No Reason the House of Representatives Can’t Do Two Or Even Three Things At Once

Speaker Pelosi is quoted in today’s NYT (article by Glenn Thrush) saying that Democrats need to “own the center left, own the mainstream.” And that “our passions [in the 2018 election] were for health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government–a simple message….we did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party.” She says “we have to inoculate against” the possibility that the president will challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory in 2020 unless the margin is margin is overwhelming, and has a “coldblooded” plan to be rid of Trump: “do not get dragged into a protracted impeachment” fight that would be crushed in the GOP Senate, and do not risk alienating moderate voters, instead “own the center left, own the mainstream.” Nevertheless, according to Thrush, Pelosi is “losing patience” and “suggesting that Mr. Trump’s behavior rises to the level of impeachment, even if she views the processs itself as unacceptably dangerous for Democrats.”

I hope the portrayal of Speaker Pelosi in the Times is not completely accurate. If it is, she is proposing some false choices. There are certainly some overly exuberant and even fanatical impeachment enthusiasts (some undoubtedly trolls with ulterior motives, some sincere). But House Democrats are or ought to be capable of fighting for health care, for better jobs and wages, for laws protecting workers’ rights and voting rights, and at the same time fight for cleaner government. The cleaner government agenda is hollow if it does not focus on overseeing and checking the abuses of power, the unconstitutional self-dealing, the obstruction of justice, and the disloyalty to our democratic republic by this president. The Mueller report is barely the half of it. There is really no need for a “protracted” impeachment. No good reason that impeachment hearings could begin after Memorial Day and articles drawn up before the 4th of July recess, and a vote taken sometime this summer, before Labor Day. Then let the Senate and Mitch McConnell do what they will. Maybe they will manage to avoid holding a trial at all. All the better for Democrats who want to “own the mainstream.”

If Democrats cannot defend the Constitution, the Take Care Clause, and the integrity of our government, something is really wrong with them. This president is not going to hold back from challenging the legitimacy of the 2020 election or the Supreme Court or the Federal Reserve or anything. Democrats were elected in November 2018 to fight for our health care and other kitchen-table issues, and many millions of people are far too busy to follow all the details of his corruption. But the case for impeachment is as clear as it can be. On practical grounds and on principle. Posing false choices and straw men is not the answer. Public opinion is fluid right now, but the moment won’t last indefinitely, and hard choices must be made, not this week perhaps but within a week or so after Robert Mueller testifies publicly (as reported) sometime later this month. No stepping backward.


And Now For Some Adult Supervision In Washington

Adult supervision was on the ballot in November 2018, and it won big.  Now some are predicting that 2019 will be an even wilder ride–but it doesn’t have to be that at all.  Why should we accept the soft bigotry of low expectations for our president?  Nancy Pelosi is not likely to do anything radically disruptive.  It’s up to the president to become presidential, if he is able.  Shouldn’t we expect our president to be not a toddler?  Not an enabler of Russian disinformation?  Not a thug but rather a president for all Americans?  So if 2019 is an even wilder ride than the last two years, it probably won’t be because “both sides” are lacking in civility.  A few Democrats can and will act foolish, but the leadership in the House of Representatives has an opportunity to pass bills that–if the president and the Senate cooperate–make America a better and greater place.  Will Senator McConnell and President Trump persist in serving the interests of the 1% of the 1%? Will they persist in overfilling the swamp with even more special-interest lobbyists in charge of our health care and our environment and our public lands and our military?

This year does not need to be a wild ride at all.  It can be a year of draining the swamp of self-dealing politicians, starting at the top.  The president is perfectly capable of respecting the rule of law and going quietly. If he is rude and corrupt and unhinged, we need not make a big drama out of marginalizing him and, if warranted, removing him. Democrats have the opportunity to do the people’s work calmly and professionally.  They can legislate and investigate, no need to choose.  They can pass a minimum wage increase, and fixes for the Affordable Care Act, voting rights legislation, clean air laws to counteract the EPA’s disgraceful abdications to polluters, renew the Violence Against Women Act (which Paul Ryan allowed to lapse), and much more–and if the Republican Senate and the president refuse to make these bills into law, so much the worse for them in November 2020.

Judge Kavanaugh Assassinated His Very Own Character And Torched His Own Reputation, Senator McConnell, So Stop Whining

President Trump, if I am parsing his remarks today accurately, realizes that his nominee to the Supreme Court is damaged goods.  Trump is not ready to let go quite yet–he would prefer that McConnell or Grassley or Kavanaugh himself do the dirty work and pull the plug–but his admission the other day that Blasey Ford was credible, and today’s remark that Brett had a serious drinking problem (though Kavanaugh himself did not acknowledge as much as Trump claims Kavanaugh acknowledged) tells me that Trump realizes he is being soiled by the media coverage of Kavanaugh and would likely be stained further if and when Democrats take hold of subpoena power in one or both Houses of Congress.

Senator Mitch McConnell promised today that he would force a Senate vote this week, and attacked Democrats for their supposed “character assassination” of the judge.  Hey Mitch, we didn’t need to watch Saturday Night Live to know that you are only gaslighting yourself.  Mitch, would you feel safe sitting down for a few pints with either the young Brett or the angry judge we saw last Thursday? Right, I didn’t think so.

By the way, all the talk about “no corroboration” is bull.  Corroboration is pertinent information and testimony that confirms or support the testimony of a witness. There is plenty of corroboration for what Dr. Blasey Ford said: her therapy sessions several years ago and her friend’s account of what Ford said at a local restaurant in 2013–that’s all corroboration.  Not proof, but it is corroboration.  The many accounts of classmates of Judge Kavanaugh that he was an out-of-control belligerent drunk in college as well as high school (including Mark Judge’s memoir references to “Bart O’Kavanaugh”)–those accounts all impeach and “assassinate,” so to speak, Judge Kavanaugh’s portrait of his youthful self in his Fox TV interview as well as his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony.  So let’s not get taken in by any talking heads claiming that Blasey Ford’s testimony lacks corroboration.  Furthermore, her credibility was enhanced, in my opinion, by her unwillingness to “force” her memory by claiming things she was no longer able to recall.  The same cannot be said for Kavanaugh’s incredible and unbelievable claim that he suffered no memory loss from alcohol.  He may well be confirmed, and if so it is up to voters to do the most important sorting and sifting and judging.

McConnell and Trump, Speaking From 8th Circle Of Hell, Assail “Uncorroborated And Unsubstantiated” Accusations

President Donald Trump was offered–and accepted–a temporary upgrade from his usual dwelling in the 9th and lowest circle of Hell to join Senator Mitch McConnell in the 8th circle.  Both gave speeches attacking the credibility of women.  After the speeches McConnell stayed amongst the “barrators” (corrupt politicians) in the 8th circle of Dante’s Inferno, while Trump was remanded downward to the bottom basement reserved for the treacherous.  Mark Judge had no comment as he read Superman comics in the back seat of his car in Bethany Beach, Delaware

Lay Off The Cocaine Mitch! (Or At Least Put Him On A Zero-Hour Contract)

Why was Senator “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell (as Don Blankenship called him) lying about the Constitution–on Constitution Day?  What was he thinking when he made up the utterly fake news that the sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh was put forward at the “11th hour” in an “irregular manner”?  The Constitution, I can assure the Senator, says nothing about any deadline or 11th hour or timeline of any kind for considering Supreme Court nominees.  Also, Merrick Garland, but I digress.  Article 2, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution gives the president of the United States the responsibility of appointing people (not necessarily judges or even lawyers) to become “Judges of the Supreme Court,” and also gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” on nominations.  There is nothing in article 2 or anywhere else in the Constitution about an “11th hour.”  Of course the Republican-controlled Senate is eager to confirm this nominee, and to attack the credibility of anyone standing in the way of their project to reshape the high court.  But they are hesitating, for good political reasons, to go forward with a vote on Kavanaugh.  And it has nothing at all to do with respect for the text or the original public meaning of the United States Constitution.

The midterm elections are so close now that as far as I am concerned, Mitch McConnell can do whatever he sees fit, and reap the benefit or pay the price.  He has no good choices, and he knows it.  When McConnell starts making process arguments, and dishonest ones at that, he’s losing.

If Paul Ryan And Mitch McConnell Really Cared About Civil Liberties And Didn’t Want To Become The Franz von Papens Of The USA…

Re what Paul Ryan had to say in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia today: if the GOP really wants to seize the high ground on civil liberties, how about defending “one person, one vote” by defending America against partisan gerrymandering?  How about defending America against vote suppression?  How about defending America against the carnage happening every day by appropriating some real money to reduce opioid addiction and deaths–and pass some laws that regulate the ability of drug companies to push crazy amounts of opiates into little towns all over Appalachia and California and Florida and New Hampshire?  How about defending the respect for rule of law that was a big part of what actually made the United States of America as great as it is?

Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell: have you read the memoirs of Franz von Papen lately?  Do you care at all about defending our liberal democracy (small “l” and small “d”) from illiberal would-be tyrants?  Yes you do know exactly what I am talking about.  Franz von Papen and his fellow “conservative” aristocrats enabled extreme radicalism in Germany by convincing themselves that they could easily manipulate the vulgar and clownish Hitler.  Yes, Nazi analogies are alarmist and hazardous, but you, Ryan and McConnell, know very well what you’re up to, you know you’re enabling Trump when you tolerate and tacitly encourage people like Devin Nunes.  You know that when Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, is not allowed to look at the Nunes memo, something rotten is going on.  You don’t want to be lumped in with Breitbart and Alex Jones, but that’s where you are now.

Paul Ryan Says “My Minute Will Last As Long As I Want It To Last”–True, Until Next November, Then He’s On Borrowed Time

Paul Ryan said a minute or two ago on the House floor in DC that his “minute” can last as long as he wants it to.  Ryan, as Speaker, can, indeed, make his “minute” last as long as he likes in today’s House debate on the corporate tax cut bill.  But he is on borrowed time–and he probably knows it, as his hints at retirement show.  People who oppose Ryan’s agenda, and McConnell’s agenda (as for Trump…”agenda” is too dignified a word for it, I think) have a goal in view now–toss them out next November.

Trump Fixin’ Up His Hair Real Pretty So He Can Meet Forgotten Men And Women Tonight In Atlantic City

Honey last night I met this guy named Trump and I’m gonna do a little favor for him, OK?  He is doing a victory dance with the donor class today in New York City, but I know he cares a whole lot about us forgotten men and women here in Atlantic City.  I know my Trump will come down to Atlantic City tonight, after he fixes up his hair real pretty.  I know they lie when they say he has debts no honest man can pay.  I know the gamblin’ commission (head man in charge Mitch McConnell down in the Swampland) is holdin’ on by the skin of its teeth, but I know Trump will never leave us on the wrong side of the line (he’s so fine, do-lang, do-lang…).

The 2019 “Medicare For All Act” Can Be Written In Crayon On A Napkin As Far As I Care–Don’t Fixate On Problems With “Process”

If the “enemies list” of people who will be hurt by the Republican tax bill gets mad and “woke” enough to overcome GOP gerrymandering and vote suppression next November, and Democrats regain the majority in Congress, I am fine with Bernie or Jon Tester or Heidi Heitkamp or Claire McCaskill writing “Medicare for all” on a cocktail napkin and having that become the law of the land.  Mitch McConnell’s flouting of “regular order” and the sight of a Senate bill with X-ed out pages and jotted corrections in the margin is abusive and undignified and regrettable and infuriating–but mainly because the substance of the bill is an attack on the social contract between generations.  Fixating on process “violations” won’t win over very many “forgotten men and women” who voted for Obama as well as Trump.  Democrats can and should focus on the bad effects, the bad substance, the uncertainty and insecurity and unwelcome changes the bill imposes on many millions of voters.  Jon Tester’s video was great, but the big story is the heavier burdens being laid on middle-income American voters.  I believe that is the winning message.  Substantive injustice is the big issue, procedural issues are an irritant but a side issue.

McConnell: While We’re At It Let’s Investigate Trump and Clarence Thomas, Too

Wow.  Leader McConnell is really leading this time.  The Senate Ethics Committee should investigate Al Franken, absolutely.  But McConnell is not so partisan after all, since he has also demanded (in a parallel universe) immediate ethics investigations into the allegations of sexual misconduct made against President Trump, not to mention those against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  At least I think that’s what I read in my feed.  I can’t imagine something I read could be unreliable. So, three cheers for Mitch McConnell, who was bipartisan-curious enough to say he’d trade one retroactive Bill Clinton resignation for one prospective (2021, let’s say) Thomas resignation.  Seems fair swap to me, and I know Mitch is all about fairness.

In related news a Japanese rail company has apologized after its Tsukuba express train departed 20 seconds early.

Did Mitch McConnell Really Just Call For Donald Trump To “Step Aside”?

Oops, it’s actually Roy Moore who’s being asked to “step aside” if allegations in the Washington Post that he had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl are “found to be true.”  OK, then.  Just wondering though if President Trump still presumed innocent of the allegations of twenty women?  Trump: can’t live with him but hard to live without him, it seems.

Update: Trump’s former (long-time) bodyguard Keith Schiller has apparently testified that Russians offered to send women to Trump’s Moscow hotel in 2013, but that the offer was refused.  Pardon me, could we replay the pussy-grabber video again.  How different could 2013 Trump have been from 2005 Trump, really?

Prayer, Secondary Causes, And Mass Slaughter

I do not agree with all of what John Calvin (1509-1564) had to say about God and predestination.  But for anyone who accepts pretty much any version of Christian theism, it’s hard to find fault with Calvin’s clear and sensible affirmation (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.17.9) that we ought not to interpret providence in such a way that we despise the “secondary causes” through which God acts in the world.  (And it’s not only a Protestant-Puritan thing, Thomas Aquinas would have agreed with Calvin here.)

Should I be surprised that the Republican response to the latest mass slaughter closes the door against anything other than prayer.  Prayer may indeed offer consolation in times of trial.  Thoughts may send good karma in the direction of those suffering horribly in Texas.  But for Speaker Paul Ryan to use “prayer works” as an excuse to do nothing is adding insult to injury.  When Ryan turns aside any possibility of using legislation to reduce mass killings he is speaking as a fatalistic pagan, not a Christian.  I want at least enough of a line of separation between church and state that neither Paul Ryan nor any other politician tries to excuse their lack of action by saying that prayer works.  His job, and the president’s job, is to restrain evildoers, and pave roads.  Mitch McConnell insulted our intelligence when he said that there is no “foolproof” legislative remedy.  Of course, Senator.  I am not expecting infallibility.  How about a little honest and well-informed effort.  Our murder rate is 50 times higher than the United Kingdom–and our president says it is not “a guns situation.”  How about getting real about the secondary causes staring us in the face?

No Foolproof Solution Expected

Senator McConnell, as always, is correct when he says there is no “foolproof” solution for massacres like the one in Texas yesterday.  But he is old enough to know that legislation is not an exact science.  His commentary is true as far as it goes, but that’s not far at all.  Fox News is emphasizing the message that “there are no answers, only lots of questions.”  Is that really the kind of attitude that made our country as great as it is?  Such a no-can-do-spirit.

President Trump says this was a mental health issue, “not a gun situation.”  Could have fooled me.  Sure the shooter was very disturbed and troubled.  But are Americans really ten times or fifty times crazier that citizens of other countries?  No, though some days it might seem that way.  We are making choices.  None foolproof, but some choices are more self-destructive than others.

Choose Your Babyface

Babyface Kim seems to have long-term strategic goals.  Babyface Trump, well, “long-term” isn’t a word I would associate with him but I hope I’m wrong about that.  In fairness to Babyface #2, he did inherit a problem.  North Korea has been working to become a nuclear-armed state since the 1950s, and tested a nuclear weapon over ten years ago (2006).  Babyface #2 is acting as if Babyface Kim is the one with more to lose.  Does Babyface #1 recognize this as bluster and bluff?  When you have to hope that the leader of North Korea has a better sense of humor than the American president does and a clearer sense of the real incentives in the “game” being played than Trump does, it’s not a happy day.

Newt Gingrich, bless his heart, defended Mitch McConnell vis-a-vis Trump by observing that the president is a player on the field, who ought to be playing with the Republican team, not acting as if he is the owner in a skybox.  Trump will do his very best to stay in the skybox and avoid blame for anything and everything that happens on the field.  Not a great approach if you actually wish to achieve political and domestic policy goals, even misguided and harsh ones.  I think it’s an even worse strategy to climb down out of the “leader of the free world” foreign affairs skybox and recklessly intensifying a mudwrestling match with a truly world-class piglet.  He seems likely to enjoy it more than we will.  Hope I am wrong about that, and that Babyface #2 is making the best of a very tricky situation.

P.S. Maybe a North Korean missile will misfire, come down in Manchurian countryside, and China will decide to put an end to Kim’s regime?

Will McConnell Be Remembered As The American Version Of Franz Von Papen?

Franz von Papen, through dithering and denial. allowed Hitler to seize power in 1933.  Von Papen did not foresee that norms would be no protection against a tyrant determined to seize all the levers of power.  Does McConnell realize that if he lets the Senate recess, giving Trump the chance to appoint a new attorney general without Senate confirmation, he will have allowed Trump to shut down the rule of law?  And that he, Mitch McConnell, in spite of mainstream media both-sidesism and what=aboutism, will not be remembered as anything but an enabler of dictatorship?  I bet he does have an inkling of all this, but is still pretending to himself that he can somehow “drop Trump like a hot rock,” as he promised his Senate colleagues not too long ago.  Good luck, Mitch.  You will be remembered, one way or the other.

BTW if McConnell really wanted a “robust debate” on our healthcare system, he might try starting with public hearings, a Senate committee process, and “regular order” instead of the extreme secrecy (that Democrats have also used but never on an issue nearly this big).  That is if Sen. McConnell actually cared about a robust debate.


P.S. (October 2018) McConnell’s laxness in response to Trump’s lawless authoritarian impulses has only become more alarming.  The permission structure McConnell is constructing is unforgivable.  Also, an alternative framework that hadn’t occurred to me last year is the resemblance to the 1850s.  McConnell and Senators Graham, Cornyn, Cotton et al are looking more and more like the fire-eating secessionists of the pre-Civil War era.  We have not yet seen a caning on the Senate floor, but Graham’s performance at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing wasn’t far off the rhetoric of his South Carolinian predecessors (Yancey, for example).

Is Mitch McConnell More Like A Slime Eel, Or A Turtle?

Getting tired of the McConnell-as-turtle memes? Me too.  Did you see the story about hagfish, aka slime eels, overturned on a highway in Oregon? Me too.  Did you read the link to a blog explaining that slime eels are, shockingly, not invertebrates but rather “degenerate vertebrates”?  Did you think, what a perfect way of describing the people who now hold power in the U.S. Congress?  Especially the Senate Majority Leader?  And perhaps even more so the so-called “Republican moderates” who are waiting for somebody, anybody other than them to kill off the new, even harsher version of the Senate tax-cut/healthcare bill.

The Body Is With King Trump, But King Trump Is Not With The Body

President Donald Trump is quite willing to praise us and even offer us a measure of freedom–so long as we profess loyalty to him.  And his sexism, benevolent or hostile, is repulsive but predictable.  Trump does not, as some of his servants claim, treat men and women equally.  He is not, as Kellyanne Conway just claimed, just a “counterpuncher” who does not normally draw first blood.  If that were true, it would be, to give just one example, Carly Fiorina’s fault that she had the face she had.  Or perhaps it’s just that any woman who, while doing her job, finds herself in the path of what Donald wants is automatically asking for trouble in the form of shaming insults.

Scholars, playgoers, and readers have long puzzled over what Hamlet meant in Act IV, Scene II when he responded to Rosencrantz’s request (“my Lord, you must tell us where the body [of Polonius] is and go with us to the king”) by saying “the body is with the king, but the king is not with the body.”  Is Hamlet once again just speaking gibberish on purpose to feign madness, as G.L. Kittredge thought?  Or throwing out a riddle to distract us?  From what?  The very next lines, though, give a good clue: Hamlet: “the king is a thing–  Guildenstern: A thing, my Lord?  Hamlet: Of nothing.”  As Psalm 144 puts it, “man is like a thing of naught; his time passeth away like a shadow.”  Our president and would-be king, especially when he attacks women for their supposed physical frailties and bloodiness, seems to be calculating that he thereby wins approval from his most fanatical base, or that he thereby settles scores with the impenitent and seditious women, or–and perhaps most important–he puts out of mind for a little while his very own perishability.  Trump may believe that, having achieved kingship, he has become imperishable.  But the medieval theory of the “king’s two bodies” (one body as corruptible and transitory as that of every other person, but one body divine, unchanging, and incorruptible) applies to Trump just as well as it did to any of the Plantagenets or Tudors or Holy Roman Emperors, and with a twist most unflattering to Trump: his preferred forms of communication show him at his truest and most transient.  His tweets and campaign rallies are at best written in water, more often written in truly impure blood.  And if we turn to his potential policy achievements, Trump’s resemblance to the dead Polonius is almost literal: our president has been hiding his decaying self offstage, trying to avoid blame while Senator McConnell battles Schumer and the Democrats, not to mention recalcitrant Republicans.  Seems like a low-energy strategy at best, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Prince McConnell (though no Hamlet, to be fair) decided to stab whoever is lurking in the curtains, pity if it turns out to be the president.

President Trump’s denial of his own decrepitude and decay is even more worrisome in that he could take those of us fortunate enough to be younger and fairer and less obviously corruptible with him if he is still president when he feels himself truly falling apart.  I hope and believe our president is fast approaching his (political) sell-by date.  His attacks on anyone not subservient to him seem designed to ward off his consciousness of what seems close at hand: the country’s cancellation of his show.  Then and only then will Hamlet’s words make sense as: the body of the king, the external appearance of the monarch, belonged to “Donald J. Trump,” but the true and lawful kingship resided elsewhere, and has passed on to someone who will seek to restore the body politic of the United States to better health.

H/T Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies; Jerah Johnson, “The Concept of the ‘King’s Two Bodies’ in Hamlet‘”

Move Over, Mr. President! Meet Mitch McConnell, The New King Of Debt

Clever Senator Mitch has front-loaded “all the sweet stuff and delay[ed] all the painful stuff,” says Nicholas Begley in the Washington Post (quoted by Greg Sargent, Plum Line blog).  Tax cuts happen right away, even retroactively, while the deep cuts to Medicaid don’t begin until 2021.  Thanks, Mitch, for all the “Better Care.”  You are piling up debts no honest man could ever pay off.  Whether the harsh Medicaid cuts ever fully go into effect or not, the tax cuts for the rich are designed to be permanent.  You have just made our glaring inequalities even worse.  Do you really believe this bill increases liberty and freedom–of course you don’t.  You know full well from seeing Obamacare work in your own state of Kentucky that, as Josh Marshall summarizes, the ACA “took a pot of money and plugged it into the system to provide secure coverage for a large number of Americans who were neither destitute nor solidly in middle class or who had medical statuses which made it onerous or impossible” to get coverage.  “Take away the money and those people all lose their care.”  Your version of freedom–or the version you cynically pretend to believe, more likely–is a truly sickening fantasy.  Compared with “other” advanced and civilized countries, our taxes are not crushing.  The real snowflakes: your greedy donor class.

And against all kinds of evidence, many people still say “give Trump a chance.”  I get that trolling “snowflakes” and “elites” is a thrill, but if this bill means Trump is delivering for them, our Country is devolving even faster than I thought, and not in a good way.  Trump will not abide blame for any of the carnage and premature death that follows.  I do hope that enough people will be hurt or embarrassed or shocked by GOP rapaciousness to bother to vote next year, when everybody, not just the folks in Georgia or Montana or South Carolina, gets a chance to express buyer’s remorse over our sorry bunch of legislators.

Will King Trump Protect Us From Oligarchy And Ochlocracy? And Escape Blame Yet Again?

Shall we skip all the fake news and go straight to the Senate healthcare–and-by-the-way-big-tax-cut–bill?  Will Trump sign this bill, even though it is probably just as “mean” as Paul Ryan’s House bill?  Trump managed to appeal in 2016 to both the pro-oligarchy voters and the pro-ochlocracy (endless demands from the plebes) voters.  Now he will have to choose.  Master brander that he is, he will try to distract and evade blame no matter what, but the McConnellCare bill guts Medicaid in the name of freedom.  The struggling Trump voters, and even relatively well-off Trump voters, who think Medicaid only benefits THOSE people are in for a surprise.  Maybe not right away, McConnell is figuring not on his watch, but sooner than many voters think, they are going to find their parents kicked out of nursing homes and into their spare rooms, or worse.  Will Trump realize before he signs a bill that presidents do get blamed for the consequences of their actions?  (Not to mention stuff that they really shouldn’t get blamed for.)

Republicans have persuaded millions of fairly prosperous but more-insecure-than-they-may-know voters that the real governmental problem is “ochlocracy,” or never-ending-demands from the masses of “other” and undeserving people.  In fact, the US stands alone among advanced economies in its stingy-and-inefficient-at-the-same-time healthcare system.  A universal risk pool could really cut down on overhead costs, but we just aren’t ready to go there yet.  Obamacare took several right-of-center (Heritage Foundation before Jim DeMint) ideas and some technocratic ideas and made giant steps toward access to health care, but did not create a robust public option, let alone move toward a Medicare-for-all system.  Now the Republicans are on the verge of a huge cutback of healthcare access, and at the same time a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

If you believe we do not have enough inequality of wealth and opportunity, McConnell and Ryan are your guys.  If you thought Trump would usher in a golden age of terrific healthcare for everybody, you may be out of luck.  Ciao ciao sayonara ochlocracy, hello even-more-rock-solid oligarchy.  And Mr. Trump, will he be blamed?  I thought he was toast when he disrespected POW John McCain, so what do I know?  Prince Harry may say nobody wants to be king, but he doesn’t know our Trump.

“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.

Mormons Dump Trump, “Christians” And Pagans Still Hesitating, Heathens Still All In

A bunch of Mormon Republicans freed themselves from captivity to Donald Trump yesterday. They may or may not be disgusted with Trump, but they showed no particular political courage, since Mormon voters were already lukewarm at best. So no disrespect intended to Mike Lee or Mitt Romney or Jason Chaffetz, but their disavowals are all in the way of business.

How about self-identified “Christian” politicians? John McCain said of Trump’s predatory video, “he alone will bear the consequences.” Probably wishful thinking, and certainly not a profile in courage from McCain. McConnell and Ryan are still struggling to send nuanced smoke signals, tut-tutting without actually lifting themselves out of their particular circle of purgatory. Come to think of it, the togas on McConnell and Ryan are becoming more visible. They have now made themselves into classic pagans, for whom repentance is a category mistake.

Finally, the heathens. In very late-breaking news, they seem to be wavering, possibly because Trump made the mistake of apologizing–though in Trump’s defense, the “apology” was followed immediately by deflections, projections, and threats. And the actual words “I…apologize” were uttered as Trump appeared to twitch, some say caused by electric shocks.

Update October 8 pm: Tic Tac piles on, denouncing Trump.

Update #2: To McCain’s credit, when he finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump Saturday afternoon (10/8), he did mention Trump’s “outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five”–which few if any other Republican officeholders bothered to mention as they sought to escape Trump’s toxic effect on the votes of (mainly) white married women.

Will Mitch McConnell Write The Foreword To The 2017 Reissue Of Franz Von Papen’s Memoirs?

Senator Mitch McConnell does seem to be channelling the chancellor of Germany circa 1932, Franz von Papen. Von Papen was confident that Hitler could be contained and manipulated. Hindenburg and von Papen gave Hitler’s Nazi party control over only three ministries, so how much could go wrong? McConnell has looked down his nose at Trump, and fidgeted a bit over a few of the more openly bigoted outbursts and retweets, but has spent more effort excusing and minimizing.  Fritz Stern, who lived through “Five Germanies,” condemned von Papen as “the frivolous gravedigger of what was left of German democracy” in the early 1930s.  Does McConnell want to be judged as a 21st-century American von Papen?

McConnell made light a couple of days ago of Trump’s remarks to the NYT undercutting NATO.  A “rookie mistake,” said the senator, who went on to say that Trump was not unfit to be commander-in-chief because his implicit invitation to Putin to expand Russia’s hybrid warfare into NATO territory would be contrary to the views of “anybody he might make secretary of state or secretary of defense” (source: Greg Sargent, Washington Post Plum Line, July 21). Sargent comments: “We’ve reached a new level of absurdity. Now we are basically being told that the check against the threat Trump poses will come from his own cabinet officials.” Richard J. Evans wrote in The Coming of the Third Reich that “the complacent belief of Franz von Papen and his friends that they had Hitler where they wanted him did not last long” (p. 316). I wonder if Mitch McConnell is as complacent as von Papen? Maybe not, but he is so far nowhere near dropping Trump “like a hot rock,” as he is reported to have promised his Republican Senate colleagues earlier this year. If and when McConnell does take a look at Franz von Papen’s Memoirs, I hope that he can do so without the impediment of a President Trump whose Minister of Propaganda has “opened up the libel laws.”

Extremism In The Defense Of False Equivalence Watch

Representatives of Washington conventional media wisdom are declaring today that maintaining false equivalence far outweighs any damage to actual ordinary people that a government shutdown or, for that matter, government default might cause. See, among many examples, columns by David Gergen and Todd Purdum.

As Senator Rand Paul explained to Mitch McConnell on a hot mic today, ” I just did CNN and I just go over and over again, ‘we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to negotiate.'”

And who in the media could ask for any better lead-in to a superficially balanced assessment of political dysfunction than Senator Paul’s cynical and hypocritical tribute to virtuousness?

P.S. Senator Paul also noted (largely accurately, sorry to say–Paul Begala among others tried to warn Obama off this) the tactically dubious framing by President Obama: “I don’t think they poll-tested ‘we won’t negotiate.’ I think that’s awful for them to say that over and over again.” McConnell’s reply has not yet been properly translated from the original Turtle-speak.

A “Handful of Things” Are “Probably OK”

That is what Senator Mitch McConnell said about the Affordable Care Act in an interview with Corbin, Kentucky TV station WYMT. Talking Points Memo points out that in a normal political environment this would not qualify as news. But we are in times that philosopher Blaise Pascal nailed over three hundred years ago: “Two extravagances: to exclude Reason, to admit only Reason.” We have the crazies, still crazy after…well, it just seems like a lot of years. And we have President Obama, who does often make a truth-telling prophet out of another Frenchman, Michel Foucault, who (as Jonathan Israel has paraphrased him) saw the Enlightenment insistence on the primacy of reason as another mask for the exercise of power. Yesterday’s blog post, for example, was about Obama’s denial last Friday of any ulterior motive or interest in either himself or the NSA vis-a-vis surveillance of American citizens’ emails. C’mon, you’re not anonymous, we can see through.

Senator McConnell’s reelection campaign manager, on loan from Rand Paul, thought he was speaking privately when he was caught on tape saying he would be holding his nose the next couple of years working for the non-crazy, non-true-believer, pre-embalmed old turtle McConnell. But what he said is no surprise: it is obvious where the Republican passion is these days. It says something that he has not yet lost his job.

Hillary Clinton is likely to have a wholly different challenge in ’16 vs ’08: not laughing out loud at the nutty things that Republicans will say about how the world ought to be. If she just counts to three and then says how she sees things, she should be in.

Gridlock? How About A Sitdown Strike?

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Ezra Klein called “gridlock” a “metaphor that leads us awry,” because if Congress cannot get anything done, we get governing by waiver. He cites the waiving of rules set by No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007, has not been updated, but continues as a kind of zombie baseline through proficiency goals and appropriations for states and districts that meet the goals, though targets are routinely waived. Likewise with the DREAM Act: it did not pass but the Obama administration no longer prosecutes “immigrants who fit DREAMER characteristics. They basically implemented the law by fiat.” Klein observes that Congress cannot agree either on what to do or on what they should prohibit the executive branch from doing. Republicans may see “lawlessness” in the actions of President Obama’s executive branch agencies, but to Democrats the utterly intransigent Republicans leave them no real choice. So “congressional gridlock is not like traffic gridlock” (Klein recalls for us the 60-plus mile backup that lasted ten days in China three years ago). “Things move…just (not) through the part of government they’re supposed to.”

The National Journal this morning has a story about Jeff Bezos with a different but complementary take on Washington dysfunction. Ronald Brownstein hypothesizes that the greater rigidity and ideological purism of Republicans is due to their more homogeneous electoral coalition. “The escalating blockade of Republican resistance to Obama’s initiatives–symbolized by mounting conservative demands to shut down the government to defund his health care law–increasingly resembles a kind of sit-down strike by nonurban white America against the racially diverse, urbanized electoral majority that twice elected the president.”

That sounds accurate to me, though the very local problems of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as he seeks reelection in Kentucky could have a wild-card effect on the Senate’s capacity to cut deals. Down on Fancy Farm in far western Kentucky, McConnell’s challengers on his right and left had the best lines the other day. McConnell has used the Fancy Farm event as a springboard for many years, but Democrat Alison Grimes got the better of him so far by saying that if McConnell’s “doctor told him he had a kidney stone he’d refuse to pass it.” And do you think President Obama might give him a waiver to pass the stone? “Please proceed, Senator”? No, a waiver for turtles would be too lawless even for Obama.

The Defiant Majority

Last week, in another installment of his “False Equivalence Watch,” James Fallows of The Atlantic called out the NYT for an untenably ignorant portion of its account of Congressional paralysis: “in both the Senate, controlled by Democrats, and the House, under the rule of Republicans, the minority is largely powerless to do anything but protest.” The Times did later change the story, but without issuing any sort of correction or indication of a change, to reflect the actual asymmetry between the House Democrats and the “Senate Republicans (who) at least have the power to filibuster…” A minor point, perhaps, except that it is part and parcel of the reflexive world-weary conventional wisdom of “a pox on both your houses.” True often enough, but in this case it is pertinent that there were 16 filibusters between 1840 and 1900, and over 130 in just 2009 and 2010. Fair-minded reporting cannot evaluate Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans’ record as anything but a wild deviation from all historical norms, in response to a President and Senate in many ways at least as conservative as the Republican norm of the 1970s and even 1980s.

Today’s NYT has a headline referring to Harry Reid as “defiant and uncompromising.” For what, exactly, bearing in mind he is the Majority Leader of the Senate? For “pushing through a rules change to end filibusters of executive branch nominations” by ensuring up-or-down-votes on a twice-elected President’s capacity to select the staff he wants? This is not even about Supreme Court nominations or lifetime federal judgeships, nor about any laws that would help prevent, heaven forbid, gun violence.

The Times notes correctly that “in recent decades, both parties have escalated the use of the filibuster and other delaying tactics,” and acknowledges that “since Mr. Obama became president, Senate Republicans have gone especially far with the filibuster.” That is quite a bland way of admitting the truly remarkable and unprecedented way Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues have ground Senate actions very nearly to a halt.

Does any of this matter to regular people? Only if you work for a living. You do not need to belong to a union, for example, to have some stake in the existence of a fuctioning National Labor Relations Board, not to mention a Consumer Protection agency with real authority.

As demographic changes continue, expect to see more sly, sh-t-eating references to the “defiant” majority.