Open Thread: “Normalizing” the Abnormal, A Continuing FTFNYT Series

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Repub Venality Open Thread: ‘Normalizing’ the Monstrous

How our Discourse becomes “Coarsened” — as illustrated in tweets:

This is widely shared, because, yeah it’s nasty fun:

The meaty pull-quote:

So… one or more of Axios’ “five sources”, as Mr. Pierce would say, looked a lot like Mercedes Schlapp, and was wearing her shoes.

At least half a dozen prominent media tweeters get to point out:

Jake Tapper, at least, is outraged (as well he might be)…

But the Mad Bitcher, Chris Cillizza, spots a trend!!!

Ergo: Mercedes Schlap posturing to replace Hope Hicks — an ongoing series; savvy journalists have been mocking her desperation since the day Hicks’ resignation was announced — becomes “Our Media Is, Alas, Coarse.”

Why complain about Trump and the other Oval Office Occupants’ lewd mockery of every normal standard of governance and civility, when The Savvy Guys can tell you that everybody does it?

Friday Morning Open Thread: Spume on Troubled Political Waters

As a break from the earnest / tragic business of national politics at this moment in time…

… I offer this brilliant brutal handbagging* of the worthless Chris ‘Mad Bitchin’ Cillizza:

Chris Cillizza’s job isn’t as easy as it seems, although it also isn’t nearly difficult enough to justify the salary he receives for doing it. What that job is even supposed to be is kind of a moving target, to be honest, but much of what Cillizza does in his current position as a political reporter and editor-at-large at CNN comes closer to blogging about celebrity fashion than it does conventional political writing. Fundamentally what he writes about is political style—hot new innovations in institutionalized incompetence; particularly deft or buzzy bits of toxic pettiness; what’s trending in the collapse of everything the country ever pretended to hold dear.

This feels, from one frothy burble to the next, like a very specific type of fashion writing, not of the kind that an astute critic or academic or even competent industry-facing journalist might write, but of the kind that you find on social media in the threaded comments attached to photos of Rihanna. Cillizza does not really appear to follow any policy issue at all, and evinces no real insight into electoral trends or political tactics. He just sort of notices whatever is happening and cheerfully announces that it is very exciting and that he is here for it.

Anyway, because he is to all appearances an absolute fucking doorknob, Cillizza excels at this work. But while he makes it look easy, even an eager-beaver Politics Noticer like Cillizza must eventually notice that this fun sport that so thrills and delights him is also generally debasing everyone participating in or otherwise subject to it and leading to infinitely more suffering than any sport should…

(* I originally used ‘pig-bladdering’, but that felt like insulting Cillizza’s genetics.)

As to the serious topic enthusiastically spittled by The Mad Bitcher — don’t worry, the grownups have things in hand:

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The Sorrow of the Repubs

Paul Ryan’s tears, they are delicious! From the Washington Post, “GOP increasingly fears loss of House, focuses on saving Senate majority”:

Republicans are increasingly worried they will lose control of the House in the midterm elections, spurring an urgent campaign to hold the Senate with a simple message: Only the majority will ensure confirmation of conservative judges and President Trump’s nominees.

To many, the Senate is emerging as a critical barrier against Democrats demolishing Trump’s agenda beginning in 2019. Worse yet, some in the GOP fear, Democrats could use complete control of Congress to co-opt the ideologically malleable president and advance their own priorities.

Democratic enthusiasm is surging in suburban districts that House Republicans are struggling to fortify, causing GOP officials, donors and strategists to fret. They have greater confidence in more-rural red states that Trump won convincingly and that make up the bulk of the Senate battlefield.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies are seeking to capitalize on ­concerns about the House. He is leading an effort to motivate ­conservative voters by reminding them that his side of the Capitol has the unilateral power to confirm federal judges to lifetime appointments and Trump administration nominees.

Trump is showing a keen interest in the Senate landscape, raising money for a highly touted challenger, helping clear the primary field for an endangered senator and playfully engaging in an intraparty contest…

Oh yeah, Donny Dolllhands is gonna be such a big help right now — in the time he can spare from avoiding Robert Mueller. And Stormy Daniels. And all the other Trump-scam-victim plantiffs…

While some Republicans believe they can expand their 51-to-49 Senate advantage, simply holding the slim majority has grown increasingly more complicated. Hard-right Republicans running in Arizona and Mississippi and a competitive open race in Tennessee could lead to Democratic gains. An even better pickup opportunity exists for Democrats in Nevada.

But on the whole, the Democratic path to the Senate majority is more daunting: They are defending 26 seats to just nine for the Republicans. Trump won in 10 of the states where Democrats are playing defense. They include North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri — all states he won by 19 points or more.

In the House, Republicans have built their ranks on locking down seats in suburban and exurban districts. But in these areas, Democratic turnout has been high in elections over the past year, ­fueled by anger with Trump. If Democrats can gain 23 House seats, they will clinch the majority.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) put the chances of holding the House majority at “50-50.” The veteran party strategist warned that “the environment could easily continue to deteriorate,” and said he didn’t begrudge McConnell for pitching his case for the Senate….

But how does Pauly Blue Eyes feel about getting thrown under the Trump bus caravan?

Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said the House “may be further gone than people like to admit publicly.” While many in the party worry about a Democratic House and Senate launching an endless string of hearings and investigations into Trump, Steele said he has a different concern — that Democrats will work with the president to pass legislation that Republicans won’t like.

“Trump will cut whatever deal he can get a vote on,” he said. The president, he argued, “is an opportunist.”…

After the way the GOP dumped Michael Steele a hot second after promoting him as their ‘Black Best Friend’ was no longer so important, the man has to be enjoying his former employers’ plight, just a little. What’s the old Chinese proverb — Sit by the river long enough, and the bodies of your enemies will float past

Now They Tell Us Open Thread: Trump’s “Pure Madness”

CNN, “The Great Unraveling”:

Not since Richard Nixon started talking to the portraits on the walls of the West Wing has a president seemed so alone against the world.

One source — who is a presidential ally — is worried, really worried. The source says this past week is “different,” that advisers are scared the President is spiraling, lashing out, just out of control. For example: Demanding to hold a public session where he made promises on trade tariffs before his staff was ready, not to mention willing. “This has real economic impact,” says the source, as the Dow dropped 420 points after the President’s news Thursday. “Something is very wrong.”

Even by Trumpian standards, the chaos and the unraveling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are a stunning — and recurring — problem.

But there’s an up-against-the-wall quality to the past couple of weeks that is striking, and the crescendo is loud, clear, unhealthy, even dangerous…

It’s this magisterial Washington Post report that seems to be getting the most attention:

Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.

These are the darkest days in at least half a year, they say, and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”

Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges. And he confides to friends that he is uncertain about whom to trust…
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Russiagate Open Thread: The FBI “Secret Society” REVEALED!

On Friday, the Justice Department handed the Senate Homeland Security Committee and other committees a new batch of more than 1,000 messages sent between Strzok and Page. The messages newly obtained by ABC News were in that set.

Asked Wednesday whether he believes there’s a “secret society” inside the FBI to take down the president, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said, “That’s Strzok and Page’s term.”

“Everything I take with a grain of salt,” he added. “[But] I’ve heard from an individual that … there was a group of managers within the FBI that were holding meetings off site.”

So “when Strzok and Page had described a secret society, that didn’t surprise me because I had corroborating information,” Johnson said.

He declined to describe the “whistleblower” in any way, and he said he did not know what the FBI’s “off-site” meetings might have entailed.

Nevertheless, he said he is “trying to be as transparent as possible.” …

Oh, you’re certainly “transparent”, Sen. Johnson…

Just yesterday…

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Entertaining Read: “How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book”

The Great Transition — much like the Great Hunger or the Great Depression. Jennifer Jacobs, at Bloomberg:

Author Michael Wolff’s pitch to the White House to win cooperation for his book included a working title that signaled a sympathetic view, a counter-narrative to a slew of negative news stories early in Donald Trump’s presidency.

He called it “The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration.” And in part due to that title, Wolff was able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff who mistakenly believed they could shape the book to the president’s liking.

Nearly everyone who spoke with Wolff thought someone else in the White House had approved their participation. And it appears that not a single person in a position of authority to halt cooperation with the book — including Trump himself — raised any red flags, despite Wolff’s well documented history. His previous work included a critical book on Trump confidant Rupert Murdoch, the Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. co-chairman…

Wolff’s entree began with Trump himself, who phoned the author in early February to compliment him on a CNN appearance in which Wolff criticized media coverage of the new president.

Wolff told Trump during the call that he wanted to write a book on the president’s first 100 days in office. Many people want to write books about me, Trump replied — talk to my staff. Aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks listened to Wolff’s pitch in a West Wing meeting the next day, but were noncommittal.

Several aides said Hicks later informally endorsed talking with Wolff as long as they made “positive” comments for the book, which they said Wolff told them would counter the media’s unfair narrative.

It wasn’t until late August that alarm bells were raised in the White House — when Hicks, Jared Kushner and their allies realized that fellow aides who had spoken with Wolff, especially Bannon, may have provided damaging anecdotes about them…

Trump allies said they sought Hicks’s guidance on whether to speak with Wolff because they consider her to be the aide most familiar with Trump’s media preferences, having served as the White House director for strategic communications before moving into her current role as communications director. She previously was a top communications staffer for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and before that worked for the Trump Organization.

Hicks advised at least one Trump ally contacted by Wolff to cooperate with the author if he chose — and if he thought he could shape a positive narrative about the president.

In that regard, Hicks’s handling of Wolff’s book didn’t differ much from previous administrations. One official from former President Barack Obama’s White House said that his administration generally believed in engaging with authors, as long as they were serious journalists and not gadflies or partisan writers…

The concensus seems to be that Hicks is now being targeted by Trump defenders, possibly because she’s the only close Trump associate who hasn’t yet been implicated collaborating with Russia. But complaining that a twenty-something former fashion marketing assistant wasn’t up to the job of running media interference for the White House is like complaining about a diagnosis of Kaposi’s sarcoma — political ‘opportunist infections’ like Wolff indicate an administration with a seriously compromised immune system.