The Buck Never Stops With Me And I Will Not Have Your Back

Does Donald J. Trump realize that he is president?  Is he saying he is going to actively sabotage the Affordable Care Act so that we the people will be reduced to begging for relief?  Does he realize that one of the men standing next to him today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, has plenty of regulatory discretion over the health exchanges.  Price can undermine the health of Americans in many ways.  Or help make things easier for people trying to get health care via sensible and flexible administrative rules and regulations.  Trump is never willing to be blamed, for anything, but from today forward controlling the “narrative” and deflecting accountability is going to get harder.

No Opting Out Of The Trump Risk Pool

Repeal or no repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we are all captives in the Trump America Risk Pool.   Sure, there are problems with Obamacare’s risk pool dos and don’ts, but they are pretty much limited to health care.  The Trump risk pool is a wider, deeper problem.  For example, the news that we may well have a suborned and blackmailed president next week: that puts all Americans in a scary risk pool, even if it is of our own devising.  (Scary enough that Trump is almost halfway right that his tax returns are a minor concern now.)  As Charlie Pierce put it today, “everybody is waiting for somebody else to do something.  It’s like we’re all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well….the president-elect may, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, have debts no honest man can pay.”

P.S. if you are ready to see Obamacare go down the tubes, because your own terrific health care is the Affordable Care Act, I have some bad news for you.

Democrats Should Extend At Least The Same Courtesies To Trump That Mitch McConnell Gave Obama

And I am trying to remember just what Senator McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said about President-elect Barack Obama in January 2009. Some words about making sure he would be a “one-term president,” among other words, if I recollect.

So the Senate Democrats should be at least as courteous to President Trump. Concerned that Senate Republicans will abolish the filibuster altogether? If McConnell turns the Senate into the House, and no cooling of the saucer remains, that will be on him. Trump and McConnell and Ryan own the economy along with all three branches of government. Constructive cooperation where it benefits the whole country is one thing; acquiescence, however, is not the answer, especially with the Supreme Court. Trump said women in some states will just have to drive to another state if they want an abortion.

Some have asserted that Trump in his campaign avoided insulting American citizens unless they stepped into the arena and opposed him. That’s very dubious, but be that as it may, now Trump has announced, on 60 Minutes, that he is right and millions of women are wrong–that is, women who decide to seek an abortion, depending on where they live, must go in many cases hundreds of miles out of their way. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of those women were definitely not in the arena and many of them voted for Donald Trump. It could be that some will say “Father Trump knows best” and vote for him again anyway in 2020. But if Democrats won’t filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court pick (or try to, and let McConnell be the one to go nuclear if he wants) what would they resist?

How’s That Swampy Drainy Thing Workin’ Out For Ya, Trump?

It is early days in Donald J. Trump’s new swamp-draining reality adventure. Let’s chill just a little bit and give him enough running room–I mean rope–and see what happens. I think the best protesting is likely to happen if and when Trump starts pissing people off. And in fairness to Trump or any president (missing you already, Obama, despite your mandarin tendencies) there are not too many easy win-win decisions that a president gets to make. If Trump increases the swamp gas fumes by hiring the oiliest of the lobbyist crowd, and shafts the “forgotten men and women,” the disgruntled “Carrier voters” of the rust belt who put him over the top, then the opportunity for successful protest will ripen. If Trump follows Paul Ryan’s lead and proposes privatizing Medicare and cutting off Trumpcare health exchange subsidies, solidarity against Republicans will be a much easier lift than if people disrupt highway traffic now and piss off ordinary people. Trump and the Republicans are about to take control of all three branches, and they will own the economy. They will either own the Affordable Care Act, or try to displace and dismember it. The hard choices are theirs, let them stew over it.

“Foul Precursor Of The Fiend” Coming Down The Pike Next? Or Passionate Progressive Pilgrim?

Some say Hillary Clinton is already our next President, though opinion is divided on whether she will have the authority to appoint Supreme Court justices.  Therefore many worriers have moved on to the ugly possibility that Trump’s ugliness was no aberration, just part of our glide path down to lower circles of uncivil purgatory. Could 2016 turn out to be our green and innocent salad days?  Could Donald Trump soon be judged as no more than “foul precursor of the fiend,” as Shakespeare put it in “The Phoenix and the Turtle”? And hello there Mitch McConnell–do you miss Jon Stewart’s imitations of you as a turtle yet?  Are you going to pretend you don’t even notice Supreme Court Justices die off one by one as you while away your turtle years as Senate Majority Leader?  And why are swing voters and even Democratic voters apparently not focused on the Supreme Court?  As the executive and legislative branches check each other, judges become the deciders and rulemakers more and more. If Hillary Clinton wins college-educated white voters for the first time in forever, how many of these voters fancy that they can split their tickets to preserve their high-mindedness without paying the costs of gridlock in the judicial branch?  And then what incentive will the Republican candidates next time around have to acknowledge that their party went off the rails in 2016?  Will we get a Republican nominee smoother than Trump (low bar I know) or Pence, more clever and disciplined, who will persuade voters with his (or maybe her) vision of freedom and liberty (a potentially winning theme almost ignored by both Trump and Clinton this year)?  Will President Hillary Clinton be wise enough to heed those latecomer supporters (Elizabeth Warren et al) who are not Clinton lifers but who can give Hillary cover if she is willing to go down the non-triangulation, outside-comfort-zone route of post-Occupy, post-Obergefell progressivism? Hillary’s Methodistic goal of doing “all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can,” to succeed, will require lots and lots on non-apologetic Apologetics.  As well as attention to the legitimate grievances (and maybe even some dubious ones) of the many millions of pro-Trump and never-Hillary citizens. And probably elimination of the filibuster for all judicial nominations.

P.S. When my (passionate pilgrim) Trump swears that he is made of truth, I do not believe him, because I have found that he lies.

Now’s The Time To Seize The Moral High Ground On Liberty And Freedom

Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!

Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.

Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in.  Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.

This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.

Think Hillary Probably Ought To Be In Prison? Here’s Why You Should Probably Vote For Her Anyway

Even if I believed that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for…whatever, I would still be inclined to vote for her. Here is why: I prefer to live in a democracy, though flawed, rather than a dictatorship. I would rather live in a country with limited government rather than personalized tyranny, which is what Trump promises us when he says “I am your voice…I alone will…restore law and order.”

It might well be, though I do not feel confident either way, that Hillary’s deletion of emails crossed into criminal behavior. It might very well be that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault and should be imprisoned for it.  That we have two very flawed candidates is unsettling and sometimes depressing. But only one candidate, Trump, has shown absolute disrespect for the bedrock of American democracy, which is peaceful transfer of power after elections. The last president who systematically corrupted the federal legal and surveillance apparatus was Richard Nixon, who was reelected in a landslide but two years later resigned in disgrace.  Nixon remains the only president ever to be forced out of office.  Trump is more frightening than Richard Nixon, which is saying something.  Nixon was brought down, and it looks as if Trump has disgusted enough voters that he will not get close to wielding executive power. It is disturbing, though, that if not for a video that revealed Trump’s casual abusiveness vividly enough to shake some undecideds, Trump might now have a 40 or 50 percent shot at the presidency. It may not be so viscerally disgusting as the “Days of Our Lives” video, but Trump’s threat to imprison his political opponent seems to me even more dangerous to our fragile experiment in representative democracy. As Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Update 10/10: in a pitch aimed straight at moderate suburban undecided voters, Maine Governor Paul Le Page said this morning that this country needs a “slimeball” (his word, not mine) to wield “authoritarian power” (CNN, via WVOM radio)

Update #2: Glenn Beck called Hillary Clinton a “moral, ethical choice” for President.  One response: “ice cream now being served in hell.”

Beautiful Compromise! Hillary To Be President But Under Constant Video Surveillance!

You heard it here first–Hillary Clinton will serve as our 45th President, but will be constantly under surveillance. Sounds fair? Well, fair or not, that’s how it’s gonna be. If you have been feeling Fox News is too polite, too restrained, too cuckservative and RINO-ish, your wish will be granted: Ailes, Bannon, and Trump will be running the virtual reality show of your very most feverish dreams.

P.S. Also, there will be 51 Democratic votes in the Senate, and the filibuster will be gone, at least for Supreme Court nominees. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire next June and be replaced by a 15-year-old Wiccan priestess.

Trump Is Not A Ragged Dick, Even If He Pretends To Be One On TV

Ragged Dick, the literary creation of Horatio Alger, “was not a model boy in all respects.” But he did try hard to become ‘spectable, which is more than we can say for Donald Trump. Trump’s “street life in New York” seems to have included losing over nine hundred million dollars in one year. Trump plays at being a blue-collar billionaire, but he might well have been better off if he had taken the loans and inheritance from his father and parked the money in a basic index fund.  What the heck would Ragged Dick make of Donald?

Staying Woke This November Means Holding Your Damned Nose, Not Setting Your Own Rump On Fire

Some election seasons, staying woke does not include utopian dreams. This is one of those years.

Staying woke sometimes means playing defense and voting against a nightmare candidate. Staying woke sometimes means voting for the lesser (this year, much lesser) evil. And then following up to make the best of the situation next winter and spring. It sometimes means not being hypnotized by the mainstream media’s hardcore addiction to false equivalence that is designed to narcotize you.

Charles Blow laid it all out in his op-ed on “The Folly of the Protest Vote” today. In sum–don’t mix up casting a ballot with endorsing a candidate’s shortcomings. Don’t pretend somebody other than Clinton or Trump will be President next year. Don’t forget that federal courts are “where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.” Don’t march for Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice and yet do nothing to keep Trump from picking the next attorney general. Don’t let the man who attacked the Flint pastor who interrupted him pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

For young people this year, a protest vote does not make you a better person than any of the impure candidates. It just makes you somebody who just set his or her own rump on fire.

Political Herd Immunity For Millennials

Yet another worry lately for folks sickened by Trump and either pro-Hillary or hold-nose-and-vote Hillary is the possibility that millennials will insult the legacy of Barack Obama and vote for Johnson or Stein. The upside of this is asserting one’s moral purity. The downside is President Trump. Rallying behind the Libertarians or the Greens gives the feeling of political herd immunity–but not the reality. The real vaccine is to take your castor oil and vote for the least destructive option. Too young to vote for the lesser evil, you say? You need to be inspired, you say? Breaking news courtesy of President Obama: don’t boo, vote! Hillary, trust me, will subsidize your adult coloring books next year.

The Best Way To Hold Your Nose On Election Day

The best way to hold your nose on Election Day, November 8–or earlier, if you vote early–is the usual, everyday method: just hold your nose and vote.

The worst way to hold your nose this election season is like the kid locked in the outhouse in Slumdog Millionaire did it, but much worse: you hold your nose, then you jump into a giant toxic waste dump of radioactive slime, and you vote for Donald J. Trump.  No doubt, Hillary shouldn’t have used fancy Latin words like “deplorable” to talk about Trump or his supporters. Plenty of Trump supporters have very real frustrations. And “deplorable” barely begins to express how sickening Trump himself is.

“Undecided” Suburban Whites Cry Tears Of Joy That Trump Is Officially No Longer Racist “Birther”…oops, oops, there he goes again!

Purportedly undecided suburban white registered voters were able to cry unashamed tears of joy for a brief while today that they could now officially vote for an officially nonracist Trump, after Trump officially ended all race-based doubts about President Barack Obama’s birthplace by making it crystal clear that Obama was in fact a natural-born American citizen. Trump’s false claim that Hillary started it and that “I know you are but what am I?” do not count as racist lies for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton is a white woman. Trump’s boastful claim that he, High Sheriff Donald J. Trump, “ended it” is also not a racist lie because we are all obligated to move on now to making America strong and great again. Any quibblers? … oopsie, hold up, he seems to have lost his teleprompter script again… A retired “birther” lieutenant general introducing him (wink) today?  And now Hillary was the founder of birtherism?  Really?  And, again, her Secret Service detail should let her and themselves get shot at?

Suicide By Politician?

Hat tip to Gaye Brown of Portland, Maine (NYT letter today) for the title. Yes, Hillary Clinton has real and serious flaws–but we voters often have to choose the lesser evil, just as we do in daily decisionmaking. Nothing to complain about.

But just in case we do, heaven forbid, commit national suicide by politician, here’s my investment tip: go long on the Russian ruble and your November 9 may well be a little less deplorable. See today’s Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald on Trump’s foreign business entanglements. How many millions does Trump personally owe Putin? Who knows?

Did Trump Really Need To Self-Deport Today?

Some say–Senator Harry Reid, for example–that Donald Trump, before he does any “extreme, extreme vetting” of other people, ought to take a naturalization test his own self. But Trump, believe me, just trust me, has as usual gone beyond the norm and flat-out self-deported. Some, actually many, thought he wanted to lose, just secretly. But few (because we are mostly losers) predicted that Trump would scram completely out of the country in the middle of summertime and into the frozen zone (per Vladimir Putin) of Transtrumpistan. Have a very, very nice, very long vacation, Mister.

Trump Colors Inside The Lines

OK maybe that was sarcasm; or not, trust me.

Many say Trump made a fool of mainstream media this week by getting them to take seriously his “sarcastic” remarks about Second Amendment “people” assassinating Hillary Clinton or her judicial appointees, as well as his “sarcastic” accusation that President Obama “founded” ISIS. Maybe he did make a fool of some “senior correspondents.” But I am not voting for best media personality, nor for Jackass-in-Chief. I like to believe I am still voting for a president of the United States. Not for somebody who controls the nukes, drones, soldiers, ships, and fighter jets–and who just hasn’t shown he can color inside any lines for more than a few minutes at a stretch. I certainly don’t have time or energy for four years of worry about his issues. Hillary has issues but I hope to be able to ignore them most of the time.

Defiant Comeback For Horrific Political Correctness?

Wondering if just maybe political correctness isn’t so horrific after all we’ve seen so far in 2016.  Do we have Trump to thank for opening our eyes to the feeling that there are worse things in the world than being “PC”? Could it even be that sometimes political correctness is just another way of saying “politeness”?

“If the alternative to political correctness is Trumpism, then most people of good will are likely to pick the former,” writes Ilya Somin in the Washington Post (Volokh Conspiracy blog). Somin equates the “zero-sum identity politics” of the “PC far left” with Trump’s “zero-sum identity politics for whites.” I agree with Somin and other rightist libertarians to the extent that some universities have failed in their mission and opened themselves to ridicule by favoring “safe spaces” over free speech rights. Nevertheless, the spectacle of Trump with nuclear codes is a far clearer and more present danger.

American culture has its strengths, but decorum, civility, and politeness are not always among them. Even so, we do not have to race all the way to the bottom this November.

Paul Ryan: “Putin Is A Devious Thug”–Yes, We Knew That Already, But How About Trump?

Trump is a big strong man who is also begging Vladimir Putin to help him beat Hillary Clinton. Republicans from Mike Pence to Speaker Paul Ryan have responded to Trump’s remarks today by condemning Putin. We know plenty about Putin already. Could you brave defenders of freedom show some courage and say Trump’s words amount to treason? If Hillary Clinton asked for political help from Russian military intelligence, how long would it take for Republicans to call for her imprisonment–oh, they did that already, eh?

How Strong Can Trump Be If He Needs Putin’s Help To Beat Hillary?

Not strong at all. I thought it was a sign of weakness and derangement when Trump disrespected John McCain for becoming a war prisoner. I expected stronger pushback from actual conservative Republicans running against him over Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution and complete lack of interest in liberty or freedom or limited government. That was then. Now Trump has gone full “Siberian candidate,” (hat tip Paul Krugman) and Hillary Clinton is the only obstacle left to a Trump presidency. There are no Republican elites with enough national constituency or credibility to oppose Trump. That leaves the donor class and the owners of Fox, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the AP and NYT to get over their bothsiderism and show some news judgment about where the threat to democracy lies.

Transylvania Vants “Valiant” Trump

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave lots of love to “valiant” Donald Trump today in Transylvania, and why not? I am not saying that Donald Trump was actually in Transylvania himself yesterday, nor that Trump sustains himself as an undead vampire. Not at all. Even if the National Enquirer flipped positions and published a story that Trump kept himself alive in an unnatural way, I would want to fact check that before believing it.  If you prefer reliable sources, see the Financial Times for details.

Will Our Next President Be Capable Of “Masterly Inactivity”?

Even the birthers are likely to miss Barack Obama by this time next year, in part because we are unlikely to have a president capable of masterly inactivity. Obama’s motto, “don’t do stupid s–t” is a vulgar way of expressing the modus operandi. Masterly inactivity can certainly be overrated and fetishized (as J. Peter Scoblic points out in a recent Washington Post opinion piece on Trump’s incapacity for inaction).  Examples of this include Obama’s Syria flipflops, and perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s almost complete silence for months in 1860 and early 1861, wishing to keep his options open and not to inflame tensions–see Harold Holzer’s “The Sound of Lincoln’s Silence,” NYT Disunion blog, 11/23/2010, and his 2010 book Lincoln: President-Elect, which explores in depth the pros and cons of Lincoln’s refusal to “open his mouth, save only to eat,”  as one of his political allies put it.  But there is some real danger, I believe, that a President Hillary Clinton will feel compelled to prove her toughness in ways that won’t serve the nation well. The much greater danger is that we could easily, out of a misplaced faith in his “law and order” rhetoric, elect Trump, who seems utterly incapable of inaction, even when it’s most called for. “Watchful waiting” is a critically important capability of 21st-century presidents, and it is about the last thing that I associate with “Trump.”  Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy in the mid-20th century were capable of watchful waiting.  I hope our next president will study their example.

Did Defiant Notorious RBG Start New Twitter Feed “Nolo Cholo Trump” Or Not?

Did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg go too far by starting up a new anti-Trump Twitter account? Is it “Nolo Cholo Trump” or “Nolo Cholo Anglo Trump”? Only the justice knows, and despite her recent public candor re Trump, she has not confirmed or denied anything, that I know of.