Listen To The Women, Evaluate The Evidence, Then Pass Judgment

Five days ago, when the accusations against Sen. Al Franken came out, when right-wingers were gloating and left-leaners were in a panic and some were overreacting, I was on Twitter urging caution:

…this isn’t Roy Moore territory–yet. We shouldn’t lose our ability to evaluate the relative severity of inappropriate behavior.

A short time later, I responded to a tweet by left-leaning writer Jimmy Williams, who had written that he hoped “ANY woman or man accusing ANY sitting senator of sexual harassment creates an Ethics Committee investigation.” I wrote:

Sorry, but we should stipulate that the accusations be credible ones or this whole exercise will become meaningless and hurt real victims.

Those two elements—evaluating the relative severity of the alleged behavior and evaluating the credibility of the accusations—were lost in the rush to judgment during the immediate days following the charges against Franken. Among those rushing to judgment was another liberal writer and a woman whose opinion I greatly respect, Michelle Goldberg. Writing for The New York Times, she said of Franken, “I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat.” Now, after some reflection, and after many pundits are beginning to evaluate what is happening more soberly, Goldberg has had second thoughts:

Personally, I’m torn by competing impulses. I want to see sexual harassment finally taken seriously but fear participating in a sex panic. My instinct is often to defend men I like, but I don’t want to be an enabler or a sucker. I try not to be a hypocrite, while being aware that the right plays on the media’s desire to seem fair-minded, which is part of what led to wildly excessive coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the presidential campaign, among other distortions.

Goldberg noted the fact that it is “organizations with liberal values” that are expected to react decisively against alleged sin in their own camps, while little accountability is expected from Republicans. She continued:

As a result, it sometimes feels as if liberal institutions are devouring themselves over sex while conservatives, unburdened by the pretense of caring about gender equality, blithely continue their misrule.

Adding to the confusion is the way so many different behaviors are being lumped together. Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation isn’t comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism. The groping Franken has been accused of isn’t in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors. It seems perverse that Franken could be on his way out of the Senate while Moore might be on his way in.

Obviously, with all the allegations flying around about creepy, caddish, even criminal behavior toward women, this is a major cultural moment. As I have always held, the women making such accusations should be believed until evidence surfaces that casts doubt on their charges. But that means the initial claims have to be subjected to an analysis that takes account of the available evidence, including the responses of those charged.

Image result for roy moore and bibleOf course we should treat the claims of offended and abused women with utmost seriousness. But we also have to treat the process of evaluating guilt or innocence with equal seriousness, as well as determining the proper penalty for bad behavior. Because, in time, we will see some charges advanced against men in power (so far, that’s who we are talking about) that are not true, that are part of a vendetta, either personal or political. And when that happens, if just one innocent man suffers because of such a vendetta—especially one aided and abetted by our eagerness to right past cultural wrongs—you can bet the creeps, cads, and criminals among us, employing nervous men as their mouthpieces, will use that miscarriage of justice as part of an attempt to squelch the vital movement we see sweeping the country, from California to Michigan to New York to, yes, Alabama.

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Brown, McCaskill, And Sanders Fighting The Good Fight

One of my favorite Democrats in the Senate is Sherrod Brown. If you watched any news this past weekend, you were treated to his pissing off the insufferable Orrin Hatch, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday night.

Brown called bullshit on the Republican claim that their tax “reform” bill was all about increased incomes for middle-class folks. The senator from Ohio said:

I just think it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well that this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, it’s a good selling point, but we know companies just don’t give away higher wages. They just don’t give away higher wages just because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now. They’re sitting on a lot of profits now. I don’t see wages going up. So, just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm and the satire, and let’s move forward.

Hatch, of course, grew indignant and began touting his former impoverishment, saying,

I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time, and it gets old. And, frankly, you ought to quit it…I get kind of sick and tired of it.

Now, one has to credit Hatch for properly calling his career “stinking.” But beyond that, anyone who thinks he has spent that stinking career working “for the [sic] poor people,” for “people who don’t have a chance,” I have a degree from Tr-mp University I’ll sell ya. As for Hatch being sick and tired, Brown said:

I get sick and tired of the richest people in this country getting richer and richer and richer….

He was gaveled down by the snowflake from Utah.

That leads me to my own senator, Claire McCaskill, who was just here in Joplin for a town hall-style meeting on Saturday (she was rudely treated by only one right-winger in the audience; that’s progress). During the meeting, she tried to educate the locals:

As I go around the state, particularly in some of the rural communities, where it is tough in terms of jobs and it is tough in terms of the AG economy, so, talking about a tax code that we could reform to really help those folks, but instead, Republicans are putting forth a bill that is really focused on people that make more than $1 million dollars.

McCaskill doesn’t just talk truth about Republicans while here in Missouri. She also had a few things to say during a Senate Finance Committee meeting last week, also featuring Orrin Hatch:

Clearly, that notorious fighter for the poor, Mr. Hatch, had no idea what was in the bill he was defending. But, aw shucks, neither does the man Republicans are counting on to sign it, should they succeed in ramming it through Congress.

Now we come to an appearance by Bernie Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union. Here is the Vermont senator’s exchange with host Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: President Trump is accusing Democrats of being obstructionists on the tax issue. He tweeted — quote — “If Democrats were not such obstructionists and understood the power of lower taxes, we would be able to get many of their ideas into the bill.” What’s your response?

SANDERS: Well, that’s total nonsense. Democrats have been completely shut out of this process, just as they were shut out of the health care legislation process. Here is the fact. And Trump should understand this. What this legislation is about is fulfilling the promises, Republican promises, made to wealthy campaign contributors. There is a reason why the billionaire class provides hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans. And now is payback time.

What this legislation is about, Jake, is giving 50 percent of the tax benefits to the top 1 percent, and at the end of 10 years in the House bill, forcing almost 50 percent of the middle class to actually pay more in taxes. What this legislation is about, absolutely insanely, is repealing the estate tax, a $269 billion tax break, not for the top 1 percent, but for the top two-tenths of one 1 percent, a handful of the wealthiest families in this country, like the Walton family and the Koch brothers family and other very wealthy families….And, by the way, Jake, one other point.

When they run up a $1.5 trillion deficit, as they will in this legislation, they’re going to come back — and that’s what Paul Ryan is saying — they’re going to come back with massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because they say, oh, my goodness, the deficit and the national debt are too high.

This is a terrible, terrible piece of legislation, and it must be defeated.

That was quite a takedown of the phony Republican tax (and, for now, healthcare) bill. But Sanders wasn’t finished:

TAPPER: So, Republicans’ response to the idea that 50 percent is going to the top 1 percent is, the top 1 percent pays a disproportionate amount of taxes. I do want to better understand your objection to this aspect of the bill. Is it the size of the tax cut going to the wealthy that bothers you or the idea that the wealthy are getting any tax cut at all?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, what the Republicans are forgetting about is, yes, the rich pay more in taxes because we have massive income and wealth and equality in America. Fifty-two percent of all new income in America is going to the top 1 percent. Duh. Yes, the rich are going to be paying more in taxes.

Now, Sanders just about said it all right there—just about. The most beautiful part of what he said, the most concise framing of the issues voters may hear in the next two election cycles, was what he said next:

SANDERS: But does anybody watching this program really believe that the major crisis facing our country—when the middle class is shrinking, when our infrastructure is falling apart, when young people can’t afford to go to college, are leaving school deeply in debt, when 28 million people have no health insurance—does anyone really think that the major crisis facing this country is the need to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very richest people in this country?

That was what wrestling fans might call a flying spinning heel kick. In one sentence, in 81 extemporaneous but eloquent words, Sanders struck his Republican opponents with the truth. 

Good for him. And although Republicans won’t listen, if voters do, good for the country.

 

Packing The Courts While We Aren’t Paying Attention

Don’t count me among those who are giving credit to Mitch McConnell for trying to ditch Roy Moore. Five minutes ago, McConnell was trying to get the lawless theocrat elected. Nor will I give credit to most of the other Republicans who have spoken against Moore. Almost to a man, and woman, they all were recently rooting for Moore (Sen. Flake, excepted) to win and, thus, help the GOP screw the working class by raining tax cuts on the wealthy. A few truly courageous victims of Moore’s white evangelical Christian virtues spoke up and changed the dynamics of the Alabama special election and, essentially, forced national Republicans to say what they should have said a long time ago.

Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, finally chimed in:

Alabama voters should have a better choice, and Judge Moore should have better answers to these charges.

Blunt had no problem with the Orange Predator during last year’s presidential election. He didn’t demand that Tr-mp “have better answers” to the 20 or so women who accused him of either sexual assault or sexual harassment. Nope. When Tr-mp denied the charges, when he claimed “locker room talk,” Blunt was on board. The evidence against Tr-mp was at least as compelling as the evidence against Roy Moore. But Blunt, like his colleagues throughout Congress, was all-in on Tr-mp. All. In. And Tr-mp has done, and continues to do, more damage to the country than a Senator Moore could ever dream of doing. Yet, Blunt and McConnell and nearly all Republicans who matter are hard at work aiding and abetting Tr-mp’s disastrous reign—especially when it comes to federal judges and our courts.

Julia Ioffe, who just exposed Tr-mp Junior’s collusion with WikiLeaks-Russia, was on television this morning explaining the un-American behavior of the second creepiest Tr-mp in the family. At one point, Ioffe mentioned how all the craziness surrounding Tr-mp amounted to “flooding the zone,” while he and Republicans in the U.S. Senate are able to quietly “pack the courts.” Huh? You mean Tr-mp is getting something done besides trashing the Constitution and the environment? Is he packing the courts, too?

Hell yes, he is.

Over the weekend, Charlie Savage wrote an eye-opening article for The New York Times (“Tr-mp Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.”). Savage began with Donald McGahn’s “secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” That plan was formulated during the transition, before McGahn became Tr-mp’s White’s House counsel. Savage wrote:

Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Savage pointed out just how successful the plan has been. Tr-mp is on a record-setting pace in getting his judges through the process. But there is a very dark side to how Tr-mp is able to set records and shape the judiciary:

Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure.

Yes. For two years Republicans cheated Obama out of his right to appoint such judges. Actually, they cheated him and us. They essentially nullified our votes, when it came to shaping the judiciary. And they treated Obama like three-fifths of a president. Sure, we all saw Republicans openly and unashamedly steal a Supreme Court vacancy from the two-term uppity black man in the White’s House. We saw Neil Gorsuch wither on the Senate’s vine. But not many people knew about all those appellate judges Obama did not get to appoint. Not many people knew that Obama did not get to make as big a mark on the judiciary as he was entitled to make, as we were entitled to expect as his voters.

And we have Mitch McConnell, who some people are lauding over his throwing shade on Roy Moore, to thank for it.

I waited and waited for media outlets to pick up on an interview McConnell did two Sundays ago with right-wing nut Hugh Hewitt. But I couldn’t find a single television segment or a single news article about it. I suppose it was crowded out by the massacre of praying Christians in Texas and other outrages. But while our attention has been turned to mass shootings and collusion with Russia and Tr-mp embarrassing us abroad, our children’s future is being placed in the hands of reactionary judges, some qualified to do the dirty work and some not. Here’s what McConnell had to say to Hugh Hewitt:

MITCH MCCONNELL: There were 1,200 executive branch appointments subject to confirmation in the Senate. I not only didn’t allow the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled during the last year of Barack Obama, I also didn’t allow a lot of other federal judgeships to be filled. So when President Trump got elected, and we held our majority, we had the largest number of federal judicial vacancies to be filled since the early 1950s. And the President is sending up spectacular nominees. Barack Obama only had 60 Democrats in the Senate, got three circuit judges in his first year. We did four the week you and I are talking. We had already done four. That’s eight. And we’ll do more before the end of the year. In conjunction with the President and his spectacular White House counsel, Don McGahn, we are making permanent, long lasting changes to the federal judiciary.

If that doesn’t piss you off, if that doesn’t make your blood boil, then try this:

HUGH HEWITT: And so these 21 federal circuit vacancies that were inherited are almost as important as the Supreme Court. Are you satisfied that the White House is moving fast enough, because while there are 21 vacancies, there have only been 14 nominees, only 11 with their paperwork done. You confirmed eight. You’ll get the other three done. But we still got another ten nominees to come up to you.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I am convinced they’re moving fast enough. It takes a while to do the vetting and to get them in the pipeline. And now the pipeline is beginning to fill up. And we’re not going to be a bottleneck up here in the Senate. As you’ve noticed, as soon as the circuit judge comes out of committee, I call them up. I’m in charge of the schedule. I’ve got to choose what to bring up. Confirmation of circuit court judges is my top priority. As they come out of the committee, they will be called up.

In case you don’t know why the various U.S. Courts of Appeals are, except in rare cases, more important than the Supreme Court, there were over 50,000 federal appeals filed in the 12-month period ending June 30 of this year. Think about that. Thousands of decisions are issued by those courts and how many do you suppose are reviewed by the nine justices on the Supreme Court? Here’s what the Court itself says:

The Court receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each Term.  The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 80 cases.

Appeals Court statisticsThousands and thousands of decisions are made by federal appellate judges without review by the Supreme Court. That’s why Republicans are so giddy about what McConnell and Tr-mp are doing. As I said, conservative zealots are literally mucking up the future for our kids and grandkids. And it isn’t just at the appellate level. The zealots are advancing unqualified people to the federal district courts, too. The latest has made a splash on some news outlets:

A 36-year-old lawyer who has never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association has been approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That Times article quotes Kristine Lucius of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She said it was “unprecedented” to have so many unqualified nominees for the district court. She added:

When you think of how much power a district court nominee has over life and death decisions every day, it’s really irresponsible to put someone on with that little experience.

Yes, it is irresponsible. And, given how we got to this point, given that many of these appointments were stolen from President Obama, it is unforgivable.

So, the next time you hear some pundit giving Mitch McConnell or some other Republican credit for doing the right thing on Roy Moore, remember that almost all Republicans supported and still support a pussy-grabbing, court-packing Tr-mp, whose damaging court picks—most of them white men—will be around long after he is gone.

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What Democrats Need To Understand Before 2018

As you will figure out (if you haven’t already) from watching the Vox video below, technology and globalization aren’t going away. They are two powerful forces shaping our collective lives today, two forces that, in purely economic terms, have both good and bad effects. One of the bad effects is the increasingly large money gap between the wealthy and everyone else. Most Democrats believe that government, particularly the federal government, can help mitigate the rapidly worsening income and wealth inequality that is, essentially, a plague on our economic system. Unfortunately, it is Republicans who are in the position to reconstruct our tax code—an instrument of behavior modification—and they are hard at work reconstructing it to favor, even more than it does now, their rich donors. If they are successful, their plan will not only increase the federal debt for no good reason, but leave vulnerable populations even more vulnerable, when Republicans return next year with planned cuts to social programs to address “the debt” they are now ignoring.

There has been a lot of talk about just how Democrats should confront the next wave of elections in 2018 and 2020. Obviously, one domestic policy component of any electoral strategy is to run against Tr-mpism, which means embracing diversity and inclusion and, uh, reality. Another domestic policy component is to put forward a realistic plan for expanding health coverage (can anyone say, “public option”?). And still another component is to articulate an economic vision for the country that addresses income inequality without damaging our prospects for economic growth. In other words, Democrats have to come up with a plan—one that can be simply expressed—that acknowledges the reality of the changes brought upon us by technology and globalization, without trying to roll back the clock to simpler times, when America was the dominant economic force in the world. This won’t be an easy task, but it begins with acknowledging reality (and building on the ideas advanced by the Clinton campaign last year). The video below will help:

John Kelly’s Southern Strategy

Now that Tr-mp’s chief of staff, John Kelly, has outed himself as a card-carrying Tr-mper, we can move on with the job of trying to save our democracy ourselves. We’re not going to get any help from a man who is either as confused as he can be about the Civil War, slavery, and Robert E. Lee, or is just a tie-wearing white supremacist in the White’s House. You decide.

First of all, Kelly gave an interview, a very rare one for him, on Monday evening to Fox’s Laura Ingraham, trying, no doubt, to boost not only Tr-mp’s sinking ratings, but also the ratings for Ingraham’s brand new show, unashamedly a Tr-mp propaganda platform that Fox specializes in. Ingraham is a cross between Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, which is why she has been a thang in the conservative media complex for years now. So, Kelly appearing on her show and only on her show is all we really need to know about him, in terms of hoping he would bring some sanity to the White’s House—at one point he used the it-polls-well phrase, “agents of the swamp,” to describe opponents. But there is more, much more, to know about him (go here for some of his past behavior).

Kelly, of course, recently lied about congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who just happens to be black. He absolutely lied about her when he was trying to defend Tr-mp’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier, who also happens to be a black woman. The fact that he lied through all that is not up for debate. Yet last night Ingraham asked him about the matter and about whether the thought he had something to apologize for. This is how that ended:

KELLY:  Oh, no.  No.  Never.  Well, I’ll apologize if I need to.  But for something like that, absolutely not.  I stand by my comments.

INGRAHAM:  Washington —

KELLY:  But I’d just as soon let that go.

He stands by his lie, and the arrogant way he said he wouldn’t apologize was stunning. He stands by the lie just like he stands by Tr-mp, who is a lie incarnated in an orange skinsuit. For Kelly, a black congresswoman apparently has no rights that a white man in the White’s House is bound to respect. Period. But, being a white gentleman who claimed he’d heard “screams out of the graves” at Arlington before he lied about the congresswoman, said he’d “just as soon let that go.” Thus, the interview moved on to the Civil War and another lie, or three.

In the context of some well-meaning folks planning on removing plaques honoring George Washington and Robert E. Lee from their historic church in Alexandria, Virginia—just why the hell were those plaques there anyway?—Ingraham asked Kelly:

INGRAHAM: What is your reaction to that type of attempt to pull down little markers of history?

KELLY: Well, history’s history. And, uh, there are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good. I think we make a mistake, though, as a society and certainly as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those people— what Christopher Columbus did was wrong, you know, 500 years later. Uh, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then…I think it’s just very, very dangerous, and it shows you, uh, how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.

I will tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.

Everything Kelly said was wrong, except for maybe the fact that history really is history. And sometimes I’m not even sure about that anymore. But in any case, let’s start with what he said regarding the way we look back at history. He said it was “inconceivable”definition: “not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally”—to him that “you would take what we think now and apply it back then.” Huh? IImage result for southern strategynconceivable? Really? He can’t imagine how folks living today might look back at, say, slavery and decide, “Hey, that was wrong”? Kelly can’t mentally grasp that? Well, of course he can grasp that. He just doesn’t want to grasp it, for whatever reason. Nobody (well, almost nobody) condones the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” by going back and applying a unique set of moral standards to post-WWI Germans. There were people alive at the time and living in Germany who knew it was absolutely wrong to target Jews, just as there were people living in colonial and post-colonial America who knew that it was wrong to enslave other people. And even if they didn’t, we do. And we have every right to look back and emphatically say of our ancestors, “You were wrong.” And we certainly have the right to not honor them with plaques and monuments.

Next we have the obnoxious “Robert E. Lee was an honorable man” claim based on what Kelly said about Lee giving “up his country to fight for his state” because states were “more important than country” in Lee’s day. My, oh, my. Where did Kelly go to school? Where did he get such nonsense? I’ll let Columbia University history professor Stephanie McCurry explain where it might have come from:

That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880. What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century. It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.

Robert E. Lee was a traitor, as I have written before. He wasn’t merely fighting for the state of Virginia. He was fighting for the Confederacy, which made itself the enemy of the United States. That’s not even in doubt. The fact that Kelly tried to muddy the waters is evidence that he has a strong sympathy for “the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War.” Or it is evidence that he is playing Nixon’s Southern Strategy political game. Or both.

As for Kelly’s breathtakingly weird claim that “the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” another historian, Yale professor David Blight, said:

This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative. I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military…Any serious person who knows anything about this can look at the late 1850s and then the secession crisis and know that they tried all kind of compromise measures during the secession winter, and nothing worked. Nothing was viable.

Abraham Lincoln tried, up to the last minute, everything he could think of to prevent the war. You don’t even have to be a professor at Columbia or Yale to know that. Just read Lincoln’s first inaugural address, which I will quote at length:

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration.

I remind you those words were offered in March of 1861. Five weeks later Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the treacherous war against the United States was on. Compromise simply wasn’t possible with white people who thought they had a God-given right to enslave black people. As Professor McCurry put it:

In 1861, compromise wasn’t possible because some southerners just wanted out. They wanted a separate nation where they could protect slavery into the indefinite future. That’s what they said when they seceded. That’s what they said in their constitution when they wrote one.

So, we have to decide what it is that motivated Kelly—who was born into an Irish Catholic family in Boston—not only to arrogantly refuse to apologize to an African-American congresswoman he lied about, but what motivated him to offer a version of our history that is a knife in the heart of any chance of a lasting racial reconciliation. About that white-centric version of history, Professor Blight said:

It’s just so absurd. It’s just so sad. It’s just so disappointing that generations of history have been written to explode all of this and yet millions of people — serious people; experienced, serious people and now people with tremendous power — have grown up believing all this.

It is absurd. It is sad. It is disappointing. Just like Tr-mp.

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Jeff Flake And The Moral Treason Of The Republican Party

Published on October 24, 2017 @3:30pm

Senator Jeff Flake will no doubt disappoint Democrats with his votes as time goes by. We should expect that. He is after all a conservative Republican. But for this one moment we should appreciate what he did today on the floor of the United States Senate. The speech he gave was stunningly well-written and will go down as one of the great speeches in Senate, no, American history. It reflected not only a Burkean temperament that the conservative movement in this country abandoned long ago, but was a condemnation of the behavior of most of his fellow Republicans, as well as a longing, a cry for a pre-Tr-mp America.

I have posted the entire transcript below, which you should read, as Flake’s delivery wasn’t exactly perfect. But there was a portion of it where he quoted from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous editorial that appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1918, during WWI. Here is part of what Flake quoted:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. 

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Below is the transcript of the speech as it was prepared for delivery (courtesy of azcentral.com):

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.  We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

Now is such a time.

Image result for jeff flake speech on floor todayIt must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing — until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place.  We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

Remarks And Asides, Bill O’Reilly Edition

This just in from Headquarters:

“You know, am I mad at Bill O’Reilly? Yeah, I’m mad at him. I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.” —God

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O’Reilly, a serial sexual predator and hero of silver-haired conservatives everywhere, once wrote:

A number of Catholics have left the church because of the priestly sins, but not me. From the beginning, in Sister Claudia’s first grade class, I understood that the Catholic Church was about Jesus, not Father Flannery. Believe me, I saw so many loons in my Catholic school days that I should be a Buddhist.

Oh, another message just in from Headquarters:

“No thanks.” —Buddha

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In 2011, O’Reilly was on a mission “to find out why so many Americans are bearing false witness against their neighbors.” He wrote:

Lying and cheating almost always comes down to betrayal, and is most often driven by selfishness. America has become a nation obsessed with immediate gratification. Public schools have embraced secularism with a vengeance, therefore Moses and his Ten Commandments have been banished.

To which Headquarters has just replied:

“Uh, you were raised in Catholic schools, Bill, not public ones. So don’t blame secularism for your lying an cheating and betrayal and selfishness and, dare I say, your “immediate gratification.” And, dammit, leave me out of this.” —Moses

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Years ago, O’Reilly also wrote:

Throughout it all, however, I stayed with the church. If you cut through all the bull, the doctrines of treating others as you want to be treated, forgiveness and redemption, and charity for all stand the test of time. Even if the atheists are right and there is no God, the philosophy of Jesus is full-force positive. Live the way he lived, and the world will be a better place.

Man. Headquarters is busy. Another press release:

“Bill O’Reilly is why the world is not a better place.” —Jesus

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Oh, finally we have some video straight from Headquarters. It’s about time:

The Beast Corrupts

“The world that we used to know
People tell me it don’t turn no more
The places we used to go
Familiar faces that ain’t smilin’ like before
The time of our time has come and gone
I fear we been waiting too long”

—Steely Dan, Midnight Cruiser, 1972

Now that Tr-mp has done what we knew was evitable—essentially call the widow of a slain soldier a liar—we can forever rest assured we have not misdiagnosed him. He is what we thought he was: an orange-tinted beast beyond the reach of human decency. So, that’s that.

Image result for la david johnsonWe can also rest assured that former general John Kelly, widely and wrongly thought to be a moderating influence on the Beast, is not. He is an enabler. Kelly, for whatever reason, has chosen to spend his moral capital at the Tr-mp Thrift Store. I hope he enjoys the cheap trucker hats and other trinkets for which he traded his integrity and his dignity. The Beast corrupts and he corrupts absolutely, or the corrupt are attracted to him. Whatever the case, that’s also that. Kelly is Tr-mp’s ally, not ours. No one is coming to our rescue. Not Mattis. Not McMaster. Not McCain. Nobody. The Beast cannot be tamed, only caged. But he has the run of the land and no one in government is willing to hunt him down and capture him.

On to other depressing realities.

What we have to face are not just worries about a war with North Korea, a war with Iran, or more Russia-funded political outcomes. Domestically we have an all-out assault on many manifestations of human decency. Like:

The deliberate sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, which is life-threatening for many people.

♦ The hyper-partisan budget the Senate passed last Thursday—now fast-tracked for passage in the House—is powered by voodoo economics and, thus, loaded with human cruelty. And it makes possible even more cruelty to come in what Republicans like to call “tax reform.” Tr-mp, lying, calls the effort “tax cuts” for middle class Americans. As the CBPP points out, Republican priorities will enrich the rich and hurt children, the poor and homeless, schools, the disabled, and the elderly who rely on the safety net—you know, nearly everyone but Republican donors. Tr-mp said his tax plan will put $4000 in middle-class pockets. Advice to middle-class folks: don’t go on a spending spree. You won’t get four grand to spend. If you get two extra nickles to rub together, consider yourself blessed. Tr-mp also suggested his plan will be another “Morning in America” moment. He’s right about that, but he got the spelling wrong. It will be “Mourning in America”—especially for many of the dumbasses who voted for Tr-mp. Except they won’t know, or will refuse to acknowledge, who is to blame for their mourning.

♦ Our environment is now fair game for increased abuse. From the repeal of the Clean Power Plan to potential new drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to removing climate-change resources from the EPA’s website to barring EPA scientists from giving speeches about climate change, EPA now stands for Exploitation Protection Agency.

♦ Women’s reproductive rights are in extreme danger, both at the federal and state level.

♦ The Attorney General of the United States fashions himself as the general in the war on LGBT rights.

♦ The top spokesperson for Tr-mp says that it is “highly inappropriate” to question a “four-star Marine general” who actually isn’t even a general—and even if he was so effing what?

♦ The seemingly increasing open displays of white supremacy.

♦ Sitting on the Supreme Court, in a seat Republicans stole from President Obama, is a reactionary asshole worse than Antonin Scalia. And he will likely sit there longer than I’m alive.

♦ Less than two weeks ago, a man pretending to be our president actually said, “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” and, as far as I can tell, only one Republican, Senator Ben Sasse, has had anything to say about it. That scandalous remark got lost in the soup very quickly, which pretty much describes our biggest problem: our scandal cup runneth over.

♦ The Speaker of the House finds humor in the scandal-plagued and dangerous Deviant-in-Chief.

In the meantime, the man many misguided souls consider to be the head of the still-wounded Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders, has decided to remain and run as an independent in his 2018 Senate campaign.

Wish I had better news. I don’t.

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[photo credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images]

Rock Bottom

Some people thought Tr-mp’s attack on John McCain in July of 2015 was the lowest anyone, especially someone aspiring to be president, could go. “He’s not a war hero,” Tr-mp said of McCain. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” 

Now, there have been plenty of political reasons to attack John McCain over the years, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve done so. But to attack him simply on the basis of his being captured by the enemy, when he was serving in a war that Tr-mp aggressively avoided, is a low point for anyone. But it didn’t represent the bottom for Tr-mp.

Flash forward a summer after that shameful strike against McCain. In July of 2016, Tr-mp began his attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. The Khans had made the grave mistake of criticizing Tr-mp’s Muslim ban at the Democratic National Convention. Khizr Khan had said to Tr-mp, as he proudly waved a pocket Constitution in front of the crowd and television audience:

Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

While all of that was absolutely true, and while it was said by a father who had lost his son in combat for this country, that didn’t stop Tr-mp from first attacking Mrs. Kahn by playing on a Muslim stereotype that Tr-mp likely saw on right-wing Twitter:

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.

Well, of course she was allowed to say anything she wanted. It was just that, as she had explained the day before Tr-mp’s bigoted attack, she was still grieving over her son. “I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are,” she said. But Tr-mp wasn’t finished. He compared his sacrifices to the Kahns:

I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.

The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Peter Rieckoff, said of such unempathetic drivel:

For anyone to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving. Our country has been at war for a decade and a half, and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it.

Being neither smart nor grounded in anything outside his complex of disorders, Tr-mp had hit a new low. He had attacked a Gold Star family. But he still had not hit bottom. That momentous milestone he saved for his response to the death, on October 4, of 25-year-old U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was, according to the Pentagon, “a part of a joint U.S. and Nigerien train, advise and assist mission” in southwest Niger.

Three other Green Berets—Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Army Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Army Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia—died with Sgt. Johnson. But it was the way Tr-mp apparently spoke to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, and the way Tr-mp has responded to criticism of his attempt to console her, as well as his cynical attacks on President Obama and his inserting the death of John Kelly’s son (Second Lt. Robert Kelly, killed in Afghanistan in 2010) into the mix, that constitutes rock bottom, in terms of how low Tr-mp can go.

Simply put, he can’t go any lower. I don’t care what else he does, in terms of corrupting American norms, it won’t get worse than this.

After initially lying about President Obama’s handling of the deaths of U.S. soldiers, Tr-mp said to Fox’s Brian Kilmeade:

You could ask General Kelly, ‘Did he get a call from Obama?’”

As has been widely reported, President Obama invited Kelly and his wife to a White House breakfast honoring Gold Star families in 2011. The two sat at Michelle Obama’s table. Also, as The New York Times noted, people who worked with Kelly at the Pentagon at the time his son was killed “did not recall him expressing unhappiness with the way Mr. Obama handled the death of his son.” Purely as a logistical matter, during times when casualties are much higher than they are now, it isn’t possible for presidents to call all the families of those who have been killed in combat. The Times suggested that picking and choosing “could also raise questions about why one family merited a call but another did not.”

As for how Tr-mp handled the call to Myeshia Johnson—who was on her way to receive her husband’s body when the call came in—we will never know exactly what happened. In the car with Mrs. Johnson was a Florida congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson, who first brought her version of what happened to national attention because the call was on speakerphone. The New York Times put it this way:

Ms. Wilson said that during the call, the president told Ms. Johnson “something to the fact that he knew what he was getting into when he signed up,” the congresswoman said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

“But that’s not the worst part,” Ms. Wilson said. “She was crying the whole time and when she hung up the phone she looked at me and said ‘he didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”

On CNN Tuesday night, Rep. Wilson elaborated:

She has just lost her husband, she was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look, and this is what the president of the United States says to her?

Tr-mp, of course, couldn’t just leave it alone. Or he couldn’t just say, “Hey, I’m sorry if my remarks were misunderstood.” Instead, he said via Twitter early Wednesday morning:

Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!

When he was asked a short time later about the matter by reporters (just before a meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on his ridiculous tax heist), he said—with Claire McCaskill unfortunately sitting by his side—the following about Congresswoman Wilson’s claim:

Didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all. She knows it and she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said, and I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.

He was then asked about the proof he claimed he had. He replied:

Let her make her statement again and then you’ll find out.

He said that twice. And Rep. Wilson quickly tweeted a response:

I stand my account of the call with @realDonaldTrump and was not the only one who heard and was dismayed by his insensitive remarks.

Later, Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, corroborated the congresswoman’s account via Facebook:

Yes, he did state that comment.

Obviously, there is no “proof” as Tr-mp claimed. There’s nothing but his word, and the words of those who have demonstrated a willingness to lie for him, against the words of others. It’s quite possible that an awkward Tr-mp awkwardly tried to express what he thought was sympathy. But sympathy and empathy are strangers to him. He wouldn’t even know if he said the wrong thing because he has no right thing in his mind to compare it to. But none of that is really the point.

The real rock-bottom offense here is that we have a man, pretending to be president, who has broken perhaps the last taboo that almost all Americans acknowledge: don’t disrespect those who have given the last full measure of devotion. Is it too much to ask of such a man to honor fallen soldiers by a dignified silence, even if he feels personally slighted by something a congresswoman or a family member said? Is that really too much to ask? Is it too much to ask of a man who has stupidly started a fight with black NFL players—whom he accuses of disrespecting the country by simply kneeling during the national anthem—to avoid starting a fight around a quasi-sacred duty of the commander-in chief? Is it?

Whether he was misunderstood, whether he garbled words of consolation, what he did after that is as shameful as anything he has done. He didn’t just attempt to politicize a soldier’s death, as many have charged. He did more than that. He has shredded what’s left of the dignity of the office he holds by dishonoring the sacrifice of a man who left behind a mother, a pregnant wife, and two little children.

We know Tr-mp can’t help himself. He is sick. His very presence in the White House is a perversion. But the fact that he will continue on in that job, the fact that our system seems powerless to remove him no matter what he does, is a more profound perversion than perhaps any of us want to admit.

The Man Who Never Weeps

“that’s a fucking lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers KIA – he’s a deranged animal.”

—Alyssa Mastromonaco, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations

I have purposely avoided writing about Tr-mp lately. What more can be said about such a man? Recently someone said to me, “I hate him so much.” But that hate, while understandable, is misdirected.

Tr-mp houses in his head a plethora of pathetic pathologies that compel him to do the things he does. Nothing comes of hating him. The blame for Tr-mp goes to the culture that made him famous despite his failures, to the system that put him in power despite his unfitness, and that keeps him in power because of an unseemly institutional lust in the Republican Party for particular policy goals most members believe they can only achieve with the help of this historically dangerous and tragic figure.

Image result for mcconnell and trumpI watched his performance in front of the cameras yesterday, with the creepy Mitch McConnell by his side. I watched it all, as painful as it was. For almost two weeks Tr-mp has failed to even mention the deaths of four U.S. special forces soldiers in a desert in Niger. These and other U.S. soldiers were apparently part of a larger contingent of Nigerien troops who had met with some local leaders and were later ambushed by an Islamist terrorist group. Details are still unclear as to exactly what happened, but reportedly the mission these troops were on was not well supported. French aircraft rescued them, after flying from bases in Mali, hundreds of miles away. We will certainly find out more as days go by, but as for Tr-mp, we already know enough.

At a press conference yesterday, someone asked Tr-mp about the four soldiers and why he hadn’t spoken about them or why he hadn’t reach out to the families of the fallen. By now you know what happened. Tr-mp, because it comes so naturally to him, lied. He accused President Obama directly, and other presidents indirectly, of not making calls to families who had lost loved ones in service to the country. For this damnable lie, Tr-mp has received justified condemnation, but he’s also received plenty of unjustifiable defense. As always.

We have one of the nation’s worst natural disasters in history going on in Puerto Rico and Tr-mp cares only about himself and his feud with athletes or other trivia. He has been both condemned and defended for his posture toward Puerto Ricans—again, as always. When he attacked war hero John McCain at the beginning of his campaign in 2015, he was both condemned and defended. When he attacked a Gold Star family, same thing. When he admitted to sexual assault on tape, ditto. When he appeared at CIA headquarters, in front of a memorial wall that honors fallen CIA officers, he talked about the size of his inaugural crowd and his war with the press. For that inhumanity he was showered with shame, but he had plenty of people offering him an umbrella.

He recently attacked John McCain again, this time for a vote against a nasty healthcare bill that McCain, a man now ailing from brain cancer, found objectionable. Tr-mp once more was condemned—and defended. Tr-mp has now made good on a threat to put millions in jeopardy of losing their health insurance, a move that was followed by more condemnation—and an indefatigable defense. I could go on and on with the outrageous things he has said about and done to real people, all of it accompanied by necessary and appropriate condemnation and an unnecessary and inappropriate defense.

We are witnessing the behavior of a man, as I have said before, who has no soul. To put it another way, he apparently has no neurological capacity for empathy. He cannot feel, much less bear, the burden of another human being. He knows nothing of honor, of sacrifice. He is a man who cannot weep. You can imagine Tr-mp doing a lot of things, but you can’t imagine him sitting alone in the Oval Office composing a letter to the family of a fallen soldier and shedding a single tear. You just can’t imagine such a normal, human reaction coming from him. And as sad as that is, the saddest part of this deplorable drama we’re living through, the most distressing reality we face in real time, is that a large number of everyday Americans—your Republican neighbors and friends and family members—along with nearly every Republican member of Congress, will move on from this latest outrage, this latest offense to honesty and decency, like yesterday was just another day.

We simply have to come to terms with the fact—those of us who see Tr-mp as the sick, empty man he is—that a large swath of our fellow Americans just don’t give a damn that nearly every day Tr-mp assaults what’s left of the old idea of American exceptionalism, which by now is a corpse that he drags through our national streets, mocking us, mocking our country, and mocking what we used to believe we all shared, if we shared nothing else: our common decency, our democratic values, and our lofty, if not fully realized, ideals.

 

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