Friday, June 23, 2017
Andrew Sullivan describes the Trump administration's apparent goal of simply reversing the policies of Barak Obama in New York Magazine.
I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latest shining example. As Peter Suderman explains, it certainly isn’t based on any serious conservative ideas about reforming health care; it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; and, just as important, a huge amount of it is simply kicked into the future — and could easily be forestalled or nullified by future Congresses and presidents. For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, it risks sending the insurance markets into a deeper crisis.
So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a “win.” He doesn’t give a shit about what the bill actually contains. He’ll just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, it’s just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.
And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves — and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagan’s tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didn’t spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.
We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. Any responsible politician would be trying to find a way to ameliorate this, if for no other reason than it is deeply dangerous for the stability of our society and the health of our democracy. And yet the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is … perverse.
Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. There was absolutely no point in withdrawing from the nonbinding Paris Accord — which is why Trump is now lying by claiming, as he did last Wednesday night, that it was binding. It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There was really no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.
Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. We’ve also junked the very careful limits that Obama put on the war against ISIS, leading to increasingly dangerous conflict with the Russians. And we now have a broader Middle East policy that has needlessly junked the core gain of the Obama years. The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.
And what on earth was the purpose of equivocating about the critical commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, undermining the core underpinning of the Atlantic alliance — and then affirming it anyway? We haven’t even gotten commitments to more defense spending from the Europeans, apart from what Obama had managed to get them to agree to already. But what we have achieved is an unprecedented rupture in relations with most of the key European allies.
It is also, frankly, perverse to ignore Russia’s blatant attempt to disrupt our elections and to keep reaching out to Putin — when the Congress will rightly deepen sanctions anyway, and Putin will pursue his own ambitions regardless. None of this is coherent strategy, and almost all of it counterproductive.
The only theme I can infer is this: Whatever Obama did, Trump will try to undo. The perversity is the flip side of spite.
Former conservative talk radio host Charley Sykes agrees.
Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”
For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.
In many ways, anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.
Posted by Ballard Burgher at Friday, June 23, 2017
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Friday, June 9, 2017
Nicole Serratore draws parallels between Donald Trump's coercion of James Comey and sexual harassment in The New York Times.
As I listened to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, tell the Senate Intelligence Committee about his personal meetings and phone calls with President Trump, I was reminded of something: the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.
After reading Mr. Comey’s earlier statement, I tweeted about this Wednesday night, and immediately heard from other women who had seen that narrative emerge. How recognizable it was that Mr. Comey was “stunned” to find himself in these potentially compromising positions. His incredulity, mixed with President Trump’s circling attempts to get his way, were poignant. For a woman who has spent a lifetime wrestling with situations where men have power they can abuse, this was disturbingly familiar.
In the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, Mr. Trump said of any woman he wanted: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” And he added: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” With the power of the presidency at his disposal, Mr. Trump thought that he could use the psychology of coercive seduction on the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
Victims of sexual harassment often face skepticism, doubts and accusations when they tell their story. That’s part of the predator’s power. But I’m here to tell James Comey, and all the women and men who have suffered at the hands of predators, I believe you.
Andrew Sullivan spells out what James Comey's testimony tells us about Donald Trump in New York Magazine.
And there was a lovely resonance, don’t you think, that this shocking reversal for right-populism came on the very same day that President Trump was definitively shown to be more than worthy of impeachment. I’ve long been a skeptic of some of the darkest claims about his campaign’s alleged involvement with the Russian government — and possible evidence thereof — but I’m not skeptical at all of the idea that he has clearly committed a categorical abuse of his presidential power in his attempt to cover it up.
This sobering reality was not advanced by the Comey hearings yesterday, riveting though they were. We have long known that Trump colluded with the Russian government to tilt the election against his opponent — because he did so on national television during the campaign, urging the Kremlin to release more hacked Clinton emails to help him win. We also know that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to remove the cloud of the Russian investigation from his presidency — because Trump said so on national television himself and then boasted about it to two close Putin lackeys in the Oval Office!
But the details to buttress this picture add weight and texture to all of it. Comey credibly asserted that the president asked for personal loyalty to him, and not to the Constitution; that Trump sought leverage over Comey in a highly inappropriate private dinner for two; that he cleared the Oval Office of everyone else so that he could ask Comey alone to drop the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia; that when Comey refused to obey, the president fired him; that when asked why he fired him, the president openly cited the investigation into Russia; and that he then brazenly threatened the FBI director if he spoke the truth about their interactions in hearings or the press.
What else do we really need to know?
Or look at it this way: We now have a witness of long public service, clear integrity, with contemporaneous memoranda and witnesses, who just testified under oath to the president’s clear attempt to obstruct justice. Any other president of any party who had been found guilty of these things would be impeached under any other circumstances. Lying under oath about sexual misconduct is trivial in comparison. So, for that matter, is covering up a domestic crime. Watergate did not, after all, involve covering up the attempt of the Kremlin to undermine and corrode the very core of our democratic system — free and fair elections. Even conservative commentators have conceded that if this were a Democrat in power, almighty hell would have already been unleashed. We wouldn’t be mulling impeachment. It would already be well under way.
The “defenses” of the president are telling. Republican senators were attempting to parse the words “I hope” yesterday in a manner that made Trump’s aspiration to get Flynn off seem like an innocent musing directed at no one in particular — when it was directed alone in private to the man running that investigation. Please.
The Speaker of the House then tried this one on: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses. He’s just new to this.” Excuse me? Someone who assumes the office of the presidency without knowing that we live under the rule of law, and who believes that the president can rig the legal and investigative system to his own benefit, has no business being president at all. This should not be part of some learning curve. Not knowing this basic fact about our constitutional democracy — something taught in every high school — is ipso facto disqualifying. If the president doesn’t know this, he doesn’t know anything. And if he can violate this clear, bright line, he can violate anything.
What chills me even more is how Comey of all people was clearly intimidated. He didn’t threaten to resign; he didn’t immediately cry fowl; he appealed only to Sessions, who rolled his eyes. This “cowardice” — to use Comey’s own term — is from a man who stood up to a previous president under great duress in the emergency of wartime. Imagine how many other functionaries, less established and far weaker and less pliable than Comey, will acquiesce to abuse of this kind, if it is ignored, enabled, or allowed to continue.
And yet Trump remains in office, hoping that our outrage will somehow be dimmed by his shameless relentlessness and constant distractions. In classic Roy Cohn fashion, he is now, through his thuggish lawyer, calling for an investigation into (yes) Comey for his leak of his (unclassified) memoranda as a private citizen. He will say or do anything — and yes, lie through his teeth repeatedly — to obscure the reality in front of our eyes. But we need to be clear about something. If we let an abuse of power of this magnitude go unchallenged, we have begun the formal task of dismantling our system of government. This is not a legal matter — dependent on whether you can convict someone of a specific crime. This is a political matter — and of the gravest kind — about whether we wish to sustain our liberal democratic norms.
Do we Americans have sufficient integrity to do this, and to reverse the drastic error we all so recently made? Maybe the British have just showed us that, yes, we can.