Even More Vapid Than Usual

This is what consultants do.

It is hard to imagine how Exxon survived Rex Tillerson. He engaged two pricey consultancies, and he didn’t even get a t-shirt out of it.

It’s possible to argue that the State Department needed some reorganization. The one substantive suggestion I’ve seen coming out of Tillerson’s shop (as distinct from the State Department) is that the number of special envoys needs to be decreased.

That’s actually a reasonable suggestion. A President sees a particular problem in foreign relations and appoints a person as special envoy to deal with it. Some are successful, some not. The existing organization is usually uneasy about them, sometimes hostile. They, or their office, may linger after the problem is no longer essential to address.

I’ve griped, mostly on Twitter, about the lack of information about this reorganization that Tillerson wants to bring about. What are his objectives? How does he plan to go about achieving them?

The State Department is not like Exxon. It is the primary governmental interface for the United States with the rest of the world, not a profit-making organization. Exxon’s objectives are much simpler: to get oil out of the ground in the cheapest way possible and sell it for the highest price possible.

That can become more complicated than the oilmen would prefer, so refineries must be built and the oil must be processed into a form that consumers want to buy. And so on. As an international corporation dealing in many types of sales in many countries, however, Exxon has a department that is not unlike the State Department in that it must learn about those countries and how to deal with them, again with much more limited objectives. So one might think that Tillerson has some sense of how the State Department works.

You might think that a proposal for a reorganization of the State Department might require as much information as is in the preceding few paragraphs, perhaps even more – that State issues passports and helps Americans abroad; that it develops the background information necessary to negotiate treaties; that it supports cultural and scientific exchanges, and more. Those functions are not the same as cost centers.

But consultants don’t even need to know that. They have apps that require only the name of the client to be input and can spit out a hash of processes, impact, execute, build, framework, and other buzzwords. “Elevate their leadership” and “appetite for change” are nice.

So look through this briefing for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. No mission statement. No description of what people actually do or are expected to do. No org chart for what the department will look like after the reorg. Thin even for what consultants do.

Does Rex Tillerson believe that this represents substance? Is he trying to BS Congress? As is so often the case in this administration, incompetence vies with maleficence.

Repubs in Disarray Open Thread: More Moore (Of Course)

If ya let yer wimmen forget their place in God’s plan, then the coloreds are gonna get uppity! And if ya let the coloreds get uppity, next thing ya know yer wimmen will forget their place!

The ugly truth, of course, is that Roy Moore’s current candidacy is the distilled end product of the GOP’s forty-plus years’ refining a message that would resonant with all the worst instincts and practices of “true American” clannishness, misogyny, authoritarianism, and xenophobia. And the embodied sludge that is “Judge” Roy Moore is now… an embarrassment to his enablers.

McConnell aides express caution, saying they’re uncertain whether such a move, one of several options being discussed, is even possible. Yet the talks underscore the despair among top Republicans over relinquishing a seat in deep-red Alabama, further diminishing their slim Senate majority.

New GOP polling obtained by POLITICO suggests that Moore is cratering. A survey conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after allegations emerged that Moore had engaged in sexual misconduct with teenagers showed him trailing Democratic candidate Doug Jones by 12 points. Other recent polling has the race closer.
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Russiagate Open Thread: Are We Sure Carter Page Isn’t A Mole?

Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page privately testified Thursday that he mentioned to Jeff Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign — as new questions emerge about the attorney general’s comments to Congress about Russia and the Trump campaign.

During more than six hours of closed-door testimony, Page said that he informed Sessions about his coming July 2016 trip to Russia, which Page told CNN was unconnected to his campaign role. Page described the conversation to CNN after he finished talking to the House intelligence committee.

Sessions’ discussion with Page will fuel further scrutiny about what the attorney general knew about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia — and communications about Russia that he did not disclose despite a persistent line of questioning in three separate hearings this year…

Page told CNN after the interview that he informed Sessions about the trip during a group dinner in Washington, and that he mentioned it in passing.

“Back in June 2016, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow,” Page told CNN. “Completely unrelated to my limited volunteer role with the campaign and as I’ve done dozens of times throughout my life. Understandably, it was as irrelevant then as it is now. If it weren’t for the dodgy dossier and all the chaos that those complete lies had created, my passing comment’s complete lack of relevance should go without saying.”

Page said it was the only time he met Sessions….

Somebody on Team Trump should’ve made it their business to explain to Young Carter that discretion is very much the better part of valor, when it comes to criminal conspiracy. But then, if any of these mopes had the sense God gave a weasel, why would they have sold their futures to the mercies of Donald Effing Trump?
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Calling Bullshit on the BS Artist

We bitch about the Beltway media a lot around here, and God knows they deserve it. But sometimes, talking heads say something worth hearing. Such was the case on AC 360 last night, when the panel was discussing Trump’s shameless, infuriating lies about how President Obama and other predecessors interacted with the families of soldiers killed in action.

In the clip below, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker (at left in the screen grab) wonders why Trump “makes shit up” and “lies all the time.” The melon-headed butt-munch seated at right who’s failing to hide his chinlessness behind a goatee — co-panelist and former Trump flack Jason Miller — lamely tries to defend Trump’s staggering and unprecedented mendaciousness. But Lizza is having none of it, repeatedly calling Trump out for lying constantly.

Lizza is getting high-fives all over the Twitters for it, but IMO, the real hero of the clip is Tara Setmayer, who comes in at the 1:40 mark and drops the following truth bomb about why Trump is such a lying piece of shit (transcribed below the clip for those who can’t / don’t want to watch the video):

SETMAYER: Because he’s done this his entire career and never been held accountable for it. Now he’s in front of the entire world, where he has people who will actually hold him accountable for the things he says, and he does not know how to process that, because its not in his character to do so. He’s been a liar his entire life! He’s a BS artist! And when he gets backed into a corner, then his default is to lie, make something up, deflect and divert, and when people call him on it, he says “fake news.”

Exactly right, and well said, Ms. Setmayer.

Monday Evening Open Thread: The Mad King & His Criminal Enablers


If Trump’s really as senile as he sounds, what does that make Huckabee?

The GOP isn’t a party any more — it’s a series of criminal conspiracies with unusually deep pockets.

GOP Idiocracy Open Thread: Today, Mike Pence Became Truly Vice-Presidential


Somewhere, ol’ Lyndon is saying, “Damn, that’s no way to treat a man who willingly cut off his own pecker so you could carry it in your pocket!”

Truly, this is the strangest timeline, when even Bill Kristol is not reliably 100% always wrong…
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How Many Factions In The Republican Party?

Greg Sargent’s Morning Plum has been on fire for the last two days. Today’s discusses the divisions in the Republican Party.

The Post and the Washington Examiner have remarkable stories this morning that portray the Republican Party as gripped by an internal war of recriminations over the fact that Trump has not signed any major accomplishments.

I want to try to pull out of that article the various Republican factions. They overlap, but it can be useful to figure out the main Republican tendencies. Then the Democrats can devise strategies to split the various interest groups or to try to pull over those that might be salvageable.

In the order I find them in the article:

  • Religious-right extremists
  • Trump followers
  • “Republican establishment” – this seems to include Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan
  • Committed to the fat cats – subset of “Republican establishment”
  • Still believe in regular order – subset of “Republican establishment”

Sargent’s purpose in this Morning Plum is not to identify the Republican factions – that’s an idea I had. His purpose is to illustrate how lying has tripped up the Republican Party.

The fact that Trump and Republicans continue to believe a large chunk of the country (the GOP base) must be lied to relentlessly and at all costs is dispiriting on its own.

That implies that “Trump and Republicans” are distinct from “the GOP base.” Which is an interesting distinction. Sargent’s argument is that the base has come to expect certain things because Trump and Republican leadership lied to them, and now the base is turning against the liars, who continue to lie.

That disconnect is roughly my first two categories (base) against the second three, which can’t quite be called the establishment, because Trump is claiming to overthrow the establishment.


Make suggestions about other categories or anything you want. Open thread!