Dank Grey Pre-Dawn Open Thread: “Vetting” for What They Considered Important

Axios got their hands on a bunch of the Trump transition team’s “vetting” documents, which they decided to report on a summer Sunday evening because LOL nothing matters — and besides, who can tell what hot topic will be breaking by Monday morning?

Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents leaked to “Axios on HBO” identify a host of “red flags” about officials who went on to get some of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. government.

Why it matters: The massive trove, and the story behind it, sheds light on the slap-dash way President Trump filled his cabinet and administration, and foreshadowed future scandals that beset his government…

Behind the scenes: In the chaotic weeks after Trump’s surprise election victory, Trump fired Chris Christie as the head of his transition. The team that took over — which V.P. Mike Pence helmed — outsourced the political vetting of would-be top officials to the Republican National Committee…

– President-elect Trump reviewed many of these documents at Trump Tower and Bedminster before his interviews, according to a source who saw him eyeball them.

– Traditionally, any would-be top official faces three types of vetting: an FBI background check, a scrub for financial conflicts of interest from the Office of Government Ethics, and a deep dive from the president-elect’s political team, which veteran Washington lawyers often handle…

– The documents show what Trump’s vetting shop worried about in assessing candidates for the most important jobs in government…

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Excellent (Orlando-Alternative) Read: “The Man Who Was Upset”

In my opinion, David Roth is poised to follow in the footsteps of great commentors like Damon Runyon, Roy Blount, and Charles P. Pierce as he moves from sportwriting to politics. This is from the New Republic:

Even after the hit NBC reality show The Apprentice rebuilt his personal fortune and retooled his image from Gilded Tabloid Oaf to Glowering Dealmaster, Trump never declined an opportunity to fish a quarter out of the toilet when the situation presented itself. That reflexive and amoral avarice is one of the ignoble truths of Trump, but it’s subsidiary to the most important and elemental fact about the man, which is that he never does or says anything new. Some things may be shaded slightly differently from one blurt or boast to the next—every number he says invariably cheats upward over time, and he periodically adds new scenes and jokes to the metastasizing stand-up act that he rolls out at his rallies… 


At this stage in his sublimely unexamined life and increasingly evident cognitive decline, Trump isn’t really capable of very compelling misdirections or even passably convincing falsehoods. He digresses because he loses the plot, and he lies when the truth wouldn’t look good on him; he distracts himself and tells himself lies because it is the only way to square what is actually happening with what he would prefer to be happening. (In this, he is but building on the spiritual birthright bestowed on him by his dad: Fred Trump was an ardent worshipper at the Marble Collegiate Church of Norman Vincent Peale, the reactionary business prophet who distilled many failed superpower incantations of his own in his blockbuster self-help tract, The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale presided over Donald’s first wedding in 1977, and remains Trump’s most frequently cited spiritual mentor.)

Where the media has failed and continues to fail is in its insistence that Trump is doing all of this, or any of it, for the same reason that other politicians are understood to have aimed to distract or chosen to lie. When this tendency is criticized, the criticism often arrives in the form of some lamentation that the media is still covering Trump as if he were a Normal President.


That criticism is reasonable as far as it goes, which is not nearly far enough. A series of long-standing procedural and political and discursive norms really have failed the essential challenge that Trumpian politics and Trump’s own bulletproof shamelessness present. But the steepness and rapidity of their fall raises some serious questions about just how sturdy they were to begin with. The spectacle of expert analysts and thought leaders parsing the actions of a man with no expertise or capacity for analysis is the purest acid satire—but less because of how badly that expert analysis has failed than because of how sincerely misplaced it is. Trump represents an extraordinary challenge to political media precisely because there is nothing here to parse, no hidden meanings or tactical elisions or slow-rolled strategic campaign. Mainstream political media and Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party conceive of politics as chess, a matter of feints and sacrifices and moves made so as to open the way for other moves. There’s an element of romance to this vision, which is a crucial tenet in a certain type of big-D Democratic thought and also something like the reason why anyone would need to employ a political analyst. But Trump is not playing chess. The man is playing Hungry Hungry Hippos… 


The politics of Fox News are reactionary, but they are also hard to pin down—they are about a feeling, a combination of distaste and distrust for all the things that other people are getting away with and seem so entitled to out there. This hunched and feral posture of grievance is then combined with a fiercely put-upon impatience with the service that viewers themselves are receiving… 

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GOP Venality Open Thread: If Only There Was Some Agency!...

… Or if Leader McConnell allowed us any!…

Romney of the Uncanny Valley, peak functionality.








Election 2020 Open Thread: “But Is the Media America Ready for A Nerd President?”

Peter Beinart’s article is not as silly as the headline makes it sound. “Braininess Is Now the Brand”:

Among the biggest surprises of the Democratic presidential campaign so far are the rise of Pete Buttigieg and the resurgence of Elizabeth Warren, both of whom, according to a new Des Moines Register poll, have moved into a virtual tie for second place in Iowa with Bernie Sanders. In many ways, the Buttigieg and Warren phenomena are distinct: Buttigieg promises generational change; Warren is almost 70. Buttigieg emphasizes his success in a conservative state; Warren stresses her willingness to challenge corporate power. Buttigieg has become a darling of the big donors whom Warren eschews.

What unites them, and separates them from Sanders and Joe Biden, is their unabashed intellectualism. Both have made braininess central to their political brand. And it’s working—a fact that offers a window into the changing culture of the Democratic Party…

It’s not unusual for Democratic presidential candidates to have impressive resumes. Bill Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar; Barack Obama was the president of the Harvard Law Review. Cory Booker and Julián Castro attended Stanford; Amy Klobuchar went to Yale. In fact, every president since Ronald Reagan has been a product of the Ivy League.

What’s new is that Warren and Buttigieg are leaning into their credentialed intellectualism rather than worrying that it will make them appear elitist….

As late as 1994, according to the Pew Research Center, voters who had graduated from college were 15 points more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats, and voters with graduate degrees were almost evenly split between the two parties. By 2017, college graduates’ partisan leanings had flipped: They now favored Democrats by 15 points. Among Americans with graduate degrees, the shift has been even starker. The Democratic advantage, which stood at two points in 1994, had grown to 32 points by 2017.

As a result, the educational composition of the two parties has diverged. From 1997 to 2017, the share of registered Republican voters who finished college stayed the same. Among Democrats, it rose by 15 points. This shift has influenced the way the two parties see education itself. In 2010, Democrats were seven points more likely than Republicans to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on America. By 2017, they were 36 points more likely…
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Saturday Morning Open Thread: Cartoon Villains

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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(Signe Wilkinson via GoComics.com)
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(Non Sequitur via GoComics.com)
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(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)
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