The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

We haven't been making this up

Those of us saying for years now that President Trump is a racist twat and that you should apply Occam's Razor (or Trump's Razor) to his behavior got quite a shock yesterday when he proved our point spectacularly. We can't pretend anymore that his policies and rhetoric come primarily from "inexperience" or "stupidity." Josh Marshall lays it out plainly:

The simpler explanation that accounts for all the available facts is not always right. But as Occam noted, it is always to be preferred. What we need is a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Trumpism, or at least some of us need it. The breakthrough for Copernicus was in positing the unimaginable, indeed the terrifying possibility that the Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a peripheral, secondary celestial body. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place.

With Trump, he has a revanchist racist politics because he is a revanchist racist. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place. All the heroic and increasingly nonsensical perambulations of misunderstandings, inexperience, missed opportunities, stubbornness and all the rest are not needed. It all falls into place.

What we have in this Times article is the more direct evidence, a confirmation of what we should already know. His advisors know this is what he thinks. They apparently hear it frequently. They were shocked to here him say in public “opinions that the president had long expressed in private.”

Stop pretending he's going to learn or grow. He won't. This is the president. Supporting him means supporting these views, which should not be aired—or held—by any serious politician anywhere. And it's shocking that people like Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn can stand next to him.

Reactions to the weekend

Apparently, life went on in the US while I was abroad last week. First, to James Damore:

Of course, that wasn't the big story of the weekend. About the terrorist attack and armed ultra-right rally in Virginia, there have been many, many reactions:

Can we have a discussion about domestic right-wing domestic terrorism now? Before we have another Oklahoma City?

Noted, with sadness

I'm back from the UK, and I hope my laundry will be done soon because my body thinks it's 1:30 in the morning.

I did want to note the horror in Virginia over the weekend, and James Fallows' observations about the President's abject failure to respond appropriately:

Donald Trump had an opportunity yesterday to show that he was more than the ignorant, impulsive, reckless opportunist he appeared to be during the election. To show, that is, that the  burdens and responsibilities of unmatched international power had in fact sobered him, and made him aware of his obligations to the nation as a whole.

Of course, he failed.

And those who stand with him, now, cannot claim the slightest illusion about what they are embracing.

It was so tempting, being at O'Hare with my passport and a packed bag, just to hop on another plane...

Slow news day

President Trump, our hypocrite in chief, is taking the first official vacation of his presidency, after spending 41 of the last 196 days away from the White House. This is a man who criticized President Obama for taking too much time off, which makes sense because Trump projects and lies the way you and I breathe. Obama, in fact, had spent 21 days away from the White House at this point in his presidency, including 8 visits to Camp David (which, while relaxing, is hardly a vacation).

As CNN's Chris Cillizza points out,

Generally speaking, I think "the president is taking a too-long vacation" is a dumb storyline. Presidents -- of both parties -- deserve some down time. Whether they play golf or clear brush in their free time, it's fine with me! We all need a little break. And let's be honest: If I am always not so far from my phone (and work) on vacation, then you can sure as hell bet the president of the United States is staying dialed in too. It's not as though these presidents go to a remote island where there's no phone or Internet service.

That said, Trump asked for this criticism. He was relentless not only in his attacks on Obama's vacation habits but insistent that he wouldn't take any vacation if he was elected president.

"Pres. Obama is about to embark on a 17 day vacation in his 'native' Hawaii, putting Secret Service away from families on Christmas. Aloha!," Trump tweeted in December 2013. "President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!," he tweeted in October 2014.

I'm on vacation as well, flying out tomorrow to the Ancestral Homeland. First, though, I'm spending a day enjoying our perfect late-summer weather at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Photos forthcoming.

Nuanced thinking is not his strength

The Washington Post today published transcripts of President Trump's late-January calls with Mexican president Enrique Peña-Nieto and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull.

Most press reports today focus on his statements to Peña-Nieto that make it clear the border wall is complete bullshit. But I think we already knew that; this just puts it in Trump's own words.

On the other hand, I found the Turnbull call fascinating because it's clear Trump doesn't understand the important nuance of Australia's policy against accepting refugees who arrive by boat. Turnbull tries repeatedly to get Trump to see the point, but all Trump cares about is that the Obama Administration agreed to take 1,250 refugees from Australia in exchange for an equal number of Central American refugees—a "bad deal," according to Trump.

It's hard to pull out a short bit of the exchange that shows the problem simply. The issue is, Australia does not, under any circumstance, admit refugees who arrive by boat:

TURNBULL: The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat. So we would rather take a not very attractive guy that help you out then to take a [Nobel] Peace Prize winner that comes by boat. That is the point.

TRUMP: What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it.

TURNBULL: No, let me explain why. The problem with the boats it that you are basically outsourcing your immigration program to people smugglers and also you get thousands of people drowning at sea.

This is not hard to understand. Not hard at all.

But Trump "knows" that the only reason to prevent some people and not others from entering the country is because they're "bad hombres." ("Bad wallabies?") Because that's how he thinks. And he's incapable, even in a semi-private call with another world leader, of seeing another point of view.

Shortly after the part I quoted above, Trump completely loses his patience and essentially hangs up on Turnbull. From Trump's perspective, if he honors the deal, he'll "be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people." Never mind that, as Turnbull points out, there's really no downside: Trump can refuse to admit anyone, he can blame Obama, whatever.

After reading this, I wonder if Trump hung up on Turnbull because the Australian PM made an irrefutable point that undermined Trump's basic premises. Since Trump can never be wrong, Turnbull must be the problem.

We weren't wrong about Trump two years ago. He just doesn't have the stuff for this job. No surprise there. But it's interesting to see how he behaves one-on-one with his peers, and what his priorities are up close. It's sad, really.

Don't do it, man!

President Clinton's chief of staff John Podesta has simple advice for President Trump's new chief of staff, John Kelly:

Don’t take the job.

Kelly, who has rendered extraordinary service and sacrifice to the nation, just signed up for what may truly be an impossible mission: bringing discipline, order and strategic focus to the chaos that is the Trump White House.

To have any chance of succeeding, he will have to accomplish three extraordinary tasks, all at odds with President Trump’s instincts.

First, discipline.

Kelly is walking into a White House that looks more like a cock fight than an episode of “The West Wing.” (See Mooch, you can use that word without being profane.) The White House culture will have to be shaken to its core. Kelly must be able to fire anyone at will, including to enforce a no-tolerance policy for behavior unbecoming a senior government official. Scaramucci’s departure Monday is a good start, but Kelly will have to keep a tight rein on a White House staff that is used to few boundaries. And if there is going to be an exception for Trump’s relatives, Kelly should get an explicit commitment that even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump report through him — no end arounds.

What an interesting year this has turned out to be.

Chan eil iad mar a tha thu

Scottish authorities are making it difficult for Donald Trump to expand his money-losing golf course outside Aberdeen:

Two Scottish government agencies—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency—say they will object to the Trump Organization’s plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at Aberdeen, known as the Trump International Golf Links. If they succeed in killing this expansion, it will be a major setback for Trump and raise doubts about the future profitability of the whole venture.

Industry experts say the value of many of Trump’s golf resorts is not in the daily management of the course itself but rather in the development and sale of housing. And according to the 2008 master plan that Trump convinced local planning officials to accept, he needs to build two courses before he is allowed to break ground on the profitable housing development. 

But with the Trump Organization back to trying to get the second golf course built, Scottish regulators are making the case that Trump apparently doesn’t fully understand the development limitations. According to the Guardian, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is objecting to the Aberdeen expansion on the grounds that the Trump Organization’s plans for managing sewage are inadequate. Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, says the company’s expansion plans don’t take into account the fragility of the nearby dunes and how they may affect the course as they shift—already a recurring problem on the first course, where greens are strafed by mini-sandstorms. 

It turns out, Scots are really hard to bully, and (as the headline above says), they really do not like him.

Shut up, shut up, and shut up

Three groups from whom one would expect general support of the President of the United States yesterday told the current occupant of that office to stop behaving like an ass:

It’s far too early to know whether they mark a turning point in how people who have been at least nominally supportive of the president will approach him in the future, but Trump ought not to be dismissive of their significance. The critiques may not change the president’s behavior, but as a marker of the rising concern about the president even from allies, they couldn’t have been more obvious.

The first of the three came from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the generally even-tempered chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

In terse language, Grassley made clear that he would not consider holding confirmation hearings for a replacement [Attorney General] any time this year. That would leave the Justice Department in the hands of Rod J. Rosenstein, the career prosecutor who is now deputy attorney general and someone who also has earned Trump’s disrespect for having appointed Mueller.

The other rebukes came from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ("you can't order a policy change via tweet") and the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Just to clarify...

The President can't actually change military policy with a tweet:

This morning there is news that there will – for now – be no change in the US military’s policy toward transgender service members. The news comes in the form of a letter shared with members of the press from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

On its face this is no more than a statement of military command protocol and the chain of command. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with vast powers that position grants him. But the President does not and cannot just dial up the head of Central Command and order a war. There is a specific and statutory chain of command. Under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act....

There’s process and there’s law and there’s the President. The person of the president does not trump the other two.

So for now, the military can remain open to anyone who is fit to serve. Let's see if the president actually orders the change through channels.

Not enough outrage?

New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker says President Trump's outrages aren't outraging us anymore:

After six months in office, Mr. Trump has crossed so many lines, discarded so many conventions, said and done so many things that other presidents would not have, that he has radically shifted the understanding of what is standard in the White House. He has moved the bar for outrage. He has a taste for provocation and relishes challenging Washington taboos. If the propriety police tut tut, he shows no sign of concern.

[Last week,] Mr. Trump urged uniformed sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford to call their members of Congress to lobby for his military spending plan and his proposed repeal of Mr. Obama’s health care program. Traditionally, the commander in chief does not tell the troops who serve under him to involve themselves in politics or policy battles on his behalf.

"Traditionally?" The President politicizing the military is such a bright line that only George W. Bush has even come close to doing so in my lifetime. Never, in my knowledge, has a president solicited votes from uniformed personnel, and for good reason. Baker:

“It was a mistake for the president to make this comment,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military matters at Duke University and a former national security aide to Mr. Bush. “While there is a legitimate role for senior brass to explain military affairs to the public, it is not good for civil-military relations to have the military viewed as a special interest group pleading for bigger budgets.”

And then there's the matter of calling for the prosecution of his defeated opponent:

The closest analogies that historians could summon occurred a century or more ago. Aaron Burr, who sought to snatch the presidency from Thomas Jefferson when the contest went to the House of Representatives in 1800, was prosecuted in a treason case for later plotting to break off territory and create a new nation. (He was acquitted.) Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate who lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, was jailed for sedition for speaking out against World War I. In both cases, they were prosecuted for actions taken after the election.

So...never before have we come this close to being a banana republic. Meanwhile, Trump is inverting the way the White House has worked for nearly a century—or, rather, allowing his new communications director to do so:

Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, according to Politico, is among the first to get canned. It seems likely that that even if Scaramucci remains Communications Director and doesn’t become chief of staff himself – which I would not rule out – that the White House will now be run from the communications office, with a new chief of staff effectively, if not formally, reporting to Scaramucci.

This, while signalling that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is about to get his walking papers. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, sure; but it's still a little insane. Check out Jennifer Rubin's column yesterday in the Independent UK: "Trump's presidency can't be saved—so what happens next?"

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