Tuesday, December 12, 2017

STOP ASSUMING THESE PECULIAR ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN MOVES AREN'T HELPING HIM. THEY'RE HELPING HIM. (updated)

So this happened at Roy Moore's campaign rally last night:
... on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife Kayla Moore attempted to shoot down one of the lesser known allegations against her husband.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said....

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
She's being widely mocked in parts of the country where there are more Jews than there are in Alabama.

This happened at the same campaign rally:
Speaker at Moore event says he accidentally went with Moore to a brothel with child prostitutes

... One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.” ...

Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel...

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.

... Staehle and Moore took [the third man's] Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage....

Staehle viewed this story as a triumphant example of Moore’s sterling moral character. Although Staehle hasn’t seen Moore in 45 years, he said, “He’s the same guy....He’s honorable. He’s disciplined. Morally straight. Highly principled.”
And prior to that, there was this:
A pro-Trump group arranged this week to have a 12-year-old girl interview Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whose special election campaign is entering its final 24 hours.

Millie March went viral at the Conservative Party Action Conference (CPAC) in February, where she offered a full-throttle defense of President Trump’s legislative agenda. Since then, she has become a darling of the right-wing, being interviewed by Fox and Friends in July and meeting Trump himself in September.

As a result, the America First Project — a pro-Trump group founded by former Breitbart writers — decided that Millie would be the best person to interview Moore
Lefties are mocking all this as terrible campaign strategy:





But this isn't terrible campaign strategy if you assume that Moore's goal is to fire up hardcore GOP voters.

Moore's Christian, rural base probably finds Jews as exotic as Kayla Moore does, so her assertion about the lawyer probably comes off as not at all tone-deaf. On the other hand, these days most conservative Christians nationwide regard themselves as philo-Semitic -- no, they don't like George Soros, but they have positive feelings about Judaism in the abstract, although those positive feelings tend to involve the notion that Christianity is the fully evolved version of Judaism. (They like the idea of Trump moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem because that will bring us closer to Armageddon.) Beyond that, they know that when Kayla Moore says that she and her husband "also do fellowship with" Jews, that goes way over the heads of us evil secular humanists, who don't even know what it means to "do fellowship." They feel really smug about that.

The base also believes that all the stories about Moore and teenagers are lies, and that Moore is far more moral than the average person. So the brothel story isn't weird to the base -- it's a Christian parable of temptation avoided.

And the interview by the 12-year-old? Same thing -- and it's no surprise to me that this idea was cooked up by former Breitbart staffers. This is no-retreat, no-surrender Bannonism. They want us to howl and send mocking tweets, while the base responds with whataboutist denunciations of our hypocrisy (Harvey Weinstein! Bill Clinton! Ted Kennedy!). Acknowledge no wrongdoing and go on offense. That's the strategy.

And I bet it works. I think Moore will win by 5.

****

UPDATE: Good catch from Mark Mucci in comments:
The story about Roy Moore leaving the brothel was in my local paper (NJ Star Ledger) two weeks ago. It's changed slightly. It's just "women" in the older version, now it's "girls" in the brothel. Maybe the storyteller was practicing with my local thinks-he's-a-big-deal conservative columnist.
The story is here. Curious that it evolved in the retelling.

Monday, December 11, 2017

AFTER READING NATE SILVER, I THINK I KNOW WHY THE ALABAMA POLLS ARE NUTS

Nate Silver has published a long piece on the Alabama Senate polls, which are predicting everything from a Roy Moore blowout to a Doug Jones blowout. But I remain pessimistic, because of this:
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.
So polls in which respondents talk to a live caller are favoring Jones. That suggests to me that some Republican voters don't want to tell a live human being -- quite possibly someone who sounds like a Yankee -- that they're voting for Roy Moore, whereas they're more willing to acknowledge that in a robo-poll. Silver notes that in recent elections we haven't seen evidence of "shy voters," but media reports are telling us that Alabamans are acutely aware of how the rest of the country is judging them. If there are going to be "shy voters" in any election, I think it's going to be this one.

I could be wrong, but reluctance to talk to a live pollster might explain the surprising Democratic skew in the two recent Fox polls I've expressed doubt about. It could also be that some Republicans just don't want to participate at all in this election, but in that case I think you'd see Jones doing better in other polls.

Automated polls have their own biases, as Silver notes -- they can't legally call cellphones. It's my understanding that older people are much more likely to have landlines than the young (and older people are more likely to favor Moore). But older people vote more, too, so I'm not ure how much that's skewing the results.

My conclusion is that Moore's going to win -- unless apparent "shy voters" shy away from the polls altogether.

I DIDN'T BELIEVE FOX'S LAST ALABAMA POLL AND I DON'T BELIEVE THIS ONE

I sure hope this is true, but I don't believe it.
Democrat Doug Jones holds a 10-point lead over Republican Roy Moore among likely voters in deep red Alabama.

Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That’s according to a Fox News Poll of Alabama voters conducted Thursday through Sunday....
Alabama is a very Republican state: It voted Trump 62%-34% and is split 51.8% Republican, 34.8% Democratic, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. I told you I didn't believe the previous Fox poll of the race, in part because the party breakdown of the poll wasn't GOP enough: 48% Republican, 40% Democratic. The party split in the new poll is even more implausible: 44% Republican, 42% Democratic among likely voters. That's not representative of Alabama. The turnout won't be anything like that.

A skewed poll is useful to Fox for two reasons. First, Fox, as an arm of the Republican Party, wants to goose GOP turnout. Recent polls have been looking very good for Moore. A bad poll for Moore on Fox is a warning to pro-Moore voters in Alabama that they shouldn't be complacent. It also helps goose the ratings. More right-wingers around the country are going to watch Fox's coverage of the race if they think it's a toss-up rather than a likely Moore blowout.

I'll be thrilled if I'm wrong. But I'm predicting a fairly comfortable Moore victory.

TRUMP'S ELECTION LAST YEAR MADE THE GOP CRAZY, AS WE CAN HEAR IN THIS RADIO CLIP FROM (checks Internet) ... 2011

In The New York Times, Charles Blow expresses some conventional wisdom:
If Alabama voters on Tuesday elect Roy Moore to the Senate, the Donald Trump-diseased party once known as the Republicans may as well call themselves Roypublicans.

There will be no way to shake the stench of this homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, racist apologist and accused pedophile. He is them, and they are him....

The pre-Trump Republican Party is dead; The zombie Trump party now lives in its stead, devoid of principle, feasting on fear and rage, foreign to moral framing.

Trump was the gateway to the Roypublicans.
Yeah, it's all Trump's fault that right-wingers are crazy now, as we can see in a radio clip from ... 2011:
Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured....

Moore made his comments about constitutional amendments in a June 2011 appearance on the "Aroostook Watchmen" show, which is hosted by Maine residents Jack McCarthy and Steve Martin. The hosts have argued that the US government is illegitimate and who have said that the September 11, 2001, attacks, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, the Boston bombing, and other mass shootings and terrorist attacks are false flag attacks committed by the government....

In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth.

"That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."
Trump didn't make right-wingers crazy -- the crazy was out there long before Trump announced his candidacy. This was four years before Trump decided to run. The crazy was already there, hiding in plain sight.

And if you want to argue that this radio show featured an out-of-power Alabaman talking to a couple of lunatic-fringe Mainers who had no influence, consider this 2014 story about the men from Maine:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is facing questions over his decision to repeatedly meet with activists who have ties to a group the FBI and Maine law enforcement consider a domestic terrorist organization.

Talking Points Memo published ... an excerpt from author Mike Tipping’s new book, in which he details how LePage engaged with members of the Constitutional Coalition, which is affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen movement. Members of the organization believe the government is planning an attack on Christian Americans by collecting firearms, that it runs mind-control operations and that it was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LePage reportedly met with members of the group eight times from January through September of 2013.

Tipping, who works for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group, wrote that when the coalition’s members met with LePage they discussed arresting and executing state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) and Senate President Justin Alfond (D) for treason and violating the U.S. Constitution.
According to that book excerpt, members of the Aroostook Watchmen were among the participants in several of those meetings with the Constitutional Coalition. Jack McCarthy described one of the meetings on the radio shortly after it took place:
As McCarthy later revealed in his conversation with Martin on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show, the meeting that weekend covered a wide range of topics. The members of the Constitutional Coalition informed LePage that the United Nations and the Rockefellers were plotting to take over Maine’s North Woods. They discussed the illegitimacy of the U.S. Department of Education and argued that the state should refuse to accept federal education funding. (According to McCarthy, the governor “hung his head and said you’re right” in response.) They also informed LePage that U.S. paper currency is unlawful. (“He was mesmerized by that,” said McCarthy.)
This would seem like boasting if not for the fact that government records confirm the multiple meetings:
McCarthy’s description of LePage’s participation and remarks might be dismissed as simply an unfortunate series of miscommunications and exaggerations of the actions of a governor just trying to appease some constituents and supporters without really understanding who he was talking to or what he was talking about. The fact that the meeting was far from a one-off event makes this less likely, however. The Watchmen describe—and e-mails and documents obtained from LePage’s staff through Maine’s Freedom of Access laws confirm—at least eight meetings over a period of nine months in 2013, almost all more than an hour in duration and some lasting almost three hours.
The Watchmen have had a significant amount of influence in Maine politics:
The Aroostook Watchmen show isn’t just a voice in the wilderness. It has hosted a who’s who of the conservative far right in Maine, including leading Christian conservative activists, the heads of the various Tea Party groups, state legislators, members of LePage’s administration, presidential candidate Ron Paul, and, during the 2010 primary, LePage himself. LePage was one of three candidates who sought the support of the show’s listeners and the endorsement of hosts Martin and McCarthy. He even participated in a live debate on the program opposite fellow Republican primary candidate William Beardsley.

Members of the Constitutional Coalition and their supporters are well connected within the larger conservative and Tea Party establishment in Maine. They have taken leadership roles in a number of local and statewide Tea Party groups, and some have sat on the Republican State Committee.

Aroostook Watchmen host Steve Martin worked closely with LePage campaign staffer Cynthia Rosen and a group of LePage supporters and Tea Party members to rewrite the state GOP platform in 2010. Some of its planks, including a mandate that the party “prohibit any participation in efforts to create a one world government,” echo Sovereign Citizen rhetoric.

During the Republican primary campaign for governor in 2010, Martin and McCarthy hosted a regular conference call that served to unite the disparate Maine Tea Party groups toward a common purpose and, eventually, toward the election of Paul LePage. They played a significant role in organizing and energizing the army of grassroots volunteers that helped him to win first the Republican primary and then the general election.
And because it wasn't noted above, let me point out that, of course, these guys are anti-Semites:
They warned that Jewish Senators Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Lieberman were attempting to disarm the patriots of America so that they could begin their “holocaust against America’s Christian population.”
This stuff wasn't banished to the margins before Trump. It was a significant part of the conservative mix. We're just noticing it now.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

WHY WERE THERE SO MANY SEEMINGLY WOKE REPUBLICANS ON TV TODAY?

I was surprised when this became a big story today:
Sen. Richard Shelby says he wants a Republican elected to the Senate on Tuesday to represent Alabama, but that he didn't vote for GOP candidate Roy Moore in the special election.

The Alabama Republican said he's already cast his ballot, and that he chose a write-in candidate.

"I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore," Shelby told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."
This was breaking news today? Why? We've known about Shelby's vote for nearly two weeks. It was first reported on November 27.

Shelby said this today on CNN's State of the Union, while Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, was on NBC's Meet the Press saying this:
Sen. Tim Scott said Sunday that there is “very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly,” a response to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s veneration of the period of U.S. history when slavery was legal and Rep. Steve King’s online comment that “diversity is not our strength.”

“Well, [there is] very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly. And you just have to call it for what it is, No. 1,” Scott (R-S.C.), the only African-American Republican in the Senate, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No. 2, the bottom line is both when Steve King and Tim Scott arrived in this country, we were actually creating diversity because the Native Americans were already here. So that is just a ridiculous statement.”
And, for good measure, on CBS's Face the Nation UN ambassador Nikki Haley said this:
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that the women who have accused President Trump of touching or groping them without their consent “should be heard.”

Haley’s comments, made on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” diverged from the White House position on the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of misconduct....

Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a “settled issue,” given last year’s election results, Haley responded, “You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.”
So much wokeness from these Republicans, two days before Roy Moore is likely to win a Senate seat. If I were a cynic, I'd think the Republican establishment urged these three, or at least Shelby and Scott, to be the face of the GOP on the Sunday talk shows, in order to send the message that the party isn't really the party of Moore (or sex predator Trump).

Of course, a party that isn't the party of Moore and Trump would have rejected their candidacies, the way the party rejected David Duke's candidacy a couple of decades ago. But Republicans don't actually want to do that. They want to pocket the Moore win, as they pocketed Trump's, and persuade right-thinking citizens that Moore and Trump are anomalies and Republicans can be trusted with governance.

Republicans have been doing this for years: relying on knuckledragger politicians (Steve King, Joe Arpaio) and demogogic media figures (Michael Savage, Alex Jones) to rouse the rabble all week, after which "nice" Republicans show up on Sunday morning to reassure upmarket voters that the party can be trusted to steer the ship of state in a sober and responsible manner. The mainstream media never calls the Republicans on this, and apparently never notices that the knuckledraggers and the polite Sunday guests belong to the same party, and really have the same extreme goals.

See, for instance, Chuck Todd a few days ago:



In the MSM, they'll never learn -- or, rather, they just don't want to know.

HOW TRUMPY WILL THE 2018 GOP CANDIDATE FIELD BE IF MOORE WINS?

It's been said that a Roy Moore win on Tuesday will be a burden for Republicans, because Moore will take office as a political and cultural throwback and a suspected pedophile. He may face an ethics investigation in the sentence; his past and his rhetoric will hung around the necks of other Republicans running in 2018.

But there's one other reason Republicans might live to regret a Moore victory. In response to a tweet from Dave Weigel...



... CNN's Andrew Kaczynski writes this:



Yup.

It's not at all clear that Steve Bannon should get the credit for Moore's primary win, and he won't deserve credit for Moore's general election win if it happens. But Bannon will certainly claim credit. The media loves covering Bannon, so we'll have another wave of stories telling us that he's the fear-inspiring kingmaker who's reshaping the Republican Party.

He'll attract more money. He'll proclaim that he intends to replicate the Moore campaign all over the country in 2018. And radical, Trumpy candidates will try to use the Moore campaign as a model for their own wins. Many will run with Bannon (and Breitbart) backing.

But Moore will have pulled off his victory (assuming he does so) in Alabama. The rest of the country isn't Alabama -- it isn't Trump country and it isn't Bannon country.

I could imagine, for instance, a Muslim-bashing, Trump-worshipping, God-bothering Bannon candidate defeating the far more electable Tim Pawlenty or Norm Coleman in Minnesota, thus ensuring that whoever wins the Democratic primary will secure Al Franken's seat for the Democrats.

Even though Trump didn't endorse Roy Moore in the Alabama primary, a Moore win makes the GOP Trumpier -- and more Bannonesque. Yes, Republicans, you go ahead and use that as your model next year.





Saturday, December 09, 2017

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WOULD HAVE BEEN DEPRAVED WITH OR WITHOUT TRUMP

Jonathan Chait thinks Robert Mueller's investigation is in "mortal danger" because congressional Republicans have lost their moral compass in the Trump era. Trump's depravity, Chait believes, has rubbed off on other Republicans, and that's why they won't lift as finger in response to Mueller's dismissal:
As recently as a few weeks ago, Republicans were debating whether to shun [Roy] Moore or, should he win, vote to expel him from the Senate. They have settled on a course of action that had initially been off the map altogether: endorsing their lecherous ayatollah and providing financial support from the Republican National Committee.

What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct.... And no Republican who wishes to stay in office can afford to offend the president, who commands overwhelming support among the party base.

This was the dynamic last year, when a tape revealed Trump casually confessing to sexual assault, and it was briefly impossible to imagine that he could continue the campaign.... Then the incomprehensible became inevitable. The same thing happened in May when a Republican House candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter and then lied about it. Would Republicans denounce him? Expel him? It turned out they would do nothing. By the time Moore came along, the party’s moral sensibilities had been worn to a nub.

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election...

It is almost a maxim of the Trump era that the bounds of the unthinkable continuously shrink. The capitulation to Moore was a dry run for the coming assault on the rule of law.
"What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct"? No, that's not what mattered most, because the rest of the GOP has made its own contempt for standards of conduct clear for years. Trump may have accelerated the Republican Party's descent into amorality, but he didn't start it.

Remember that congressional Republicans never opposed the Bush administration's decision to build a prison at Guantanamo that mocked the notion of due process; long before Trump promised to send more "bad dudes" there, it was that nice Mitt Romney, in the 2008 campaign who promised to "double Guantanamo." Republicans defended Bush-era torture and illegal surveillance. Republicans were fully on board with Bush administration efforts to suppress the votes of blacks and other Democratic-leaning groups. Republicans shrugged when the John Roberts Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Republicans launched an all-out assault on regular order in Congress when they held a Supreme Court seat open for a year starting in March 2016, months before Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Republicans launched multiple Benghazi investigations against Hillary Clinton even though they could never find a genuine reason for outrage. I could go on.

If their initial response to the appointment of Mueller was that they'd raise hell if Mueller was fired, that was Republicans saying what they thought they had to say. Only the most naive person thought they really meant it.

Trump hasn't worn down congressional Republicans' moral scruples -- he's just showing them how much they can get away with.

Friday, December 08, 2017

WHY RESOLVE A SITUATION BLOODLESSLY WHEN YOU CAN HAVE DRAMA AND DEATH?

Here's a disturbing story, summed up succinctly in a Reason headline:
Arizona Cop Acquitted for Killing Man Crawling Down Hotel Hallway While Begging for His Life
That's accurate. Watch the video, which is disturbing:



Here's the story:

A Maricopa County jury on Thursday found former Mesa police Officer Philip "Mitch" Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder charges in the 2016 shooting of an unarmed Texas man who was on his knees begging for his life.

Jurors deliberated for less than six hours over two days, finishing Thursday afternoon. The eight-member jury also found Brailsford not guilty of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter....
Shaver was a pest-control worker who was drunk and had a couple of people in his hotel room when he started waving around a pellet gun he used on the job. He was brandishing it near a window, and someone called the cops.

You can understand why there was a confrontation -- the cops didn't know what they were dealing with. But did it have to end this way?
Shaver was kneeling, crying and begging not to be shot after he was confronted by six Mesa police officers in a La Quinta Inn & Suites hallway Jan. 18, 2016. Brailsford, who was fired two months after the shooting, testified that he fired his AR-15 rifle five times because it appeared Shaver was reaching for a gun....

The police video, which was released Thursday evening by Mesa police, shows Shaver was confused by some of Sgt. Charles Langley's commands when he exited his hotel room.
You see Brailsford firing the shots, but there's a lot of blame to be shared. This confrontation goes on for several minutes. Shaver struggles to comply with orders that could be confusing to a sober person ("Take your feet and cross your right foot over your left foot"). Meanwhile you have six police officers in the hallway, confronting two people who are face down on the ground. Why is there no opportunity for one of the officers to just move in and put the cuffs on the two of them? How much more compliant did these people have to be? Why the necessity for all this melodrama?

Maybe I'm ignorant, but it seems that these cops are primed to expect every situation to be a scene from a videogame apocalypse. I know that cops are trained to establish their authority forcefully, but in this situation that was accomplished several minutes before the shooting. These cops refused to take "I surrender" for an answer.

The last word on this:


I USED TO CALL THIS "TRUTH CREEP"

Breaking story, from The Hill:
Moore accuser says she added notes below Moore's yearbook signature

A woman who has accused Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore of sexual misconduct says she made her own notes below a yearbook signature she claims was made by Moore.

Beverly Young Nelson, who has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her decades ago when she was 16 years old, told ABC News in a Friday interview that she made notes underneath Moore's alleged yearbook signature, but defended the veracity of the message itself.

"Beverly, he signed your yearbook?" ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked.

"He did sign it," Nelson replied.

"And you made some notes underneath?" Llamas followed up.

"Yes," she answered.
That's a straightforward, accurate story. And say what you will about Ben Shapiro, he's exactly right about Nelson's lawyer, about the facts, and about the impact of this revelation:



This will be used to dismiss her story in large part because a lot of people are not going to read a full story, or even watch the ABC clip. They'll just see headlines like this:



She's not admitting that she forged anything. She's saying she (foolishly) added her own words to what Moore wrote. But most rank-and-file right-wingers will never make that distinction.

Fox initially went with "forged" as well:



Because Fox tries to maintain the appearance of hewing to journalistic standards, it's since changed the headline to "Roy Moore accuser admits she wrote part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama Senate candidate." But your right-wing uncle probably forwarded the Fox story when it still had the original headline, and the tweet hasn't been pulled. (Update: It's been pulled now.)

Years ago, I came up with a name for this: "truth creep." It didn't catch on, obviously. Some people told me that what I was describing was what Stephen Colbert called "truthiness." But even the fakest news can be "truthy" (as I think we learned in 2016). I was referring to the specific practice of pretending to report a story straight while given the facts a skew that seems slight but pushes the story into an entirely different category.

If you explain to your right-wing uncle that Nelson added new writing to the inscription but didn't attempt to generate a fake Moore inscription, he'll say, "Yeah, that's forgery." It's a huge distinction, but it's a fine one. Call it truth creep or whatever you want. It works. The right-wing media will never stop doing it.

ROY MOORE: SURE, SLAVERY WAS WRONG, BUT DID YOU HAVE TO GO AND END IT?

To me, the most striking part of this Roy Moore quote is the phrase "Even though":
Back in September, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd asked the candidate when he thought was the “last time” America was great.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. ... Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore responded, according to a Los Angeles Times report in September.
It doesn't surprise me that Moore is nostalgic for the antebellum South -- I assume most white Southern conservatives feel the same way, as do quite a few white non-Southern conservatives. It doesn't surprise me that he looks back on slavery days as a time "when families were united," even though slavery, among its other horrors, routinely separated slaves from spouses and children -- I don't expect conservatives to care much about the well-being of non-whites.

What surprises me is that he says that those were good times "even though we had slavery." He wants to have it both ways -- even as praises the slavery era, he wants credit for recognizing that slavery was wrong.

I see a lot of conservatives engaging in this kind of doublethink. They tell themselves that sexual harassment and assault are wrong (that Democrat donor Harvey Weinstein is a terrible person!), but suddenly they're concerned about a moral panic now that Al Franken has stepped down after fellow Democrats demanded his resignation. They rallied to Donald Trump's Bernie Sanders imitation in 2016, agreeing that "the system is rigged" in favor of the wealthy and powerful, but they mostly support a tax bill that shovels everyone else's money into the pockets of the wealthy and powerful. And, of course, they abhor pedophilia, but in Alabama that's not enough reason to vote for a Democrat.

I don't know how Roy Moore really feels about slavery, but I bet he believes he finds it abhorrent. I'm sure most white Southern conservatives have persuaded themselves that they find it abhorrent, too, and some of them may abhor it sincerely. But I think what they believe is that it's not as abhorrent as what non-Southerners did to end the practice. And that's conservatives' view on a lot of subjects: Yes, the elites have too much money and power, but we certainly can't alleviate that problem through ideas that are liberal -- progressive taxation, unions, strong regulation. Pedophilia is wrong, but we can't have Yankee journalists prowling around and bringing it to light.

When pressed, conservatives will concede that certain wrongs should be righted -- they just don't want anyone to come in and right them. Slavery, many of them claim, was untenable and would have ended on its own. Pedophilia and sexual misconduct would end if we'd just leave them to their churches, where Jesus will lead them on the righteous path.

Yeah, evil is evil. But liberalism is worse. That's what they think.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

THE MORAL HIGH GROUND STILL MATTERS -- BUT YOU HAVE TO DO MORE THAN JUST REACH IT

Watching the fall of Al Franken, Charlie Pierce and Dahlia Lithwick conclude that there's no good reason for Democrats to try to attain the moral high ground. Pierce writes:
I was going to let Dahlia Lithwick’s angry, lucid account in Slate of the end of Al Franken’s senatorial career speak for me, since Lithwick said everything I felt about this tawdry episode, and probably better than I could. Especially this part:
Is this the principled solution? By every metric I can think of, it’s correct. But it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because we no longer inhabit a closed ethical system, in which morality and norm preservation are their own rewards. We live in a broken and corroded system in which unilateral disarmament is going to destroy the very things we want to preserve.
... Lithwick is dead right. There is no commonly accepted Moral High Ground left to occupy anymore, and to pretend one exists is to live in a masturbatory fantasyland.
Pierce is right: There isn't a "commonly accepted" moral high ground, because "commonly accepted" would have to include Republicans, whose only morality is "Just win, baby." I'll grant that. But if we look at the results of the 2016 presidential election and conclude that morality doesn't matter anymore because a con man and confessed sexual predator won the presidency, remember that voters did make a moral judgment in that election -- it's just that many of them concluded that Hillary Clinton was the less moral candidate.

Remember polls like this?



By late October, voters thought Trump was more honest than Clinton by 8 points. That perception didn't win Trump the popular vote, but it probably won him the White House.

And why did they believe this? The Columbia Journalism Review can tell us:
[Our] research team ... count[ed] sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classif[ied] each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues.... They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.

... in just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.
Democrats have to do the right thing -- and they have to fight like hell to demand fair treatment in the press, as well as adequate treatment of Republican misdeeds. You want to imitate Republican tactics? Then work the refs the way Republicans do. Don't abandon common decency the way they do.

In his resignation speech today, Franken spoke of Paul Wellstone. Pierce writes:
It seemed fitting that Franken invoked the name of his mentor, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, in his valedictory address on Thursday, because it was his account of the indecent political hijacking of Wellstone’s memorial service by the flying monkeys of the right that first made me think that Franken was more than simply a gifted satirist. Very important people in American politics, and in the elite American political media, most of whom still have their jobs today, lied about what went on at that service. They did so deliberately, and for cheap political advantage.

(This was the funeral after which conservative commentators told America that the crowd was being prompted to applaud because the closed-captioning on the big screen in the hall said, “Applause” when there was applause.)

I know they lied about it because my wife and I watched the whole thing on CSPAN and the conservative accounts of it did not match the reality of the service in any way. In his first book, Franken ran all these lying liars to ground and left them there. That was an early example of the broken and corroded system of which Dahlia Lithwick wrote....
But I'm not sure the right could lie about the Wellstone memorial service now the way it did then. Liberals understand social media and know how to use it. Notice that our side got Sam Seder his job back. Liberals quickly made the case that the child-rape tweet for which Seder was fired was a bitter joke about those who excuse pedophilia by the famous. Seder's defenders also recounted the slimy career of his accuser, Mike Cernovich, and reproduced Cernovich's own grotesque defenses of rape. No one said this was easy. Sometimes you need to fight back.

When Lithwick writes about the high ground and its apparent uselessness, she's thinking about more than just matters of personal morality:
Remember “when they go low, we go high?” Yep. So do I.

I remembered it in the fall of 2016, when Senate Republicans and then-candidate Donald Trump first made it irrevocably clear there would be no hearing for anyone Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court, ever, even though Obama had put up a moderate, centrist nominee who was once acceptable to Senate Republicans. I remembered it when Trump won, and we realized that that seat would stay stolen.

I remembered it this week when the Senate passed a tax bill at 2 a.m. that apparently contains a $289 billion error, thanks to the fact that it was drafted in the margins rather than adjudicated through normal congressional standards, as, say, Obamacare was....

This isn’t a call to become tolerant of awful behavior. It is a call for understanding that Democrats honored the blue slip, and Republicans didn’t. Democrats had hearings over the Affordable Care Act; Republicans had none over the tax bill. Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it?
But again, our side has to fight. I know, I know -- it's exhausting. But Shannon Watts is right:



Beyond that, we have to focus on the pattern Lithwick describes and communicate the clear message that the Republican Party is the problem. The GOP's legislation is extreme, its contempt for democratic norms is dangerous, and it lacks all morals. We need to make that point, persistently. There is a high ground -- but voters need to be reminded again and again that Republicans individually and collectively occupy the lowest possible ground.

GINGRICH: DEMOCRATS ARE A LYNCH MOB WHEN THEY TAKE A STAND ON SEXUAL MISCONDUCT -- AND WHEN THEY DON'T

Al Franken announced today that he's resigning from the Senate, after most of his Democratic colleagues asked him to step down yesterday. News of the impending resignation was greeted by Laura Ingraham and Newt Gingrich with horror last night on Ingraham's Fox News show:
In her opening monologue, Laura Ingraham cautioned her viewers before they joined the pile-on with dozens of Senate Democrats who have called on Franken to resign because it is all a “political calculation” ....

She explained that Democrats “only have two paths” if they wanted to destroy his presidency: one being the Robert Mueller investigation and the other being the “war on women.” And they determined that it’s worth throwing Franken and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) “overboard” in order to “save the political Titanic that is their party” in order to drive Roy Moore out of office if he wins the Senate race and to ultimately impeach Trump....

“So I’ll tell you this tonight, be weary of the lynch mob you join today,” Ingraham continued. “Because tomorrow, it could be coming for your husband, your brother, your son, and yes, even your president.”
Right -- we're just coming for random right-wing men farting into their Barcaloungers while they watch Fox. That's how evil we are.
She had on Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who agreed with her that the avalanche of Democrats speaking out against Franken were a “lynch mob” that would rather “feel pure” than allow due process....

“These are people who grew up in a party which used to preach free love, which used to think that all of the hippiedom was wonderful, who used to think they were somehow representing the future,” Gingrich elaborated. “And now they have suddenly curled into this weird puritanism which feels a compulsion to go out and lynch people without a trial.”
It will not surprise you at all to learn that two months ago Gingrich thought Democrats were a vicious mob because we had failed to do anything about Harvey Weinstein. Here was Gingrich in conversation with Sean Hannity:
NEWT GINGRICH: If Hillary [Clinton] had won, [Weinstein] would not be a story -- they would have smothered it because it so directly brings up Bill and Hillary.

And so, in that sense, this is a story that could only emerge when we have someone new in the White House....

What gets to people like you and me, and most of our audience is that the Left is determined to say that they are morally superior. And that is what makes their -- they have to come in and say, whatever the topic is, you're a bad person. Not just you disagree because you're a conservative, but you're a bad person. They come up with all these nasty big terms....

HANNITY: Do you think these people, deep down in their hearts, know how hypocritical they are?

GINGRICH: No. That is what is frightening. These people are totalitarians. These are the people that Orwell wrote 1984 about. These are people who believe sincerely in their right to crush you...

These people are people who would destroy you, not just you Sean Hannity. Any conservative. Anyone on a college campus who speaks inappropriately.
So Democrats were hypocritical fascists when we took money from Weinstein, then we allowed him to be exposed when he was no longer needed to back Hillary Clinton (even though I'm pretty sure the party will run other candidates who'll need money in future races) -- and now we're pushing Franken and Conyers out, but we're still fascists. Denouncing someone without due process is fascist -- except please note that even Harvey Weinstein hasn't had a jury trial, which hasn't prevented any conservative from denouncing him (or non-conservative, of course).

Republican voters are used to taking marching orders from Fox, so they'll segue effortlessly from "Only libs are sexual predators!" to "All this talk about sexual predators is a sneaky attack on Saint Trump!" But I don't think the rest of America will be fooled. What scares Gingrich and Ingraham is that we're serious about this. They know we've got the high ground now. They know their position is untenable. They know Republicans will be haunted by questions about sexual predation for as long as Roy Moore and Donald Trump hold office.

We're being told that pushing out Franken and Conyers was "unilateral disarmament" on the Democrats' part. But Republicans wouldn't be trying so hard to change the narrative if they thought this was a win for them.

THE JERUSALEM MOVE IS CONCIERGE GOVERNMENT

President Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel rewards his conservative Christian backers and lets the president tell himself that he's a macho man who doesn't fear "boldness" -- but it's also a policy decision that was bought and paid for by Sheldon Adelson, as Mark Landler of The New York Times reminds us:
Ten days before Donald J. Trump took office, Sheldon G. Adelson went to Trump Tower for a private meeting. Afterward, Mr. Adelson, the casino billionaire and Republican donor, called an old friend, Morton A. Klein, to report that Mr. Trump told him that moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a major priority.

“He was very excited, as was I,” said Mr. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a hard-line pro-Israel group. “This is something that’s in his heart and soul.” ...

Under a 1995 law, the president is required to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless, citing national security concerns, he signs a waiver, which has to be renewed every six months. The first time he faced that decision, in June, Mr. Trump grudgingly signed it....

Mr. Adelson and other pro-Israel backers were deeply frustrated. He pressed Mr. Trump on the issue at a private dinner in October at the White House that included his wife, Miriam, and [Jared] Kushner. Mr. Adelson also vented to Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, who argued internally for moving the embassy in June....

Early in Mr. Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he privately courted the Adelsons....

In March 2016, Mr. Trump sought to burnish his credentials as a friend of Israel, telling the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

The Adelsons were persuaded and donated $20 million to a political action committee that supported Mr. Trump’s campaign, and another $1.5 million to the committee that organized the Republican convention.
We know that the rich get what they want from the government. We know that no one likes the Republican tax bills except for rich donors, and we know that it's wealthy executives who want the president to shrink national monuments and make more land available for mining and drilling. The Jerusalem move is also a government decision custom-tailored for a rich donor.

Let's call it "concierge government" -- a rewards program for the government's best and most elite customers. I expect politicians to provide concierge service to big donors on matters that affect their bank accounts, but Trump gave a rich individual undue influence over a major foreign policy decision. That's a little less common, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

OF COURSE AL FRANKEN SHOULD RESIGN

As I'm sure you know, there's another Al Franken accuser:
A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator.

The aide, whose name POLITICO is withholding to protect her identity, said Franken (D-Minn.) pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face.

The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. As she hastily left the room, she said, Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked,” the aide said in an interview.
More than a dozen Democratic colleagues have asked him to step down. He's planning an announcement tomorrow.

(Also read Tina Dupuy's account of a Franken grope she experienced at a 2008 Election Night party. Dupuy's story was just published by The Atlantic.)

I know that a lot of Democrats see this as unilateral disarmament, at a time when Roy Moore is on the verge of being elected to the Senate and there's no chance President Trump will resign in shame.

But if you don't think the fact that it's the right thing to do is sufficient reason for Franken to resign, then let's get pragmatic.

Yes, Moore is probably going to the Senate. No, there won't be a successful vote to expel him. And the president is just going to continue denying his own sexual transgressions. But that leaves voters with a clear choice in 2018 and beyond: If Franken steps down, Democrats can say they demanded a reckoning for their sexual assailants (John Conyers, too), while Republicans closed ranks to protect Moore and Trump (as well as, so far, Blake Farenthold). If you're a woman, or a decent man, and sexual misconduct disgusts you, which party represents your values? Going into 2018 and 2020, isn't this a better message for Democrats than "We protect our own predators, just like the Republicans"?

If Franken resigns, his replacement will be chosen by Democratic governor Mark Dayton, and the replacement will hold the seat until the next statewide election, in 2018. Franken, if he were to remain in office, would be up for reelection in 2020 -- and would have to defend himself on these charges. You may think it's better for him to try to redeem himself over the next three years than for a new Democrat to run next year, but remember: If Franken doesn't resign, other Democrats will have to answer for him next year. I don't think he'd be a drag on every Democrat nationwide, but he'd certainly be a drag on Amy Klobuchar (who, as it happens, will running in Minnesota for reelection to her Senate seat next year), as well as on whatever Democrat runs to succeed Governor Dayton, who isn't running for reelection (he's 70 and recently fought prostate cancer).

And if you think Republicans wouldn't have the unmitigated gall to attack Franken while their ranks include Senator Moore and President Trump, you underestimate the GOP's comfort with hypocrisy.

Could Democrats hold both Senate seats in Minnesota next year? It's not certain, but the odds are in Democrats' favor. On the one hand, last year's presidential race in Minnesota was close -- Hillary Clinton won by only a 1.5% margin. On the other hand, the president's approval/disapproval in Minnesota is now 38.8%/56.1%. If the election is a referendum on Trump, the Democrats should be in good shape.

Democrats have quite a few potential candidates to choose from, beyond the obvious Keith Ellison. Read about some of them here and here. There are men and women, whites and non-whites, progressives and moderates, and, in addition to Ellison, there's been a petition campaign to draft Ilhan Omar, a Somalia-born state legislator, for the seat. Governor Dayton's best move might be to choose a reliable Democratic who doesn't want to run for the seat and let the voters and the party sort it out next year. (But please, sort it out carefully -- we need to hold the seat.)

WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN WHEN SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T BELIEVE IN TRUTH THINKS ALLEGATIONS ARE UNTRUE?

The Daily Beast is reporting this:
President Donald Trump has privately told confidants over the past week that he firmly believes Roy Moore’s innocence and feels no hesitation at all about endorsing the embattled Alabama Senate candidate, three sources close to the president tell The Daily Beast....

“This is not something he’s struggling with,” one senior White House official told The Daily Beast of Trump.

The president has even begun adopting some of Moore’s more outlandish lines of defense to push back against accusations that the candidate’s guilt is beyond question.

Two of the sources, one working in the Trump administration and the other a friend of the president, noted that in recent conversations Trump has begun to stress that the “Roy Moore, D.A.” signature in the yearbook of a woman who publicly accused the candidate of sexual assault, is a likely forgery. The president has found the signature suspicious, according to these sources. Moore has stressed this, too. Experts, for their part, disagree.
Does Trump believe that the Moore allegations are false the way you and I believe that untrue things are false? Or does he believe the allegations are Trump-false, meaning that they run counter to Trump's self-interest, therefore they're untrue?

As I've said before, Trump doesn't seem to believe in objective truth -- he believes that the truth is whatever he wants to be true. He believes polls that show him up and doesn't believe polls that show him down. He uses the term "fake news" to refer to any story that offends him or makes his life difficult. He doesn't even believe the Access Hollywood tape is genuine, even though he lived it.

So if he tells people that Roy Moore didn't engage in pedophilia, does that really mean he thinks Moore is innocent? Or is this just Trump believing he bends reality to his will?

YOU SAY "CYNICAL OUTRAGE GENERATION MACHINE" AS IF THAT'S A BAD THING!

Lefties regularly say that right-wing media figures sustain the conservative movement through the daily generation of outrage. We argue that conservatism at the grassroots level consists almost entirely of this outrage -- there are no ideas on the right, only resentments.

Right-wingers might protest that there's more to conservatism than that -- but today Mark Bauerlein, a right-wing CNN commentator, essentially gives the game away, in a piece titled "Why Trump Is Still Winning."

It's debatable that Trump is winning, but he's retained most of the fans who put him in the White House. How is he managing this? Bauerlein explains:
You see, Trump has an invincible ally at the far end of the ideological spectrum ... people on the far left who see the world only through the lens of race, gender, sexuality, and victimhood.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education last week, Brittney Cooper, a professor at Rutgers had this critique about the legacy of Galileo, Newton, Pasteur, and Einstein: "The history of Western thought and science is predicated on the argument that African and indigenous peoples are inferior races."

That's right -- all those inventions and discoveries that we honor and the geniuses we remember had a racist underside, by her lights. Elsewhere in the article she wrote, "No questions have ever been off-limits for white scholars," a statement that would surprise every white scholar I've ever known.

People who still can't assimilate the ascent of Trump need to pay closer attention to these accusations. They're not uncommon. Sensible liberals shrug them off as, well, kind of true but not really significant to health care, the environment, reproductive rights, and other progressive planks.

But people who voted for Trump have become especially attuned to such charges, and it only takes a quick playback by Rush Limbaugh or Tucker Carlson of the day's denunciation of America, white males, or the West by Professor X, Opinionator Y, or Celebrity Z to stoke their sense that the intellectuals loathe them. The more the accusers talk, the more rock hard Trump's base becomes.
There it is. Bauerlein quotes an obscure article by a professor who's unknown to the general public. He links to the piece, which the general public won't even read, because it's behind a paywall. He acknowledges that many liberals have concerns other than what professors write.

So the publication of Cooper's article isn't a major political event in America -- and yet, as Bauerlein triumphantly says, once Limbaugh or Carlson plucks an article like this from obscurity, conservatives' blood will boil all over America. The result: Trump's base becomes (ahem) "rock hard." Rank-and-file right wingers will rally around a tax bill that takes money from their own pockets, will welcome Russian interference in U.S. elections, and will hail their president as a god-emperor. Outrage generated. Mission accomplished.

We've known for a long time that this is how conservatism works. What's unexpected is that someone on the right is bragging about the process.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

RIGHT VS. LEFT AND CENTER, AKA "BOTH SIDES"

Here's the text of an Axios item in its entirety:
Two polls released today showed similar levels of disapproval over the GOP tax plan, with a Gallup finding 29% approval against 56% disapproval and Quinnipiac showing 29% approval against 53% disapproval.

1 unsurprising thing: Both polls broke down along party lines with high approval from Republicans (Gallup: 70%; Quinnipiac: 67%) and high disapproval from Democrats (Gallup: 87%; Quinnipiac: 84%). Independents overwhelmingly disapproved of the plan in both polls (Gallup: 25% approval vs. 56% disapproval, Quinnipiac: 27%/54%).
Here's what's bothering me about this item: the words "Both polls broke down along party lines." That's not the story here. The story -- and yes, the next sentence acknowledges this -- is that independents side with Democrats, by large margins.

Despite the clarification, when you say, "Both polls broke down along party lines," you're sending the message that this is left vs. right. But it's left and unaffiliated vs. right. The right-wingers are the outliers. That should be clear from the topline number, but suggesting that this is just more Donkeys vs. Elephants sends a different message.

What's happening in America right now is obvious, yet it's not part of any media narrative: Republicans are completely out of step with the rest of America. Republicans love a president the rest of the country despises. Republicans nationwide cheer on Roy Moore. Republicans voted for the members of Congress who gave us this monstrosity of a tax bill. And yet Republican voters are regularly portrayed as the only "real" Americans, while the rest of us are deemed second-class citizens. Republicans control the country despite having no mandate for the things they're doing -- in fact, the public clearly wants them not to do what they're doing.

We see that in poll after poll, but we're told it's just D vs. R, with the independents' seconding of the Democrats noted as an afterthought. We need to start talking about Republicans as the ones defying the national will -- regardless of how much Carhartt they wear when they're sitting in Pennsylvania diners.

ELECTIONS ARE THE KEY, EVEN IF YOU THINK IMPEACHMENT WILL SAVE US

In a New Republic piece today, Jeet Heer writes about what he calls "The Democrats’ Dangerous Obsession with Impeachment." I don't think it's dangerous to hope for impeachment, but it's dangerous to believe that impeachment will come easily or quickly. Here's Crispin Sartwell at Splice Today:
Republicans in Congress have taken a lot of grief for not jumping off the Trump train, though of course a number of them have. But he has alienated many of them. There’s going to be that moment, that story, or that defection which starts them stampeding in the other direction, and I think it’ll happen in the next few weeks. They’ll suddenly see how they can disassociate themselves from him, and they’ll suddenly see that they’d better. Then they’ll want him gone quickly, before jockeying begins for 2020. They’ll threaten him with impeachment in the hopes that he’ll resign. If he doesn’t, they’ll impeach him and remove him from office, and be justified in doing so. Or at least, I think that’s a likely scenario.
No, it isn't a likely scenario.

A simple majority is needed to impeach in the House, but it takes a two-thirds majority to convict in the Senate. Republicans control both houses now -- if Democrats vote as a bloc (not a certainty), you'd need 22 Republican votes in the House right now to impeach and 19 Republican votes in the Senate to convict. Heer is right to say that GOP defections seem less likely than they might have early in Trump's term:
As Peter Beinart pointed out Sunday in The Atlantic, ... “mass Republican defection” from Trump “has grown harder, not easier, to imagine. It’s grown harder because the last six months have demonstrated that GOP voters will stick with Trump despite his lunacy, and punish those Republican politicians who do not.” Republican support for Trump has never fallen below 79 percent since he became president. Republicans who dare criticize Trump, such as senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have crashed in popularity among the GOP base.
And this is before Trump has managed to get any major legislation passed. I think a consensus is forming on the right, even among those who've been skeptical of Trump, that he's developing into a pretty great right-wing president. Here's something Rich Lowry published this week at the formerly anti-Trump National Review:
But Gorsuch ... and Other Excellent Judicial Picks ... and a Tax Cut ... and Major Deregulatory Actions ... and Immigration Enforcement ... and the End of the Individual Mandate ... and a Roll Back of the HHS Mandate ...

. . . and the reversal of the insane Title IX policy on campus ... and an exit from the Paris Accords ... and the avoidance of whatever Hillary would have wrought.

There is a meme used by anti-Trump conservatives on Twitter. Whenever Trump steps in it, they tweet the words “But Gorsuch.” It is meant to mock Trump loyalists who hold out Gorsuch’s nomination as a Trump accomplishment that overshadows any of his failings....

[But] it’s simply not true that all we have to show from the Trump administration is Gorsuch.... Now, it appears very likely that [the Trump administration] will get the tax bill, which includes a rifle-shot elimination of the individual mandate. And the administration has been steadily reversing the executive aggrandizements of the Obama administration.

Trump has governed so far as more of a Republican and conservative than I expected.
Soon you're going to start reading op-eds from more and more conservatives who've been on the fence about Trump describing him as a highly successful president and the best president since Reagan. That'll be conventional wisdom on the right. Congressional Republicans aren't going to jump off the bandwagon under those circumstances.

Heer continues:
The Republican Party has proven that they will tolerate just about anything from Trump. They continue to stand with him despite his demented tweeting, the political support he’s given to Roy Moore, his repeated expressions of contempt for the justice system, and his cavalier threats to launch a nuclear war.
"Despite ... the political support he’s given to Roy Moore"? The GOP is now fully behind Moore, as it was fully behind Trump a couple of weeks after the Access Hollywood tape broke.
Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.
Here's something that seems obvious to me: The party's refusal to abandon Moore proves that the release of the pee tape, if it exists, would have absolutely no long-term effect on Republican support for Trump. If you won't abandon a man who's credibly accused of groping young teenagers, then why would you abandon a man who watched prostitutes urinate for sexual gratification? I can just hear the Bible Belters now: If I wanted to elect a perfect person, I'd write in Jesus Christ. Of course the pee tape won't change anything.

Heer writes:
The most promising route for stopping Trump, then, is through the ballot box. Democrats need a convincing platform and effective organization to win elections at every level. If the party can win back Congress in 2018, it can immediately start hamstringing Trump’s presidency without resorting to the unlikely path of impeachment. Democrats can launch investigations into Trump’s many improper acts. They can stall his nominees, especially in the courts. They can also start laying down rules for reining in the imperial presidency, including the thermonuclear monarchy, so that no future commander-in-chief has the dangerous power Trump possesses.
I'll add that even if you're more focused on impeachment, resounding Democratic victories in 2018 are the only way you'll get there. Whatever the expectations are going into the 2018 voting, Democrats have to beat them -- not just because they need to wrest as much power as they can from the GOP, but because Republicans won't turn against Trump unless the 2018 election results scare them into doing it. Right now they're more afraid of their own Trump-loving voters than they are of the vast majority of the country that disapproves of Trump. Only Democratic victories in what are perceived to be safe GOP seats will persuade Republicans that their cleave-to-Trump strategy is a failure.

Even if Trump is removed, we'll still have to contend with awful Republicans holding other offices, and not just President Pence. The Republican Party is the problem. Its power must be diminished. It's also true that Trump needs to go -- but he won't go until a lot of other Republicans go first.

Monday, December 04, 2017

EVENTUALLY, ALL REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS WILL BE FORMER (OR CURRENT) INTERNET TROLLS

President Trump wants to send this guy to the UN:
Patrick Murray, a former Army officer and two-time congressional candidate, was nominated by Trump in May to be the alternate representative for special political affairs to the United Nations. Murray's nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August and he awaits full Senate confirmation....

On Facebook, Murray praised [Milo] Yiannopoulos multiple times in 2016, writing comments of approval like "Milo rocks," "preach, Milo!," and "clone this guy" while sharing videos of Yiannopoulos denouncing campus safe spaces, arguing that Britain should leave the European Union to stop Muslim immigration and talking about the 2016 presidential election....

In one post, Murray defended Yiannopoulos after he was banned from Twitter for harassing Saturday Night Live performer and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones with a barrage of offensive tweets....

In another post, Murray shared an image that suggested being a Democrat was a "mental illness." In another post he called former President Bill Clinton the "the renowned cigar inserter," shared a macro-image of Bill looking at Hillary Clinton with the text overlay, "when you're in prison I'm free to date," and picture of Bill Clinton smiling with the text, "is Bruce Jenner a woman yet." ...

In July of 2016, Murray shared an image on Facebook of a riot with buildings burning. Overlaying the image was a picture of former President Barack Obama and Sharpton shaking hands, with text that read, "Teamwork, it's amazing what you can accomplish when you work together."
Will this derail his nomination? There's no evidence that the Republican Senate has a problem with approving right-wing trolls for important government positions. Remember, Brett Talley, a 36-year-old lawyer who's never tried a case, is still on course to become a federal judge for life, even after the press discovered online posts in which he defended the early Ku Klux Klan, disparaged Muslims, and expressed his envy of a 14-year-old boy who was molested by a 20-year-old baby-sitter.

We've already elected a Republican troll as president, so why shouldn't we assume that future GOP candidates and appointees will routinely be discovered to have trolling in their backgrounds? Eventually it'll be a selling point in Republican primaries, and a résumé item shared proudly by those chosen for appointed positions, don't you think?

THE NUMBER OF SELF-IDENTIFIED REPUBLICANS IS DROPPING, WHICH MIGHT NOT BE AS HOPEFUL A SIGN AS IT SEEMS



Pollster Geoff Garin is excited:



He's citing this report from Gallup:
Forty-four percent of U.S. adults identify as Democrats or are independents who lean to the Democratic Party, while 37% are Republican identifiers or leaners. Democrats have maintained an edge of between five and nine percentage points on this measure of party affiliation throughout 2017....
This seems like good news, but read on:
Democrats' edge has expanded this year mainly because of a decline in Republican affiliation. A year ago, 44% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, the same percentage as now. However, Republican identification and leaning is five points lower than it was a year ago.
So the country isn't becoming more Democratic.

And while we should be happy that there are fewer self-identified Republican, please note this:
Over the last 10 years, Democrats have yet to trail Republicans in any month. At best, Republicans have tied Democrats, as they did in August 2010 and August and September 2015.
Yes, and what's happened since the 2008 elections? Democrats have lost a large number of seats in the House, Senate, and state legislatures, as well as many governorships. According to Gallup, this happened despite the fact that there was never a month in all that time when self-proclaimed Republicans outnumbered self-proclaimed Democrats.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Gerrymandering and vote suppression reduce the effectiveness of the Democratic vote. Democratic participation goes way down in non-presidential elections. In addition, it's often the case that a large percentage of the voting population claims not to be Republican but votes consistently Republican. (These are the folks who claim that Congress is made up of two liberal parties and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are RINOs. Your right-wing uncle is probably one of them.)

The new Gallup numbers come from polling conducted throughout the month of November -- in other words, before the Senate passed a tax overhaul. The GOP drop in this survey coincides with a period when congressional Republicans failed to attain any of their policy goals. So I assume many of the so-called ex-Republicans Gallup found were really yellow-dog Republicans who merely claimed to be independents because they'd persuaded themselves that McConnell and Ryan are liberal sellouts.

Do you want to see what the numbers look like when a Democratic wave election is coming? Check out the left side of the expanded Gallup chart:



That period around 2008 when Democrats had a 53%-34% advantage? That's what I'm talking about. We might get to that point if Trump remains in office for years, especially if there's an economic downturn. But we're not there yet.

What Democrats have is a smaller advantage. We need to learn how to take advantage of it, by voting in every election as if it's a presidential election. (This year's Virginia elections were a good start.) The advantage might widen in the future. But we're not in blowout territory yet.

MITT ROMNEY: STILL A WUSS

Politico reports that President Trump is trying to prevent a Mitt Romney Senate run in Utah:
Donald Trump is going all out to persuade seven-term Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to seek reelection — a push aimed in no small part at keeping the president’s longtime nemesis, Mitt Romney, out of the Senate.

Romney has been preparing to run for Hatch’s seat on the long-held assumption that the 83-year-old would retire. Yet Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, is now refusing to rule out another campaign — a circumstance Romney’s infuriated inner circle blames squarely on the president.
Trump, we're told, appreciates Hatch's support last year after the Access Hollywood tape was released. Hatch hasalso worked closely with Trump on judicial appointments and the tax bill. On Trump's trip to Utah today, the stated purpose of which is to announce the shrinking of national monuments in Utah, the senator will travel both ways with the president on Air Force One.

Oh, and the Washington Examiner reports that Steve Bannon, alleged hater of entrenched D.C. swamp dwellers, may endorse Hatch, who's been a senator for forty years. (If Hatch wins, he'd be ninety years old at the end of his next term.)

It was reported in October that Hatch intended to retire and that Romney would run if Hatch chose not to. But why is Romney waiting to be granted permission to run?

As New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann notes, an October poll showed that Utahns vastly prefer Romney and want Hatch to retire:
The survey shows that 75 percent of voters said Hatch ... should retire, including 56 percent who said he “definitely should not” run again....

The poll had more bad news for Hatch. It asked voters whom they would vote for if the Senate race were held today, and Hatch finished in a distant third-place tie.

This isn't how elections work in Utah, but when a large number of potential candidates are polled, Romney crushes Hatch, 44%-8%. And an earlier poll showed that Romney would beat Democrat Jenny Wilson 64%-26% in a general election.

So why doesn't Romney just run no matter what? Why is he waiting or Hatch's (and, by extension, Trump's, Bannon's, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer's) permission?

The simplest explanation: because he's Mitt Romney. He was applauded for making one speech denouncing Trump in the spring of 2016, but he wouldn't step up as a third-party candidate, and he gave up on the effort to recruit another high-profile candidate to run. After Trump won, Romney groveled for the secretary of state job he was never going to get. Since then, as Margaret Hartmann notes, "Romney called on Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement, blasted his response to the violence in Charlottesville, and undermined Trump’s response to the Roy Moore scandal" -- but he also praised Trump's UN General Assembly speech in September.

Romney won't exercise his right as a citizen in a democracy to run against his state's incumbent senator, even though he has an excellent chance of winning -- and if he were to win the Senate seat in the event of a Hatch retirement, he probably wouldn't have the guts to stand up to Trump on anything important, up to and including a Senate vote in an impeachment trial. Sorry, Mitt, you're just a wuss.