Early Morning Open Thread: Another GOP Shitshow Reaches Its Third Act

Biggest kabuki performance since the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate (and frankly that’s insulting to the professionals of classical kabuki, since the modern GOP is extremely amateur). Latest update from the Grey Lady:

The Senate easily approved a far-reaching budget deal that would reopen the federal government and boost spending by hundreds of billions of dollars early Friday, but only after enduring a one-man blockade by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had held up the vote and forced the government to close.

The House is expected to follow before daybreak, though the outcome in that chamber was less certain. If the House approves the deal, the government will reopen before the workday begins.

But Mr. Paul, a Republican, will have made his point. Angered at the huge spending increases at the center of the deal, he delayed passage for hours with a demand to vote on an amendment that would keep in place strict caps on spending that the deal would raise…

Mr. Paul’s ideological opponents were not buying his fiscal rectitude either. Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, posted on Twitter: “Rand Paul voted for a tax bill that blew a $1.5 trillion hole in the budget. Now he is shutting the government down for three hours because of the debt. The chance to demonstrate fiscal discipline was on the tax vote. Delaying a vote isn’t a profile in courage, it’s a cleanup.”

Around 1:45 a.m., the Senate finally passed the measure, 71 to 28.

Before Mr. Paul waged his assault on the budget deal, trouble was already brewing in the House, where angry opposition from the Republicans’ most ardent conservative members, coupled with Democratic dissenters dismayed that the deal did nothing for young undocumented immigrants, created new tension as the clock ticked toward midnight…

A group of Democrats desperately trying to protect a million or so young Dreamers from deportation; a solitary Republican stunting for his own narcissistic satisfaction. Both sides!

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To hear the lamentations…

There’s an article in the current edition of “The Atlantic” authored by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes (he of the baby cannon on Twitter). It’s called “Boycott the Republican Party,” and in it, Rauch and Wittes contend that the only way the GOP can be reformed and American democracy saved is if everyone outside the Trumpist base votes against Republicans:

[T]he most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold…

We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.

We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.

Brian Beutler answered that article with a great piece in Crooked Media yesterday: Boycotting Republicans Isn’t Enough. I urge everyone to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts, which start from the premise that even if they lose two landslide elections in a row (as they did in 2006 and 2008), Republicans won’t take that as a mandate to reform but will instead become even more hypocritical and reactionary:

After years of engaging enthusiastically in corruption and fiscal profligacy, Obama-era Republicans adopted a pose of rectitude and austerity. Anyone who had been paying attention knew these were just poses. Their immediate jettisoning of Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” ethos and overnight embrace of hawkish budget rhetoric was nakedly insincere, but was nevertheless accepted in good faith by nearly the entire political elite. Just this week, in an otherwise astute assessment of Republican base voters, Axios’ Jonathan Swan asserted that Trump “has moved the party away from decades of orthodoxy on…deficits,” as if such an orthodoxy has existed in the post-Reagan era. As if Republicans’ re-embrace of expansionary fiscal policy after reclaiming power weren’t completely foreordained.

Republicans spent the full eight years of the Obama presidency making arguments they didn’t believe, claiming to be outraged about things that didn’t really outrage them, fabricating controversy out of things they knew to be uncontroversial. They spent four years pretending to believe an attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans was a historic scandal, eclipsed only by the revelation (which they also didn’t really care about) that Obama’s secretary of state used a private email account to do work. When they were rewarded for this plain-as-day bad faith with control of the entire federal government, they immediately forgot about Benghazi, ignored botched operations for which Trump bore responsibility, and continued to use private email and encrypted third-party communication applications with impunity.

Beutler makes the obvious point that the same cycle will repeat unless Democrats play hardball when they again control the government and — crucially — are supported in that effort by other elements of society:

After Trump, Democrats could adopt a more aggressive approach than they have in the past, on the fool-me-twice principle. They could abolish the filibuster, expedite legislation to widen the franchise and reform campaign finance laws, right Mitch McConnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat, and conduct oversight of the institutions of government Trump corrupted. They could set up a commission to examine, the role of propaganda in American media, and report out how and why, under Trump, the Republican Party entered a de facto partnership with hostile foreign intelligence to influence American politics.

I think they can and should do all of these things and more, so long as they can be done on majoritarian and representative bases.

But to truly marginalize the GOP’s political style would require a level of cooperation from many conservatives that doesn’t exist, and a level of buy-in from generally non-partisan institutions—the media, the bureaucracy, corporate America, and civil society—which have proven ill-equipped to defend themselves from Republican efforts to coopt or discredit them.

Corporate America has giddily joined a banana republic-style public relations campaign to thank dear leader Trump for his corporate tax cuts, and portray them as a boon to workers. Mainstream journalists are so petrified of bad-faith accusations of liberal bias that many of them genuinely can’t grasp how hostile the American right is to the vocation of journalism, or how to report on bad-faith in the public square more generally.

Beutler is correct that the level of cooperation outlined above doesn’t exist. I don’t know how we solve that conundrum, but solve it we must. As horrible and destructive as the current Republican administration is, it is headed by a preening, addled, incompetent clown. After the Trump era, I’m not confident we’d survive a resurgent GOP headed by a more skilled fascist wannabe.

We Are All Statesmen or Stateswomen Today

When Donald Trump fails to shit himself while reading a speech that could have been written by the President of the University of Southwestern Arkansas College Republicans tonight, he will be declared a truly Presidential statesman by the idiots who do play-by-play on DC politics. So, I invite all of you to pick up some form of the written word – a telephone book, an advertising flyer, the back of a cereal box – and read a sentence or two out loud. Once you’ve passed the low bar that the press sets for Trump, you can be sure that you’re just as good as Trump and can therefore do whatever you please. So, just skip tonight’s asinine ceremony and watch something better on TV. The SOTU is a waste of time even with someone decent in charge. Save your energy for the elections.

Fire&Fury-gate Open Thread: COMPLICIT

Michelle Goldberg, in the NYTimes, “Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot”:

There are lots of arresting details in the book. We learn that the administration holds special animus for what it calls “D.O.J. women,” or women who work in the Justice Department. Wolff writes that after the white supremacist mayhem in Charlottesville, Va., Trump privately rationalized “why someone would be a member of the K.K.K.” The book recounts that after the political purge in Saudi Arabia, Trump boasted that he and Kushner engineered a coup: “We’ve put our man on top!”

But most of all, the book confirms what is already widely understood — not just that Trump is entirely unfit for the presidency, but that everyone around him knows it. One thread running through “Fire and Fury” is the way relatives, opportunists and officials try to manipulate and manage the president, and how they often fail. As Wolff wrote in a Hollywood Reporter essay based on the book, over the past year, the people around Trump, “all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”…

And yet these people continue to either prop up or defend this sick travesty of a presidency. Wolff takes a few stabs at the motives of Trump insiders. Ivanka Trump apparently nurtured the ghastly dream of following her father into the presidency. Others, Wolff writes, told themselves that they could help protect America from the president they serve: The “mess that might do serious damage to the nation, and, by association, to your own brand, might be transcended if you were seen as the person, by dint of competence and professional behavior, taking control of it.”…
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Late Night Open Thread: Collateral, DAMAGED!

All those toilsome years of HRClinton-bashing, followed by eighteen months of gently nurturing the hothouse flower of Lord Smallgloves’ self-esteem, and some celebrity raconteur blows the whole thing sky-high. OH THE SIMULACRA-OF-HUMANITY!

Wednesday Evening Open Thread: “All the signs in the Russia probe point to Jared Kushner”

I’m petty enough to be pleased that Jill Abramson is feeling maybe just a little revenged on her NYTimes ex-colleagues. From her new post at the Guardian:

Game of Trumps is about to get really bloody. With special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moving ever closer to President Trump himself, it looks like someone inside the family is about to be sacrificed.

Consider this chronology. On 23 November it was widely reported that Flynn had informed the Trump legal team that he could no longer discuss the case with them. The end of cooperation with Trump surely signalled the beginning of cooperation with Mueller. Two days later the New York Times and Washington Post carried nearly identical stories about Jared Kushner’s waning influence.

The Times story had three bylines, including Maggie Haberman, the president’s go-to reporter. It concluded: “Mr Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who had been in seemingly every meeting and every photograph, has lately disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, taken on a more limited role behind the scenes.”…

Someone high up in the White House seemed anxious for the word to spread. The Times story was attributed, in part, to three “advisers to the president”. Parker’s included an earlier interview with Kushner and came “from interviews with Kushner himself, as well as 12 senior administration officials, aides, outside advisers and confidants, some speaking on condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment”…

Apart from schadenfreude, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Dishonest GOP Agents Open Thread: Putting the “Ingenious” in “Disingenuous”

And if you think it’s a coincidence the Repubs shoved a brown-skinned guy with a “furrin” (Pai’s Indian-American) name in front of the camera, well… would you be interested in purchasing a very popular, well-known bridge? Or perhaps a treasure map for a cache of undersea gold bricks?

Per the Washington Post:

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, blasted Twitter on Tuesday for what he said was a push to “discriminate” against conservatives, during an aggressive defense of his agency’s plan to repeal net neutrality rules.

Speaking during an event hosted by the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, Pai accused Twitter of hypocrisy for its criticism of the FCC’s plan to repeal the Obama-era regulation.

“When it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” Pai said. “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”

Twitter, Google and Facebook have been vocal opponents of the FCC’s proposal to repeal net neutrality, joining others who say the repeal will harm the flow of information on the Internet. On the other side, Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have supported the FCC’s push, which it says will allow the Internet to return to the free market environment it was created in.

The FCC is expected to repeal the Obama-era regulations, which are aimed at ensuring all websites are treated equally by Internet providers, at its Dec. 14 meeting.

But Pai, a Republican, said that Twitter’s own practices already violate the principles of openness that the company espouses, accusing it of using a “double-standard” to police its own content. He cited the company’s recent regulation of “conservative users’ accounts,” apparently referring to Twitter’s recent decision to suspend and de-verify some prominent white nationalists and far-right users on its service…
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