Trumpcare Going Down? Maybe! Plus: Parallel Universes

It was always a small and petty move — the drive to kill Obamacare on the seventh anniversary of its passage. But then again, the edict came down from a small and petty man, who in a Time interview released earlier today, revealed anew just how trifling and narcissistic he is. Money quote:

I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.

George W. Bush and his “Decider” blankie are now dismissed from consideration in the “dumbest verbal assertion of authority by a sitting president” sweepstakes.

Anyway, back to healthcare: I don’t know if Ryan and Trump can exert enough pressure on the tiny balls of their caucus to ram the Trumpcare bill through the House, but they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Everyone hates that fucking bill.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe…

In the morning thread, Anne Laurie alluded to how LBJ phrased his realization that he was toast politically: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” There is no Cronkite in today’s fragmented media. Here’s the pablum Murdoch’s minions were spooning into Fox News viewers’ toothless gobs as more evidence of collusion between Trump campaign operatives and Russian spies came to light:

Devin Nunes doesn’t seem very bright, but whoever wound him up and sent him out to undermine his own committee’s investigation yesterday likely had two goal in mind: 1) deploy shiny object to give cover to Trump’s tweeted lies about wiretapping, and 2) create an alternative narrative about the Russia scandal that is engulfing the Trump administration.

Now, I’m firmly in the “shitlords, not masterminds” camp; I don’t believe Trump’s people (including the ones operating out of Russia) are slick enough to pull this off and escape the consequences if proof emerges that Trump operatives colluded with Russia to rig the election. And in addition to the strong circumstantial evidence of collusion, credible people have alleged the proof goes beyond that.

The only question is, will a sufficient number of Republicans continue to put party over country to prevent action, even if a smoking gun emerges? I can’t imagine a scenario in which they’ll suddenly become patriots, unless it’s clear their jobs are on the line. So, it all comes down to that.

But we have a powerful ally in our fight — Trump himself. At age 70, he’s not going to suddenly discover self-discipline and learn how to play well with others. So, I like our chances. See above.

Today’s Hearings

Anyone watching? I can’t — I’m busy, plus I can’t stand the sight of Comey’s puffy-eyed mug, even if he is confirming that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties. Comey is a piece of shit. I hope he’s the piece of shit who brings down Trump. But he’ll always be a piece of shit, regardless of present and future actions, for his unforgivable grandstanding in the 2016 election.

I’m also not going to watch the Gorsuch hearings because I have no desire to witness Grand Theft, Supreme Court Seat on live TV. Gorsuch fails the only standard that matters; he is not Merrick Garland.

National Embarrassment Embarrasses Nation

Here’s a fascinating exchange between Trump and a reporter, who asks about the British national security organization GCHQ’s sharp rebuke of Trump’s claim that they (GCHQ) had a role in spying on Trump at President Obama’s behest:

Jaffy highlights Trump’s reference to Merkel’s phone being tapped, but what I find most interesting is what occurred next: Trump shifted blame for the false claim about GCHQ to Fox News. As if U.S. presidents bear no responsibility for babbling unverified nonsense in public.

I think I mentioned to y’all a while back that our family, alarmed by our grandma’s transformation from a conservative but kindly old lady into a rage-filled Fox bot, secretly activated the parental controls on her TV and blocked Fox News. In a matter of days, she turned back into a kindly old wingnut and now dotes on Animal Planet.

On the basis of our successful experiment and in the spirit of bipartisanship, I offer the following information to Sean Spicer, who, while undoubtedly a vile sack of shit, is probably weary of being trotted out daily to defend the indefensible:

To set up and use Parental Controls:

1. Press the Menu button on your remote.

The Main Menu is displayed on your TV screen.

2. Highlight System and press OK/Select.

3. Using the arrow buttons on your remote, highlight Settings and press OK/Select

4. Select Parental/Purchase and press OK/Select.

5. Create or enter your 4-digit Parental Controls PIN. You’ll then need to retype your PIN to confirm your selection.

6. Select Parental Controls to turn them on.

7. Select Parental Preferences to block by content rating/channel/day/time or to control adult information.

You can’t fix stupid and hateful, but you can deprive it of fuel. You’re welcome, Spicer.

DDoT Attack

This came up in the morning thread, but I’m sure it’s emblematic of a pattern we’ll see repeated nonstop until the Trump Error is no more; via WaPo:

LONDON — In a highly unusual move, Britain’s main surveillance agency slapped down allegations that the Obama administration used it to spy on Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, saying the claims were “utterly ridiculous.”

The unit, known as the GCHQ, is the British equivalent of the National Security Agency and usually remains tight-lipped on allegations related to intelligence matters. Its normal practice is to neither confirm nor deny claims.

Not this time.

“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” GCHQ said in a statement.

The agency’s public denial followed a contentious press briefing in Washington on Thursday where White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that Trump stands by his explosive charge that Obama spied on him during the 2016 presidential election. Spicer has, however, attempted to soften Trump’s initial allegation, saying that that Trump’s use of the word “wiretap” was not meant to be taken literally, but to refer to surveillance more generally.

During the briefing, Spicer cited claims made earlier this week on Fox News by Napolitano. The former judge told the broadcaster that sources had informed Fox News that Obama used Britain’s GCHQ so “there’s no American fingerprints on this.”

Trump will never stop spouting absurd, easily disprovable lies, so his minions will continue to craft ridiculous post-hoc rationales for those lies (e.g., the Brits did it!), and the White House will keep trotting Spicer out to disseminate the lies. I hope the media peeps never stop hounding him about it and that our exasperated allies continue to call bullshit when they’re drawn into Trump’s vortex of mendacity.

There are so many scandals and absurdities floating around this defiled, dysfunctional White House at any given moment — issues that in pre-Trump America would have ground a normal administration to a halt until resolved. There are too many for anyone to handle at once, so the media will continue to fixate on One Big Lie at a time. This week, it’s that the marmalade hairball in the Oval Office accused his vastly more popular predecessor of a felony.

I don’t think the Trump people are masterminds who are deliberately distracting us; I believe they are hapless shitlords who are stepping on their own dicks as they lurch from one catastrophic fuckup to another. However, the effect reminds me very much of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack — let’s call it a distributed denial of truth (DDoT) attack.

The DDoT is the effect, but the cause has been clear throughout Trump’s turn in public life: He’s a compulsive liar who cannot admit fault when called on his lies. That was one thing when Trump was merely a loudmouthed crook who bilked rubes and shook down municipalities in the real estate / education scam / name licensing business.

It’s quite another now that he’s got minions entrenched in positions of great power who are willing to squander the international prestige of the United States of America in a lame attempt to clean up after the boss. I try to remain optimistic, but I don’t see how this ends well, to be honest. But hey, at least it’s Friday! Open thread!

Jason Kander sums it up…

Here’s a tweet from Jason Kander, who would make a much better senator than that grinning potato sack Roy Blunt:

Matter #1 alludes to the growing bipartisan consensus that Trump is full of shit about the wiretap. Via WaPo:

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee joined the chorus of lawmakers stating they are not aware of any current evidence supporting President Trump’s claim that his campaign headquarters was wiretapped during the presidential election.

Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Thursday released a joint statement with the ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), stating that they have not seen data supporting Trump’s claim.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” they said.

Burr and Warner are leading the Senate investigation into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 elections to aid Trump. They are also examining alleged ties between Trump aides and Russian officials. They were joined last week and again on Wednesday by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — leading a similar investigation in the House — who also stated that he has not seen evidence to support the president’s complaint that his offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, declared flatly Wednesday that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped while Trump was a candidate.

Matter #2 refers to a story in The Forward, which was referenced in the thread downstairs by valued commenters Jeffro and Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes:

Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.

The elite order, known as the Vitézi Rend, was established as a loyalist group by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as a staunch nationalist from 1920 to October 1944. A self-confessed anti-Semite, Horthy imposed restrictive Jewish laws prior to World War II and collaborated with Hitler during the conflict. His cooperation with the Nazi regime included the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews into Nazi hands.

But Ivanka! I’m sure Spicer is spinning like a top at this very moment, but I’ve got more interesting things to watch, like the fungal growth on the bottom of the birdbath outside my window. Open thread?

The 360-Degree Pivot

It’s impossible to keep up with the avalanche of insanity tumbling down Mount Trump, but two things jumped out at me while I was catching up on the news this morning after a short hiatus. The first is that Trump undermined Spicer’s attempt to walk back the bogus “wiretap” accusation.

Spicer had the unenviable task of convincing a skeptical public that the words Trump used in his insane tweets had an entirely different meaning than what English speakers recognize as the definitions of the terms. He said when Trump used the word “wiretap” in quotation marks, he meant surveillance broadly and that when he said “Obama,” he meant the entire Obama administration. Presumably, we’re also to conclude that when Trump tweeted “bad (or sick) guy,” he meant “bad (or sick) administration.”

It’s ridiculous, of course, but Spicer was dispatched to make that argument because otherwise, the fact that a sitting president just called his vastly more popular predecessor a felon with no proof at all was just hanging out there. But then Trump had to go and undermine Spicer’s work last night during an interview with smirking fraud Tucker Carlson:

I’m zeroing in on the claim that Trump supposedly has evidence that will validate his wild accusations (bold prediction: he doesn’t), but the whole exchange excerpted by @BraddJaffy on Twitter is worth reading because it’s just so…nuts. According to Trump, it wasn’t his absurd accusation that derailed the positive press he was receiving from his crappy speech to congress; it was the machinations of media outlets that are out to get him. According to Trump, he didn’t get the nutso “wiretap” notion from crackpots on talk radio but from the NYT and WaPo. Crazeballs.

The second thing that jumped out at me was what Trump said yesterday about the Muslim ban. As we know, the courts shot down Muslim ban #1, and now they’ve shot down Muslim ban #2, citing Trump’s own bigoted rhetoric on the campaign trail as evidence that, yep, it’s a Muslim ban. Here’s what Trump said about that in Tennessee yesterday:

After a federal judge in Hawaii put on hold President Donald Trump’s revised executive order barring travel from a list of predominantly Muslim countries, Trump complained at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, that he did not want the “watered-down” version of the order.

“Remember this, I wasn’t thrilled that the lawyers all said, ‘Oh, let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” he told the crowd. “This is a watered down version, and let me tell you something. I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

So, he’s going to keep punching himself in the face on the Muslim ban — and making it harder for the order to pass muster in future court rulings with dumb comments like the above — and he’s going to keep bullshitting about the “wiretap” issue, even though he beclowns himself with every utterance on the topic. Okay then.

The Two Kellys

May the NYT burn in hell for all eternity for their election coverage. That said, they published a good editorial yesterday on Secretary Kelly of DHS, asking where the sensible man who gave sane and occasionally compassionate answers during his cabinet confirmation has gone now that he’s making policy.

I think we know what happened to Kelly; it’s the Trump Effect. Whoever comes into contact with the vile shitgibbon comes away diminished, which is why all the talk about the moderating influence of [Insert Beltway Favorite Appointee Here] rings hollow in the context of Trump. An excerpt from the editorial:

The Homeland Security Department is considering separating Central American children from their mothers at the border, a shocking abuse of traumatized families who — as Mr. Kelly himself admits — are fleeing for their lives. He defended the policy as a way of deterring migrants from the dangerous trip. That is cruelty disguised as compassion.

His plan to create an office to publicize crimes by unauthorized immigrants — shaming and demonizing the entire population — is more nakedly vicious, guilt by association, a reflection of the old strain of American intolerance that brought us internment camps and miscegenation laws.

Is Mr. Kelly — a tough, sensible general — being silenced? If he can’t get the message to Mr. Trump directly, why doesn’t he get booked on “Fox & Friends,” the morning talk show that doubles as the president’s daily intelligence briefing? If he won’t speak the truth, he’s misusing his power.

The policy of separating mothers and children is worse than cruel; it is monstrous. The plan to publicize crimes by undocumented people — who have a lower crime rate as a group than native-born Americans, BTW — amounts to a blood libel, and Trump already has innocent blood on his hands on that score.

Whether the association with Trump leeched Kelly’s virtue away or whether he had none to begin with is immaterial at this point. But kudos to the NYT for calling him out.

PS: Regarding that jibe in the editorial about “Fox & Friends” doubling as Trump’s daily intelligence briefing, did any of y’all see Chris Hayes’ piece about TrumpCare, in which Hayes noted that a weirdly specific and lengthy provision in the bill addressed combating fraud committed by lottery winners who continue to accept subsidies?

Hayes noted that analysts wondered where that came from and found that it was a trope flogged on Fox News as a criticism of the ACA. And that Fox trope made its way into the GOP’s famously SHORT bill, likely on orders from Trump himself. Those of us who have ever idly wondered what it would be like if our idiot Fox-watching elders ran the country are now discovering that it’s every bit as stupid as we thought.