Bibi as Trump; Trump As Bibi: How Netanyahu Is The Most Republican Politican In the World

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In 2015, facing yet another tough re-election campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu posted a short video on his Facebook page, warning his voters about a unique threat to their political system, their way of life, and indeed, the fate of their country: different voters.

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.”

This was in March of 2015, a few short months before Trump brought racism back into the mainstream of American politics, but it wasn’t like this sort of rhetoric was unfamiliar. Republicans in the United States have been using the same sort of rhetoric for years.

They’d been warning us of hordes of illegal immigrants voting, and massive conspiracies to have the wrong voters vote illegally. One of their conjuring words was “ACORN”, a voter registration service which they shut down after taking part in wild, absurdist conspiracies.

But to Republican supporters, alt-right loons, and out-and-out racists, it was an unmitigated Good Thing. After all, what ACORN was doing was registering the wrong people to vote. That’s echoed in Bibi’s message. It smacks of conspiracy, international meddling, some kind of nefarious scheme to overturn the rightful heir to the Israeli throne, when really it was just voter mobilization against a candidate who had made lives on the margin even more precarious.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Bibi Netanyahu has for years been not just celebrated by the Republican Party, but has essentially been a Republican. They use the same tactics, the same tone, and have shared beliefs.

Trump, though not a Netanyahu-like figure, is still the apotheosis of this. Through their rank insecurity, their demagogic bigotry, and most of all, their massive corruption, it is pretty clear that Trump and Bibi are cut from the same cloth.

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“Blue Apron” Food Stamps. Refugees. School Shootings. For the GOP, Meanness is The Goal

On Valentine’s Day, which will forever be known to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland as the day their young lives became forever associated with trauma, Allison and I decided to watch something old, and romantic, so we could not talk about the daily horrors for a few hours. We had that luxury, of course.

We quickly picked Casablanca, which neither of us had seen for years.  What struck me watching it again, beside how great it still is, is that beside the main three (or four) characters, you are meant to deeply sympathize with the young couple trying to get out of the city.

Real people (2/3rds)

We’re primed to sympathize with them, to feel their plight, to feel the agony of their neverland time in Casablanca. This isn’t just because they are young and attractive, but because the opening narration perfectly lays out their situation.

With the coming of the Second World  War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately,  toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so, a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up. Paris to Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, or auto, or foot, across the rim of Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco.

Here, the fortunate ones, through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca — and  wait — and wait — and wait .

You can feel their desperate pain. These are people whose lives have been upturned by the horrors of war, by the mad headlong rush of violence into their lives. They are broken and shattered and scared and lost, half-dead, barely clinging onto hope. We feel for them, because they are human, and we can see ourselves in them.

We have the same situation in Syria, today. Millions of people have had their lives turned inside out, blown apart by a savagely cruel war. They spent their lives under the cadaverous pallor of the Asad regime, and when some rose up, peacefully, they were slaughtered. Over the next 7 years, their country has been turned into a charnel house, ripped apart by warring factions inside the country (especially the regime), transnational groups like ISIS, and international actors like Russia, Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia, now Turkey, maybe Israel.

They fled across the self-same Mediterannean. They fled to Europe, many with eyes toward America. But we didn’t see them as people. We saw them as others, verminous danger, and closed our doors.

Not real people

That’s clear in the latest budget, and it is clear in, say, the dozens of refugee resettlement centers that are being closed under Trump and Paul Ryan.

But that’s the GOP. That’s who they are as a party, and it is clear in issue after issue: cruelty is the point, and empathy is a weakness. It is not a coincidence, nor a distortion, that their President is a man entirely incapable of empathy, and whose primary instinct (other than self-aggrandizement) is to be cruel to those he thinks are weaker than him.

It’s how he became President after all, and in every move he makes and every reaction he has, and in every piece of policy crafted in the head of Paul Ryan, making the lives of actual humans even worse is the primary goal. Punching down, and pulling the last shreds of a decent life from those who have so little.

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The Flowers of Trumpism: In Illinois, The Far-Right Comes Grabbling From The Ground

 

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Pictured: Illinois!

On Friday, word started getting around Twitter and various Illinois blogs that Jeanne Ives, Republican challenger to Bruce Rauner, had released a strange, offense ad titled “Benedict Rauner.” In it, she was supposed to discuss how Rauner “sold out” his constituents by pandering to the worst people in Illinois: feminists, immigrants, LGBTQ.

It actually seemed sort of impossible, and indeed, on the venerable Capitol Fax blog, commenters couldn’t quite believe it. It seemed like a joke. I sort of didn’t even pay attention to it, since it seemed ridiculous.

Well, come Saturday, as I was watching my Butler Bulldogs play DePaul (in the manner one watches a cat toy with a mouse), the commercial came on. I honestly goggled gape-jawed while watching. It was the most vile ad I’ve ever seen in the state.

I don’t want to link to it, but the cast is above. In it, these people thank Bruce Rauner for a litany of sins. As least offensive, you have the rich tycoon thanking Rauner for bailing out Exelon, the energy giant. We can all get behind the anti-fatcat message, I suppose.

But you also have the pussy-hatted frump-chic girl thanking Rauner for “making Illinois taxpayers pay for my abortion.” You have the black CTU representative thanking Rauner for giving Chicago teachers everything they wanted. You have the bandanna criminal thanking Rauner for allowing Chicago to be a sanctuary city. That they cast a white guy showed, for once, a modicum of common sense, but the message was clearly there.

And for the cream of the crop, you have the transgendered representative, which in the pinched world of Ives and her supporters, is an ugly man in an ill-fitting dress, stubble and chest hair given places of prominence, thanking Bruce Rauner for letting “people like me use the women’s bathroom.”

The level of outrage here scrapes the sky. Every single one of these was designed to inflame the Breitbart base. Transgendered are tranny pervs, all teachers are black and want handouts, all undocumented immigrants are gangster thugs, all feminists are abortion-loving lesbians (don’t ask for logical or biological consistency).

The Democratic candidates for governor united as one to condemn it, and after a few hesitations, the Illinois GOP did as well. Bruce Rauner took a bit too long to do so; when asked, he immediately pivoted to repeating “Mike Madigan” like an incantation. But everyone is pretty outraged.

Ives? She doesn’t seem to understand the fuss. In a talk yesterday, which Eric Zorn, who does god’s own work in the state, transcribed, she gave some boilerplate dissonance about “respecting everyone in God’s image”, even if she disagrees with them, but is sad that people who disagree with her are all up in arms. It was standard maddening dishonesty. It was the Q&A that got good.

When asked again about the ad, she replied:

“The fact that you saw a visual representation of the policies he put in place is maybe considered offensive. I don’t understand that. That’s exactly the fat-cat Exelon guy, that’s exactly who you bailed out. Hello!  The teacher from CPS, that’s whose pension you just bailed out. The transgender man, that’s exactly what, typically, a transgender man looks like  (groans in the audience). Sir, with all due respect, I’ve had them show up at my door, so …”

It’s just what they look like. That’s the teacher! That’s the fatcat! (the fatcat is good inoculation against bigotry, in theory.) That’s typically what a transgender man looks like. And she knows! They’ve showed up at her door. I guess, selling cookies?

Look, this is all clearly dishonest. The ad was designed to appeal to the hard right, who feel sold out by Bruce Rauner, because while he is doing everything in his power to destroy unions, crush workers, and turn Illinois into Wisconsin, he isn’t quite there.

For one thing, he isn’t powerful enough to do it to the extent they want (see for example the outrage that teachers are getting the pensions they were promised, which is apparently a capital crime). For another, he sometimes, whether for political or personal reasons, he isn’t the culture warrior they demand. He isn’t, at the end, a total bigot.

This isn’t enough for some people. Ives wouldn’t have a shot if Rauner weren’t such a bumbling clod and a terrible politician, but she saw an opening, and she took it. She’s now being backed by Breitbart, as Natasha Korecki pointed out in her morning playbook, and is being funded by the right-wing Uihlein family, out of Lake Forest. They were last seen backing Roy Moore, propelling him to a primary win over Luther Strange. He was backed not in spite of being a theocratic bigot and hateful know-nothing, but because of it. And he lost the general not because of that, but because he likes them young.

In any other year, Ives would have been a fringe candidate, like when Alan Keyes ran against Obama in 2004. Rauner is hard-right, an absolute plutocrat’s plutocrat. Sure, he’s not great at it, but he is giving these people most of what they want, economically. But it isn’t enough. His cloddish nature gives them an opening, but it isn’t just that.

It’s that there is something wild and unburied here. From the race riots of Cairo to the entrenched bigotry of Chicago, Illinois has never been a truly progressive state. With our Great Lakes to Deep South length, and the tension between farm and city, and the tensions in a huge, racially-mixed industrial city, there have always been elements of ugly in out politics.

In my lifetime at least, these have been progressively buried. The Council Wars of the 80s are now unthinkable, and Alan Keyes was a joke. Culture warriors don’t win.

But Donald Trump has stirred something nasty and cruel, an secret serum, a potion that incantates buried corpses from the ground. They are stirring because they feel strengthen. They feel powerful. They feel that it is their time. Trump may be unpopular, but he is still a hero to the worst.

I’ve been shielded from that in Illinois, and maybe that is why the ad was so breathtaking. Maybe people in other states saw that and shrugged; another day in America. But that it can break into this bubble, is being proudly played during Saturday morning basketball, shows to me the far-reaching damage that Trump’s dark magic is doing to America.

(And yes, the Nazi getting the GOP nomination for Congress is pretty bad, but that’s more a product of the Republicans not putting up a challenger in a heavily-gerrymandered district. But while their offense at gerrymandering is adorable, one also has to ask: why does the Nazi identify as a Republican?)

A break from daily horrors to think about Ted Cruz being humiliated

 

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I would like every day to be as happy as this picture once made me.

 

I think tomorrow we’ll get closer to being on pace. Working on a long post about Saudi Arabia and Iran, as it looks more and more like we’re heading toward a catastrophic mid-major power war, one in which the US will either be drawn in or let Saudi Arabia get annihilated (guess which!).

But for now, a quick happy thought about Ted Cruz being embarrassed.

538 has a fun chat about the Democrats taking back the Senate, and there is some back and forth about Texas being in play next year.

micah: But here’s my argument for buying Democrats at 30 percent: They basically need one seat in addition to Arizona and Nevada. They might get that in a month. And even if they don’t, if it’s a super Democratic-leaning year, as we think it will be, I’d bet Democrats in red states will be mostly safe.

Moreover! I think people think too narrowly about what states could be in play.

Like, if Democrats have a +10 advantage on the generic ballot and it’s an anti-incumbent year, who’s to say Ted Cruz won’t be in trouble in Texas?

Now, I’m not betting on this (and neither are they). But it’s not impossible to squint and see Ted Cruz in real trouble, considering that he is still somehow more unlikeable (though not as hatable and truly deeply loathsome) as Donald Trump.

However, it’s also easy to see Ted Cruz sort of wanting to lose in a Democratic landslide year.

It’s this here blog’s long-standing contention that Ted Cruz is running in 2020. He was planning to whether Trump won or lost. It’s why he’s been so fiercely loyal to the man who insulted his wife’s appearance and accused his father of murdering JFK.  I have no doubt he was going to run “more in sorrow than anger” against a man who betrayed conservatives.

(Note: the casus belli would probably be that Trump didn’t have Hillary Clinton executed or something. It isn’t like Cruz would go against Trump for any decent reasons.)

So losing in 2018 would help this case. Trump was such a bad conservative he lost the Senate, and gave it to hated Chuck Schumer. We hates the New York…elite, don’t we? Very tricksy.

This also has the benefit of letting Cruz off the hook. He’d have to start running for President right about the same second his term would begin. While running for re-election, he certainly won’t admit that he has no interest in being a Senator. Indeed, he’d be indignant that anyone would even ask him about that (no one does hypocritical indignation better than Cruz, except maybe Newt).

If he lost, he wouldn’t have to pretend that, like, God got on the horn with him a few days after the election and told him that, on second thought, he should run for President. Even for Cruz, that would look bad.

The best part is that it wouldn’t work. He’d get blown out in the GOP primary by Trump (or anyone else if Trump is gone by then, which: oh god please), win or lose his seat. He’ll be humiliated. Remember, Ted Cruz is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. He miscalculates all the damn time. I just hope he gets humiliated in the primary after being humiliated in his Senate race.

Just the thought of it is already making me smile. And in these dark days, we’ll take what imaginary pleasures we may.

Roy Moore is the Establishment: A Takeaway From Last Night’s Victory

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Yes, this nightmare man believes the 10 Commandments are the basis of our law, but you could probably get 40-45 Republican Senators to argue the same thing.

The NYTimes has an important passage regarding Roy Moore, the slavering Christianist and theocratic bigot, and his victory last night in the Alabama senatorial primary to replace Jeff Sessions.

In a race that began as something of a political afterthought and ended up showcasing the right’s enduring divisions, the victory by Mr. Moore, one of the most tenacious figures in Alabama politics, will likely embolden other anti-establishment conservatives to challenge incumbent Republicans in next year’s midterm elections.

Now, you might say: oh jeez. This really could get a whole bunch of red-meat coal-rolling Bible-thumpers into the hallowed halls of the Senate, and really mess up the Establishment. We’re entering dark times!

And you’d be right, except for one this: The Republican establishment is already really fucking terrible. It hasn’t been Mitch McConnell attempting to save or fix Obamacare! He’s done everything he could to repeal it, no matter what the bill.

‘Ol Luther Strange was part of that. He was a reliable vote, in his interim position, when it came to repealing Obamacare. There wasn’t a single instance when a political reporter tried to game out the votes and asked “Where will Luther Strange go?” Remember, he was filling in for Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions is awful!

Yes, Roy Moore will bring more bombast, and will suck up a ton of media oxygen, and as my friend Dustin said, will make Ted Cruz look reasonable. Yes, he has no business being in public life, and his election to the Senate will continue making a mockery of our institutions and further shatter the illusion that we live in some kind of mature, well-functioning democracy.

But really: did you still believe that? Donald Trump is the President! The doltish flim-flam man from the TV! Roy Moore is just another example of how wild and ultimately ungovernable this country is, and how mean-spirited and bigoted and narrow-minded today’s right wing is, and with that, with his comic-opera cruelty and sneering, gun-blasted piety, he’ll fit right into Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

(If you want a good discussion of what Trump’s failed endorsement of Big Luther means, I recommend this Suzanne Monyak piece from The New Republic: basically, Trumpism, the “screw you, libs!” branch of the GOP, doesn’t even need Trump. It’s pretty scary stuff.)

Guardian: Miss Universe May Be Key to Trump/Moscow Connection

 

 

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This televised appraisal of overly-tall brunettes will be in history books. 

 

It’s just too perfect

The 2013 pageant has become a focal point for the simultaneous investigations, led by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees, into whether associates of Trump colluded with Russian officials to help them win the 2016 US presidential election.

Investigators are examining closely efforts apparently made by the Russian government to pass Trump’s team damaging information on Hillary Clinton, using Trump’s politically-connected Miss Universe business partners as couriers.

They are also looking into the $20m fee that Trump collected for putting on the pageant from those same business partners – along with extraordinary allegations about Trump’s private conduct behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton hotel during his 2013 stay in Moscow.

The Guardian has learned of additional, previously unreported, connections between Trump’s business partners on the pageant and Russia’s government. The ties are likely to attract further scrutiny by investigators who are already biting at the heels of Trump associates.

This administration, and the entire political career of the ridiculous Current Occupant, have been defined by a few things: racism, ignorance, corruption, bluster, bullying, cowardice, empty machismo, vainglorious self-assurance, petty feuding, and no-skinned narcissism. But, aside from horrible destructive policies, what might best define the Trump era is just how fucking tacky it is.

Everything about Trump has always been tacky and vulgar. The gilded bravado, the phony TV persona, the desperate striving for approval masked as condescending confidence. The constant boasts about money, often to people who had much, much more (though always to people who had much, much less).

It’s not just that Trump has always been defined by tackiness; it’s that he has helped define it, from the bloated decadence of the 80s to the phony-conflict fake-strongman nausea of the reality show 2000s, his gross imprint has been a weight on our culture. He’s not solely responsible, but he did help create, and clearly thrived in, the worship of wealth, the addiction to ginned-up drama, and the deference toward TV ringmasters that paved the way to his Presidency.

So it is fitting that his true political career may have been partially launched by the glittery tackiness of Miss Universe, where, according to The Guardian he really became more entangled with the middle rings of Putinism, who used flattery and access to impress the world’s easiest mark.

Most people in the story, including the ridiculous Rob Goldstone, are present at the now-key Don Jr. meeting with a bunch of Russian insiders. The Miss Universe pagent is the nexus at which the key players start to gain influence in the Trump inner circle, access that eventually led to them working to put Trump in the White House.

That last sentence, by the way, ought to be the lead line in the obituary for our idiot times.

Anyway, read the whole piece. It points to where Mueller will be looking, the whole cast of characters that through “friendship” and money sought to manipulate, use, and support the Trump family in an attempt to both undermine our democracy and make more money. That it worked shows volumes about the emptiness of America’s worst family, but it wouldn’t have worked without the rest of our dumb, and essentially tacky, culture playing along.

Miss Universe! That’s where this all really got started. It’s almost too perfect.

(By the way, there is one mitigating factor for Trump in this, in a part that is painted as evidence of more collusion.

It is not known whether Trump met any associates of Putin in lieu of the president himself, but he certainly claimed to have.

“I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people,” he said in a radio interview in 2015. “I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”

When Trump brags about meeting the best people because he’s the best, but says he can’t tell you more, he’s lying. He’s a terrible con man, and this is his obvious tell. He’s so desperate for approval. That’s the hardest part about this: it’s impossible to use anything Trump says as evidence, because he is simply always, always lying.)

Weekend Good Reads and Quick Thoughts: Chelsea Manning, Gitmo, The Sinking East Coast, and More

This is the last weekend of the year you are legally allowed to listen to this song. 

I always want to do “Quick Hits” and such because I think they’ll be shorter, but they never are. Anyway, here are a few scatterings on some stories as well as things you should read, if you don’t have anything else going on during summer weekend, as summer blazes up once again to send us into the fall.

Let’s do this gossip column style.

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