Friday, January 19, 2018

A Snapshot of Why Most Americans Disapprove of Trump

I caught this news report of a Joni Ernst town hall meeting where she got a earful from disenchanted voters. It demonstrates what Trump's GOP minions are up against in 2018.

Dude: One is the loneliest number. But do you have to be such a dick?

Yes, in most ways, "Trump is such a dick" sums up both his essential style and opens up a view into what might be his Waterloo, which is that people -- or some -- might envy or even admire dicks, but they rarely like them. Most Americans don't.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ends his first year in office with 39 percent of Americans approving of his job performance, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — the lowest mark in the poll’s history for any modern president ending his first year.
Fifty-seven percent disapprove of Trump’s job, including a majority of respondents — 51 percent — who now say they strongly disapprove, which is a record high for Trump in the survey. That’s compared with 26 percent of Americans who strongly approve of the president’s job.
Conservative Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa got a scolding from the dissatisfied at a meeting with constituents:

Senator, you might want to listen to your people. So far, it doesn't seem you do. That might be your Waterloo.

Trump: The Epitome of a Spoiled Child (and Why They Shouldn't Rule Countries)

Why shouldn't a spoiled man-child rule a country, let alone America? Because his utter disregard for the common good -- What is it to me? -- can only end in ruin. He's positive it won't be his, because when was it ever?

Trump's essential pose -- the shrug -- epitomizes his empathy
toward people who aren't him.

Donald Trump blew up politics -- and its essential quality, polity -- when he was convinced by his least empathetic advisors that we shouldn't care a whit for people from "shithole countries." So what was an uncharacteristic civil negotiation on a Tuesday became a "I want my Wall, I want my Wall!" temper tantrum by Thursday. Now, a week later, he's willing to blow up the government.

Why? The answer is clear to Elizabeth Bruenig of the Washington Post:
President Trump apparently had an affair with a porn star while his model wife was home with their newborn son. No surprise there. Keeping the affair out of the newspapers before the 2016 election reportedly cost him $130,000, around a measly 0.004 percent of his claimed net worth of $3.1 billion — nothing to him. The fact that you might be unsettled by this news also means nothing to him. Trump is impervious to scandal and immune to social censure. He is insulated from consequence by power, money and fame in a way not imaginable to the ordinary person. He is the freest man alive.
Americans like to think we invented freedom, but we really only extended it to an absurd conclusion in the person of Trump.
Trump is at his most furious when the exceptions arise — say, when complicated political maneuvering in Congress subverts his whims, or when the Constitution stops him from exercising autocratic caprice. “I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it,” Trump said of meddling with the Justice Department and the FBI in November. In May, he mused about eliminating legislative procedure and the filibuster, dismissing it all as “an archaic system.” Those checks on wild, wanton exercises of individual power must seem old-fashioned to Trump indeed, and they do echo ancient fears about the limitless exercise of the human will. James Madison had read his Aristotle, and Aristotle was right in the end about what the unbound will can do to a polity. But what did they know? When you’re a star, you can do anything.
Sounds about right -- and despicably wrong. In the end, he's grabbing us all by the pussy. It's what he does.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trump Shows Chief Justice Roberts Was Wrong. We Don't Live in a Post-Racial World.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in what may be an historic act of actual judicial activism, struck down important parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in his 2013 Shelby decision, claiming, essentially, that there's not enough racism to justify laws to protect against it. Trump's shithole world is proving him wrong.

Post-racial world, Chief Justice? Might want to rethink that.

We've seen time and again since the Shelby decision that one effect of it has been a never-ending string of attempts to limit minority voting through voter ID laws, limits on early voting, reduced voter access in minority precincts, etc. Republicans have even been caught bragging about it.

Now that Donald Trump has moved American racism out of the closet and back into the spotlight with his host of horribly blatant racist remarks crowned by his "shithole countries" outburst, John Roberts is looking something less than prescient with his Shelby ruling.
In 1965, the States could be divided into those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the Nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.
Not to impune Roberts motives in his stripping of core protections from the Voting Rights Act, but I doubt he'd go back and undo his decision if he could. It's long been a conservative goal to wrestle political control from liberals by undercutting their strength-through-diversity voting advantage gained from supporting minority causes. It was apparent at the time that the Shelby majority opinion was based not on the truth but rather on five white conservatives grabbing the brass ring of "fuck you, blacks" because they could, not because we really were finding ourselves in a post-racial world.

Jelani Cobb, whose New Yorker article provided the above Roberts' quote, described quite succinctly what was so wrong with Roberts', and the majority's, actions:
Tuesday’s ruling hinged upon the idea that the V.R.A. applies current legislative power to what is essentially a problem of the past. There’s a curious logic undergirding the decision, one that suggests a kind of judicial engineering if not activism. The Court’s argument that the election and reĆ«lection of an African-American President are evidence that the V.R.A. is no longer needed is roughly akin to arguing that declining crime rates mean we can comfortably strike down laws forbidding robbery. Minority voting turnout and registration rates “approach parity” in these places precisely because the V.R.A. serves as a deterrent to and recourse for voting discrimination. The violent subjugation of black voters in the South has all but vanished, but that overt kind of racism isn’t the best barometer of progress. Simple political interest—not raving negrophobic bigotry—has too often been enough to inspire efforts to diminish black turnout. [Boldface mine]
The now visible reality that racism is far from dead in this country and in fact has found it elevated by a real and unashamed racist managing to inhabit the Oval Office is an abrupt and shocking reminder of how far we in fact haven't come. Donald Trump will inevitably go down in history as the shithole president, but not before plenty of damage is done. That damage, unfortunately, was unleashed at least in part by the regrettable Roberts' opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, and the truth is now readily apparent.

We're not in a post-racial world, far from it.

Good Morning, America: Yes, Trump's Racism Reflects America's. Did We Have to Remind the World?

No, we shouldn't be surprised that Donald Trump's "shithole countries" remark galvanizes his support among white nationalists that populate, especially, rural America. We should be disgusted and repulsed at the reminder of our racist past, present, and future.

Think, open mouth, disgust two thirds of the population. The other third? your base.

Full disclosure: I'm a racist. Why? Because I'm an American of nominal privilege. What's that privilege? I'm white in America. Like Lady Gaga says, I'm born this way. As a relatively enlightened (I hope) American, I work to catch myself and my racism in order to be a better person.

This is not a confession. I've recognized this about myself -- and, generally speaking, all white Americans -- for years. It comes with the territory. Also, I lived in the South and was married, for a time, to someone who hailed from Mobile, Alabama. It's not hard, then, for me to grasp the racist heritage of much of our country.

Okay. Awareness of self and country doesn't prepare your to get mugged by your president's behavior. Nor is it easy when you realize that Trump's shithole racism ignites fervor in the hearts of his white nationalist fans. It's disappointing, though, when the Washington Post says another "one true thing" we wished weren't true.
Trump’s slur Thursday against the “shithole countries” from which he would rather the United States take fewer immigrants sparked a louder-than-usual tempest Friday, but the storm took a very familiar shape.
Each side reacted more or less according to script: evermore frustrated expressions of outrage from those who believed that the president had confirmed his racism; and evermore fervent defenses from those who supported Trump in the first place because, as many of them have argued for two years, he says what many Americans think.
There it is. We're disgusted but not surprised. But this "Yes, this is America after all" moment isn't taking place in a vacuum: It's playing out on the world stage and undoing, if nothing else, the illusion that America is something other than a shithole of racism. And we certainly could have done without that. Too late.

Update. John Judis of TPM offers similar reflections.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Only Fraud the Voter Fraud Commission Uncovered Was Its Chairman, Kris Kobach

In what may be the starkest example of zero accomplishment, Trump's commission on election integrity is shutting down and destroying its voter data, but not before turning over the results of its investigation to Homeland Security. Trouble is, there is no voter data and therefore no results. Neat trick.

Kansas Secretary of State would be a deer in the
headlights if he was a deer or had headlights.

Trump's voter fraud commission closed down for good, mostly because it couldn't find any voter fraud. It didn't help that election officials in the various states said "fuck off" to virtually all and any requests for voter data.

So when Kris Kobach made a big show of handing the investigation over to the Department of Homeland Security, he neglected to mention there was nothing left over to hand over:
In a court filing on Tuesday, the White House announced that it had not uncovered any preliminary findings of voter fraud in the 2016 election and that it would be destroying confidential voter data initially collected for President Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission, which was disbanded on January 3.
“The Commission did not create any preliminary findings,” White House Director of Information Technology Charles C. Herndon said. “In any event, no Commission records or data will be transferred to the DHS or another agency, except to NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration] if required, in accordance with federal law.”
He added that “no Commission member was provided access to the state voter data prior to the Commission’s termination and none has access now.”
This is another blessed example of harm that didn't happen because the Trump administration is so incompetent. I wish that were so in every case.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Trump DACA Flub Initially Scrubbed in Official Transcript

Trump's televised immigration meeting -- meant, among other things, to rehabilitate his image post-Michael Wolff book -- contained enough policy confusion that his most confusing, and confused, statement apparently got snipped.

Trump's initial agreement on a clean DACA bill was flagged by Majority Whip
Kevin McCarthy (3rd from right), after which Trump kinda, sorta retreated.

I, too, noticed it when Donald Trump said to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's request for a clean DACA bill, "Yeah, I would like to do it." Very quickly, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy stepped in to correct the president. The White House's official transcript didn't include the flub.

The White House's initial response to the discovered rescission was, "Meh, huh?" Later, according to CBS News, the White House slipped the language back in. I guess the Trump administration isn't quite yet ready for wholesale rewriting of history. Not yet.

Oh, and good luck with that rehab business.

Update. For some lol, check what post-rehab Trumps sounds like:

Just so you know, the released testimony, which the GOP has refused to release in a bipartisan fashion, is unclassified, so nothing stood in Feinstein's way. But, hey, it's Trump, so saying some random thing to happify his base is de rigueur. BTW, Donald, Sneaky Dianne Feinstein? Schtick is getting old...

Absolutely Fabulous: Judge Rules in Favor of DACA Because Trump Praised It in a Tweet

A presidential tweet is a presidential statement. So it has been determined. Soooo, Trump bites himself on the ass again.

"Whaddya mean I should shut up? Talking's all I got."

Earth to Trump: Quit with the tweets. Court to Trump: Your tweet is gold, so DACA stays.

No fooling, ninth circuit court judge ruled that HHS illegally ended the DACA program when it said it was an illegal Obama executive order. Only courts can do that, silly! And anyway, Trump likes DACA, he said so himself, so the fact that the country's highest executive like it means it stays, pending adjudication. Snap!
[Federal District Court Judge] Alsup was tasked with, among other things, determining whether it would serve the public interest to leave DACA in place while litigation over the decision to scrap the program proceeds.
On this point, he had an easy answer: Trump himself had expressed support for DACA on Twitter in September, just days after Department of Homeland Security officials rescinded it.
So what does Donnie do? Of course he tweets something stupid. Like clockwork.

On and on it goes.

Update. I found another article pointing out that Judge Alsup referenced in his ruling another Trump tweet that proved legal necessity wasn't the reason for shutting down DACA but that it was political maneuvering:

Just completely rich.