Glass Not-Quite-Empty Open Thread: “President” Baby Wants His SotU

Needy Amin craves his spotlight. He wants a count-down chyron in the corner of the screen, and diversion of normal programming at every single network. He wants to strut down the center aisle while groundlings scrum for selfies with him, to stand at a mighty ceremonial podium with mean old Nancy Pelosi trapped helplessly behind him, while endless rounds of applause echo around the high-ceiling, marble-walled chamber. Campaign rallies are a temporary salve, like narcan for a crack addict, but any two-bit district winner with a sugar daddy can score a political rally, Jeb!. Donny needs the good stuff, the unwilling attention from people he doesn’t even like — it’s the only way he can fill the vast emptiness inside him.

Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, could care less about being on camera. But all those pathetic stories about federal workers skipping meals and worrying about eviction are giving his next primary challenger fresh b-roll for attack ads, and the continuing political prosperity of Mitch McConnell is the one thing he does care about.

Goddess bless Nancy Pelosi for using the “no tv until you eat your vegetables fund the government” hammer. Thursday’s competing legislative proposals are no doubt, as Charlie Pierce calls them, “shadow puppets on the wall”. But they’re also, hopefully, the overture to restart actual negotiations towards ending this shameless shitshow, per Jim Newell at Slate:

If enough Republicans join Democrats to pass the short-term bill, President Donald Trump would find on his desk a bill to fund the government without any wall money. That would be a defeat for him, and it would be a sign that Senate Republicans had finally decided their position was untenable. It would be a cave.
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Late Night Open Thread: Another Act in the Shutdown Shitshow Begins

Of course Trump doesn’t mind being in the spotlight, even a negative spotlight. But Mitch McConnell is every bit as selfish as Donny Dollhands, and a lot smarter about how he’s perceived by normal people his voters. He doesn’t mind being the anonymous Little Man Behind the Curtain, destroying other peoples’ lives for his own benefit — but how much appetite does he have for getting yelled at in public?

From the Washington Post, “House Democrats vote to reopen government and deny Trump wall money, defying veto threat”:

The newly Democratic-controlled House passed a package of bills late Thursday that would reopen the federal government without paying for President Trump’s border wall, drawing a swift veto threat from the White House and leaving the partial shutdown no closer to getting resolved.

But two Senate Republicans who are up for reelection in 2020 broke with Trump and party leaders on their shutdown strategy, saying it was time to end the impasse even if Democrats won’t give Trump the more than $5 billion in border funding he is demanding.

The comments from Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — the only Senate Republicans running for reelection in states Trump lost — pointed to cracks within the GOP that could grow as the shutdown nears the two-week mark. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated Thursday that the Senate will only take up government spending legislation that Trump supports…

The six-bill package passed the House 241-190 Thursday night, and the short-term Homeland Security spending bill passed 239-192. A handful of Republicans broke ranks on each measure to vote “yes” with the Democrats.

The House strategy could allow Senate Republicans to pass legislation that would reopen most of the government while setting aside the debate over the border wall. But thus far, because of Trump’s opposition, party leaders have refused…

“What we’re asking the Republicans in the Senate to do is to take ‘yes’ for an answer. We are sending them back exactly, word for word, what they have passed,” Pelosi said. “Why would they not do that? Is it because the president won’t sign it? Did they not hear about the coequal branch of government, and that we the Congress send the president legislation and he can choose to sign or not?”…

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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Cheering for Pelosi

E.J. Dionne, in the Washington Post, “Nancy Pelosi vows that House Democrats won’t act like Republicans”:

Incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to be clear about what the new Democratic House majority will not be: They will not, she insists, act like the Republicans.

“We believe that we will not become them,” she said in a New Year’s Day phone interview during a visit to her native Baltimore. “We’re not going to do to them what they did to President Obama. . . . It’s really important for us not to become them and certainly not to become like the president of the United States in terms of how he speaks without any basis of fact, evidence, data or truth…”

Pelosi also pushed back hard against the idea that, in holding Trump and his administration accountable, Democrats would be engaging in some sort of investigative orgy. On the contrary, she said, Article I of the Constitution grants Congress responsibility for “oversight over the agencies of government.”

She added pointedly: “We don’t want the administration describing the traditional congressional responsibility for oversight to be labeled ‘investigation.’ There may be some investigations that spring from another purpose, but we will be strategic and not political when it comes to that.” She senses no need to explain or elaborate on the meaning of the words “another purpose,” even though they represent a potentially mortal threat to Trump’s presidency…
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Holiday Nuclear War Talk

I did not want to write about nuclear weapons use policies the day before Christmas Eve, but here we are. The issue and the way it is discussed has bothered me for a long time, but I have mostly stayed out of it. I’m not going to link to the other arguments. They can easily be found, including in today’s edition of a major paper. I’m not going to link because that shatters the argument into a thousand tiny subtopics.

The resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis has occasioned a flurry of tweets and articles on nuclear command. Mattis was believed to bring a steady hand and dissuasion to the potential use of nuclear weapons. A claim has been made that he had explicitly inserted himself into the command chain.

Nuclear war is of concern to all of us, but there is, yes I will use the word, a priesthood that prefers that it not be debated widely. To this end, they broadcast fear by the way they explain things and, when cornered, defend their turf with “I can’t talk about that.” Additionally, each participant in the discussion has an area of expertise in which he can muster more obscure facts than anyone.

But the issues can be comprehended by anyone. Donald Trump has absolute power to launch nuclear weapons. The launch sequence is rapid, and the missiles cannot be called back. The setup was developed during the Cold War, for a different set of threats than we face today. It needs to be changed.

Thinking about nuclear war is frightening and nightmare-inducing. Most people don’t want to think about it, but we’re going to have to at some time. Fear is never a good basis for making decisions, nor is taking the word of someone who won’t talk about what he knows. And Trump and his people have set so many dumpster fires that we have to deal with them first.

So there’s no real discussion of the issues, just, as now, a flareup of words. It will die down or be smothered by the next Trumpian uproar. The priesthood will continue to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

How do we move ahead? We need to rethink the command and control process. In order to do that, we must avoid exacerbating the fear factor. There is more than enough fear in the subject itself. We also must avoid the ego trap of claiming special knowledge, whether that comes from classification or a plethora of detail. And we need to address the specifics of what can happen, not an idealized thought-sequence.

There’s a lot more I could say. But I’m going to leave it here for now. There’s plenty in this post that may provoke responses from the priesthood.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Grace Notes

Helaine Olin, in the Washington Post, “Nancy Pelosi is the heroine the resistance to Trump needs”:

Middle-aged and older women have often found their efforts dismissed and derided. Hillary Clinton has faced repeated demands that she exit public life, something men who failed to win a presidential election such as Al Gore, John F. Kerry, John McCain and Mitt Romney did not contend with to the same degree. Elizabeth Warren’s mishandling of her claims of Native American ancestry continue to receive an incredible amount of attention, while her strong, decades-long advocacy of consumer financial issues, of the sort that were at the heart of the Great Recession and our age of inequality, are somehow deemed secondary. When it comes to Democratic candidates who lost their elections in 2018, Beto O’Rourke, 46, is described as presidential material, while Stacey Abrams, 45, who frankly came a lot closer to winning her race, for governor in Georgia, seems all but forgotten. How does that work again?

Yet a study in the journal Democracy pointed out that women of a certain age played a pivotal role in the resistance to Trump, pouring their energies into volunteer roles on political campaigns, writing postcards, knocking on doors and making calls. These foot soldiers, the article noted, are typically “women from mid-life to early retirement years.” But thanks to the way bias works, they remain underrepresented when it comes to public attention. Yes, these younger women get derided more than men — as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, pointed out on Twitter earlier this week, “Double standards are Paul Ryan being elected at 28 and immediately being given the benefit of his ill-considered policies considered genius; and me winning a primary at 28 to immediately be treated with suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud” — but they are also heralded as the future…

I am not arguing Pelosi is perfect. She is not. But she has decades of experience in both life and politics, and she used it to great impact on Tuesday. Trump has a preternatural instinct for reality-television-like spectacles, and it’s a rare person, male or female, who gets the better of him when it comes to getting down in the mud. But Pelosi took her greater experience and understanding of policy and the legislative process, not to mention the knowledge that men often put women down because they fear their laughter and contempt, and used it to give a master class in how to show up Trump as the blustering, less-than-well-informed bully he is. It was a bravura performance.

Also important, from the “architect of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina”: