The Best People

There is this guy.  He’s running for president.  He himself is not particularly experienced at most (all) of what a president does, but we’re not to worry.

Why not?

Because he’s not the detail guy.  He’s the big picture guy, the boss.  He hires the folks who lift and tote.

But that’s OK.

Why?

Because:

“My motto is ‘Hire the best people…”  (Donald Trump: Think Big, 2007).

And now, let us savor:

Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign chief is registered to vote in a key swing state at an empty house where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws.

Stephen Bannon, the chief executive of Trump’s election campaign, has an active voter registration at the house in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which is vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development….

John_Sell_Cotman_-_Ruined_House_-_Google_Art_Project

Election officials in Miami-Dade make clear to prospective voters that they are required to actually live in the county and to use their home address in election paperwork. “You must reside in Miami-Dade County,” their website states. It adds: “When you register to vote, an actual residence address is required by law.” A county spokeswoman did not respond to questions relating to Bannon’s situation.

Three neighbors said the house where Bannon is currently registered to vote had been abandoned for three months. When the Guardian visited the property on Thursday a large window in the front aspect was missing. A soiled curtain was blowing through it. The driveway was a mess of tree branches and mud.

Bannon never appeared at the house, according to the neighbors.

What’s most striking is that this apparent prima facie  voter fraud — while the more likely to get Bannon into actual legal difficulties — is in a moral sense the lesser of two scandals that have dropped over the last twenty four hours.  Because we’ve also learned this:

Stephen K. Bannon, the new CEO of the Donald Trump campaign, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness following an incident in early January 1996, though the case was ultimately dismissed, according to a police report and court documents.

That witness:

The Santa Monica, Calif., police report says that Bannon’s then-wife claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account. Bannon also reportedly smashed the phone when she tried to call the police.

The details get uglier:

Bannon then got his lawyer on the case, who allegedly “threatened” Piccard and told her she “would have no money [and] no way to support the children” if the case went to trial.

Bannon then told Piccard to skip town.

He said “that if I wasn’t in town they couldn’t serve me and I wouldn’t have to go to court,” she claimed in the document.

Piccard left for two weeks before Bannon’s attorney said she could return, according to the declaration.

“Because I was not present at the trial, the case was dismissed,” she said in the documents.

That second quote is from The New York Post. That would be the Rupert Murdoch-owned Post, which is an added twist to this tale.  What is the true state of Trump-Murdoch relations?

But leave aside that kind of political inside baseball.  The most compelling element to the story of Bannon’s thuggery is that it is an unexpected, deep look into his character.  Through it we can discover what kind of person Donald Trump — a major party nominee for President, with a genuine, non-zero chance of achieving that office — thinks is one of  “the best people.”

It ain’t pretty.  The Post‘s coverage continues:

Bannon had allegedly also earlier told Picccard, who was then his girlfriend and the expectant mother of their twin girls, that he would only agree to marry her if the kids were “normal.”

He married her on April 14, 1995, three days before the twins were born.

George_Romney_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_Project_(2220591)

Worst of all — at least it seems to me — Bannon is a man who would do this:

Piccard alleged in another document that Bannon believed in corporal punishment for the girls, even though he rarely saw them.

She cited as one example that Bannon allegedly spanked one of his toddler daughters to try to stop her from hitting her head against the crib.

Piccard claimed that when she intervened, he exploded, calling her “f—ing crazy” and saying if he hadn’t been interrupted, “she wouldn’t be banging her head anymore.”

Beating any adult is reprehensible.  Whacking on a child, a toddler? (And no, I don’t think “spanking” in this context is likely to have been a gentle swat on the bum.)  There are special circles of hell for those folks.

I left out the last half of the Trump quote at top.  In full, it reads “My motto is ‘Hire the best people, and don’t trust them.’”

As none should him.

Images:  John Sell Cotman, Ruined House betw. 1807 and 1810.

George Romney, Mother and Childundated, before 1802.



Because Some Asshattery Needs Its Own Snark

Like several valued commenters, I can’t help but love this story:

The [North Carolina] state GOP sent out a tweet Wednesday night saying it was “shameful” for Kaine to wear the flag of Honduras during his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Kaine was, of course, wearing a Blue Star Service pin, which people wear to signal they’ve a family member on active duty during a war or a conflict.

Here’s a typical version:

s1097

To the wingnut mind, which is to say the Twitter account of the North Caroline GOP, this subtle and simple acknowledgement of pride and moment in a son’s service was the Honduran flag, and Kaine’s brazen display of that unAmerican allegiance was, and I quote, “shameful.”

To which I reply: Morans!

One additional note:  the Military Times article linked above contains an error.  It states that “North Carolina Republicans have apologized to Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine…”

Maybe so, but the only acknowledgement of their feckless, incompetent asshattery I’ve been able to find is a thank you to the person who pointed out what Kaine was actually wearing.  No contrition aimed at the nominee, his son, or the Democratic Party.

Which is to say that the NC GOP is not merely incompetent, feckless and having trouble peering through its own colon; they’re a bunch of ill-mannered boors whose parents should have (and maybe tried to) raise them better.

ETA:  as pointed out by valued commenters Hoodie, Omnes Omnibus, and in a prior thread Raven, the executive director of the state GOP did issue a clear apology to Tim Kaine and his family this afternoon.  So my dudgeon was accurate at the time I first read this story, and was superceded by the time I wrote my snark.  I regret that error — and exactly none of my disdain for the impulse that produced the initial last-refuge-of-scoundrelism.

TL:DR?  “Bless their hearts.”

Image:  from this catalogue.

 

 



The Siberian Candidate

The Trump story of the morning appears to be a clumsy attempt to walk back yesterday’s folly/treason.  The ferret-headed Benedict Arnold now says he was just kidding.

In the reality-based universe this looks ridiculous, a twelve year old bully’s gambit to duck out of trouble when his mouth makes a promise the rest of him can’t back up.

In a political world described to the electorate but a media community that is either complicit (Fox, et al.) or cowed into ineffectuality (at best), it’s at least a solid move by Trump, and maybe more so.  He gets two main benefits out of what should be a candidacy-killing blunder.

The first is a refocusing of attention onto the Hillary email story, never mind that the actual hack — and the evil thereof –was not on Clinton’s server but was instead an attack against one of America’s two major political parties.  To all those — I spoke to one yesterday — who see Hillary as guilty, guilty, guilty, any means necessary to bring her down is just fine, and this story helps fuel that hunger while reminding everyone, yet again, that Hillary is the worst ever traitor/murderess/spy/arglebarglegabblegibberish….

The second, and even more potent benefit to Trump is the distraction his invocation of Russian spycraft offers the media.  This is classic misdirection. Focus on the more sensational, but ultimately off-the-point element of a story instead of the meat of the matter.

That would be, of course, how Trump has already, and will likely continue to pay off on Putin’s investment in his sorry ass.  Josh Marshall wrote an elegant bill of indictment a week ago, and our own Adam has gone into some detail on the extraordinary damage Trump is wreaking on more than a half a century of American geopolitics.

To do the TL:DR — Trump increasingly depends on Russian money as more and more of the major players in the western financial system have learned to their sorrow that he’s a litigious deadbeat.  That means that Trump doesn’t have to be a witting agent of the Kremlin; he’s already been bought and paid for (and, as Adam has noted, he’s long curried favor with/genuinely supported Russian authoritarians).

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_No._28_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_12._Judas'_Betrayal_-_WGA09213

You can see how much vig he’s paid already:  threats to NATO and other allies, the signals he’s sending on Putin’s ambitions in the Baltic, Chamberlain-esque appeasement in his seeming willingness to accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea, explicit changes the GOP position on Ukraine in an unequivocal shift towards the Kremlin line.

Does Trump believe in any of that, independently of a Russian handler? Who knows and who cares.  The threat Trump’s Russian connections poses to US and world security exist whether or not he’s a dupe, a useful idiot, a debtor, or (easily the least likely, IMHO) an actual witting asset of the FSB.  The real story lies in two strands and two only.  First:  follow the money.  What does Trump owe to whom? Where does/can he lay his hands on cash these days?

Second:  look at what Trump has done and proposes to do.  Not the conditional BS — how great it would be if Putin hacked HIllary.  The real stuff, the weakening of the western alliance, down-the-line support for Kremlin actions and arguments.

This is a test of our political media, one I’m afraid is already being flubbed.  Trump is a good — no, a great — three card monte player.  The patter conceals the real action.

This is how a Siberian Candidate gets the job done.

For our part, it’s a matter of keeping the story alive as much as we can in every venue we can: calling representatives, hitting social media, writing letters to the editor, and above all, talking to voters who need help seeing what’s at stake in this election.

Image:  Giotto di Bondone, Judas Receiving Payment For His Betrayalbetween 1304 and 1306.

 



Let the Stalinist Purges Begin (Zombie Lies Never Die)

This is a charming little tidbit of what a future Trump administration will do to the country:

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

At least they are not threatening to publicly execute them. Yet. The reason for this is simple- Republicans don’t like a functioning government, so they will replace all the civil servants who actually do their jobs with apparatchiks. Monica Goodling, “Heckuva job Brownie,” anyone?

Christie, who is allegedly a former prosecutor who is supposed to deal with facts, offers up this justification for this purge of civil service employees:

“It’s called burrowing,” Christie said. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Christie was referring to pranks committed during the presidential transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. During that period, some White House staffers removed the W key on computer keyboards and left derogatory signs and stickers in offices, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

Except that never happened, and our failed media let’s it slide:

The technological problems the vandals wrought were so severe that, according to a report in the New York Daily News, “a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing.”

“Phone lines cut, drawers filled with glue, door locks jimmied so that arriving Bush staff got locked inside their new offices,” a disapproving Andrea Mitchell reported on NBC News. The message seemed clear: The trailer-trash Clintons and their staff had enjoyed one last bacchanal at taxpayer expense.

Now it seems those closely detailed stories were largely bunk. Last week it was revealed that a formal review by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative agency, “had found no damage to the offices of the White House’s East or West Wings or EOB” and that Bush’s own representatives had reported “there is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by the employees of the Clinton administration.”

While cautious GSA staffers won’t issue a blanket exoneration of the Clinton team, Bernard Ungar, the agency’s director of physical infrastructure, told Salon the media clearly exaggerated the extent of the damage. According to the terse GSA statement that formed the basis of Ungar’s conclusion, “the condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy.”

Heckuva job, Reuters reporter Emily Flitter!



Tom Cotton Starts His 2020 Presidential Campaign

As I’ve said before, the reason Ted Cruz couldn’t do the sensible thing and wait to run for president in 2016 2020, after he’d finished at least one term in the Senate, is that there are even younger crazier Ivy-educated Talibangelicals breathing down his neck. On the first day of the 2016 RNC convention, Senator Tom Cotton staked out his claim to 2020. Mr. Charles P. Pierce explicates:

What better way to begin coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention than to give you a preview of the 2020 Republican nominating process?… Senator Tom Cotton, the bobble-throated nuisance from Arkansas and onetime pen-pal of the Iranian mullahs… stopped by for breakfast with the delegation from South Carolina, where we learned what the euphemism du jour is for the candidate that this year’s process produced.

“I’m sure,” Cotton told the crowd, “that we’re all looking forward to a great Republican victory in November.”

The theme of the breakfast was renewing American foreign policy and having the country re-engage with the world, which made it even more inconvenient to mention that the party is preparing to nominate a guy who has mused about chloroforming NATO. This is the territory that Cotton staked out for himself. He is the world’s youngest neocon, a Richard Perle starter kit. He has a reedy, unpracticed public speaking style that he’ll have to work on before he hits the cornfields of Iowa, which ought to be about 11 minutes after the results are announced in November. But he has his theme–namely, that we are all going to die.

“The world has grown more dangerous over the last eight years,” Cotton said. “And the reason for that is that Barack Obama’s foreign policy is…impotent.”

A frisson ran through the applause that greeted this remark–although whether this was because of Cotton’s argument, or because he said “impotent” in public, is hard to say…

TIME has the transcript of Cotton’s thoroughly anodyne-edging-into-dishonest speech, if you must read it. [Warning: autoplay]

Lauren Fox, at TPM:

… “Frankly, I think a lot of political leaders need to stop fanning the flames of racial division,” Cotton said Monday in Cleveland at an event hosted by The Atlantic. “Because there is a police shooting does not mean the police are racist or that police officer did anything wrong. You cannot know that until there is an investigation that takes place.”

But Cotton also hinted that the GOP needs to be doing more than it is to expand its base.
Read more



Late Night WTF Open Thread: The GOP’s Goombah Problem

The GOP and their Media Village idiots keep telling us we don’t know enough about Hillary Clinton — although they’ve been sifting through every facet of her life & career for the past quarter-century. And then something like this pops up from the Trump campaign:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seeking $10 million in damages from a former senior campaign consultant, Sam Nunberg, alleging that Nunberg leaked confidential information to reporters in violation of a nondisclosure agreement.

In a court filing obtained by The Associated Press, Nunberg accused Trump of trying to silence him “in a misguided attempt to cover up media coverage of an apparent affair” between two senior campaign staffers.

The highly unusual legal dispute reflects Trump’s efforts to aggressively protect the secrecy of his campaign’s inner workings.

The AP reported last month that Trump requires nearly everyone in his campaign and businesses to sign legally binding nondisclosure agreements prohibiting them from releasing any confidential or disparaging information about the real estate mogul, his family or his companies. Trump has also said he would consider requiring such agreements in the White House.

In the court filings, Nunberg denied disparaging Trump and accused the presumptive GOP nominee of attempting to “bully” him into silence after Nunberg decided to publicly support Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid…

In particular, Nunberg said Trump filed a $10 million arbitration claim against him and falsely accused him of being a source of a New York Post story from mid-May that recounted a public quarrel between former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Lewandowski was fired from the campaign in June after months of tension with other senior Trump advisers.

Nunberg denied being the source of the article, but in court papers referred to the quarrel as being part of an “apparent affair.”…

CNN adds helpful annotation:

Nunberg, through his association with longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone, advised Trump amid his flirtation with a presidential run in 2012. And when Trump began preparing his 2016 bid, Nunberg was again at his side, making early preparations for a potential campaign.

But late last summer, racially charged posts that Nunberg posted on Facebook surfaced and the campaign fired him.

Since then, Nunberg has been fiercely critical of Trump and his campaign staff, particularly Lewandowski, who is now a CNN contributor…

(A CNN contributor still being paid by the Trump campaign, if you believe MMfA.)

So, if I parse this correctly, we have Donald Trump (presumptive presidential nominee of one of the only two national political parties we’ve got) aggressively defending the honor of Corey Lewandowski (while perhaps soiling that of the highest-ranking non-family female staffer on the Trump campaign) against former employee Nunberg, mini-me of Roger Stone, aka “Trump’s Gepetto“, once Richard Nixon’s original ratfvcker. Over a mooted “affair” that nobody outside the families involved would ever have heard about, if it weren’t for Donald Trump’s mania for secrecy…

Just in time for the RNC convention to kick off in Cleveland.

I wish Mario Puzo were still around, to explain this stuff for the rest of us, because as a purely political narrative it’s not making much sense.



The Wizard of Haws

wizardoftrump

In a country with a working press and sane electorate, this would simply be the end of the Trump candidacy:

In blunt testimony revealed on Tuesday, former managers of Trump University, the for-profit school started by Donald J. Trump, portray it as an unscrupulous business that relied on high-pressure sales tactics, employed unqualified instructors, made deceptive claims and exploited vulnerable students willing to pay tens of thousands for Mr. Trump’s insights.

One sales manager for Trump University, Ronald Schnackenberg, recounted how he was reprimanded for not pushing a financially struggling couple hard enough to sign up for a $35,000 real estate class, despite his conclusion that it would endanger their economic future. He watched with disgust, he said, as a fellow Trump University salesman persuaded the couple to purchase the class anyway.

“I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme,” Mr. Schnackenberg wrote in his testimony, “and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

Combined with the fact that he refuses to release his tax returns (nice troll-fu, DNC), this theory that Trump is basically broke by Josh Marshall makes a lot of sense:

This was interesting, too:

The idea that Trump is wealthy to the tune of his oft-claimed $10 billion dollars, combined with his utter lack of transparency regarding his fantasy financial statements left little to go on. For political professionals, due diligence required we assume he could bring serious cash to the game.

By August of last year, I was working to convince major donors that Trump would be a destructive force and likely throw the race to Hillary Clinton. One moment from that period sticks with me as a turning point in my thinking about Trump’s money; a major Wall Street donor laughed when I told him we’d need to mount a serious and fully-funded effort to take on Trump if he chose to self fund.

My friend scoffed at the very idea that Trump was worth even a quarter of the mythical $10 billion, much less that he was liquid to the tune of more than $200 million. “He’s not a billionaire. I’m a billionaire. He’s a clown living on credit.”

***

The evidence is mounting, and quickly, that his promises to fund his campaign are just one more Trump con; a shell, a hollow edifice of fake-it-til-you-make-it. Trump, is by the standards of 99.9% of Americans, a wealthy man, but he’s not liquid enough to fund an actual modern campaign. It’s not simply that he doesn’t have the money; it’s that his mythos requires that no one ever figure out that he doesn’t have the money.

The press seriously should stop asking him any questions except for those related to his release of his taxes.