In Asking About Washington and Jefferson, Trump Stumbles Onto One Interesting Point

 

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“Great guy. Owned slaves. Doesn’t bother me. I’m more Presidential than him”

 

I don’t think there is much more to say about Trump’s raving belligerence, his hideous instincts, and his incoherent tirade against decency yesterday. As Pierce pointed out, he was a guy who was clearly angry about having to release a second statement on whether or not Nazis and racists are bad, and stewed about it for 24 hours, then let the world know how he really felt. To say it was un-Presidential is to pretend that this guy is a real President.

But he did inadvertently stumble onto a good point, albeit from the wrong direction and with the wrong intent. He brought up a normal right-wing Confederate talking point, bringing up the fact that many of the Founding Fathers were indeed slave owners.

“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.”…

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? …Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner. Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Obviously, the “there were a lot of good people carrying torches alongside the Nazis and white supremacists!” line that has people talking. But the Washington/Jefferson part is really interesting. This is a common sneer among the right, an unlettered attempt at logic, and, to them, an attempt to get us to consider how much we’re “changing” history.

There are a few obvious rebuttals here. The first is the easiest, which is: we’re not changing history, you dolt, we’re just not honoring terrible people anymore. The second is related, which is: sure, we have a complicated history, but maybe we’ll draw the line at honoring people who committed treason against the United States in order to defend slavery.

That one is worth unpacking. We can point out the obvious hypocrisy in the idea that the right wing is telling us that some Founding Fathers were bad, as an excuse for maybe worse behavior by CSA leaders. When the left points that out we hate America, remember. But I think we should actually happily accept those terms.

One of the worst parts of this country, and one of the wells from which a lot of contemporary poison is drawn, is Founding Father worship. We do tend to deify these man, and the end result is really pernicious.

For one thing, it has partly led to the contemporary cult of the Presidency. After all, of all the Founding Fathers who are worshipped, most were Presidents. Franklin is really the only non-President who is deified, until Hamilton the last couple of years. Men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine are more known than understood, and tend to get lumped together, even though they were remarkably different men with remarkably different ideas.

And that’s sort of the point. The Fathers were a fractious bunch with a hell of a lot of competing ideas, and barely worked out a compromise to set up the government. That’s a good thing. The problem is that their ideas, and indeed their lives, have been dipped in a sort of amber. The differences are smoothed out. And they are lumped together into a sort of cult.

Really, the fact that not capitalizing “founding fathers” looks sort of weird is a tell. They are almost gods, and that is really pernicious. It is literally undemocratic, and it has infected our politics. We parse the text of the 2nd Amendment to see if it is ok for you to carry a bazooka to a Nazi rally. We ask what the Fathers would have thought of internet pornography (Franklin: Thumbs up). We try to imagine what 18th-century farmers would have done today.

That’s really antithetical to their whole project. The people who created this country believed in common law and progress. They didn’t intend for their word to be Gospel. This isn’t just an argument against “originalism”, which is an obvious intellectual fraud, but against the whole idea that we should be beholden to a bunch of flawed dudes from 240 years ago.

And so maybe we should look at our history. Maybe we should say “Oh yeah- George Washington would have been super weirded out at civil rights, and just seeing an airplane would have fucking blown his heart up. Let’s not look at them as gods. In fact, let’s examine the whole history of this country, and not pretend it was uniquely moral. Let’s not pretend that the slavery was an aberration. Let’s not pretend that we didn’t literally wiped out hundreds of nations in order to colonize the continent. Let’s not pretend that the monuments to men like Lee weren’t to honor soldiers, and not put up by Jim Crow politicians to remind blacks of their place. Let’s not pretend about anything, and maybe we can fulfill the promise inherent in our creeds.”

This obviously isn’t what Trump meant. In his mind, and the mind of his Confederate-loving Nazi-humping Lowes-shopping patio-torch-wielding white supremacist jackass buddies, Washington isn’t bad because Lee is, but rather Lee should be fine because Washington is great, and they are both great because they are both white. So why question their greatness?

But just because that isn’t what our idiot President meant doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run with this in another direction. I argued yesterday morning that maybe Trump will inadvertently help tear down the cult of the Presidency. I didn’t know he’d do it that afternoon.

President Tough Guy

 

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At the Republican National Convention

 

(h/t LGM)

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say.

These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

 

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Ibid

That alt-right RED PILL idiots bought into the most talentless con-man in American history is the only thing maybe more funny than the “fuck your feelings” crowd thinking the tenderest and most ludicrously sensitive manchild in American history a new Ceaser.

This will be less funny when we go to nuclear war with North Korea. Or maybe more funny. Who knows?

 

With New WaPo Revelations, Team of Rats Clearly Acting Like Rats

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Last night, the Washington Post broke the story that the initial wildly misleading and dishonest statement regarding the fabled Don Jr. Russia meeting was dictated by the President himself. The statement, if you recall, basically said “we met one woman and it was all about adoption, and come on, so what?”

This turned out to be not exactly the case.

That’s interesting, because it again shows the President to be an inveterate, indeed instinctual liar, whose relationship with the truth is analogous to the one he has with women, which is: I can do whatever I want to it. It is breathtakingly arrogant, in its assumption that if he says something, we’ll all believe it (or rather, that it will become truth, because he’s Trump, so what he says goes). It’s also incredible in how much it complicates the life of his son.

I don’t know if there are any legal ramifications here; I sort of doubt it. But the real upshot of the story is that while the sources are anonymous, and this will surely be disputed, they all came from within the White House. This isn’t just leaking about how Reince is a jerk or anything like that. These are senior officials saying that the President is deliberately complicit in misleading the American people about his administration’s, and his family’s, ties to Russia.

That’s partly because I would imagine the ship is clearly sinking. Mueller is zooming in on the money, which is what this has always been about. But as much as anything, it is because it is clear that the President has zero loyalty, and is willing to discard anyone to benefit himself. Now, this has been clear literally forever, and anyone who ever believed otherwise is an idiot, but even idiots have to understand the game now.

Here’s the proof. This is my favorite part of the whole thing.

Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications and one of the president’s most trusted and loyal aides, and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, huddled with Kushner’s lawyers, and they advocated for a more transparent approach, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

In one scenario, these people said, Kushner’s team talked about sharing everything, including the contents of the emails, with a mainstream news organization.

Yup. It was Jared Kushner, who loathes the press, never speaks to it, and who consistently lied on his disclosure forms, who was pushing for transparency and openness. Amazing how he and Ivanka are the ones who come out good in this story. I wonder who the sources would be.

Let’s call him “Jared K.”

Like I said, I don’t think anything will come of this qua this. It might demonstrate that Trump knew more about the meeting than he let on, though it doesn’t have to. He might have heard of it that day, and decided that, in his wisdom, he’d be able to handle it. That’s very plausible!

But the story itself shows the extraordinary dysfunction of this White House, and more than that, the willingness of top inside sources to attack the President himself, and throw him under the bus before they get run down. It’s sort of exciting, but also another reminder of how much a disaster we’ve inflicted upon ourselves. It’s what happens when you have a government of the worst, by the worst, and for the worst.

Quick Hits and Weekend Reads on our post-Priebus Friday

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Reince just lost a turf battle to this guy. Good for him- he deserves it.

1) Man, I don’t even know what to talk about this week. Let’s talk about Reince, who was just pushed out after losing a turf battle with the human incarnation of an $8 tip on a $400 bill.

I remember when Reince was first elected the chairman of the GOP in 2011, because it seemed impossible that he was real. He won by bragging that he owned eight guns, or at least that’s all I remembered beside the name. He was a weakling and a sniveling toady, the perfect embodiment of modern Wisconsin, a Kenosha kid who took it upon himself to make the lives of those he grew up around harder. With Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, he helped ruin a good state.

His legacy is presiding over the GOP as it tipped from gibbering into full madness, as he helped stoke powerful forces of anger and atavism, failed to stand up to Trump, and then enabled his every idiocy. No sympathy for the petty manner of his dismissal or his loss to a guy who thinks that calling the New Yorker means the assumption of off-the-record. He’s a terrible person who deserves fully every humiliation.

This is nice, though. Wikipedia is cold, man. This was up like 45 seconds after the news broke.

wiki

2) That reminds me: we started this week mostly talking about Jeff Sessions. Remember that? How Trump was pushing him out? (Can you believe the Mooch interview came out like 25 hours ago?)  There’s been some sympathy for Sessions because Trump has treated him so poorly, but remember that Jeff Session deserves much, much worse.

That’s the one nice thing about Trump ritually humiliating and abusing everyone around him. Choosing to be around Trump is proof that you are an asshole, and deserve to be ritually abused and humiliated. I can’t wait for it to happen to Mooch.

3) This week, we talked about the tragedy of Cairo, Illinois. I was honored to be linked by Avram Grynszpan at Ruminations in an Emergency (great name), who has been doing great work on Cairo. For more background on what is happening there, and why, please head on over to his joint. He is also more action-oriented on what we can to to help Cairo. The whole blog is really interesting, so make it a destination.

GOOD READS FOR THE WEEKEND

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Nah, go nuts

Looking for a few reads? Well, here you go.

  • If you like baseball, here’s a cool and fun Deadspin article on players who have had two separate Hall of Fame careers, by WAR. That is to say, if you took like their first ten years and second ten years, both would be HoF worthy, or at least in consideration. I think most people would be surprised to see Alex Rodriguez on here, though you shouldn’t be. He was so good and none of you cared. It’s also fun to remember how great Rickey Henderson was, and gape in awe again at Babe Ruth.
  • Less fun, but super important: Katherine Zimmerman at Critical Threats (An AEI joint, showing my political ecumenicism) has an excellent report, originally published in a statement to the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on how al-Qaeda is strengthening by consistently adapting its approach and methods while still focusing on the primary goals. They are still thinking long-term, whereas ISIS thinks short (a position with which this blog is sympathetic). She wants US policy-makers to understand this persistent and pervasive threat, as well as the threat of Salafi-jihadism, which as she says “predates” either group and “will generate another transnational organization if they are defeated.”  It’s a good global look at the movement, and while I would be interested to see how she thinks ISIS impacted AQ (even just by altering the landscape of the ideas of its recruits), it is a sober and thoughtful and comprehensive report.
  • Timothy Garton-Ash, that great observer of political change in Europe, is strangely optimistic about the Anglo-American world’s ability to rebound from the intertwined Trump/Brexit madness. Well, at least, he sees it as a possible future, which is better than me on most days. He also produces a great line: “The transcript of Trump’s recent interview with the “failing” New York Times reveals the egocentric, superficial stream-of-consciousness disorder of his mind: Leopold Bloom meets the National Enquirer.”
  • A video! This isn’t reading at all! Looks like old man O’Neill is pivoting to the future! Don’t get too excited, because this is about parking, or rather, the madness of how we’ve designed cities around parking and minimum requirements. It doesn’t get into how the auto industry influenced these decisions, which meant that our towns are unwalkable, but that short-sightedness is demonstrated. This is a minor obsession around here, and this short video is a great introduction to the issue. It seems obscure, but it gets to the heart of how we live and interact with our lived environment. And the expert in it is awesome.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Let’s see if we can get through a weekend without a disaster.

Utilities in Cairo Illinois: The Price of History

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Cairo Illinois, at the tip of the state where it flows into Kentucky, is where the Ohio and the Mississippi flow into each other, where two great river systems crashing their way through America join the east and the Midwest on the way to the Gulf. It a slow, languid area, more deep south than Midwest, a strange humid little pocket in a state dominated by farm concerns and the bulk of Chicago.

Cairo (pronounced Kay-Row) is far from Chicago, a northern Great Lakes city born of industry. Cairo is, and always has been, a river town, a transit point. It’s proximity to great shipping areas should make it wealthy, or at least well off. Or at the very least, alive. But Cairo isn’t. It is grasping and almost dead, with over 100 years of racial violence, mismanagement, and neglect having brought it low. It’s few thousand remaining residents are battered by greed, oversight, and disinterest.

And, because this is America, race. It has been tortured by the violence of our endemic, perhaps inherent, racism. And it remains that way. Race, and the long tendrils of history, have choked the life out of Cairo, leaving it a broken city, filled with paranoia and injustice. One symptom of that is incredibly high utility prices. This seems minor, or at least explicable, but understanding why is key to the whole thing.

If you want to understand this, you have to read this incredible series in The Southern Illinoisian by Molly Parker and Issac Smith. A 7-part series published this week titled “Why Are Electric Rates in Cairo So High?”, it seems like a simple question, or like a weird little quirky thing. But it isn’t. It is a complex and terrible story, and Parker and Smith truly dig into it, in some of the finest journalism I’ve read in a long time. It shows just how much history and modernity have conspired to make life in Cairo increasingly difficult.

You should really read it, but it comes down to simple math: the poorest people in the state are being charged the most for electricity.

Continue reading

Today in the Annals Of Possibly Too-Low Standards

TPM...

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Post that Trump takes the intelligence briefings very seriously.

“A president who I think came into the office thinking he would focus on domestic issues — ‘make America great again’ — has learned that you inherit the world and its problems when you’re president of the United States,” Coats told the Post.

“One time he came in and said, ‘All right, what’s the bad news this morning?’ ” he continued. “You can see the weight of the burden on the shoulders of the president.”

The “one time he vaguely asked about things!” standard is not, traditionally, presidential.

With Emoluments Clause, Trump Places “Brand” Above Constitution

 

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“Follow the money.” “It’s literally right there. It isn’t even trying to hide.”

 

The least surprising story of the week is also maybe the most enraging…

In January, Donald Trump’s lawyer said that the Trump Organization would donate any profits earned at Trump hotels from a foreign government to the US Treasury. The move was supposedly an attempt to stay on the right side of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits US government officials from taking gifts or benefiting from foreign governments. Ethics experts noted that the pledge, issued by attorney Sheri Dillon, did not truly address this violation of the Constitution. Trump needed to divest his ownership of the hotels, they contended. And now new documents released by congressional Democrats show that Trump is not taking even his insufficient effort seriously.

How does the Trump Organization determine which foreign funds ought to be donated? Not too assiduously, it appears. The House Oversight Committee several weeks ago asked the Trump Organization for information on this process. In response, the company sent the committee a nine-page pamphlet that instructs staff at its properties on how to handle this matter. The pamphlet indicates that the Trump Organization is not enthusiastic about gathering this information and doesn’t want its guests bothered by any efforts to comply with the Emoluments Clause.

The pamphlet notes that the hotels should not calculate the profit from foreign patronage but rather estimate it. After all, it says, calculating the actual profit would take a lot of effort: “To attempt to individually track and distinctly attribute certain business-related costs as specifically identifiable to a particular customer group is not practical, nor would it even be possible without an inordinate amount of time, resources and specialists.”

When it comes to identifying foreign revenues, the pamphlet tells Trump hotel staff not to try too hard, for that could annoy the customers: “To fully and completely identify all patronage at our Properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.” So, the pamphlet points out, the Trump Organization will not try to identify customers who do not inform the hotel that they are representing a foreign government.

(All from Mother Jones, which, as always, is on it)

This is, first of all, a textbook case of how Trump has always worked. Make a big show and then nothing coming of it, whether it is the huge birth certificate announcement or a solemn pledge to uphold the Constitution. Because in his oily reptilian brain Trump knows that the announcement gets the headline, but the follow-through never does.

It’s clever, too: “estimating profits” is perfect. They will “donate” a certain amount of hotel profits that they estimate come from foreign sources, which means, as MJ points out, a foreign government could spend millions of dollars at a hotel that is just breaking even, and none of that would be reported. And it goes without saying that “Trump Possibly Donating Only Percentage of Estimated Profits From Hotel Business” isn’t going to be front-page news.

But you don’t even have to get into the weeds of this scheme to see why it is breathtaking and maddening. They are literally saying that following the Constitution would be too hard, and that it wouldn’t be good for their business. To which one could say, well, shithead, you didn’t have to run for President, but that would be belaboring the obvious. He clearly ran for President partly as a way to make more money. He’s exactly the greedy and terrible person he always was. This isn’t a surprise.

This is exactly how corruption works. Not the minutia, or the actual taking of money; we’re all familiar with how greedy people try to enrich themselves. But how systems and countries become corrupted and rotted. This is how it happens.

I’m not being naive here. America has always been a greedy land, a capitalistic engine that destroys everything in its path. Politicians have always taken from the till, when they haven’t been outright controlling the till. But this is something different.

This isn’t just theft. It is a subversion of the Constitution itself, and it is done flagrantly and openly. That they are sort of dancing around it by being cute isn’t an attempt at subtlety; it is making the crassness behind the moneygrab even more blatant. They are saying, openly: what are you going to do about it?

That’s true corruption. It’s exposing the weakness in a system, which assumes decency but is also ruthlessly partisan, for you own advantage. It’s daring anyone to stop you and knowing that they won’t. It both assumes, and promotes, a moral decay.  Because what this says, clearly, is that the institutions, the rules, the very documents to which we pledge allegiance, don’t matter if you are powerful.

We’ve always known that power corrupts, and all that, but in ths history of the American Presidency it has generally been to get more power. People around the President have been greedy and venal, but even Nixon wasn’t bagging cash, for the most part. At least, that wasn’t his sole or even primary goal. It was “just” to crush the Democrats so he could run the world the way he goddamn saw fit.

That’s why this is different. It’s cheap and it is dirty. It’s grubbing and low and vile. This corruption is entirely about money. It reduces the Presidency to a casino, a back-alley game of craps, a bunch of sweaty mooks in a garage office selling phony insurance to widows. Jack Abramoff and and Boss Tweed broke the law to get money. Trump is breaking the Constitution, entirely for money, and no one is stopping him.

Think about it: they literally said that protecting their “brand” was more important than scrupulously following the Constitution. Their brand! I can’t think of a better encapsulation of our idiot moment, one that let a remarkably stupid and inhumanely crass and greedy reality show idiot lie his dumbfuck way to the White House. He won on his “brand”, and his brand is a guy who relentless promotes his brand. It’s looping nonsense, a post-postmodern commerical for commercials.

And no Republican is stopping this. That’s corruption in its truest sense. Putrefaction doesn’t happen because of death; death just allows the bacteria that was always inside to work its rotting ways. Death means you can’t fight off worms any longer. Death is merely the precipitating factor to corporeal corruption.

That was Trump. But we were already on our way. We are a nation obsessed with brands and disinterested in facts. We’re too big and unruly, and have become too partisan. Our system has allowed for the tyranny of the minority (and the seating of Neal Gorsuch is the starkest example of that). Trump corrupted us by being the final death, but we were on our way.

McMasters, Comey, and the Trump Endgame

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The fake king at the end of days

There are two ways that the Trump Presidency could end.

OK, that’s not true. There are many, many ways the Trump Presidency could end, including relatively normally. But that seems impossible, because we’ve elected a spoiled, ignorant, dauphin to become the most powerful person in the world. We’ve elected someone who is, without a doubt, in the bottom 10% of people in this country who should be President. You pull nearly anyone off the street, and the wouldn’t be as implusive, reckless, and vainglorious. They wouldn’t be as poor a manager or judge of people, and they wouldn’t let their ego overtake every affair. I’m not saying most people would be good Presidents (I’d be terrible), but few would be this bad.

And because of that, there are right now two paths that stand out among many, both with terrible repercussions.

The more straightforward one is that with the firing of Comey and the purported memo we’re pretty clearly in an Obstruction of Justice phase. Even Republicans are beginning to come around. Vulnerable ones in Illinois, like Adam Kinzinger, are calling for independent prosecutors, and others are just hiding. They feel the worm turning. Paul Ryan hasn’t come up for air in days, as he basically wants to avoid the parts of his job that don’t involve starving people.

The main counterargument, as Ross Douthat, of all people, points out, is that Trump probably is too stupid to even know he was obstructing justice. He was just asking Comey to do him a solid, lean on him a little bit, etc. No biggie. (Douthat thinks this is true, but says it proves Trump’s manifest unfitness for office).

Now, it is true that obstruction of justice is hard to prove, and it is true that there are enough emotional Trump supporters that the GOP might be scared of offending. They might duck behind the incredibly cynical “oh, so now you like Comey” ploy, as if (not actual!) hypocrisy by Democrats is an absolution for actual crimes. There will be a lot of wrangling as Republicans deal with the full scope of their moral failure, their irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton, their insane partisanship, and most of all, placing their desire to throw millions off health care and cut taxes for the rich over the needs of the Republic.

Will they be able to own up to it? If so, expect a lot of talk of their courage and bravery (mostly self-praise), and the nauseating spectacle of their “rising above partisanship”. A Trump impeachement will unleash all the howling anger that is already shaking this country, and they shouldn’t get praise for stopping, too late, a beast they helped create. But we’ll deal with that when we get to it if, hopefully, we do.

There is a worse scenario, here, and that involves H.R. McMaster, who has long been one of the most respected people in America, and certainly in the military, but who has been tainted and corrupted by proximity to Trump, as is inevitable.  Fred Kaplan captures the sadness of McMaster standing up for Trump, in a statement that is mostly a lie, at best an evasion, and in a way, aiding and abetting our deranged king. There is a part in Kaplan that truly stands out.

At the same time, he is still an active-duty officer, duty-bound to obey all legal orders from his commander in chief and perhaps inclined to regard him with respect. Will he remain conscious of the tension between his obligations and his character, asserting the latter whenever opportunities arise? Or will the former subsume all else?

That’s very true. McMaster is active duty, and sworn to civilian primacy. That’s the founding genius of our nation. But what happens if Trump, facing impeachement and disgrace, orders the military to do something terrible and drastic? What if he tries to bind it to him, instead of the country. In August, I argued that such behavior was the primary danger of electing Donald Trump.

Unlike in Turkey, the armed forces here take pride in the fact that they don’t need to guarantee democracy through domestic force; indeed, the fact that they don’t is why our democracy works as well as it does. But if an order is illegal, and insanely so, what then? Do they refuse the order and go against the basis of their existence? Do they do something illegal, which is also a betrayal of their values, because then it means that the military isn’t loyal to the US, but just its temporary and titular head? What happens? Which betrayal is worse? And at what point do they enact the ultimate betrayal in the name of the country: that is, a legitimate overthrowing of civilian power?…

The crisis can come because Donald Trump is a fascist, and think he can and should rule like one. He has no respect for the rule of law, and believes that everything is his toy, and should be used for his greater glory. He feels that civilian control of the military means that they should be loyal to him. That’s not what we are about. The result of this collision is impossible to know. But if he is elected, you can be sure it is coming, and it will be unlike any crisis we’ve faced since the Civil War.

McMaster obviously isn’t in charge of the military, but he is key to this. How long do they stay loyal? Are there mass resignations? Or do they actually betray one duty to uphold another? This is the most terrifying endgame for Trump, and it is far from outside the realm of possibility. It’s what we might be facing. It’s the question that will get hot as the summer starts to boil and the temper of our President reaches rageful and spiteful tantrumic heights: what will the military do?

That we are even asking that is reason why every politician who supported Trump should be disgraced, forever.

Spicer and Trump: A One-Act Play About Taping James Comey

REPORTER: Moving on to the news of the week, did president Trump record his conversations with former FBI director Comey?
SPICER: I assume you’re referring to the tweet. And I’ve talked to the president—the president has nothing further to add.
REPORTER: Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
SPICER: As I mentioned, the president has nothing further to add.
REPORTER: Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or the residence?
SPICER: As I said for the third time, there is nothing further to add on that.
REPORTER: Does he think it is appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?
SPICER: I don’t think that’s a threat. He simply stated a fact, the tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.
It is good to know that Spicer talked to the President (who, remember, is Donald Trump) before meeting with reporters. I am sure that was a good conversation.
SPICER walks into the Oval Office, sees no one is in it except for Mike Pence, grinning broadly, and walks into the annex, where POTUS TRUMP is watching 11 TVs. MNUCHIN is in the corner. 
SPICER: Hey boss, just thought I’d ask real quick before today’s press briefing about the Comey thing.
POTUS TRUMP: Tell them that what Don Lemon said was stupid. Tell them it was disgusting and also that a lot of people say my relationship with Xi is very very good. I think he really likes me, and so why are we talking about currency manipulation? I stopped it, ok?
MNUCHIN: You sure did!
SPICER: Yes, of course, we’ll make sure to get that all out. I can’t wait for Lemon to hear it!
(everyone gives each other thumbs-up for 45 seconds)
SPICER: OK, but, they are probably going to ask if there actually are, you know tapes?
POTUS TRUMP: Who’s talking about tapes? All I said was that there might be tapes, in quotes, and the quotes are very important but the Fake News is always like ‘oh, Trump said tapes’, but they never talk about the quotes, and they never mention Trump’s quotes.
SPICER: OK, so, there aren’t tapes then?
POTUS TRUMP: Who knows? I just said he better hope there aren’t, because if there are, he wouldn’t want to talk, because that wouldn’t be nice. It would be really nasty.
SPICER: So, it obviously wasn’t a threat. It’s just a fact that he should hope no one tapes him.
POTUS TRUMP: Of course it wasn’t a threat. He might say stuff, because he’s very disloyal, you know, and I am never the one who brought up loyalty, and now I hear, oh Tump, he wants loyalty, but I only want people who are loyal enough to fire people who aren’t. Tell them that. You look taller today. Did you see what Rosie said?
SPICER: About Comey?
POTUS TRUMP: No.
(11 minutes of silence)
Spicer: So, nothing furth–
POTUS TRUMP: That commercial didn’t have me in it!
SPICER (exits)

Sociopaths Celebrate Human Immiseration: The Healthcare Repeal in Three Images

We did it, boys! 

What I can’t get over is how happy they are with themselves. With their cheering and backslapping, the popping open of Bud Lights, and the sense of a job well done. These are people who are thrilled with today’s work of rushing through a terrible bill that will take healthcare away from tens of millions of people, leading to more sickness, bankruptcy, and death. They honestly could not be more pleased.

Part of it, of course, is because their ideology makes them want to hurt everyone who isn’t rich so the wealthy can become even more so, even if it is, for them, just a rounding error. Putting a cool couple of million in the pockets of billionaires is worth destroying the lives of poor, regardless of race.

But of course, the main reason they are so happy, is because they think this sticks it to Obama, their literal bete noire. They want to tear him down, destroy his legacy, and trample the progress that he represented (not to mention, for ideological reasons, the progress he actually achieved). He was an aberration to their sense of what the country should be (run by, and to the benefit of, white men). They want to make him a distasteful footnote.

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We did it, Paul. Me and you. Linked together forever. 

And that’s why Trump is so important. He’s a useful idiot, to be sure, one whose mental sickness is perfectly aligned with the GOP. He hates Obama, because Obama is the opposite of Trump in every single way. Obama is the living example of merit, of intelligence, of class and dignity. He is the best of us, and Trump is the worst. He’s a man who earned nothing his coddled life. The GOP might find him obnoxious, but more than being someone who will help them save the rich, he’s a living rebuke to Obama.

That’s why this quote is so telling.

“I don’t know if you remember what [then-Vice President Joe] Biden whispered in the President’s ear back when he was signing [the Affordable Care Act],” Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) asked reporters, referring to Biden’s “this is a big f-cking deal” hot mic moment.

“This is a bigger deal than that,” Flores said before Thursday’s vote.

Now, obviously, in a real sense there is no way today’s vote is a bigger deal. Already, their bill is mooted. The Senate is going to write their own, and then they are going to parlay and compromise and the House lunatics will cry traitor and Ted Cruz will grandstand and Lindsay Graham will say some thing, and maybe there will be a bill that can pass both houses, but mabe not. In a real sense, for the GOP, this isn’t something to celebrate. They’ve barely started, despite what our idiot President claims when he says “It’s dead. It’s essentially dead.”

But look at that closer. Joe Biden said something was a big fucking deal when we came closer to having full coverage than ever before, when we expanded health care. Biden said it was a big fucking deal because we came closer to the day when people could live without fear that a bit of bad luck, a sickness, or an accident at work, an open pothole, someone’s foot slipping off their brake and ramming into you because you happened to be at that intersection at that one second instead of any of the other seconds of your life, could ruin that life. Could send someone spiraling into bankruptcy and a lifetime of pain. Biden, bless him, was excited to help people get away from that. He was excited because the richest country in the world was trying to use that wealth to help each other, to unite in a common bond.

Flores thinks it is a much bigger fucking deal to get rid of that. That’s what gets him excited.

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God damn them

Look at this picture. Look at these monsters. Trump is excited because he has a “win”, regardless of what that means, and in his tiny self-obsessed mind thinks he stuck it to Obama. He thinks this means history will remember him above Obama, as a real victor. He doesn’t comprehend what he is doing to people, because people don’t exist.  This gloating, preening, self-satisfied manchild gave the sea of mayonnaise he’s facing exactly what they want. A chance to destroy the common good and the bonds that unite us as a self-governing nation.

Paul Ryan is so smugly happy about this. He’s oozing joy, with his insincere sincerity about being able to do this with Donald Trump. Louis Gohmert can barely believe his good fortune to be here at this moment. The rest of them just as excited. They’re craning their neck to hoot and holler in unison, hoping that Trump sees just how happy they are to be there with them. How happy they are to please him.

They are so eager to give him a win. To celebrate unearned wealth and undeserved fortune, and the luck they have to be born who they are in this country, to have a chance to rise up and serve the rich, and to trample on the bones of the unlucky. This image is the perfect symbol of why our country–vast and unruly and diverse, a nation that pins its hopes on luck and fears that the chasm is opening up underneath us–is doomed. The pettiest can pass something almost nobody wants. Complacency about progress is foolhardy. It can be smashed underfoot by the trampling hatred of the minority.

Obamacare might not be dead, but GOP decency had its final burial today. They made clear that they are content being the fetchservant of plutocracy, and are eager to make the rest of us suffer and die. Anyone who thinks differently isn’t looking at the same pictures.