“You Claim To Support Progressive Values”

So, a Bernie supporter, signing with the name “A. Progressive,” wrote in to say the following (among other things) as a response to my second “Dear Bernie” appeal:

You claim to support progressive values, but support a candidate that is no more progressive than Bill Clinton was during his tenure. If the DNC continues with pushing “centrist” candidates, they do so at their own peril. Winning elections at the cost of abandoning the progressive values it espouses is hypocritical.

As I told A. Progressive, such comments annoy me. “You claim to support progressive values….” Claim. Claim. Claim. We know what that means, of course. I’m not really a progressive. I’m only pretending to be. Yeah, well.

Since I’ve said just about all I can, both publicly and privately, to earnest Bernie folks, I thought I would allow the great Kevin Drum take a stab at it. In a piece published today on Mother Jones (“Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders”), Drum made most of the points that I have been making but, let’s face it, he’s Kevin Drum and I’m not.

Drum starts out by consciously provoking Bernie people by saying the following about their beloved candidate:

I think he’s basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.

The great progressive writer then goes on to make the point that many have made about the lack of a revolution and the lack of conditions to even get one started in the way Bernie keeps describing it from his imagination. Drum cites two examples, and there are only two, where one could plausibly—Drum admits he is “stretching things a bit”—describe historical developments as amounting to an “economic revolution”:

  • The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War.
  • The New Deal.

The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. That’s what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.

Obviously, as Drum points out, “We’re light years away from that right now.” The conditions, relatively speaking, are just too damned good for most folks to get them to buy into a game-changing economic or political revolution. Unemployment is fairly low, wages, though in a stagnant phase, are pretty good for the average family (“close to $70,000”), and “90 percent of the country has insurance coverage.” And finishing this point with a mike-dropper, Drum says:

Dissatisfaction with the system? According to Gallup, even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.

That leads us to the most important point, the point that is hard to get ideologically minded folks, especially young folks committed to the things Bernie talks about, to understand:

Like it or not, you don’t build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.

I like that metaphor. “The slow boring of hard wood” is exactly what it takes, in this country, to make real progress. There simply isn’t a substitute for it. That’s the way our political system is designed to work. That is, generally, the way Americans prefer change to come. Americans, except on the fringes, tend to prefer things to move a little slower than the average Bern-Bernie-Bern fan, or the average Ted Cruz or Drumpf fan, would like. Drum:

…if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves—all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment.

That’s a hard message. But it is absolutely true. That’s our system, like it or not. If you want to change it, you first have to get inside of it. You can’t blow it up from the outside. That simply won’t do. You have to get in and work at it.

The problem with all this is that we aren’t just talking about an academic exercise. There can be real harm done by all the loose talk, as Drum points out. He says that rather than telling his people that there is a long slog ahead, Bernie

promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that’s never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?

That’s a damned good question. And like Drum, I fear that some of them will give up:

They’ve been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn’t work, they throw in the towel.

What I have been trying to warn people about, in terms of what Bernie Sanders has done and continues to do, is what Drum hits on toward the end of his piece:

…there’s a decent chance that Bernie’s failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that’s the last thing we need.

Yes, dammit. There is too much cynicism as it is. That’s the kind of environment in which a Drumpf can rise and flourish. And, as progressives, real progressives, we shouldn’t allow such cynicism to creep into our camp. We should fight for our principles, but fight for them knowing the fight is necessarily long and difficult and often frustrating. We should fight for them knowing that there are lots of other Americans who don’t have any affection for our vision of the future. We need to understand that some folks, maybe our neighbors or friends or family, are downright hostile to it. That’s what makes the fight so hard and what makes it so long and frustrating.

And as Drum says, the last thing we need is someone on our side, on the progressive side, generating the kind of cynicism that could put someone like Donald J. Drumpf in the most powerful office in the world. Enough is enough. Let’s get our progressive act together before too much damage is done.

Dear Bernie. Again.

Dear Bernie,

Almost two months ago I wrote to you. You ignored me. Fine. I can live with that. But I want to take this opportunity to remind you of what I said and try again to convince you that if you continue on as you are, you will sort of be, as a pundit on television said this morning, in “an unspoken alliance” with Donald Drumpf. Ouch.

It was evident, even back at the beginning of March, that you would not become the nominee of my—I mean, “our”—party. I urged you back then to accept that fact and not prolong the inevitable and to go out and actually help actualize the political revolution you keep talking about by,

suspending your campaign and taking all those millions of dollars that those earnest, well-meaning Americans have given you and put it to good use, like helping Democrats win competitive House and Senate races, so that a Democratic president can actually get done some of the things that you and I want done.

Well, you didn’t take my advice and here we are today. David Plouffe tweeted after the devastating loss you suffered in the New York primary more than a week ago:

Sanders has run a stunningly strong campaign fueled by passionate supporters. But raising $$ stating you have path to nomination is fraud.

Then you took another pretty good beating this past Tuesday and the “path” you keep talking about has now narrowed so much that only you, apparently possessing preternatural eyesight, can see it. At what point, Bernie, does it really become “fraud” to keep raising money by telling your small-dollar donors that you still have a chance to become the nominee?

Last night in West Lafayette, Indiana, you said,

I am very good in arithmetic, and I can count delegates, and we are behind today. But you know what? Unusual things happen in politics.

You know what would really be unusual? For you to see that instead of laying off hundreds of your campaign staffers around the country, you could give them a new mission: help down-ballot Democrats beat vulnerable Republicans.

You could redeploy some staffers to Illinois to help our U.S. Senate candidate, Tammy Duckworth, beat a very vulnerable Mark Kirk. Others you could send to Wisconsin, where the deplorable teapartier Ron Johnson is ripe for picking off the Senate tree. Wouldn’t it be worth some of your own time and effort to see to it that Russ Feingold—who lost to Johnson in that devastating 2010 election—becomes your colleague in the Senate again? Huh? Feingold, after all, has been trying to get something done on campaign finance reform for a long time. How about putting your money where your mouth is on that issue and help him?

Still other staffers you could send to New Hampshire, where Republican Kelly Ayotte will have to battle with a very popular Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan—she’s won twice statewide, Bernie!—and where you and your folks could really be a big help.

In Florida, Marco Rubio’s seat needs to be filled. Let’s fill it with a Democrat like Patrick Murphy, what do ya say? Granted, Murphy is no Alan Grayson, but that’s sort of the point, you know what I mean? Congressman Murphy disposed of the disposable Allen West, so, dammit, that’s worth giving him some help down there.

There are more Senate races in which you and your supporters could make a big difference. Believe it or not, John McCain can be beaten in Arizona. So can Pat Toomey, a Club for Growth kinda guy, in Pennsylvania. Rob Portman is a little shaky in Ohio. Chuck Grassley could be swept away in a Bernie-led landslide in Iowa. Richard Burr could be knocked off in North Carolina. Maybe you could even send a few devoted staffers to us here in Missouri, where Jason Kander is up against the lobbyist-loving Roy Blunt.

Besides all those vulnerable Republicans currently in the Senate, we have some big shoes to fill in Nevada. Harry Reid is leaving and Democrats could use a Bernie-boost to help Catherine Cortez Masto become the first Hispanic woman to sit in the U.S. Senate. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?

Senator Michael Bennet needs some love in Colorado, a place where we always struggle to win. And since you talk a lot about goin’ to California, how about weighing in on which Democrat should replace retiring Barbara Boxer? (Hint: Attorney General Kamala Harris is big on the minimum wage and paid family leave!)

Yes, the Democrats could, with your sizable help, take back the Senate. It is quite possible, some say even likely, if our top of the ticket, Hillary Clinton, runs strong with a Bernie-wind at her back. And even though it would be much tougher—this is where we will need your revolution, Bernie—there are dozens of House races you could put your name to, put money into, devote some time to.

Can you see how using your considerable resources to elect down-ballot Democrats would be much better than holding out for some language changes in the party’s platform that nobody really gives a damn about anyway? Or much better than forcing Hillary to become Hillary Sanders by adopting all of  your policy positions in exchange for your and your fans’ support? You said in Indiana,

We are in this campaign to win, but if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen. Our goal, whether we win or we do not win, is to transform the Democratic Party, to open the doors to working people, to senior citizens, to young people, in a way that does not exist today.

Okay, I get that. You want to “transform” my, uh, our party. But that shouldn’t be a priority right now, not when there are so many Republicans we have to beat this November. You really want to help working people? Then help Democrats get rid of as many Republicans in Congress as we can. You really want to take care of our seniors and help young folks? Same thing. Your revolution, and the far-reaching social and political changes you and I both want, will only come, Bernie, if we control all three branches of the government. And although that might seem to some people like a quixotic undertaking, it isn’t nearly as quixotic as your quest to become president.

So, please, suspend your shrinking campaign and really think big. You passively said, “Unusual things happen in politics.” How about making those unusual things happen?

Sincerely,

The Erstwhile Conservative

 

Drumpf Foreign Policy Speech: “Rambling To The Point Of Being Incoherent”

Drumpf’s sophomoric and laughingly “serious” foreign policy speech today was, needless to say, an embarrassment—and an embarrassment of riches for Pinocchio-awarding fact-checkers everywhere. I won’t bore you with the details now, scary as they are, but I will hand you a gift in the form of instant analysis provided on CNN by a very smart guy, Fareed Zakaria. After noting that Drumpf “stuck to his guns” in terms of a “populist, nationalist, protectionist” message, Zakaria then dropped the hammer:

It was sort of rambling to the point of being incoherent. He contradicted himself several times, it struck me. He said we’re gonna get out of nation building, but we are gonna create stability. Well, how do you do that? You get out of nation building in Afghanistan, you’ll get more instability. You got out of nation building in Iraq, you got more instability. He said the allies can rely on us, but we will be completely unpredictable. He said we will spend what it takes to rebuild the military, but we’re gonna pay down the debt. Uh, we’re gonna spread Western civilization, but we’re not gonna spread democracy. And he ended with a truly bizarre statement about the greatest problem in the world is that we have too many weapons, and, once again, a strange place where you might find that he and Bernie Sanders are one.

So, I thought that when he tried to flesh out an actual foreign policy, it was pretty incoherent. He was very strong on his protectionism, anti-trade, American unilateralism. He was very strong on attacking the Obama-Clinton legacy…really that’s mostly the Bush legacy when he talks about the trillions of dollars spent trying to nation build in the Middle East. That’s the Iraq war, that’s the Afghanistan war, both of which were initiated by President Bush. So, I don’t know that it’s gonna convince anyone, certainly it didn’t strike me as a careful, analytic laying out of a Trump foreign policy.

Others on CNN, including Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman who was Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Zakaria in his critical analysis, Rogers saying, “It was not exactly coherent.”

Who couldn’t have guessed that?

Drumpf’s Vaginal Probe

Once again, Drumpf was allowed to phone it in. His voice appeared on the morning shows today sounding, well, really Drumpfy. He sounded tired. Worn out. Old. Low Energy. No wonder he didn’t want to be seen. But he was energetic enough to continue attacking Hillary Clinton for, essentially, being a woman. The bully is actually afraid of losing to a girl!

And Drumpfy had enough energy to outline his future strategy against Hillary during the general election:

I’m going to be taking a lot of things Bernie said and using them.

I hope Bernie is proud of himself. Apparently, after months and months of attacking Hillary Clinton’s integrity, someone was listening: Donald Drumpf and the Republicans. But of course Bernie will feel no shame, take no blame. After a shellacking last night, he is still on to California!

In any case, Drumpf, who loves to double down, made yet another double-down mistake, as he was responding to reporters after his impressive string of primary victories Tuesday night. And unlike so many others, this mistake he will come to regret. The double-down came when he was asked to respond to the following comment that Hillary Clinton had made during her own victory speech in Philadelphia:

Now, the other day, Mr. Trump accused me of playing the, quote, ‘woman card.’ Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!

Using Drumpf’s original “woman card” mistake against him the way she did was a brilliant and effective counterpunch, especially against a man who specializes in unseemly, below-the-belt counterpunching. Hillary’s smooth attack is the way to go after Drumpf. Just keep focusing on his words and using them against him, and Drumpf, being Drumpf, will double down on his mistakes, which he did last night:

Well, I think the only card she has is the women’s card — she’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, okay? And look how well I did with women tonight.

“If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote” was a very dumb thing to say, even for a Drumpf. And, again, the way Hillary drew him out and got him to do that double-down demonstrates how you go after him. You tempt him to sound even more ridiculous, as he attempts to validate his original mistake. He’s a sucker for that kind of bait. Next up, I’d get him to double down on punishing women for what would be, under his wishes, an “illegal” abortion.

In the mean time, poll after poll shows how unpopular Drumpf is among women. Gallup found that 70% of women don’t like the guy, which may be a little high, especially as it is becoming clearer that he will win the nomination. But Drumpf’s gender-based attack on Hillary Clinton is really an attack on women voters. Hillary knows that and will, quite shrewdly, continue to make that clear. If Drumpf wants to make the general election a fight about women and their choices, whether reproductive or electoral, he picked the wrong fight with the wrong woman.

[Composite image of morning shows from Media Matters.]

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live In Kansas, But It Helps

I spent my first 30 years living in Kansas. When I left there in 1988, I left there as a right-wing dittohead. It would take another dozen years or so to get the Kansas out of me, to get the ditto out of my head, and to get right with reality. And though I am glad I escaped, I feel sorry for those I left behind, those who still live there, who have to live under Sam Brownback, a Christian extremist and governor whose “experiment”—his word—with supply-side economics has caused real harm to real people.

I’ve gone over the details before on this blog, so no need to do that again. Suffice it to say that yet another round of budget cuts are necessary because the Brownback experiment, which failed years ago, is an experiment that won’t stop giving because the governor won’t stop the experiment. The other day he again nixed the idea of raising taxes on the rich, taxes that he cut in order to make Kansas a thriving place that lots of job-creators would want to come to and create lots of jobs that would bring in lots of revenue and everyone would see how wonderful Republican governance was. It seems like a cruel joke now. But it ain’t a joke.

The practice of giving rich people large tax cuts and then believing that such generosity will increase the state’s revenue is faith-based economics. It really is voodoo, as a critic of Ronald Reagan’s economics, George H. W. Bush, once called it before he became a convert to it out of political necessity. In Brownback’s case, his faith in his economic program is a lot like his right-wing Christian faith: zealous and doctrinaire and unbending in a gale of contrary evidence.

As I said, the governor isn’t interested in debating the tax issue but he does have yet another plan: “Instead, we will focus our support and attention on controlling government spending more efficiently.” When the working class and the poor hear that in Kansas, they know they are about to take another beating. And, as the old saying goes, the beatings will continue into morale improves.

There was some good news coming out of the state, though, believe it or not:

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.

As Ars Technica pointed out,

This case, COPE v. Kansas Board of Education, is a notable victory for science—and a blow to the creationist crowd and its progeny.

Now, if only someone could deliver a similar blow to a similar group of zealots—those who are ruining the state via supply-side superstition—maybe, just maybe, the long and crazy and nightmarish economic experiment in Kansas would finally come to an end.

[Brownback photo: Gage Skidmore]

The State Of Drumpf’s Mind

Finally, someone has, out loud, gone there: What if Donald Drumpf is on the verge of Alzheimer’s?

Sophia McClennen published an article today with the provocative title, “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?

McClennen is not a medical doctor. She is a Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University. But she has recently co-authored a book on satire called “Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.” It is from that perch she is examining Drumpf and makes an interesting humanitarian point:

I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

She goes on to say:

Satirical humor only works if it is punching up.  Humor that punches down is just mean.  A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.

Her article cites examples of Drumpf’s odd behavior and his strange habits of speech and his inability to focus. She uses the recent example of Drumpf’s encounter with The Washington Post’s editorial board, a member of which had asked the candidate about whether he might use nuclear weapons against ISIS:

DRUMPF: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way, he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

POST: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?

DRUMPF: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here.  Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

McClennen writes about this bit of weirdness:

We have become so accustomed to these sorts of ramblings that we don’t really register them as anything more than standard nonsensical Trump-speak—a pattern of speech we have seen crop up across the GOP in recent years, most notably in Palin’s gibberish.  But I urge you to re-read the exchange above and register the range of nonsense—the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question.

The writer then asks whether Drumpf’s campaign gives us a clue that the candidate is more than “a savvy politician channeling Tea Party political rhetoric and reality TV sound bites,” that he might be “an example of someone who doesn’t have full command of his faculties.” She goes on to sort of indict a larger group of folks:

At times it can be very hard to distinguish between extreme right-wing politics and symptoms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that if two of the following core mental functions seem impaired then it is time to seek medical help: Memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, visual perception.  Alzheimer’s carries other symptoms besides memory loss including difficulty remembering newly learned information, disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes.

Does she go too far? And does she go beyond what the evidence suggests when she writes:

Much to the chagrin of the reasonable conservatives who wonder what has happened to their party, it is now often difficult to distinguish Republican rhetoric from the ravings of someone suffering from diminished mental capacity.

Let me start by admitting the obvious. I’m not a doctor of any kind, nor do I know Drumpf in any other way than from his public appearances. Thus, I am not going to say there is something mentally wrong with the guy, other than he acts like there is. Likewise, I am not going to say that extremist right-wingers are literally sick people. I know plenty of them who are quite clearly not mentally impaired in any way but who still believe what I consider to be crazy shit. So, I think it is a little irresponsible to go so far as Sophia McClennen did in her piece. Besides that, there are plenty of people on the left who believe crazy shit, too.

But—you knew there was a but, right?—I will say this: I am worried about the state of mind of people who will believe unbelievable things just because those things fit into the way they model the world, or who won’t take a minute to critically ask whether there is any real evidence for their beliefs. Some people, for instance, believe when bad things happen, like when the AIDS crisis came upon us or when Hurricane Katrina hit, that God is judging us for our sins. Is believing that a form of mental impairment?

Other folks believe that chemtrails may have killed Merle Haggard and Prince. Don’t believe me? Just look at a headline from the right-wing conspiracy site, Infowars:

DID THE CHEMTRAIL FLU KILL PRINCE AND MERLE HAGGARD?

Are folks who believe that nuts? You can go on that website, which is run by a strange and
dangerous man named Alex Jones—who also has a show on which Drumpf has appeared—and find all kinds of stuff that makes you wonder whether folks who take any of that stuff seriously are in their right minds. And you can do the same thing on Facebook or other social media, where many of these ridiculous conspiracy theories get replicated on a massive scale by earnest believers passing them on to friends and family.

But Drumpf isn’t just an ordinary person with a Facebook or Twitter account. He is the front-runner for the presidential nomination handed out by the Republican Party. So, it is natural that we hold him to a higher level of scrutiny than Grandma Orleta passing on some Obama-cancelled-the-National-Day-of-Prayer nonsense as a kindly warning to her fellow Christians. And when we look at Drumpf closely, we do find a man who could be mistaken for someone with a serious mental flaw, someone who often appears to be untethered to reality.

Without even exploring the fact that he has no real understanding of most of the issues of the day—an odd thing itself for someone running for president—the biggest example of his detachment from the way things are is his fondness for, or entertainment of, conspiracy theories. Most famously, of course, is his utter fascination with Obama’s birthplace and the easily falsifiable idea that the president wasn’t born where he obviously was born. The press has nearly forgotten about this weird fascination and I won’t go into the details here. But I can’t remember the last time he was asked to account for it, despite the fact that it should come up again and again because it reveals something important about the way Drumpf’s mind works—or doesn’t work.

I mentioned Alex Jones, the king of kooky conspiracists. As Mother Jones reported, after Antonin Scalia died, Jones speculated on his show that Obama “killed him, and all the intellectual evidence lays it out.” The next day, as it happened, Drumpf appeared on Michael Savage’s radio show—Savage is another conspiracy lover—and was asked about Scalia’s death. Here’s how Mother Jones wrote it up:

Savage raised the possibility that Scalia had been murdered, and asked Trump whether an immediate autopsy was necessary.

“Well, I just heard today and that was just a little while ago actually—you know I just landed and I’m hearing it’s a big topic—that’s the question,” Trump said. “And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”

Now, it isn’t just the fact that Scalia was not found with a pillow on his face or that Scalia, for God’s sake, was 79 years old and could easily have passed on quite naturally, as most people lucky enough to live that long or longer do. It is the fact that a man running for president, for leader of the free world, would first go on a thoroughly disreputable show like The Savage Nation and then, without knowing anything about the subject, say something based only on the kind of rumors one would find coming from conspiracy junkies. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic,” Drumpf said. And, as far as I can tell, no one has ever asked him from where he heard such a thing. But it is important. And, again, it says something about the mechanics of his mind.

So, too, does his disturbing refusal to accept real knowledge about vaccinations and autism, around which survives one of those horrible conspiracy theories that some lefties, particularly lefty celebrities, push. We know today that there is no evidence that vaccinations cause autism. One study, from 1998, that argued that there may be a connection was shown to be a massive fraud and it was eventually retracted by the prestigious journal that published it. But despite all the evidence against a connection, Drumpf has continued, as late as a debate in September of last year, to perpetuate the dangerous myth that there is a connection. We have to ask: What kind of mind won’t surrender to the facts?

Finally, there is Drumpf’s less well-known flirtation with another mind-numbing and terribly dangerous conspiracy. Like many Republican politicians and pundits, Drumpf doesn’t believe global warming is real. Last November he tweeted:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

This theory is a new twist on an old theme, popularized by Rush Limbaugh a long, long time ago, that the entire climate change issue is being used by Democrats and other socialists [sic] to get their hands on and subsequently destroy capitalism. So, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that February and March of this year were the warmest, by far, of any two of those months on record, that doesn’t mean a thing. The conspiracy will live on in the minds of too many people, despite the facts. And in light of that, we are entitled to ask: Does the fact that evidence, real evidence from real climate scientists, has no effect on the brain state of Donald Drumpf mean that there is something inherently wrong with his brain?

Such questions are essential when considering a president. We need someone whose mind, at least eventually, bends to the will of the facts, who won’t persist in a belief that has been proven false or never had plausibility in the first place. And whether one concludes that Drumpf is suffering from some form of dementia or whether one decides, for whatever reason, that Drumpf’s mind is just too unpredictable or unstable to install in the Oval Office, the facts are that he is showing us, day by day, tweet by tweet, that a President Drumpf would be a very dangerous man.

Etch A Drumpf

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.“—Jeremiah 13:23

almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Etch A Romney.” It played off the admission by Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Mittens’ top aide and senior adviser, that the Romney whom voters were seeing and hearing in the primary election wasn’t the real deal. After he wrapped up the nomination, a better, more palatable, candidate would emerge. Fehrnstrom smugly told CNN:

Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

Except he couldn’t start over again. Romney had said too much, some of it behind closed doors, to simply take it all back and reinvent himself. And his opponents in that primary campaign had also said too much. It was Texas governor Rick Perry who labeled him a “vulture capitalist.” It was Newt Gingrich who said the business model for Romney’s Bain Capital “undermined capitalism” and was “indefensible,” themes the Obama campaign amplified throughout the spring and summer that year, before Romney could be crowned at his party’s convention.

Thus, one would think, given Romney’s ultimate defeat in 2012, that cynically playing primary voters for fools—shaking it up and starting all over when the nomination is secured—would not be a strategy the 2016 Republican front-runner would want to employ, let alone admit to employing. Except, here we go again.

Paul Manafort—whose campaign experience goes back to Gerald Ford and includes Reagan and Bush I—is now Drumpf’s top aide. Drumpf brought him in to professionally navigate the complicated waters of finally securing enough delegates to win the nomination and then transitioning to the general election campaign. But Manafort may be a little rusty. Thinking he was speaking behind closed doors—why do people these days still think there are closed doors?—Manafort told RNC bigwigs that Drumpf “gets it.” Gets what? Oh:

…the part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for because he had to first feed the first phase.

So, up until now, Drumpf has just been an act? Yep:

When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business. He’s talking politics in a private room. It’s a different persona. When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.

etch a drumpfIf I were a fan of the man with the tiny hands, I think I would resent the notion that I was a Drumpkin bumpkin, a simpleton who bought the whole I’m-gonna-build-the-wall-and-Mexico’s-gonna-pay-for-it shtick like it was something real, not something the reality star was “projecting” just to win my simpleton ass over. But I’m not a Drumpkin bumpkin. I don’t really know how such people will process this utter admission of fraud because it’s not like it hasn’t been out there before. It’s not like Drumpf hasn’t hinted at it now and then. It’s not like we didn’t learn in February:

The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump, who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.

Despite calls from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for Drumpf to give the paper permission to release the transcript of that interview, Drumpf wouldn’t do it. Yet his throngs kept coming to his rallies and kept salivating over his bigotry and kept punching people who dared to protest him. So, who knows what the Drumpkins will do now, now that they know beyond a doubt that their beloved is a grifter and his campaign has been a hustle. Here’s how “Lyin’ Ted” put it to right-wing radio nut Mark Levin:

Donald is a New York liberal who is pretending to be a conservative, to try to fool Republican primary voters. And, you know, the amazing thing, Mark, all of us are frustrated with politicians lying to us. I’m actually going to give Trump a little bit of credit here. He’s being candid. He’s telling us he’s lying to us.

That’s pretty clever of “Lyin’ Ted” to give Drumpf credit for lying, don’t ya think?

In any case, what other choice does Drumpf have but to change his spots—after he has convinced enough Drumpkins to give him the nomination? An avid poll watcher, Drumpf knows how unpopular he is among non-goobers. He has to pivot toward palatability. And he has the advantage of knowing that some of the press will pivot right along with him, so that they can set up an epic, ratings-rich battle in November.

It’s already happening, as I have previously noted. This morning MSBNC’s Morning Joe, which has been a platform for advising Drumpf on how to be a better candidate, featured a discussion in which the Etch A Drumpf strategy was seen as a good move, one that, in the words of panelist Donnie Deutsch, could make it possible for the bigot to beat Hillary Clinton.

Well, if he does get the nomination, and if he does beat Hillary Clinton in November, it won’t be because people ignored as showbiz all the bigoted buffoonery they have witnessed since last June. It will be because they embraced it. And if they do, that will say a helluva lot more about them than about Drumpf.

Harriet Tubman Is Still Pissing Off Conservatives

It was, of course, quite predictable. Courtesy of Media Matters, let’s explore the damage Harriet Tubman is still doing to reactionaries.

The ISIS of IQ killers, Fox and Friends, featured Brian Kilmeade’s brilliance:

Well, how could you be remaking American history at this rate? It’s incredible.

Whoa, big fella! Remaking history? Who in the hell is remaking history? Oh, never mind. It is Brian Kilmeade.

The same show continued its assault on intelligence by offering us the stunning insights of right-wing commentator Crystal Wright:

I mean this is once again, we have Democrats now using our currency as a political weapon to pander to their constituents. This isn’t about Harriet Tubman, they don’t care about her.

Now, wait a minute. How could Democrats be using her to pander to their constituents if Democratic constituents don’t care about her? Huh? Oh, my bad. Logical consistency is not a hallmark of a show that has issued a fatwā on intelligence.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who sometimes, but not by me, gets credit for being quasi-sensible, chimed in rather energetically:

Don’t you wonder why some people don’t just use their heads? Well, the Obama Administration did it again. Went stupid. And went stupid for no reason…We could put a woman on a bill, Tubman, acknowledge her courage and not stir up the country. But give Tubman her own bill like a $25 bill. We could use a $25 bill. Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate. That’s the smart and easy thing to do. But, no. Some people don’t think, would rather gratuitously stir up conflict in the nation. That is so awful, and yes, dumb.

Nothing like the old $25-bill trick to keep white folks happy!

Former Illinois congressman Crazy Joe Walsh, who got all Drumpfish one time and urged President Obama to fix our immigration problem by constructing moats on the border and stocking them with alligators, is now—who could have guessed it!—a talk show host. Crazy Joe, obviously, had something uplifting to say:

Sorry Andrew Jackson, you’re just a dead white guy. Time to get you off that $20 bill. In the name of progress. Smh

I get the feeling Crazy Joe isn’t too worried about a dead white guy. It’s the live white guys in his radio audience who matter mo$t to him.

The Conservative Review got all mysterious on us:

Because she’s a woman or b/c she deserves it?

Both maybe?

And, finally, one of the nastiest conservatives God ever put on His liberal earth, Michelle Malkin, ignored the history, ignored the greatness of a great American hero, ignored the impact of it all, and simply said something so clever it still makes my brain tingle:

If only we had politicians who cared more about letting us keep our money instead of whose faces are on it.

Yep. For some conservatives it’s all about pissing off white folks. For others it’s all about disrespecting a genocidal slaveholder. And for some, it’s all about the money.

Just another day in conservative punditry.

“Mah People Mus’ Go Free.”

Have you ever heard of Mary Pattison Brodess? Probably not. The only reason anyone ever heard of her today is because she happened to have owned one of the greatest expressions of the often-illusive American spirit ever to take a breath on our shores. Brodess owned, just like she might have owned a horse or a plow or a plot of land, a little woman born with the name Araminta Ross, but who we know as Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman, circa 1900. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)When I first heard that Tubman, finally, would replace the reprehensible Andrew Jackson on the front of the ubiquitous $20 bill (Jackson will, regrettably, remain on the back of the bill for some strange reason), the first thing I thought about were all the cruel and not-so-cruel slave owners, the sadistic and not-so-sadistic masters, and the always greedy slave catchers who are a part of our nation’s history, all of whom once thought that, as white people of privilege, the Harriet Tubmans were theirs to abuse, to work, to trade, to buy and sell like cattle and then be forgotten. I thought about how her face—Harriet Tubman’s face—will stare at all of us as we do our own buying and selling today. If we ever need a reason to avoid transitioning to a cashless society, it would be because that would mean her face would disappear with the currency.

I won’t detail Tubman’s remarkable life here. There are plenty of places you can go to read about her, if you have forgotten her story of sadness and triumph, her heroism, her devotion to liberty for herself and other slaves she helped rescue through the Underground Railroad. As I suggested, her spirit was a true American spirit, an odd thing for someone whose family roots were in Africa.  Her courageous and freedom-loving soul represented that soul of America that our slave-owning Founders described on paper, but so often failed to represent themselves.

I know the Obama administration has accomplished a lot since 2009, but this move by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has to rank way up there. Next to Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration as our nation’s first African-American president, I can’t think of anything so pregnant with symbolism, so fitting as a reminder of who we have been and who we are today. Someday, somewhere, Mr. Obama will take out a Tubman Twenty, look at it, and smile. He will know that for years to come a former slave woman will stare into the eyes of all Americans, including those white Americans who have long resented our black president because his presidency itself has symbolized not just the partial realization of a long-incubating American idealism, but the waning of white privilege, privilege that began with slavery, with the idea that Harriet Tubman had no rights that white people were bound to respect.

The Drumpf Is Still A Drumpf

Much has been made of the “change in tone” of the Republican front-runner’s victory speech last night in New York. He actually got a ton of credit from media personalities for not calling Cruz “Lyin Ted” for a change. And suddenly the nationally unpopular GOP leader has been getting a lot of credit from journalists for being “more disciplined” as a candidate. Well, as Antonin Scalia might say if he weren’t permanently visiting that great hunting ground in the sky, what a load of jiggery-pokery. Once a Drumpf always a Drumpf.

I don’t give a damn if he tidies up his act for the cameras, now that some real professionals are taking over his campaign, replacing the creepy groupies who have helped him get this far in a creepy Republican primary. He can’t un-birth his birtherism. He can’t un-bigot himself. He can’t take back all those nasty things he said about Mexicans and Muslims. He can’t suddenly cast away the David Duke-ish nature of his quasi-racist campaign or slither away from his slimy, misogynistic meanderings. He paladino and trump.jpgcan put on a Mr. Rogers mask, but underneath there will always be a Drumpf peeking out.

Just last night, while trying to sound “presidential,” there stood behind the GOP buffoon one of the most buffoonish characters in New York Republican politics, second only to Drumpf himself. His name is Carl Paladino, a prominent Drumpf surrogate who ran for governor in 2010 and promptly got crushed by Andrew Cuomo because, well, the guy is a weirdo. Oh, and he likes to promote racism, too.

And what I found amazing about all the cable TV coverage of Drumpf’s decisive victory last night, coverage in which he was given too much credit for changing his manners, no one on TV, at least that I saw, mentioned that Carl Paladino was standing right behind him on th20100409-g67jy9ubexh98eptq85jiykxjte stage. Why is that? In all the rush to anoint an allegedly new and improved GOP presidential candidate, why wouldn’t it be relevant to mention that the “more disciplined” Drumpf was sharing the stage with someone who was caught forwarding racist emails, one of which depicted President Obama as a pimp and his wife as a hooker, and another—once all the rage on white supremacist websites—that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal” and featured a video of African tribesmen dancing? Is this the way the straight media are going to cover a slicker Drumpf from now on? Just ignore shit?

I doubt it. After journalists get over the shock of Drumpf’s slight change in campaign etiquette, Hillary Clinton will be around to remind them all of just how bad even a lipsticked Drumpf really is.

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