Just Who Is Beneath Their Office?

Predictably, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski again got under Tr-mp’s toilet-paper skin. If you watched Morning Joe’s broadcast today, which was quite hard on Agent Orange, you could sort of feel it coming. It came in two Tr-mpian tweets:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…..to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Now, just as predictable as a Tr-mp hate tweet, was how The Woman Who Lost Her Soul To Donald Tr-mp, known as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended her master: “This is a President who fights fire with fire.” I suppose she had that one at the ready just in case Tr-mp really did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Too bad she had to waste it on a tweet.

In any case, it was also predictable that some Republicans would, reluctantly in some cases, mildly condemn the sexist tweet. Senator Lindsey Graham said it was “beneath the office.” Senator Ben Sasse said it was “beneath the dignity” of the office. Such comments from Republican legislators are probably the best we’re going to get, considering that Tr-mp has said and done much worse, in terms of his interactions with women, and yet still most Republican lawmakers have stood beside him, grinning from ear to ear, through it all.

But such mild condemnation is just not good enough. It’s won’t do to merely label Tr-mp’s revealing tweets as beneath the office or beneath whatever dignity is left in the office, now that Tr-mp has been sitting in it for five months. Until congressional Republicans go mika tweetfurther, until they say out loud (as opposed to whispering it behind closed doors) that Tr-mp himself is beneath the office, that he is a mentally unstable man who is not up to the job, that he is a national embarrassment, then they are to blame for the likely irreparable damage he has done and will continue to do to the presidency. They are to blame for every unseemly utterance, every twisted tweet, every vulgar violation of the emoluments clauses, every audacious attempt to obstruct justice. If they do nothing but condemn a tweet or two, they are beneath the dignity of their offices.

And they are especially responsible for not holding Tr-mp accountable for doing absolutely nothing about a cyber attack on our democracy and sovereignty by a foreign adversary—an adversary he openly begged for help during his horrific campaign—and for not preparing the country for the inevitable cyber attacks to come during the election seasons of 2018 and 2020.

In short, Republicans own Tr-mp. They own every nasty and petty tweet, every stupid and demeaning and illegal thing he does. And when the Russians try to muck up our elections again—perhaps next time to help Democrats—they will own that, too.

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Did Hillary Clinton Kill Someone Yesterday?

She must have. She must have killed a lot of people. Perhaps she perpetrated a mass shooting or blew up a school building full of children. Maybe she set a nursing home on fire and laughed while it burned. Something like that must have happened for there to be such Hillary-hating hysteria on television, the Internet, social media, and in print since yesterday.

It’s everywhere, this hysteria. Coming from the right and the left. I have seen it on Fox. I have seen it on CNN—which is subsidizing Trump’s campaign by paying so many of his surrogates for their on-air appearances and broadcasting his rallies endlessly—and, regrettably, I have seen it on MSNBC, starting last night when liberal journalist Chris Hayes invited Clinton-hating Glenn Greenwald on to have a go at Hillary. MSNBC this morning was even worse, as the crew at Morning Joe lost their minds over the FBI’s failure to recommend indictment of an obviously guilty Hillary Clinton.

morning joe and hillary emailYou see, Hillary’s guilt is determined not by a court, not by people in the law business, but by people in the Clinton-hating business. And as we can now see, that’s a big business. Joe Scarborough, a long-time Clinton hater, said this morning, “Anybody else would have gone to jail.” Scarborough, a Republican with a TV show, gets to play judge and jury when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She has no rights a cable pundit is bound to respect.

Try to keep all this hate and hysteria in context. And by context I mean Donald Trump. As Huffpo puts at the end of every story on the GOP nominee:

Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

That factual addendum leaves out one important fact: the man is clearly mentally unstable and in no way can be trusted with any intelligence information, let alone trusted with putting his tiny, insecure fingers on the nuclear trigger. Yet, this morning I heard the Morning Joe panel giggle over Trump’s unhinged speech last night at his rally in North Carolina, a speech that CNN carried in full and which featured this:

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein Again — This Time For Killing Terrorists ‘So Good’

Yes, Trump really praised a brutal dictator. He has never met an authoritarian he didn’t like. And his followers, who shower him with adoration, have apparently never met a lover of authoritarians they didn’t love. And journalists, on television and elsewere, apparently find Trump not dangerous or disturbed, but entertaining.

Also for context keep in mind the David Petraeus controversy scandal, which comes up during almost any discussion of Clinton’s email practices. What exactly did he do? As the L.A. Times put it in an excellent article:

In the Petraeus case, which came to light in 2012, the CIA director was found to have shared highly classified documents with his biographer, Patricia Broadwell, during the course of their affair. Investigators found more than 100 photographs from notebooks Petraeus had given her, as well as secret PowerPoint briefings on the war in Afghanistan. The Justice Department threatened to charge him with three felonies, which could have landed him in prison for years. They eventually settled on a misdemeanor plea deal, where Petraeus pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI, paid a $100,000 fine and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Petraeus, regarded as one of the military’s most skillful commanders by Democrats and Republicans alike, resigned in shame.

Let me summarize that for you: The good, family-values General was banging someone-not-his-wife, and he knowingly gave that someone-not-his-wife classified information that he knew would be made public because that someone-not-his-wife was a journalist writing a book about him, and then, just for grins and giggles, he lied to the FBI about it. Yeah, that’s pretty close to what Hillary Clinton allegedly did, right? Jesus, people.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remember that George W. Bush email controversy in 2007? You don’t? Haven’t heard the hysterical talking heads mention that one when discussing Hillary?  Here’s a summary from PBS’s Washington Week:

In 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eights U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government email server.  The officials had used the private domain gwb43.com, a server run by the Republican National Committee. Two years later, it was revealed that potentially 22 million emails were deleted, which was considered by some to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Who went to jail over that? Huh? Karl Rove, who used that private server for most of his emailing while in the White House, is enjoying life on Fox “News” and still working to undermine Democrats everywhere. And Rove never suffered for his part in the public outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Oh, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, knee-deep in that 2007 scandal, was on television this morning criticizing FBI Director James Comey!

What a country.

If I sound angry it is because I am. If you watched and appreciated President Obama yesterday, as he endorsed Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and gave a great speech extolling her virtues, obama and clinton.jpgthen you’d be angry too. That unprecedented event pretty much got lost in all the hate coming from, as I said, both the right and the left. We live in sick times.

If I were Mrs. Clinton, I would tell all the haters out there—especially those Bernie-bots who hate her more than most conservatives do—to go straight to hell. I would tell them they can have Donald Trump if they want him. I would say good luck getting, from a Trump administration, free college and decent healthcare for all and the other things you say you want. I would tell all those young people out there, those who hate Hillary’s guts so much they would prefer a global warming denier as their president, have at it. He’s all yours. I’ll be long dead before the worst of it hits the planet.

I would tell all those working stiffs—including some union folks—who prefer Trump, to enjoy the mess he makes of the economy and the world. Enjoy your lower wages, if you still have a bleeping job. And, finally, I would tell all those journalists, those who are making it safe for Trump to broadcast his bigotry and ignorance and racism and hatred for a free press, I’m outta here. You think it is more interesting to cover someone like Trump? You’ll find out what interesting is. You like the ratings he brings? You’ll be the ones who pay. You think he’s funny? Laugh until you cry.

I would tell them all that I’m going home to play with my grandkids. And when things get really bad, I can move. Can you?

__________________________

Not that it matters much to anyone it seems, but here is an excerpt from President Obama’s speech yesterday:

Now, let me tell you, North Carolina, my faith in Hillary Clinton has always been rewarded. I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her toughness and her commitment to diplomacy. And I witnessed it in the Situation Room where she argued in favor of the mission to get Bin Laden.

I saw how — I saw how — how as a former senator from New York, she knew, she understood because she had seen it, she had witnessed it, what this would mean for the thousands who had lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.

I benefited from her savvy and her skill in foreign capitals where her pursuit to diplomacy led to new partnerships, opened up new nations to democracy, helped to reduce the nuclear threat. We’ve all witnessed the work she’s done to advance the lives of women and girls around the globe.

She has been working on this since she was a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund. She’s not late to the game at this; she’s been going door to door to make sure kids got a fair share, making sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s been fighting those fights, and she’s got the scars to prove it….

But you know, it — it wasn’t just what happened in the lime light that made me grow more and more to admire and respect Hillary. It was how she acted when the cameras weren’t on. It was knowing how she did her homework. It was knowing how many miles she put in traveling to make sure that America was effectively represented in corners of the globe that people don’t even know about. There wasn’t any — any — any political points to be had, but she knew that it was important.

I saw how she treated everybody with respect, even the folks who aren’t quote/unquote “important.” That’s how you judge somebody is how do they treat somebody when the cameras are off and they can’t do anything for you. Do you still treat them right? Do you still treat them with respect? Do you still listen to them? Are you still fighting for them?

I saw how deeply she believes in the things she fights for. And I saw how you can count on her and how she won’t waver and she won’t back down. And she will not quit, no matter how difficult the challenge and no matter how fierce the opposition.

And — and if there’s one thing I can tell you, Charlotte, is those things matter. Those — those — those things matter. I am here to tell you that the truth is nobody fully understands the challenges of the job of president until you’ve actually sat at that desk.

Everybody’s got an opinion, but nobody actually knows the job until you’re sitting behind the desk. Everybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes to do the job until you’ve sat behind the desk.

The “Likable” Drumpf?

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore told some good jokes and some bad jokes, but he got at some real truth when he said this:

…whenever I turn to the TV, I see Trump’s family campaigning for him, gushing all over him. Or as it’s also known as, “Morning Joe.”

Have you seen “Morning Joe”? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, “Morning Joe” has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that’s true. You know I’m not lying. You know that’s true.

Nobody on MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a thing to say about it today. Why? I guess because it’s the awful truth and there isn’t any point in disputing it.

This morning the show actually validated Wilmore’s claim, dancing even deeper into Drumpf’s crowded colon, where not only Chris Christie lives, but so too does other human polyps like player-assaulting Coach Bobby Knight, convicted rapist Mike Tyson, and unrepentant birther and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and many of the other regulars on Morning Joe, which is actually transmitted from Drumpf’s poop chute, are in good company.

In any case, I will only share with you one comment by a Morning Joe panelist this morning. Elise Jordan, who is now a political analyst for MSNBC, but who worked in the Bush II administration and recently was a foreign policy aide to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, was part of a discussion on how irritating Ted Cruz is—everyone on Morning Joe hates Ted Cruz. Using that as her springboard, Jordan said the following:

I think for Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz is a much better contender to go up against her, from the Democratic perspective, just because he wears so thin so quickly. And Donald Trump, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him. And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

elise jordan.jpgWhere does one start dissecting that stunningly strange analysis? How about with a kind word to Ms. Jordan: You got it right that Cruz would be easier for Hillary to run against. But you got it wrong as to why. It has very little to do with his wearing thin on people. It has a lot to do with the fact that the guy is a religious zealot who abhors compromise and has no sense of where the country is on any of the social issues, not to mention his tax plan would reward the wealthy and hurt the poor, while starving the country of revenues to the tune of nearly $9 trillion over ten years.

But since Cruz is the longest of long shots to win anyway, it ain’t worth discussing him. What is worth discussing it the idea advanced by Jordan that Drumpf’s competitive strength is “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him.”  First of all, we have a good idea of what we’re going to get out of him: more of the same we’ve been getting for months now. Childish insults and incoherent policies—including his own ridiculous tax and tariff policy that would harm ordinary folks—and “two” Corinthians and Tan-ZANE-i-a. He ain’t gonna change that stuff because he can’t change that stuff.

But I’ll grant that there will be some real unpredictability with Drumpf. Why? Because he’s a brilliant strategist? No. Because he’s unstable. His unpredictability is a product of his instability. Period. The man is unhinged, when it comes to the world of facts. He has a love affair with lies. His intellectual boat doesn’t have an anchor. It drifts with the flow of the moment. So, in that sense, there is some, and some dangerous, unpredictability associated with him. But Mrs. Clinton can respond to it by making sure people know that his unpredictability is a sign—a warning—that there is something seriously wrong with the guy’s approach to and understanding of the way the world works, if not something wrong with his mind. The presidency isn’t an office where instability-driven unpredictability is a virtue. At least it shouldn’t be.

In light of that, let’s look at the rest of what Elise Jordan said, something so strange about Drumpf that it bears repeating:

And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

What do we make of this? It came from a female analyst, one with much experience in the world of policy and politics. Is this something only a female analyst could say about a male candidate? Is this an example of the bad boy syndrome? I ain’t going there. But where I will go is to a New York Times article from 2012.

Richard Friedman is professor of clinical psychiatry. He wrote a piece for the Times titled, “I Heart Unpredictable Love.” It’s an interesting read. Dr. Friedman discussed why people are attracted to “unpredictable romantic partners,” but it has application to what Elise Jordan said about Donald Drumpf, who has a weird romance going with no small number of voters.

Friedman focused on a study done using brain scans that attempted to measure what happens to the brain “when people are given rewards under two different conditions: predicted and unpredicted.” Results indicated there is a “greater activation in the brain’s reward circuit when the reward was unanticipated than when it was delivered in a predictable fashion.” More dopamine—an organic chemical that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers—is released when receiving unpredictable rewards than predictable ones, said Dr. Friedman. And he also said:

If you are involved with someone who is unpredictably loving, you might not like it very much — but your reward circuit is sure going to notice the capricious behavior and give you information that might conflict with what you believe consciously is in your best interest.

Does this explain why people, people who should know better, are tempted by Drumpf? Does it explain Elise Jordan’s jaw-dropping remark about Drumpf this morning? Before you are tempted to call me a sexist for implying that her remark is related to her femininity, note that the study Friedman cited, on what happens in the brain regarding unpredictable-predictable rewards, included both women and men. It is clear enough that there are plenty of men who are attracted to Drumpf’s bad boy image and his “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him” unpredictability. Just watch the men react to him both inside and outside of his rallies.

All of this may be loosely connected to another phenomenon that may or may not be something Democrats have to worry about in the upcoming Clinton-Drumpf brawl. It’s called “social desirability bias,” a concept from social psychology that has applicability to the polling numbers we’re all bombarded with every day. The idea is that the results of a poll are dependent on whether a respondent is surveyed online or is asked questions by a live interviewer on the phone. It turns out that it makes a difference in Drumpf’s numbers. From The New York Times last November:

Ever since Mr. Trump rose in the polls, he has fared best in the online ones — sometimes by as much as 10 points better than live-interview telephone surveys conducted over the same period.

There are a number of possible explanations for Mr. Trump’s strength in online polling, which was first noted by Jonathan Robinson, an analyst for Catalist, a data firm associated with the Democratic Party.

One is that voters are likelier to acknowledge their support for Mr. Trump in an anonymous online survey than in an interview with a real person. Plenty of research suggests that the social acceptability of an opinion shapes the willingness of poll respondents to divulge it, and it’s imaginable that voters would be reluctant to acknowledge support for a controversial figure like Mr. Trump.

As Vox points out about his phenomenon,

In the case of Trump…social desirability bias appears alive and well. It seems even Trump’s supporters understand that favoring him is not entirely socially acceptable. But that doesn’t diminish their backing — that Trump is loathed by political elites is part of his appeal.

Elise Jordan, a Republican, may have simply said something out loud this morning that other Republicans, men and women, may only say to themselves or behind closed doors. For them, especially since it appears Drumpf will be their nominee, there is obviously something “likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” What these people find likable is beyond my ability to understand. But what they find terrible, and obviously tempting because it is so terrible, is plain to see.

The Androcentric Universe

You no doubt remember Wendy Davis, former member of the Texas legislature who, before she unsuccessfully ran for governor, conducted a well-publicized filibuster over anti-choice legislation Republicans were pushing in her state. For her efforts, she was labeled “Abortion Barbie,” among other derogatory things. So, clearly she understands something about how female politicians are treated in the political workplace.

Davis recently discussed Megyn Kelly’s famous questioning, in that first Fox debate, of Donald Trump about the terrible things he has said about women throughout his career. Davis said she wasn’t surprised by how Trump responded or how the men, both on the debate stage and in the audience, reacted. But she was surprised by something else:

So when Megyn Kelly pointed out his derogatory statements, he doubled down on them. And when he did, he got great laughter and applause. And if you remember, the camera panned the audience, and what was so disappointing was to see the number of women who were applauding and laughing at those comments.

I remember that, too. The audience seemed to turn on Megyn Kelly for daring to suggest that it wasn’t okay to call women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” It was really a remarkable moment in what it said about the Republicans, both men and women, in that room, if not in the country at large.

This morning, I witnessed something similar on MSNBC’s version of Fox and Friends, a program called Morning Joe. For those of you not condemned to watching the program, let me give you an idea of how the show works. The host, right-winger Joe Scarborough, praises Donald Trump every other segment, bashes Hillary Clinton every other segment, and generally bullies every panelist until they just stop talking. All the while, Scarborough’s co-host, Mika Brzezinski, mostly sits beside him and either nods or otherwise affirms Joe’s point of view. Mika, who is supposed to represent a Democratic point of view, isn’t exactly a feminist icon, if you know what I mean.

During a segment this morning, the panel was discussing, as they often do, Hillary Clinton. And as they often do, they were trashing her. Three women and two men sitting around the table trashing the winner—I repeat: winner—of the recent Iowa contest, as if she hadn’t won and as if she wasn’t capable of winning any election. One of the panelists was the much-overrated Bob Woodward, whose quality of analysis is shriveling up faster than a wiener in a hot tub. At one point he said,

I think a lot of it with Hillary Clinton has to do with style and delivery, oddly enough. She shouts. There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating, and I think that just jumps off the television screen. […]  I’m sorry to dwell on the tone issue, but there is something here where Hillary Clinton suggests that she’s almost not comfortable with herself…

He then later said, she needed to “lower the temperature” and “kind of get off this screaming stuff.”

christy in new hampshire and bubble boyNow, I must point out that just before this discussion, Morning Joe played a long portion of Chris Christie rather forcefully telling reporters in New Hampshire that Marco Rubio was a “boy in the bubble” and those reporters had better force him to answer some tough questions. And we all know how Christie has talked in the past. He isn’t much for lowering the temperature or getting off the screaming stuff. Funny thing, though. No one on the panel said a word about his style and delivery. No one accused him of being unrelaxed or that his tone indicated he wan’t comfortable with himself.

When Howard Dean, a third man on the panel who is a Clinton supporter, dared to defend her against what was clearly sexist criticism, he was almost laughed off the set. And he was almost laughed off the set not just by the men, but by the three women.

From Wendy Davis’s “Abortion Barbie” experience, to the Megyn Kelly debate episode, to the double-standard that Hillary Clinton constantly has to endure on the campaign trail— the fascination with her hairstyle and clothing and her “tone”—clearly our politics and some of the punditry that surrounds it is still an androcentric universe. And, sadly, there are still too many women willingly orbiting around male dominance.

 

Roy Blunt And Republicans About To Exploit Public Ignorance

MSNBC’s star right-winger Joe Scarborough was all excited this morning about the fact that the chaos and confusion Republicans have been causing in Washington has finally started to pay dividends in the form of low approval ratings for the President:

obama job approval sept 2013

“Things are actually breaking our way for the first time in a couple of years,” Scarborough said of conservatives. Except things are not breaking their way. Bloomberg News, reporting on its own poll a few days ago, said the numbers for both Obama and the Republicans “are the worst ever for both.” So Scarborough was simply out of his mind.

But speaking of delusional thinking, perhaps the weirdest, most disconcerting moment on Morning Joe this morning was when Scarborough highlighted this frightening Bloomberg poll result:

debt ceiling result bloomberg

What was weird and disconcerting about the presentation of this particular poll result on Morning Joe was that no one seemed to be frightened by it. And if this poll result doesn’t frighten you, doesn’t scare the Cruz out of you, then you don’t understand what fooling around with not raising the debt ceiling will mean. (Go here to find out and then get really scared, and pissed, about the dangerous ignorance reflected in that Bloomberg poll.)

This dangerous ignorance on the part of the American people—which is partly the result of journalistic malpractice—would be harmless if it weren’t for the fact that it will undoubtedly encourage unhinged Republicans to exploit such ignorance and really push the United States into default, if they don’t get what they want. Just today Politico reported:

A large number of Senate and House Republicans are raising the threat of a debt default to curtail, delay or defund President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. It’s a major gamble — risking the prospect of a first-ever default on U.S. debt — but it’s one seriously being considered by the same Republicans who have refused to join Cruz’s filibuster attempt of the stopgap spending bill to keep the government running.

Not only that, Politico noted that Speaker Boehner “has compiled a debt hike bill with a bunch of goodies that they think House Republicans will vote for, and red state Senate Democrats won’t want to avoid.”

People may think Ted Cruz is a wild-eyed extremist—and he is—but the only thing that distinguishes him from the rest of the Republican Party in Congress is that he and a few others are wild-eyed anti-establishment extremists. The rest of them are wild-eyed establishment extremists who are willing to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to achieve what they could not achieve in the last election: ideological victory.

After not supporting the weird attempt by Ted Cruz to defund ObamaCare via a continuing resolution on the budget, Missouri’s Roy Blunt told Politico:

The debt ceiling provides more of an opportunity to get something than the [continuing resolution] does.

Got it? Using the threat of debt-default, using the threat of economic chaos here and around the world, dynamiting the full faith and credit of the United States, is an “opportunity to get something” says Roy Blunt.

This is dangerous territory. This is alarming stuff. This is Republican politics.

Joe And Mika Rehearsing For A New Show On Fox

Who knew that there was a travesty in America called “Trump University”? Wasn’t Donald Trump enough of a travesty himself without having to start a real estate school that promised to make little Trumps out of folks gullible enough to fork over $35,000?

The Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, sued the Fox and Friends regular contributor and NBC “reality” star on Saturday, asking for $40 million in damages to be paid as restitution to Trump’s, uh, “students.”

Schneiderman, as USA Today reported, accused Trump “of engaging in persistent fraud, illegal and deceptive conduct and violating federal consumer protection law.” And:

At the seminars, consumers were told about “Trump Elite” mentorships that cost $10,000 to $35,000. Students were promised individual instruction until they made their first deal. Schneiderman said participants were urged to extend the limit on their credit cards for real estate deals, but then used the credit to pay for the Trump Elite programs.

Now, many of us already knew that Donald Trump is a phony and a fraud—his birtherism is enough to convict him—but that some government entity is willing to go after him for hucksterism is beyond gratifying.

What has been disheartening though is what I witnessed this morning on TV.  Of course I expected Fox and Friends to allow Trump several minutes to defend himself, mostly as the hosts cheered on his efforts. And of course, as with everything else wrong in the country, this was President Obama’s fault, as Trump made the suggestion that Schneiderman met with Obama and, voilà , a lawsuit was born!

Here’s how a clearly flustered Trump expressed it on Twitter:

trump on lawsuit

“Same as IRS etc.” Yes, that little blurb was added to ensure Trump keeps the Obama haters on his side, which Fox and Friends happily are. But I was sorely disappointed to watch this morning a segment on Morning Joe which essentially did the same thing as Fox and Friends did: give Trump an unchallenged platform to defend himself and spew his latest Obama conspiracy. It truly was sickening.

It’s one thing for Fox “News” to enable Trump, an incorrigibly ignorant, cartoonishly biased, embarrassingly boastful buffoon. It’s another for MSNBC to do so. But then MSNBC’s Morning Joe is often a safe place for conservative nonsense, as another segment aptly demonstrated this morning.

Politico’s Mike Allen was on the program discussing Colin Powell’s rebuke of the Republican Party for its anti-voting initiatives, as well as an article written by David Nather (“Obama’s big voting rights gamble“) in which it is alleged that the administration, as any Democratic administration should do, is “ramping up its push on voting rights by way of a risky strategy — and pledging more tough moves to come.”

Joe Scarborough couldn’t help himself. He challenged Allen, and anyone else, to tell him what exactly was wrong with the efforts in North Carolina and Texas and elsewhere to require folks to simply have a picture ID to vote:

I’ve just been reading this and I’ve been reading news stories on it and makes it sound like we’re going back to Jim Crow laws, that there are going to be white people with bull whips whipping black people if they come to vote, and Bull Conner is there ready to release German Shepherds. Again I ask innocently, does North Carolina or Texas require anything more than a picture ID, that when somebody shows up to vote, that the person has a picture ID with them that proves they are who they say they are?

Scarborough, not getting the answer he wanted, went on:

I’m not being cute here. I’m reading all of these stories that talk about basically you’re putting a white hood over the governor of North Carolina, putting a white hood over the entire Texas legislature. Most Americans would think it’s not racist to ask somebody to just have a picture ID when they show up at the voting booth. But you read The New York Times and you read these other media outlets that again make politicians in North Carolina and Texas sound racist for just saying, “Hey, you’re going to need a picture ID to prove you are who you are.”

Now, we all know that Joe Scarborough is a conservative Republican. It’s not strange that he sees nothing wrong with requiring folks who want to vote to show some kind of ID at the polls. What is strange is that he completely ignored all of the other things associated with the latest Republican efforts to suppress the votes of minorities and young people, including the fact that many of those minorities and young people can’t get the required IDs easily, including the fact that Republicans are closing polling places in Democratic areas, and including the fact that they are shrinking the times for early voting. (Mike Allen did make a valiant attempt to half-educate him, but it fell on deaf ears.)

But while it’s not strange for a right-winger like Scarborough to defend Tea Party-inspired voter suppression, it is strange for Morning Joe’s alleged Democratic host to do so. Mika Brzezinski responded this way to Scarborough’s rant:

Okay. So, I think that this is a really healthy discussion that has been had out in the media in a completely one-sided way and your side of it is a fair argument and no one goes there because it’s not PC…It’s a very legitimate argument.

She said nothing about the fact that minorities and young people—largely Democratic constituencies—would be disproportionately affected by these Republican schemes. She said nothing about making it inconvenient for Democratic-leaning voters to vote because of the reduction in polling places in strategically located areas. She said nothing of shrinking the days of early voting and eliminating voting on the Sunday before the election, which Democratic-leaning voters tend to do because they happen to be working folks who need the convenience of early voting. She said nothing about how historically hard it was for black folks to get to vote in this country and how unconscionable it is for conservatives to make it much more difficult for them to exercise that hard-earned right. Nothing. Silence about all that from Mika Brzezinski.

And that is why, on this day at least, on this day when Donald Trump needed a place to rehab his image, on this day when the Republican Party needed a place to rehab its image as a vote suppressor, that is why parts of Morning Joe sounded like a rehearsal for a new show on Fox “News” Channel.

Here is the Morning Joe segment on voter ID laws, and if you watch at the end, you will see The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein shaking his head in disbelief and trying to get a word in. Didn’t happen:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And if you can stand it, here is the segment on the (NBC?) rehabilitation of Donald Trump:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In Defense Of Lois Lerner

You’d think she killed somebody.

Lois Lerner, who on Wednesday invoked her right against self-incrimination, is being attacked, by nearly everyone in the country who knows who she is, for her role in the IRS v. Tea Party “scandal,” which, of course, isn’t quite a scandal yet, but Republicans keep trying. Some of the most vicious attacks are coming from Constitution-loving right-wingers, who can’t believe Lerner would actually use something other than the Second Amendment to protect herself.I Have Not Done Anything Wrong: IRS Official Lois Lerner Invokes 5th Amendment Right

MSNBC’s conservative gabber, S.E. Cupp, who provides a damn good reason not to watch that network’s afternoon show “The Cycle,” took to tweetin’ yesterday to say,

So, Lois Lerner is either a coward or a criminal, right? Tell me where I’m wrong.

Apparently, S.E. Cupp studied the Constitution at the Rush Limbaugh School of Law, which ought to be enough right there to tell her where she’s wrong.

And speaking of Professor Limbaugh, he said about Ms. Lerner:

Okay, let me tell you what happened today at the IRS hearings. Lois Lerner, who ran the whole kit and caboodle and was… By the way, this was the first time I had a close-up look at her. This is an angry woman. You have to be very careful in making judgments about people based on physical appearance, although I’ve gotten really good at it. I can spot people out there and I can tell you who the libs are pretty much by just what I see. But, in this case, I already know that she is.

I already know that she’s a liberal, I know that she is in the same mode as Barack Obama, and now I know this is a woman who’s angry…This is a woman obsessed with the Christian right, Lois Lerner. This is a woman obsessed with religious people.

Okay. So, from two popular conservative commentators (there are a thousand more to choose from) we know that Lerner, by refusing to testify, is an angry, Jesus-hating woman who is either a criminal or a coward. All because she dared to avail herself of a constitutional right. Hmm.

The honcho of the Republican National Committee, the insufferable Reince Priebus, himself issued a Tweet regarding his discussion with Sean Hannity about this mess:

…it’s lawlessness and guerrilla warfare and Obama is in the middle of it.

Yikes! Obama is a gorilla, uh, guerrilla!

In any case, Priebus, appearing on Morning Joe today, commented on Lois Lerner’s right-invoking committee appearance:

You don’t need to plead the Fifth if you have done nothing wrong…

Obviously, Priebus also attended Rush Limbaugh’s law school. Even though he was aggressively challenged by Morning Joe regular John Heilemann, Priebus didn’t back down. In Priebus’ strange and disordered mind, pleading the Fifth is tantamount to an admission of guilt, don’t you know. Damn those Founders!

But right-wingers aren’t the only ones saying such stupid things. This morning on Morning Joe, which prejudicially carried a graphic characterizing Lerner’s brief statement as “defiant,” I heard Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune magazine, for God’s sake, say this:

What an unsympathetic position. We just saw her pleading the Fifth. This is something that mafia chieftains do in front of Congress, not public officials, not someone from the IRS. Obviously everyone just wants to know the real story, we want her to come clean. How bad could it be? I’m sorry, “You need to tell what’s going on here,”  and, you know, to just do otherwise is just ridiculous, and the IRS is just going to continue to be a piñata. And obviously is not’s just right-wing groups who are upset with this, but every American citizen should be upset with this.

Mafia chieftain? Wow. So much for presumed innocence. I remind you that the man who said that is a, gulp, journalist.

Well, I may be the only one in the world who has sympathy for this woman, but I can’t help it. I still happen to believe in the noble and once-American concept of innocent-until-proven-guilty. And I really do believe in the Constitution, which also includes the Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent should someone try to compel any person “to be a witness against himself.”

Republican legislators, who, like all Tea Party-drunk conservatives, claim to love, cherish, and lustily sleep with the Constitution, were upset on Wednesday when Ms. Lerner invokedLois Lerner her Fifth Amendment right just after she made a plea of innocence and after Darrell Issa, headhunting chairman of the House’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, talked her into authenticating a document.

I watched as Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor who now represents right-wing folks in South Carolina’s 4th congressional district, forgot that he was not in a federal courtroom but at a congressional hearing and insisted that Lerner “ought to stand here and answer our questions.” Uh, she was actually sitting at the time, but then, hey, maybe being a former prosecutor and current zealot entitles one to demand that witnesses stand during the inquisition. Heck, why not go the whole way and roll out the rack? Bones cracking would make good TV.

But that’s beside the point. Gowdy said of Lerner,

You don’t get to tell your side of the story and not be subject to cross-examination.

Whoa, cowboy. Settle down there. (Some folks in the gallery were applauding at Gowdy’s prosecutorial grandstanding, and Issa did nothing to stop them, by the way.) Lerner didn’t actually tell her side of the story. There’s a lot of story to tell, if she ever tells it, and she didn’t even come close with these words:

I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing. 

After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.

After initially and correctly telling everyone that they should respect Lerner’s Fifth Amendment right without prejudging her, Issa later put on his big-boy Tea Party pants and now agrees with Gowdy and others who believe she lost her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. He’s going to call her back to appear again. Whoopee! More good cable TV to come!  Maybe next time they really will crack her bones!

As with so many things in this litigious world of ours, there are at least two sides of this Fifth Amendment “controversy.” There are those lawyers who think she did not waive her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by offering a brief statement of her innocence. Of course, those lawyers did not attend the Rush Limbaugh School of Law, so what do they know?

And, of course, as Reince Priebus indicated, this all comes back to President Obama. Conservative Republican Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC this morning,

Why is the president allowing this to go on? This IRS story is another great example of just sheer incompetence at the White House to get their story out in a clean, effective way…

Yes, the Prez should simply strip Ms. Lerner of her constitutional rights, force her to tell Darrell Issa what he wants to hear, and then impeach himself after it’s all done. That, and only that, will satisfy the mob.

Finally, the truth in all this just may be found in a little article on The Daily Beast published today. The story quotes a man who used to hold the same position Lois Lerner now holds:

“It was inevitable something was going to happen,” said Marcus Owens, who served as director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division from 1990 until he retired in 2000. That was the same year that the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act was implemented, ushering in, he said, a culture of disorganization and miscommunication.

“Virtually all IRS executive positions were re-aligned and re-evaluated and a lot of field offices positions were eliminated. The channels of communication between field offices and the Washington headquarters were muddied,” Owens said. “Instead of having clear, hierarchical oversight, Cincinnati was given the responsibility to handle things that would normally be handled by the better-equipped Washington office.”

He went on to say,

“This is a case of funding problems and management problems. Everyone is thinking that the IRS was hunting down conservative organizations with bloodhounds or something when what they were really doing was opening the morning’s mail… The IRS is really a collection agency for the government. Tax returns that generate revenue must be accurate, but those that don’t generate revenue receive less attention,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”

I doubt very much if we hear a lot from Marcus Owens or hear a lot about the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. But we should. (By the way, only two U.S. Senators voted against that bill, including that great progressive, the late Paul Wellstone, so that ought to tell us something.) The likelihood that we won’t hear much about Owens or that 1998 law tells us something very important about the state of journalism these days, perhaps something more important than a prominent journalist going on TV and comparing a Fifth Amendment-invoking IRS employee to a “mafia chieftain.”

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[photo credit: Getty Images (top) and AP (bottom)]

Mandate? Whose Mandate?

Someone told me we had an election on November 6, discernibly about increasing taxes on the wealthy. And, I was told, President Obama won.

Yet, I heard some of the chatter on Morning Joe this morning regarding the negotiations over the coming austerity crisis, also known as the fiscal cliff, and guess what? It’s mostly President Obama’s fault that nothing has been accomplished so far.

The consensus appeared to be, among those around the Morning Joe table, that President Obama should be like Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson and essentially purchase House Republican votes with some kind of patronage scheme or go up to Capitol Hill and cajole Republicans in some unspecified way. All to get a deal on taxes.

Joe Scarborough mentioned that those House Republicans won their races, too, some of them with “a much,much higher percentage of the vote in their districts than the President,” and that the President should understand that,

They won as well. And so they have a mandate as well…you’d think this president, as a state legislator, would understand those dynamics, but he doesn’t.

Hmm. “They have a mandate as well.” “Understand those dynamics.” Let me get this straight: An indiscernible mandate of a congressman from, say, Southwest Missouri, is somehow on a par with a clear mandate of the newly elected President of the United States? Let’s think about that as we quickly look at my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, and how many votes he got on November 6:

Billy Long, Republican:   203,565    63.9%
Jim Evans, Democrat:      98,498    30.9%

You can see that Scarborough is right in one sense. Billy Long got a whopping 64% of the vote here in the Ozarks. That’s definitely more than the President got. But you can also see that Long got just over 200,000 votes. I wonder how many votes Barack Obama got? Oh:

popular vote totals 2012

Now, let me do some ciphering:

OBAMA:    65,355,488
LONG:            203,565
__________________
                    65,151,923

So, the President got about 65 million more votes than Ozark Billy, but in Scarborough’s world—and he was not contradicted by anyone on the set—Long has a mandate that President Obama is compelled to respect enough to go down to Long’s office and, uh, what? What is he supposed to offer Ozark Billy? A signed copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate? A free lunch at the White’s House buffet? An all-expenses-paid trip to Larry Flynt’s Holiday Poker Classic? (Billy likes to gamble.) Huh? Would any of that bring Billy Long to the light?

Mika Brzezinski, who often drowns in conversations like this one, actually piped up and said in response to Scarborough’s suggestion that Obama doesn’t understand the dynamics at play:

But what is he supposed to do with those dynamics?

Good question. And Jon Meacham, the now bestselling historian (his latest book is on Thomas Jefferson), added to Scarborough’s play for Republican respect by responding to Brzezinski:

Understand what the other guy feels like…That’s a huge part of what politics is. Henry Kissinger’s great insight: If you’re ever going to win a negotiation, if you’re ever going to have a result, you have to give the other guy a way out.

You know, he’s right. You do have to give the other guy a way out, a fig leaf, something which he can point to and say, “I got something out of the deal.” But what if what the other guy wants is totally unreasonable? What if what the other guy wants is his way or no way? What if what the other guy wants is the same thing he wanted before November 6? Before the election that saw President Obama get more than 65 million votes campaigning against what the other guy wanted?

Once again Republicans believe they are holding the country’s economic health hostage for the sake of protecting their wealthy friends, and they are trying to pretend the election on November 6 didn’t mean all that much. The problem with the political chatterers on television, most of whom are Beltway types, is that some of them respect the hostage takers more than they respect those trying to rescue the hostages.

So, sadly, Republicans are being aided in their efforts by some in the professional pundit class who are suggesting that the President is to blame for failing to satisfy the demands of the kidnappers.

Scarborough, without being challenged, looked into the camera this morning and emphatically gave the following advice to House Republicans on how to handle negotiations with President Obama:scarborough and fiscal cliff advice

If he doesn’t come to you with a deal, do-not-vote-to-raise-taxes-a-cent! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! You’ll get beaten! And Washington will spend that money and they won’t cut again and the deficit will be 18 trillion a couple of years from now.

The problem with Scarborough’s thinking, the problem with his blustery advice for Republicans, is that Mr. Obama now understands that a deal that pleases the right-wing zealots in the House of Representatives is not a deal worth making. He needs to make a deal with reasonable Republicans, if there are any left in Congress.

And if he can’t find any reasonable Republicans, if the country plunges off the cliff, falls off the curb, or waddles down the slope, however one wants to define what will happen on a deal-less January 1, the President knows that Republicans—Republicans—will get most of the blame:

fiscal cliff poll results

The “Long Consensus”

E. J. Dionne was on Morning Joe this morning discussing his new book, Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent. The book’s argument is:

from the very beginning, our country has been characterized by a deep but healthy tension between our love of individual liberty and our devotion to community. Yet we seem to have forgotten our own rich history of balance, one reason for our poisoned political atmosphere.

This morning Dionne said:

In the U.S. we have been governing under a kind of a long consensus that we really established at the beginning of the progressive era. It was a consensus that saw a strong role for the market and a strong role for government. And I think now politics is roiled because one side of our debate wants to end that long consensus.

Now, that’s a legitimate position for them to hold, but I think it’s untrue to what made us succeed as Americans, which is a sense of balance: public-private, individual-community, national-local. We’ve always kept things in balance and I think there’s an attempt right now to push everything over on one side.

E. J. Dionne is one of my favorite left-leaning pundits, but he said something here I don’t agree with. He said that someone who wants to end the “long consensus” that “made us succeed as Americans” is holding a “legitimate position.

I don’t think so, and I think we need to metaphorically pound it into the heads of Americans that it is not legitimate.

Okay, let me backtrack just a bit: it is legitimate in the sense that it is completely legal to argue for a return to the era of the robber barons, this being a free country. But it is not legitimate in the sense of it being a reasonable position to hold. Scuttling that long-held consensus—which is the product of numerous ideological compromises—would bring ruin to the America we know and therefore is not a legitimate argument to make.

And, as I said, we need to keep reminding Americans that compromise and consensus are good things, and that the radicals in our midst who abhor them are not to be respected as holding “legitimate” positions.

GOP Frontrunner: “Erratic And Undisciplined”

Bragging about his 95% rating from the American Conservative Union, former congressman Joe Scarborough—who worked with Newt Gingrich and says he has “known him for twenty years“—said on his show this morning that Gingrich was “erratic and undisciplined.”

And those were the nice things he said about the former Speaker.

Here’s more:

…his life has been a train wreck, politically he’s been a train wreck. The words that have come from his mouth, the things he has done, would have destroyed him and any other candidate any other year but in 2012. But this weak field is producing the possibility of a Newt Gingrich nomination.  

Mark Halperin, on the Morning Joe set at the time, responded to Scarborough’s (and Mika Brzezinski’s) criticisms of Gingrich this way:

HALPERIN: He’s got a new wife. And he’s converted to Catholicism. And he’s a grandfather. Do you two hold open the possibility that he could be a changed man, and a different man than the one who you think would be dangerous?

SCARBOROUGH:  I’ve gotta answer that because, no…it’s all about what Newt was saying, what comes out of his mouth. He called Kathleen Sebelius, who is a very nice lady…you could disagree with her… he compared her to Joseph Stalin just this year. He said the Democratic Party was…a socialist, secular machine that poses a greater threat to America than Nazism. No. He called the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] a socialist scheme basically to take down America. No. He is not a nice human being. He is a bad person, when it comes to demonizing opponents.

As George Will said, he would have made a marvelous Marxist because he dehumanizes anybody that gets in his way…Just over the past six months he has said some horrific things about people with families, with children. When he puts on his political helmet, he is a terrible person. He dehumanizes people, like Glenn Beck, calling them racists and bigots and Marxists and socialists…People who don’t know Newt at home need to know this.

Thank you, Joe. I couldn’t have said it better.

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