Open Thread: Trump’s Willing Accomplices

NYMag‘s The Cut, December 6, 2017:

When Chris Cuomo questioned [Kellyanne] Conway about Trump’s endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women, she defended him by saying, “The president has tremendous moral standards.”….

Every unmothered child needs a nanny, or a team of them — none more so than a 70-year-old child who refuses to mature beyond the nursery. Who better to understand this than British GQ, whose authorized Fire and Fury excerpt focuses on two of the Trump campaign’s most high-profile women — “How Donald Trump’s White House team handles his giant ego”:

Not long after the Trump team’s arrival to the White House, the Correspondents’ Dinner became a cause for worry. On a winter afternoon in Kellyanne Conway’s upstairs West Wing office, Conway and director of strategic communications Hope Hicks engaged in a pained discussion about what to do.

The central problem was that the president was neither inclined to make fun of himself, nor particularly funny himself – at least not, in Conway’s description, “in that kind of humorous way”.

George W Bush had famously tried to resist the Correspondents’ Dinner and suffered greatly at it, but he had prepped extensively and every year he pulled out an acceptable performance. But neither woman, confiding their concerns around the table in Conway’s office to a journalist they regarded as sympathetic, thought Trump had a realistic chance of making the dinner anything like a success.

“He doesn’t appreciate cruel humour,” said Conway. “His style is more old-fashioned,” said Hicks.

Both women, clearly seeing the Correspondents’ Dinner as an intractable problem, kept characterising the event as “unfair”, which, more generally, is how they characterised the media’s view of Trump. “He’s unfairly portrayed.” “They don’t give him the benefit of the doubt.” “He’s just not treated the way other presidents have been treated.”

The burden here for Conway and Hicks was their understanding that the president did not see the media’s lack of regard for him as part of a political divide on which he stood on a particular side. Instead, he perceived it as a deep personal attack on him: for ­entirely unfair reasons, ad hominem reasons, the media just did not like him. Ridiculed him. Cruelly. Why?…
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Wolff and Press 101

Axios reported yesterday that Michael Wolff taped the conversations that he used for his book:

Michael Wolff has tapes to back up quotes in his incendiary book — dozens of hours of them….

  • In some cases, the officials thought they were talking off the record. But what are they going to do now?

I am a relative nobody. But I know better.

I talk with the press fairly frequently. I have reporters that I talk with a lot because they are honestly striving to tell complex stories with the intent of making their readers smarter by the end of the piece. I assume that any interaction I have with any reporter is on the record and highly likely to be recorded.

On Wednesday evening, a reporter that I have talked with in the past e-mailed me to ask for some background on a long term policy issue. I said I could callback in 10 minutes. The initial chunk of the conversation was like this:

“Hi, this is John Doe of the XXX News”

“Hi John, this is Dave from Duke, responding to your e-mail, still got time?”

“Yep, let me get my recorder going…”

“Everything on the record unless we both agree before hand?”

“Sounds good, so tell me about X and Y and how they interact?”

And then we talked for a while.

This is not hard. You assume that you are on the record and a good memorization will occur unless there is a specific guarantee that is previously agreed upon that says a conversation is either off the record, deep background, not for attribution or any other restriction including no notes/recordings. I’m a nobody who will never work in the White House and I know that.



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Easy Targets

Maggie Haberman, of course:

President Trump projected an air of calm on Wednesday after charges against his former campaign chief and a foreign policy aide roiled Washington, insisting to The New York Times that he was not “angry at anybody” and that investigations into his campaign’s links to Russia had not come near him personally.

“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” Mr. Trump said in a brief telephone call to The Times late Wednesday afternoon. Pointing to the indictment of his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, the president said, “And even if you look at that, there’s not even a mention of Trump in there.”

“It has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said…

.

Apart from pointing & mocking, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

My personal ‘And what was your first clue, Sherlock?’ fave-of-the-day…



Russiagate Open Thread: Cambridge Analytica Apocrylyptica

Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data-analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails.

Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton’s missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix’s email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.

If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange…

Those 33,000 messages were a central focus of Trump and his allies during the campaign. At least one Republican operative tried to recruit hackers to obtain those emails, according to The Wall Street Journal. And at a press conference on July 27, 2016, while the Democratic National Convention was underway, Trump—then the Republican nominee—said he hoped the Kremlin would recover those emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said.

And on the campaign trail, Trump praised WikiLeaks and tweeted about its findings. Politifact calculated that he mentioned the site about 137 times during the campaign….
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Excellent Read: “The President of Blank Sucking Nullity”

This appeared before last night’s shitshow in Phoenix, but it seems a perfect explainer. Underrated sports writer David J. Roth, in The Baffler, on what dogs and Donald Trump have in common. [Probably NSFW, especially if your workplace frowns on employees simultaneously laughing & weeping]:

It is not quite fair to say that Donald Trump lacks core beliefs, but to the extent that we can take apart these beliefs they amount to Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More. The only comprehensible throughline to his politics is that everything Trump says is something he’s said previously, with additional very’s and more-and-more’s appended over time; his worldview amounts to the sum of the dumb shit he saw on the cover of the New York Post in 1985, subjected to a few decades of rancid compounding interest and deteriorating mental aptitude. He watches a lot of cable news, but he struggles to follow even stories that have been custom built for people like him—old, uninformed, amorphously if deeply aggrieved.

There’s a reason for this. Trump doesn’t know anything or really believe anything about any topic beyond himself, because he has no interest in any topic beyond himself; his evident cognitive decline and hyperactive laziness and towering monomania ensure that he will never again learn a new thing in his life. He has no friends and no real allies; his inner circle is divided between ostensibly scandalized cynics and theatrically shameless ones, all of whom hold him in low regard and see him as a potential means to their individuated ends. There is no help on the way; his outer orbit is a rotation of replacement-level rage-grandpas and defective, perpetually clammy operators.

To understand Trump is also to understand his appeal as an aspirational brand to the worst people in the United States. What his intransigent admirers like most about him—the thing they aspire to, in their online cosplay sessions and their desperately thirsty performances for a media they loathe and to which they are so helplessly addicted—is his freedom to be unconcerned with anything but himself. This is not because he is rich or brave or astute; it’s because he is an asshole, and so authentically unconcerned. The howling and unreflective void at his core will keep him lonely and stupid until the moment a sufficient number of his vital organs finally resign in disgrace, but it liberates him to devote every bit of his being to his pursuit of himself. Actual hate and actual love, as other people feel them, are too complicated to fit into this world. In their place, for Trump and for the people who see in him a way of being that they are too busy or burdened or humane to pursue, are the versions that exist in a lower orbit, around the self. Instead of hate, there is simple resentment—abject and valueless and recursively self-pitying; instead of love, there is the blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite…



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Covfefe Happens

Sometimes ya gotta laugh, just to allay the pain, however briefly.

Apart from SSDD, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Open Thread: The Shoddier the Jury-Rigging, the Quicker the Ship Falls Apart

The warring powers within Lord Smallgloves’ court…

… Or sometimes, all three factors! And the blowback on every trumpstunt continues:

The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but President Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release…

Instead, the White House’s own statement drew widespread criticism for overlooking the Jews’ suffering, and was cheered by neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer…

The White House’s explanations for omitting Jews in its statement haven’t quelled the controversy and in some cases made it worse. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks originally defended the omission to CNN saying, “we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.” Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said he didn’t regret the wording.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday accused critics of “nitpicking” over the statement. He said it was written “with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendent of Holocaust survivors.” A source with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO that person was Trump aide Boris Epshteyn…

Great job breaking it, Repubs!

This is really reminding me of the Watergate-revelation days, only louder and shoddier, as befits the farce succeeding a tragedy. I need to dig out my beloved copies of The Friends of Richard Nixon (George V. Higgins) and How the Good Guys Finally Won (Jimmy Breslin). Modern reviews complain that they’re insufficiently descriptive, to which I can only reply: You had to be there!