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That may be…but they do give a damn when public opinion gets roaring about what is going down, and potentially they might lose their seat. It is a slower game with an op-ed, and preaching to the choir, but it does offer up some perspective on the historical low point this administration has reached.

This may be a PollyAnna-ish argument…but I would rather err on the side of the voters will ultimately decide. A family member lives in DC, works across the board for both parties within the confines of Congress and has done so for several years. She uses the example of wanting to believe that there was a reason Rep Eric Cantor (Eric Cantor’s loss in Primary ) got canned despite his position - it was because people got sick of his games, lies etc. Despite all the campaign money, and what he thought was a secure seat, he got canned.

So public opinion can ultimately sway the voters and a means to an end.

The Republicans are entrenched now and they are making a bargain now that so goes T, they will follow. That changes when they have to face their constituents who now feel that T was not someone they want or trust anymore.

(David Bythewood) #522

Forget the Oval. The real Trump action is in the residence.

Fixated on impeachment proceedings against him, Trump is increasingly taking his official business to the White House’s executive residence to escape perceived risks of his formal office space.

The Oval Office is the traditional epicenter of power for American presidents, but a new one is emerging that’s more exclusive, more secluded and more convenient.

President Donald Trump is increasingly morphing the White House residence into a second Oval. It’s become the place where Trump feels most productive, where he avoids meddling by his staff and where he speed-dials his network of confidants, GOP lawmakers and TV pundits.

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The residence was where Trump made the infamous July 25 phone call to the Ukrainian president that’s now at the center of impeachment proceedings. It’s where Trump often meets his personal attorneys to plot legal strategy or campaign advisers to shape 2020 campaign moves. And last week it became the location for a Trump meeting that’s as official as any, hosting Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell — the target of countless Trump Twitter attacks — along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for a Monday morning discussion of monetary policy.

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Maintaining a sanctuary to work and think has taken on greater importance for the president as he increasingly feels under siege by the Democratic impeachment inquiry. Frustrated by the whistleblower complaint and a parade of administration officials testifying on Capitol Hill, Trump is as wary as ever of the staffers around him and distrustful of the traditional White House infrastructure. Working from his private quarters gives him space away from what he perceives as prying eyes and guards against his omnipresent fear of leaks to the media.

It also gives Trump a greater sense of control as he faces the dual challenges of impeachment and his reelection, according to interviews with a half-dozen current and former senior administration officials.

“The Oval presents itself as historic and it gives off a sense of power, but the residence has a sense of exclusivity,” said a former senior administration official, describing Trump’s affinity for conducting business there. “He works more in the residence because he is not constrained there by staffers knocking on the door.”

People close to the president say his proclivity to retreat to the residence during work hours has built up over the course of his presidency. In his earliest days in the White House, Trump was especially proud to show off the Oval’s Resolute Desk — a prop he still uses for photo ops and official visitors. Over time, Trump increasingly ditched the formal office and inched closer to the residence — the main building of the White House complex between the East and West wings — where the president and his family keep their private quarters on the second floor, a level above the general tours and official events.

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Outsiders can reach Trump there only through the telephone, or if he invites them in.

The president sometimes prefers to interview candidates for high-profile positions from his private quarters, so staff and White House journalists cannot monitor comings and goings. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney landed his current job during a late Friday afternoon meeting in the private space of the residence.

It’s been a journey for Trump to settle into his own routine of operating in a White House complex that functions as a historic home, a government headquarters and a museum documenting more than two centuries of history.

Early in this presidency, Trump’s staff tried to nudge him out into the city more often for dinners or to attend events, but the plans always fell apart, said one of the former senior administration officials who called Trump a “homebody.”

On the rare occasion where Trump does venture out in Washington, he dines at his hotel or attends a fundraiser. He recently went to a rare Nationals postseason baseball game with a slew of Republican lawmakers. But most days and nights, if Trump is not on the campaign trail or a foreign trip, he happily stays inside his White House bubble and the residence — working late into the night and very early in the morning.

Trump’s predecessors all used the nation’s most prominent home — which now features 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms across six levels — in their own unique ways.

President Ronald Reagan preferred to read in the evenings in the residence, while President Bill Clinton — like Trump — stayed up late and made calls, said the White House’s former chief usher, Gary Walters, who served in the private residence from Presidents Richard Nixon through George W. Bush.

“They did most of their work in the Oval Office and in the West Wing where they had access to their staff, and there was very little done in the residence,” Walters said.

President George H.W. Bush hosted buffet dinners roughly once a month in the residence for Republican lawmakers, journalists, personal friends and acquaintances, with the first
lady Barbara Bush ringing a bell at the start of the evening to instruct the men to remove their ties.

Clinton famously got himself into trouble for giving access to the Lincoln Bedroom within the second-floor residence to well-heeled donors, and he fell into trouble in other ways when he left the residence — such as his sexual indiscretions with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in the West Wing that made him only the second U.S. president to get impeached.

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President Barack Obama routinely returned to the residence each night by early evening for dinners with his family and often worked later into night from the private office in the residence known as the Treaty Room.

The White House residence offers its own living room, study and the Yellow Oval Room for grander entertaining — in addition to the bedrooms, kitchen, dining and dressing rooms. Over 90 people work in the White House residence, both serving the president and his family as well as helping to throw hundreds of events each year for visitors.

For Trump, moving to Washington has meant recalibrating his New York routine, where he also lived and worked in the same Trump Tower building.

Now he tends to go to the Oval Office and adjacent private dining room for five to six hours a day for formal meetings, lunches and ceremonial events, current and former administration officials say. But the bulk of his work in the mornings, late afternoons, evenings and weekends happens in his private quarters where Trump can call staff and advisers as early as 6 a.m. and up to midnight. Sometimes he or one of his aides will summon a senior staffer to the residence for an informal discussion or quick meeting to review a speech.

He also uses it during working hours as a place to watch TV freely, tweet and serve as his own one-man communications director and political strategist. The residence serves like a bunker for his impeachment response and his real-time reaction to testimony, witnesses and public hearings.

Critics of Trump’s reliance on the residence as a place of business argue it can help to obscure official work and visitors. Calls he places or receives from landlines, unless they are following national security protocols, go out through the White House operator; only Trump and the operator generally know exactly who he has talked to in the past 24 hours. Trump also has long been known to rely on his cellphone for calls, avoiding the White House staff.

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The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.

A third former senior administration official insisted Trump’s heavy use of the residence was “not an attempt on the president’s part to hide things. He is a workaholic, so he wakes up early and works out of the residence. It’s just the way his internal work clock has been for decades,” the official said.

Trump also loves to open up parts of the private residence to special guests, py taking them on tours of the Lincoln Bedroom where he’ll show off a copy of the Gettysburg Address. It’s a party trick he deployed in an attempt to wow German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a move he uses with a wide array of other White House visitors.

Once, Trump invited all the attendees at a September 2017 dinner for the White House Historical Association up to the second floor and ushered them into the Lincoln Bedroom.

“He talked about the room and Lincoln’s office. He pointed out documents,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project who attended the dinner that night. “He‘s very enthusiastic about the room and living in the White House itself.”

(David Bythewood) #523

Brett Kavanaugh’s latest opinion should terrify Democrats

The Supreme Court now has five votes to sabotage the next Democratic presidency.

If you’ve spent any time around the Federalist Society — the hugely influential conservative legal society that plays an outsized role in choosing President Trump’s judicial nominees — then you’ve probably noticed their obsession with a singular issue.

Beginning in the latter half of the Obama administration, Federalist Society gatherings grew increasingly fixated on diminishing the power of federal agencies to regulate businesses and the public — an agenda that would severely weaken seminal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

On Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled that he is on board with this agenda.

Kavanaugh’s opinion is not especially surprising. The Trump appointee to the Supreme Court keynoted the Federalist Society’s annual banquet earlier this month and he spent much of the Obama years frustrating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies. But his opinion is nonetheless significant because it shows that there are almost certainly five votes on the Supreme Court to slash agencies’ regulatory power.

Last June, in Gundy v. United States , all four of Kavanaugh’s Republican colleagues indicated they want to limit agency regulation. Kavanaugh, however, did not participate in the Gundy case because he was not a member of the Court when it was argued.

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear Paul v. United States , a case asking whether a federal law delegates too much authority to the Justice Department to determine whether certain sex offenders need to register with the government. That’s the very same issue that the Supreme Court considered in Gundy .

Kavanaugh , however, took the unusual step of releasing an opinion explaining why he thought the Court should not hear Paul . His brief opinion praises Justice Neil Gorsuch’s effort to toss out decades of settled law regarding the power of agencies to regulate. Indeed, if anything, Kavanaugh’s Paul opinion suggests that he would restrict federal power even more than Gorsuch would.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of this issue. Countless federal laws, from the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act, lay out a broad federal policy and delegate to an agency the power to implement the details of that policy. Under Kavanaugh’s approach, many of these laws are unconstitutional, as are numerous existing regulations governing polluters, health providers, and employers.

A revolution against the regulatory state looms on the horizon, and the biggest losers are likely to be Democrats who hope to regain the White House in 2020.

The Nondelegation Doctrine, briefly explained

Both Gundy and Paul concern a largely defunct legal doctrine known as “nondelegation.”

Broadly speaking, Congress can make laws in two ways. The most straightforward way is it can simply command a person or industry to conduct their business in a certain way. If Congress wants to restrict pollution, for example, it can pass a law commanding power plants to use a particular technology that reduces emissions.

The problem with this approach, however, is that acts of Congress are difficult to change. If Congress had enacted a law in the 1970s requiring power plants to use the best emissions reduction technology that existed back then, it could have locked those plants into using technology that is vastly inferior to the methods of reducing emissions that exist today. At the very least, Congress would have struggled to keep abreast of new technology and to update the law as better methods of reducing emissions were invented.

Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) speaks at the House Triangle during the Coal Caucus’ news conference on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants on September 26, 2013.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

So that’s not what Congress did. Instead, the Clean Air Act provides that certain power plants must use “the best system of emission reduction” that currently exists, while also taking into account factors such as cost. Congress also tasked the EPA with studying what technology is available to reduce emissions and with creating binding regulations instructing energy companies on which systems they must use to reduce emissions.

As the technology evolves, the EPA may update its regulations, so that power plants in 2019 use the best system of emission reduction that exists in 2019 — not the one that existed in the 1970s.

In this way, federal policy can be both democratic and dynamic. It is democratic because the goals of federal policy are ultimately set by the people’s representatives in Congress. But it is also dynamic because Congress doesn’t have to pass a new law every time a new innovation arrives on the scene.

“Nondelegation” is the idea that the Constitution imposes limits — potentially very strict limits — on Congress’s power to give regulatory authority to federal agencies.

Under current law, “a statutory delegation is constitutional as long as Congress ‘lay[s] down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body authorized to [exercise the delegated authority] is directed to conform.’” That is, Congress has broad authority to delegate power to federal agencies so long as it explains with sufficient clarity what the agency is supposed to accomplish with its power.

In Gundy , however, Gorsuch sharply criticized this long-standing rule and called for the Court to revive the Nondelegation Doctrine.

In that opinion, Gorsuch suggested that current law risks giving agencies “unbounded policy choices.” His explanation of what new limits he would impose on federal agencies is vague and it’s hard to find a clear legal rule in the opinion. Nevertheless, Gorsuch writes that a federal law permitting agencies to regulate must be “‘sufficiently definite and precise to enable Congress, the courts, and the public to ascertain’ whether Congress’s guidance has been followed.”

As a practical matter, when the Supreme Court hands down such a vague and open-ended legal standard, it is effectively shifting power to the judiciary. What does it mean for a statute to be “sufficiently definite and precise” that people can “ascertain whether Congress’s guidance has been followed”? I honestly have no idea. But, as a practical matter, the answer to this question will be decided by the Supreme Court’s Republican majority whenever it is confronted with an agency regulation.

Gorsuch, in other words, would give the Republican-controlled Supreme Court a veto power over all federal regulations. That prospect should chill each of the Democratic presidential candidates to the bone. If any of them prevail, their administration would have to seek a permission slip from the Court if it wants to regulate, if Gorsuch’s view holds sway.

Now, Gorsuch’s Gundy opinion was actually a dissent — but only for reasons that are unlikely to repeat in a future case. As mentioned above, Kavanaugh did not participate in the case. And Justice Samuel Alito wrote an unusual opinion where he said that “if a majority of this Court were willing to reconsider the approach we have taken for the past 84 years, I would support that effort.” Nevertheless, Alito voted to keep existing law in place until such a majority sits together on the same case.

It’s unclear why Alito did so, but Alito is a former prosecutor with very pro-prosecution instincts, so he may not have wanted to side with a sex offender in a case where he lacked the votes to move legal doctrine to the right.

The two remaining Republican justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, both voted with Gorsuch. So that’s four votes to revive the Nondelegation Doctrine.

Kavanaugh’s solo opinion in Paul makes five.

The issue in Paul is very similar to the issue in Gundy , so the Supreme Court ultimately decided not to hear the Paul case — most likely because it wanted to avoid the spectacle of reaching two opposite conclusions on the same legal question in just two years. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh used this occasion to write that Gorsuch’s “scholarly analysis of the Constitution’s nondelegation doctrine in his Gundy dissent may warrant further consideration in future cases.”

That’s the sort of language justices often use to signal that they would like to see a past dissent become a future majority opinion.

Kavanaugh reads Gorsuch’s opinion to state that Congress may not allow an “agency to exercise regulatory authority over a major policy question of great economic and political importance.” Again, this standard is vague and would effectively give the Supreme Court broad authority to veto regulations that its Republican majority dislikes. Kavanaugh’s Paul opinion also signals that he would shrink agency power to only include “less-major or fill-up-the-details decisions.”

Nondelegation would be a disaster for Democrats and a big win for Republicans

In theory, the Nondelegation Doctrine could be applied in a neutral way to administrations controlled by either party. In practice, it would be a boon to Republicans and an albatross around the neck of Democrats.

One reason why is that Democrats tend to support robust regulation while Republicans do not. An anti-regulatory doctrine inherently favors conservatives.

A second reason is that the Supreme Court is controlled by Republicans. So, even if it is possible for the Nondelegation Doctrine to be applied in a neutral way, this Supreme Court seems unlikely to do so.

Meanwhile, the biggest problem facing Democrats for the foreseeable future is Senate malapportionment. Currently, the Republican Senate “majority” represents 15 million fewer people than the Democratic “minority,” and that’s a significant Republican gain over the previous Senate. In the Senate that confirmed Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the Republican “majority” represented almost 40 million fewer people than the Democratic “minority.”

Similarly, when the Republican Senate “majority” refused to give a hearing or a confirmation vote to Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Democratic senators represented about 20 million more people than Republicans.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks with Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland before a meeting on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2016.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Republicans, in other words, owe their Supreme Court majority to the fact that the Senate, which gives each person in Wyoming about 66 times more representation than residents of California, is malapportioned to strongly favor the GOP. That same thumb on the scale in favor of Republicans, moreover, also gives Republicans an enormous advantage in the legislative process.

Republican presidents are likely to serve alongside Republican Senates, and thus they will be able to enact a legislative agenda unless Democrats control the House. Democratic presidents, by contrast, must win by commanding margins to even have a shot at a Senate majority. And, even then, they must overcome the Senate’s filibuster rules — which allow just 41 Republican senators to block any regulatory legislation — in order to pass a bill through the Senate.

Thus, if a Republican Supreme Court disables major legislation like the Clean Air Act, that law is likely to remain disabled for the foreseeable future.

That is why the Nondelegation Doctrine could be a recipe for one-party rule. Republican justices can disable regulations at their leisure — or even strike down the very laws permitting such regulation. And Democrats are unlikely to ever win a Senate majority large enough to do anything about it.

(David Bythewood) #524

Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies

The author, Burt Neuborne, is one of America’s top civil liberties lawyers, and questions whether federal government can contain Trump and GOP power grabs.


Independent Maine Senator Angus King (I- M) poses the obvious to those in T’s ideological?/power orbit - if you did not have something to hide, why wouldn’t you testify?

Thank you…

Ukraine scandal: I know why Trump top dogs — Mulvaney, Pompeo, Perry & Bolton — won’t bark

Because it would be so easy for these people to clear the president, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that their silence is part of a cover-up.

One of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous cases was solved when a normally noisy dog was silent the night of the crime, leading the famous detective to the deduction that it must have been an inside job — the dog knew the intruder.

Those not barking today are the numerous Trump administration officials who are strangely silent when a few short statements (under oath) could go a long way toward exonerating the president from the charge of using the powers of his office for personal gain.

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former national security adviser John Bolton and probably at least a dozen White House and National Security Council staffers — all could clear up, one way or another, the essential question of whether the president was interested in corruption generally in Ukraine last summer, or whether the withholding of military aid and the dangling of a White House meeting was motivated by his personal and political interest in publicized investigations of the 2016 election and the activities of one of his principal rivals. And this would be direct evidence, which no one can call hearsay.


(David Bythewood) #526

The Year of the Old Boys

It’s hard to overstate the extent to which childish masculinity revealed itself in 2018 as the engine of power in America.

Many of us have spent 2018 trying to wrap our heads around how, exactly, the country whose slightly priggish brand was once meritocracy, competence, and moral authority has turned out to have instead nourished and enriched an elaborate network of overripe, decadent, and not particularly clever criminals. What’s confusing about that isn’t that the myth of our virtue was greatly exaggerated—that much was clear to anyone with a passing knowledge of American history. No, what’s confusing is the extent to which the fiction of decency (whether political, financial, or sexual) seems to have been unnecessary all along.

If Donald Trump has served a salutary function, it’s that he has stripped those fictions bare. 2018 has ended euphemisms and pretenses and politesse, and however much some claim to miss the country’s more decorous days, there’s something to be said for having the outsides match the insides. The myth of the great male American leader has been as robust as it’s been ruinously incomplete. It needed to be exposed, and Trump did so with a beautiful absence of care. He’s not going to behave at a funeral. He won’t sing the opening hymn or the national anthem or participate in a communal gesture unless it centers him. He’ll wander off the stage he’s sharing with the Argentine president, insult a dying senator, forget to sign things once he’s gotten his applause, publicly praise men for not snitching on him. He’ll use his Twitter account as a burn book, and what he’s most grateful for at Thanksgiving is himself. The definition of American “greatness” he has embodied is as precise as any we’ve had.

Understanding how a system broke requires taking the full measure of the leaders it produces and the qualities for which they’re embraced. Trump is valued, by his supporters, for much of the above. That’s not entirely new. In overvaluing a certain kind of masculine ethos, the United States has always glorified impoliteness; there have long been people who confuse boorishness with power and find courtesy effeminate. But what’s interesting about Trump’s conduct is that while it’s unmannerly, it’s not rude in that classic hard-nosed, stick-it-to-’em, I-got-no-time-for-niceties way. His aren’t power moves that command respect. Rather, they’re puffy and decadent—the qualities associated with the kind of bratty, spoiled boy we met when the term affluenza was first used as a legal defense on the grounds that someone so ruined by financial privilege can’t understand ethics or consequences. Trump isn’t too busy for etiquette; he has nothing but time. He spent Barbara Bush’s funeral on Twitter denying that he called Jeff Sessions “Mr. Magoo” and Rod Rosenstein “Mr. Peepers.” There’s a crusty entitlement to this species of maleness that makes it feel at least as geriatric as it is juvenile. Though Trump’s petty malice puts him in (roughly) seventh grade, it has a doddering petulance, too. He is, in effect, an old boy. And when you step back and think about it, you realize America is full of them.

That America is an old boys’ club is a boring truism. The expression exists for a reason; we’ve seen the mutually exonerating mechanisms of boys’ clubs pop out into the open in a variety of ways this year. The sulky mulishness of many a Great American Man has long been kept decorously half-secret with the invocation of code words like uncompromising and choleric . Not anymore. The Old Boy needs attention as well as power, and with this presidency, the former has finally trumped the latter. The results are disconcerting. So is the troubling scope of the problem. From Trump to Brett Kavanaugh, from Les Moonves to Jeffrey Epstein: This year we saw with startling clarity that what many of the nation’s powerful men share is less talent and vision than arbitrary cruelty, pleasure in retribution, bullying, shouting, sneering, a sense that they’re above consequences, and an unusual dependence on golf—the traits of aging manchildren.

The Old Boy is immensely fortunate, but his core drive is greed. He has power and wealth, but it’s always less than he thinks he deserves. He’s bratty and cross and past his prime. He doesn’t feel good. He’s distant from conventional masculine markers in ways a suit usually helps to mask. His defining features are a puffy softness and a basic, uncultured greed that’s fed by status symbols. The Old Boy has a vile temper and makes others responsible for his moods. But he has allies.

The only thing the Old Boy hates more than being told no is being questioned. He is both fussy and smug—think of Paul Manafort seething, arms crossed, as he stared at underling Rick Gates in court, or Sen. Lindsey Graham theatrically yelling “This is hell” about a hearing process his own party devised.

The Old Boy is so essentially dishonest that his lies seem almost innocent. An Old Boy lies fluently and to your face, and he will explode in rage if you point this out to him not because you’re wrong (this is key) but because you don’t matter and neither does the truth; an Old Boy gets to say and do what he likes. The Old Boy recognizes some authorities. He smiles at those he considers fellow Boys—there’s a faintly embarrassing abjection to this performance when it happens. (See Kavanaugh bowing and scraping to Trump when Trump introduced him as his nominee, or how solicitously Trump acts around Vladimir Putin.)

The flip side is that the Old Boy considers his mere presence a gift to those he sees as his inferiors. As a result, any honor conferred upon him is no more than his due. So yes, he lies, but only because that’s what a blinkered world requires in order for him to get what he is owed. To bring about the correct outcome, he gets to lie, and you get to believe it. That’s your privilege.

If you opt out of this peculiar script on which so much of the Old Boy’s worldview depends, the subtext of his answer to any question is “how dare you”? (Think of Kavanaugh addressing Sen. Amy Klobuchar during that hearing, or of Trump addressing the press. “No, no, we don’t answer that,” Bill Cosby replied when he was asked about the allegations against him.) This makes Old Boys slippery and confusing to deal with. The Old Boy doesn’t really answer a question because he denies that he can be questioned. And money and power have gotten plenty of people to play along and make this true. The Old Boy is fragility itself, buttressed by a hot and constant wind.

If 2017 helped us understand the blundering ubiquity of the “large adult son” with help from Jia Tolentino, 2018 has revealed the extent to which the Old Boy has been the driving figure in the smoky backrooms of American public life. The Old Boy doesn’t quite have the large adult son’s air of goofy ineffectiveness. In part that’s because his father is at least symbolically dead—powerless enough, anyway, that said father’s habit of keeping calendars can inspire nostalgic tears even though he’s alive. It may be that large adult sons like Don Jr. and David Huckabee grow up into Old Boys. But whereas both figures are spiteful, lumpy, appetitive, status-obsessed, entitled, ill-tempered, conniving, and at best semicompetent, the Old Boy—however absurd he first seems—has real power. “At first it was funny,” Illeana Douglas wrote of Moonves shoving his tongue down her throat. “It was like one of those ’60s movies where someone chases you around a desk and a couch. Then it was more like a French film with him on top of me on the couch, and finally it was like a ’70s disaster movie where I screamed a lot and nobody heard me.” She would try to make a joke of it. He would punish her.

Many of the traits of the large adult son are there—the random meanness, the fury at repercussions that feels like evidence of a coddled child gone to seed—but he has teeth. It’s possible that the Old Boy’s abuse stems from his resentment at having been a large adult son—drowned in luxury but thumbed down by constant filial humiliation. But whatever the psychological backdrop, the result is that the Old Boy is powerful in material terms and definitionally impossible to satisfy. His enormous greed turbocharges his mere adequacy so that it sometimes scans to the casual observer as genius—or is narrated that way by acolytes. (“He has something a physicist would call physical intuition,” one scientist funded by Jeffrey Epstein said about him.) Result: Acts of childish cruelty, like Moonves grabbing a woman’s head and casually forcing her into oral sex, are priced into the story of his greatness.

The Old Boy’s defining characteristic may just be that he wants . It’s not clear what he wants, and in the end, it doesn’t much matter. His drive lacks focus and can’t be satisfied, but it can’t be stopped by things like ethics or law or introspection. And he’s terribly scared of losing.

Trump’s mainstreaming of Old Boy behavior set the stage for the biggest Old Boy spectacle of the year. Having been accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school—and laughing hysterically while his friend Mark Judge watched and she feared for her life—Kavanaugh, who had tried to maintain a choirboy veneer throughout his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, abruptly dropped the mask. He sputtered with rage in a paranoid and partisan diatribe that seemed to threaten dire consequences to the republic if he didn’t get his way. He wept. He turned bright red. He lied repeatedly under oath. If there was any doubt this man responded poorly to being told no, he dispelled it. Some onlookers felt sympathy for Kavanaugh during what appeared to be his final act as a judge, since no judge would conduct himself in such a way and expect to remain employed—I confess I was one of them. And then, in the end, he got what he wanted.

The Old Boy regards all of life as a strategic contest to be won. “Puerility makes everything into a game, even things that are not games, even things that must not be games. Puerility is detailed, nitpicky, often rulebound, but always in the service of play,” Natalia Cecire argued in one of several essays on the role of a certain kind of boyishness in American life. This is what “scoring” means, of course, and that logic seeps into how men like these think of everything, from business deals to electoral fraud to abuse to murder.

Convicted rapist Brock Turner’s father—quite likely an Old Boy himself—suggested that his son shouldn’t be punished for what he described as “20 minutes of action.” Les Moonves’ pal Arnold Kopelson didn’t care that Moonves had assaulted one of Kopelson’s friends—she’d told him while warning him not to join the board. Not only did he join anyway (to him, getting on that board was the game); he doubled down in Moonves’ defense. “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff,” he said of Moonves during a board meeting. “Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.” Old Boys’ opinions don’t depend on demonstrated wrongdoing; that’s why Trump maintains that Mohammed bin Salman’s innocence is plausible. The Old Boy’s drives reduce, in a way that’s almost embarrassingly basic, to naked self-interest. When Trump was recently shown data about the consequences of his ballooning the national debt, he “referenced the first year [it would explode] and said, ‘Yeah, but I won’t be here.’ ”

There are other dangerous varietals who work in related but slightly different terms: Steve Bannon, for instance, isn’t an Old Boy. He’s an actual ideologue. And while Jared Kushner advises Mohammed bin Salman on how to “weather” the stories of his involvement in the murder and dismemberment of a journalist, it’s clear that neither of these two spoiled princelings are Old Boys—perhaps because they got power early, or because they haven’t yet felt the dissatisfied throes of middle age.

To the extent that the Old Boy is effective (outside of inherited wealth and its associated power), it’s because he sees nothing besides his own game. Kavanaugh sacrificed Americans’ confidence in the legitimacy and independence of the judiciary to his own ambition. Rudy Giuliani seems not to actually care about anything except being on TV. Trump’s self-involvement is extreme enough that the shock of it can sort of impair our cognitive reflexes in ways he’d interpret as victory. Take that quote above: He doesn’t care about the country or the debt he’s saddling it with; he cares about himself.

This is the kind of Trump story we read all the time, but (if you’re like me) you’re still not great at dealing with it. It stuns you at a core register that’s hard to nail down or even access, because it’s still feels axiomatic that the president is supposed to care about more than just himself. When he doesn’t, when he acts like the weird thing would be caring about the long-term effects of his policies on the people he governs, it’s tough to react because you don’t even know at what point to start explaining why that’s a problem. Communication requires a shared frame of reference, but it’s not clear whether any premises of governance are held in common. Trump is a public servant, but there is no public interest in his framework; there’s only Trump.

To anticipate Trump’s moves, you have to try to model the Old Boy’s thought process and his worldview. It’s an exercise that degrades, but it must be done, because most Old Boys genuinely believe that everyone secretly thinks as they do: If Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, so what? If MBS was behind Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, who cares?

Whereas the large adult son longs for paternal validation, the Old Boy’s only (extremely provisional) loyalty is to his fellow Old Boys. One Old Boy, Roger Ailes, launched the juggernaut of propaganda that became Fox News, building a network of enablers who protected him as he assaulted and harassed women. Jeffrey Epstein’s network—which included Donald Trump and Bill Clinton—appears not to have objected to riding on Epstein’s private plane, known as the “Lolita Express.” Trump even joked about Epstein’s predilection for “very young” girls.

This was the year we saw exactly how the Old Boys dismiss high-stakes favor exchanges as silly male play. The nexus these Old Boys form isn’t just class- or age- or power-based, and the alliances being revealed don’t reduce to simple profit seeking. Profit alone does not explain why Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped Epstein reach a nonprosecution agreement structured in a way that locked the victims out. He is now Trump’s labor secretary; an outcome like that one no doubt figured into his calculus. Profit alone doesn’t explain why Michael Cohen—aspiring Old Boy—claimed he’d made hush money payments to Stormy Daniels out of the goodness of his heart, or why the publisher of the National Enquirer paid Trump’s former doorman $30,000 in 2015 for the rights to a story that Trump fathered a child with an employee—only to never use it. It wasn’t simply profit that inspired Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to respond to the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico by awarding a $300 million contract to a two-person company from his hometown. It’s profit- plus . It’s what pushed Chris Christie into Bridgegate. It’s the timeworn social code of the Old Boys’ network, in part. But it’s also the thrill of feeding appetites that can’t actually be satisfied, of gloating, of winning the game.

And the dangerous thing is that they never feel like they’ve won. Hence their ill-temper, and their astonished outrage when asked to account for their actions. The Old Boy is in a double bind of his own devising. His loyalty to his own greed means he can never, by definition, be satiated. If you notice Old Boys getting more abusive, or flailing more desperately, this is why: The philosophical endpoint of a junkie’s increasing resistance is panic that satisfaction will never come. All the money and power in the world won’t get the Old Boy what he wants because what he wants isn’t a thing but the dopamine rush of victory (and nothing wears off more quickly). What he wants isn’t anything in particular; it’s just more .

I couldn’t agree more with this article. Or as Trump put it once:

(David Bythewood) #527

How To Spot Misinformation The NPR Politics Podcast



Opinion: Trump’s impeachment should be the simplest in American history

It’s coming down to just one document: the call notes. As the 300-page report released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee makes plain, Trump’s July 25 phone call is what we could call the smoking Javelin in the Trump impeachment case.

Feldman put it bluntly on Wednesday: “According to the testimony and to the publicly released memorandum of the July 25, 2019, telephone call between the two presidents, President Trump abused his office by soliciting the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in order to gain personal political advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election.”

This act on its own,” said the constitutional scholar, “qualifies as an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.”

(David Bythewood) #529

Why Trump Is Bad for Business

America’s first billionaire President promised to bring a C-suite sensibility to the Oval Office. It started well—but now bad policy choices have pushed CEO confidence to the lowest level in a decade.

(David Bythewood) #530

Too true, and more signs of the double standard we still hold women to.

A Female Candidate Would Never Be Allowed to Rage Like Joe Biden Did in Iowa

(David Bythewood) #531

They fear our voices. Remember that.

A Powerful Statement of Resistance from a College Student on Trial in Moscow

Mass protests are sweeping through Latin America & Europe, highlighted by women coming together to sing “A Rapist in Your Path”, a song created in Chile arguing that sexual violence is very much political. The song has become a major feminist anthem. These videos are amazing to watch.

Chilean anti-rape anthem becomes international feminist phenomenon

A Rapist in Your Path performed by women at mass protests

Performances staged across Latin America and Europe



William Webster - ex head of FBI/CIA speaks out on where he finds T is abusing his powers, and should be impeached.

The rule of law is the bedrock of American democracy, the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants. Every American should demand that our leaders put the rule of law above politics.

I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of President Trump that our “current director” — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the F.B.I. — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency. The 10-year term given to all directors following J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year tenure was created to provide independence for the director and for the bureau. The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The independence of both the F.B.I. and its director is critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.

Over my nine-plus years as F.B.I. director, I reported to four honorable attorneys general. Each clearly understood the importance of the rule of law in our democracy and the critical role the F.B.I. plays in the enforcement of our laws. They fought to protect both, knowing how important it was that our F.B.I. remain independent of political influence of any kind.

As F.B.I. director, I served two presidents, one a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who selected me in part because I was a Republican, and one a Republican, Ronald Reagan, whom I revered. Both of these presidents so respected the bureau’s independence that they went out of their way not to interfere with or sway our activities. I never once felt political pressure.

I know firsthand the professionalism of the men and women of the F.B.I. The aspersions cast upon them by the president and my longtime friend, Attorney General William P. Barr, are troubling in the extreme. Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution.


Powerful Op-Ed piece from the NYT Editorial Board. Calling the R’s out on all the infantilizing of the issues, and the utter disruption of all Congressional/Presidential norms

It isn’t supposed to be this way. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the intense — really, infantilizing — degree of polarization that has overwhelmed American politics across the past 40 years. But the nihilism of this moment — the trashing of constitutional safeguards, the scorn for facts, the embrace of corruption, the indifference to historical precedent and to foreign interference in American politics — is due principally to cowardice and opportunism on the part of Republican leaders who have chosen to reject their party’s past standards and positions and instead follow Donald Trump, all the way down.

It’s a lot to ask of Republicans to insist on holding their own leader accountable, just as that was a lot to expect of Democrats during the Clinton impeachment inquiry. But while many Democrats then criticized President Bill Clinton and some voted to impeach him, Republican lawmakers would not breathe a word against Mr. Trump on Wednesday.

Instead, they competed with one another to invoke the most outlandish metaphor of evil — from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ — and >suggest that Mr. Trump is enduring even worse.

Senate Republicans are preparing to follow the example of their House colleagues, though many know better. Not so very long ago, several of them — including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, even the majority leader, Mitch McConnell — warned that Donald Trump was wrong for the country. Lindsey Graham memorably called Mr. Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” who was “unfit for office.” Now these senators seem eager to endorse the very sort of behavior they feared.

It is not too much to wonder how much of this cynicism and betrayal of principle any democracy can handle. :boom:

But Congress has resorted to the ultimate remedy so rarely because of the unspoken agreement that it should be reserved for only the most egregious and inexcusable offenses against the national interest.

(David Bythewood) #535


@Windthin Thank you so much for this. I needed it! I’ve got to admit that despite the recent victory on the House floor, I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps, discouraged, and just plain worn out by the continuous stream of hate speech we are facing every day from our own President. BUT this lifted me up and reminded me that, yes, there is cause for hope and we should look forward to 2020 as a year when the healing can begin and we can start building a brighter future.

I’ve posted below the embedded video of President Obama delivering an inspiring message of hope and humanity for the holiday season because I’m wishing everyone will watch it! I think I’m going to start my day with it every morning over the holidays. Thanks again @Windthin

(David Bythewood) #537

Most welcome. Hope keeps us going. I also keep this thread tracking the many GOP retirements as a reminder that we ARE winning despite certain setbacks, and that the GOP is very much falling apart. The sheer number deciding to just not run again is stunning.



Our Year of Trumpschmerz

Susan B. Glasser

I thought I’d unplug over the holiday week, in anticipation of a frenetic 2020 that will begin with a Senate impeachment trial and end with a Presidential election that may well be the most consequential of my lifetime. I thought I’d take a break from Twitter and from endless, twenty-four-hour-a-day Trump. And I tried—I really did. I knew there was some issue with “Home Alone 2” but didn’t bother to spend a few seconds clicking around to figure out what it was all about until I was writing this column. For a few days, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago tweetstorms were like thunderclaps on a distant horizon; I knew the weather was bad on the Internet, and I happily stayed away. I realize this attitude is increasingly held by the American public, at least that segment of the public which doesn’t follow the news for a living.

It turns out, however, that staying away from the daily distractions of Trump has not been restorative. You can turn off the Trump show, but the nagging, unfortunate reality is that the show goes on, with or without you. The President of the United States is still out there saying crazy, mean, inappropriate things at all hours of the day and night. This remains disturbing, even if one is divorced from the particulars. You can turn off your smartphone, delete the Twitter app, bake endless batches of cookies, and binge-watch Netflix: Trump is still there.

Tuning out also brings other, more consequential anxieties. The less time spent in the hair-trigger news cycle of Twitter, the more time left to contemplate the bigger, more long-lasting consequences that all of this is wreaking on our democratic institutions and our nerve-wracked souls. By choosing not to immerse myself in the details of which conspiracy theorist Trump was retweeting, I had more time to think about the increasingly real possibility of Trump’s reëlection in November. By skipping the mini outrages, I had the mental bandwidth for the macro ones: time, that is, to consider what the Trump Presidency will look like after Democrats have tried and failed to convict and remove him from office, and what the impact will be, over the next several decades, of a federal judiciary remade by a President who is hostile to any interpretation of the Constitution that does not give him essentially unconstrained authority. I had time to think about what a second-term Trump will feel empowered to do and time to consider, once again, whether the President may have been literally, and not just metaphorically, correct when he bragged that his followers would stay loyal to him even if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.


There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “ Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz .”

My German is nonexistent, but a quick Internet search suggests that Constanze nailed it. In thirty-three letters, she managed to capture the whole damn mess. Her word has pretty much everything that has come to characterize this uniquely dysfunctional moment in America’s troubled capital: Trump and his Administration (“ regierung ” means government); the mess of constant controversies (“ schlamassel ”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“ schmerz ”). Sure, it’s a mouthful, but that’s the point: there should be one word that sums up the Trumpian disruption we are experiencing, not merely a jumble of different ones. It’s the tweets and the other stuff, too: the endless attacks on enemies, real and imagined; the torrent of lies; the eroding of the basic functions of government; and the formerly unimaginable assault on our institutions. It’s impeachment and the Mueller Report and migrant children in cages, the bullying of allies, and the lavish praise of adversaries. It’s the uncertainty and worry that comes with all of the above.

On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: If “ Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz ” is too much, she said, you can just use “ Trumpschmerz .” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.

(David Bythewood) #539

A solid article showing that while Republicans & right-wing media have made white evangelicals fear having their rights stripped by the left, it’s actually more the other way around, though most Americans in general don’t want to take rights from others.

White evangelicals fear atheists and Democrats would strip away their rights. Why?

Right-wing media is warning of a civil war — and urging evangelicals to stock up on guns


Following the NYT’s recent revelations, Senate Republicans must realize they will be taking a huge gamble if they stage a sham, witness-free trial and acquit Trump.

At the rate damning new evidence is surfacing, there’s a strong chance that within a few months Trump will be resoundingly convicted in the court of public opinion and so will Senate Republicans for covering up his crimes.

The NYT’s explosive investigative report, Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion, was released over the weekend. It contained so many new revelations that it has taken a few days for readers (and the media) to get a handle on the magnitude of the report – it is truly devastating to Trump and his enablers in the Senate. This editorial does an excellent job of explaining why.

If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.

Among the story’s key points:

  • As early as June, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney worked to execute the freeze for Trump, and a top aide to Mulvaney — Robert Blair — worried it would fuel the narrative that Trump was tacitly aiding Russia.

  • Internal opposition was more forceful than previously known. The Pentagon pushed for the money for months. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton privately urged Trump to understand that freezing the aid was not in our national interest .

  • Trump was unmoved, citing Ukraine’s “corruption.” We now know Trump actually wanted Ukraine to announce sham investigations absolving Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage and smearing potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden. The Times report reveals that top Trump officials did not think that ostensibly combating Ukrainian “corruption” (which wasn’t even Trump’s real aim) was in our interests.

  • Lawyers at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) worked to develop a far-fetched legal argument that Trump could exercise commander-in-chief authority to override Congress’ appropriation of the aid, to get around the law precluding Trump from freezing it.

  • Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB, tried to get the Pentagon to assume responsibility for getting the aid released, to deflect blame away from the White House for its own role in blocking it. This led a Pentagon official to pronounce herself “speechless.”

  • Duffey froze the aid with highly unusual bureaucratic tactics, refused to tell Pentagon officials why Trump wanted it withheld and instructed them to keep this “closely held.” (Some of this had already been reported, but in narrative context it becomes far more damning.) …

Multiple officials worried that the hold violated the law or worked extensively to skirt it. Others saw Trump’s actions as contrary to the national interest and never got a sufficient explanation for his motives. One top official executing the scheme tried to distance the White House from it and keep it quiet.

What makes all this new information really damning, however, is that many of these officials who were directly involved with Trump’s freezing of aid are the same ones Trump blocked from appearing before the House impeachment inquiry.

This should make it inescapable that McConnell wants a trial with no testimony from these people — Democrats want to hear from Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey and Blair — precisely because he, too, wants to prevent us from ever gaining a full accounting.

We now have a much clearer glimpse into the murky depths of just how much more these officials know about the scheme — and just how much McConnell and Trump are determined to make sure we don’t ever learn. That’s so indefensible that it might even breach the levee of the media’s both-sidesing tendencies.

Trump’s defenders are taking a huge risk

Here’s another possibility. If McConnell does pull off a sham trial leading to a quick acquittal, more might surface later that, in retrospect, will get hung around Republicans’ necks and reverse-reveal just how corrupt their cover-up really was.

As George T. Conway III has noted, in such a scenario, Trump’s defenders will suffer blowback from “the very evidence they sought to suppress.”

This new report underscores the point. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is currently battling the administration over a tranche of OMB and Pentagon documents related to the aid freeze that CPI just obtained due to a court order. This is how Duffey’s emails surfaced, but much of what CPI has obtained has been blacked out.

CPI is asking a judge to lift the blackouts, and a ruling is expected as early as March. So it’s plausible that CPI could obtain a great deal of new information — showing even more clearly how worried officials were that Trump’s freeze was breaking the law — in only a few months.

That could come after Senate Republicans ran a sham trial and acquitted Trump. Do they really want to be on the hook for having suppressed such evidence, even in the face of a whole new round of deeply incriminating revelations?

Apparently they see that outcome as less risky than allowing witnesses to testify. Which again shows how worried they are about allowing the American people to gain a full accounting of Trump’s corruption.