The Republican Party Is No Longer the Party of Personal Responsibility

In a cynical speech that, if we’re lucky, will be an effort to deescalate militarily by imposing more sanctions on Iran (which is not a good thing but far better than the alternative), Trump just pre-blamed Barack Obama for the failures most experts predict and have correctly predicted will come from Trump’s Iran policy. He suggests, falsely, that the current escalation is the result of Obama’s peace deal, rather than the demonstrable result of his suspension of it.

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.” In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.

Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration. The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

I’ll leave it to others to unpack how dishonest this claim, both with respect to what JCPOA did and what has led to the increase in tension since Trump reversed our commitment to it.

But it exists in a larger context in which the Trump’s supporters are both refusing to take responsibility for their own actions, including but not limited to their support for Trump, but also doing so by pre-blaming Democrats.

This has been going on for the entirety of the Trump Administration (indeed, arguably it has been going on for at least 15 years). But with respect to Iran, it has consisted of:

  • Blaming Obama’s successful peace deal for the effects of Trump’s own rejection of it
  • Claiming Trump couldn’t brief Democrats on the Soleimani assassination because otherwise they would leak
  • Suggesting that Democrats’ past impeachment of Trump will have a future effect on his ability to respond to the crisis he created with the assassination

Let me be clear: I don’t think Trump assassinated Soleimani to distract from impeachment. I think he assassinated Soleimani because he’s a narcissist who responds to slights by lashing out, and his top advisors Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo are committed to Raytheon, Rapture, and a dangerously escalatory Iran policy, and so in this case did not rein in the natural result of arming someone with Trump’s narcissism, which is to use force where diplomacy would be more effective.

But here we are, with a dead Iranian general and fewer allies in the Middle East and few adults running policy, which may well be a recipe for disastrous things to come.

Trump (and his supporters’) refusal to take responsibility for their own actions is particularly toxic in this context because his policies and incompetent implementation of them are highly likely to fail, and the only way Trump can sustain support while presiding over obvious and foreseeable failures is to blame some other entity, which in this case includes Democrats and Iranians. And the only way for him to continue failing policies even while it’s clear they are failing is to pretend they’re not the cause of the failure.

Trump’s excuses for not briefing the Gang of Eight are particularly worrisome. It’s bad enough he didn’t do so, both for Constitutional and practical reasons. Even Richard Burr or Mitch McConnell might have advised Trump to take a more moderate approach. And had Trump briefed Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, or Chuck Schumer, any one of them might have said something to make it clear that if he did this and it blew up in his face, they would make it clear to the public that he had made the decision against their advice. Our system of briefing the Gang of Eight on covert operations is a terrible way to vet military and intelligence operations (not least because you don’t get in those positions unless you’re a hawk). But in this instance, it might have made Trump worry about being shamed if he ignored the advice. It also would have offered Trump the ability — one George Bush used aggressively to survive his scandalous embrace of torture and illegal wiretapping — to claim there was bipartisan awareness of the actions, which might make it more likely to craft a bipartisan response if things do start to go south.

But Trump doesn’t like the humiliation of hearing advice he doesn’t like, and so he didn’t brief  the Gang of Eight beforehand.

He owns this decision, and all its consequences, because he chose to make the decision without following the norm that would allow him to share the blame.

But that raises the stakes for him to find scapegoats. It’s a feedback loop, where his refusal to listen to competent advice increases the likelihood of stupid decision and his defensiveness about admitting all that, thereby raising the stakes on having scapegoats still further.

And that, in turn, raises the aggressiveness he needs to direct at his scapegoats. Democrats (and Iranians and NATO) must not be wrong. They must be disloyal or traitors or Jew-ridden socialist countries or terrorists. Indeed, that’s likely one of the reasons why Trump so readily adopts inflammatory slurs with no basis in fact: because he has to dehumanize his scapegoats, to make sure no one thinks too much about what function that scapegoating plays.

It’s all a recipe for increasing violence.

And at the core, on the Soleimani assassination, the case that Trump is responsible is not just obvious — best embodied by his refusal to brief the Gang of Eight even while telegraphing his attack to his cronies at Mar-a-Lago — but a root cause of why he wants to build his scapegoats in from the start.

261 replies
  1. Mitch Neher says:

    I do not disagree with you, Ms. Wheeler. But . . . So long as The Demagogue, Trump, does not launch a ground invasion of Iran with U. S. troops destined to fight hand-to-hand against tens of millions of Iranian Holy Martyrs, then . . .

    Well . . . You’d still be right, anyhow. But . . . That would be One Point Six Million U. S. troops who would not have to fight hand-to-hand with tens of millions of Iranian Holy Martyrs–you see?

    I’ll take it. Wrap it up. (And mark me down for a Democratic traitor or whatever.) I don’t care about that, either.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      What the fuck are you talking about? You’re setting the bar at not invading the 18th largest country in the world.


      • Mitch Neher says:

        I’m talking about praising the restraint of The Iranian Revolution.

        Heaven bless The Iranians for their restraint.

        Not only have The Iranians been here in this vale of tears longer than we could ever dare dream of having been here, but The Iranians are obviously smarter and better than we could ever dare dream of becoming even with less than one-tenth of their time on Earth.

        • Cathy says:

          What the [President] has said is unimportant, and we do not hear his words.
          (h/t Dr. McCoy, “Friday’s Child”)

        • Mitch Neher says:

          I know. I know. It’s not over till its over. And it’s never over.

          But Lou Dobbs says we’re not supposed to want it. And Gramma Nancy says we’re supposed to pray for our troops as well as for . . . The Demagogue, Trump.

  2. MB says:

    Hmmm. If Pompeo is “committed to Rapture”, does that include using his position to help accelerate and bring that (whatever “that” is) about? And, if by miracle, Trump is removed from office before the election, does that mean Pence would then use the office of President to further accelerate the manifestation of the “Rapture project” alongside Pompeo (and I’ll throw Bill Barr into that same bucket)? That gives me shivers. And that they would only be too happy to establish an American Theocracy, while violently opposing the Iranian Theocracy? it’s Ahriman vs. Ahura Mazda, transplanted to the West. Ugh – scary prospects.

    • rip says:

      I’m not sure that the Israelis understand what the xian “rapture” really means for them. By Israelis, I am talking about the inhabitants and residents of Israel rather than the “Israelites”.

      “Rapture” in the xian fundamentalist sense means that the new xian savior can come back to his/her home and do some serious cleanup. The cleanup would include any infidels that don’t take him/her as their true savior. I don’t think most of the current state of Israel has many “fidels”.

      Of course most of the US evangelicals/fundies/repuglicons would also be excluded from “flying up”.

      • P J Evans says:

        My own opinion is that their “rapture” is the belief that they can get to their heaven without having to actually die first. (After which they get to spent eternity on a cloud, praising their god as robots, even though they believe they’ll be watching the rest of us frying. Nope, we’re going to be putting in parks and pools and A/C in hell.)

      • Theodora30 says:

        I think they ignore the rapture rationale because partnering with those anti-semites benefits Israel at least in the short term. I had a conversation about that a few years ago with a young Jewish man who worked for right wing Republicans in Congress. When I pointed out to him that they did not really respect Jews because they believe they are all going to hell if they don’t convert to Christianity. He told me he knew that but didn’t care because he only cared that the supported Israel. I would bet that most Israelis think the same way.

        As for the Rapture, I wish it were a real possibility. I would love to live in a world where all those crackpots get whooshed up into the sky. The rest of us would be a lot better off without them. (And I would be rid of a really annoying sister-in-law.)

        • MB says:

          I wonder what Steven Miller believes? He’s another “young Jewish man who works for right-wing Republicans in Congress” [Jeff Sessions]. And now works for right-wing Republicans in the White House.

        • Mooser says:

          You wonder what Steven Miller believes? Don’t waste your time. That’s just the way the matzoh crumbles, sometimes; into a half-baked cracker.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          I’d even settle for all the Trumpsters and Rapture people being whooshed off to Russia and Navalny and all the folks that support democracy there could be whooshed over here.

        • Sandwichman says:

          With those water standards God’ll have to flush 10 or 15 times to whoosh those rapturians off to where ever.

        • Stacey says:

          I’ve always said I’d be good with putting a wall around some large plot of land and putting all the fundies into it to let them live out their lives in whatever rapture they want. Now it occurs to me that we should just call their new country “Rapture”. The funniest thing to understand about this crowd is that as soon as you put any number of them into a room with ONLY others of them, they immediately start calving off the less pure among them until there are only “you and your wife and you’re not too sure about her!” (Note: I grew up in a fundamental Christian home in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Nashville, TN. I know of what I speak! Trust me on this, watching THAT ant farm tear itself apart would be MOST entertaining!

    • Stephen says:

      The “Rapture” thing is no joke. People who not only believe in the Rapture (which is fine, go ahead and believe!) but believe that it is their God-given duty to work toward its early occurrence are, quite literally, trying to bring the world to an end in fire and fury. In point of fact, this should be a true “litmus test” for all aspirants to national elected office or high-level government appointments. If you believe that your “real” job is to initiate Armageddon, then you are ineligible to hold an office whose responsibilities involve preserving the established order of civilization and a livable environment. With what part of this does anyone (except a Rapture enthusiast) disagree?

      • bmaz says:

        Um, yes I do, and every other American should disagree with that too. It is patently unconstitutional under Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution:

        “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

        I think those believers are absolutely batshit, but your suggestion is blatantly unconstitutional

        • Stephen says:

          I am not proposing a religious test. Only a test of whether a person is committed to working toward the destruction of the planet. It’s fine by me if you want to believe in the Rapture! It’s also fine if you believe in a malign deity who craves human blood, but not if you intend to use public office to arrange for people’s throats to be slashed.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes, what you proposed is the very definition of a religious test and would be patently unconstitutional.

          By its plain terms, the clause means no federal officeholder or employee can be required to adhere to or accept, or not adhere to or not accept, any particular religion or doctrine as a prerequisite to holding a federal office or a federal government job.

        • Stephen says:

          Again: Not the belief. The behavior. Polygamy is outlawed despite the existence of religious factions that sanction it. As is human sacrifice. Using one’s office to advocate for planetary destruction is an obvious no-no.

        • bmaz says:

          Listen, this is complete bullshit. Polygamy is considered criminal for the most part, but it is NOT a religious test for ability to hold a governmental job. What you are proposing absolutely is in every sense.

        • P J Evans says:

          Because before that, most of the colonies (and the states, for the first decade) had official state churches, to which you had to belong to hold office or even vote. Maybe that got missed in some US history classes, but it was a big deal that PA and RI didn’t have official churches. And that’s also why there’s an option to affirm rather than swear: the percentage of people who were Quakers was a lot higher back then, and they were major groups in several states.

      • P J Evans says:

        It would better serve the country if the news media would report the candidates’ actual views, not the ones they put out for PR. The problem here is not Trmp’s religious views – he has none – but those of his advisers, and of Pence.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Stephen said, “The ‘Rapture’ thing is no joke.”

        Have you asked God about that?

        I have reason to believe that every time some puny, feckless, mortal, human animal, creature says “There but for the grace of God go I, ” The Almighty Lord God, YAHWEH, or The Highway, Rolls On The Floor Laughing His or Her Divine Ass Off.

        Surely The Creation, Itself, abounds with seemingly infinite testaments to its Creator’s profoundly absurd sense of humor. No???

  3. BillyBob says:

    This played out just like Jim White hoped it would. Blow previous policy or agreements up(especially Obama’s), watch the shit storm unfurl, and then swoop in like an angel with a new agreement much like the old one.

    Trump never once worked for anything in his life. Of course, the Republicans are complicit.

    • Jim White says:

      Well, we still have a long way to go before there’s any kind of “new” agreement, but I did take heart in both sides appearing to look for ways to de-escalate. Let’s just hope Trump doesn’t find some new slight he perceives to come from Iran, or, as Marcy points out, he will certainly lash out again.

      • BobCon says:

        What scares me is we don’t know what kind of Bin Laden type is out there trying to profit off of chaos. Giuliani’s Iranian clients might try to sabotage a deal, so could some kind of ISIS offshoot, Saudi-funded extremists…

        The US right is full of people with no interest in evidence or logic, and one explosion could drive them to crank up the pressure for retaliation that backfires enormously.

      • Earthworm says:

        Isnt it likely that the apparent de-escalation comes at the behest of President Putin or Russion Foreign Office to the POTUS or his people?

  4. Jim D. says:

    I am not at all sure Trump didn’t do one of the biggest favors to the Iranian leadership that he could by assassinating Qasem Soleimani.

    Soleimani was in Iraq, operating with virtual impunity, for something more nefarious than entering a backgammon tournament. I’ve read that it was for increasing Iran’s hegemony in the region by overthrowing the Iraqi government.

    We will never be sure that Soleimani’s demise was welcomed by some of the Iranian leadership, but history is littered with generals who got too big for their jackboots. Think Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, MacArthur crossing Truman, Hitler and Rommel, etc.

    Given Iran’s rather tepid response, I can only guess whether the video showing Khamenei and Rouhani grieving at he funeral contained some tears of relief.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Sharpiegate and the false claims he made about crowd and every other Trump size illustrate your point about the absurd lengths to which Trump will go to avoid reality or admit error. They demonstrate how far he will compromise government and security to keep his fantasies intact.

    Trump’s behavior has declined as the number and consequences of his mistakes grow. His party and its leadersheep bear full responsibility for them. Normal politics gave them a way to rein in Trump. Impeachment gave them a way out that did not require using the 25th Amendment or initiating impeachment on their own. They refused. They own what he does and all of its consequences.

    Whatever else they must do – the list is long – Democrats need to make that clear and to keep on doing it. Enough with this Bidenesque hands across the aisle, above the fray crap: that behavior makes Trump seem normal and complaints about his craziness seem partisan. In reality, he and his party are scary as hell.

    • Terry Salad says:

      “Trump’s behavior has declined as the number and consequences of his mistakes grow. ” I watched Trump’s speech today — I was horrified. Is no one going to discuss his appearance? His blotchy, poorly-mixed and applied makeup. His labored breathing as he waddles to the podium. His robotic reading of the teleprompter and frequent slurring. He just came off 2 weeks vacation in Florida. He looked and sounded extremely unwell, both physically and cognitively. If Obama gave a speech like that, we’d have President Biden before the weekend.

  6. harpie says:
    1:22 PM – 8 Jan 2020

    THIS, NOW- SEN MIKE LEE, R-UT: this was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen on military issues in 9 years I’ve been here.

    Other things Lee said, [via Marcy]:
    1:23 PM – 8 Jan 2020
    Mike Lee calls Iran briefing “probably the worst briefing at least on a military issue I’ve seen,” adding that it was “insulting” to be told by administration officials not to debate merits of taking military action

    A ticked off Mike Lee says the Iran briefing was so bad it changed his mind on Kaine’s war powers resolution, and now he’s going to support it

    “They had to leave after 75 minutes while in the process of telling us we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public,” he says

    Lee also angry that administration officials told lawmakers they couldn’t discuss certain information because it was classified while sitting in a SCIF (secure area)
    Man, I haven’t seen a senator that pissed in a while.

      • Jenny says:

        Thanks Harpie – all there.
        Lee is angry and insulted. Good. If anger and insults help to change his mind then good. A wake up call! One Republican Senator is awake, perhaps more will follow.

    • harpie says:

      Here’s VIDEO of Mike Lee’s answer:
      1:47 PM – 8 Jan 2020

      BREAKING: Sen. Lee, Republican from Utah, heavily criticizes Trump admin.’s briefing for senators today on Iran, saying officials expect Senate to be “good little boys and girls” and not debate in public. [VIDEO]

      He also uses the words “insane”, and “really upsetting”.

    • harpie says:

      Here’s VIDEO from Fox News which shows more in the beginning of Lee’s comments, and a second VIDEO which shows that:
      1:34 PM – 8 Jan 2020

      […] ….fox decided to cut away from the press conference [VIDEO]

      and explain to their viewers that Lee [and Paul, who is also there], are outliers in the GOP caucus, which is mostly “in lock-step with the President”.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It seems to be a GOP-trademarked dynamic. Praise the president, criticize on the margins, support him and the leadersheep on every single vote.

          Collins/Lucy-with-Football does it superbly, extorting party support for her beleaguered campaign at will. Romney isn’t quite as good, but follows the same process.

          Everyone else follows suit. Most of them offer even fainter criticism of der Leader. It seems to be a variation on Stockholm Syndrome.

    • P J Evans says:

      Most of the coverage that I’ve seen of this misses that the briefing was in a SCIF. That’s an important point.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      To an outsider, it seems obvious. But Trump never gets beyond his immediate narcissistic need, which is most often to violently lash out at the perceived source of his frustration.

      Doing one thing to advance another requires a deliberative process Trump’s narcissism rarely allows him to engage in.

      • BobCon says:

        I don’t rule out wagging the dog as being a factor in indirect ways. I just think it’s a mistake to assume much of anything for Trump in a form that follows classic rational decision making.

        • Stacey says:

          I think one has to credit Trump with the thought that one might start a war with Iran in order to help his re-election…given that he accused Obama of exactly that multiple times in several different media venues back before 2012. When a guy projects his own shadow like 7 or 8 years into the future, you really got to give it to him, you know?

    • Bri2k says:

      Goodness knows what Trump’s real motivation was but did anyone else notice how taking out Soleimani pushed the stories about those Deutsche Bank loans to the president being backed by Russian state-owned VTB?

      Or that the hit also over-wrote the story about the emails showing Trump personally directed the with-holding of aid to Ukraine and that the redactions weren’t for security but to cover up what happened?

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Okay. Fine. I freely confess that I did not notice that Trump was distracting me from his legal jeopardy–again. D’oh!

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One wag implies that Trump’s labored “body shift” during his speech suggests he is wearing a Haggar suit. Persuasive. The cockroach in him is never far below the surface.

    Others note that Trump “sniffed” 58 times in an eight-minute speech, about once every eight seconds. A supporter thinks it’s just winter in DC. But Trump spent most of the last month in Florida, and it’s not like he goes outside for a brisk walk or run every morning. Was Trump fighting for breath or holding back tears because he couldn’t keep blowing stuff up without taking a time-out?

      • bmaz says:

        Cheap ass department store stretch suits for fat people is my experience. Earl may mean something different though.

        • P J Evans says:

          I don’t remember those suits, but I remember the ubiquitous ads for Haggar men’s slacks, on sports radio broadcasts.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That’s the right stuff, The jacket that went with those all-nylon trousers was a variation on the Nehru jacket, usually in khaki or light blue.

        • ducktree says:

          With EOH’s mention of a cockroach, I immediately interpreted it to mean and pictured an “Edgar suit” (ref. Men in Black I). . . the Vincent D’Onofrio character.

        • bmaz says:

          Well at least you got the reference, I was picturing those stupid stretch suits from JC Penny or whatever with the Sansabelt trousers.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Well, neither of us require physical instrumentalities to exact our will, although I can create evolutionary impossibilities only in my sleep. But I hear that you can create miracles on the barbie even when awake.

        • ernesto1581 says:

          “Solid Krell metal, twenty-six inches thick.”

          Raytheon, Rapture & Blowback LLC.
          “Invest carefully. Past performance is the best guarantee of future results.”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Morbius: “Do you understand the mechanism?”
          Robby: “Yes, Morbius. A simple blaster.” And later…
          Morbius: “Try your blaster there, commander.”
          Commander Adams: “This spot should be molten. It’s not even warm, huh?”

          They don’t make Krell metal or movies like they used to, although portions of the Star Trek reboot are glorious.

        • pdaly says:

          I caught your Men In Black “Haggar suit” reference although I had thought it was an “Edgar suit” and didn’t realize the character’s last name was Haggar, too.

          Wondering whether the movie was also poking fun at House Majority Whip Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay, former owner of Albo Pest Control, by having the movie’s evil intergalactic cockroach drive a pest control truck. Agent K who hunts down the cockroach is played by Tommy Lee Jones, the real life college roommate of Al Gore who just happened to be VP of the USA at the time the movie was released.

  8. Savage Librarian says:

    I couldn’t agree with Marcy and EoH more. This is exactly what is happening. In my life, I have seen this kind of behavior, up close repeatedly, both on a personal level and in government operations. It is destructive and costly to ignore. And it will persist until honest people step up and take action to correct the demolition it causes. It never stops of its own accord. This is totally on DT and Republicans and any Democrats that let this slide. Ignorance is not bliss. And arrogance may be the deadliest of sins.

    • Vicks says:

      How many times and for how far into this administration did you say that FOR SURE this was going to be the tipping point, and these decent people you speak of would come forward and put this monster it his place?
      Perhaps it’s the religion thing and these people are primed and ready to “follow” and are already groomed to know that asking questions will ruin everything, that make them such easy marks?
      It should be ridiculous to ask a Christian why they think someone whipping up a crowd with hate-filled words and then pointing to various brothers and sisters as targets was doing god’s work and not satan’s?
      Yet here we are

        • Vicks says:

          I’m sorry.
          Instead of replying in a way that showed I understood and related to everything in your post, I took your theme and jumped tracks.
          I used poorly worded sarcasm directed at all of us who naively waited for what you described as “the honest people to step up and take action,”
          What started out as my disbelief that once decent people were suddenly unwilling or unable to process anything Trump did or said through the logical parts of their brains, has morphed into a lot more anger than I usually burden myself with.
          I don’t want to stop believing that people are fundamentally good and will eventually come around, and the point I was/am trying to make is it that holding on to this belief despite so much evidence to the contrary is making me and others like me part of the con.
          Just another snowflake watching helplessly while Trump builds his power
          Please accept my apology, my rant was directed at the position so many of us have been forced into, not you or your post.
          If there is such a thing as the devil, this too must be an example of it’s work.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Everything is so messed up that it doesn’t take much to trigger any of us. I wonder if this is part of the phenomena that psychologists call shared psychosis, brought on by malignant leaders. I don’t know. But I do know that it is going to take a very long time before anything approaches the semblance of normal again.

          The word “sin” used to be a terrible trigger for me. I thought of it as being co-opted by the Gingrich gang, weaponized by religious right wing fanatics. Now I use it as something that they are hung up on, rather than something I believe in. Language is confusing that way. Especially with all the distortions that have occurred in the past few years. So, perhaps my use of that word triggered strong feelings for you. There is plenty of good and evil and right and wrong. But my preference would be to think of it in terms of ethics rather than religion.

          Hopefully, we can take some solace in the actions of whistleblowers and public servants who definitely have been heroic. I really think we would not have come this far without them. I am extremely grateful for what they have done. I wish it was safe enough for somebody (or several somebodies) to compose songs about them and blast them frequently on all available frequencies. It would lift my spirits, and maybe their spirits and maybe your spirits, too. But, sadly, it might not be a safe thing to do.

          It was kind of you to respond to me, Vicks. I appreciate it. Just so you know, I get unexpectedly angry at times out of frustration, too. You are not alone. Sticking together is not a bad plan, though. United we stand.

        • Cathy says:


          “Persevering depends on our will to stay together. As long as that will exists, it is possible.” Vincent Van Gogh

          Vincent couldn’t anticipate this context but truth is resilient.

          Also, even as the pace of current events obscure recent history, I still find solace in the thought that the 2018 midterms and various 2019 state-level elections tend to show people are paying attention.

          Hang in there! :-)

      • Vicks says:

        Hey that’s my joke!
        I can’t even think of a word that fits the moronic logic that gets these people who spend a lifetime using their “book” to judge others, collectively agree to not just give Trump a pass but elevate him to an object of worship.
        That devil fella is quite the trickster pulling that one off

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I would say Ari Melber’s credibility has been on thin ice for a while. Interviewing Joe Lieberman on any topic, let alone the current crisis with Iran, does not enhance it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        He is better than most of his contemporaries, but his producers do him no favors in booking retired power brokers and party rebels like Lieberman.

        Lieberman liked and mentored Obama, but pushed and voted for John McCain. He lost his Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, but won the seat by running as an “independent,” because his former party’s establishment figures wanted him and not the more progressive Ned Lamont (now governor).

        Joe is the voice of opportunism and unrestrained ambition, not the voice of informed comment.

        • punaise says:

          Oh gawd this brings back memories of this foul chapter from the FDL days.

          Tellingly, it wasn’t “Lieberman for Connecticut ” but “Connecticut for Lieberman” – all about Rape Gurney Joe and his needs.

          My contempt for Joe Lieberman will never abate.

        • P J Evans says:

          IIRC, it was being called the “Lieberman for Lieberman” party at FDL.
          I haven’t believed him since.

        • Mooser says:

          Never underestimate Trump’s value and efficacy as a rehabilitative catalyst or agent. Anybody can restore lost credibility by turning, or appearing to turn on Trump.
          If the usual patterns play out, not very long from now “I loved Trump once, but freed myself from the cult” will have much more probative value in showing political acumen than “I always despised Trump”.

    • MB says:

      Melber seemingly has a carved out a “niche” by befriending hip-hop artists and liberally quoting from their lyrics (mostly in an attempt to be humorous or occasionally, poignant). I like him when he’s in “lawyer” mode (he has a law degree), but the rest of the time (i.e. being a TV news personality) leaves me flat. Last night he interviewed Reggie Ray, Ken Starr’s replacement as independent counsel, and he softballed him the whole way while Ray adamantly denied that any of Trump’s infractions were impeachable. Lieberman and Ray would make for a good panel on OAN or Fox, but I question the judgment of whoever does the guest bookings at MSNBC.

      • rose kesovia says:

        Joe Lieberman was touting Biden and saying he would not support Bernie or Warren – just a shill for the Republicans. Is Melber trying out for “the new both-sides Cuomo” on MSNBC? If daytime MSNBC goes this direction only print media is “left” and on-line posts. I’m old and projecting, must remember “keep the faith!”.

  10. punaise says:

    Reason-free Rumble in iRaq: Rapacious Raytheon, Rapture for the Reverent Rubes…Wrong on so many Reveals

  11. Nehoa says:

    Great post (as are so many!). I would extend the concept beyond the abandonment of personal responsibility. The GOP has abandoned the ability to say, “I don’t know”; “I made a mistake”; and “I did not succeed without the help of others”. As much as I opposed Reagan and Bush I, I respected that they had the humility and humanity to listen to others and to make changes to correct mistakes or adjust to changing circumstances. After the rise of the Newt Gingrich version of the GOP, that all disappeared. Today’s GOP is about making up your own reality, blaming others for problems, and tax cuts for rich people will solve all problems. And kick a hippie if you get the chance.

    • P J Evans says:

      Reagan was a hippy-kicker. (So was Nixon.) He did it when he was governor, and that’s one reason a lot of us didn’t support him in 1980 and 1984.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Reagan entered politics in California in the 1960s kicking hippies, really, students of all kinds – and top academic administrators such as Clark Kerr. Kerr was a progressive chancellor of Berkeley and later president of the entire UC system. As governor, Reagan fired him.

        Kerr was too liberal for Reagan’s patrons and too student-oriented. Reagan emphasized putting big bidnessmen on the board of governors, dramatically hiked tuition, and clamped down on freedom of expression.

        In effect, Reagan fronted for his patrons and launched the neoliberal takeover of the vaunted University of California. Today, businesses have more free speech on Berkeley’s campus than its students, who can’t afford the tuition.

        • Nehoa says:

          Not saying that Reagan was OK (I was a state campaign head for Mondale ’84), but was not as rigidly bad as what we have now.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Sadly for the present, Reagan was smarter, more confident and more flexible than Trump. But then, so is a lamppost.

        • oldoilfiledhand says:

          Californian here: Saint Ronnie was a B movie actor, albeit one who practiced and was prepared to emotively deliver his lines. He stuck to the script. Ronald Wilson Reagan was a wholly owned corporate asset who seldom expressed an original thought and was in a senile, nearly vegetative state well before he left the oval office. That is all.

        • bmaz says:

          Yep. But, hey, Nancy and her astrologer guided us through. Ugh.

          And, just to be clear, I’d take Nancy Reagan and her astrologer over Trump any and every day.

        • MB says:

          How did he manage to give his televised farewell address in January 1989, upon leaving office? He sounded pretty coherent at that event, so it’s hard to square with “nearly vegetative state well before he left oval office”. Did they give him drugs to get him through that day ??

        • P J Evans says:

          I think he could get it together enough for a speech at that time, but he *was* losing it before then. (I started wondering when the annual health-exam reports stopped saying anything about his mental health.)

        • P J Evans says:

          All of that: he didn’t like students, minorities, the poor and disabled….anyone who wasn’t a conservative white male.
          And I am *never* going to visit his library-museum, no matter how interesting the visiting exhibit sounds.

    • Stacey says:

      I hadn’t thought of this until I read your post mentioning Bush 1 and admitting mistakes, but if that was the last time anyone can site a Republican admitting to making a mistake, then a lot of things would make sense to me. Look what happened to “Read my Lips” Bush after he had to raise taxes…he got gutted like a little sun fish and tossed into a bucket so the smell would forever remind his tribe what NOT to do: Raise taxes. But maybe they learned both lessons: Also, never admit a mistake either!

  12. Lee Amon says:


    Seriously? When was the Republican party *ever* the party of personal responsibility?

    I mean yeah, they are for personal responsibility for other people.

    If you are poor, it is your fault you are poor – If you are black, it is your fault if a cop shoots you –

    But personal responsibility for rich people? especially rich Republicans? Not in my memory

  13. sproggit says:

    I worry that, after three years, we’re still reading this wrong. With respect to Marcy, I don’t think this is “a Republican problem”. What concerns me is that the way that we frame, describe and contextualize problems tends to define and limit the ways we analyze and solve them.

    Trump is the “Quid Pro Quo President”:-

    – In return for making Kavanaugh a Supreme [and putting more (conservative) judges on the bench than any other recent President, Trump has managed to bind the Christian right and Evangelicals to him… *despite* the fact that he is a self-confessed sex pest and serial adulterer.
    – In return for his “build the wall!” rhetoric and his xenophobic rants against Muslims, Mexicans and people from a variety of sh##-hole countries, Trump has found a way to bind the forgotten and dejected, people living in trailer parks and failing towns, by convincing them that all their ills have come from “foreign invaders” and that he will “defend them” and “fight for them”.
    – In return for his permanent tax cuts for corporations, Trump has kept the billionaires and the one percent on side.
    – Lastly, in return for his non-permanent tax cuts for “Middle America”, Trump has given a large part of the population a “sugar rush” that leaves them thinking they feel good, even when a smarter look will tell you that what he’s really done is set you up for a killer “sugar hangover” when the tax-cut-high wears off.

    These are all transactions, done by the “deal-making President”. At this stage, given his all-too-visible cognitive decline, I’m tempted to suggest that these are instinctive, gut-driven things, as opposed to conscious strategy. Especially given the ready-fire-aim nature of the way he does things.

    One of the things that Trump did in his first 18 months or so as President – and doesn’t seem to have done so much lately – is to attack elected Republicans who disagreed with him. He went to Twitter or a TV camera and attacked any who were vocally disloyal. The effect, as we’ve seen, is to turn even the most skeptical Republicans into hardened acolytes: witness the transformation of Lindsay Graham. I’d cite this as evidence that we can pretty much forget any serious resistance to Trump coming from any congressional Republican, ever. Those with an ounce of principle have already left or stated that they won’t be seeking re-election, rather than try and fight the Capo in the White House.

    So whilst I think Marcy is entirely correct with the title to this piece, I also fear that it mis-represents the problem. The larger issue we face is that the corrupting influence that is Trump has ripped through the body politic of the United States a bit like the a bad dose of the norovirus.

    I think it is essential that people work harder to understand the calculus of leading Republicans such as McConnell and McCarthy.

    They are both inherently corrupt. They are also career politicians. Their calculus is likely to be to outlast Trump. They [and others in the Senate and House GOP] likely believe that Trump will be gone in 5 more years. Instead of recognizing Trump as a danger to the Republic, they look upon him as an *opportunity*. For the likes of McConnell, Trump is an opportunity to enact changes which, if they probe to be ultimately unpopular, can be passed of as a “Trump thing”. Oh, the President made me do it… And Trump, destructive narcissist that he is, has turned out to be (for them) a gift that keeps on giving.

    The fascinating thing is that I think Trump shows us how to beat him every day.

    His weaknesses are his own insecurities. When he’s feeling defensive, he attacks with malice.

    So to beat him at his own game, what you do is prepare a series of hard-hitting, factual ads (newspaper double spreads, TV commercials and internet) that deconstruct the failures of his administration and show that they are a direct result of his own weaknesses and insecurities.

    You run each ad for a maximum of 2 days. You give it lots of oxygen.

    Then, after max 2 days, you move on to the next item on your list.

    By the time that Trump sees your first line and then either starts to counter-attack or defend against it, you have moved on to your next line of attack.

    Trump is :-
    1. a vicious counter-puncher, who believes that any insult, any slight, has to be immediately returned 10-fold. Don’t stand still and argue the facts, you’re just making it easy for his counter to land…
    2. incredibly thin-skinned, which means that when you point out failings with a not-so-subtle dig that they are *his* failings, it will drive him mad. Trump does not perform well when he’s mad. So keep him mad.
    3. experiencing what seems to be significant cognitive decline. So try and pick your battles on topics where he has to defend himself against complex and/or contradictory actions that he’s made. Prime a few reporters to ask him to clarify his position on topic X, sit back, and have some popcorn.

    One reason Trump was successful in 2016 was because he took the initiative early on and never gave it back.

    Do you remember that TV debate with Clinton where he started prowling round behind her on stage, while she was speaking? Totally threw her. Instead of using it to attack his predatory nature with women, or his dirty practices, she flumped. If Trump is given half a second to react, he will steal back the initiative and force the debate on to something he wants to talk about.

    In the sport of boxing (and use of a pugilist analogy seems to fit Trump so well) you might come across the expression “stick and move”. This means, “hit your opponent with a long-range punch – like a jab – and then dance out of range before they can hit you back.

    That is the way to beat Trump. Stick and move. Strike and move on. Dance out of range. Don’t stand still long enough to get hit back.


    1. Run a campaign ad showing Trump making his grandiose claims to the United Nations, and the assembly laughing out loud at him, prompting Trump to say, “Not the response I was expecting”…

    2. Show a clip of the devastating forest fires in California. List how many people died and how much property was lost. Show a clip of Trump claiming it was the fault of others for not “sweeping” the forests clear of brush. Point out that what he could and should have done is offer a FEMA response or emergency aid.

    3. Show a clip of the devastation in Puerto Rico. List the numbers of dead. Show a clip of the President claiming it was their fault. Show a clip of the President throwing bottles of water at people.

    4. Run an ad discussing the climate emergency. Show film of the flooding in the Carolinas in the wake of recent storms. Show a clip of the President’s map of where the storm will strike, with his sharpie-added extension to take the storm away from the coast and in to Alabama. Point out that what he should have been doing was listen to his experts and prepare emergency relief…

    You get the idea. It isn’t hard to generate a (very long) list of things that the President has done which are completely bat-crap crazy. Obviously each one links to a policy position from the Democratic nominee where there is a sensible, practical, funded and achievable policy position.

    It likely won’t be popular, but on the day that you run your position paper on support for the military, have all your talking heads point out all the foolish and fatuous things that “President Bone-Spurs” has done to mess the military about (the Syria withdrawal, getting told to leave Iraq, attacks on NATO allies). You’ll have to have the candidate make a public statement that this was “below the belt” and “shouldn’t happen” (remember when George W used this tactic running against Al Gore? He “went back to Texas for the weekend” and the attack ads rolled while he was off the map, then he’d come back on the Monday and say, “there’s no place for that in this election race. *After* the damage was done.)

    If you really want to get under his skin, pull up all the footage you can find of Ivanka Trump trying to play politician, or talk about her Trademarks in China, or show the film clip of Kellyanne Conway hawking Ivanka’s beauty products in a White House press briefing. “Drain the swamp.” Yeah, right.

    The secret to beating Trump will be to get him off balance and keep him that way. Don’t give him enough time to figure out his counterpunch. Stick and move.

    Stick and move.

    • dude says:

      I like a lot of things you are saying, and I think they are essentially tactical responses of Trump and the Trump-effect. I think Marcy is right about the nature of the man, only I would the man is a pathological liar and that he is simply incurable. There will be no epiphanies from . There will be no change. He has to be dis-empowered because he not going to be embarrassed or shamed. He is dangerous because he will do anything to defend his pathological lies. It is his supplicants who can be embarrassed once they learn they have more to fear from other people (or institutions) than from him. Your ideas about how to separate him from his followers are sensible on their face, but the Dems are not capable of organizing the message, repeating it and dominating the news cycle. They are not able to setting the terms of the debate or the ‘transaction’ (the ‘deal’) with either Trump or his supporters. It appears to me that Dems and Trumper-opponents are conducting asymmetrical political warfare against the Red Coat Republican organization—skirmishing defensively but on many disconnected fronts. The hope appears to be to form a net and draw it tighter. His taxes and his children are his weakness if you are trying to embarrass him in view of his peers (who actually don’t care about either, but they recognize his embarrassment has unpredictable national and global consequences to their health).

      • dude says:

        error–probably one of many–

        …” I would say the man is a …”

        The edit function appears to have disappeared again.

        • sproggit says:

          I’m really sorry that my original post misled you. I went to too much detail with my examples, which I agree are samples of tactical steps. What I was trying (and clearly failed) to do was articulate a strategy, not a tactical approach at all.

          My suggested strategy was intended to be:-

          1, Don’t get drawn in to any argument or statement made by Trump at all. By all means make a note of lies or false claims, just don’t get suckered in to responding to him, because that cedes control of the debate.
          2. Develop a list of topics on which Trump has demonstrated glaring personal weaknesses and for which the Dem nominee has a clear, robust, costed and pragmatic plan. Contrast that sensible approach with what is coming from the White-House.
          3. Ensure that each topic put forward comes in a sensibly-sequenced list, with a clear pattern of release-fanfare-discuss-move-on.
          4. Ensure that each topic put forward clearly articulates why President Trump – and not the broad Republican caucus – is in the wrong.

          The winning candidate in the November election is going to be the one that shifts the Moderates and un-decided voters. The nation is so polarized right now that both parties have solid groups of hard-core voters who will always vote red or always blue. Trump won 2016 by convincing enough of the impressionable middle bloc that he was a better bet than Hilary.

          Because that moderate block are not affiliated, I suspect that partisan attacks – of the type we’re seeing from Republicans, won’t work this year. It plays well as red meat for the base, but that’s all. When Trump starts ranting – which he will, if the strategy is sound – the Dem candidate just needs to be cool, calm and collected.

          But the *strategy* I think needs to be one of driving the conversation and connecting with moderates. The tactics will come down to all the different mechanisms and topics that drive that program home.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As you say, the US is highly polarized, in part because of GOP political models that have been gestating since Newt Gingrich, in part because it sells more clicks and newspapers. The MSM loves partisanship and chaos as much as Donald Trump.

          I agree, the Democrats should seek the votes of both undecided voters. Either or both of them would add to the tally.

          They would be smarter, I think, to work at getting out the vote that the GOP is doing so much to throttle or to make useless by such things as gerrymandering and limiting voting places and booths.

          Vastly too few Americans vote. Too few see any hope of change from either party should they do so. Too many have to surmount largely GOP obstacles put in their path.

          For starters, it’s not a mandatory national holiday, as it is in much of the rest of the world. Making it one would substantially increase the vote. Voting places and machines are jacked about with. Long lines mean kids go hungry and untended, and parents get too exhausted. The list is as long as Trump’s tie.

          The Dems need a candidate who can tackle those things head on. That precludes establishment figures who like things the way they are, are considered a safe pair of hands, and who want to return to some mythical bipartisan status quo ante. That would depress voters and depress the vote.

        • bmaz says:

          We have early voting by mail statewide here, and it works extremely well. Making that universal would also be a great idea.

        • P J Evans says:

          I’m giving serious consideration to going permanent vote-by-mail, because I don’t trust the voting machines they’re bringing in. I want ink-on-paper.

        • bmaz says:

          I will note that here, the mail in ballots are still tabulated on the same machines, but protected ones at the secure county facility for every county. There has been no evidence of any issues, and we have been doing it for a while.

        • bmaz says:

          Probably my best friend does drive a Maserati, and I have had it off and on when he thinks something is wrong, but has no clue what. He is a finance guy, not a car guy. Me, I would never; for that kind of money, it would always be a Porsche (had a couple) or, ideally, a Ferrari (driven a lot, but never owned one….yet. Never say never, but increasingly unlikely).

        • Mooser says:

          Well, don’t get one of those crazy 2020 Corvettes. GM eliminated the iconic “torque tube” between engine and transmission, by bolting the engine directly to the transmission! WTF?

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Washington State provides a superb voter’s pamphlet (sometimes pages and pages, if there are many initiatives). That makes it a great experience to spread out the voter’s pamphlet with a beverage on the side, and then fill out the mail-in ballot.

          I’m always intrigued when (yet another) newbie to Washington expresses astonishment at how well our voter’s pamphlet is put together. Some people have never, ever heard of a pamphlet that allows each candidate, and those for/against every ballot measure, to submit their statements for the public. The information is also available online.

          If I’m listening astutely, some people don’t vote because to them the number of choices is overwhelming, they feel confused by having to make multiple decisions with relatively low information.

          Mail-in ballots are great, but the key to building turnout IMVHO is to ensure that people are clear about what their choices will mean.

          Our local papers have either gone under, or are mere ghosts of their former selves. A lot of things that really, really matter are actually local. As the papers have declined, partisanship and alienation have risen. Someone needs to figure out how to make information about water commission meetings, planning commission meetings, school board meetings public. At no cost, conveniently delivered (online, phone, whatever).

          Our Washington State Voter’s Pamphlet has helped keep our politics cleaner than a lot of states: people at least have access to information collected and mailed out via the Secretary of State’s office. Everyone gets the very same information, and if they want it in about 30+ languages, they can request a translation.

          IMVHO, it makes mail-in ballots work better. It is also a pillar of civility and sound governance.

          (And just to border on the obnoxious, it’s noteworthy that Washington’s education and business stats are stellar. You’d think some of those Plantation States and arch-conservative trickle-downers might have the sense to decipher connections between honest civil service, functioning government, and economic prosperity. Who’da thunk, eh?)

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I haven’t stepped into a voting booth in 12 years. I only vote by mail. As in all things in my life, I increasingly try to find ways to maintain control of the process, in a real world way, (meaning non-digital way) as much as possible.

        • bmaz says:

          My wife and I started in 2014 I think. Could have earlier, but I was stubborn and wanted to see the local poll and feel the moment or whatever romantic idiocy I had. What a dope. The vote by mail is so ridiculously easy, and there is a good mechanism for confirming they received your ballot and it was counted. It is really a great thing.

        • punaise says:

          Mme. punaise and I still like to go the local firehouse before work, greet and thank the poll workers, and “pull the lever”. Yes, it’s inefficient, but a good ritual.

        • bmaz says:

          To Punaise, that was my deal. The tactile feel of doing it, getting the stupid sticker, and just seeing it in action was a draw. I am never going back now! Every election, down to local city ones, show up in the mailbox, you fill it out, and put it back in the mail box for pickup. It is just too fucking easy!

        • punaise says:

          @bmaz – yes, we’ll eventually give in and vote by mail. Heck, I got rid of my fax machine years ago and somehow manage to survive.

        • blueedredcounty says:

          I always wanted to go vote in person at the local polls…it turned voting into positive action. I was going out to VOTE. Then I had to travel for my job either a lot, or unpredictably, but I wasn’t ready to do a mail ballot. I was able to go vote early at the County Registrar’s office, so I did that.

          After all the stories about hacked voting machines, plus the experience of voting on them (badly designed and programmed) I finally got my mail ballot two elections back. But I mail it…I drop it off at the County Registrar’s office on the way to work. That way I know it has been delivered, and I get a sticker, too!

        • blueedredcounty says:

          Oops – I don’t mail it, I’m in San Diego, they have a drive-through drop off for ballots.

    • klynn says:

      Stick and move. Interesting approach.

      Throw in a list of all his jail friends.

      Add in an anti RU element as well.

      Build up the “not well” concern. (This one is a big one to focus on.)

      • sproggit says:

        Throw up a list with photos of all the political appointees who have had to resign due to scandal. End on Scott Pruitt, with a list of his expenditure.

        Put up another list of all the replacements and departures in the White House and cabinet, showing how the complete disarray that has become the permanent state of the Executive branch is crippling the nation’s ability to function on the international stage.

        Show how the President is hiding anything to do with his finances, including: his tax returns; the money being paid by foreign nations to stay in his hotels; his attempt to hold the G7 at his Florida golf club, the Doral; the fact that USAF air crews flying from Alaska to Europe were stopping off in the UK and required to drive 30+ miles to his Turnberry Golf Club to “overnight” because they “couldn’t find anywhere else to stay”, even though breakfast there alone cost more than their entire per diem allowance. C’mon, this stuff writes itself…

        Provide a detailed, documented list of all the documents sought and witnesses subpoena’d during House investigations, complete with a status list of what has been provided/who attended and what remains snubbed. Compare this with former Secretary of State Clinton and the literal hours she spent being treated like a circus exhibit by Trey Gowdry during the Benghazi hearings – and thus point out the complete contempt for the rule of law shown by the “law and order party”.

        None of this needs to be snippy. The facts here are so overwhelming that it should be possible to create a landslide of evidence…

        Then, when the Republicans inevitably call foul and start to get nervous because the facts are hitting a bit close to home and a bit hard, switch gears again.

        Show the film clip of President Trump recounting how he met Premiere Kim of North Korea and they “fell in love”. Then set out how the North Koreans have shown the falsity of Trump’s claims of progress. (OK, we all know that his only interest in North Korea was that he had been sold the idea that if he got them to give up their nuclear arsenal he would win the Nobel Peace Prize – so his fascination with NK was only driven by his insatiable desire to out-do Obama.

        But within the strategy itself, gradually move around from these outrageous falsehoods, lies, political mis-steps and diplomatic disasters and bring it home.

        For example, go find the former owners of CaseLabs Computer Systems and have them explain why the best PC case manufacturer in the *world* was forced out of business by the President’s Aluminum tarriffs.

        Find some mid-west farmers who have gone out of business thanks to the incredibly destructive “trade war” with China.

        Prepare a single TV commercial with a list of all the responsibilities added to Jared Kushner’s portfolio – and provide a status update on all of them, to show the (complete lack of) progress made in 3 years.

        The idea of having a government in DC is to have an administrative function that serves the people. Not have an entire administrative function in DC there to personally benefit the occupant of the Oval Office.

        • klynn says:

          Great additional list. I imagine Marcy has a solid list to add. You are correct, the ad content writes itself.

        • P J Evans says:

          His talking about lowering drug prices – and the people who have died since then because they couldn’t afford insulin. The health-insurance claims – and the people who buy his cheap-ass plans and discover too late that they don’t cover anything.

        • Stacey says:

          I like it! They could make it a series like the “True Facts About X-animal” and they’d have to have that same narrator do it. Now this may be a more humorous approach than you’re thinking, but I guarantee you if you did it with a ‘laughing AT you’ edge it would drive him over that edge in no time flat.

          Here’s an example of the “True Facts…” voice and sense of humor.

          Or just type in “True Facts about Marsupials” in a YouTube search.

          Call it “True Facts about Donald Trump” and start with the little boy from the outer borough where his ego-deficiency seems to have gotten started and you’re off to the races!

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As tough a competitor as is Mike Pompeo, I think Mike Pence wins the latest Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award, for [not] describing the “imminent threat” posed by Iran.

    Pence, like Trump and Lords Raytheon and Rapture, produces no evidence for his claims. Rather, he insists that this maladministration cannot tell the Gang of Eight, Congress, or the public what it is because it would compromise intelligence sources and methods. Popular throughout the Cold War, that bullshit argument has been debunked at least since Dick Nixon said trust me, I’m not a criminal.

    Shifting gears from sci-fi to Christmas movies, and to quote police Sgt. Al Powell, “Why don’t you wake up and smell what you’re shoveling,” Mikey?

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Anyone have the latest count of unfilled positions and “acting” officers in Trump’s administration? ‘Cause the guys at DoD and State look like they haven’t shaved in a week.

    • Cathy says:

      And then there were the dueling sound bites from Lee and Graham after the briefing. Hope for Lindsey’s sake his promised debate isn’t televised: Mike Lee looks like he could go a few rounds; Lindsey looks rode hard and put up wet.

    • P J Evans says:

      I noticed the uniformed gents behind Trmp in yesterday’s lie-fest didn’t look at all happy about being props for him.

    • harpie says:

      Here’s a [partial?] list, via Adam Parkhomenko:
      4:15 PM – 7 Jan 2020

      Reminder that as this crisis escalates, we have
      1] no Director of National Intelligence,
      2] no Dep Dir,
      3] no Homeland Security Secretary,
      4] no Dep Sec,
      5] no head of CBP or
      6] ICE,
      7] no State Dept Under Sec of Arms Control,
      8] no Asst Sec for Europe, and
      9] no Navy Sec.

        • blueedredcounty says:

          I apologize if this has been covered in other posts already. I am relatively new to this site. And I have never seen any decent mainstream coverage of this topic.

          From what I remember of my long-ago history classes, when the founders were setting up the Federal government, the first cabinet position created was Secretary of State. The reason was wholly pragmatic. They knew as a new, young country we could not afford to be constantly at war, like the European powers. It was entirely too expensive. Diplomacy is much cheaper than peace.

          I cannot shake the feeling Putin achieved his primary goal with Trump’s election by having our State Department gutted and diminished back in 2017, under Tillerson. We lost a huge pool of talent, experience, and institutional memory. It can’t be recovered. All that can be done at some future date is to attempt to rebuild something from the rubble.

      • sproggit says:

        Don’t forget

        10] Our own biggest liability sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office*.

        *Unless, of course, he’s playing golf.

        • Cathy says:

          I think we could make a case for idiopathic peripheral neuropathy of the executive branch.

          It’s all there: Loss of command and control infrastructure, subsequent malfunction resulting in lost or inappropriate signaling, bringing complex functions to a grinding halt.

          Overt symptoms: hypersensitivity, weakness, twitching

        • Mitch Neher says:

          If the executive branch is supposed to be “the brain”. . .

          And if the neurons in the brain have gone “peripheral”. . .

          EoH did mention something about “imagining evolutionary impossibilities” . . .

          OMG! Trump is a polyp.

        • Cathy says:

          Lol! I had cast the occupant of the Oval Office as a sort of fevered brain of a now feckless body, but the imagery of an amorphous lump of superfluous tissue in an overlong red tie really nails it.

  16. Vinnie Gambone says:

    I would love to see a reporter ask Trump what his reaction would be if he found out Iranians are engaged in active measures to interfere with the 2020 elections.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The claim by others that Iran took down the 737-800 in its own airspace will need quite some verification. It had just taken off and was still climbing to cruise altitude. It had only reached 8000 feet and would have been easily tracked and identified by civilian ATC, not to mention foreign surveillance craft.

    It was partially filled with Iranians. Any or all of the passengers could have arrested prior to departure. Shooting down their own civilian aircraft would make Iran look like the monster Trump claims Iran to be, which would be a surprising own goal.

    There’s no obvious reason for Iran to do it and no deniability in doing it. If the downing was an overt act by a state, there are a few more usual suspects. Let’s wait until more credible evidence is in. It’s not as if the 737 is an aircraft with a clean bill of health.

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One of Trump’s favorite epithets is to accuse his opponents of engaging in something nefarious called, “presidential harassment.”

    As with “alternative facts” – and outside of dictatorships – there is no such thing. It’s called politics, something Mr. Trump knows as little about as he does about business.

    • sproggit says:

      Another of the President’s tells occurs when he accuses his targets of exactly the conduct that he, himself is guilty of committing.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      From an old interview of Sarah Kendzior at “Who, What, Why”:
      Yeah, I mean that’s just frustrating phenomenon. That’s how Trump has operated throughout his life as a quote unquote “businessman”, and also as a politician, and we’ve known this from the start.

      Right after his inauguration he lied about the size of the crowd in a way that was just a lie that flaunts power.
      We could see photos. We knew that this was a lie, we knew that he was lying.
      He knew that we knew that he was lying, and he didn’t care because the point was to show that his perception of reality is so powerful it trumps actual reality.

      So the problem I think at this point is that, you know, we know this play, we know this move.

      The media still struggles with how to cover this.
      We saw this with The New York Times when the Barr memo came out and we got this giant headline saying that Mueller exonerates Trump, which is just not what happened.

      It was reminiscent of their other headline about FBI sees no link between Trump and Russia. People look at headlines and a lot of the headlines just reinforce the lies that Trump tells without debunking them.

      And I think George Lakoff who studies linguistics had good advice about this, that you debunk the lie straight on.
      –you tell the truth first;
      –then refer to the fact that they lied;
      –then explain why they lied;
      –then explain the political motive;
      –describe the agenda behind the lie;
      –then you can address it without falling prey to repeating it because repetition is what Trump is very good at.

      He repeats the same phrases over and over again, so they just kind of rattle around in peoples’ heads subconsciously or not, and I think that that power has been really underestimated by Democrats. I think that they, even years later, don’t seem to understand how to fight it and I think that’s generally true with the media, and I also think quite a bit of the media is on Trump’s side, and that’s an unfortunate thing because that’s not the side of truth.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Back to that recent booking by Ari Melber’s people of Joe Lieberman, who had never been on Melber’s show before, the question is why. C&L has a suggestion. Joltin’ Joe was recently hired to represent a defense contractor (Israel Aerospace Industries), as have many of the septagenarian politico-military consultants making the rounds on cable news – almost all without attribution regarding their conflicts of interest. I wonder if they have the same booking agent.

    If I had to guess which 70+ former politicians would shill for a foreign defense contractor without attribution – just after the president fired rockets into the Middle East quagmire – Joe’s name would be high on the list. Fortunately, he has about the same credibility as Donald Trump.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As for why Joe, like a familiar character actor, he’s a name and a face that people recognize, but can’t recall why.

      If this were a movie and not the deadly bidness of selling weapons of mass destruction, Joe would be hired to play history teacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He’s there as an anchor, because the sexy parts are already cast.

    • MB says:

      As revealed in a recent Intercept article – pundits praising the assassination:

      “Pundit” | Job Status | Appears On | Shill For
      Jack Keane | retired General | Fox, NPR | SCP Partners
      Van Hipp | current lobbyist | Fox | American Defense Int’l
      David Petraeus | retired General | PRI, CBS | Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
      John Negroponte | former State Dept. Fox McLarty Associates
      Jeh Johnson former Cabinet NBC Lockheed Martin

    • harpie says:

      Judd Legum has a list, too:
      5:58 AM – 9 Jan 2020

      1. Since Trump ordered the drone attack that killed Soleimani, television news has been filled with commentary on the strike. Many of TV pundits who weighed in have undisclosed ties to the defense industry. [link]

      He compares how they are described, and their “undisclosed” ties.

    • P J Evans says:

      A party of personal responsibility wouldn’t have nominated a lying multiply-bankrupt adulterer.

        • klynn says:

          You all made my day.

          Your comments read like a great script for a campaign to confront the personal responsibility brand.

        • blueedredcounty says:

          I know it can’t happen because of separation of church and state, but wouldn’t it be something to see some Christian groups band together to sue the Trump-Supporting Evangelical “Christians” for fraud and ruining the brand?

  20. dadidoc1 says:

    I suspect that this is just Donald Trump’s attempt to one up his buddy Muhammad Bin Salman. Same result with a larger tool.

  21. Bay State Librul says:

    “I took LSD countless times growing up and never had a “bad trip”. Now everyday seems like one.” Recent tweet.

    Thanks to all for your delightful counterpoints.
    I had a great journey reading through all the comments, discussions, and stories behind them…. a memorable event to ignite 2020.

  22. cracker says:

    Sorry to join these trips down memory lane so late, but the Haggar reference reminded me of one of the many insightful (and earthy, laugh-out-loud) phone calls Lyndon caused to be recorded that were released after his demise. He was ordering slacks from Mr. Haggar, a TX garment manufacturer at the time, and wanted more room in the crotch, and a longer zipper.

    If he had limited his political work to phone calls, instead of painful televised speeches, he might still be President.

  23. Bay State Librul says:

    My view: The Con Man went after Iran because he is nuts, and it will improve his impeachment chances.
    We are on the brink of war, and the next steps will tip the balance.
    The chances of us not going to war are slim, and as likely as buying a Condo in Somerville for $500,000.
    I’m not hopeful. He will squeeze Iran until they retaliate.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The MSM has gulped down the meme that “Iran is hiding something” as fast as Trump can swallow a cheeseburger.

    That alone is as fishy as a former MI6 guy dying, being stuffed into a duffel bag plopped into his bath, and having it ruled “accidental.”

    In this, I’m with Gen. Turgidson, we should wait until all the facts are in before deciding how the plane crashed. I would pay particular attention to reporters using the passive voice, because it hides all sorts of agency.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        If I wasn’t such a Luddite, then I might be less amazed at the number of people these days who are out on the street at roughly six o’clock in the morning pointing their cell-phone cameras at the night sky–just in case something newsworthy happens.

        All I ever get is . . . whatever the weather is.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Not much of a bellingcat fan, but it seems the Iranians are admitting to accidentally shooting down their own civilian airliner. However much blame rests with Iranian actors, the high tension owing to recent US actions would have to be included in any explanation.

      The acknowledgement was important, and happened a lot faster than other examples of lethal miscalculations (US, Russian, Korean). Boeing, for example, has been slow to acknowledge its part in the recent catastrophic failures of two of its aircraft.

      Lots of mea culpas and settlements should be forthcoming. Lowering tensions might save a few lives. Predictably, Trump, will seek to increase them.

      • bmaz says:

        Agree completely, both as to Bellingcat and the larger bit. It does seem a very good thing that Iran came clean so relatively quick. Smerconish just did a bit on causation, and basically asked the question as to whether the US action on Soleimani was a proximate cause. The answer is clearly yes, even if far from the sole one. An appalling screw up by Iran, but a frankly foreseeable one with military AA batteries that close to a major civilian airport. But those AA SAM batteries would not be on panic mode otherwise but for the extrajudicial assassination of Soleimani by the US and resulting retaliation by Iran.

        I have a lawyer friend who is a former very high official in the Air Force civilian leadership under Obama, also a former fighter pilot, who immediately told me it was almost certainly an Iranian SAM fired by mistake. I knew he was probably right, but was still so distrustful of anything that comes out of the Trump bureaucracy that I was “Uh huh, I’ll wait for more!”. He was, of course, exactly right. This is why the relentless lies by Trump et. al are so dangerous; there is just no credibility there when it really counts.

  25. harpie says:

    1] IRAQ tells US to make arrangements to leave:
    8:33 AM · Jan 10, 2020

    Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi tells the U.S. secretary of state to send a delegation to Iraq tasked with formulating the mechanism for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Iraq [AP News]

    2] US says “NO”:
    9:50 AM [ET] · Jan 10, 2020

    #US to #Iraq: We’re staying. [screenshot]

    • harpie says:

      Here’s the response from the Press Secretary of Department of State:

      The U.S. Continued Partnership with Iraq
      JANUARY 10, 2020

      America is a force for good in the Middle East. Our military presence in Iraq is to continue the fight against ISIS and as the Secretary has said, we are committed to protecting Americans, Iraqis, and our coalition partners. We have been unambiguous regarding how crucial our D-ISIS mission is in Iraq. At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership—not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East. Today, a NATO delegation is at the State Department to discuss increasing NATO’s role in Iraq, in line with the President’s desire for burden sharing in all of our collective defense efforts. There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership. We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq.

      • Cathy says:

        Pending further reporting looks like Iraq has requested a US delegation; the US acknowledges plans for a delegation; and the rest (of the Foggy Bottom statement) is spin?

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    In her recent interviews, K.T. McFarland reduces thousands of years of Middle Eastern history to a saga of unremitting warfare – and uses it to argue that ME characters are Bad, and that, in contrast, American intervention in the Middle East has shown its desire to extend peace, goodwill toward men. Her tortured argument could only come a career-long acolyte of that Buddhist monk of a civil servant, Henry Kissinger.

    The United States maintains military units in virtually every country on the planet. It recently invaded Iraq, twice, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. Over the past hundred years, it has sponsored coups across the world in order to promote its economic interests. It committed genocide against its native population and for centuries enslaved African Americans. The list of wars pursued by good white Christian Europeans, the founding culture for white North America, is as long as Trump’s tie.

    But McFarland is not someone to let facts get her way. She began her career as a part-time employee in Nixon’s WH, working for Kissinger’s NSC and typing Nixon’s presidential daily briefing. She acts as if she’s still doing that work – for the same people and toward the same ends.

    • P J Evans says:

      There hasn’t been a lot of peace in the history of *any* continent. WTF is she on, so we can avoid it?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      She’s on a neoliberal high, with a little oil of Henry K mixed in the bowl before lighting. Heady stuff, not for the first-time user.

  27. punaise says:

    Well that settles that. “Lucy” Collins would never pull away the football, right? (via TPM)

    Senate Susan Collins (R-ME) said Friday that she is coordinating with a “fairly small group” of Republicans, including senators and party leaders, on an agreement on impeachment trial rules that will allow witnesses to be called, according to the Bangor Daily News.

    • P J Evans says:

      I’m not sure I’d trust her even if she put it in a signed and witnessed document with video of the signing *with* the witnesses.

      • punaise says:

        This is probably just McConnell giving her cover so she can say she *tried* – before folding, of course.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I’ll start believing anything Collins says when Trump goes a week without a lie – or a justification.

    • Cathy says:

      I’m suspicious of negotiations concerning witnesses. Wasn’t McConnel’s original witness-quashing move in response to Trump’s plans to turn the Senate trial into a Trump TV Revenge Fantasy Spectacular? Wasn’t there some relief that Senate Republicans weren’t signaling harassment of the whistle blower or Hunter Biden? Might we see that can of worms reopen?

      • P J Evans says:

        Partly, and also because it makes it so much easier for him to claim there’s nothing there and Trmp is therefore innocent.

        • Cathy says:

          Easier, yes.

          And if Trump believes his Spectacular is back on the table bet he’s making their lives a misery. McConnell may have to build a wall around Collins.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Rudy is one of the inmates Trump puts in charge of the asylum.

      Their persistent madness is meant to confuse the average citizen, who has little time to parse the rules and refute their mad interpretation of them. Trump’s boys say it’s the rules that are nuts, not them, because those crazy rules would impose natural and logical consequences on those who commit legal and/or political crimes. In their view, the only sane course is to give them a free pass.

      It’s crazy. But it’s a PR game that can be effective, if the Dems don’t sharpen their game. On that score, the odds are in Trump’s favor.

  28. Bay State Librul says:

    Look, I’m on my third beer, a Mountain Ale 7.4% ABV from Stowe, Vermont..
    What you have to understand, is that Trump is bat shit crazy.
    End of story. He is a fucking liar.
    Why do we go around in circle jerks?

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Donald Trump assassinated a foreign leader simply to stop a handful of GOP Senators from whining and complaining – as the President has said he did – does that not establish that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States?

    If Trump is lying about why he assassinated a foreign leader – and trying to blame his decision on the person nearest to him on the golf course – does that not establish that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States?

    If A or B is true, and yet every GOP member of Congress continues to support him without qualification, does that not establish that the GOP is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States?

    • P J Evans says:

      There’s also (c): he had a foreign leader assassinated to draw attention away from his own legal problems. Which indicates that he’s a clear and present danger to US national security, and also to the US legal system.

  30. Stacey says:

    Is anyone else concerned with Trump’s collecting Psycho-soldiers like Eddie Gallagher who could play the role of Cesar Sayoc 2.0, a more technically competent but just as loyally dedicated MagaBomber? There are now several of these highly military trained war criminals on who’s behalf Trump has intervened into their cases. He’s planning to drag Eddie Gallagher around all spring and summer with him to his crazy-fests, soaking this psychopath in his own desire to have someone ‘rid him of these meddlesome priests’–Trump’s enemies list. The guy’s grateful to Trump, his own brothers in arms all told us he’s a psychopath that just loves killing anything that moves. There is now a whole handful of these grateful war criminals Trump has collected for himself! This is not going to end well.

  31. klynn says:

    Was reading the Frontline post on Sarah Palin and her role in building a culture of lies…I usually do not read the comments but they were so mind boggling that I got sucked into reading the first few. Then someone sane came along and posted this beautiful list:

    “Just so we’re clear:

    No Obama investigations.
    No Obama Special Counsel investigations.
    No Obama administration indictments.

    Hillary Clinton Benghazi “Investigation”
    4 years
    0 indictments
    0 convictions

    Hillary Clinton Email “Investigation”
    2 years
    0 indictments
    0 convictions

    Trump-Russia Investigation
    15 months
    34 Indictments/Charges (Individuals) (and counting)
    3 Indictments/Charges (Companies)
    5 GUILTY pleas (and counting)
    4 CONVICTIONS (and counting)
    Indicted: Roger Stone
    Indicted: Paul Manafort
    Indicted: Rick Gates
    Indicted: George Papadopoulos
    Indicted: Michael Flynn
    Indicted: Michael Cohen
    Indicted: Richard Pinedo
    Indicted: Alex van der Zwaan
    Indicted: Konstantin Kilimnik
    Indicted: 12 Russian GRU officers
    Indicted: Yevgeny Prigozhin
    Indicted: Mikhail Burchik
    Indicted: Aleksandra Krylova
    Indicted: Anna Bogacheva
    Indicted: Sergey Polozov
    Indicted: Maria Bovda
    Indicted: Dzheykhun Aslanov
    Indicted: Vadim Podkopaev
    Indicted: Irina Kaverzina
    Indicted: Gleb Vasilchenko
    Indicted: Internet Research Agency
    Indicted: Concord Management
    Guilty Plea: Michael Flynn
    Guilty Plea: Michael Cohen
    Guilty Plea: George Papadopolous
    Guilty Plea: Richard Pinedo
    Guilty Plea: Alex van der Zwaan
    Guilty Plea: Rick Gates
    Over 191 Criminal Charges (and counting):
    Conspiracy against the USA (2 counts)
    Conspiracy to launder money (2 counts)
    Bank fraud (8 counts)
    Bank fraud conspiracy (10 counts)
    Subscribing to false tax returns (10 counts)
    Making false statements (6 counts)
    Failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts (14 counts)
    Unregistered agent of a foreign principal (2 counts)
    False FARA statements (2 counts)
    Subscribing to false tax returns (10 counts)
    Assisting in preparation of false tax documents (5 counts)
    Conspiracy to defraud the United States (13 counts)
    Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud (2 counts)
    Aggravated identity theft (24 counts)“


  32. harpie says:

    On Soleimani: Erik Prince emails Bannon at Breitbart on September 8, 2015who sends it to Lewandowski [via Laura Rozen]:
    7:50 PM – 11 Jan 2020

    NEW: A recently disclosed memo reveals that Blackwater-founder-turned-unofficial-2016-Trump-campaign-adviser Erik Prince advocated to the campaign for the killing of Soleimani as early as 2015. Great reporting by @kpolantz [CNN]

    2015 memo from Erik Prince to Trump campaign: ‘National disgrace’ that Soleimani ‘not already DEAD’
    Updated 5:03 PM ET, Sat January 11, 2020 (CNN)

  33. harpie says:

    Secretary Raytheon BELIEVES:
    6:21 AM – 12 Jan 2020

    [THREAD] Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new talking point is that while he may not have seen intelligence indicating Iran was imminently targeting American embassies, President Sharpie believed they were — and that’s good enough for him. That’s the best these guys can do. It’s farcical.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, to which Matt Miller responded “The Defense Secretary get the PDB. If he didn’t see that intelligence, it doesn’t exist.”

      And to which I added that, under the National Security Act, Title 50 of the USC, and some other authorities, Congress must also be briefed, and there is no evidence from that front either. Nobody “believes” this shit that has any credibility whatsoever.

    • harpie says:

      …and, as Cheryl Rofer tweets, the whole reason RAYTHEON is SecDef is because he will say he BELIEVES
      …and then Trump BELIEVES what Esper says.

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