“The Education of Donald Trump”: Politico Accidentally Shows Why Everything is Scary. (Bonus! The Most Newt Gingrich Quote Ever)

 

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“They might even impeach him! Who’s ever heard of such a thing!”

 

I don’t really have time to get into the fullness of how depressing and terrifying and bitterly funny this Politico article, “The Education of Donald Trump”, really is. It’s about how none of them knew that being President would be hard, and how it is especially hard because Trump doesn’t take the job seriously. It isn’t so much his education as how the people around him are learning how to manipulate him. I’ll just put in a few choice quotes.

He turned to his relationships with world leaders. “I have a terrific relationship with Xi,” he said, referring to the Chinese president, who Trump recently invited for a weekend visit at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

By all reports, they got along fine. Which is to be expected; only for Trump is not insulting a foreign leader the mark of a great relationship. But he won’t shut up about it. He mentions his great relationship with Xi once a day.  It’s like how he constantly brags about getting a Supreme Court nominee on the bench, when he has an open seat and a Senate majority. That’s literally the least you can do, you idiot.

Trump remains reliant as ever on his children and longtime friends for counsel. White House staff have learned to cater to the president’s image obsession by presenting decisions in terms of how they’ll play in the press. Among his first reads in the morning is still the New York Post.

I bet he still cuts out pages where he’s mentioned and sends them to friends, circling his name with his childlike hands. “They wrote about me again, Reince! I’m on the cover. Are you?”

As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake.

It’s not a rookie mistake; it’s an idiot mistake. Who would ever think that? How could any human think that?

As he sat in the Oval Office last week, Trump seemed to concede that even having risen to fame through real estate and entertainment, the presidency represented something very different.

Like with healthcare being complicated, this is something that no one knew.

Between Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence, who once served in House leadership, Trump thought he had the experts he needed and wouldn’t have to worry about Congress that much. But Priebus is a political insider, not a congressional one. And Pence, who was governor of Indiana before joining Trump’s ticket, has been absent from the Hill during the rise of the House Freedom Caucus, the ideological hardliners who delivered Trump the most stinging defeat of his young presidency.

Hey, not to belabor it, but these are things people knew in advance. Like, did you not know that Priebus has never had office? Leadership!

As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. “If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” said one Trump confidante. “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”

Maybe you shouldn’t have helped get a guy who does crazy things elected! That was something you cold have done that was a little nobler, Mr. Confidante. Or Mrs. This might actually be Ivanka.

But they’re learning. One key development: White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.

“You don’t walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t consume information that way,” said one senior administration official. “You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like.”

This is literally saying that the President is a child who can’t handle making decisions, but if you tell him something will make Steve Doocey happy, he’ll do it. “He doesn’t consume information that way” is the polite way of saying “The President is a vastly unqualified idiot, and I mean that in every sense: there is nothing to qualify or ameliorate his idiocy, and he should not be President, and every day I work for him I am complicit in this disaster.” Granted, that’s a mouthful, but it is the whole story.

But the really prize isn’t really anything to do with Donald Trump. It is how Newt Gingrich, sycophant to the stars, justifies Trump having problems.

“I think he’s much more aware how complicated the world is,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who serves as an informal administration adviser. “This will all be more uphill than he thought it would be because I think he had the old-fashioned American idea that you run for office, you win, then people behave as though you won.”

Now, obviously, I didn’t hear Newt say this, but you can hear it. It’s a sneer against the liberals. He is obviously being sarcastic about “old-fashioned American idea”, and how it really shouldn’t be old-fashioned, but should be respected. Trump won, and the Democrats aren’t letting him do so. What happened to decency?

Newt Gingrich is saying this. Newt Gingrich. About Donald Trump. Donald Trump, whose political career started by literally saying for five years that Barack Obama wasn’t a US citizen and so an illegitimate President. And it wasn’t just Trump: Gingrich said this about him in 2010“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?…This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.” 

I guess he is saying that Obama was President, but it isn’t exactly behaving as though he won.

He’s saying this after the GOP did everything they could to obstruct the Obama administration, even nullifying his Constitutional duty to appoint a Supreme Court justice.

And, holy god, Newt Gingrich is talking about how no one is showing respect to the election results. Newt Gingrich impeached Bill Clinton over an affair. He shut down the government to try to force Clinton to do what he wanted. He had Congress investigate everything the Clintons had ever done. Again, just to be clear, he impeached a twice-elected President over an affair.

But listen to how aggrieved he is. How unfair the whole thing is. How victimized the Trump administration is by Democrats not recognizing his enormous mandate. There is no one, not even Ted Cruz, who is as self-righteously hypocritical and deeply unprincipled as Newt Gingrich. Mitch McConnell is cynical, but Newt actually believes this. He can say that and feel good about it.

This quote should be on Newt’s tombstone.

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Trump Attacks the Antiquities Act; Public Land At Risk

 

They seriously had the nerve to announce this in front of Teddy Roosevelt, who created the Antiquities Act. 

 

While the grim and still-strong lingerings of slavery and Jim Crow animate much of the modern conservative movement, it also drew enormous energy from the Sagebrush Rebellions of the 70s, when western ranchers and farmers started “standing up” to an overbearing federal government who didn’t want them to destroy the land. It was this, dovetailing with Buckley’s ideas of conservative politics, that allowed Ronald Reagan to win by saying “government is the problem”; something that Richard Nixon wouldn’t even think, much less say out loud.  It’s not very well-known now, but its spirit is still around.

You see the spirit of Sagebrush in most Republican policies, which is that the there is no common good. It’s what makes the idea that corporations should be able to do whatever they want to whomever they want seem somehow principled, and even patriotic. But you also see it literally, in the actions of the Bundys, direct descendants of the movement.  And you see it in the actions of the Trump administration, run by a man who never saw anything he didn’t want to sell.

We talked about how the administration was planning to sell off public lands to be developed or mined or logged or stripped clean (the cruel quintessence of the GOP), but now they are paving the way to make it actually happen. Adam Markham at the Union of Concerned Scientists has the details.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president of the United States the power to designate lands and waters for permanent protection. Almost every president since Teddy Roosevelt has used the Act to place extraordinary archaeological, historic and natural sites under protection and out of reach of commercial exploitation.

Many sites originally designated as national monuments were later upgraded by Congress to become national parks, including Bryce Canyon, Saguaro and Death Valley. In many cases in the past, the Antiquities Act allowed presidents to protect vital natural and cultural resources when congressional leaders, often compromised by their ties to special interests representing coal, oil, timber and mining industries, were reluctant or unwilling to act.

A new Executive Order signed by President Trump on April 26th, 2017 puts this important regulatory tool for conservation and historic preservation at risk. The clear intention of the Executive Order is to lay the groundwork for shrinking national monuments or rescinding their designation entirely, in order to open currently protected public lands for untrammeled growth in coal, oil and minerals extraction.

Ryan Zinke, who this blog once made the mistake of calling “maybe not terrible“, is all in on this. Markham slaps him down.

Secretary Zinke himself was quoted ridiculing “people in D.C. who have never been to an area, never grazed the land, fished the river, driven the trails, or looked locals in the eye, who are making the decisions and they have zero accountability to the impacted communities.”

But, in fact, national monument designations almost always derive from a local grassroots demand for greater protections, and usually only come after lengthy periods of community engagement and consultations.

Because here’s the thing. In Zinke’s list, “graz(ing) the land” is the only thing that people will still be able to do. Maybe fish the rivers, if you buy commercial fishing rights. People can walk or drive the trails and visit the areas because they are protected. What do you think–if a mining company buys rights to land in Bear Ears they’re going to just let you waltz in?

Or course not. If you let rich ranchers like the Bundys take over more land, it is, by definition, no longer the people’s land. Go ahead. Walk onto Bundy property. They aren’t going to greet you with a Woodie Guthrie song.

Public designations are how we protect these lands for everyone. It’s how we protect our heritage. It’s a way of saying that not everything can or should be parceled off, exploited, turned into capital, and sold to benefit the very few. Because of that, it is anethema to the modern Republican Party. That this move is an immediate screw you to natives is just a bonus). Bear Ears didn’t

(Bear Ears didn’t create an idiotic Chaffetz controversy for no reason: it’s because Obama designating it a park became a cause celebre to the heirs of Sagebrush.)

I guarantee you that Trump has never heard of Sagebrush, and I doubt he has any strong ideological reasons for selling off the land, unless he gets a taste. But he hates things that Obama did, and his animating principle has always been “I got mine, so screw you.” In that, as in so many things, he is the perfect Republican. He is ready to sell, and our national sense of unity and a common good is paying the price.

Ted Cruz’s “El Chapo Act” Is Peak Ted Cruz

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“Let me tell you about my acrostics”

Here at Shooting Irrelevance, we’ve long held that Ted Cruz is more clever than smart, and more of a short-term tactician than a strategist. He moves in short bursts to get his name in the spotlight, but usually ends up shooting himself in the foot. That might be slightly unfair, as he’s managed to come this far while being spectacularly and almost supernaturally unlikeable, but I think it is still pretty true.

Another long-held belief is that all of his smart things are actually dumb (which is really another aspect of his being more clever than smart), and that cleverness doesn’t always hold up. That said, this is pretty ingenious, at least on the surface. From Real Clear Politics

Sen. Ted Cruz joins ‘Fox & Friends’ to discuss his fun plan to pay for the Mexican border wall with money seized from Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo.’ Apparently, up to $14 billion have been seized from his gang.

The Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (E.L.C.H.A.P.O.) Act would use fund confiscated from drug dealers and traffickers to pay for border security.

“So Mexico would end up paying for the wall,” host Steve Doocy commented. “That’s pure genius on your part!”

“El Chapo led the Sinaloa drug cartel,” Cruz explained. “There is a sense of justice. A sense of, this is what is right, that the people who are violating the border like crazy, we should use their ill-gotten gains to finally build the wall, and to finally ensure we have the assets to secure the border.”

A couple of thoughts on this.

  1. If El Chapo was rich from selling drugs to America, it is because we, as a nation, were voraciously hoovering down his drugs while shoveling him money in exchange for drugs. If we weren’t getting them from El Chapo, it would be someone else.
  2. Arguably (or really inarguably), El Chapo’s biggest victims were Mexicans. The scope of suffering inflicted by the drug gangs is enormous and terrifying. Tens of thousands killed, corruption and murder made institutional. That’s not even counting the disappeared women of Juarez. Even if that wasn’t directly connected to the drug trade, it is part of a society ripped apart by violence.
  3. And again, this was done by Mexicans, to Mexicans, but it was done because America loves drugs. The suffering of Mexico is in so, so many ways an outcome of being neighbors with a rich drug-addicted country.
  4. So maybe we’re not the real victims, and maybe that $14 billion doesn’t belong to us.
  5. And even if it does, it certainly shouldn’t be used to build a wall that is steeped in racism and will do nothing to stop the drug trade (because where there is a market, which America is, drugs will find a way) and will continue to make life harder for el Chapo’s real victims.
  6. So it’s perfect. Like with wall-caused floodings, it is a perfect representation of our imperialistic indifference toward Mexico and our refusal to see them as real people. “Our bottomless appetite for drugs ravaged your country? Well, we’ll take the gains and use them to wall you off. Maybe that’ll teach you a lesson, Mexico.”
  7. That said, it is pretty smart, on one level. Idiots like Doocey love it (and a quick trip around Twitter showed me that people inclined to like the wall were going nuts over it). It is on the surface very satisfying, and even seemingly airtight. People for whom the only objection to the wall was its cost could be persuaded.  Especially if you accept that El Chapo’s money somehow belongs to us.
  8. But, as the arguments above said, I don’t think it does, and more to the point, having a smart way to pay for a dumb idea is still dumb. The objection to the wall wasn’t primarily cost, it was that the wall was an astronomical cost for a terrible and stupid objective. Ted Cruz’s smart plan is still in favor of something incredibly terrible.
  9. Also, it’s just stupid. You know his staffers were high-fiving when they made that acrostic. But it isn’t “Ensuring Lawful Collection”; that’s already ensured. And “Provide Order” is just creepy. And since when do we name bills after bad guys? I don’t think the end of Prohibition was marked by the “Concerning Alcohol: Perhaps nOw aNd thEn Act”
  10. In short, Ted Cruz is more clever than smart.

Honestly, I’m not totally sure Ted Cruz’s game here. I can’t imagine him waiting til 2024 to run for President. There’s no doubt he was rooting for Hillary (only Jason Chaffetz was screwed over more by her loss*), but he was going to run either way. I assumed he was running in 2020 against Hillary or against the fake conservative Donald Trump who hijacked the party.

He’s been a very vocal defender of Trump, supporting and even outflanking his racist cruelty, but I assume he is doing that so he has bona-fides to run against him. “I supported the President but now he betrayed us.” The problem is that no one will believe that, since he famously didn’t endorse Trump at the convention, and because his naked ambition and backstabbery has always been palpable. Again, more clever than smart.

But hot damn, do I look forward to that race!

*Ok, Hillary as well. And literally everyone who isn’t a rich white man. But beside them.

Floodplain Treaty Shows Ridiculousness of Trump’s Mexican Border Wall (and borders in general)

 

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As you can clearly see, the wall doesn’t spring forth from the seeded earth. 

 

There are few things more inherently unnatural than a border. We know this on a human level: they are weird and arbitrary lines drawn on a map. We understand this culturally, especially when we look at the Middle East or Africa, at colonial maps that were drawn without concern for how it would impact the people living there, and we are dealing with their legacies. Borders are the result of wars and appropriations and treaties and traditions, and not inherent things unto themselves. They only have meaning because we decide they should.

But step back, and they are even more unnatural. They idea of borders is absurdly recent in human history, which makes it impossibly new on the planet. Borders, geologically, don’t mean anything. Even if a border is drawn to correspond with part of nature, like along a river, well…rivers shift. (Sometimes very quickly!) The land isn’t really interested in political distinctions that only appear on some pencil-neck’s globe.

We’re reminded of this by an NPR story on how the idiotic and immoral border wall proposal by Trump might be stopped by an obscure 50-yr treaty.

Texas-based NPR reporter John Burnett says Antonio Rascón, chief Mexican engineer on the International Boundary and Water Commission, came to NPR with the story.

The commission is both in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, and is normally a quiet job about diplomacy and allocation of water, Burnett says. But Rascón told Burnett he was gravely concerned about what a concrete wall would do to the river, especially in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Mexico has been growing more and more alarmed as they see plans for Trump’s wall progress,” Burnett says. “In the west desert on the Arizona-Mexico border we have proven examples that border security fencing has clogged with debris and has caused very serious flooding in places. … These walls, when they get clogged with debris, act like a dam.”

A 1970 treaty signed by both countries says neither side can put an obstruction in the floodplain, unless both countries sign off.

Now, it goes on to explain, we have been putting obstructions there (the fence), much to Mexico’s dismay and protest, but they haven’t really protested much. But if an enormous wall that will be partially underground goes up? A wall that will block the natural flow of water and almost certainly cause flooding on the Mexican side?

It’s almost too perfect. We’ve been using water as a weapon against Mexico for 150 years, whether it has been diverting most of the Colorado and sending them the polluted and salinated trickles, or just dumping pollution in southbound rivers. (And while there has been progress made, that’s in jeopardy now.)  What bigger “Screw you” could there be than to enact a racist, cruel, and dehumanizing border wall that has the added impact of causing flooding? It’s the height of bigoted indifference.

It also shows just how arbitrary and stupid the border actually is. I’m not advocating for “open borders” or anything,  but they are deeply unnatural. The floodplain will exist regardless of what lines we draw or how we pave it over. Water will flow where it flows, and people will imitate that water, crossing and erasing these lines. A wall is nothing more than a vanity-piece for a racist bloated manchild. To even entertain it is to show how fake these divisions on which he’s based his Presidency really are.