Does Focus On The Mueller Investigation Normalize The Stuff We Know?

by John Holbo on January 2, 2018

The stuff we know already is, of course, bad, Russia-wise and just plain Trump self-dealing-wise. Mueller may drop the hammer, or he may not. If the hammer doesn’t drop with full force, it may be hard to sustain outrage regarding a lot of things that are outrageous, but that Republicans have no interest in acknowledging as such.

I’m not criticizing anyone on the anti-Trump side for playing this wrong. There wasn’t some smarter rhetorical angle for highlighting Trump outrages more effectively in 2017. People saw outrageous stuff and said so. But in 2018 journalists writing up Mueller as news should strive to keep stuff that isn’t news – since it’s old news – in the frame. The issue isn’t whether Trump did stuff that, if described neutrally in the pre-Trump era (what if a President were to do X?) would have been denounced on all sides as intolerable. The issue is whether it is sustainable for Republicans to avert their eyes from this for (understandable if deplorable!) partisan reasons. It’s hard to write neutral-sounding Mueller news with that frame. Will he or won’t he compel Republicans to concede some obvious stuff? That’s not the legal issue. It’s not Mueller’s job to make anyone admit what’s in front of their eyes, against their interests. But it is the political issue raised by Mueller doing his legal job. Any story about the political upshot of Mueller’s investigation with any other frame is, in effect, biased in Trump’s favor. Any other frame concedes a huge shift in norms for the sake of speculation about the (tantalizing!) question as to whether Mueller has really got the goods in a surprising, as-yet-unknown sense.

{ 243 comments }

1

BruceJ 01.02.18 at 5:45 pm

The issue is whether it is sustainable for Republicans to avert their eyes from this for (understandable if deplorable!) partisan reasons.

The self-dealing, complete disregard for democratic norms and Party über Alles of the modern GOP is baked into the party, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump. Trump is merely the GOP’s id writ large.

Honestly what has Trump done compared to what McConnell did in denying a clear and established constitutional right of the President to appoint a supreme court justice? Endless investigations of Clinton’s email and Benghazi “scandals” that repeatedly ended up as nothing done wrong?

The “norms” have long been established.

2

John Holbo 01.02.18 at 6:54 pm

I agree that the Republicans are norm-busters and denying Obama’s Garland nomination was a big one. But Trump’s personal corruption and his Russia connections represent norm breaches that Republicans have not otherwise generally engaged in. Certainly not so openly re: Presidential financial conflicts of interest and entanglements. The Republicans are not openly and explicitly pro-corruption. Rather they choose to downplay the likely degree of Trump’s corruption. In effect Dems are holding out hopes that Mueller will find stuff so far through the roof that even downplaying it won’t be able to reduce its apparent size. It’s a bit hard to keep clear that the issue isn’t guilt but rather guilt that is so extreme it can’t be effectively spun.

3

BruceJ 01.02.18 at 7:26 pm

But Trump’s personal corruption and his Russia connections represent norm breaches that Republicans have not otherwise generally engaged in.

I would direct your attention to two events: Nixon sabotaging the Paris Peace talks in ’68 and Reagan’s dealing with Iran in 1980 (most notably Casey’s pre-election trips to Tehran likely making to promises of aid if they were to delay releasing the hostages).

Followed by their direct, illegal dealing with Iran to directly and illegally fund the Contras?

We damn well have had past GOP leaders consorting with our enemies (or at least sabotaging our national interest) to gain office.

Trump has merely been the most egregious example; after all, no one ever considered Reagan or Nixon to be foreign assets. The purely mundane corruption Trump is engaging in to line his pockets is merely the Gilded Age back in action.

4

Lee A. Arnold 01.02.18 at 8:01 pm

John: “it may be hard to sustain outrage regarding a lot of things that are outrageous”

I am not so sure about this. The outrage at Trump seems to be sui generis and deep and his job disapproval still trends upwards slowly. Which is a bit odd. This is happening despite a somewhat better U.S. economy. The outrage at Trump is not because people know that Trump had nothing to do with this economy. Most people don’t know this and they might credit it to Trump. (The economy is still on the linear trend line of the post-crash expansion: if it belongs to anyone, it is still Obama’s economy.) And the outrage may not be about his possible corruption or that fact that he may have colluded with Russian agents to sway the election; these are still under criminal investigation. So the outrage is about something else — perhaps because he didn’t stop acting like a jerk once he took office; or because Charlottesville reopened a deep and frightening wound; or because he’s a personal and symbolic embarrassment; or because he is taking the U.S. into more war. Maybe a mix. So, this outrage may persist no matter what. It could guarantee the Democrats control of the House in 2018 even if the tax cuts work and Trump tries to take credit, and even if Mueller doesn’t return criminal indictments, or hasn’t done so yet.

5

Mike Furlan 01.02.18 at 8:20 pm

To what BruceJ said I would add the Bush Jr. war of choice in Iraq.

About 200,000 documented civilian deaths.

https://www.iraqbodycount.org/

Trump is scored low on presentation.

But on technical merit he is so far way ahead of Bush jr.

6

politicalfootball 01.02.18 at 8:49 pm

BruceJ, I think the norm we’re talking about here involves how officials behave in public. John is specifically differentiating between what Trump has done in public, and whatever clandestine behavior Mueller is able to pin on him. To say that past GOP leaders have consorted with the enemy is one thing; to say this is a public GOP norm is another.

7

politicalfootball 01.02.18 at 9:12 pm

Lee@4: With all of the talk of Trump’s historically low ratings, I have seen little analysis at the extreme intensity of dislike for him. It’s my belief that among the people who disappr0ve of his performance, the vast majority really hate the sonofabitch in a way that was not true of other presidents.

I think (just guessing here) that Obama’s “strong disapproval” rating accounted for maybe half of his disapproval, where for Trump I think it might be something like 80%.

8

Cian 01.02.18 at 9:18 pm

I’m not criticizing anyone on the anti-Trump side for playing this wrong. There wasn’t some smarter rhetorical angle for highlighting Trump outrages more effectively in 2017.

I am. Faced with a ton of corruption in both the Republican party and Trump’s administration they chose to focus instead on an imaginary Russian conspiracy. Good job guys.

9

Mrearl 01.02.18 at 11:53 pm

@6: Agree about John’s distinction, but I’m not sure it’s so distinct. I’m old and I remember Iran-Contra. During and after Walsh’s investigation Republicans did their best to make the whole thing trivial and normal (as I recall) in many public statements. So arguably what the Republican President does in private, when it becomes public, can be normed by Republicans.

And recall, too, that even after revelation upon revelation, many Republicans in Congress hung with Nixon until the bitter end, until Goldwater delivered the message, as if what he said and did was susceptible to norming.

So I appreciate John’s distinction and think it’s valid in our current context, but perhaps not 100% historically accurate. But I’m going on memory, and I’m old.

10

Peter T 01.03.18 at 12:41 am

My guess is they will pretend in public that it didn’t happen, was just talk, the other side would have done it/did do it. And after a short while believe their own spin.

I think the issue for the Republicans is less about the particulars than the way it generates constant negative attention on Trump. Public attention is a scarce and contested resource, and scandals (Moore molests young women! Clintons do dodgy real estate deals! Benghazi!) are a good tactic for getting it. Of course, the outcome also depends on how the focus of attention responds. Bill Clinton, Bush Jr and Reagan could just look folksy, Obama sober and respectable. Nixon looked shifty, Hillary uncertain. Trump looks sleazy. It widens the pool of people who dislike him, always an asset electorally.

11

alfredlordbleep 01.03.18 at 1:56 am

@2 and @5: two quick comments

1 The rightwing party is pro-corruption (against the rule of law) in its resistance to recognizing and acting on white-collar crime. I’m thinking particularly of tax evasion by the top earners/”earners”. McCain and one Democratic senator put up an estimate (if memory serves) of $300B/yr (in contrast to the $trillions credited to overseas accounts that now comes home to fatten top management, especially, and other shareholders incidentally). For starters.

2 To what BruceJ said I would add the Bush Jr. war of choice in Iraq.
About 200,000 documented civilian deaths.

To which should be added the common estimate of 2M internal refugees and 2M external in the immediate aftermath of the freedom-fighters’, Bush & Cheney’s, invasion. For that matter—what about (permissible aboutery) destabilizing the EU with the stream of refugees following from the breakdown of Iraq and the consequences for the Middle Eastern neighbors?

Dominoes indeed.

12

bruce wilder 01.03.18 at 2:36 am

The reporting on the Mueller investigation, as typified by the Vox piece linked in the OP, has certainly normalized speculative spiels.

“I’m confident Flynn is singing like a bird to Mueller,” Andy Wright, a law professor at Savannah Law School, told Vox’s Sean Illing.

That is just dreadful journalism and not atypical of the genre. (Oooh a law professor said it! And from such a prestigious school, too! And, he confided in a journalist from our own prestigious website. Wright worked for Barack Obama at the White House — surprising that is not mentioned.) Has anyone watched Rachel Maddow in the land where the hack Mueller is a flawless Man of Integrity?

“The Republicans are not openly and explicitly pro-corruption.” I am not so sure that is true. Many current policy moves look like pro-corruption. Neither the Media nor the Democratic Party are set up to acknowledge that that it is so. It becomes a case of, if a tree falls in the forest and no one says, I hear a tree fall, did it make noise?

The premise that it is the Republicans that have to be forced to acknowledge that corruption is corruption seems to me to be slipping by how we drove into this ditch, where moral outrage is exhausted, in the first place. But, years of making excuses for Obama and Clinton have worn out the moral sense of a lot of Democrats. And, that slide down the slope slippery was set up when the Dems decided they were going to look forward not back. GWB and friends would not be held accountable. And that GFC? So hard to make a case!

I was actually kind of cheered when Manafort was indicted on what are described as money laundering charges — he sure was moving around some eye-popping sums for doing what exactly? And, that indictment led to Tony Podesta quitting. Interesting.
Mueller’s work turned on a light. Not many associated with either Party or in the Media showed much interest. “Forced to acknowledge.” Indeed.

13

William Timberman 01.03.18 at 5:12 am

Forced to acknowledge…. Images of the Apalachin mafia summit spring to mind — the Clinton dynasty scampering into the selva oscura on one side of the driveway, the Trump dynasty likewise on the other. Come the dawn, lots of folks in handcuffs, lots of egg on lots of faces. No one, least of all me, is gonna live long enough to see something like that, except in fantasy. Still watching the powerful consistently outwit themselves, which actually is visible if you squint, is almost compensation enough.

14

nastywoman 01.03.18 at 10:51 am

@7
”It’s my belief that among the people who disappr0ve of his performance, the vast majority really hate the sonofabitch in a way that was not true of other presidents.”

You got it and it – isn’t or won’t be some Focus On The Mueller Investigation which normalizes The Stuff We Know?
It will be the outrageous economical Boom which is under way – which will normalize the animals spirits – and some believe of Greed is Great – and that you need to be the utmost F…face von Clownstick to be a ”winner” in ”teh homeland”.

And as I am – like Halle Berry – believe ”that you can be a good person with a kind spirit and still tell people to go F*CK themselves when needed” – there is a lot more need to tell the ”F…face” that he should F*CK himself – before he has ”normalized” every bad thing I know!

15

John Quiggin 01.03.18 at 10:55 am

“Trump is merely the GOP’s id writ large.”

I disagree with “merely”. Trump is the GOP id unrestrained and writ large. It’s simultaneously true that

(a) there’s nothing totally new here; and
(b) Trump has taken previous outrages to a level that constitutes a qualitative change.

Since we don’t have to worry about Godwin’s Law any more, compare Hitler to the mainstream anti-democratic German right of the 1920s, or to Dollfuss and Schuschnigg in Austria and you get something of what I mean.

16

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 11:11 am

A big story coming along is that a lot of Russian money has poured into Republican and Democratic Party coffers, but in the 2015-1016 season the money suddenly swung to the Republicans. Read the bios of some of the people involved (for example, in the op-ed below). Then go back and watch old videos of the U.S. Congresspeople speaking to the cameras, while you realize they already KNOW all of this.

Op-ed (opinion-editorial) in Dallas Morning Herald, Dec. 15, 2017:

https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/15/putins-proxies-helped-funnel-millions-gop-campaigns

17

Adam Roberts 01.03.18 at 12:06 pm

It’s the question of at what point, if ever, the GOP balance tips from where it is now (‘he’s an asshole but he’s our asshole’) to ‘he’s such an asshole he’s degrading our brand.’ I’m not an American, but the view from where I’m sitting is: no time soon. The two big ticks in Trump’s ledger where senior Republicans are concerned are, surely, (a) he’s not delivering-on the populist tub-thumping manifesto he was touting during the campaign, free healthcare for all, massive infrastructure investment etc., but is instead overseeing a hardline GOP agenda, cutting taxes for the wealthiest donors etc, and (b) his base are ordinary people. Millions of them. The sorts of redneck racist Tea-party rightwingers patrician Repubs like Romney or even figures like Cruz could never connect with in a million years. Since the demographic trend in the US is drifting away from GOP electoral success, the fact that he’s energised these White grassroots in such numbers is, I’d imagine, a big plus for him in eyes of the GOP elite. (Plus if the party turns on him then it alienates this large constituency, which would be electoral suicide).

Note: I’m not defending him when I say this. He’s a monster. But John’s OP is about the in-party calculus, and this seems to me to come out strongly pro-Trump. I don’t see that Mueller will do anything that can’t be brushed off with some hefty Fox News spin. And that’s not even to consider the possibility that Trump’s telling the truth (unlikely though that seems) when he says he didn’t collude with Russia. I’m afraid the US is stuck with him.

18

Ray Vinmad 01.03.18 at 12:06 pm

“But Trump’s personal corruption and his Russia connections represent norm breaches that Republicans have not otherwise generally engaged in. “

It’s impossible to claim that it’s been on this scale. However, it was clear that Cheney stood to profit in some way from the US war on Iraq.

It’s always been suspected that a number of political figures have engaged in shenanigans. There was the October Surprise thing with Reagan. Didn’t Nixon negotiate with Hanoi to sabotage Johnson’s attempt at peace in 1968?

One difference with Trump is the worry that there is ongoing collusion. It’s on a vaster scale. But it’s probably not different in kind.

I agree with John Quiggin.

A big difference with Trump is the sheer insanity of the man. There’s a strange way in which this makes certain fairly usual things in US foreign and domestic policy seem abnormal. Many things our leaders get up to foolhardy and insane and should have been abnormal from the get-go. However, they are defended by politicians and policymakers, and the media rarely bothers to comment on them.

Yes, many are beyond the pale (destroying any hope for Mideast peace, e.g.,) and these wouldn’t be done in quite the same way by a more standard politician. But with the rest, it’s not hard to imagine Bush or some other Republican doing them.

Like Quiggin says above, the outrages have to be met with something system-preserving. Unfortunately, there are many hazards. If Trump is exonerated, it will seem vindicating. If he’s not, everyone will stop paying attention, and many terrible things will happen anyway. Still, it’s better for him to be prosecuted.

19

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 12:42 pm

Another impeachable offense: violating the spirit of the emoluments clause:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/article192131074.html

20

ph 01.03.18 at 1:21 pm

There remains a truly disturbing reluctance on the part of a sizeable subset of people inside and outside America who seem unwilling, or unable to come grips with the two possibilities.
The first is that Hillary lost period, and that whatever actions outside parties played, she could well have still lost. The second is that she actually did commit crimes which would have guaranteed a Republican victory irrespective of the the candidate, but was saved by anti-Trump FBI agents working with senior Obama officials receiving large sums from the Clinton – controlled DNC.

That’s certainly the view of CNN’s legal analyst. Why is this important? Two reasons. Hoping for Mueller to pull the magic unicorn out of the pile of crap doesn’t sound like much of promising plan to me, at least. To focus any attention on Mueller is much worse than a simple waste of time.

If I believed otherwise, I’d say so. There’s much clearer evidence that senior FBI officials colluded to keep Ms. Clinton in the race, and out of the courtroom. That information is concrete, with a money trail, with email, with the language of Comey’s exoneration being changed to explicitly limit her exposure to criminal charges. All this according to an anti-Trump CNN legal analyst, who begins his CNN piece by saying how angry he is with Trump most of the time – he begins and concludes by stressing that Trump is right, high-level FBI agents did pull HRC’s fat out of the fire.

Newer evidence confirms that the FBI and Justice started working on statements of exoneration before key witnesses had even been deposed. There’s a real, as in real, inspector-general’s investigation on these questions ongoing right now. And when you have CNN agreeing with Andy McCarthy at the NRO, that’s worth noting.

I’ve no problem with wanting to tell anyone to F.O., go for it. But be clear. I’m not the one who got 2016 wrong. The same partisan blinders that prevented sensible folks from seeing that Trump might very likely win seem glued on. How can you tell? Watch the CNN clip.

If you’re shutting your eyes to the possibility that HRC stole the nomination, and that her cohorts tried to help her steal the election, you’re shutting your eyes, period. Please don’t.

2018 offers the possibility of real change, but that change will require work. The Clinton’s effectively handed control of the US government to Donald Trump. He wouldn’t have won the nomination, and he wouldn’t have won the election if sensible people had looked harder at the corruption inside of the Democratic party, instead of trying to make the Republicans the part of evil. American voters aren’t buying that line. Hoping they will in 2018 is a grave mistake. Democrats lost because they thought making Trump radioactive would be enough. Voters saw through that, and if Democrats try to sell the same bag o’ crap to the same voters two years later what do you bet the outcome’s going to be? This time they buy it? With a soaring economy, low-unemployment, and no new wars? The Mueller magic unicorn is poison, and losing to Republicans again, in order to preserve the fiction, again, that the Clintons play by the rules borders on criminal. Really. Happy 2018.

CNN: Trump is Right about the FBI

The Hill

“…That evidence includes passages in FBI documents stating the “sheer volume” of classified information that flowed through Clinton’s insecure emails was proof of criminality as well as an admission of false statements by one key witness in the case, the investigators said.

The name of the witness is redacted from the FBI documents but lawmakers said he was an employee of a computer firm that helped maintain her personal server after she left office as America’s top diplomat and who belatedly admitted he had permanently erased an archive of her messages in 2015 after they had been subpoenaed by Congress.

The investigators also confirmed that the FBI began drafting a statement exonerating Clinton of any crimes while evidence responsive to subpoenas was still outstanding and before agents had interviewed more than a dozen key witnesses.

Those witnesses included Clinton and the computer firm employee who permanently erased her email archives just days after the emails were subpoenaed by Congress, the investigators said…”

NRO: Collusion story falling apart

21

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 2:58 pm

Further to 7: Here is a pdf with approval/disapproval ratings. Trump comes out with 56% disapproval, but 48% of that is strong disapproval.

22

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 3:13 pm

By all means investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails and investigate the FBI for bias toward Clinton. Also, investigate the FBI’s NY office for bias toward Trump. Those leaks from NY pretty much threw the election in the eleventh hour. But don’t confuse all the other issues.

The Democratic Party is corrupt (and Sanders supporters know it), but it is not criminally liable in stacking the deck for nominations, because it functions as a private entity that can do whatever it wants to.

Andrew McCarthy gives no evidence that the Steele dossier is false (nor has anyone publicly, to my knowledge). It may be unverified (which is not false) raw intelligence, but we don’t know if it was the only thing in the application for the FISA warrant. Maybe the dossier was just the icing on the cake. Trump’s possible connections to Russian “oligarchs” who are connected to Russian intelligence have been on the radar of Western intelligence and law enforcement since well before 2016.

23

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 4:27 pm

I think you are blind to the possibility of blinders being attached from the right as well as the left, ph. Always be critical of sources.

For example, it’s a mistake to cite someone like Andrew McCarthy as if he were a source of credible legal analysis rather than rather furious – if intermittently ingenious – partisan spin on Trump’s behalf. (By all means, read Andrew McCarthy, but don’t take him straight, so don’t link him straight as if that establishes the credibility of what he says.) The fact that one commentator on CNN said the Congressional re-opening of the investigation of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails is credible doesn’t, by itself, go very far towards establishing that it really is credible. (Think of it this way: suppose it’s basically a smokescreen, to provide cover for Trump. Wouldn’t you expect CNN to get someone – one person – to take the position that it’s credible? He-said/she-said journalism likes two sides, for balance.) The Peter Strzok stuff looks bad, obviously, hence right-wing folks seize upon it as damning. It’s their job to seize on any isolated thing that looks bad and scream that it’s damning. You should step back and ask: is it actually damning? There’s always something that, by itself, looks bad. And there’s always someone with a motive to seize on it. So the fact that there’s someone on TV saying that this one thing looks like a smoking gun isn’t that surprising or dispositive.

If you want to argue that it really is damning, then make the argument. Here’s a rule of thumb, for thinking about these things, whether it’s Hillary-sold-our-uranium or Peter-Strzok-saved-Hillary: was the person in a position to single-handedly do that? Here again we see the importance of not getting hung up on one detail – one isolated, stylized fact.

You write as someone who is trying to help the left overcome its bias, ph. I don’t know whether that’s your actual attitude but, charitably, I’ll assume you aren’t a right-wing troll. Assuming you really are on the left, I think you need to step back and consider whether you haven’t become that classic figure – the liberal who can’t take his own side in an argument. You have become uncritical of right-wing propaganda, due to excessive concern for checking whether there’s some seed of truth to it.

24

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 4:57 pm

A quick response to others upthread. I think it’s an open question – hence the investigation – whether the Trump folks successfully and deliberately and fully knowingly colluded with Russian agents to affect the election in some major or minor way. I have little doubt, however, that any investigation is going to dig up embarrassing financial stuff about Trump, at least collaterally. Maybe Russia-related NY real estate stuff (mob ties, maybe) and ongoing sordid links that are, facially, extremely inappropriate and conflict-laden for a President of the US. Trump’s personal financial entanglements and interests and conflicts are not as dangerous to the health of the republic as a lot of other stuff he is doing. But it is a shocking departure from previous norms that a President should use the office to enrich himself, and that we should have elected someone with the sorts of unresolved connections and conflicts that he has. (Yeah, Kennedy had mob ties. But we don’t think of that as a good thing.) Republicans are not (yet) openly approving of that sort of corruption so they prefer not to acknowledge it. The Mueller investigation has some risk of a huge bomb going off. Something we don’t know but might learn. There might be some Putin link that is criminal or, more likely, just outrageous in its unseemliness or imprudence or indifference to US interests, when viewed in the light. But the real risk – the surer bet – is that a huge pile of Trump dirt will come to light that will be very hard to play down as, in effect, nothing. So I say the political risks is Republicans being forced, by the sheer weight of the evidence, to concede that there is SOME evidence that Trump is corrupt. And the President isn’t supposed to be corrupt. So you’ve gotta do something about it. But that means pulling on the thread and potentially unravelling the whole fabric.

25

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 5:01 pm

The issue is whether it is sustainable for Republicans to avert their eyes … Any story about the political upshot of Mueller’s investigation with any other frame is, in effect, biased in Trump’s favor. Any other frame concedes a huge shift in norms for the sake of speculation about the (tantalizing!) question as to whether Mueller has really got the goods in a surprising, as-yet-unknown sense.

It’s unusual for me to defend the media against this sort of criticism. (The media routinely screws up the frame of these issues.) But I think the media has this one basically right.

The question “as to whether Mueller has really got the goods in a surprising, as-yet-unknown sense” is enormously consequential, and a correct focus of media attention. Granted, if Mueller turns up nothing we don’t already know, Trump should still get the kind of scrutiny that Hillary (inappropriately) got after the e-mail investigation turned up nothing. That probably wouldn’t happen, and it’s correct to fault the media for that.

But outrage fatigue is a problem that is built into the current situation, and I’m not sure what can be done about it. Trump/Russia is among perhaps a dozen extreme outrages being perpetrated by the administration, it’s hard to sustain outrage that broad.

There are people in this very thread who think that Trump/Russia is the dominant focus of Democratic opposition to Trump, demonstrating how difficult it is for people to focus on all of the diverse things that the Democratic opposition is doing, and therefore all of the things that Trump is doing.

The shifting of norms really is accurately described as “old news” — it’s a fait accompli, something that, in the interest of accuracy, has to be conceded. It’s (mostly) not the media’s job to shift those norms back.

It’s really up to us — the consumers of news — to work on the norms of society, and as we labor to shift things back, I expect the media to cover that.

26

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 5:10 pm

The Peter Strzok stuff looks bad

One hopes we get to the bottom of this.

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John Holbo 01.03.18 at 5:17 pm

“The shifting of norms really is accurately described as “old news” — it’s a fait accompli, something that, in the interest of accuracy, has to be conceded.”

I see your point but I don’t (yet) agree. On the day Andrew McCarthy openly defends the President on the grounds that it’s too much to expect that the President not to be corrupt and self-dealing, then I’ll agree. There have certainly been places and times when and where it has been politically normal and openly accepted that politics is where you go to enrich yourself and your followers. Nothing to be so ashamed of. Patronage and family first. But the Republicans are not there and I doubt they are going there openly (that’s a good thing!) So it’s important for journalists to keep pointing out that there’s a lot of stuff we know – no matter what Mueller knows – that really ought to be regarded as unacceptable, but Congress choses to overlook it. (Again, this isn’t the most consequential stuff. North Korea is way scarier, I say. Trump’s personal conflicts and corruption are not the worst thing in terms of bad effects and downside risks.)

If the Dems retake the House, at least, that’s the best fix for this. Congress should investigate the President.

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ph 01.03.18 at 5:24 pm

@22 I fear you misunderstand me. The Mueller investigation is very likely a steaming pile of Clinton crap. Best leave it and them in the past. Far better to focus exclusively on building better inroads into communities that went to Trump in 2016. Democrats have done nothing to date to get me to drop my own support for Trump. I don’t say this to be provocative, but rather to emphasize I see no change, or lessons learned since 2016.

When the Democrats start behaving like responsible adults instead of paying for piss-dossiers (literally) to try to win elections ,while relying on David Brock for moral clarity, I’ll consider returning to the fold. The Mueller investigation is the son of piss-dossier. Trump won by getting people like you, who I respect, to chase bright shiny objects, such as the ‘on the radar oligarch’ evidence, rather than build coalitions, and do the hard work of winning the confidence of voters. And he’s still driving media cycles, getting Dem to react, not act.

Many continue to believe that Robert ‘the Lone Ranger’ Mueller is going to ride over the horizon in the nick o’ time on his trusty steed Silver, yell hi-ho, wink for the cameras, fire his six-gun into the air and the Orange-Haired monsters and his minions going to melt back into the hills. Guess what? Nobody gives a damn.

Voters had a chance to give Obama a third term and they declined, mostly for economic reasons. That’s it. Too many former Obama voters stayed home, or switched sides. Had Democrats made better decisions, Obama’s Cuba policy cost HRC Florida, eg., run a better candidate, and made more of an effort to re-connect with their base, all this would be moot. The election was close, but elite hubris and over-confidence sealed the defeat. Sad.

The Clintons focus-tested what – 87 different messages? What are the five bullet points that Dems bring to the table today? What is the Dems’ 2018 Build the Wall, or it’s the economy, stupid? Got a clue? Anyone reading got a clue what the 2018 Dem message is?

What five points are going to get voters to the polls in 2018 to pull the handle for Dems? You can’t tell me, and nobody else can either, cause you and the rest (sorry, really) have been doing nothing but reacting to Trump’s latest tweet, or parsing leaks from the Clinton crap bag, otherwise known as the Mueller investigation. Or being shocked!!!! Really!!!

Guess what? You’re running out of time. 2018 is here. Maybe Republicans run Roy Moore in every contested seat in 2018. Or, maybe they don’t. Maybe they go with pablum, run away from Trump and Congress, and ride a booming economy to victory.

Trump couldn’t have won without Clinton, nor could the GOP. Every vestige and element of the DNC’s 2016 campaign’s disastrous influence needs to be cut out and burned. Remember all the election night hubris and bright-eyed talk about a devastated GOP? Flipping Texas, Georgia, Arizona? Remember? -Instead – Surprise!!! Record losses – the least amount of power since 1928? This, you need to protect?

Dems need to walk away from all 2016 disaster, especially the tainted Steele dossier and everything connected with it – including the Mueller investigation. Not because it is, or isnt’ true, but because Mueller is crack for Democrats. As long as Dems have the Mueller investigation in theirhands, Dems aren’t going to do the work of defeating Republicans.

Tell me you’ve been spending more time getting those five points in line than you have fantasizing about Trump’s impeachment, or criminal indictment, and I’ll exclude you from my general critique. And that applies to everyone reading. Democrats didn’t have a compelling message (not Trump!) going into 2016 and lost. Democrats still don’t have a compelling message in 2018, b-b-b-but maybe we won’t need one!! Coz Mueller!! See!

Well, it’s 2018, now. And it’s Access Hollywood time all over again, waiting for the big Mueller shoe to drop, only this time, yes, really!! with an entirely different ending (TM)!

Give people 5 good reasons to return to the fold. A good number will!

29

ph 01.03.18 at 5:38 pm

Hi, JH, I just read yours, which I think I’ve responded to here. On your specific point, I don’t ever cite Andrew McCarthey, at least alone. I’ve been aware of his arguments for a long time, so I’ll offer that as evidence. Where we really do disagree is on the question of who needs to justify what. The discourse police aren’t helping you. Perhaps if you start thinking of the Clintons as America’s Tony Blairs. Blair’s reputation on the British left is beyond repair. So, with all due respect, and with the evidence available from the NYT, CNN, the Hill, and other non-NRO sources, I’ll put the same question to you? How leftwing are you when you defend the folks, like the Clintons, who turned the Demcratic party into what it is today? If I thought supporting the Clintons would change anything I might. I certainly did up till 2008. No need to go on why. Had you and others heeded the warning signs in 2015/16 much of this might have been avoided. My commitment to the causes I support is manifest in meat-space, and here where I put up with the sort of crap you deleted simply to present arguments I believe better and better grounded.

But time is of course finite.

30

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 6:24 pm

ph, you deny “citing Andrew McCarthy, at least alone” but you provided a bare link to an Andrew McCarthy piece just a few comments ago. That’s why I cautioned you against doing that. It looks to me as if you think lefties need a dose of unvarnished right wing talking points to keep them on an even keel. I’ll stipulate that you know better than to swallow that stuff uncritically, but you do seem inclined to dish it. Even if that’s not intellectual error on your part – you are deliberately presenting misleading oversimplifications not because you believe them but because you hope the CT readership will semi-believe them, and that will be all to the left-wing good in the aggregate – I would recommend an alternative strategy rhetorically. I get your concern about the left-wing discourse police but I think your discourse counter-vigilantism is not likely to do the trick. Time is, as you say, finite. Just make your case against Clinton if you like.

31

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 6:45 pm

I will say that, even if ‘Trump is bad’ is not the most impressive positive policy program that’s no reason to think it isn’t smart mid-term politics. I think you may be a bit naive about how effective running against the incumbent is, ph. Especially when his numbers are so bad.

32

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 7:02 pm

ph #22: “I fear you misunderstand me.”

You misunderstand that 1) the Steele dossier is a non-issue, by all the published reporting so far, and 2) in any case, the Steele dossier had nothing to do with the genesis of the Mueller investigation.

Also 3) you keep justifying your vote for Trump by blaming Hillary and the Democrats. Getting stale, ain’t gonna fly. Maybe you should just own up to the obvious fact that you were snookered.

33

bruce wilder 01.03.18 at 7:06 pm

Oh dear god, do not invite ph to make a case against Clinton! Please, please, I beg you!! Beg. On bended knee! With tears in my eyes!

and if this

There have certainly been places and times when and where it has been politically normal and openly accepted that politics is where you go to enrich yourself and your followers. Nothing to be so ashamed of. Patronage and family first.

was an unconscious, pre-emptive defense of Clinton, well . . . it burns, burns!

34

J-D 01.03.18 at 7:09 pm

35

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 7:17 pm

Politicalfootball #21, Another remarkable facet that is rarely mentioned is that some Trump supporters never liked him personally, they just held their noses to vote for him. This fact comes up in nearly every TV interview with Trump supporters in Trump districts that I have watched over the last year (which is over a dozen TV segments; I look for this stuff). I’m sure it’s true for both parties in every election, but what’s striking is that they volunteer to mention it.

36

steven t johnson 01.03.18 at 7:36 pm

Hilary Clinton won the election period. Trump won the Electoral College. The fake news that Trump won the election is a covert way of politically endorsing Trump, Trumpism and the Republican. (Well, yes, some delusional people think they are endorsing Sanders as counterfactual Democratic Party winner…but the effect is exactly the same.)

The Republicans are the dominant party in the states because the states are smaller venues more vulnerable to political corruption by wealth. This is not just a matter of gerrymandering, or even the basic favoritism toward rural voters built into the US system. I think the big advantage Republicans have over Democrats, the supposed alternative for the people, is that mobilizing for state office is like betting on which horse places next to last. State governments do not even promise significant chances. The presidency as the only national office does, and I think that’s why it’s still in play for Democrats. (And given the left sympathies of the population en masse, why they’ve not withered away entirely.)

Trump is a slow learner but he has already enacted a sea change in US politics in regard to the role of the military, delegating them a political role more like imperial Japan than even Eisenhower’s Cold War “McCarthyism,” or Nixon’s crypto-Ruritanian White House. As an owner in a hostile takeover, he has no party. But the system gives the president monarchial powers over war (as it was intended too, I think, whatever The Federalist may have claimed, which I forget at the moment.) Even Trump will figure that out. So the only question is whether the generals are sharp enough to realize how weak the mercenary caste US army is for fighting a real war, and possessed of enough integrity to tell Trump no.

The question then is, which is irrelevant, this comment or the OP?

37

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 7:37 pm

ph says:

I don’t ever cite Andrew McCarthey, at least alone.

There’s a temptation to point out that JH didn’t accuse ph citing McCarthy “alone.” One might also note that it is irrelevant to JH”s point whether McCarthy was cited “alone” or as part of a broader argument.

But that ignores the epistemological issue that ph raises here. If JH is correct that ph cited McCarthy approvingly, what would it matter? Even if ph cited McCarthy approvingly and alone, ph didn’t do so while standing on his head eating ice cream, nor did he do so on the third Thursday of the month. Therefore, JH’s point is moot.

I think 23 wisely frames the disagreement with ph as an epistemic one; 30, however, fails to take the same approach to ph’s response, which Lewis Carroll summarized neatly: “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

38

Ray Vinmad 01.03.18 at 7:39 pm

ph: You assume a lot. Nobody has to deny there was evidence against Clinton. It’s likely the evidence, interpreted in the harshest way, would not have led to felony charges. One can guess at their reasons from Comey’s first press conference. It’s also possible they did not have a smoking gun, or evidence that would lead to an immediate plea deal or successful prosecution. That seemed to be what Comey was hinting at. It would be risky to proceed further, if Clinton were exonerated. Then it would appear the FBI had interfered in the election. Clinton is a lawyer who takes account of the law. A lot rides on motive when it comes to some of the things she’d be charged with.

We can speculate that Mueller could have a similar problem. Trump is much worse at staying within the law or covering his tracks–and he has a much sloppier circle of accomplices. He flouts the law rather than bends it. But it’s a situation where there’d have to be overwhelmingly damning evidence to proceed with charges.

People paying attention to Mueller aren’t necessarily Clinton dupes. Some people may actually believe it’s important for political leaders to be accountable under law. If one believes that, then one can be outraged about other mistakes as well. The refusal to prosecute Bush (politically understandable, maybe) is also on the ledger.

It’s a reasonable conjecture that both the GOP and the Democrats are being short-sighted about where the votes will lie, after this debacle. Trump will be gone, and Tom Cotton or some other fanatic will try to fill his xenophobic shoes–but it’s not clear that whoever jumps in can get the crossover votes that Trump got by speaking out of both sides of his mouth infomercial-style. Once Trump goes, they can’t drum up another populist demagogue who can get past the primaries–and they don’t want a populist demagogue deep down inside anyway. They only won the Presidency because Trump appeared to be something different than their usual schtick. Unfortunately for them, Trump has temporarily energized Democratic voters. Republicans can win the presidency via low turnout on the part of people who would be more amenable to policies the Democrats support. (If there was successful Russian propaganda on a large scale in social media, and that’s not clear, it probably suppressed turnout more than anything else.)

The Democrats, by focussing on Mueller, are not building up their potential base by reckoning with the issues voters care enough about to vote for. So they will also lose something when Trump is gone, because voters may go back to disinterest and skepticism if there’s no madman foaming at the mouth to get them riled up. It’s unclear that the madman is going to motivate non-voters to vote in midterm elections. These non-voters would be the Democrats’ base, if they were willing to do some things they are clearly unwilling to do.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Republicans will pay attention to a huge steaming pile of evidence. After 2018 they might gamble on voters’ short memories, and pretend to care. Or they might all fear being marked as complicit, and try to bury it all. But they are definitely panicked about Mueller’s investigation, and one can’t help wondering why.

39

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 7:40 pm

35: Those Trump supporters are just being politically correct.

40

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 7:53 pm

I’m going to give ph the benefit of the doubt on sincerity. I think he’s conflating two points. It’s rational for Dems not to count on Mueller to do their work for them. So assume he comes up dry. But it would be crazy to believe on the basis of right wing talking points that it’s likely that Mueller will come up dry – or even expose Clinton wrongdoing. McCarthy is very smart but a total partisan. The fact that he says the NYTimes collusion story is collapsing should, by itself, cause rational persons to update their priors not a whit.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/opinion/republicans-investigation-fusion-gps.html?_r=0

41

Cian 01.03.18 at 8:27 pm

@16 Lee Arnold:

I’m not sure what to make of an article that assumes the problem with campaign finance laws are that they allow any American citizen with a Russian name to buy politicians. Am I to assume that legalized bribery should be limited to non Slavs with good WASP names?

The problem is billionares. Whether they’re Americans like Len Blavatnik, or Russians like Deripaska. My problem with Deripaska contacting Trump is not that he is Russian, but that is able to get an audience to push whatever evil plan he has for adding to his billions. My opinion would be unchanged if he was best buds with Yulia Tymoshenko.

42

Cian 01.03.18 at 8:29 pm

I like how the whole Putin Trump collusion theory is completely unaffected by the mounds of evidence that neither Trump, nor his team, expected to win the election. And has remained unaffected by the fact that Trump hasn’t really done a lot for Putin once in office (the opposite if anything). Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other hand…

43

steven t johnson 01.03.18 at 8:35 pm

bruce wilder@33 “…it burns, burns!” I get you’re doing Gollum after trying to eat the elven waybread in the Dead Marshes. But…What’s the waybread in this?

44

Cian 01.03.18 at 8:39 pm

But it is a shocking departure from previous norms that a President should use the office to enrich himself

So do we think Bill Clinton would have made $200 million if he was merely an ex-governor?

45

Layman 01.03.18 at 8:53 pm

ph @ 20: “The second is that she actually did commit crimes which would have guaranteed a Republican victory irrespective of the the candidate, but was saved by anti-Trump FBI agents working with senior Obama officials receiving large sums from the Clinton – controlled DNC.”

Good grief. I’ll repeat my complaint that a moderation policy that approves these kinds of lies on the grounds that they’re offered in civilly is worse than no moderation policy at all. Can we have some fucking truth here?

46

Layman 01.03.18 at 8:56 pm

Cian: “So do we think Bill Clinton would have made $200 million if he was merely an ex-governor?”

Is there, in your view, no difference between a President who personally profits while in office and one who does so after leaving office? Should ex-Presidents be prevented from earning money? How would you accomplish that? Or do you have no point to make, just what you consider a witty retort?

47

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 8:57 pm

“should use the office to enrich himself”

Sorry, the norm has been that you have to wait until you leave office to get rich based on being the President.

“I like how the whole Putin Trump collusion theory is completely unaffected by the mounds of evidence that neither Trump, nor his team, expected to win the election.”

Doesn’t this actually make it more likely? If you were planning to win, you might think twice about how all this is going to look when you are in office. If you are planning to lose, it’s just more Russian friends when you go back to New York.

I’m not saying this is evidence of collusion, but collusion makes marginally more psychological sense in an atmosphere in which Trump and co are figuring on losing. Right?

48

Cian 01.03.18 at 9:11 pm

Just for context. The social media stuff was irrelivent:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/12/28/theres-still-little-evidence-that-russias-2016-social-media-efforts-did-much-of-anything/?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.b314610b16ef

Assuming it was intended to influence the election, rather than some kind of scam.

49

Cian 01.03.18 at 9:20 pm

“Sorry, the norm has been that you have to wait until you leave office to get rich based on being the President.”

Sure, but like so much of the Trump criticism this is more about style, than reality. If you’re president your actions are influenced by the knowledge that if you don’t rock the boat the opportunities for enrichment afterwards are enormous. This is how politicians (and generals for that matter) are bought in the US. By the promise of jobs and sinecures.

The pearl clutching is because Trump is so obvious and unsophisticated about it, rather than because anyone of influence has a problem with corruption per se. There are rules and Trump doesn’t play by them, but the rules are about style rather than ethics.

“I like how the whole Putin Trump collusion theory is completely unaffected by the mounds of evidence that neither Trump, nor his team, expected to win the election.”

“Doesn’t this actually make it more likely? If you were planning to win, you might think twice about how all this is going to look when you are in office. If you are planning to lose, it’s just more Russian friends when you go back to New York.”

Depends upon the theories you subscribe to I guess. Luke Harding, the increasingly unhinged Guardian guy, seems to believe that Trump was some kind of sleeper agent. Which seems…doubtful.

But for the saner theories perhaps. Though given Trump seems to have been mostly running for president to help his TV career in the US it doesn’t seem like the best move. What’s in it for him? And I don’t see why Russia would bother investing in a campaign that didn’t seem to be going anywhere either. And there’s a certain risk if you lose – I mean what’s in it for Hillary? Why should she be magnamanious?

50

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 9:28 pm

Cian #41: “I’m not sure what to make of an article…”

What I make from it is the possibility that one reason the Congressional Republicans are criticizing Mueller could be that they feel that the general public won’t be happy to learn that the network of Putin-connected Russian oligarchs and money-launders not only contributed to Trump, but ALSO contributed to Congressional GOP campaign coffers.

Other than that, you are about the 500-millionth person to bemoan the influence of money in politics, and on this I agree with you.

51

John Holbo 01.03.18 at 9:56 pm

“And I don’t see why Russia would bother investing in a campaign that didn’t seem to be going anywhere either.”

I think this is a function of the election fading into the rear view mirror at this point. Remember when Trump (probably) was planning his career of losing the election and claiming it was stolen ever after? I do!

As to my point about Trump busting norms on corruption, obviously I’m not saying that politics was otherwise perfectly clean before.

52

Donald Johnson 01.03.18 at 10:09 pm

Maybe Mueller will turn up something really juicy, but so far I think Russiagate is basically uninteresting. If I wanted to list reasons why all decent people should despise Trump I would point to Yemen or on domestic policy, stories like this —

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-nakedly-fragile/2018/01/02/e618a44c-f009-11e7-b3bf-ab90a706e175_story.html?utm_term=.5427fb19d24d

Political scandals in the US are almost by definition relatively trivial things on a moral scale. If you are a torturer or start an unjust war or support allies committing crimes against humanity or, on the domestic front, if you make it easier for nursing homes to kill the elderly, that’s a policy debate and not a scandal.

53

politicalfootball 01.03.18 at 10:31 pm

I’m going to give ph the benefit of the doubt on sincerity.

It’s an interesting question whether concern trolls are sincere in their concern, but regardless, ph is an unambiguous concern troll.

ph supported Trump in 2016 and still believes that this was an appropriate decision — and why shouldn’t he? Neither Trump’s supporters nor his detractors should have their opinions much altered by his actual record.

The Dems, if they are going to make electoral gains, are going to depend on an increased intensity of opposition to Trump and improvements in the public’s understanding of who Trump is, and who the Democrats are.

I do agree that the relationship of Trump and the Democrats to working people is a key factor here. The Dems have correctly chosen not to move toward Trump on the issues of working people, and that’s going to be a smart political move in 2018.

54

Pacific Garbage Patch 01.03.18 at 10:39 pm

The Russia pseudo-scandal doesn’t excite left-wingers because it relies on the Democrats in high office to accomplish a feat of political organization and will. I simply don’t think they’re capable of making the (so far illusory) charges stick, or of getting Trump out of office without a serious political crisis and civil unrest afterwards. Imagine if Trump was kicked out of office because of a media driven scandal, what would all the heavily armed Trump supporters do?

The party is on life support and judging by the ongoing rift between leadership and non wealthy base it’s more likely to die than find new life with impeachment.

55

Heliopause 01.03.18 at 10:49 pm

@8

A year and a half, countless government agents, and hundreds if not thousands of investigative journalists going at it full time. Eventually they’ll come up with something concrete. Eventually. Maybe? It does raise an interesting philosophical question; how many days in a row of Jesus not returning would it take to make a first century Christian stop believing in the Second Coming?

And speaking of violating norms, if there is anything at all to allegations that various high government officials are/were working to subvert and entrap an elected POTUS (there’s no concrete evidence of that either, but if Congress and journalists want to spend a year and a half looking into it I have no problem with that) that would be an eensy-weensy violation of norms as well. Or, actually, a huge one.

It’s all so hilarious, because the few substantive things that Trump and the GOP do in the real world are almost always awful on the merits. If only there was an opposition party that put more focus on that than on process and personality issues, and if only there was an elite media that would cover it.

56

Cian 01.03.18 at 11:46 pm

#50 Lee Arnold:

Except that the article defines Putin-connected as Russian. One of the people mentioned moved to the USA when he was a small child. And if we’re assuming that anyone who does business with Russia is Putin’s play thing (which seems like a stretch), what about the many many American business men to whom this also applies. Or the politicians like McCain, the many political operatives on both sides of the aisle.

57

Lee A. Arnold 01.03.18 at 11:57 pm

Cian #48: “The social media stuff was irrelevant”

You were also insisting upon this here last April. But no, that WaPo story (and Burr’s statement) is about ad buys only, not additional propaganda from fake news sites and mirror sites. Facebook estimates that about 126 million users were exposed to Russian propaganda during the 2016 campaign. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/10/30/russian-fake-accounts-showed-posts-126-million-facebook-users/815342001/
Note that Hillary won the popular vote by 2.7 million votes yet lost the Electoral College by about only 60,000 votes spread over 4 states. It is possible that the deciding factor was something else, such as the dirty trick of releasing the Huma Abedin email nonsense at the last moment, or perhaps a mix of things. But it is impossible to judge that the social media stuff was “irrelevant”.

58

bruce wilder 01.04.18 at 12:40 am

steven t johnson @ 43

What I remember Gollum saying was, “It burns us!” and it is an elven rope binding him that causes his discomfort. The self-reference presumably reminds us of the degenerate narcissism induced by tasting the power of the ring. LOTR is not a favorite story for me and I was not intending to invoke associations with it.

59

bruce wilder 01.04.18 at 12:43 am

Lee A. Arnold: . . . it is impossible to judge . . .

feature or bug?

60

ph 01.04.18 at 12:50 am

JH, With respect, you’re doing something you almost never do, which is ignore the structure of the argument. I do not quote McCarthy, I do not suggest or imply that anyone rely on McCarthy, (or any other source, alone). I do repeatedly cite CNN and the Hill. I do repeatedly ask people to watch the CNN clip. Repeatedly. Repeatedly. I make one reference only the offending source and only to point out that CNN, the Hill have come to the same conclusions. Check for yourself:

Newer evidence confirms that the FBI and Justice started working on statements of exoneration before key witnesses had even been deposed. There’s a real, as in real, inspector-general’s investigation on these questions ongoing right now. And when you have CNN agreeing with Andy McCarthy at the NRO, that’s worth noting.

CNN is mentioned three times before McCarthy’s name comes up. The topic sentence of the second paragraph introduces CNN as support/expansion of the transition/concluding sentence of paragraph one. The entire third paragraph is devoted to CNN. At the end of that paragraph, I make what I believe to be an additional salient point – which you can read again in the quote above. I then, reasonably briefly, broadly explain the problems with focusing on the Mueller probe. I conclude, provide a link to CNN, provide a link to the Hill, a reasonably neutral source, with an extended quote, and finally a link to the third source, McCarthy, mentioned just once at the very end of the comment.

Which in your reading of the comment becomes – why do you cite Andrew McCarthy? I’d expect that from people unconcerned with the structure of arguments, but not you.

Democrats reading and citing the NYT, considering themselves far better informed (look ph snookered himself) are in the worst shape they’ve been in for decades, by many metrics, and post-2016, we have the entirely the same laziness and partisan reluctance to accept that maybe, just maybe, the entire sorry state of Dem affairs might be the result of Democrats themselves. And that rather than taking the tried and the manifestly, provably, and predictably untrue path, Dems might put down the Mueller crack pipe and up tools.

But that’s me, right-wing tool. Bon chance!

61

Layman 01.04.18 at 1:39 am

Cian: “Sure, but like so much of the Trump criticism this is more about style, than reality.”

This particular difference is not about style. If you can’t answer the questions I asked you in 46, then you don’t actually have a point here at all, and you should move on to something else. Hopefully something less hackish.

62

Layman 01.04.18 at 1:42 am

Heliopause: “Eventually they’ll come up with something concrete.”

The concrete stuff is hiding in plain side. The Russians sought to help Trump get elected, told him so, and acted on that ambition. For his part, Trump openly welcomed their interference, promised them a better deal if he was elected, and has tried to make good on that promise. Which of those things is not clearly true?

63

J-D 01.04.18 at 2:51 am

John Holbo

Sorry, the norm has been that you have to wait until you leave office to get rich based on being the President.

When did that become the norm? Did ex-Presidents before Nixon get rich off their ex-Presidential status, or is it another Nixonian legacy?

64

Bill Murray 01.04.18 at 3:33 am

I was reading some recent threads, and people would state they were responding to kidneystones and when I went back to look at the referred comment, since I had not seen a kidneystones comment, the comment turned out to be by ph, so fro this I infer that ph=kidneystones

65

Faustusnotes 01.04.18 at 5:42 am

Yes, imagine if the democrats were to stop focusing on the Russia non scandal and instead put more effort into flipping a deep red state like Alabama! If only they weren’t so obsessed with the Mueller thing they could make electoral progress!

Also a reminder for the pro Russian leftists posting here: Sanders is not a member of the democratic party. When he joins, then you can piss and moan about him being frozen out. Until then he should be given exactly the honours he deserves from the Dems : nothing.

And can we stop engaging with kidneystones?

66

nastywoman 01.04.18 at 6:40 am

– and if I read one more time:
”If only there was an opposition party that put more focus on that than on process and personality issues, and if only there was an elite media that would cover it.”
I will put out the whole ”mind boggling motherlode” of reporting of the ”elite media” and all the opposition parties efforts to counter the whole motherlode of far – faaar too much nonsense and news which was produced by the F…face and his Fans.

I mean isn’t there something like ”too much information”? –

Like the totally crazy amount and literally mountain of… ”whatever” – which in the Presidential ”erection” made any… so called ”viewer and listeners” head spin to such an extent – that it was for sure ”too much information” in the sense my mother felt – when she learned about the (supposedly) ”golden shower” – and then – being a bit familiar with Moskau and the type of ”parties” going on there – she said:
This one I believe.

Now how much more ”focus” and ”cover” on ”anything” does anybody want – and just don’t tell me that it should have been more focus on ”process” -(instead personality issues) as there was truly such a motherlode on ”process” that our voters -(you know the American voters are really NOT that much into ”process”) – for sure by voting for the chaotic F…face – voted against too much ”political process”…

67

faustusnotes 01.04.18 at 9:07 am

Bill Murray, ph started commenting at about the time kidneystones stopped, has a very similar style, runs the same ex-dem-who-voted-trump shtick, and has some of the same tells (bon chance!) He uses similar information sources and appears to be posting from a similar timezone to me (Japan; kidneystones was an English teacher in Japan). The hosts of this blog could check this easily by searching the ip address of his comments in wolfram alpha. We’re making these comments in the (probably vain) hope that the moderators will finally hold kidneystones to account for his repeated flagrant violations of the comment policy, because maybe sock puppeting will get him banned where being an aggressive, rude, nasty commenter didn’t.

Also if it is kidneystones, he’s using the new identity to launder his reputation after Trump’s behavior revealed him to be a dupe and a fool. Not very well, but we can’t expect miracles.

(Another unrelated commenter called abb1 used to do this too, but mostly after he was banned for breaking the comment policy, something that for incomprehensible reasons has never happened to kidneystones).

68

nastywoman 01.04.18 at 9:56 am

– and furthermore with all ”the stuff” WE ALL – always knew -(even the man who played such a great ”Leninist” on SNL) – couldn’t we finally laugh at all these funny commenters on CR – who for month knew exactly the same ”stuff” WE ALL knew – but for whatever reason felt like playing some kind of absurd ”Hide and Seek Game” that even now – after the ”famous American Leninist” has spoken about treason –
a commenter on CT –
ON CT!!!???
writes:
”Eventually they’ll come up with something concrete. Eventually. Maybe? It does raise an interesting philosophical question; how many days in a row of Jesus not returning would it take to make a first century Christian stop believing in the Second Coming?”

Is that poor comedy-writing – or what?!

69

nastywoman 01.04.18 at 10:26 am

– and @67 – I always loved kidneystones as much as you have to love any antagonist in any entertaining… shall we call it ”environment”?

And some (today) pretty famous bloggers used to even employ such ”antagonist” in order to get some conversation going on their sites – and I don’t want to imply that kidney stones was or is employed by CT – but he definitely inspired ME to post some silly stuff on this blog.

70

Lee A. Arnold 01.04.18 at 10:57 am

Bruce Wilder #59: “feature or bug?”

Feature for sure. But the newness of social media makes it its effectiveness into a a bit of a crapshoot for the perps. What I really know is, about a third of my Facebook contacts are conservative Republicans, and they were sharing falsehoods that were mocked up graphically as if from real news websites. Then this stuff would come around in another few days or weeks, shared from a different mocked-up news site. I thought these were the product of a domestic op (although RT was one of the originating news sites; this is the first I heard of RT) until I read an article (well before the election) that this stuff was being generated by a fake news mill somewhere in eastern Europe. I think the article was reported out of Silicon Valley and now I can’t find it.

71

Lee A. Arnold 01.04.18 at 11:42 am

Cian #56: “what about… the politicians… the many political operatives”

Exactly my point. This may be opening a can of worms bigger than the Abramoff scandals. (Just look at the vectors of expertise that Mueller brought onto his team.) And if so, this might cause particular trouble for the Republican side of the aisle, if the Putin-linked money swung mostly to the GOP for the 2016 election (as that Dallas Morning News series alleges — see #16 above for link). And this, in turn, might help to explain why some Congressional Republicans are so anxious about the investigations. (Because they could otherwise impeach Trump and get Pence, thus secure all of their tax cuts and environmental destructions anyway.) …Yes it’s a syllogism of suppositions, but it would explain a lot of unusually odd Congressional behavior in front of the cameras. They stare like deer into headlights. Public outrage may have only just begun.

72

politicalfootball 01.04.18 at 2:13 pm

CNN, the Hill have come to the same conclusions.

This isn’t true, of course. What causes you to think someone would believe a silly statement like this?

73

alfredlordbleep 01.04.18 at 3:17 pm

JH, if you’ll pardon a slightly off-topic item—
From Eric Levitz (NY magazine)
“. . . All of which is to say: We’re about to find out whether “Bannonism” is actually a thing – and odds are, the answer is no.”
Most interesting nugget:
A well-funded, “alternative” conservative movement that was 10 percent more racist – and 90 percent less economically libertarian – than Paul Ryan’s GOP could be a potent force in American politics, especially if Republicans suffer major losses in 2018 and 2020.

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LarryM 01.04.18 at 3:39 pm

Re 67, pretty sure kidneystones admitted that he was also ph.

He is the type of poster that you almost hope is trolling rather than sincere, for his sake, as it’s hard to imagine how someone could function on a day to day basis with his head so far up his ass.

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LarryM 01.04.18 at 3:50 pm

Really abb1, it became clear that he (or she? I was never clear on that) is/was not a troll but was / is seriously mentally ill. Banning him/her was an act of mercy.

76

Donald Johnson 01.04.18 at 4:19 pm

“For his part, Trump openly welcomed their interference, promised them a better deal if he was elected, and has tried to make good on that promise. Which of those things is not clearly true?”

The better deal part. Trump seems to be pushing towards a war with Iran, a Russian ally. The one clear bit of collusion demonstrated so far was with Israel, which led to the meeting where Flynn attempted to persuade the Russians to side with Israel against Obama. He failed. Trump is colluding with this stupid Jerusalem decision. Trump also seems pretty closely linked to the Saudis.

Trump might be colluding with the Russians, but the deal seems to be that some embarrassing emails were released ( assuming the Russians did that) and the Russians allegedly posted some ludicrous crap on social media which along with a zillion other things might have swung 60,000 votes and in exchange the Russians receive basically nothing. Well, except for one thing— the world now sees us as total fools. Frankly, I think we are a nation of morons— both parties—, but Trump’s election brought it out even to ourselves. If this was a nefarious plot, I seriously think that was the Russian motive. Do some random crap, expose some dirty laundry, and let the idiot Americans do the rest. Almost no one actually thought Trump would win.

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Heliopause 01.04.18 at 5:18 pm

@62
You seem to be confusing bald assertion with concrete evidence.

78

J-D 01.04.18 at 7:37 pm

Bill Murray
faustusnotes
The identity between ph and kidneystones was explicitly confirmed by kidneystones/ph in a recent discussion; a comment appeared under the name of kidneystones and then a subsequent comment appearing under the name of ph asked to have the name on the first comment changed, the commenter explaining that the name kidneystones had been auto-inserted and that the name kidneystones had been retired in favour of ph.

79

John redican 01.04.18 at 7:43 pm

There is the possibility that the government is wholly corrupt, from top to bottom, from soup to nuts. Entrenched power has an insidious effect. Trump’s railing against the Deep State has the advantage of being completely believable to the average voter.
Still, there will always be people that think the Clinton Global Initiative is a Charity, with no ulterior motives. Just as there are people who think Trump will drain the Swamp.

80

J-D 01.04.18 at 7:47 pm

kidneystones

Far better to focus exclusively on building better inroads into communities that went to Trump in 2016. Democrats have done nothing to date to get me to drop my own support for Trump. I don’t say this to be provocative, but rather to emphasize I see no change, or lessons learned since 2016.

When the Democrats start behaving like responsible adults instead of paying for piss-dossiers (literally) to try to win elections ,while relying on David Brock for moral clarity, I’ll consider returning to the fold.

Is it a good idea to take strategic advice from opponents? In general, I think not. To me it seems reasonable to suppose that my opponents do not, in general, have my best interests at heart, and that any strategic advice they offer me is unlikely to be prompted by a desire for my success; after all, if they’re my opponents, doesn’t it follow that my success is their failure?

More specifically, it seems to me that the Democrats (of whom I am not one, being a Foreignanian) would be fools to themselves if they decided to rely on Trump supporters for strategic advice.

81

J-D 01.04.18 at 7:50 pm

82

Gabriel 01.04.18 at 10:24 pm

John, when you say ‘the Republicans aren’t there yet’ in regards to openly arguing for political corruption, aren’t you arguing from an antiquated set of political ideas; i.e., when we live in a world where large portions of the Republican base are so tribal in their political affiliation that any fact can be warped to fit the narrative of their guy being right, isn’t the idea of the primacy of a cogent argument past its due-date?

I think of my in-laws – working class Evengelicals – to whom no argument can (categorically) exist that their interpretation of the Bible is wrong, and who now seem to have extended this aegis to Trump. And they do not seem to be alone.

83

Layman 01.05.18 at 12:46 am

Heliopause: “You seem to be confusing bald assertion with concrete evidence.”

I do not. All of those assertions stem from facts in evidence. You may not credit those facts, but that’s exactly the point I was trying to make. To give just one example, I watched Trump encourage the Russians to damage Clinton’s candidacy, a thing he did in front of a crowd of thousands while being watched by millions. You did, too.

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Faustusnotes 01.05.18 at 12:57 am

J-D you’re right about taking advice from idiots like kidneystones, but in fact the “strategy” kidneystones outlines there is exactly what the Dems have achieved – they came to within a literal dice throw of changing government in Virginia, a huge turnaround, and stole Alabama from the repubs, putting their senate agenda in more jeopardy. They’re also fielding an unprecedented number of candidates at local levels. It’s as if they can pay attention to the Russia investigation and fight politics at the same time! This idea that they are using the Russia thing as an excuse for political failures is bullshit being peddled by the pro Russia left to try and convince themselves that a more radically left wing party is the only way to success in the developed worlds most conservative country. Keep dreaming, kids.

By his own lights, given recent actions and achievements, kidneystones should be returning to the Dems. He won’t thought because his lapsed dem shtick is a cover for the truth that he’s a racist troll who will vote Trump no matter what. And it doesn’t matter anyway because he’s a Canadian living in Japan. Now can we all please please ignore him until the mods finally get rid of him?

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John Holbo 01.05.18 at 1:00 am

ph: “CNN is mentioned three times before McCarthy’s name comes up. The topic sentence of the second paragraph introduces CNN as support/expansion of the transition/concluding sentence of paragraph one. The entire third paragraph is devoted to CNN. At the end of that paragraph, I make what I believe to be an additional salient point – which you can read again in the quote above. I then, reasonably briefly, broadly explain the problems with focusing on the Mueller probe. I conclude, provide a link to CNN, provide a link to the Hill, a reasonably neutral source, with an extended quote, and finally a link to the third source, McCarthy, mentioned just once at the very end of the comment.

Which in your reading of the comment becomes – why do you cite Andrew McCarthy? I’d expect that from people unconcerned with the structure of arguments, but not you.”

Well, structurally, your ‘someone said this on CNN so it must be credible, hence everyone who does not regard it as credible lack credibility’ argument seems to me itself to lack credibility. To see this, just flip the argument. Imagine that someone one CNN said the opposite (which someone probably did.) Would that also prove the opposite?

Unlike some others here I am not concluding you are insincere, but I do think you are less media savvy than you take yourself to be, particularly with regard to right-wing talking points. You have to consider the media ecosystems in which these things dwell. I don’t see a lot of evidence that you are doing that.

The Andrew McCarthy point? I am old-fashioned, so I will defend myself on grounds of truth. It’s true that you shouldn’t just cite Andrew McCarthy uncritically the way you did – just linking and providing the headline. It’s misleading. It’s true that you did this misleading thing. You then denied doing it and I – perhaps tediously – pointed out that, in fact, you did do it. It doesn’t matter much. There’s nothing wrong with taking seriously what McCarthy has to say because he’s quite intelligent. But he is a complete and utter, in-the-tank partisan. When you cite someone like that, you should make that clear rather than just providing a headline,

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John Holbo 01.05.18 at 1:16 am

Maybe this will help, ph. One of the problems with what you wrote is that you conflate what one commentator said on CNN with ‘what CNN says’. That is actually a big difference.

87

ph 01.05.18 at 1:30 am

The responsibility for resurfacing the uses name that seems to make heads explode is mine alone. Holbo specifically asked kidneystones to post less. kidneystones did and has. I emailed John and thanked him for his civil admonition. The ks persona has been retired.

The inability of a the vocal to add little to discussions but partisan bigotry and hate of the ‘other’ (in this specific case – former Democratic party supporters who switched to Trump) is apparent and needs no further documentation.

There’s been a very welcome humility displayed by the site principals post-Brexit, and post-2016, from my perspective. I’m unable to learn anything if I think I’ve nothing to learn. I’m also going to limit what I can learn if I react emotionally to ideas and arguments I find threatening, or if I get wrapped on the ‘identity’ of the poster.

Everyone of my critics here has posted useful and informative comments on one topic, or another, at different times. I do ask/insist my students be able and ready to identify ten positive attributes of the person, entity or position, they oppose most – simply as an exercise in intellectual rigor.

The ks persona throws buckets of clean, cold, invigorating water on the bright, but occasionally confused; which usually sends the wet hens in the barnyard clucking to the farmer – flapping their wings, but never actually achieving flight. The ph persona presents evidence and arguments, and is slightly more attentive to typos and tags.

The need for broad discussion and diverse opinion is urgent as ever. If you’re looking for another voice in the choir – that ain’t me. Democratic voters did switch to Trump, that’s one key reason he’s president. And your view is – we lost, but had the Russians not hacked the election ‘We came, we saw – he died’ would have won. So, let’s continue to lose our mud daily, hope Mueller brings down the orange-haired monster, or Trump implodes – shades of the golden escalator.

I’m arguing Trump is normal, the times are not atypical (much) and the problems Dems face are principally problems that existed prior to Trump and will persist until addressed. Time to invest in a better brand of candidate, better messaging and most important in a better class of politics.

Democrats currently rely on the piss-dossier and David Brock. Dems can do better.

The Hill, btw, has the latest on the Comey letter edits – you know, actual evidence of Clinton criminal behavior – the sort that puts one in court unless one has friends in very high places, perhaps the highest.
The Hill 4 Jan 18

…Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s original statement closing out the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was edited by subordinates to remove five separate references to terms like “grossly negligent” and to delete mention of evidence supporting felony and misdemeanor violations…

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ph 01.05.18 at 1:36 am

Hi John, fair enough. Thx, just missed yours.

89

faustusnotes 01.05.18 at 2:19 am

This entire citation brouhaha is an example of how kidneystones sucks the oxygen from every debate, and his comment at 87 full of bullshit statements and empty self-aggrandizement is another example of how he has nothing to add to anything that goes on here. I have pointed out that the Dems are “doing better” and aren’t relying on the “piss dossier” (which, we might care to remember, was commissioned by republicans, not Dems), kidneystones has had two chances to address that or change his tune but hasn’t. Basically everything kidneystones has said on this thread has been a great fat cloud of lies, topped with his comment claiming that he throws the fresh water of truth around here. And leavened of course with his traditional patronizing insults – addressing us as if we were his students, in the latest comment.

If we have one new year resolution for this blog, since the hosts won’t ban this waste of time, can we please please not engage with his comments?

90

Heliopause 01.05.18 at 3:32 am

@83
No, not “stupid shit that Trump and literally millions of other conservatives offhandedly said in 2016,” actual concrete evidence of collusion. If you haven’t got it just say so.

91

Faustusnotes 01.05.18 at 3:57 am

Heliopause, can you identify a single other conservative (let alone millions) who asked the Russians to interfere in the election? And for actual evidence, how about Trump’s family meeting a Russian operative on the promise of dirt on Clinton? What would these people have to do to count as concrete evidence to you, if not that? What about the revelations that Wikileaks was in direct contact with the Trump campaign peddling info and offering to act as a window washer for campaign dirt? Are Wikileaks American?

But do please keep it up. When the money laundering and collusion is confirmed, so will you be confirmed as a left wing chump for Putin.

92

nastywoman 01.05.18 at 6:40 am

@90
”No, not “stupid shit that Trump… said in 2016,”

Yes – “stupid shit that Trump said” – as when he says he loves to eat Hamburger -(or grab Pussies) – you don’t have to see – with your own eyes how he does what he says he does –
to KNOW -(not believe) that he does what he says he does.

Which I believe I’m allowed to call ” actual concrete evidence” as much as some other silly people are allowed NOT to call it ”actual concrete evidence”?

And that’s actually the GREATEST thing about my homeland – Everybody knows it – but everybody is allowed to play with IT – like a little kid who adores fast food (thought)

93

novakant 01.05.18 at 8:38 am

94

nastywoman 01.05.18 at 10:29 am

@91
”so will you be confirmed as a left wing chump for Putin.”

Or did you mean: a right wing chump for Trump?

– and that might have become the real problem ? – as the ”left wing” might be as accurate as calling a basic ”F…face” – ”right wing” – in times where even the most simple Breitbart- Reader doesn’t know anymore who is fighting what and who – and for whom to root anymore?

Or in other words: Isn’t it possible that if Heliopause think himself that he himself is ”left wing” that he in reality actually is quite the opposite?!

95

Layman 01.05.18 at 11:11 am

Heliopause: “…actual concrete evidence of collusion. If you haven’t got it just say so.”

Are you even asking the right question? The collusion is manifest; some of it was done right out in the open, and more of it has been exposed. Trump asking the Russians publicly to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and then expose the those emails after being told privately that the Russians were kindly disposed toward his campaign and willing to help is an example of collusion. Is it a crime? We don’t know, but it is certainly collusion.

Again, point to the statement or statements in my 62 you believe to be false or unsubstantiated.

Did the Russians seek to help Trump’s campaign? Yes, they did, by hacking the DNC server. Did they tell Trump they wanted to help him? Yes, they did, through several channels, notably Donald Trump Jr and his campaign advisor Popadopoulos. Did they act on their intentions? Yes, by releasing those emails through Wikileaks.

Did Trump openly welcome their efforts? Yes, he did, in the aforementioned example. Did he promise them a better deal if he was elected? Yes, publicly and on multiple occasions. Did he act on that promise? Yes; even as a candidate he worked to weaken the party position on the Russia / Ukraine conflict. As President-Elect, his designated National Security Advisor called the Russians specifically to undermine then-President Obama’s effortto punish Russia for the interference. Has he tried to make good on his promised tit for tat? Yes; as President, he tried to kill a bill in Congress that sanctioned the Russians; when they passed it anyway, he signed it but has simply ignored it.

These things are all true. They are facts. You can argue that they don’t mean anything if you like (good luck with that!) but you can’t reasonably say they didn’t happen.

96

Donald Johnson 01.05.18 at 2:00 pm

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/22/politics/us-ukraine-anti-tank-weapons-russia/index.html

We are supplying anti tank weapons to Russia’s opponents in the Ukraine.

I expect that Mueller will turn up evidence of various crimes— obstruction of justice is among the most likely. But there is a certain amount of cherry picking going on with the liberal story on Russiagate. Trump is actually and openly colluding with the Saudis against Iran and he is even more supportive of Saudi war crimes in Yemen than Obama was and he is supportive of the Israeli far right. One might want to investigate his connections here. He seems to be pushing for war with Iran, which is Russia’s ally, and he is giving weapons to Putin’s enemies in the Ukraine, a peculiar thing for a puppet to do.

I think the storyline about Trump’s close relationship with Putin is driven in large part by people in DC who want a more trustworthy warmonger in the WH. The thing about Trump is that you never know for sure what he is going to say or do. People who want a new Cold War with Russia and more military intervention in the Mideast quite rightly don’t trust Trump to do a competent job with any of this. This is a man who can lose a PR war with Kim Jong-un. If you want American imperialism to stay on track, you need a better salesperson.

97

politicalfootball 01.05.18 at 2:56 pm

Democrats currently rely on the piss-dossier and David Brock.

As with his/her remarks about CNN, The Hill and McCarthy, ph highlights the real question here: What are our obligations to conform our discussion to reality and how do we respond when our interlocutors refuse to do so? After all, one might also say that Democrats rely solely on women’s rights or civil rights or single-payer healthcare or Obamacare or economic unfairness or Trump’s criminality or his violations of the Constitution or nuclear sanity or any number of other things. And you can pick any item on that list and say the Democrats rely on it exclusively and ignore the rest of the list, as long as you’re not interested in describing what the Democrats are actually doing.

JH would like to argue that ph is misperceiving or misinterpreting reality, but I don’t think that’s quite right. Like JH, I’m willing to assume that ph is sincere, but I think 1984’s O’Brien was also sincere. It still comes back to the question: What is the role of reality in our discussion of events and ideas?

If that’s not where you engage ph, then you’re not dealing with the actual locus of your disagreement with him.

98

Lee A. Arnold 01.05.18 at 3:26 pm

It hardly matters whether there were specified quid pro quos. Putin is probably laughing out loud. Let’s construct a scenario: For years, Trump has been hobnobbing with the mob in the Wild West atmosphere of new Moscow. There must be a Russian intelligence psych profile of Trump (or else the Russian intelligence community is guilty of serious malpractice). Trump’s psych profile likely reads like a textbook on the “Dark Triad” (see link below). Putin was in the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. Putin must know that Trump’s psych profile is an exploitable weakness. Profiling and manipulation are standard Cold War spook stuff still practiced by both sides. So Putin slowly got Trump into a web of connections that might be exploited later when useful. U.S. law enforcement and intelligence watched all of this stuff helplessly. Comes Trump’s announcement to run for President. Bingo!! Maybe Putin bet that further infiltration into the Trump camp could cause more U.S. voters to question the legitimacy of their democracy. And/or, a Trump presidency would embarrass and weaken the U.S. in foreign policy. Who could resist giving the Americans a black eye? Mission totally accomplished!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad

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Ogden Wernstrom 01.05.18 at 4:43 pm

I have seen quotes of Donald Jr. that appear to admit to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act, in particular the Federal Election regulations that prohibit contributions from foreign nationals to election campaigns or political parties, and prohibit soliciting, accepting or receiving such contributions.

IANAL, plus I do not have access to any testimony heard by a Grand Jury, so I’ll leave it to Mueller to cement the pieces together into concrete evidence; I imagine that any indictment of a Trump family member (or findings of ignoramus) would occur as Mueller is near the end of his investigation – when being fired will not hinder the investigation.

Speaking of normalizing stuff, Kenneth Starr subpoenaed The President, so I expect that Republicans will argue that The President can be indicted, too. (JK! The Republicans have not been shown to stand by any principle when it does not meet their current desires.)

I predict that Mueller will generate more indictments (which will also result in more convictions) than Kenneth Starr’s OIC did. Hell, let’s add in all the indictments and convictions created by Republicans’ investigations into the Benghazi incident. (Those counts should not include the Benghazi-related indictments which came from the Obama Administration, nor the actual convictions that have resulted from Obama-Administration indictments.)

100

Ogden Wernstrom 01.05.18 at 4:55 pm

Reading my most-recent post, I sound like an asshole. (Can I call myself that without being moderated out? We will see.) I worry that I have read so many nephrolithic posts that I am starting to emulate them.

101

bruce wilder 01.05.18 at 5:33 pm

We don’t know as objective and verified facts even such foundational points for Layman’s narrative as the notion that Russian state security services stole email via a hack of the DNC servers and released those DNC emails thru Wikileaks.

102

Cian 01.05.18 at 5:57 pm

Trump asking the Russians publicly to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and then expose the those emails after being told privately that the Russians were kindly disposed toward his campaign

Don’t be silly. It was a rhetorical flourish in a campaign speech. He wasn’t even the first Republican to say something like that.

Did they tell Trump they wanted to help him? Yes, they did, through several channels, notably Donald Trump Jr and his campaign advisor Popadopoulos.

There’s still no evidence that these people were from the Russian government. Their behavior and history would rather suggest they that they weren’t, but were trying to con Trump’s team so they could get something for their client. I wonder how many Nigerian emails Trump Jr has responded to over the years…

Now granted it looks bad that members of Trump’s team were willing to meet ‘Russian Agents’, but the fact they were so easily conned also undermines the narrative that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. By all means make the claim that elements within the Trump campaign was open to such a relationship, but the evidence to date suggests they were unable to actually set anything up and the Russians weren’t terribly interested in doing so (probably because like Trump, they assumed he was going to lose badly).

As President-Elect, his designated National Security Advisor called the Russians specifically to undermine then-President Obama’s effortto punish Russia for the interference.

This doesn’t seem to be illegal (he’s been charged with lying to the FBI in what seems to have been a sting. I despise Flynn, but the FBI’s behaviour seems pretty questionable here), and president elects establishing back door communications is not particularly unusual. There’s no requirement for Trump to follow Obama’s lead on foreign policy.

Yes; even as a candidate he worked to weaken the party position on the Russia / Ukraine conflict.

So he can’t have his own foreign policy? Or are you saying anyone who doesn’t have a very bellicose attitude to Russia is some kind of Russian agent? Because there are plenty of people who are critical of Putin who also think the US adventures in Ukraine are a very bad idea.

Given that Trump has also done some things that will have really pissed off the Russians (e.g. Syria), the evidence is not nearly as strong as you want it to be.

Yes; as President, he tried to kill a bill in Congress that sanctioned the Russians; when they passed it anyway, he signed it but has simply ignored it.

Indeed. This is a thing presidents often do with legislation that they don’t like. I believe it’s called politics.

103

Cian 01.05.18 at 6:02 pm

What about the revelations that Wikileaks was in direct contact with the Trump campaign peddling info and offering to act as a window washer for campaign dirt? Are Wikileaks American?

This didn’t actually happen. Though bonus points for the xenophobic attack on Wikileaks.

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bruce wilder 01.05.18 at 7:24 pm

“nephrolithic”

You acid-tongued devil!

105

Richard Mulliken 01.05.18 at 8:22 pm

Were he the head of any American corporation or bank, he wouild have been dismissed months ago. The dimple, terrifying fact is we have no machinery for this occasion. I’d like to suggest a citezen’s ad hoc commission of the fort that John Dewey led decades ago, formed from eminent citizens from commerce, faith education and soforth, possibly led by one or more ex president to hear evidence and then pronounce on his fitness. No legal authority, but it might well influence Republicans in Congress, many of whom would love to have cover for getting him to rersign/

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Lee A. Arnold 01.05.18 at 8:30 pm

Cian #102: “still no evidence… the evidence to date…”

Probably best to go with “still no reportage” and “the reportage to date” because during an ongoing investigation the public often isn’t given all the evidence that has been uncovered. (For example, up until the day of Manafort’s indictment, the public did not know that there exists evidence of Manafort’s crimes.) Taking care in matters like this will prevent us jumping from the “suggestion” that the Russians were only imposters trying to con Trump’s team, all the way in the next paragraph to the “fact” that they were so easily conned. It’s not a fact. Further, while we might easily grant that they all are barely competent patsies and stooges, this wouldn’t necessarily undermine a narrative of collusion. Further, note that “collusion” is not necessarily a crime, you need something like conspiracy to commit a crime (such as to hack emails, or to receive stolen property such as hacked emails). On that matter, Trump asked the Russians publicly to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and then expose those emails, a month or so AFTER Papadopoulos received information that the emails already had been hacked. Let’s assume (without evidence) that Papadopoulos would have sent his information up the chain of command. So then the question would be, why didn’t the Trump team report this possible crime to the FBI?

107

Ogden Wernstrom 01.05.18 at 8:40 pm

Lee A. Arnold points us to the Wikipedia entry for Dark Triad. When I got to:

Research on the dark triad is used in applied psychology, especially within the fields of law enforcement, clinical psychology and business management.

…I was certain that was a list of 3 fields where patients exhibiting the Dark Triad gravitated. The inclusion of clinical psych was a surprise, in that context. So was the lack of politics. But politics might be the realm of the Dark Tetrad.

108

e julius drivingstorm 01.05.18 at 9:28 pm

novakant @ 93.

Thank you. Should be required reading.

109

Heliopause 01.05.18 at 9:33 pm

@95
“Trump asking the Russians publicly to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server … is certainly collusion.”

No, it’s not. Once again, conservatives were saying similar things on social media thousands of times every day. If you want to say Trump was stupid to parrot this then I wouldn’t disagree with you, but, no, it’s not “collusion.” If you’re going to continue using the word in this way then this part of the discussion is over.

“point to the statement or statements in my 62 you believe to be false or unsubstantiated.”

I don’t see the relevance, you’re supposed to be showing me concrete evidence of collusion.

“Did the Russians seek to help Trump’s campaign? Yes, they did, by hacking the DNC server.”

There is no concrete evidence of this. I can’t exhaustively deconstruct this common bit of conventional wisdom in a blog comment but this part of the narrative relies on (1) the word of Crowdstrike, which is run by virulent anti-Russians, and who have never concretely tied the email exfiltration to any malware they might have detected, and (2) the “assessments” of anonymous intelligence officials, citing secret evidence. For brevity’s sake I’ll stop there for now. The rest of your paragraph on this has similar problems, by the way.

“Did Trump openly welcome their efforts?”

Your various characterizations in this paragraph are hyper-partisan and, again, contain nothing concrete. Since concrete evidence is what I’m looking for I guess we’re once again at a dead end.

110

alfredlordbleep 01.05.18 at 9:53 pm

@various

Just a notion
For OUR fiery President “I-want-loyalty” Chump and his book banning lawsuit in the “Homeland”, CT’s own n****woman must, while in the Fatherland-most known-for this sort of thing—in public spectacle worthy of Leni Riefenstahl—torch a pile of Art of the Deal detritus on her way to doing HERSELF -a Comedy Intervention- on behalf of Angela Merkel in Berlin (who could use some laughs). . .

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John Holbo 01.05.18 at 10:33 pm

This thread is looking positively arcane in light of the flurry of news stories last few days. I’ll just illustrate the point of the post with reference to the latest NYTimes article that is causing much excitement. Shenanigans! But, in another sense, insofar as the issue is obstruction of justice, it’s not totally clear that we are doing more than seeking heretofore unknown, behind-the-scenes evidence – behavior of lawyers and such – of what Trump already told Lester Holt on national TV. It’s perfectly possible that nothing will come of it, legally. Hard to charge a sitting President with obstruction of justice for exercising was are, arguably, executive powers of firing. You need solid evidence of motive, to say the least. But, if it comes to nothing, legally, we should still remember that the President, like, said it on on national TV months ago.

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Layman 01.05.18 at 10:46 pm

@ JH, it seems as if my reply to Cian’s 102 is no longer in moderation and has simply disappeared. If it was deleted for some reason, it would be helpful to know what that reason was.

113

John Holbo 01.05.18 at 10:51 pm

Cian,

I respect your right to spin but, kidding aside, it’s a bit rich to strike this sort of ‘what are you people talking about?’ tone. It’s possible that there is an innocent explanation for a lot of things that, facially, look very bad. It’s possible that some things that are almost certainly bad and unseemly are not strictly illegal – or not provably so. But the ‘nothing to see here, move along ‘ line lacks credibility at this point.

One picky point (really I’m not an old Russia hand when it comes to this collusion stuff, but I do try to read the news): Cian says that the Wikileaks-was-in-secret-contact-with-Trump campaign stuff is just a xenophobic rumor. Unless I’m mistaken, that contact was reported in the Atlantic, in November.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/the-secret-correspondence-between-donald-trump-jr-and-wikileaks/545738/

“The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017. The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States.”

But it was all Wikileaks, right? The Trump folks didn’t respond? Well, that’s not what the Atlantic reported.

“Though Trump Jr. mostly ignored the frequent messages from WikiLeaks, he at times appears to have acted on its requests. When WikiLeaks first reached out to Trump Jr. about putintrump.org, for instance, Trump Jr. followed up on his promise to “ask around.” According to a source familiar with the congressional investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 campaign, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, on the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks. At no point during the 10-month correspondence does Trump Jr. rebuff WikiLeaks, which had published stolen documents and was already observed to be releasing information that benefited Russian interests.”

I’m not saying it’s illegal, but it does have a whiff of reality about it, at the very least.

114

John Holbo 01.05.18 at 10:53 pm

Hi Layman, I did not delete a comment by you from the queue. It’s possible someone else deleted it, probably accidentally. My apologies, and you are welcome to try again.

115

ph 01.05.18 at 11:32 pm

Trump, Obama, and the Art of Saying Nothing – On the question of (ahem) sincerity, let me reiterate my own position.
1/ Unlike others here I don’t believe anything any politician says. It’s all spin O, or T.
2/ I preferred Sanders and I’ll add Biden and any generic Dem to the list.
3/ The Democrats, unlike the GOP, fixed the nomination process.
4/ The Democratic candidate has a proven pro-rich, pro-war record – Iraq/Libya/Syria.
5/ The GOP candidate is a race-bating, vulgarian buffoon hated by the elites.
6/ Given a choice between 4, or 5 – I’ll choose 5 all day long.
7/ The Democrats, GOP, and elites will always do they can to maintain the status-quo.
8/ Everything the elites say and do has one end only – preserve their exclusive status.
9/ Rich people are never our friends. In specific instances our interests my intersect.
10/ Believing the screwed were going to accept continued screwing from the same gang was a bad bet period in 2016.
11/ The same gang of elites remain largely in charge and very much want a front man for the corporation who makes it easier for themselves to pretend they’re clever, moral, and sophisticated rather than the gang of rapacious, drooling a-holes they are. Which is why they want Trump gone, and I very much want Trump to stay.

Because – in many ways there’s a little bit of teh Donald in many of us (nobody here, of course, ‘cept me!) and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of our grandiosity now and then.

116

politicalfootball 01.05.18 at 11:37 pm

But, in another sense, insofar as the issue is obstruction of justice, it’s not totally clear that we are doing more than seeking heretofore unknown, behind-the-scenes evidence – behavior of lawyers and such – of what Trump already told Lester Holt on national TV.

People often say Trump is lying or otherwise full of shit when they are defending him.

117

Heliopause 01.06.18 at 12:20 am

@113
“Cian says that the Wikileaks-was-in-secret-contact-with-Trump campaign stuff is just a xenophobic rumor. Unless I’m mistaken, that contact was reported in the Atlantic, in November.”

Perhaps what Cian objected to was the wildly inflammatory characterization of this contact; “peddling info and offering to act as a window washer…” People really need to start looking up the meaning of words, then reading source material (the Atlantic article edited out context, by the way), and then make at least a pretense of analyzing things without the conclusions already drawn.

Plainly, the correspondence shows Wikileaks doing what Wikileaks does, and Trump Jr barely displaying interest at all. If he did indeed “ask around,” gave two more very cursory responses, then totally ignored their repeated entreaties, what does that tell you about where this relationship was going? Doesn’t that actually kind of blow any “collusion” theory out of the water? If someone texts you 13 times in a row with no response is the logical inference that the two of you are plotting something nefarious together?

Maybe there was some kind of “collusion,” but these DMs are nothing of the sort.

118

ph 01.06.18 at 12:32 am

@116 Good point! But one can sell an anti-Trump book whilst admitting it’s full of crap!

Disclaimer Included in Michael Wolff’s ‘Insider’ Tell All:

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many… are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.

“Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”

Which connects back to your OP, John. Outrage clickbait should spike this weekend in a fresh niagara of Trump Outrage. We all know what happens when folks live next to the train tracks. Or, at least some do. My last for this thread.

Twitter resistance, Dennis Perrin’s still useful take on Liberals, Putin, and the Purity of Essence.

119

Lee A. Arnold 01.06.18 at 12:48 am

ph #115: “Which is why they want Trump gone”

Not for that reason. Mitch McConnell thinks Trump will sign anything they put in front of him, no matter how rapacious. Just look at the tax bill! They don’t want Trump gone for that. They want Trump gone because his lack of attention span, lack of strategic thinking, recklessness, impulsiveness and emotional shallowness are great dangers to defense, security and foreign policy. This is why the Establishment moved the retired generals and Tillerson into place during the transition period — to get Defense, State, and the intelligence agencies out of Trump’s hands. It’s not like those guys wanted the jobs; they sure as hell don’t like or respect Trump. If Mueller returns impeachable indictments, the Establishment Republicans will impeach him. They are already moving to have the Fox News Trump base voters placated, by opening secondary investigations into the charges that the FBI is tainted and that the Clinton Foundation is corrupt. Nobody but the Fox News Trump base thinks there is likely anything to that stuff. But they’ve got to have that base placated when they impeach Trump. The GOP can’t win districts without those voters.

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Faustusnotes 01.06.18 at 1:57 am

In denying facts like the Wikileaks contact Cian makes it very clear that, like kidneystones, he has no interest in reality at all. His only interest is defending his now obviously foolish assumption that Trump couldn’t be worse than Clinton – a position many in the pro Putin left were cleaving to here in 2016 regardless of how dangerous Trump obviously looked. Now – like pH and like Trump himself – they have to become increasingly untethered from reality to defend that position, but rather than admit their error and take the blame for whatever influence their faction had on Trump’s victory, they’re denying reality furiously. Sad!

Also I’m not erocan so how is it xenophobic of me to say Wikileaks are not American? Fuck you people are parochial!

121

Collin Street 01.06.18 at 2:17 am

But the ‘nothing to see here, move along ‘ line lacks credibility at this point.

Investigations should not be started without proof of wrongdoing! Investigations should not be halted without proof of innocence!

… ultimately the whole thing runs on double-standards, and the thing about double-standards is that… conceptual errors cannot be demonstrated to the person who makes them, because they exist entirely inside the head of the person making them, and thus don’t exist in the “real world” where the error — discrepancy between conclusion and reality — can be pointed to. [and the absence of a properly-functioning conceptual-error-detection mechanism / mental-audit thing is, of course, a conceptual error that cannot be demonstrated. So you get people thrashing around without realising why they’re wrong, and there’s not even a process that you can run through to show them why.

It’s kinda shit.

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Faustusnotes 01.06.18 at 3:17 am

This idea that Republican elites want Trump gone is more hilarious unreality of the kind we can only expect from pH or the pro Putin left. Republican elites love Trump , who will sign anything they give him, and who dropped any shred of evidence of economic populism as soon as he was elected. He will maintain business as usual with the plutocracy while letting the Republicans in Congress do whatever they like. He even offers plausible deniability while rallying the base on openly racist ideals. Perfect! Just issue a few rote Twitter condemnations every now and then while you keep looting the treasury. It’s great! Where exactly do you chumps get the idea elites want him gone? Because pH said so? Ryan and McConnell love him.

Sometimes I really feel like a lot of people posting on crooked timber these days are doing so from an alternate dimension, because you are completely out of whack with what’s going on in this one.

123

politicalfootball 01.06.18 at 3:38 am

118: A lot of people see tu quoque and non sequitur as logical fallacies, and sure, they can be legitimately described that way. But as I suggested @97, and as you confirm here, the use of such “fallacies” isn’t an error. It’s a technique.

There are centuries of history and an extensive literature about the value of reason and empiricism, but it is pure arrogance to suppose that the Enlightenment is a settled issue — that the accurate discernment of reality has been conclusively shown to be superior to the alternatives.

So I get it where you’re coming from, but I also understand Holbo’s desire to treat you as acting in good faith. Still, Holbo’s use of the word “sincerity” only reveals an underlying bias in favor of factuality that you don’t share.

I struggle with this, but I want to understand you. What value do you derive from your epistemic approach? Are you able to tell me?

124

nastywoman 01.06.18 at 6:50 am

”Because – in many ways there’s a little bit of teh Donald in many of us”

This ”very wise phrase” from kidney is without any doubt the most important comment on this thread – and the reason why I love him so much and seriously think he should comment a lot more.
As just a day ago I commented in the NY Times that for US Americans – to elect an idiot was the idea of this erection.

And we succeeded.
-(and about this ”Russian thing” and this Mueller dude – isn’t Mueller a German name of making ”Mehl” and the way Trump ”colluded” with Russian Interior Design is ”beautiful” – Seriously guys – as we also currently paint everything gold!)

125

ph 01.06.18 at 6:58 am

@123 Thanks for the civil language. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Passenger, but your questions are more illuminating than any answer I might provide. I was particularly struck by your question pre-November 2016, when asked me whether I was going to revise by Baysian priors once/if Trump lost – because you didn’t know anyone who was going to vote for Trump. I saw no need to point it out to you at the time, but I’ll ask you to consider the question now, please.

Why is it that you as an American, would need to use an international blog to ask a non-American living in Asia, why Trump seemed the better candidate? Why is it that you ‘don’t know anybody who finds Trump appealing. I know several from different backgrounds, and lots who don’t like him. In short, I get out of my own bubble. I’m not saying you don’t and I’m certainly not implying an insult. But if you’re an American and you don’t know anyone who likes Trump, this is a choice on your part, no?

I’m confident I’d be reading the GOP president is an unacceptable, racist, war-loving sob, whether the individual in question were names MLK, or Winnie the Pooh.

It’s part of the narrative. I can’t be clearer than I was @115.

@119. There’s some truth to that. But the real crime is ‘making America’ look vulgar. Any tool, including Pence would sign the same deal. A cynic might say only Trump could sell the deal the rubes. So, there’s that.

I wanted to add a counter-factual and as I’m ‘over my self-declared’ limit and would hate to induce a nervous breakdown in my fanboy, I’ll stick to this one comment.

Let’s say the Lynch hadn’t disqualified herself after Bill ‘by mistake’ triggered her resignation by deciding to drop in to discuss grand kids on that runway. Let’s say the FBI didn’t change the wording of the Clinton report – and in left in statements that would have forced Clinton into the courtroom. Only, the candidates running for the GOP were Cruz and Pence. Yes, as in President Ted Cruz. That could just as easily have happened had the smear campaign worked against Trump and forced him from the race. Would the FBI been rewrite the Clinton email report to keep her in the race against Cruz? Maybe. But maybe not. Had Trump been pushed out, the race would have been between Cruz and Mike Pence in a change election year. Hillary would, of course, run a different race and perhaps gone to Wisconsin. But the possibility exists that Cruz would have been president instead of Trump.

Do you think the rhetoric would be any different? Do you think Cruz represents more of a threat? Because the choice between Cruz and Clinton is a lot harder to make, and right now I’d say I’d choose Clinton. But that’s me – reasonable, reflective.

In 2020, you all may get to make that choice for real! Something to look forward to, yes?

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nastywoman 01.06.18 at 8:44 am

”In 2020, you all may get to make that choice for real! Something to look forward to, yes?”

YES!!

And about the choice between Cruz and Clinton – I probably should inform you that in 2010 there will be a candidate who will make the choice between her and Cruz and Clinton the easiest ever choice.

But as I have signed a ”nondisclosure agreement” I’m not not allowed (yet) – to release her name – until she herself – ON THE 17th of February will announce that she will win the next election –
(not ”erection” – as ”erections” are more or less reserved for… well you know – who!)

And right now I’d say I’d choose HER.
But that’s me – reasonable, reflective.

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nastywoman 01.06.18 at 8:58 am

Oh – wait did I write 2010?

That wasn’t a mistake – that was just that I don’t remember anymore that’s when I met Trump – and if I recall we didn’t talk about Russia – we talked about my beautiful blue eyes and my beautiful blond hair and he asked me if I was ”a natural blond” – and actually I used to have natural ”curly hair” – and if ph -(or whatever he is called?) would like to chime in I would very much appreciate that – as I know that in Japan there are very few… Ladies with natural curly hair – and I always wondered if that’s true? –
Ups? –
Mr. Holbo – that was perhaps… ”silly” or a bit OT –
or not? – as ”hair” for sure is very important – as the F…face always shows – and do you guys seriously think WE would have erected Von Clownstick if he wouldn’t have this long beautiful ”blond” hair?

NO!

Hillary would have become President – and concerning that fact perhaps we should discuss – how easy the choice is – between ”bald men” and women with ”good” hair??!

128

Layman 01.06.18 at 11:16 am

ph: “Would the FBI been rewrite the Clinton email report to keep her in the race against Cruz? Maybe. But maybe not.”

What’s your theory of the FBI’s crime here, kidneystones? As best as I can make it out, it is this:

The FBI (or the Establishment working through the FBI) wanted Trump to lose and Clinton to win. The FBI were in possession of evidence that Trump was colluding with Russia, and that Clinton used a private email server while she was Secretary of State. So, because the FBI (or the Establishment) wanted Trump to lose, they kept the information about his collusion with Russia a deep dark secret until after the election; and at the same time, because they (or the Establishment) wanted Clinton to win, they made a federal case out of her email practices, even to the point of torpedoeing her campaign with a late-October surprise that later turned out to be a nothingburger.

Now, do I have your theory right? If not, can you point at the wrong bits and correct them?

129

Layman 01.06.18 at 11:20 am

JH @ 114, thanks, and I don’t need to repost. You covered what I meant to convey at 113, which is this: it may well turn out that there is an innocent explanation for all the Russia weirdness – perhaps simply that Trump is an idiot surrounded by grifters and other bad actors – but anyone who says there is no evidence worthy of investigation is engaging in denial of reality or bad faith. If nothing else, why are people risking felony convictions in order to hide it?

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politicalfootball 01.06.18 at 2:00 pm

I saw no need to point it out to you at the time, but I’ll ask you to consider the question now, please.

Sure. I made several mistakes, but the key one was my erroneous belief that the vote of the electoral college would mirror the popular vote unless the popular vote was extraordinarily close.

But what about you? Unless I missed something, your entire argument over a period of months was based on the idea that Trump would win the presidency by getting more votes than Hillary. What happened?

I know you can’t answer my questions, but I am trying to understand your thinking. Here’s the answer that I propose: You were not wrong about the election, because Trump did get more votes than Hillary. Massive voter fraud led to the reporting of erroneous vote totals. Beyond the self-evident nature of that fraud, an overwhelming amount of independent evidence points to it.

1. Trump’s inauguration crowd was huge. The biggest ever, much larger than Obama’s. Likewise, counter-protests were minimal, much less than you’d ordinarily see.
2. The Democrats have been unable to express meaningful opposition to Trump on policy grounds, and are forced to rely on the Mueller investigation, which involves no substantive issues.
3. The Republicans have won a wave of victories as political candidates have maintained Trump’s popular vote margins nationwide. (Though obviously, voter fraud has favored the Democrats here, too.)

Did I miss anything?

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steven t johnson 01.06.18 at 3:26 pm

ph@115 is rich fodder for error analysis, I think.
“1/ Unlike others here I don’t believe anything any politician says. It’s all spin O, or T.”
You can look at what they do, which means this isn’t clarity, but a pretense of shrewdness. Also, if everything politicians say is a lie, listen, and believe the opposite. That doesn’t work, showing this kind of thing is ultimately foolishness.

“2/ I preferred Sanders and I’ll add Biden and any generic Dem to the list.”
Nobody who preferred Sanders for his politics finds any generic Dem acceptable. The only thing these people have in common is the greater probability of losing the popular vote to Trump, instead of just the Electoral College.

“3/ The Democrats, unlike the GOP, fixed the nomination process.”
Foolishness. The DNC was indeed biased, not least because Sanders was not an established Democrat at all. But wish is not always father to the deed. The DNC didn’t fix the primary, because it couldn’t. If it could, Clinton would have won all the caucus states. She didn’t because the DNC didn’t have the power to fix them. Clinton also would have had an edge in the open primary states, where it could appeal to the crossover voters. Sanders would have had his best chances in closed Democratic primary states, where his popular support in the party would be the strongest. But it was the opposite. One of Sanders biggest wins for example was in WV, where he won all the Trump voters.

“4/ The Democratic candidate has a proven pro-rich, pro-war record – Iraq/Libya/Syria.” Covering up for Democrats like Obama is sickening. He was in charge for all of them. The secretary of state does not create foreign policy in this system. Trump had no record but his speech to the military told us all we needed to know. Pretending Trump was somehow an anti-war candidate may have been self-deception, but the claim was deception. Sanders was pro-imperialist, always has been. All candidates are pro-rich, but it should be obvious the one who devoted his life to amassing money was the most pro-rich.

“5/ The GOP candidate is a race-bating, vulgarian buffoon hated by the elites.”
First, “elites” is not really a concept. Perhaps it’s not designed to falsify, like “totalitarianism,” but the notion there are some vague undefined bosses of some sort who need not actually be bosses and need not be rich and need not be much of anything really except someone you dislike is at best diversionary from real thinking. Second, Trump didn’t get all that free publicity because he was disliked. Race-baiting is not something the owners object to, because of the superior refinement of their souls viscerally rejects an ideology created by the nasty people. Trump was created by huge support from the media, and the so-called “elites” gave it to him precisely because he was preaching division in the people. Some people who don’t really like the vulgar rabble will go along with the pretense that Trump was the enemy of some unspecified tyrants somehow ruining everything, rather than the product of some pretty specific media companies. Doesn’t make it true.

“6/ Given a choice between 4, or 5 – I’ll choose 5 all day long.”
This is a false dilemma. As against this (and the others who wanted to support Trump”, the choice was between a status-quo politician, who like all the others (including Sanders) supported the current system, complete with the rich, and supported the empire, and an owner promising to do away with politics of the old sort and do things his way. There was no choice there for the mass of the people, which is of course the genius of bourgeois democracy.

“7/ The Democrats, GOP, and elites will always do they can to maintain the status-quo.”
No, this is not true historically. The status quo in this country once included strong unions and a Left and increasing real incomes. This falsifies the status quo, disappearing the class war, lest people notice we are losing, no doubt. This is why those mysterious “elites” somehow reappear.

“8/ Everything the elites say and do has one end only – preserve their exclusive status.”
Does repetition make a lie more believable? This is the same thing as #7, and still wrong.

“9/ Rich people are never our friends. In specific instances our interests my intersect.”
That is, vote for the lesser evil. In context, this is ignoring Clinton’s commitment to the status quo in favor of a slogan about draining the swamp. It is always amazing how often it is precisely the effort to sound shrewd and insightful reveals an even more amazing wooly-mindedness and gullibility.

“10/ Believing the screwed were going to accept continued screwing from the same gang was a bad bet period in 2016.”
That’s why it was always going to be a close election. Obama was a crap president, and every Democratic candidate was going to have a hard hill to climb. Trump’s loss was actually because Clinton ran against Trump’s racism and sexism, and her victory confirmed that the majority of voters favor at least symbolic repudiation of racism and sexism. The implication that Trump won is precisely because of the desire to pretend the evil people support racism and sexism (and money, money, money!)

“11/ The same gang of elites remain largely in charge and very much want a front man for the corporation who makes it easier for themselves to pretend they’re clever, moral, and sophisticated rather than the gang of rapacious, drooling a-holes they are. Which is why they want Trump gone, and I very much want Trump to stay.”
Translation: Trump’s Big (nuclear) “Button” makes the poster hard. The joy at the prospect of a Leader who can rise above mere laws and customs, to actually be the Scourge of God against the wicked bespeaks moral perversion in my opinion.

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bruce wilder 01.06.18 at 7:32 pm

Collin Street @ 121

I am inclined to agree, though I think it is less a conceptual error / conceptual error detection problem in the private thoughts of the individual than it is a social problem with storytelling, the attachment people feel to stories (narratives) and to each other thru storytelling, and the facility that social and personal appetite for storytelling provides for manipulative propaganda.

People like stories and they like to have their understanding of the world encapsulated and mediated by stories. A good story can compress a lot of information, both factual and (important!) moral and reinforces attachment to the story (which may include belief in the “truth” of the story) with subjective, emotional satisfaction of various possible kinds.

I have often made the point in comments that political arguments are far less likely to be framed and structured as logical proofs than as hypnotic trance inductions. Which is to say that political arguments are like salesmanship generally. They try to draw you in, building on what you already are inclined to believe and manipulating you emotionally, trying to build associations between certain ideas or memes and emotions, by inducing an emotional state and then associating that state with the notion being sold — kind of the way advertisers try to get you excited about a product by showing you pictures of beautiful, sexy people and then juxtaposing the product with all that happiness and arousing sex appeal. But, in politics, it is more than just emotional association — they want to sell you certain stories: little miniature dramas that give you a sense of insight into this person or program as well as tieing the story onto the long tangled skein of a worldview that defines your important place on a team in a dramatic world and provides opportunities to tieing additional stories later on. Stories with familiar dramatic arcs that can shape your expectations and interpretations of later developments, confirming and reinforcing your belief in the story. And, reinforce and maintain your attachment to the team telling “your” stories.

It is competitive and frequently combative, this contest for hearts and minds by means of contested storytelling and I think it tends to create a collective, shared mental landscape that has some of the features of an ecology: a political culture generating a spectrum of perennial niches and only transitory times of apparently stable equilibrium, chaotically evolving slow and fast thru the generations.

People are storytelling animals, their societies and cultures organized by and around their stories. It can be hard to reflect on that sometimes, because to reflect critically will undermine some attachments — that’s the value and threat of liberal education, no?

I would not claim to be psychologically exempt from storytelling. I know my horror at Obama’s course led me to detach from my life-long identification with the Democratic Party and that positioned me in the political landscape in a place from which I feel alienated from the apparently passionate commitment so many seem to have to the Russiagate narrative. I looked at the Vox piece JH linked to in the OP (“The 5 biggest Trump-Russia events to watch for in 2018 — Yes, one of them is indicting Donald Trump.” by Alex Ward) and I felt slightly nauseous. Reading that piece is opening up your unconscious mind to a whole raft of questionable suppositions, unleavened by much factual perspective — it is entertaining as storytelling can be, but as political “thinking” it strikes me as poisonous distraction, and it is an obvious setup for more of the same. And, it is part of a niagara of supposititious speculation built around this narrative of Russiagate (like the Ward piece, much of it taking Watergate as a script template) flowing thru a lot of political journalism. The sheer volume is daunting. I know several elderly people who love Rachel Maddow; I regard Rachel Maddow as the manifestation of a disease process, like a rash or a cyst. I say this as a confession to being just as emotionally rooted in my perspective as anyone else.

Clearly, there are other people who regard the Russiagate story as so much gaslighting by a Democratic establishment that wants to regain power in a replay of 2006-8, but with even less reform of the plutocracy. I identify with them and draw on their views in forming my own, just like all the other social, storytelling animals. I would rather tell a story about Hillary losing the election that attributed more cause-and-effect to the past failures of Democratic governance she represented (NAFTA, multiplying and perpetual war, neoliberal globalization, rank hypocrisy with regard to campaign finance, trying to make up loss of working class voters by appealing to suburban Republican women who would not expect any policy disturbing to the donor class). Hacking Podesta’s email and the DNC revealed truth; I’m old-fashioned enough about truth, that I lean toward narratives that attribute Hillary’s loss to being on the wrong side of the truth about the conduct of her campaign — being found out is not good for your narrative. Making up a story about curiously potent Russian meddling or collusion with Trump looks to me like an attempt to finesse problems that call for reform but the powers-that-be do not want to reform because then they would no longer be the powers.

The OP asked if focusing on the Mueller investigation normalized stuff we know. I don’t know what that means, in concrete terms. Generating outrage in one place means forgetting outrage somewhere else? The template script for this play, Watergate, had as its background simmering outrage over controversies like impoundment of funds and prolonging and expanding the Vietnam War. What’s the analogue?

This contest of storytelling which is sometimes laughably referred to as the political discourse — it does make a philosophic account of why some stories are more convincing than others, at least to some people, problematic. The factual truth can make a sharp stick, but not every player is likely to feel constrained to poke only with sticks honed against the hard rock of truth. I suppose that makes me part of “the Pro-Putin Left” in somebody else’s narrative.

I understand the form of stories that are likely to appeal to people whose psychology and political attitudes typify what are technically “right-wing authoritarian followers” are not much constrained by my values. Abandoning them to Trump’s racism and authoritarianism and then deploring them for being victims of Hillary’s economics as much as Trump’s economics doesn’t work for me as well as it apparently does Faustusnotes or Layman.

I am concerned that there is no mindspace in a political culture flooded with the Russiagate narrative to build opposition to neoliberal economics or perpetual war. Largely, maybe that’s a function of not owning significant media platforms and not having social organization outside the fishbowl of social media and it is pointless to protest against the mass self-deception that well-funded propaganda induces.

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Layman 01.06.18 at 9:56 pm

As to those (bruce wilder @101 is a good example) who promote the view that the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc are lying or wrong about their conclusion that the DNC was hacked at the direction of the Russian government by agents, direct or indirect, of that government, I think it behooves them also to articulate further their theory of the crime.

It seems to me that there are three possibilites: That the people who tell us this is so are well-intentioned and are actually right; that the people who tell us this are well-intentioned but are wrong; and that the people who are telling us this are ill-intentioned and lying.

If either of the first two cases hold, then it stands to reason that there is, in fact, evidence that leads to that conclusion, even if the evidence is being misunderstood. Thus, the repeated refrain that no one has any evidence is, in fact, wrong. Evidence exists which is compelling enough that it convinced all the experts. They may be wrong, but they aren’t acting in bad faith.

If, on the other hand, you believe that those agencies are lying, then please, by all means, relate your theory of the crime. Who is lying? The line level analysts, or their bosses, or their bosses, or the heads of the agencies? If they are lying, how many of them are in on the lie?

If the lie is being perpetrated at the line level, then surely that is dozens, perhaps hundreds of people across multiple agencies. This means it is a very large conspiracy. Is every single analyst part of it? Is that likely? If not, why hasn’t anyone leaked the truth?

If the lie is being perpetrated further up the chain, why does it persist through the change of administrations? The heads of those agencies who allegedly invented the lie are all gone. Their deputies are gone. The agencies are in the hands of an administration who wants to convince us that this story is a lie. Yet, those agencies still insist it is true. How is that possible?

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J-D 01.06.18 at 10:30 pm

kidneystones

4/ The Democratic candidate has a proven pro-rich, pro-war record – Iraq/Libya/Syria.
5/ The GOP candidate is a race-bating, vulgarian buffoon hated by the elites.

Being the Republican candidate means having the proved pro-rich, pro-war record of the Republican Party; and to imagine that Trump personally has either egalitarian or pacifistic impulses (or both) is sheer folly.

6/ Given a choice between 4, or 5 – I’ll choose 5 all day long.

But you are not now being given a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; neither you nor anybody else will ever again be given that choice.

135

Yan 01.07.18 at 1:51 am

“As to those (bruce wilder @101 is a good example) who promote the view that the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc are lying or wrong…I think it behooves them also to articulate further their theory of the crime. It seems to me that there are three possibilites: That the people who tell us this is so are well-intentioned and are actually right; that the people who tell us this are well-intentioned but are wrong; and that the people who are telling us this are ill-intentioned and lying.”

jfc what planet are we on? Are you aware of the history of the FBIand the CIA? How on earth is the burden of proof on their skeptics’ side?

The icing on the nit job cake is the arguing that skeptics of a vast international conspiracy theory must be tinfoil hats cause, can you imagine how many people would have to be in on it for the conspiracy not to be real?

Seriously, we’ve reached the point that discussion is pointless. There are True Believers and those who aren’t. It’s time to stop reasoning with the Rhinoceroses.

136

Cranky Observer 01.07.18 at 4:27 am

Mr. Wilder at 7:32 starts out with

= = = People like stories and they like to have their understanding of the world encapsulated and mediated by stories. A good story can compress a lot of information, both factual and (important!) moral and reinforces attachment to the story = =

and then he uncorks

= = = I know several elderly people who love Rachel Maddow; I regard Rachel Maddow as the manifestation of a disease process, like a rash or a cyst. = = =

What does that even mean? It is well-known that in the Limbaugh-Murdoch era the hard Radical Right has done a far better job of emotional propaganda than their opponents and that the Republican ownership of the media (plus the Republican leanings of the editor class of the traditional media) and there are multiple dozens of effective right-wing storytellers. OK, advantage Mellon/Scaife/Murdoch/Koch.

But to then classify one of the three or so effective progressive storytellers – who is outnumbered dozens to one and subject to the full force of the right wing Wurlitzer whenever she says something ‘out of line’ – as a “rash or a cyst” who is only liked by “elderly people” ? (nice ageist slam BTW Bruce). And then follows up with ” I don’t know what that means, in concrete terms. Generating outrage in one place means forgetting outrage somewhere else?” Uh, sure thing dude. No possibility of concern trolling from Mr. Wilder; I’m sure he’s no relative of kidneystones.

137

bruce wilder 01.07.18 at 5:35 am

Layman @ 133

I do not know why I should be responsible for producing “a theory of the crime”; you apparently have a theory of your own, which assures you that there is evidence “which convinced all the experts”. Jeebus do you ever read what you write?

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence produced an “assessment”, a public version of which was released in early January 2017, in which various assertions were made, with “confidence” in those assertions attributed to the CIA, NSA and FBI. “Confidence” apparently is jargon for an undisclosed body of evidence and reasoning. (I am being sarcastic of course, but that is actually what they say “confidence” means when they say it.)

With regard to the specifics of the DNC hack and disclosures, that assessment drew on a “Joint Analysis Report” issued at the end of December 2016 by the FBI and another unit of the DHS with responsibility for cyber issues in support of official assertions made in early October by Jeh Johnson and James Clapper confirming that they believed the Russians were responsible for the DNC server hack and public email disclosures and other meddling. With regard to the DNC email hack, the Joint Analysis Report repeats in different language the report by Crowdstrike of its investigation.

I don’t think it is a question of lying or not-lying with regard to these reports. To say that there is “Bad Faith” involved begs the question of what “Good Faith” would look like, and in what that Faith might be properly placed. I think they are trying very hard not to lie, not because they adhere to any ethical imperative to tell the truth, but because they do not want to get caught in a lie. But, equally or maybe more so, they do not want to be caught in a truth. These twin considerations make the language of these reports hard to read closely; the language is stilted and deliberately vague as to most specifics. It is like they want everything in weasel words on general principles. I doubt their peculiar transitive application of the verb, “assess”, has made the Oxford Dictionary yet. At the same time, they want to be clear in connecting the hacks to a larger pattern, even if, without specifics, the larger pattern is hard for the reader to discern or understand with regard to proportionality or quality.

There’s no indication anywhere in the two reports that the FBI or any other investigative agency of government undertook a forensic investigation of its own. They accepted the main lines of Crowdstrike’s report for the DNC and announced that they accepted it, then moved on to argue a larger pattern.

Even if it contains no (new or independent) information about the DNC hack, the January assessment does fill out some elements of the pattern of Russian meddling. In that respect, the report is an effort in storytelling, an effort to construct a narrative that will organize the interpretation of disparate facts and thus effectively persuade large numbers of people to be alarmed by the outcome of the election and the alleged role of Russia in it. It is pretty straightforward in that respect, supplying a protagonist with evil motives in the person of Putin and helpfully explaining Russians want to bring our liberal democracy low.

On the whole, I see the ODNI assessment in January 2017 as manipulative propaganda. I am not saying they knowingly lied about anything in particular. By their own lights, they may imagine they were trying to do good, honorably. It served their purposes to leave Crowdstrike’s account unexamined while endorsing it as consistent with “a pattern” — a pattern that allowed them to introduce Putin as the villain of the piece, stage left and make a bunch of dubious connections. A lot of the report is about the “overt” messaging activities of RT, the broadcaster — again no specifics are offered, but the implication is that RT’s activities are illegitimately subversive. They stir up discontent you see. The troll farm in St. Petersburg is mentioned; what we have since learned of its magnitude and apparent political agnosticism highlights the lack of perspective or proportion. There’s this gratuitous example of “Don’t think of a pink elephant!”: DHS assesses that the types of [electoral] systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying. ODNI did not lie and say that Russia hacked the vote count, but effectively they put the idea that they did out there in the Media swamp.

If you care enough about the specifics of either the DNC email hack or the Podesta spearfishing, you can certainly find experts and “experts” debating many detailed theories. There is an argument to the effect that the volume of material dumped from the DNC could not have been transferred remotely in the manner asserted by Crowdstrike and “confirmed” by DHS and the FBI, given the time and bandwidth available. I am no expert and won’t try to arbitrate that dispute; I only note that “all the experts” do not agree; some consider that a leak is a more likely source of the disclosed material than the hack. (The argument is that the probe and (maybe the) hack Crowdstrike found evidence for were not, in fact, the source of the disclosed material.)

None of this is terribly important to me and my preferred storytelling path. To me, the truth in the disclosures is the important factor. I don’t blame the whistleblower, even if the whistleblower is ultimately Putin. For what it is worth, ODNI confirmed that they thought the disclosed material was genuine and contained no fabrications.

My objection to the Russiagate narrative is that it seems to me to be designed to distract attention from the failings of the Democrats. The St. Petersburg troll farm is a huge factor; David Brock’s trolls are forgotten. (We had one here at CT, remember? Relentless and very disruptive.) Putin’s ill-intent in the hack is supposed to so dominate the story of the disclosures, that no one is noticing that Clinton is a big ol’ cheater surrounded and supported by a crew of amoral hacks. Maybe if I were still identifying with the Dems, I would find the Russiagate narrative more appealing and the idea of Donald Trump and company colluding with Putin more nearly facially plausible. That’s not who I am, so that’s not how I see the story.

I think it is probably the same way with James Clapper and the folks he hand-picked to write up the Jan 2017 assessment. People at the CIA do not tell stories where CIA torture and murder dishonor the country and materially damage U.S. interests. It is not healthy for the agency or the country that they do not have to confront those misdeeds or offer up their own for prosecution. But, there it is. The Deep State. out of control.

I will remind you that I am not ph (nee kidneystones). I would never say, “I support Donald Trump” because I don’t and because I am not a troll trying to get a rise out of people. I despise the kind of narcissistic authoritarian Trump appears to be. Most of what I have seen via Wolff seems plausible enough to me.

What I do not get is the normalization of what has gone before in the normalization of financial predation and perpetual war. Lots of people want “Trump is different” to normalize a lot of stuff that should not be normalized. I am not willing to think that the “secret government” should be believed, because I want democracy, noisy and distressing and you cannot have democracy if 17 agencies rule on the basis of secret courts, secret evidence, secret surveillance, secret programs and knowing all the “secrets” so that no one who only knows facts cannot discuss anything.

138

ph 01.07.18 at 10:28 am

@128 My theory? “The FBI were in possession of evidence that Trump was colluding with Russia, and that Clinton used a private email server while she was Secretary of State.”

I don’t believe the FBI has any evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians, because unlike you I don’t believe in unproven conspiracy theories. As numerous individuals have pointed out, if such evidence existed it would have been leaked within months of the election. Second, Clinton’s use of a private email server has been knowledge for years. What the Hill reporting confirms is that Congressional investigators now have evidence that elements within the FBI, Comey’s ostensible subordinates rewrote the Comey report.

Go back and examine the original report and the edits. They’re available online. You’re normally very good with the legal stuff, I thought you’d have had the sense to leave this part alone.

Re: the counter-factual, apologies for the numerous typos. Was multi-tasking. My point is: would people prefer Ted Cruz was president? That’s it Ted Cruz and Mike Pence with a Republican congress.

I’m curious to learn who really sees Cruz as an improvement on Trump. I don’t. And there’s a real chance he’ll get the chance to run as Pence’s vp if Trump gets dumped.

Then what? Right now all the Dems have got is piss-dossier, son of piss-dossier, and the new book, piss-dossier 2018 – on your shelves now! Buying a copy? It’s your cup of truth.

139

Layman 01.07.18 at 10:53 am

bruce wilder: ‘I will remind you that I am not ph (nee kidneystones). I would never say, “I support Donald Trump” because I don’t and because I am not a troll trying to get a rise out of people.’

I’ll agree you’re not kidneystones. As for the rest, what of this exchange?

mdc: “I guess the thought implies that there are some voters whose ordered preferences are 1) Sanders, 2) Trump, 3) Clinton. Do we know how many people like this exist?”

bruce wilder: “I think those are my ordered preferences, though I would not actually vote for Trump or Clinton.”

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/02/17/a-few-us-election-related-thoughts/

What does it mean to say that you prefer Trump to Clinton and that you would never say you support Trump? I confess I don’t really grasp the fine distinction between ‘preferring’ him and ‘supporting’ him, at least with respect to what it says about your views regarding the two candidates.

140

J-D 01.07.18 at 11:01 am

kidneystones

… My point is: would people prefer Ted Cruz was president? … I’m curious to learn who really sees Cruz as an improvement on Trump. …

Since you ask: as between two Republicans, I don’t feel well enough informed to have a preference. For that matter, as between two Democrats I don’t feel well enough informed to have a preference. On the other hand, I’ve go a century and a half of the historical record as the basis for preferring Democrats to Republicans.

Every streak comes to an end, of course, and I am aware that originally the Republicans were a better choice than the Democrats. But that stopped being true after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. It figures it would take a similarly big change to make the Republicans the better choice again, and there hasn’t been one recently, so I’m still betting with the run.

141

Faustusnotes 01.07.18 at 11:15 am

Bruce wilder clearly supported Trump. Now he claims he didn’t. Did I mention something yesterday about people posting from a different dimension?

142

Layman 01.07.18 at 11:55 am

ph: “I don’t believe the FBI has any evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians, because unlike you I don’t believe in unproven conspiracy theories.”

The entire world has evidence that Trump colluded with Russians. It is a matter of undisputed fact that someone claiming to represent the Russian government made an offer of help for the campaign to Trump Jr, and Trump Jr’s response was to say ‘I love it!’ and take the meeting, bringing along other campaign members for good measure. This is, in normal parlance, ‘evidence’. There are other examples, of course, but one will suffice.

Now that we’ve dealt with that digression, will you answer my question about your theory? If the FBI wanted Clinton to win and Trump to lose, why didn’t they shut down the Clinton investigation immediately, with a statement exhonerating her, and why didn’t they hold a press conference in July of 2016 to announce they were launching an investigation into ties between the Russian government and Trump and the Trump campaign? Why did they effectively do the exact opposite, i.e. make a grand show of investigating Clinton, along with public statements condemning her and an October surprise announcement seemingly designed to scare voters away from her, while keeping any mention of an investigation into Trump a dark secret?

143

ph 01.07.18 at 12:17 pm

@140 the Republicans were a better choice than the Democrats. But that stopped being true after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.

@140 This is remarkably uninformed by even your lax standards. Do you ever consider checking any basic facts before you post? Your comment confirms your general ignorance of the particulars underpinning the civil rights movement. Some people might think you aren’t actually much interested in the topic.

Had you checked you might have discovered that Republicans had a better record on slavery than Democrats before the civil war because the Republican party wasn’t founded until 1854. There were exactly zero Republican presidents prior to Lincoln.

US presidents aren’t my thing, but I’d guess there they were pretty evenly split in terms of racism and other semi-permanent trans-cultural traits. But no matter when we’re trying to ground today’s anti-Republican bigotry and ignorance in historical fictions.

The strongest opponents of ending Jim Crow were Democrats. That’s a fact that we’d expect a reasonably well-informed 12-year old to know. So, I certainly wouldn’t expect you to know that it Trump to open up Florida’s exclusive country clubs to African-Americans, not cause he’s a great guy. He’s not. He just understands that all money spends.
Vanity Fair

…At that time (1986) Palm Beach’s Waspy private clubs had what he calls and open secret: as Trump claimed, they didn’t admit Jews or African-Americans…”He basically opened Palm Beach up…to make a buck. But he did it, and a lot of people in his shoes wouldn’t…”

Truman the Democratic president dropped two atomic bombs on a largely defeated people. Eisenhower the Republican president worried about the impact of a military-industrial complex operating to circumvent democratically-elected governments. A

You add so little to every discussion. Many thanks.

144

nastywoman 01.07.18 at 1:54 pm

@138
”I’m curious to learn who really sees Cruz as an improvement on Trump.”

Me!
Me!!
Here!!!
BE-cause Cruz seem to really like children – while Baby’s -(and that fact has been proven) absolutely hate the F…face and so I’m sooo with the Babies –
If you know what I mean? BUT as we all will elect a woman next time Cruz – firstly would have to do the Bruce Jenner thing before he would have a chance – and I somehow doubt it that he would be willing to get rid of his Schniedel?

145

Donald Johnson 01.07.18 at 2:36 pm

“As for the rest, what of this exchange?”

I am not going to defend the preference BW said he had, but one silly ( IMO) comment months ago does not invalidate Bruces’s post 137. I agreed with most of it and I voted for Clinton. I also think Trump is probably guilty of impeachable offenses, for whatever difference that makes. Impeachable by the weird standards of American politics, where crimes against humanity are insignificant things that only purity trolls worry about. Most Presidents are guilty of those. Trump likely obstructed justice.

146

Layman 01.07.18 at 3:42 pm

Yan: “jfc what planet are we on? Are you aware of the history of the FBIand the CIA? How on earth is the burden of proof on their skeptics’ side?”

Yan, if you don’t grasp the difference between ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’, you should stay out of the conversation. I’m not asking you to agree that their claims are proven; nor am I asking you to prove the FBI and CIA are lying. I’m putting no burden of proof on you or anyone else. I’m asking you to acknowledge that there is actually some evidence of the claims, whether it is conclusive or not. That’s why I aimed my comment at the ‘there is no evidence’ crowd.

147

SusanC 01.07.18 at 7:32 pm

Trump has said so many outrageous things, we’re spoiled for choice in ways we might criticize him. But I’m kind of surprised that, out of all the many things that could have been picked, the Russian elction tampering is the one that’s getting the attention. At this point, it seems to me to carry too high a risk of not panning out, relative to others that seem more in the bag.

I think I’d concentrate more on the others for now, and only become “shocked, shocked” to discover that he also did a dirty deal with the Russians when Mueller has something more concrete.

Still, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” and all… this kind of paranoid conspiracy theory will likely play well with the US electorate.

I’m wondering if the Mueller line of investigation will reveal a more structural problem with the American system, along the lines of:
– To run for president, you need to be a very rich guy (or girl)
– Most of the eligible rich guys are basically gangsters – their money is very dirty
– Organized crime is international, so the American gangsters and the Russian gangsters do deals with each other all the time
—> nearly all eligble candidates have some sort of questionable link to Putin.

148

Layman 01.07.18 at 8:04 pm

Donald Johnson: “I am not going to defend the preference BW said he had, but one silly ( IMO) comment months ago does not invalidate Bruces’s post 137.”

You’re welcome to that opinion, but I don’t share it. That comment wasn’t ‘silly’ in the sense that it was atypical of bw’s view; it was silly in the sense that it encapsulates his view, that Clinton is so bad that Trump is/was to be preferred. He’s been singing and dancing to that tune for more than a year, and I don’t really have any patience for his trying to weasel out of it now.

149

Layman 01.07.18 at 8:06 pm

@SusanC, Trump is a gangster in a way many other rich people are not, which is to say being an actual gangster.

150

bruce wilder 01.07.18 at 8:37 pm

Layman @ 139: What does it mean to say that you prefer Trump to Clinton and that you would never say you support Trump? I confess I don’t really grasp the fine distinction . . .

This is pretty old news now, but OK, I will explain, though it never seemed to do any good to explain back in 2016.

There was an argument, repeated by many and pushed pretty hard as I recall by Layman, that all you really needed to know to decide who to vote for or who to cheer for, was “the differences” between Trump and Clinton: Clinton was “obviously” better, you can stop thinking now, went that argument.

When I read what people wrote, who took this “differences” line, it seemed to be that the argument often functioned to make Clinton look much better than she actually was. Trump would be identified with seemingly impulsive and bellicose rhetoric as prone to war, and Clinton would be perceived as “different” from Trump, her record as a reckless and foolish war monger surrounded by advocates of an aggressive and interventionist foreign policy erased from memory just before all thinking stopped.

Something similar would happen with regard to Clinton’s neoliberal economic ideas versus Trump’s nationalism and protectionism, though what was horrible in Clinton’s economic policy advocacy (in my view) had much more to do with her campaign and supporters punching left against Sanders while largely giving Trump and the Republicans a pass.

The whole long sordid history of how the Democratic Party has descended steadily down the slippery neoliberal slope from advocating for the working classes to protecting banksters on the strength of “lesser evil” arguments and punching left, pushing a policy ratchet that only turned one right-ward direction — all that disappeared from view in the “difference” argument. (Funnily, I do not think many bothered to argue that this time would be different!). I got off that train with Obama; I wasn’t going to go further in the same damnable direction with Clinton.

In my view, a legitimacy crisis was coming, and a Clinton Presidency would preside over that legitimacy crisis severely constrained by the domination of reactionary Republicans in most States and all other branches of the Federal government. A Clinton Administration would continue to punch left, discrediting and undermining any attempt to even think seriously about economic reform from the left or stop the foreign policy of perpetual and multiplying wars. The Republicans would force bad economic policy on Clinton or simply paralyze the government, while blaming Clinton and “liberal Democrats” for the all the consequences.

A Trump Presidency would be easier on the credibility and popularity of the emerging Democratic post-neoliberal left. Republicans would be blamed for the consequences of their own policies; the neoliberal Democratic establishment would be discredited by its losses. I foolishly thought that in the circumstances of a Trump Presidency and Republican domination of all government, even the Democratic center would drift left, reviving in opposition arguments against war and against plutocratic corruption last heard in the GWB administration. In the long run, a failed Trump Presidency might prove to be better for the country and the world than a failed Clinton Presidency, in its effects on the evolution of American politics especially in the opportunity to organize a post-neoliberal left in place of the discredited and increasingly degenerate neoliberal Democratic Party.

That’s the sense in which I “preferred” Trump over Clinton, while despising both and despairing about the on-coming crisis. As Clinton continues to demonstrate her cluelessness and the dead hand of the Democratic establishment works very hard to engineer a partisan wave election without making any commitments on policy that would disturb their plutocratic donors, I cannot say I am happy with the result, but i also cannot say I think Clinton-in-charge would be a certain improvement. In the alternative scenario, I expect we would be talking about impeaching Clinton and Clinton’s unfitness for office, and justifying the 11-dimensional chess of her proposing to gut Social Security or cut taxes for billionaires or arm Ukraine. Clinton’s attempts to find Republican-lite blue dogs for mid-term Senate and House races would be going famously, the gutting of the Democratic Party fundraising and apparatus by Obama and Clinton forgotten.

My primary concern here is not to win an argument. I do not necessarily want other people to agree with me, at least not in the sense of joining with me in endorsing some counterfactual fantasy of what a Clinton Presidency would be like, dystopia or not. I do prefer to get some agreement on observable, objective facts, but people are going to evaluate things differently and have differing theories of the world and that’s fine and sometimes interesting.

I prefer discussions in which meta-moves are expected and welcome. We commenters, imho, should mainly be trying to be reflective and thoughtful, not bullying and insulting. Civility is over-rated by those who prefer banality; I am ok with sharp wit — don’t get me wrong. I do not object to insults, per se; I sometimes enjoy them. I do object to excluding or trying to close off meta observations. And, I object to arguing by deliberately misunderstanding or simply refusing to understand your interlocutors.

Many of my comments are about how people get trapped way down a path to nowhere where the simplifying assumptions and imagined counterfactuals of their preferred narratives lead them. No human can escape storytelling; it is central to our nature. But, we can loosen its grip, and our own vulnerability to techniques of mass manipulation, by some degree of reflecting on meta issues, essentially backing up along our path and rethinking key assumptions and theories. Being stuck on a path to nowhere is the tragedy of neoclassical economics and I suppose my obsession with criticism of neoclassical economics has shaped my pre-occupation with understanding how narratives en-trance and trap our thinking.

When a commenter introduces false dichotomies and disparages “fine distinctions” on her way to slandering her interlocutor for an argument no one would make or pushing counterfactuals in place of facts, I don’t think she’s adding value here. ymmv

151

J-D 01.07.18 at 8:52 pm

kidneystones
I seem to have got under you skin. That’s an unusual occurrence.

Had you checked you might have discovered that Republicans had a better record on slavery than Democrats before the civil war because the Republican party wasn’t founded until 1854. There were exactly zero Republican presidents prior to Lincoln.

Yes, thank you, I was aware of that. That in no way invalidates my observation, and I am mystified by your suggestion that it does. In the comment you’re responding to I wrote that the Republicans were ‘originally’ a better choice than the Democrats, and what I meant by ‘originally’ was exactly ‘in the period starting from 1854, when the party was founded’, although in the interests of brevity I did not spell that out explicitly. As I observed, this ceased to be the case after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Can you make a case for preferring, for example, Garfield to Hancock, or Harrison to Cleveland, or Taft to Wilson, or Landon to Roosevelt? There’s none I know of.

US presidents aren’t my thing,

That seems like a candid admission that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

but I’d guess there they were pretty evenly split in terms of racism and other semi-permanent trans-cultural traits.

In the comment you’re responding to, I made no reference to racism and/or other semi-permanent trans-cultural traits, and indeed no reference to presidents, so I’m not sure what makes you think this response is relevant. But in any case you guess wrong. So don’t guess.

The strongest opponents of ending Jim Crow were Democrats. That’s a fact that we’d expect a reasonably well-informed 12-year old to know.

That’s a typically foolish observation, even more so coming from somebody reportedly resident in Foreignania. The majority of reasonably well-informed twelve-year-olds are, like me, Foreignanians who can’t be expected even to know what Jim Crow was. When I was twelve I think I was comparatively well-informed for somebody of my age (I remember distinctly that I had that reputation), and probably even better informed about US history than the average Foreignanian twelve-year-old, but I probably hadn’t heard of Jim Crow. I’m better informed about US history now than I was at twelve, and I know that the strongest individual opponents of ending Jim Crow were Democrats, but I also know that it was their own party, nationally, that overrode them: it was a Democratic administration which pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then followed through with enforcement.

Truman the Democratic president dropped two atomic bombs on a largely defeated people.

Whether a President Dewey (or even a President Willkie) would have acted any differently is the sort of question to which no certain answer is possible. We can only make an estimate on the basis of the historical record of the Republican Party, and there’s nothing there to suggest they would have made a different decision. Certainly the Republican Party did not criticise the use of the atomic bomb at the time. It’s worth mentioning that the Secretary of War who was in charge of the Manhattan Project (and hence was involved in planning the use of the atomic bomb well before Truman was), and who favoured the earliest possible use of the atomic bomb against Japan, was a Republican (Henry L Stimson).

Eisenhower the Republican president worried about the impact of a military-industrial complex operating to circumvent democratically-elected governments.

But what’s relevant is not what Eisenhower said, but what he and other Republicans have done. The record does not show Republicans taking stronger action than Democrats against the military-industrial complex.

Finally, in case it’s not clear, I am not making the silly assertion that Democrats have never done anything bad or that Republicans have never done anything good.

152

nastywoman 01.07.18 at 11:23 pm

@150
that was a lot of words for agreeing with Susan (Sarandon) – and I also used to agree with Susan but only because a very long time ago I also thought that ”a Real Clown” could teach US to stop being Clowns – and then I realized we might love it being Clowns –
and then what?

Now?

Today?!

153

ph 01.08.18 at 1:06 am

@ Bruce Wilder is not me – very true, more’s the pity. Bruce writes more eloquently, certainly knows more in his area. Moreover, he always (seems to) write from the heart. At least he’s convinced me. As more than one neutral observer has noted, Bruce is one of the best/only reasons to read the comments. Anyone who chooses a user name such as ks, does so stand out among the already shrill. When I chose that name in 2006 I was very much one of the rabid lambs – first profoundly disappointed in the invasion of Iraq, and then outraged at the partisan politics practiced by the yesterday’s ‘patriot’ class of armchair warrior. To maintain continuity I’ve used the same name since. Yet, it would be silly to suggest the name itself does not function as bur. So, no complaints from me on a personal level for extra, sometimes undue, attention.

Bruce Wilder is a very different kettle of fish, however. He wrestled with the reality of a Clinton candidacy out in the open; he wasn’t always right and wasn’t always clear. But his real failure, of course, was that Bruce was thinking for himself, he wasn’t singing with the choir. He wasn’t self-censoring and he wasn’t alone. But because, perhaps, of his eloquence and stature he became the special target of the discourse police – and subject to attacks from those with a fraction of his knowledge and wit. Bruce refused to shut up and clap, then. Just as he refuses to shut and clap, now. His only failure, in my view, is believing that his critics are actually interested in what he has to say. The sole interest of the discourse police is in purging all deviant political expression. So, they keep busy.

Utterly and totally wrong about 2016, political football does not belong to the discourse police, in my view. However, he hasn’t lost an iota of his hubris. Backing a profoundly and openly flawed candidate with a proven track record of both bad decision-making and of failure, he admits to ‘not knowing anyone’ who’d vote for Trump. Which passes these parts too often for baseline sagacity. That needs to change.

I actually get the sense that Trump fever may be breaking and that the Wolff book is its final spasm, at least for many, what JH calls the new normal. The issue is now less the Russia probe (wonder if that has anything to do with piss-dossier and the FBI) and more about Trump’s dementia and mental health, both of which are easily falsified.

Nobody, so far, has been able to provide one compelling message to convince voters to vote for Democrats, rather than against Donald Trump. It’s easy to see why. Trump has started any new wars; unemployment and unemployment among African-Americans in particular, is at a record low.

Krugman, Mahr, Colbert, Maddow et al, the NYT, MSNBC, CNN and all liberal icons predicted catastrophe, mass deportations, prosecutions of the press, an end to freedom of speech and instead got a booming economy etc., a president who may well go to bed at 6:30 after a cheese burger, who still knows how to tie pretty much everyone in knots with his Twitter account.

How long can the end of the world fiction survive in this positive environment? Really.

Finally, thank you nw for the kind? words. I confess it’s hard to tell. Not a peep from you about entitlements? You think Cruz and the GOP establishment wouldn’t be means-testing social security and other programs as well as with full control of Congress. You think that herd of corrupt cats wouldn’t be working even harder to privatize at an even faster rate all segments of the government? What a quaint way of looking at the world!

@151 “what I meant… in the interests of brevity I did not spell that out explicitly.”
Gotcha.

To re-iterate, what happens when piss-dossier, son of piss-dossier, and the Wolff book don’t get ‘the job’ done? Trump gets a clean bill of physical and mental health sometime this spring, or summer. Then what? Pray for a terror attack, foreign war, or market crash?

What are the 5 2018 pro-Dem rallying points?

154

ken melvin 01.08.18 at 1:17 am

The most subtle of all forms of voter suppression is the most effective. This is how it’s being done today in America — straight out of Goebbels’ handbook — you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. Fox, the handmaiden of the telling, told the country over and over that the Clintons were corrupt and criminal. No other member of the entertainment/media genre held Fox accountable. After repetition after repetition of their account, today, 64% of Americans think that Clinton committed a criminal act in re her email server. Fox had help: All the other media/entertainment outlets repeated the Fox accusations time and time again. Nightly during 2016, PBS’s Judy Woodruff asked, “… and what about those emails?” Newsweek, time, The Guardian, The NYT. The WP, … all took a hand at the repetition. As a consequence of further ‘Goebbels’ like assaults on Clinton’s character, giving them a reason to dislike her, half the nation come to think of her as a despicable person. This form of suppression is how Trump won, won with some 23% of the eligible vote.

155

Faustusnotes 01.08.18 at 4:02 am

Oh, the Dems released their 2018 platform recently. It includes a $15 minimum age, paid family leave, rural infrastructure renewal, higher taxes on the very rich, and crackdowns on drug company price gouging.

Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it isn’t a fact. In fact, the odds are that in almost every case, anything you do know is likely to be wrong, and anything you say isn’t true is. You should learn to read, or stop being sub a transparent Republican shill.

156

J-D 01.08.18 at 7:21 am

kidneystones

@151 “what I meant… in the interests of brevity I did not spell that out explicitly.”
Gotcha.

To re-iterate, what happens when piss-dossier, son of piss-dossier, and the Wolff book don’t get ‘the job’ done? Trump gets a clean bill of physical and mental health sometime this spring, or summer. Then what? Pray for a terror attack, foreign war, or market crash?

What are the 5 2018 pro-Dem rallying points?

It is not clear whether you are asking me what the Democrats should campaign on in 2018, but I will respond to the question just in case.

Campaigns don’t influence how I vote; apparently (or so many people believe) they do influence how many people vote, but I don’t understand how. So I don’t have any ideas about what would be good campaign slogans for the Democrats in 2018. I don’t think my inability to suggest good campaign slogans is evidence for what’s likely to happen in the election; after all, I don’t have any ideas about what would be good campaign slogans for the Republicans, either.

157

SusanC 01.08.18 at 10:16 am

If Mueller should dicover that a casino owner has Mob connections, I’m not going to be all that surprised.

On the other hand, the psychiatrists may get to Trump first. Despite the Goldwater doctrine, they seem to queueing up to declare that in their professional opinion, he’s a danger to others. This has rather less due process than impeachment via criminal charges — Mueller actually has to find some evidence against Trump, the psychiatrists just have to convince the VP and a bunch of other officials that to invoke section 4 of the 25th amendment.

[I pretty much agree with the reasoning behind the Goldwater doctrine, and think it’s a bit dubious for psychiatrists to make public diagnoses of a patient they haven’t examined. On the other hand, if the VP becomes concerned about the president’s behavior, calls in a psychiatrist for a professional opinion, the psyhicatrist — after having properly examined the patient — makes an official diagnosis, the VP then decides to invoked the 25th amendment etc. that’s all by the book]

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nastywoman 01.08.18 at 11:12 am

@153
”Finally, thank you nw for the kind? words”?

You’re welcome – and just to be… clear? I don’t think that ”Cruz and the GOP establishment wouldn’t be means-testing social security and other programs as well as with full control of Congress.” And I don’t think that herd of corrupt cats wouldn’t be working even harder to privatize at an even faster rate all segments of the government?

But I just can’t think what that has to do with me thinking ”Cruz IS an improvement on Trump.”?

And that’s what I’m constantly ”thinking” – ever since a (since the eighties) proven idiot and racist Birther who got famous being called a F…face by Americas funniest Comedian ran for President?

What does the answer that nearly anybody in our homeland is ”an improvement on Trump.”? has to do with Monty Pythons declaration:

And Now to Something Completely Else?

And I’m not sayen that you are (not) Monty Python! to make that clear – also for… ”Bruce”.
-(and are we allowed to call him ”Bruce”?
or shouldn’t it be better to call him Mr. Wilder and wouldn’t that be really ”a quaint way of looking at the world”?!)

159

Layman 01.08.18 at 12:07 pm

@ bruce wilder

To summarize,

When people pointed out how much worse Trump was than Clinton, you thought they were trying to make Clinton look too good. Your view was that the election of Clinton would be good for plutocrats and bad for everyone else (never mind the obvious question of how much worse it would be if Trump were elected).

Looking at the larger picture, you thought it would be better in the long run, for the left and for the Democratic Party, if Trump won. Your reasons for thinking that are well-articulated; but in the long run, as they say, we are all dead, and you didn’t seem to be too bothered by the real suffering of people under that hypothetical (now real) Trump regime.

Anticipating that complaint, you can’t resist spinning a fantasy in which you speculate that a President Clinton would be pursuing the same (or worse!) legislative, executive, and foreign policy agenda as is Trump.

It is this spin which, in my view, spoils the intent of your post – which is to frame your support for Trump as an exercise in meta-politics, a long-game move designed to move the country to the left – because you simply can’t resist returning to the claim (or the intimation if you prefer) that Clinton was, on the issues and in character, probably as bad as or worse than Trump, regardless of the larger picture.

In any event, not to mince words, you supported Trump. Even if you didn’t vote for him, or donate to his campaign, or put signs on your lawn, you argued, here and perhaps elsewhere, that it would be better if he won; that you preferred that outcome. And, it has to be said, your argument for that preference is not appreciably different than that of kidneystones – that as an avowed leftist it would be better for the left if Trump won, breaking the grip of neoliberalism on the Democratic Party. So, maybe you should reconsider your denial of those two facts at 137?

160

steven t johnson 01.08.18 at 1:32 pm

ph@claims the economy is booming. This was Obama’s claim, and it falseness was why no Democratic candidate was going to have an easy time, no matter who was running against them. This was allegedly one of the things the Trumpists held against Clinton (who has been in power since 1992 in the Trumpist world view—this isn’t often explicit because it’s so manifestly dishonest/crazy, but there it is.) Double standards are always useful for political swindlers. Not that there’s any reason to expect Trump’s policies to affect the policy immediately, as ph also knows. Things are booming for the rich, and ph sees God in the heavens and all right with the world.

ken melvin@154 Two addenda: The media did not report on Trump, they just gave him free publicity. This is big money support, meaning all claims about Clinton being “the” Wall Street candidate were false. Many of the claims were deliberately supported by military/security factions, also giving the lie to claims Clinton was the Deep State candidate. (This particular phrase has only reached it peak of popularity recently. But as a diversion from a serious analysis in favor of a quasi-conspiratorial bad guys agitprop the essentials of the charge was made against Clinton.)

Also, the damage done to minds by Orwell, who pretends that you have to have an physical Memory Hole before you can have historical falsification, means that the origins of the Clinton demonization in a viciously partisan, blatantly reactionary campaign carried out by mad dogs funded by the usual suspects has disappeared, completely. This might seem impossible but consider how a ph, or a Bruce Wilder, or a Corey Robin, don’t notice how their man lost the election. (Well, in Robin’s case, how Sanders lost the primary campaign and would never have won the general.) They supposedly want the old system smashed (because moral purity demands, whatever.) The loser, who has nothing but a hijacked party restive under his hostile takeover, has a lot less power to drain the swamp. You’d think they’d care enough about their goal to be realistic about the facts.

(The Clinton supporters who affirm Trump won the election are expressing their commitment to the Constitution, the principle that minority rule is true democracy, that the people are rabble, etc. ad nauseam. But if they don’t just say this, then they can congratulate themselves on their leftism, especially when they assail the evil people, so unlike themselves, who elected Trump.)

ph, Bruce Wilder, Corey Robin, all the Trumpists in my opinion are still falsifying the issues with the Trump presidency, by highlighting the continuities with previous Republican and Democratic administrations. Why would anyone expect Trump to be creative? Of course he’s mostly going to be copying, especially since he doesn’t really have a party base. Things that are different about Trump: The open militarization of the administration; the extension of the old tactic of starving social programs in order to label them failed, to a strategy of denying any political interference by trashing government administration itself; open and direct threats against other political elites in the best style, copied from the decline of the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic; the open reliance on threats of nuclear genocide. There are three more years to go, only a fool or a liar is confident that Trump won’t live down to his tweets.

It is now commonplace to rehabilitate Nixon as a liberal, whose fall was apparently some sort of weirdly pointless exercise in hysteria. But the savage turn to the right marked by the Cold War, the start of a murderous crusade that killed millions worldwide and permanently excised the Left from mass politics in the US, introduced a political logic, momentum for a post-democratic order. The phrase “there is a lot of ruin in a country” is popular around here, not least because it’s true. Nixon tried to carry the program further, but got slapped down. Trump is carrying out the updated program, but instead of getting slapped down, only criticism from the right is acceptable. ph, Bruce Wilder, Corey Robin have only one thing in their favor…you can’t criticize Trump from the right.

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Cian 01.08.18 at 5:22 pm

What Bruce Wilder said at 150.

On balance I probably would have voted for Hillary if I’d had the option, and would certainly never vote for Trump. But it would have been a reluctant vote and made more through the calculus of who would be easier to fight/would do the least damage.

I think she was a bad candidate who would have done a lot of damaging stuff – and as Bruce says, she would have made rebuilding the Democratic party even harder. Her actions post losing have not changed my mind on this. A better candidate – hell a better person – would have acknowledged their part in the defeat and tried to make sure that it didn’t happen again.

162

Cian 01.08.18 at 5:27 pm

Ken Melvin:

Don’t be so bloody stupid. The way Republicans do voter suppression is by preventing people from voting. They do it through intimidation, by striking as many black and asian voters off the rolls as possible (completely illegal, but the Democrats don’t seem to care), by giving poorer wards fewer and crappier voting machines. By raising the voter requirements (you need an ID that costs $60 and can only be acquired by travelling 100 miles during the working day).

The continual disinterest of most Democrats in the continual, flagrant and completely illegal (in many cases) suppression of the vote speaks volumes. Particularly when so many of them subscribe to a conspiracy theory about Russian interference.

163

Cian 01.08.18 at 5:32 pm

Layman: @SusanC, Trump is a gangster in a way many other rich people are not, which is to say being an actual gangster.

I think you mean he associates with gangsters, unless you’re actually arguing he’s a made man in the Mafia or something. In which case…

I would be very surprised if you could find many billionares in finance, real estate or mining who haven’t done deals with gangsters of some description. It’s a rare billionare who hasn’t done some seriously shady stuff to get to where they are.

164

Cian 01.08.18 at 5:35 pm

Layman @146

Yan, if you don’t grasp the difference between ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’, you should stay out of the conversation. I’m not asking you to agree that their claims are proven; nor am I asking you to prove the FBI and CIA are lying. I’m putting no burden of proof on you or anyone else. I’m asking you to acknowledge that there is actually some evidence of the claims, whether it is conclusive or not. That’s why I aimed my comment at the ‘there is no evidence’ crowd.

We don’t know this. They may have evidence, but until they choose to share it we don’t actually know if it exists. Some souls, believers in the integrity of the FBI and CIA may choose to assume that they wouldn’t act as they are without something. Others more familiar with their long sordid history would rather suspend judgement.

165

politicalfootball 01.08.18 at 6:00 pm

Utterly and totally wrong about 2016, political football does not belong to the discourse police, in my view. However, he hasn’t lost an iota of his hubris. Backing a profoundly and openly flawed candidate with a proven track record of both bad decision-making and of failure, he admits to ‘not knowing anyone’ who’d vote for Trump.

I think this neatly captures your epistemic technique. The arguments that people make are irrelevant — you can make up what they say, or ignore what they say altogether. It’s a powerful method.

Just as revealing: you declare people or institutions qualified to have an opinion according to whether they agree with you, and you invent agreement where none exists.

“CNN” and “The Hill” are experts because they agree with you, even though they do not. And McCarthy becomes a quotable expert not because his piece is defensible — indeed, you claim that you wouldn’t cite him alone — but because you are able to read him in a way that agrees with fictional “CNN” and “The Hill” — and thus with you.

There’s a consistency, a sort of genuine fairness, to how you apply this.

Why is it that you as an American, would need to use an international blog to ask a non-American living in Asia, why Trump seemed the better candidate?

Indeed! Why should I give your opinion the time of day, since you’re clearly not qualified to have an opinion. It’s a sign of weakness on my part to make a sincere inquiry into someone’s view if that person disagrees with me, regardless of the merit of that person’s view.

I’ll tell you what I find interesting about you. There are a lot of anti-Clinton folks who cultivate irrelevance, who maintain the moral high ground by emulating Pontius Pilate and washing their hands. Not you. You own your pro-Trump views. That’s why I ask questions. And that’s why your failure to answer direct, on-point questions — to go so far as to mock me for even asking — is so interesting to me.

166

Cian 01.08.18 at 6:15 pm

@117 Heliopause: Perhaps what Cian objected to was the wildly inflammatory characterization of this contact; “peddling info and offering to act as a window washer…”

That was exactly what I objected to. Thank you.

167

Faustusnotes 01.08.18 at 11:40 pm

Why do you object when that’s exactly what they did, Cian?

168

J-D 01.09.18 at 1:59 am

SusanC

On the other hand, if the VP becomes concerned about the president’s behavior, calls in a psychiatrist for a professional opinion, the psyhicatrist — after having properly examined the patient — makes an official diagnosis, the VP then decides to invoked the 25th amendment etc. that’s all by the book

I am imagining, for the sake of argument, Pence saying to Trump, ‘Please allow this psychiatrist I’ve called in to examine you in order to form an opinion about whether you have a mental illness that would make you incapable of discharging the duties of the Presidency.’

Is that a serious suggestion? Do you think Trump would even let Pence get to the end of that sentence?

The procedural requirements of section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment don’t include an opinion from a psychiatrist, or any kind of doctor, or any kind of health professional, or any kind of professional. They do include the agreement of the Vice-President and a majority of ‘the principal officers of the executive departments’ — all of whom, let’s remember, were nominated by Trump. Which of them do you think would be likely to agree to a declaration of Trump’s incapacity? Ben Carson? Rick Perry? Betsy DeVos?

169

bruce wilder 01.09.18 at 3:48 am

nastywoman @ 158

You can certainly call me, Bruce, just to avoid confusion

And sing the Bruces’s Song:

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel.
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
’bout the raising of the wrist,
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away,
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
And Hobbes was fond of his dram.
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart,
“I drink, therefore I am.”
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he’s pissed

170

ph 01.09.18 at 4:54 am

@165 Thanks. I’m being called forthright and evasive at the same time.

So, what am I hiding from? Claims I that I predicted Trump might win by a landslide. Said that. Trump could lose? Said that.

On balance, I called it while you and the rest of my intellectual and moral superiors here and elsewhere managed to ignore the millions of Trump voters in your midst. While wailing about Koch-funded faux-populism, you manage to miss the thousands of voters, and non-voters, Republicans and former Democrats lined up for hours to listen to Trump without Bono or Springsteen to bring in the crowds – and then be damned as bigots and racists for doing so.

Being wrong and fantastically indifferent to fact in your universe entitles you to demand that those who get things right give an accounting, of some sort. I don’t blame you in the slightest for looking backwards. The present is not the concentration camp promised by Maddow et al. As for the future, you can’t present a single positive reason to vote Dem in 2018, or 2020.

Unless you and your crowd remedy that you’ve no choice to pray for some disaster to befall the American people to relieve you of the burden of you know, actually coming up with a message for the American people better than MAGA. If you don’t think Trump is winning, you’re paying about the same attention to the lay of the land as you did in 2015-6. Remember? Trump can’t possibly win!! You’ve no new ideas and still no new message but one that’s produced nothing but failure to date.

Find something positive to say why don’t you?

171

John Holbo 01.09.18 at 5:36 am

ph: “As for the future, you can’t present a single positive reason to vote Dem in 2018, or 2020.”

Healthcare? (Sorry to be boring by bringing policy into this!)

In general, I take your argument to be this, ph. It looks like Trump is losing right now. But it looked like he was losing in 2016 and he won. Ergo, he’s winning now. To put it mildly, that isn’t a good argument. Think of it this way: what would count as evidence that Trump wasn’t winning, for you?

172

Z 01.09.18 at 6:58 am

Then again John, and in fairness, what would count as evidence that Trump was winning, for you?

I really ask honestly because I could not imagine Trump being serious about his primary run, I could not imagine him surviving GOP opposition, I could not imagine him defeating so easily his opponents, I could certainly not imagine him winning the Presidency, I could not imagine him being able to pass his tax abomination, destroy anything related to environmental policy and move the US embassy to Jerusalem in his first year and I could not imagine that after losing to Trump the Dems would not go in a genuine examination of what they stand for.

Yet all this happened. So sure I cannot imagine anything except a crushing D victory in the mid-terms and then them recapturing the Presidency in 2020. But should I be so confident in my predictive abilities?

173

John Holbo 01.09.18 at 7:05 am

“Then again John, and in fairness, what would count as evidence that Trump was winning, for you?”

Well, if he weren’t doing terribly in the polls despite having a great economy that would be something! It’s understandable that we anti-Trump folks are once-bitten twice shy about this but I don’t think that’s any reason to go all up-is-down about it. The Republicans are looking at big losses in 2018 and Donald Trump is unpopular. His numbers have even slipped a little – just a little! – among Republicans. With partisanship as strong as it is these days it says something that his support has slipped at all, given the generally good economy.

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John Holbo 01.09.18 at 7:07 am

I give Trump a 33% chance in 2020! I figure there’s a good chance he will decide not to run and a good chance that a Dem will beat him but still a good chance that he’ll win.

175

Z 01.09.18 at 8:37 am

Yeah, all that is reasonable.

Also, if I may offer my own perspective as a non-American, the answer to the titular perspective is in my mind: yes, absolutely! Beside, I would find it extremely upsetting if the conventional media or quasi-historical wisdom eventually turned out to be “Trump’s first year in office was marked by an ongoing investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia” rather than, say, the rise of oligarchic power, the gutting of the EPA and of numerous environmental programs, brazen pro-ultrarich policies, atrocious foreign policy etc…

176

Z 01.09.18 at 8:38 am

“to the titular question…” of course

177

nastywoman 01.09.18 at 10:44 am

@ph:
“As for the future, you can’t present a single positive reason to vote Dem in 2018, or 2020.”

There are sometimes ”foreigners” who just don’t understand that ”we the people” vote for ”people” and NOT for ”parties”.
So – and I tried to explain that before – after our next (female) President will announce that SHE is running for President -(and she for sure will NOT run as a GOP candidate) that will become -(in an ironies way?) – the MOST positive reason to vote – ”Dem”.

178

Layman 01.09.18 at 10:47 am

Cian: “They may have evidence, but until they choose to share it we don’t actually know if it exists.”

You see, this is a false statement. We do know that they have evidence. They have the analysis from Crowdstrike. That analysis is evidence, and they have it, and we know they have it. So when you say that they don’t have evidence, or that we don’t know if they have evidence, that’s not true. Yet you keep saying it. Why?

179

ph 01.09.18 at 10:53 am

Hi John, I include links for a reason. Healthcare need not be boring and you’re on to something, says Richard Vague at bloggingheads. (Sorry, no time for links.) Re: our respective and very real differences.

Trump didn’t like he was losing to me from 2015 on. Indeed, I only had to listen to him a couple times to declare he’d win. That’s the part that hasn’t changed. And one of the main reasons I was sure Trump would win is because of what the Democratic party is today: a party that fixed it’s own nomination for president, ran a candidate whose husband accepted a 5oo k fee for a speech in Moscow while the US was selling 20 percent of its uranium to Russian interests, whose 32 year-old daughter had a couple of six-figure part-time jobs, one with the ‘neutral’ NBC, etc. etc. etc. But the main reasons were economic.

The press and the elites literally promised the moon when Obama was elected, an end of global warming, etc. Hell, he got a Nobel peace prize before doing anything. And didn’t the Democrats lap that up. Control of the executive and congress! We won, bitches! Cept of course the ‘we’ turned out to be the 1 percent more than anyone. Surprise! But the NYT et al simply ignored the destruction of the black middle-class in the Obama solution to the housing crisis: give banksters bonuses, as well as the continual descent into under-employment and the creation of the multiple-part-time job economy. Oh, yeah did I mention that you’ll be training your low-wage globalized replacement if you hope to get a reference and a pay-out. In short, the people might have voted for an Obama third-term didn’t, as I mentioned earlier. That’s the dynamic in play. Wallets, and for the moment – wallets period. I don’t think the Dems have got the parts to take Trump out. He might self-destruct.

But here’s the THING.

Now that piss-dossier has given way to Trump’s tweets confirm he’s crazy!!!, what happens if Trump stops tweeting as much? What happens if he just decides to take the show on the road? He loves crowds and the adulation. Then what? You’ve got a low-attention span audience in search of a new buzz. And trashing Trump could become, well, so 2015. If, or when, Trump starts tweeting less, his numbers will likely climb and he ended 2017 up. To win all Trump needs to do is survive. 1 year in, still kicking.

He’s declared (for what little that’s worth) that’s ‘retired’ from backing challengers to GOP incumbents. What happens when Trump starts acting half-way normal and the economy keeps growing? Hint, go watch Richard Vague. His focus groups are much more illuminating than any others.

I’d like to see Democrats find a platform and a candidate I can support again and couldn’t give a rat’s ass if Trump sees out this term.

180

Mario 01.09.18 at 11:10 am

John

181

Lee A. Arnold 01.09.18 at 12:02 pm

Trump can win in 2020, if:

1) He can overcome the fact that he is a baby in a playpen in a caretaker government, and will sign anything that is put in front of him by the 1%.

2) Younger voters all get lobotomies and decide that outbursts of stupidity and racism from the leader is a good thing.

3) The growing U.S. military presence in every theatre of operations doesn’t lead it into a big war.

4) There is not a big loss of troops in Afghanistan. N. Korea doesn’t hit Seoul.

4) Trump’s weakening of U.S. diplomacy and trade negotiations does not trip it into a big war, or obvious economic isolation.

5) The Democratic Party doesn’t pick up a new, big, solid, young backbench in the 2018 midterms.

6) MSNBC and CNN don’t hire an outsider to revise their antiquated editorial strategies and general presentation. It would be so easy to be #1. Call me.

7) Idealists persist in believing that the Democratic Party must present a grand scheme of reform of the political economy, or else it is better to vote for the greater evil in order to “heighten the contradictions” (an old 1960’s Marxist phrase).

182

ph 01.09.18 at 12:20 pm

Correction: Trump looked like he was winning from the time I first watched. What made you think he was losing? Did somebody tell you and you believed them?

Meanwhile, the penny drops for David Brooks…

“I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country. I mention these inconvenient observations because the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally,… “

Brooks stumbles on the reality what a Trump WH looks like if Trump stops tweeting.

183

Mario 01.09.18 at 1:06 pm

I think John’s estimate is about as good as it gets right now. Once the democratic party has a candidate, more can be said.

From afar, I wonder how many capable people the Democratic party has that, at the same time, satisfy all the very high purity criteria (note that the republicans don’t have that problem). Such a person must also survive the internal power play. And raise the money needed. And be able to credibly tackle Orange Godzilla one on one live on TV. To me it all looks like a long shot.

I’d say there’s a 10% chance that they manage to nominate someone that can actually win against Trump.

184

alfredlordbleep 01.09.18 at 1:28 pm

JH @171 Combining policy and the daily news—

An independent energy agency on Monday rejected a Trump administration plan to bolster coal-fired and nuclear power plants with subsidies. . . The administration’s plan was opposed by an unusual coalition of business and environmental groups that frequently disagree with each other. Critics said the plan would distort energy markets and raise prices for customers, especially in the northeastern and midwestern US. One called it “ludicrous” and perverse.

—The Guardian

That’s it, isn’t it? Ludicrous and perverse leadership.

185

John Holbo 01.09.18 at 2:05 pm

“What made you think he was losing? Did somebody tell you and you believed them?”

He was consistently down in the polls. Again, sorry to be old-fashioned, first bringing up policy and now bringing up polling.

186

John Holbo 01.09.18 at 2:21 pm

“What happens when Trump starts acting half-way normal …”

I agree that if Trump started acting normal – even halfway- he would be much better off. But why do you think he’s going to?

187

Faustusnotes 01.09.18 at 2:34 pm

Jesus fuck, I listed the Dems 2018 platform above. They described it in. NY Times editorial. But kidneystones is still going on about how no-one knows what it is when it is the first hit on Google. Can we be rid of this douchebag already!?

188

Layman 01.09.18 at 2:50 pm

Z: ‘Iwould find it extremely upsetting if the conventional media or quasi-historical wisdom eventually turned out to be “Trump’s first year in office was marked by an ongoing investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia” rather than, say, the rise of oligarchic power, the gutting of the EPA and of numerous environmental programs, brazen pro-ultrarich policies, atrocious foreign policy etc…’

I don’t really grasp the reasons for this concern. It’s not as if, right now, people aren’t decrying the rise of oligarchic power, the gutting of the EPA and numerous environmental programs, the brazen pro-ultrarich policies, the atrocious foreign policy etc.

The narrative from some seems to be that the ongoing Mueller probe and attendant political posturing from both sides makes it impossible to properly oppose those other things, or even to make noise about them; but there is plenty of opposition to them, and lots of eople are making noise about them. Every single Democrat in Congress opposed – loudly! – the tax bill and the regressive ACA repeal, and every media outlet on the left and in the center produced extensive coverage on them. The madness at the EPA, the INS, etc, gets covered virtually every single day. It’s a false narrative.

189

steven t johnson 01.09.18 at 3:07 pm

ph@153 wrote “Krugman, Mahr, Colbert, Maddow et al, the NYT, MSNBC, CNN and all liberal icons predicted catastrophe, mass deportations, prosecutions of the press, an end to freedom of speech and instead got a booming economy etc., a president who may well go to bed at 6:30 after a cheese burger, who still knows how to tie pretty much everyone in knots with his Twitter account.”

Again, the booming economy is double-barreled nonsense. But as for mass deportations, the recent news that a couple of hundred thousand El Salvadorans should have come to mind. And the request for a cease and desist order to stop publishing Fire and Fury does too, unless one surreptitiously raises the bar to include successful court actions. Plainly, Trumpery requires ignoring current events.

There is no principled way to promote right wing hysteria about the Clinton Foundation and foreigners, while objecting to right wing hysteria about the Trump campaign and foreigners. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The pot calls the kettle black. Six of one, half dozen of another.

If you want to go beyond cliches, you might say it’s about the choices between systematic corruption of Ins and Outs, versus caudillismo. Pretending the Outs are a principled opposition is supporting the system. The only argument for that is the lesser evil argument, which has worked so well. Pretending the caudillo isn’t a caudillo is supporting him. The argument for the caudillo as the lesser evil defies historical experience.

190

awy 01.09.18 at 5:05 pm

in a normal world, the ‘left’ would be up in arms over the creeping, nay, deluge of international kleptocratic norms into u.s. society.

191

PeteW 01.09.18 at 6:45 pm

“What made you think he was losing?”

Well not only was he consistently down in the polls, but his own campaign only put his chances at 30%.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-fivethirtyeight-gave-trump-a-better-chance-than-almost-anyone-else/

And he almost certainly would have lost had it not been for the bombshell of Comey’s letter.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-comey-letter-probably-cost-clinton-the-election/

So get over yourself, ph. If indeed you did predict Trump would win, you turned out to be right only by an unforeseeable fluke, not by prescience or your uncannily deep understanding of the neglected US blue-collar voter.

192

bruce wilder 01.09.18 at 7:07 pm

Mario @ 183: “I wonder how many capable people the Democratic party has that, at the same time, satisfy all the very high purity criteria . . .”

Lee A. Arnold @ 181: “Idealists persist in believing that the Democratic Party must present a grand scheme of reform of the political economy.”

I wonder if, like Layman, you think the country is better off with a Democratic Party continuing in the grip of Wall Street donors and a neoliberal ideology of “getting things done” while fighting a half-dozen or more small wars? Nominating a Presidential candidate in 2016 that satisfied no idea of purity or “capable” and was adamantly opposed to all grand schemes of reform worked out so well that you think the Democratic Party should give it another go?

Using narrative tropes to disparage criteria for their “purity” or idealism for its impracticality obscures more than it reveals.

Lee, do you really imagine that the people who own and manage CNN or MSNBC need your advice? I don’t doubt you could offer them good advice on how to run their operations to better serve your tastes (or mine, for that matter). And, better serve the public good, too! But, don’t you think the way they are actually run reflects structural and systematic constraints? Not just the complex preferences of the corporate owners, but the ecology of politics and the press in a plutocratic state? Do you really imagine that your advice and insight is the strategic factor holding them back? back from what?

Mario, do you think the concern with who finances the political Parties and political campaigns (and how that money is deployed, e.g. in teevee advertising) is akin to an obsession with ritual purity? It is not a reasonable concern with the structures constraining the functioning of the political system? It is a badly worded prayer before bedtime? Or, committing to eat fish on Fridays during Lent?

The stock market is at record highs and life expectancy is declining. Whether that combo is good for Trump in 2020 is not really a question we should be pondering.

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J-D 01.09.18 at 7:37 pm

kidneystones

I’d like to see Democrats find a platform and a candidate I can support again …If you’re suggesting that the Democrats can win if they have a platform and a candidate that you support but they can’t win if they have a platform and a candidate that you don’t support; if you’re suggesting that they lost last time because they had a platform and a candidate that you didn’t support; then that’s a very silly suggestion.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.09.18 at 8:14 pm

John Holbo #86: “if Trump started acting normal”

He showed a patch of coherence at today’s roundtable meeting on immigration. It may be best to separate three different things: 1. his unpreparedness for the job, 2. his short attention span and intellectual atomization, and 3. the possibility of his deterioration. (Some of his oldest friends are reported to have said there are real changes.)

Next, no matter whether it is 1, 2, or 3, look at how the Republicans got him to sign a tax bill that sends most of the money up to the 1% — something he assured his voters he would not do.

Then, look at the outcome of his relative patch of clarity at the today’s immigration roundtable — the result was to throw a couple of big wrenches into GOP policy preferences.

So regardless of the etiology, all is not well in Trumpland.

195

nastywoman 01.09.18 at 10:10 pm

@194
”He showed a patch of coherence at today’s roundtable meeting on immigration.”

It just scared him to death that Oprah might run against him.

196

Layman 01.09.18 at 11:08 pm

bruce wilder: “I wonder if, like Layman, you think the country is better off with a Democratic Party continuing in the grip of Wall Street donors and a neoliberal ideology of “getting things done” while fighting a half-dozen or more small wars?”

Why only half the question, Bruce? Better off with that than what, exactly? Trump? Cruz or Rubio? Is that even a serious question?

197

Lee A. Arnold 01.09.18 at 11:26 pm

Bruce Wilder #192: “you think the country is better off with a Democratic Party continuing in the grip of Wall Street donors and a neoliberal ideology…[etc]… narrative tropes to disparage criteria for their “purity” or idealism for its impracticality obscures more than it reveals”

What is your grand scheme of reform? Please tell us the mechanics, or give us a link. It doesn’t exist. Blaming the compromising Democratic Party for sucking the air out of the room and preventing its formulation is unreal. It’s not going to emerge out of the wisdom of crowds. Usually the best that crowds do is inch incrementally towards change. Obama couldn’t get a single payer public option through his own Democratic Senate and couldn’t get comprehensive immigration reform through a Republican Congress. So Obama secured a promise to universal coverage via an insurance klooge. And Obama executive-actioned more border security + protection for Dreamers. And Republicans screamed. Why? Because this deliberately punted both things into the near future, and they knew it. But with a difference: the big Change was that individuals’ social preference was strengthened toward universal coverage and toward letting the Dreamers stay, in a fait accompli, because now, both things are real. It changes thinking. This is how it happens. And look at what is going on now — the Republicans have to give in to these things, they are over a barrel. It has revealed more than it obscured.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.09.18 at 11:35 pm

Bruce Wilder #192: “don’t you think the way they [CNN, MSNBC] are actually run reflects structural and systematic constraints? Not just the complex preferences of the corporate owners, but the ecology of politics and the press in a plutocratic state?”

No to the first question. To the second question, there is still a lot of room for more constructive creativity. Especially when it increases viewership.

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alfredlordbleep 01.09.18 at 11:36 pm

Faustusnotes@187 (This was, as of last summer, persuasive—as a platform)

Democrats “Better Deal”. Of course, the question is what of this they’re willing to fight for; and how much is “promising”.

. . . Beyond their new vision for antitrust, Democrats revealed two other planks in their 2018 agenda Monday: fighting price-gouging in the drug market, and tax credits encouraging small businesses to invest in retraining workers. On the first count, the party calls for allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, and for the establishment of an office dedicated to monitoring price-gouging in the drug market.

At least as interesting—

. . . The Democrats call for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to adopt new guidelines, allowing them to judge mergers on the basis of their impact on jobs, wages, competition, and innovation, in addition to consumer prices. The guidelines would also mandate a bias against mergers between large companies — such parties would need to demonstrate that their plans advance the public interest, rather than merely pose little harm to it.

The Democrats also propose a post-merger review process, which would allow regulators to break up companies that engage in abusive, anti-competitive behavior after their mergers were approved. Finally, the plan would establish a “consumer competition” advocate that would field complaints about anti-competitive actions and publish regular reports on “market concentration and abuses of economic power.”

[emphasis added]
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/democrats-unveil-populist-economic-agenda-for-2018.html

200

Lee A. Arnold 01.09.18 at 11:53 pm

Nastywoman #195: “Oprah”

I think you may have hit the nail on the head. Maybe Trump will begin to style himself after Oprah.

201

politicalfootball 01.10.18 at 12:00 am

@165 Thanks. I’m being called forthright and evasive at the same time.

Exactly! It is gratifying to be read so clearly.

You and Trump are similar this way. He is correctly lauded for his authenticity even as he lies all the time. This is paradoxical to the Crooked Timber intellectuals, but you and I understand each other perfectly.

So, what am I hiding from? Claims I that I predicted Trump might win by a landslide. Said that. Trump could lose? Said that.

You predicted that Trump would win by getting more votes than Hillary. That was your central error, and the one that you can’t acknowledge because doing so would undermine your ongoing narrative.

People mock Trump for saying that his inauguration had bigger crowds than Obama’s, but you and I understand the power of his technique.

Just as Trump and the Republicans do, you control the terms of the conversation by denying reality without shame. Just now, you asked John Holbo to provide evidence that Trump was losing the election, and he cites polls — as if we didn’t literally have an election that showed who voters preferred as president!

It’s fascinating to watch.

202

ph 01.10.18 at 12:59 am

@191 Hi Pete, Well, you’re entitled to your opinions and your sources. I take a more granular approach, was trained in mixed-method research, and my guess is that the qualitative side collapsed badly in most of these polls. Polls that got it right – LA Times, and one or two others.

@On forcing change. The only tactic available to most of us is collective action, the threat of the withdrawal of labor, slow-downs-work to rule, and strikes. Unlike many here I came to academia and formal teaching after the age of thirty. My politics were informed by T.C. Douglas and my attitude towards companies by Homer Stevens. I belonged to five different unions and was involved in strikes and labor actions as recently as this century.

Unless people who are unhappy with the state of affairs are willing to go on strike and bankrupt the company, the company never changes. And all the purity police are doing the bosses’ work for them. The last action was involved with was a wildcat strike. I was initially against the action. An Australian colleague explained that if did not strike, the company would just draw out the negotiations through the next year as they had done the last. Hitting the company hard and suddenly was the only way to force the company to the negotiating table to make real concessions. We struck and the company bent.

This concept is utterly foreign to many here, for whom ‘being left’ means mouthing platitudes about the working class whilst living a bourgeois lifestyle. Many of the people I know work on one-year contracts. Going on strike means risking blackballing and a loss of income. Yet, it’s either that. Or, bend over and grab ankle. I choose the former.

Continue voting for and supporting the Clinton gang and the DNC and their moneyed backers will continue to retain their stranglehold on the Democratic party. Withdraw support now and then, cost them their place at the trough now and then, and ordinary folks might get their attention. Absent that, we don’t even exist for these pricks.

I’ve a massive project due and expect to post only in spasms. The new bloggers look very promising. I’ll wish them well here at the bottom of this thread, from the periphery, where folks like me belong.

203

faustusnotes 01.10.18 at 6:22 am

Quintessential patronizing kidneystones, coming onto a left wing blog and talking as if he’s the only person there who ever did any activism, sneering at everyone for living a “bourgeois lifestyle” while he works as a professor after being an English teacher at a private school (the classic bourgeoisie). This kind of completely off-topic egregious, insulting and patronizing ranting is really ruining this blog.

204

faustusnotes 01.10.18 at 6:22 am

alfredlordbleep, you failed to mention the $15 minimum wage. I wonder why?

205

J-D 01.10.18 at 8:28 am

politicalfootball

You and Trump are similar this way. He is correctly lauded for his authenticity even as he lies all the time. This is paradoxical to the Crooked Timber intellectuals, but you and I understand each other perfectly.

George Costanza: Just remember, Jerry, it isn’t a lie if you believe it.

206

Z 01.10.18 at 8:54 am

Layman @188 It’s not as if, right now, people aren’t decrying the rise of oligarchic power, the gutting of the EPA and numerous environmental programs, the brazen pro-ultrarich policies, the atrocious foreign policy etc.

First let me be clear, I don’t want to diminish the importance of the Russiagate: the Trump campaign clearly had many shady deals with Russians, many lied about it, Trump tried to obstruct the investigation etc… All this should be properly investigated.

Now, I don’t live in the US so I can’t really capture the Zeitgeist, but I sometime have the impression that the Russiagate is treated as the single most damning thing about the Trump administration and produces the largest amount of news story, ink spilled and emotional responses. Maybe this is a completely mistaken impression, but if it is at least somewhat correct, then I find it regrettable, because even if the absolute worse is proven to be true about the Russiagate, it remains to me a rather minor affair compared to all the rest. Donald Johnson has already mentioned it here many times, but once again what the Trump administration has done completely openly with respect to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Israel is directly comparable and a 100 times worse than anything that has been ever alleged with respect to Russia. This, they have done often with the tacit support of the media and mild Democratic opposition at best. So I would tend to doubt either the sincerity of the ethics of a Trump critic (either a person or a news organization) who is enraged at Russiagate but has nothing much to say about Saudi Arabia/Yemen/Israel (for instance).

Sometimes, I suspect that what makes the Russiagate so special is that it is an angle of attack from which Trump and Trump alone is vulnerable, whereas on most other topics, the rest of the Republican party and to a large extent the Democratic party including Obama and Clinton are also vulnerable. So attacking Trump along this line is the surest way to sink him while leaving the rest of the political system intact. I completely disapprove of this method of conducting political opposition for moral reasons. After Clinton lost to Trump (to Trump!) wielding this very method, I also seriously doubt its efficiency, at least in the American context.

207

PeteW 01.10.18 at 9:10 am

Ph,
You preferred the LA Times poll, which predicted Trump would win the popular vote by 3%?
Hmm. How did that work out?
I don’t think you are discussing this in good faith, are you?

208

J-D 01.10.18 at 9:52 am

kidneystones
I don’t know of any instance in which people have induced a political party to make desired policy changes by blackmailing the party with the threat of withheld votes; if that’s really what you’re suggesting, it seems to me a grossly self-indulgent fantasy. However, if I’m wrong, and if the tactic can work, then it’s clearly more important to apply it to the Republicans; getting them to change their policies is surely a higher priority than getting the Democrats to do so. By all means, withhold your support from the Republicans until you get their attention.

I’ve a massive project due and expect to post only in spasms.

Only since you mention it, my impression was that your comments have always been mostly spasms, but maybe that’s just me.

209

Mario 01.10.18 at 9:52 am

bruce wilder,

I wonder if, like Layman, you think the country is better off with a Democratic Party continuing in the grip of Wall Street donors and a neoliberal ideology of “getting things done” while fighting a half-dozen or more small wars? Nominating a Presidential candidate in 2016 that satisfied no idea of purity or “capable” and was adamantly opposed to all grand schemes of reform worked out so well that you think the Democratic Party should give it another go?

With purity I meant compliance with piety requirements and pet moral convictions of a certain segment of the liberal voter base. Not policy in general. Please don’t think that I am saying that this is a good state of affairs.

Would a promiscuous heterosexual white man be allowed to be a candidate for the Dems? I don’t think we have to even look at his policy proposals. The Dems have discarded some very valuable human resources for basically nothing in the name of piety (for example, Al Franken) and will probably continue to do so. If you want to end up with only a small pool of very dull and weak candidates, that’s the way to do it.

With respect to raising money – that also happens to be one of the real constraints. It’s sad but true.

P.S: Oprah Winfrey will probably stumble over a picture of her being chums with Harvey Weinstein. Hashtag: #OprahKnew. Welcome to the 21st century.

210

Nigel 01.10.18 at 11:26 am

‘Absent that, we don’t even exist for these pricks.’

Literally everyone bearing the brunt of Trump don’t exist for some pricks.

211

Faustusnotes 01.10.18 at 11:55 am

Z, I don’t entirely agree with you about the extent to which people are focusing only on Russians but to the extent it’s true I think the reason is partially to do with evidence. This administration is impervious to accusations of wrongdoing in so many ways – they ignore obvious facts and brazen their way through any accusations. But with Russia gate we have an independent group of people who are generally respected (by the media at least) who are uncovering objective evidence – emails, meetings etc – with the added bonus of Trump insiders turning on Trump’s to give evidence. Compared to “your response to the Puerto Rico disaster was poor”‘ “you sent an email agreeing to meet a Russian stooge for the promise of dirt on Clinton” is clear and unavoidable. It cuts through Trump’s bluster and his administration’s lies, just like this new book that presents everything in the voice of administration insiders.

Trump can bullshit his way through something like withdrawing from the Paris accord but he can’t bullshit his way out of this. That’s why he’s so mad with Bannon for his comments on the Trump Tower meeting.

I don’t have much sympathy for the us media but you’ve got to admit that against a group of people this slippery, they’re going to grab onto any help they can get.

212

Faustusnotes 01.10.18 at 11:56 am

Shorter Mario: I don’t care about sexual harassment and neither should you.

213

Layman 01.10.18 at 12:36 pm

Z: “This, they have done often with the tacit support of the media and mild Democratic opposition at best.”

I think you’re going to have to elaborate on how you measure the strength of opposition, or its mildness.

214

alfredlordbleep 01.10.18 at 1:43 pm

Z@206

Exactly!

Sometimes, I suspect that what makes the Russiagate so special is that it is an angle of attack from which Trump and Trump alone is vulnerable, whereas on most other topics, the rest of the Republican party and to a large extent the Democratic party including Obama and Clinton are also vulnerable. So attacking Trump along this line is the surest way to sink him while leaving the rest of the political system intact.—Z

I have always advocated approaching presidential elections by asking what a candidate can accomplish given core party ideology, who controls which branch of government or is within striking distance of doing so, what recent history of party acts shows etc. . . (Of course) last is a candidate’s peccadillos.

Any evaluation of a 2016 Republican candidate should have started with Bush-Cheney as the foundation of lamentable.

P. S. In this country, Z, your screen name suggests the mark of Zorro.
P.P.S. sidenote to Faustusnotes: sorry, I was emphasizing the omissions in your list. Neither of us can be exhaustive on the fly.

215

Donald Johnson 01.10.18 at 2:35 pm

“Now, I don’t live in the US so I can’t really capture the Zeitgeist, but I sometime have the impression that the Russiagate is treated as the single most damning thing about the Trump administration and produces the largest amount of news story, ink spilled and emotional responses. “

This is correct.

https://fair.org/home/msnbc-yemen-russia-coverage-2017/

216

Donald Johnson 01.10.18 at 3:02 pm

Adding some anecdotal data to the FAIR report I linked, I have never had a real life conversation about Yemen unless I brought it up. I am around educated upper middle class people and Trump comes up and Russiagate comes up all the time. The fact that we are complicit in a crime against humanity— never. I have brought it up a few times in real life ( many times at another blog ) and my impression is that some people know about it and some don’t, but obviously the FAIR piece reflects not just MSNBC’s coverage, but virtually everybody’s coverage.

Russiagate should be investigated and no doubt various acts of corruption will continue to be uncovered. I am agnostic about the Russiagate narrative, but it might be true. And Trump wouldn’t know an ethical constraint if it bit him. Which it might at the end of all this. But I think the obsession with it is for the reasons Z says— it is a way of picking one issue where the awfulness of our system can be focused on one subset of people. Issues like Yemen which implicate a much larger group get ignored. We even have the rehabilitation of some Bush Cheney figures, including Bush.

I also think Russiagate is in large part a way of pushing for a more hawkish foreign policy.

217

Donald Johnson 01.10.18 at 3:08 pm

“I also think Russiagate is in large part a way of pushing for a more hawkish foreign policy.”

Aimed specifically at Russia. Of course Trump is already hawkish towards Iran, a Russian ally, and he has agreed to supplyvweapons to the Ukrainians, but so long as he is perceived as being Putin’s puppet he is more likely to go along with more policies of that sort.

On North Korea I think he is hawkish in his tweets because he is mentally unstable and should be removed on 25 th Amendment grounds. Which won’t happen so long as rich people get their tax cuts.

Sorry for the three separate posts. To make up for it, I won’t post any more today.

218

Z 01.10.18 at 3:14 pm

Layman I think you’re going to have to elaborate on how you measure the strength of opposition, or its mildness.

I guess that is a fair standard for you to impose, and again, maybe my impression is due to my foreign perspective (and undoubtedly my own limitations) but it stems from little bits like this:
-I understood immediately the title of this post, just like I would understand immediately a reference to Comey’s October surprise, yet I don’t know the name of the senator from California who opposed the Saudi-led and US-backed war on Yemen.
-I know of that senator because I listen to rather marginal outlets, if other joined his fight, it escaped my attention and the interest of the media source I consult.
-The US moving its embassy to Jerusalem provoked international protests. Did the Democratic party and the US media of reference really join in? It seemed to have escaped my attention and that of the media source I use if they did. I don’t think I even know the official position of the Democratic party on this.
-How often does the topic of the Russia collusion shows up here, on CT, either in OP or in comments? How often does the war in Yemen? The Kushner-managed Saudi-Israel-US alignment? The gutting of the EPA?

Finally, let me ask you a question in return. Imagine if Trump had gone to Russia and had signed billions in weapon deals with Putin. Imagine the reaction. Do you think the reaction to his trip to Saudi Arabia compares?

Now Faustusnotes gives a very intelligible rationale @211 and for all I know, all this could be in the eye of the beholder (i.e me) and not reflect any reality. Still.

alfredlordbleep @214P. S. In this country, Z, your screen name suggests the mark of Zorro.

Well, if you insist that the picture below is a picture of yours truly, I’m not going to deny too strongly.

http://e-cdn-images.deezer.com/images/cover/9960c4613f85e77c4691190a40c4285f/500×500.jpg

219

SusanC 01.10.18 at 3:40 pm

Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of Glenn Simpson

You’re all wondering if Trump will turn out to be a crook and yet no-one’s mentioned this yet…

220

SusanC 01.10.18 at 4:15 pm

Per. Glenn Simpson’s testimony, this has all the elements of a good film noir.

For the Hollywood movie adaptation, feel free to imagine Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele as basically being private investigators who are good buddies. (cf. Woodward and Bernstein in Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men, the Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey characters in True Detective, Sam Spade and Miles in The Maltese Falcon etc).

Glenn Simpson does the bits of PI work that involve looking up public records (like Trump’s tax returns); he used to be a journalist for the Wall Street Journal. Christopher Steele does the bits that involve going and talking to people; he used to work for the British spy agency MI6.

The film equivalent of Mary Astor’s character femme fatale character in The Maltese Falcon is presumably Hilary Clinton, although Simpson’s testimony is careful to avoid naming his client.

So the femme fatale or someone working on her behalf hires Simpson to investigate a presidential candidate, one Donald Trump. Simpson subcontracts out the legwork to his old buddy, Christopher Steele.

Simpson goes through the tax returns for Trump’s gold courses in Scotland, and finds they’re officially not very profitable. Maybe the tax authorities are being misled; maybe Trump is getting his money from elsewhere. Trump also has suspicious business contacts with Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif.

Meanwhile, Steele is contacting his sources in Russia. In the usual fashion of film noir movies, he uncovers rumours that Trump is a much bigger crook than they were led to expect. There are rumours of a sex tape involving Trump and Russian hookers in a hotel room, which implies the Russian FSB may be blackmailing Trump. he also hears that Trump has asked his Russian contacts to obtain information on the Democrat campaign using computer hacking.

Steele thinks this is big enough that they ought to call the cops. Steele discusses it with Simpson, then goes and talks to an old buddy of his who happens to work for the FBI.

The FBI have already heard something similar from a different source, likely a mole in the Trump campaign.

At this point, things start to go wrong. There’s a leak to the press that the FBI are investigating Trump’s Russian connections and (so the Halloween newspaper article claims) didn’t find anything.

Steele now doesn’t trust entirely trust the cops. He thinks there’s a mole inside the FBI who is leaking information back to Trump. (Maybe the agent inside the FBI is working for Russian organized crime, or maybe they’re just a Republican supporter). This, combined with Mark Comey’s announcements about FBI investigation into Clinton, makes him distrust the cops.

More film noir stuff happens, some of Steele’s contacts wind up dead, etc.

221

nastywoman 01.10.18 at 4:37 pm

@209
P.S your P.S
No – Oprah Winfrey will probably NOT stumble over a picture of her being chums with Harvey Weinstein. – as dudes -(who still run this countries) you don’t care about that.

Right?

222

politicalfootball 01.10.18 at 5:12 pm

George Costanza: Just remember, Jerry, it isn’t a lie if you believe it.

Ah, but does kidneystones really believe it? Costanza’s discussion of lie detectors gets at the deeper questions: What does it mean to believe something? How ought we choose the things we believe?

We all know, including ph, that Hillary got more votes than Trump, so that’s not worth debating. The real question is: How cans someone say that more Americans preferred Trump?

I think Suskind’s “reality-based community” discussion is the Rosetta Stone for understanding people like ph and Trump — and therefore, for understanding much of modern politics. When ph talks about Americans’ preference for Trump — or when Trump talks about the relative size of his inauguration crowds — these aren’t attempts to describe reality. And calling them “lies” is too superficial; it doesn’t account for the actual work done by those false statements.

These are not attempts to deceive people about reality. They are attempts to shape reality.

So in a way, it’s really off-topic to respond to ph by discussing Hillary’s relative popularity, or whether the Democrats have acquiesced to Trump’s policies, or whether Russia’s intervention in the US election is important. Intelligent conversations can be had on those topics, but ph is explicitly opposed to that kind of conversation.

So what is his aim? I agree with ph that he is representative of something really important — something that is easy to miss for people like me — and I want to understand him better than I do. I’ve learned some interesting things in this thread.

223

anon/portly 01.10.18 at 5:49 pm

ph in 170: So, what am I hiding from? Claims I that I predicted Trump might win by a landslide. Said that. Trump could lose? Said that. … On balance, I called it while you and the rest of my intellectual and moral superiors here and elsewhere managed to ignore the millions of Trump voters in your midst.

ph in 202: @191 Hi Pete, Well, you’re entitled to your opinions and your sources. I take a more granular approach, was trained in mixed-method research, and my guess is that the qualitative side collapsed badly in most of these polls. Polls that got it right – LA Times, and one or two others.

I have no idea what “more granular approach” and “the qualitative side collapsed badly” are supposed to mean, but PeteW was absolutely right to link to Nate Silver – Nate Silver “called it.” Not because he said that Trump was going to win, but because he explained that the race was too close to call, and that there was a good chance – difficult to quantitatively characterize – that Trump was going to win.

(To summarize: Hillary was up in the polls, but [1] not up by so much that “typical” polling errors couldn’t swing things the other way; [2] lots of “undecided” voters adding to the uncertainty; and [3] Trump had a much better chance of winning the EC than the popular vote).

Silver to me was dead on. I was persuaded, and not surprised on election night when things quickly turned in Trump’s favor.

kidneystones meanwhile, got it all wrong. You couldn’t learn a thing about was what going to happen from reading his CT comments. Not only were his predictions somewhat varied and mostly somewhat inaccurate, as ph points out, but more importantly his reasoning was of obviously low quality.

Here is an example of his reasoning:

179:Trump didn’t like he was losing to me from 2015 on. Indeed, I only had to listen to him a couple times to declare he’d win. That’s the part that hasn’t changed. And one of the main reasons I was sure Trump would win is because of what the Democratic party is today: a party that fixed it’s own nomination for president, ran a candidate whose husband accepted a 5oo k fee for a speech in Moscow while the US was selling 20 percent of its uranium to Russian interests, whose 32 year-old daughter had a couple of six-figure part-time jobs, one with the ‘neutral’ NBC, etc. etc. etc. But the main reasons were economic.

Why should anyone else think Trump was going to win – remember, the election was very, very close, and obviously if you tweak (maybe a good solid tweak, but still) this or that element Trump would have lost – because kidneystones “listened to him?” kidneystones doesn’t explain what he heard. And meanwhile whether or not the great mass of American Swing Voters were even marginally informed of, let alone incensed by, the Clinton Crime Family Minutiae, who knows? I see no evidence that ph knows or kidneystones knew.

The important thing about Hillary is that voters didn’t like her – she was the least-liked major party candidate of the polling era, except of course Trump and possibly also Goldwater. Why the voters didn’t like her is probably an interesting question, but not one that I see ph being actually all that interested in.

To put things in annoying sports metaphor terms, ph reminds me of the Alabama fan who says “I knew we were going to win when I saw how stoic Coach Saban was on the sidelines.” Yeah, Coach was great! Meanwhile of course the game came down to a highly skilled Senior safety (inexplicably) cheating to the middle while Alabama was running a vertical down his sideline…. But “I called it” says the fan….

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anon/portly 01.10.18 at 7:26 pm

153: Krugman, Mahr, Colbert, Maddow et al, the NYT, MSNBC, CNN and all liberal icons predicted catastrophe, mass deportations, prosecutions of the press, an end to freedom of speech and instead got a booming economy etc., a president who may well go to bed at 6:30 after a cheese burger, who still knows how to tie pretty much everyone in knots with his Twitter account.

179: If, or when, Trump starts tweeting less, his numbers will likely climb and he ended 2017 up. To win all Trump needs to do is survive. 1 year in, still kicking.

179: But the main reasons [ph thought Trump would win] were economic.

I don’t want to so much disagree with ph here but point out what he is revealing in comment 153, inadvertently. What positive things can he say about Trump? Three things, most pertinently a “booming economy” and Twitter skill.*

Those are positives, but the first one, the “booming economy,” is the same economy, pretty much, we had 14 months ago. Unemployment continues to edge lower, great, but if the economy is so good now, why were the main reasons to vote for Trump “economic,” as claimed in 179? This makes zero sense, really.

Then as for Trump’s skill with Twitter, yes, that’s one string to his bow, I agree. He’s very good at riling up his opponents, and (or thus) motivating Republicans to side with him. But then ph suggests he stop tweeting! Now (assuming again you believe the comment 179 argument about the economy and not the comment 153 argument) all that leaves us with (from 153) is the 6:30 cheeseburger!

It seems to me that Trump is in a bit of a conundrum – his favorability ratings are very low, and the only way to make them higher is for Trump to become less like Trump. Is he capable of doing that? I view him as applying his real-estate development skills to politics; if you can’t be smart, there’s at least a certain cunning in being aggressive and unpredictable and flouting norms and so on. I find it hard to believe that we’re going to get “Trump Lite” in 2020.

The question asked in the title of this post strikes me as a little odd, as of course once voters did actually vote for Trump, despite the subset of the bad things known about Trump that became issues during the campaign, to a certain extent a process of “normalization” of bad behavior has become inevitable, and I don’t see why the Mueller investigation is or will be particularly significant in this respect. Of course with “normalization” also comes “fatigue,” hence I think ph thinks Trump needs to cut back a little.

Like John Holbo 174, I think it’s hard to say whether Trump will win, or lose, or not run in 2020. But I specifically would tie the “Trump win” scenario to the “Democrats nominate another unattractive candidate” scenario, so I see it as out of Trump’s hands, pretty much. ph’s scenario of a kindler, gentler Trump in 2020 is kind of scary to me; I can only imagine this happening through some sort of “Manchurian Candidate” scenario. At this point, being kinder and gentler would I think diminish too much the value of his brand for Trump to agree to it voluntarily.

*To be fair in the preceding paragraph of153 ph mentions a fourth, the lack of a “new war,” but I wonder if the way Trump has amplified the NK conflict might not look like a new war to voters, at this point.

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J-D 01.10.18 at 7:33 pm

Mario
For what it’s worth, I reject the notion that eliminating promiscuous people from the pool of potential candidates would leave only very dull and weak people, but that’s not the point, and it would be a distortion of the issue to suggest that it is. Rejecting people for being sexual predators is not equivalent to rejecting people for being promiscuous; do you really not grasp the difference? Eliminating sexual predators from the pool of potential candidates, even more emphatically, would not leave only very dull and weak people. The idea that the only people who are not sexual predators are very dull and weak people, as well as being inaccurate, is gross and slightly disturbing. If I can assume that you would accept the elimination of somebody from the pool of potential candidates for being a liar and a cheat, why would you protest the elimination of somebody for being a sexual predator? But perhaps the assumption is mistaken: perhaps you would have no objection to having a liar and a cheat as a candidate.

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Ogden Wernstrom 01.10.18 at 9:42 pm

Z@206 sez:

…I sometime[s] have the impression that the Russiagate is treated as the single most damning thing about the Trump administration and produces the largest amount of news story, ink spilled and emotional responses.

For the Trump faithful, it is what the Democrats find most-damning. The right-wing noise machine told them so, repeatedly.

However, for the anti-Trumper, it does, as Faustusnotes points out, have the apparent potential to issue criminal indictments to much of Trump’s appointees/cabinet for violations of election laws. Haters-of-Trump find the high likelihood of indictments of Trump family members encouraging, too. (I fear that Trump might use the nuclear option if the indictments go that far. In this use, “nuclear option” may be something other than a metaphor.)

P.S. In this country, we do not grant titles of nobility, such as “Lord”.

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Z 01.11.18 at 8:55 am

Ogden Wernsrtrom For the Trump faithful, it is what the Democrats find most-damning. […] However, for the anti-Trumper, it does […] have the apparent potential to issue criminal indictments to much of Trump’s appointees/cabinet for violations of election laws

Yeah, I understand the logic of the tactical choice, but I disapprove of the ethics and I doubt its efficiency. In all likelihood, this yields hyper-partisanship and norm erosion (as the very language of the description already indicates) in the short term and a bipartisan preservation of the most condemnable aspects of the political regime doubled with furious skirmishes about details in the long term. Who doubts, for instance, that George W Bush would be embraced by the D-leaning media if he were to publicly call for Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice in the wake of a particularly damning revelation during Mueller’s investigation? And what does that tell you about the American political system?

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nastywoman 01.11.18 at 2:05 pm

– and could we please stop these… this… this expression ”Haters of Trump”? as there seems to be this weird thing in my homeland if you call somebody or something by it’s (proven) name it’s supposedly to be…?

What?

Or to be more precise – IF somebody – anybody – acts like a ”f… ing Moron” he actually wants to be called a ”f… ing Moron” and it would NOT be true to call him ”a nice person” -(for example) –
OR only if ”a nice person” would be code for being a F… ing Moron!
And nearly all the F… ing Morons I know – know that ”they are F… ing Morons” – Because they were told so plenty of times and never come up with the idea that anybody who stress this fact would ”hate” them?

Right?

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Layman 01.11.18 at 2:41 pm

Z: “In all likelihood, this yields hyper-partisanship and norm erosion (as the very language of the description already indicates) in the short term and a bipartisan preservation of the most condemnable aspects of the political regime doubled with furious skirmishes about details in the long term.”

Any argument which suggests that some tactic will lead to hyper-partisanship and norm erosion in America has IMO confused cause and effect. Hyper-partisanship is the existing background state against which tactical decisions are being made, not the other way around. Norm erosion is not, by and large, a bipartisan effort – it is almost entirely the province of the right. And I don’t really see how you get to the second conclusion. It seems to be something like this: Dems decide to object more vehemently to drowning puppies than they do drowning kittens —> Dems embrace drowning kittens. Really?

Like you, I deplore the habit of praising past scoundrels for speaking out against Trump now. Kristol created Trump with his enthusiasm for Palin. Bush and his gang created the Republican penchant for governing in a fantasy world devoid of objective facts. Frum helped gift us modern American conservatism in all its ugly glory. When they speak out about Trump, my inclination is to tell them and those who tout them to fuck off. But, I doubt sincerely that this is an attribute of the American political system; it seems to me to be basic human nature, and I’d guess you can find examples in any country where you choose to look for them.

As to yours at 218, I’m not sure you offer good examples, in part because you’ve cited policies with which some prominent Democrats historically agree. A number of them were for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem before Trump announced it. Many of them were and are for arming Saudi Arabia and bombing Yemen. These are in my view deplorable positions, but they are not being caused by too much attention on the Russia probe. And, it has to be said, the media have been all over the move, and the public is quite strongly against moving the embassy. There isn’t a lot of polling on Yemen, but what there is suggests that American are overwhelmingly against fighting a proxy war there or otherwise aiding Saudi Arabia. They are similarly against the changes at the EPA, etc, and those things get lots of coverage. So none of these are IMO examples of normaling bad stuff by being too focused on the Russia scandal.

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Donald Johnson 01.11.18 at 3:35 pm

Anonportly said—

“I don’t want to so much disagree with ph here but point out what he is revealing in comment 153, inadvertently. What positive things can he say about Trump? Three things, most pertinently a “booming economy” and Twitter skill.*

Those are positives, but the first one, the “booming economy,” is the same economy, pretty much, we had 14 months ago. Unemployment continues to edge lower, great, but if the economy is so good now, why were the main reasons to vote for Trump “economic,” as claimed in 179? This makes zero sense, really.”

I don’t object to pointing out contradictions in the statements of Trump and Trump supporters, but is it the progressive position that the economy is great and nobody has anything to complain about? My impression is that we have had a decades long trend of increased inequality. I am not an economist, but some people here are. The link below says most of the new jobs under Trump are poorly paid. If true, presumably that didn’t suddenly start under Trump.

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/washington-post-lied-correcting-president-trumps-1950-lies/

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Ogden Wernstrom 01.11.18 at 3:35 pm

Z:

Yeah, I understand the logic of the tactical choice, but I disapprove of the ethics and I doubt its efficiency.

I think I’ve lost track of the standard of ethics you espouse – and how can I fit your disapproval of investigating/prosecuting election crimes into said ethical framework. This begins to sound like advice from someone who wants the Dems to fail.

If the ethical issue is that the Democratic Party and their supporters avoid issues on which the Democrats might also be vulnerable (and amounts to more than whataboutism), have they been too easy on the sexual predators in the Republican Party?

Who doubts, for instance, that George W Bush would be embraced by the D-leaning media if he were to publicly call for Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice in the wake of a particularly damning revelation during Mueller’s investigation? And what does that tell you about the American political system?

So, if Dubya were to make such a public statement, the ethical high road would lead to…what behaviour from the press? Should he be ignored by the D-leaning media? (I think that the R-leaning media would jump right into providing criticism, so we don’t have to fret about that.)

I don’t find that thought experiments on this hypothetical lead me to any particular conclusion about the US political system. I think there are assumptions or implications that have not been stated, but which might have led you to a conclusion.

232

Collin Street 01.11.18 at 8:29 pm

Rejecting people for being sexual predators is not equivalent to rejecting people for being promiscuous; do you really not grasp the difference?

Unmanaged empathy impairment might reasonably leave the afflicted unable to distinguish between “promiscuity” and “sexual predation” [because unmanaged empathy impairment leads to obvious problems with seeing both sides of consent issues].

All &c &c. Even the crimes they commit are reflective of not seeing others as human.

233

alfredlordbleep 01.11.18 at 11:17 pm

@226
The Unimportance of Being Earnest
P. S. We love you too, Ogden. But snark doesn’t land you so much as light comedy and self-deprecation.

234

John Holbo 01.11.18 at 11:31 pm

Last call for comments. You don’t have to snark at home but, after another couple hours, you can’t snark here! (I think that’s good for public health and safety.)

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john c. halasz 01.12.18 at 12:06 am

@229:

“Norm erosion is not, by and large, a bipartisan effort – it is almost entirely the province of the right. “

This part is actually funny. What part of “legitimation crisis” do you not understand?

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Layman 01.12.18 at 2:47 am

Snarking here rather than at home, while I can.

237

J-D 01.12.18 at 4:04 am

So, what am I hiding from? Claims I that I predicted Trump might win by a landslide. Said that. Trump could lose? Said that.

kidneystones is laying a claim to a record for accurate prediction on the basis of having predicted, on the one hand, that Trump might win and, on the other hand, that Trump might lose.

I predicted that kidneystones would use this tactic.

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Z 01.12.18 at 8:14 am

Layman Hyper-partisanship is the existing background state against which tactical decisions are being made, not the other way around.

I agree, but the way out, if there is any, is not to play the game.

Layman Dems decide to object more vehemently to drowning puppies than they do drowning kittens —> Dems embrace drowning kittens. Really?

The way I see it, it looks more like the first clause is “Dems decide to object more vehemently to taking the last cookie without asking first if anybody else wants it than they do drowning kittens”. In that case, yeah, I tend to suspect that they don’t care so much about drowned kittens, or at least can live with it.

Ogden Wernstrom I think I’ve lost track of the standard of ethics you espouse

The standard of opposing policies based primarily on their seriousness and not based primarily on who committed them.

– and how can I fit your disapproval of investigating/prosecuting election crimes into said ethical framework.

I wonder how you could come to the previous conclusion based on “First let me be clear, I don’t want to diminish the importance of the Russiagate: the Trump campaign clearly had many shady deals with Russians, many lied about it, Trump tried to obstruct the investigation etc… All this should be properly investigated.

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Mario 01.12.18 at 8:47 am

Rejecting people for being sexual predators is not equivalent to rejecting people for being promiscuous; do you really not grasp the difference?

I never said such a thing.

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Peter T 01.12.18 at 10:09 am

re the basic claim – people in here think about politics a lot. People out there do not. Lots of publicity about Russian mafia/dirty deals/arrests/pee parties draws people out there’s attention to politics, and specifically to Trump. And the more they attend, the more they pick up on the other horrible things, and the less they like Trump. Mueller is one voice in the chorus to us, but he’s a focusing lens to the world out there.

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steven t johnson 01.12.18 at 2:32 pm

Instead of snarking at ph, an answer to the question posed….yes, because all criticisms from the right normalize Trump, and jingo panic over Russians is right wing. And crazy to boot.

The question tends to the invidious: Attempts to normalize Obama by a double standard for Trump are also right wing, even the ones that do so by attempting to scapegoat Clinton, a mere cabinet secretary for one term, for his entire presidency. In a centenary year of the Great War, attempts to whitewash the imperialist supporter Bernie Sanders also serve to disarm the masses.

All the so-called opponents of Trumpery share too much common ground. They all think the Great War was just an unseemly accident but the Bolshevik revolution was a tragedy (especially the ones who want to reduce it to a glorious dream…because they are secure in the knowledge people always wake up.) They all think the destruction of the Left in the US is a Good Thing, especially the ones who want to replace it with a New Improved Leftism that repudiates the Bolshevik revolution and similar tragic misfires. And the Great Crusade against Communism launched by “McCarthyism” is admired by one and all (of those who count.) If everyone (serious) agrees that the final victory in the capitalist restoration in Russia and the capitalist road in Chine were progress, not the true tragedies, worse for humanity in the long run than the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions, that’s because they share the fundamental moral commitments of their forefathers Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Joe McCarthy and Dick Nixon, the last liberal.

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Ogden Wernstrom 01.12.18 at 3:15 pm

I don’t know what bunched-up alfredlordbleep’s panties @233, but my top two theories are:

(1)He thought I was calling him a furriner, or
(2)He knows that the Mueller investigation is not what the right-wing noise machine says is “all the Dems got on Trump”. kindeystones exhibits conclusive evidence that said noise machine is saying that the “piss-dossier” is all the Dems got.

JH: Thank you for the snarkotunity.

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SusanC 01.12.18 at 10:42 pm

After reading loads of documents related to the Trump Russian scandal (hey, I was bored), I have a theory that would make me rather more sympathetic to Simpson and Steele.

It goes like this:
Someone (or someones) within Russian law enforcement is the equivalent of “Deep Throat” in Watergate. There is a debate within the Russian government as to what extent the spy agencies should be colluding with gangsters. There is an argument that enabling these gangsters is poor pubic policy in the long run. Some Russian cops know that criminal hackers are assisting Trump to hack into the DNC computers, but feel unable to go arrest them because the FSB/GRU are also in on it. Along comes the (ex) British spy Steele, who has been hired by Simpson who has been hired by the Clinton campaign. The Russian cops know Steele’s a spy, but tell Simpson’s field agents what’s going on and ask Steele if he could kindly ask his friends in the FBI to go and bust the crooks who are working for Trump.

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