -- a fairly low level for a top presidential advisor. The White House is still publicly standing behind Kushner, so perhaps he'll solve Middle East peace by the beginning of next week or something.

Or maybe not. Kushner, according to those who work closely with him, is now visibly "paranoid" with the attitude that "everyone's out to get him." Or maybe it's just his own personal chickens coming home to roost? Kushner apparently improperly met with banking executives just before the banks loaned him $500 million, bringing up the prospect of serious corruption charges. Kushner also met with foreign officials who tried to exploit him because they thought he was naive. All of this was revealed almost simultaneously, midweek. Just after the news broke of his security clearance humiliation. All of this has given rise to speculation about how much longer Kushner will stick around the White House. So maybe he's right about that "everyone's out to get him" sentiment?

But if Jared had a bad week, Hope Hicks can top that with the bad month she just had. On the first of February, a British tabloid published a paparazzi photo of Hope Hicks out on a date with Rob Porter. This was quickly followed by the news of abuse from Porter's two ex-wives, his hasty departure from the White House, and John Kelly having to crack down on temporary security clearances -- including Jared Kushner's. All that from one photo being made public in a foreign tabloid! Hicks then had to face questioning from both Bob Mueller and Congress, where she admitted she was expected to tell "white lies" as part of her job. The day after this rather stunning admission, she announced her exit from the Trump administration. She's saying she planned to leave a while ago, but then again, consider the source -- that's probably just another "white lie."

President Trump, before he got a bee in his bonnet over trade wars, tried to dominate the week on television by holding another one of those freewheeling sessions with members of Congress where he agrees with everyone on everything, so that later no matter what happens he can claim to be on the right side of the issue. Trump is never serious about anything he says in any of these meetings, though (see: previous immigration meeting), so while he did appear to be bucking the N.R.A. in support of many Democratic gun safety measures, no doubt by this time next week he'll have completely changed his mind -- after the N.R.A. leaders share another few meals with him. The real moral of this story should be, for everyone in Congress of either party, that you simply cannot trust anything the president ever says, even a tiny little bit. That's one heck of a thing to say about a president, but that doesn't make it any less true. Trump tried to appear as if he were leading the gun control effort, but in the end he just looked like he was flailing around on a subject he had very little knowledge of.

The episode did provide solid proof of a popular theory -- that Donald Trump just repeats back what the last person he talked to said, on pretty much any issue under the sun. This happened on immigration, and it will no doubt happen if any actual gun control legislation appears in Congress. Trump, after saying he'd go along with all sorts of things, will be talked out of it at the last minute by the N.R.A. Exactly the same as happened on immigration -- he always believes what the last person he talked to told him.

One thing Trump seems to strongly favor is arming teachers. However, that stance took a serious blow this week, after a teacher shot a handgun through a window in a standoff at a school. So if arming teachers is going to lead to this sort of thing, then the only logical next step would be to arm all the students, too, so they can take out a rogue teacher, right? Because that certainly wouldn't be a recipe for disaster or anything.

Maybe that's why Trump decided almost immediately afterward to drop his bombshell on steel and aluminum tariffs? It certainly did change the subject on cable news in a hurry, that's for sure. Trump went from looking incoherent on guns to looking downright scary on a trade war, and scary beats incoherent in the ratings every time. Winning! So much winning!

And some interesting news to close on. Paul Manafort's trial has now been scheduled. It'll take place starting on September 17. That is precisely a month and a half before the midterm elections, in case anyone's forgotten. So that'll certainly give everyone something to talk about, right before deciding which candidate to vote for!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got two Honorable Mention awards to hand out this week, to two Phils: Phil Spagnuolo and Phil Young. Spagnuolo won a state legislative seat in New Hampshire this week, flipping a district that Trump had won 54-41 to a vote of 54 percent Democratic to 46 percent Republican. Young won a seat in the Connecticut statehouse hours later, the first Democrat to represent the district in 44 years.

These are the 38th and 39th state legislative seats that Democrats have flipped, since Trump's election. Republicans have only flipped four seats during the same period, giving Democrats a net 35-seat victory, mostly in special elections. Many hundreds of these seats will be in play this November, when the regular election cycle happens, of course. So far, it is looking pretty good for the Democrats, as they continue to flip seat after seat after seat in special elections. So that's something to look forward to, hopefully.

But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Washington state's governor, Jay Inslee. In a meeting Trump had with a group of governors, Inslee directly took on Trump's idea to arm teachers, in no uncertain terms:

I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don't want to do that. I've listened to the first-grade teachers that don't want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I've listened to law enforcement, who have said they don't want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents. I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening, and let's just take that off the table and move forward.

This was before the news broke of the teacher who shot out a window with his handgun, it bears mentioning. Trump needs to be told this is a very bad idea, over and over again, to his face. For showing everyone else how to do so, Jay Inslee is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Washington Governor Jay Inslee on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Last week, we gave the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- the official group whose job it is to get Democrats elected to the House -- the Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award. This week, we are giving them their second straight award, for their ham-fisted meddling in Democratic primary elections.

First, an update from last week. The D.C.C.C., rather incredibly, launched a smear campaign on Democratic candidate Laura Moser in Texas. This has now backfired spectacularly. Moser explains what happened as a direct result:

People have been very supportive. We've had like 18 lunches delivered to the office from people we don't know, all over the country. Before we'd sent out a fundraising email about this -- I think we sent it at 5 p.m., my time -- we'd raised $20,000. Now it's a donation every second. And you what? I'd trade it all to have a functional Democratic Party that had unity and wanted to win.

Moser reportedly raised over $90,000 and moved up in the polling for the Democratic primary from sixth place to second. If the polls are right, this would secure her place in a May runoff -- which was exactly what the D.C.C.C. had tried to prevent. D'oh!

But that apparently wasn't the only primary hanky-panky they were up to. Which brings us to the story of a black Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania. Here's his story:

The drama in Pennsylvania is centered on Greg Edwards, a pastor running for a newly-drawn swing seat in the Lehigh Valley. On Thursday, he told The Washington Post that the DCCC had approached local Democrats to ask whether he could be persuaded to seek another office.

"As far as I know they only targeted one candidate to leave this race -- the most progressive candidate, the only candidate of color," said Edwards. "Their inability to understand why that's fundamentally wrong says everything."

The DCCC pushed back on Edwards's claims, saying that the unique situation in Pennsylvania, where a court struck down a gerrymandered map and created 18 new districts just weeks before party primaries, prompted them to ask several candidates if they might run instead for offices further down the ballot.

Progressives weren't buying it, however.

"It's a shame that the DCCC and the wealthy white donors and revolving door consultants that make up the Democratic Party establishment are actively trying to stop Greg [Edwards]," said Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for Justice Democrats, a group that has endorsed left-leaning candidates in a number of races, some with incumbents, where party leaders prefer different candidates. "Their consultant-driven strategy seems to prefer milquetoast candidates who they believe can appeal to moderate Republicans over progressive candidates of color. This is what systemic racism looks like."

Whether race had anything to do with it or not is really immaterial, however, because the manipulative behavior would still stink even if race weren't an issue. It's not just on the Republican side where the rank and file is pretty downright disgusted with the party's establishment, in other words. The D.C.C.C. has a long way to go to repair its image after the past two weeks, but it is heartening to see small donors giving their money directly to progressive candidates rather than cycling their dollars through any party organization.

Why should an official Democratic organization be picking winners in primary races in the first place? Either it should spread its money around equally to all Democratic candidates, or it should stay on the sidelines until a nominee is chosen and the general election begins. For the second week in a row, the D.C.C.C. has proven to be beyond disappointing. Which is why they're getting their second straight Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award.

[Contact the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on its contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 474 (3/2/18)

There's no overarching theme to this week's talking points, since there was no overarching theme to this week's politics. There were so many competing themes that it was actually hard to limit ourselves to just seven this week. As many have noted, the level of chaos within the White House has seemingly returned to where it was right after Trump took office, and we didn't have a "scandal of the week," but more like a "scandal of the day" or even hourly scandals competing for attention. Just another week in paradise, in other words.



There were two bits of snark worth repeating, as well as the obvious pun.

"Reaction to the news that Hope Hicks was leaving the White House was swift, and snarky. Washington Post reporter Paul Kane tweeted: 'WH comms director, it's like being the drummer in Spinal Tap,' while CBS reporter Katie Wilson put things in the proper perspective: 'Hope Hicks lasted approximately 19.6 Scaramuccis as communications director.' Yes, it's now official -- the White House will soon be literally Hope-less."


   Little white lies

It was pretty easy to draw this line, whether true or not.

"So let's see... Hope Hicks admits to Congress one day that she was required to tell, as she put it, 'white lies' in her job as White House Communications Director, and the very next day she's off to 'spend more time with her family,' as they say. Might there have been an Apprentice-style 'you're fired' in between those two events? After all, to Donald Trump, the cardinal sin is admitting that they are lies in the first place. Trump never would admit such a thing, and he expects those around him to follow his lead. Hicks let the cat out of the bag, and soon after she was gone."


   Lies, damned lies, and Donald Trump

Of course, Hicks should have known better.

"Hicks should have learned how to lie from the master. After all, the easy test for whether Donald Trump is lying or not is: 'Is his mouth open?' According to those who have tackled the neverending and gargantuan job of keeping up with Trump's lies, Trump is now up to over 2,400 lies since he took office just over 400 days ago. Trump lies, on average, six times a day, and I personally have never heard him admit that a single one of them wasn't accurate. Hicks should have followed Trump's example, obviously."


   Speaking of Trump whoppers...

Trump said one of the most unbelievable things he ever has this week -- and that's saying something!

"Did you hear Trump's boasting about what he'd do in a school shooting? He stated that, quote, I really believe I'd run in, even if I didn't have a weapon, unquote. Now, a show of hands -- who actually believes that, other than Donald Trump? Anyone? Who really believes that Captain Bone Spurs is going to leap into action and wrestle a guy wielding an assault rifle to the ground with his bare hands? Trump obviously has been watching too many action movies, and he also obviously believes he should be starring in all of them. It's downright pathetic, folks."


   Jared can't see that, sorry

Since he's already reportedly getting paranoid, why not pile on?

"Jared Kushner is going to have to get used to his coworkers repeatedly saying things like: 'Sorry, Jared, you're not cleared to read this,' or: 'You can't attend this meeting, Jared, because your security clearance is too low.' He's already lost access to the daily presidential brief on national security, and he won't have access to top secret information before meeting with foreign leaders anymore. Kushner's reportedly going to concentrate on prison reform here at home, with all the free time he'll now have. That's probably a good idea, since in the near future there may be many members of the Trump administration who care a great deal about the treatment of prisoners in federal lockups."


   What about the other 30?

Of course, it wasn't just Jared, although most in the media haven't really noticed.

"John Kelly stripped top secret clearance not only from Jared Kushner, but also reportedly from at least 30 others working in the White House. Think about that just for a minute -- almost three dozen people who work for Trump can't get a security clearance in over a year's time. What are they all hiding? What in their past could they be blackmailed over? That's an extraordinarily high number of top aides who have been reading top secret information for months, but who are apparently vulnerable to extortion. John Kelly should make public the entire list of people who had temporary top secret clearances revoked last week. The public has a right to know who in the Trump White House can't pass a background check."


   What could possibly go wrong?

It's easy!

"Donald Trump tweeted today that 'trade wars are good, and easy to win.' After all, what could possibly go wrong with tariffs? Well, let's see what some other Republicans think, shall we? Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch responded to Trump's announcement with: 'Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don't need and can't afford.' Republican Senator Ben Sasse put it even more bluntly: 'Let's be clear: the president is proposing a massive tax increase on American families.' The Wall Street Journal chimed in with some facts to consider: 'Mr. Trump seems not to understand that steel-using industries in the U.S. employ some 6.5 million Americans, while steel makers employ about 140,000.' That's before they pointed out that companies will now have a big incentive to move their factories abroad, and then just import the finished product back, to avoid the tariffs. Maybe Trump should read a book about another Republican president, Herbert Hoover, if he wants to learn how 'easy' trade wars turn out to be."

-- Chris Weigant


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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


41 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [474] -- "Trade Wars Are Good!" (As Hope Leaves The Building)”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    Almost from the beginning I've had this image of Blotus wandering around the WH by himself because everyone has gone: removed, resigned, jailed. I don't suppose that could literally happen - presumably housekeeping, Secret Service, etc. would remain til the bitter end but who else? Who else will he even want around? Pence? Maybe he and Pence will kneel in front of the portrait of Ronald Reagan and pray a la Nixon and Kissinger.

    Although I simply can't believe Blotus actually prays.

    Week after week the question arises: "when will Republicans do their jobs?" and week after week they don't. Will a trade war be their tipping point?

    We have a crazy criminal in the WH who is losing staff on an ongoing basis, with no one competent/principled stepping up to fill those positions. Even those who remain apparently want the hell out. Well, except maybe Miller, who just got his coffin moved into a basement crypt and doesn't want to have to go back to Transylvania.

    There's a photo making the rounds on Twitter of Kellyanne Conway sitting next to Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and they both look grim and exhausted. I despise them both but still felt a twinge of pity for them. Both have been absolutely willing to lie their heads off for this administration day after day and for months it worked. I don't think it's working any more; it's no "fun", it's just a painful, unrewarding slog.

    It's certainly no fun for the rest of us.

  2. [2] 
    Paula wrote:

    In Panama a "Trump Hotel" is under siege as a major shareholder is trying to wrest control of it from whatever Trump LLC. is involved.

    Another legal complaint adds that Trump’s security team physically shoved Fintiklis himself when he attempted to terminate the Trump employees. Likewise, when the hotel owners’ association tried to fire Trump Hotels staff last week, witnesses saw Trump’s managers begin “carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard,” the AP reported.

    The physical struggles increased yesterday, when Panamanian police arrested a security guard at the hotel after the guard prevented a police commander from entering the hotel’s offices. And today, onlookers witnessed police in riot gear entering the hotel.

    But the issues haven’t been limited to scuffles and handcuffs. Earlier this week, Panama’s government entered the fray, announcing that it would be formally investigating the matter. As such, wrote the Post’s Joshua Partlow and David Farenthold, the standoff has suddenly “turned a theoretical concern about the Trump administration — that, someday, the president’s private business might be investigated by a foreign government — into a reality."

    The building was used for laundering Colombian Drug Cartel money - Trump may or may not have known. That is to say, there's no public record at this time that he knew, though all the signs were there. Mueller has apparently just started looking into some of Ivanka's business activities - this hotel was "Ivanka's Baby" - and Trump profited big-time.

    This is unprecedented in our history - a POTUS entangled in these kinds of sordid crimes.

  3. [3] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    The problem is that most of this hasn't seen the light of day over in the GOP bubble. Republicans who only watch what Fox News feeds them have no idea what you're talking about..

    I checked. Over at Fox News dot com one searches in vain for news of White House firings, Mueller indictments or Jared's shady business dealings.
    Over in the clips column I finally see something: "Unions Praising Trump's Steel and Aluminum Tariff Plan", but that turns out to be an interview by Neil Cavuto with a conservative who wrote a book about unions once, and says - without evidence - that they're lined up behind Trump.

    Another clip in that column is from Tucker Carlson's show, in which he cites a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll to prove that "Americans don't care about Russia". The part of the poll cited by Carlson asks what issues respondents think will be important in the 2018 election. Opinion was widely divided, as one would imagine this far from the actual event. Only 1% said "Russia", and Carlson seized on that. What Carlson didn't tell his audience was that "by close to 2-1, 58%-32%, those surveyed say they want to elect a Congress that mostly stands up to the president, not one that mostly cooperates with him."
    I found that on the USA Today website, where they also note: "those surveyed say they are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress than the Republican one by 47%-32% — a yawning 15 percentage-point advantage."

    So Republicans, and their Fake News Network have done the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and singing, "la-la-la" until the bad news goes away.

    Which means that if the Mueller investigation indicts Trump, or the stock market tanks as a result of Tariffs, the basis for these events will come as a complete surprise to Fox viewers. That's worrisome on many levels.

    We've seen news sources with partisan agendas before - early America was rife with them, and 'yellow journalism' was once a thing, but we've never before seen a major News outlet deliberately mislead its followers with such systematic deliberateness.

  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Maybe Trump should read a book about another Republican president, Herbert Hoover, if he wants to learn how 'easy' trade wars turn out to be.

    Maybe Trump should read a book. You could've stopped right there.

  5. [5] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    ''Infamy, Infamy...they've all got it in for me''...classic line from Carry-On Cleo.

    It's about time 'take your kids to work day' came to an end. What Kushner and Ivanka know about affairs of state could be written on the head of a pin, their complete ignorance of government is dwarfed only by Trump's own neolithic understanding of leadership. As they say in Yorkshire, the three of them are as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

    Ben Carson brought a smile to my face this week, other than the one I reach back for when feeling maudlin, that the Pyramids weren't funerary in nature, but were in fact granaries. 30k for a dinner set, nice one... I'm still convinced Trump put him charge of housing as a bird-flip to his conviction in the seventies for throwing poverty stricken families of colour out of his buildings, prior to gentrification.

    Now that hope has abandoned all, and a couple of Generals are about to be beheaded in the Rose Garden, I noticed 'The Mooch' doing the talk show circuit gushing all things Trump, maybe his star will ascend again...the White House needs a new Trump whisperer, one willing to follow his boss down whatever rabbit hole he goes...Of the motley crew that slithered into the White Outhouse, the Mooch was far in a way the most colourful.

    Well, back to subverting the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race, not a tough task to be sure...One candidate wants to introduce the lord into schools, after we just had him removed. One wants toned down sex-ed classes because, and I quote...''I have only ever had one position on sex education,'' a statement no one feels the need to refute. Brian Mulroney's daughter, she wants to represent the working man, regardless of the fact that she's never done a turn of hard graft in her entire life...and the cherry on the top, Doug Ford, brother former Toronto mayor Rob...I got one of the last live texts in during the debate, I said...''When Dougie Ford is considered the towering intellect in the room, the room is considered empty.''

    And so it goes...


  6. [6] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Another excellent column! You could have dedicated the entire column just to the possible outcomes to Jared Kushner losing his 'temporary' security clearance!

    As I read this, I was reminded of a cartoon I saw in Politico:

  7. [7] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Interesting, CW, that the process that was described that led to Trump spewing out the Tariffs idea is the exact nightmare that Democrats have had all along: Trump gets riled, perhaps cornered, by events, and commits a rash act. This time it was announcing an unnecessary trade war out of the clear blue sky.

    Next time, maybe a real war, or a nuclear strike?

    If Trump is this disorganized when announcing a trade war -- one that had no external deadline to meet -- then what is going to happen if a real war ever happens on Trump's watch? It staggers the mind to even think about, really.

    Exactly. Trouble is, Trump's approval rating among Republicans remains remarkably high - I don't think any other president could have been caught openly paying off a porn star (and a Playboy playmate) or openly musing about confiscating guns and remained as popular with the GOP as Trump has.

    Part of the problem is that moderate Republicans refuse to face the tsumani of immoderate behavior that's come over their party, and continue to lecture Democrats not to be to hard on their brethren: David Brooks, hardly a radical, today described the current move by companies to distance themselves from the noxious policies of the NRA 'elite cultural intimidation', and warns, "If you exile 40 percent of the country from respectable society they will mount a political backlash that will make Donald Trump look like Adlai Stevenson."

    Well I think the exact opposite is true. It's clearly moderates in both parties that have been subjected to intimidation for far too long - by pro-gun advocates, and by political nihilists of the type who support Trump and refused to allow Merrick Garland a vote in the Senate. And like the #MeToo crowd, Democrats have finally had enough. If the GOP keeps pressing this outrageous and dangerous agenda, the candidate Democrats elect in the backlash will make Hillary Clinton look like Anne Coulter.

  8. [8] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Trump's trade war episode is simply a manifestation of an abysmal total ignorance of the most basic and fundamental principles of the science of economics.

    So, what else is new? A helluva lot of people much smarter than Trump (which group includes all Reps/Cons, and even a few Dems/Libs) possess only the slightest trace of economic literacy.

  9. [9] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    I guffawed on point. (GOP) Conjuring up the mental imagery of 'Captain Bone-Spur' stripping off to the waist, al a Putin, and dashing into a hail of bullets, beggars belief. Behold the filling of depends...

    It's easy to rabble rouse, offer to pay legal bills (and not,) and whip up a herd of potential snakeoil consumers..but running into anything, other than a flawed ACME boobytrap, just isn't Captain Collusion's modus operandi.

    Trump should stick to fiddling, Nero found that to be a relaxing distraction. One gets a sense that the denouement is close at hand in this saga, being a student of history, I have visions of Trump sloping the halls of the White House shaking hands, handing out phials of cyanide, bidding farewell to party comrades and marrying his mistress, all the while, the final act of Gotterdammerung echoing in the gloom. The Russians really know how to crash a party.


  10. [10] 
    neilm wrote:

    Since 45 is so blaze about running into shooting incidents unarmed, why doesn't he insist that the Secret Service drop his protection?

  11. [11] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Great cartoon! From one Rusty to another, welcome to the group!


  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    as of yesterday, WaPo fact checker had it at 2,436 "false or misleading claims" - hard to tell based on that label what's actually an according to hoyle "lie," as opposed to a casually repeated myth, honest mistake, delusional fantasy, braggadocio exaggeration, ad infinitum.


  13. [13] 
    neilm wrote:

    which group includes all Reps/Cons, and even a few Dems/Libs) possess only the slightest trace of economic literacy.

    I agree. I've not met any Reps/Cons yet with a basic grasp of economics. Fortunately, there are plenty of left wing economists, some with Nobel prizes in economics, that do understand economics.

    This might explain why we need a Democratic administration to put America back on track again after we've had a disastrous spell with Republicans in charge.

    When are Republicans going to learn fiscal discipline, as opposed to mouthing off about it then destroying our economy? Look at Reagan's deficit busting term. "W''s unfunded mandates and off-the-books wars, and the current clown-in-chief.

    What is amazingly sad is the complete inability of the right wing at the moment to comprehend basic economics when they are in power.

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Another thing that is amazingly sad is the complete inability of some bloggers to comprehend that in the constitutional three-branch government of our republic, the congress has exclusive 'power of the purse'. The executive branch (the pres.) can advise, cajole, beg, plead, etc., but whether we run a deficit or a surplus is the congress's call, not the president's.

  15. [15] 
    neilm wrote:

    Another sad aspect we have to deal with is the inability of some commenters to understand that the way the government is meant to work on paper is very different from reality - although with some people reality is a challenge.

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Having spent many years in a room in which the US Code (which includes the Constitution and amendments) covered almost an entire wall of the office, I've come to see that as the operating system for the country, with updates that actually happen on a regular basis.
    I know, because I had to insert addendum sleeves or replace whole volumes every month or so.

    The innovation that distinguished our software from all others at the time was the concept of enhanced user interactivity as opposed to simply leaving the system design to a single programmer, who was an autocrat in a room with a throne.

    Sort of like the guy who used to fix my office computer. He and I at least shared a fondness for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

    Since then a myriad of competing systems have arisen, some awful, some not so much.

    But right now, one of our competitors have attacked our system with malware that exploits our own programming, but which is essentially just a hack that left too much of a trail to be truly viral.

    But we haven't addressed it. And we haven't even discussed the fact that this virus has apparently invaded other systems from Hungary to Germany to France. We don't even have anyone tasked with designing counter-software, or some sort of firewall to keep them our of our system, at least.

    That's what worries me, long run.

  17. [17] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    That whole post will probably read a lot better if you imagine that I inserted the phrase, "When it was first written," at the beginning of the second paragraph.

  18. [18] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    So anyway Neil, this reality I describe in [17] is, I think, a sort of answer to the problem you highlight in [16].

    We have in our system (if I may continue my analogy), two competing teams of software programmers (as many Silicon Valley firms do), the GOP and the Dems.

    But keeping these teams on an equal footing - and not allowing one team to 'game the system' to override the programming that's meant to be responsive to end users (citizens), in order to install their own software, is right now an urgent task for management (voters), because I think it's evident that it creates vulnerability for the whole system.

    In fact, we're seeing a similar situation occurring with large platforms like facebook, or google, which was founded with a slogan much like the motto that the US adopted at it's founding: "Don't be Evil". But over time they've grown, and often been accused lately of having favored stockholders over customers, and of allowing malicious content to infect their systems, to the detriment of their ability to fulfill their missions faithfully (or as originally intended) and more importantly, to give their users the quality of service that they have been promised.

    Inattention and slow response won't be a good idea for either those internet platforms, or for the US. It could be an existential problem, since our credibility, including the cred we give to our money by dint of our perceived responsibility, is at risk. The fact that as you say, the inability of some commenters to understand that the way the government is meant to work on paper is very different from reality, is a bug in the system - how can we be sure that those commenters even reflect the reality of the voters at ground level if the process by which we identify those voters wishes is rigged to achieve a pre-ordained result?

    Polling is one de-bugging tool. If your election results vary widely from polls, you probably have a bug lurking somewhere. The programming teams disagree about the nature of the bug, of course, but we have another, more direct de-bugging tool available - the midterms, in which we can delete corrupt or inconvenient files directly.

    I'm mixing metaphors wildly, but you get my gist:
    It's up to us to fix this.

  19. [19] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Well, first I'll have to master regular posting code, I guess (damned italics). heh

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    He's now president for life. President for life. And he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll give that a shot some day. ~ Donald Trump speaking about Xi Jinping

    "President for life"!? Not on our watch.

    "Life for president" is more like it. I hope Benedict Donald likes orange. Oh, wait. :)

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:

    neilm - 16

    "with some people reality is a challenge". AKA reality challenged people. Less politely known as psychotic, or delusional people Not to be confused with one note cranks or political/social propagandists with easy acess to an unmoterated comments section. It' s a rich tapestry (taxonomy?) and getting richer by the day.

  22. [22] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Paula -2

    Faulty Towers

    Trump Inc provides management to the enterprise, but it's a typical Trump product...overpriced and shoddy.. At best it just a cardboard cutout At worst, It's like putting one of his red hats in your washing machine - it wiil stain everything else in the load.

    Trump's greatest skill is recognizing there is a sucker born every minute. Some of the suckers have money, some just vote. Mix and match.

  23. [23] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    ''President for life'' is Trump referring to his upcoming jail sentence, or his ignorance of The Declaration of Independence? And still, his gun-toting, god-loving base continue to think he's pure as driven snow and can walk on swamp water.



  24. [24] 
    John M wrote:

    [21] Kick

    "He's now president for life. President for life. And he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll give that a shot some day. ~ Donald Trump speaking about Xi Jinping

    "President for life"!? Not on our watch."

    I can't believe as an American President he got away with saying this about a foreign Communist dictator and there was NO Republican outcry!

    Can you imagine the screams of "He hates America!" from the right wing and FOX News if Obama had said this? Or Hillary?

  25. [25] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Can you imagine the screams of "He hates America!" from the right wing and FOX News if Obama had said this? Or Hillary?

    Too true.

    This sentiment is so common these days that it ought to have its own emoji, something like: -><-??

  26. [26] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Some food for thought....

    “The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

    "The slow-rising central horror of "Watergate" is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it."

    "It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…"
    "We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they're dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic."

    "I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth."

    "The real power in America is held by a fast-emerging new Oligarchy of pimps and preachers who see no need for Democracy or fairness or even trees, except maybe the ones in their own yards, and they don't mind admitting it."

    "All the blood is drained out of democracy - it dies - when only half the population votes."

    "History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened."

    "There’s a lot of things wrong with this country, but one of the few things still right with it is that a man can steer clear of the organized bullshit if he really wants to. It’s a goddamned luxury, and if I were you, I’d take advantage of it while you can."


    "The brutal reality of politics would be probably intolerable without drugs.

    "It's in my interest, in ours perhaps, or maybe the interests of the greater good, for me to smoke a joint, and calm down."

    Good peo­ple drink good beer. Just look around any pub­lic bar­room and you will see: Bad peo­ple drink bad beer. Think about it.

    Thank you HST .... you should have bought the ticket and taken the ride.

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Yeah, we've been thru this executive vs. legislative before. Reagan suggested the Dem congress bump the defense budget and cut the welfare budget, so the Dem congress bumped both of them, but still we call the resulting deficit the "Reagan deficit", right?

  28. [28] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS [28] The Republicans had both the Presidency and the Senate under Reagan until 1987. Explain to us again how the deficits were the Democrat's fault.

    Also, Reagan used some tricks, that the Republicans are still using, such as building 5% growth rates into his first budget - even David Stockman now admits that the proposed budget was "rosy" - and later budgets were also "rosy".

  29. [29] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    As I recall, the House of Representatives, where spending bills originate, was under Dem control throughout all 8 yrs of Reagan's admin. Don't recall about the Senate, and too lazy to research it.

  30. [30] 
    Paula wrote:

    [23] TS: Fawlty Towers!

    I like your analogy about the red hat in the wash - he certainly does seem to stain everyone who associates with him.

    Up til now Blotus has paid his way out of his crimes. People who hook up with him don't seem to have understood this - and find out, to their cost, they don't have that privilege.

    Hopefully that option won't be available to Blotus this time. Although I'd be fine with him avoiding jail if he'd just leave AND some of the top Republicans go to jail instead.

  31. [31] 
    Paula wrote:

    So here's an Op Ed from the former Ohio AG:

    Why I regret being in the pocket of the NRA: Marc Dann (Opinion)

    I first encountered those voters as an Ohio state senator who represented a largely rural district. From the moment I took office, my staff and I were inundated with calls and letters from gun owners and advocates. No matter where I went in my district or what issue I was discussing, my constituents never failed to remind me they had a zero-tolerance policy for gun safety laws. Anyone who thinks Social Security is the third rail of American politics has clearly never talked about firearms with an NRA member.

    While I didn't enter politics to be an advocate for the NRA, I quickly learned that unless I became one, I wouldn't be around to advocate for the issues I did care about. So I made a devil's bargain with myself: To stay in office, I adopted pro-gun positions that made me uncomfortable.

    The bargain paid off. I was re-elected to the state senate and won an upset victory to become Ohio's attorney general in large part because the NRA and Buckeye Firearms had "educated" pro-gun voters about my unwavering commitment to the Second Amendment.

    I soon learned however, that in making a deal with the devil to advance my political career, I had abandoned my principles and sold my soul.


  32. [32] 
    Paula wrote:

    And more Blotus crime:

    Past administrations have policed usage vigilantly. In 2005 the Bush administration ordered the satirical news website The Onion to remove a replica of the seal. Grant M. Dixton, associate White House counsel, wrote in a letter to The Onion that the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.”

    Just another day under the criminal administration.

  33. [33] 
    neilm wrote:

    Seems a big ask given the current trade war, but I agree - the TPP is good for America - it protects our value where we create it, and opens up non-China South East Asia.

    If the White House really wants to target China and do it in a way that they can't retaliate and strengthens their regional opponents, the TPP is really the best solution.

    We can't keep trying to protect industries where we have no competitive advantage, even if it is because another country has over invested and is running their economy at a loss for political reasons. This is the case in China where steel is an economic disaster that they are trapped in.

  34. [34] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I'm certain that somewhere recently, somebody happened to mention to the nut-in-chief that 'competition from imports can cost American jobs', and that his comprehension of how the real world works is so shallow that he automatically thinks "BAD, GOTTA DO SOMETHING", CAN'T HAVE ANY AMERICAN JOBS LOST", ergo, we start to hear about tariffs!

    Of course, he's not alone in that kind of shallow understanding, most of his fellow countrymen are also that dumb.

  35. [35] 
    Paula wrote:

    Earlier Monday, majority owner Orestes Fintiklis — a Cypriot businessman now based in Miami — said that a Panamanian legal official had allowed him to take over the hotel’s administration.

    They've removed the Trump-letters from the exterior and Fintiklis sat down in the lobby, at the piano:

    “And now, as you guessed it, I will play the piano,” Fintiklis told a crowd of reporters. He then began to play a tune on the piano in the hotel lobby, repeating a ritual that he had used to mark previous victories in the case. This time, he played what he said was a traditional Greek song, “Accordeon,” an anti-fascist anthem, and he sang along in Greek.


  36. [36] 
    Paula wrote:

    Sam Nunberg, assistant? of Roger Stone, fired from Trump campaign somewhere along the way, seems to be either pranking or going nuts on TV. He's called into MSNBC (spoke to Katy Tur) and CNN (Jake Tapper) and said, among other things, that he won't comply with Mueller subpeona, that he thinks Trump may have done something wrong during the campaign and that Carter Page was colluding with Russia.

  37. [37] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Wow... listening to the Nunberg, was just like wow.

    He might have gone on a bit of a bender and is in need of sleep.

  38. [38] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS [36]

    Of course, he's not alone in that kind of shallow understanding, most of his fellow countrymen are also that dumb.

    Why do you think of yourself as a member of a cognitive and educated elite, also why do you need to keep telling everybody you think you are better than them?

    You sort of remind me of my dog who has to whizz on every bush and tree.

  39. [39] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    You're ignoring the "most" part of my quote. I would never think of including Mr. Hypersensitivity in that group of "shallow understanders"!

    Kick would like to encourage you to say "better than 'they', instead of "them".

    P.S. As a last resort, you could ignore my posts, and save yourself all that misery I'm inflicting on you.

  40. [40] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    BTW, prior to this post, you had more "whizzes" in this 'tree' than I did!

  41. [41] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS - I'm not bothered, I'm just saddened at the potential loss of a reasonable debate. I happen to like opposing points of view, and meaty exchanges (with Michale it is like the "contradition" segment of the Monty Python "Argument" sketch

    So I'm trying to convince you that silly put downs are pointless.

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