Greatest Deal Maker Ever

The real reason people voted for Trump is because unvarnished racist, sexist, xenophobic demagoguery appealed to them. But if you ask Trumpers why they voted for Trump, they’ll say something like, “He’s a successful businessman who knows how to make deals.”

That’s bullshit on stilts; the serially bankrupt Trump would be far richer than he (probably falsely) claims if he’d stashed his inheritance in an index fund. But it’s true that he sold his own mottled orange hide to the public along those lines:

Let’s roll the tape on how Trump got his kicks during the DHS funding negotiations, shall we?

March 2018: Democrats offer $25B in border all funding for a pathway to citizenship for the dreamers. Trump kills the deal by tacking on draconian cuts to LEGAL immigration.

December 2018: Trump demands $5B for wall; Democrats counter with a $1.6B offer. Trump shuts down the government, costing the U.S. economy $11B.

January 2019: Trump caves, ends shutdown in humiliating political defeat, vows to get WALL funding as a condition to fund the government after 2/15/2019.

February 2019: Trump indicates he’ll sign a bill with $1.375 billion “fencing” funds to avoid another shutdown.

The prospect of another stinging humiliation in the form of this bill had Trump pre-whining on Twitter yesterday about “the Radical Left” thwarting his “Border Security” plans. He also lied that “the Wall is being built” when pretty much everyone who’s not a slack-jawed moron knows that’s not true.

But he’ll almost certainly sign the goddamned paper when it lands on his desk. McConnell isn’t going to endanger his own political prospects with another shutdown. One way or another, that bill will pass, and the degree to which Trump has been taken to the cleaners in this negotiation will be expressed in hard numbers.

Even math-phobes like me who are routinely swindled in negotiations know that when your opponent’s offer drops from $25B to $1.6B to $1.375B — and you accept the low number along with all the damage incurred along the way — you’ve just had your very own ass handed to you on a silver platter and a giant golden “L” tattooed to your forehead.

After this debacle, Trumpers will need to invent a new justification for their vote. Or maybe just tell the damned truth.

Open thread!

Nancy Nailed It

We’ve never had a president who is more needy and attention-seeking than Trump, so Nancy Pelosi’s move to deny him an invitation to deliver the SOTU during the government shutdown was brilliant, as most of us appreciated in real time. A report from The Times yesterday reveals for the record just how significant a role Pelosi’s use of the SOTU as both carrot and stick played in reopening the government:

Mr. Trump, aides said, views the speech and all of the pomp and circumstance that accompany it with some reverence, and aides said he puts more time into his script because it is one instance where he usually sticks to it. For all of the president’s fabled norm-busting, there are aspects of the conventional presidency that appeal to him, none more so than standing in the hallowed halls of Congress, with all eyes on him speaking to the nation…

In fact, the dark-wood venue and the history of the address appeal so much to Mr. Trump that his reluctance to deliver the speech in an alternative venue — something that was briefly discussed in the White House after Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially canceled the speech because of the partial government shutdown — was part of Mr. Trump’s calculus for reopening, at least temporarily, the government.

Take that in for a moment: Trump abjectly surrendered on the shutdown — humiliating himself politically, infuriating creatures like Ann Coulter, underscoring his entire party’s capitulation to its leader’s stupidity and irresponsibility — all so he could flap his gums and wave his stubby fingers in front of official Washington, DC and live on all the networks.

I’ve read reports that McConnell and Co. were ready to pull the plug on the shutdown anyway since Trump’s and the rest of the GOP’s approval ratings were cratering and they feared the damage would haunt them next year. Well, that’s to Pelosi’s credit too since she held her caucus together.

But from what we know of Trump — his addiction to adulation, his disregard of collateral damage inflicted on anyone not named Donald J. Trump, his craving for unearned respect — my money’s on the SOTU as the chief factor in the shutdown cave. Well played, Madam Speaker.

Are y’all going to watch the shit-show tonight? We may or may not — it’ll be a game-time call for us, depending on our mood at 9 PM ET.

According to The Times report linked above, it sounds like xenophobic incel goon Stephen Miller is wrestling with more conventional GOP turd-polishers over the tone of the speech. So, it might be interesting as a rhetorical artifact to watch the theme ping-pong between white nationalist scaremongering and pseudo-lofty pablum.

Open thread!

Impeach DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

Well, first things first. Via NBC News:

The Trump administration said in a court filing that reuniting thousands of migrant children separated from their parents or guardians at the U.S.-Mexico border may not be “within the realm of the possible.”

The filing late Friday from Jallyn Sualog, deputy director of the department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, was an ordered response in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the government’s separation of at least 2,737 children of migrants detained at the border since summer 2017.

Sualog said her office doesn’t have the resources to track down the children, whose numbers could be thousands more than the official estimate.

“Even if performing the analysis Plaintiffs seek were within the realm of the possible, it would substantially imperil ORR’s ability to perform its core functions without significant increases in appropriations from Congress, and a rapid, dramatic expansion of the ORR data team,” she said.

Perhaps the Democrats could appropriate $5.7B to expand the data team and fund the analysis. Then, every time Trump or his minions bleat about WALL money, they could reply, “Oops, sorry — the very sum you requested had to be diverted to fund family reunification activities because your administration’s inhumane family separation policy was enacted by incompetents who took less care tracking human beings than an Ace Hardware store uses to track $.01 nails.

Then, file articles of impeachment on Nielsen and hold hearings to dig into the details of this horror, including the depraved indifference, the incompetence and the profiteering. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure lying to Congress in sworn testimony (perjury) is an impeachable offense and that cabinet members are subject to removal via that mechanism.

Although nothing can atone for the trauma wrought in our name by the racist policies of these heartless liars, impeaching Nielsen would focus attention on the thousands of families who’ve been destroyed. It would force Republicans to go on record in support of the whole putrid Trump administration approach to immigration at the southern border — the cruel, ineffective policies, the rank carelessness, the repeated lies, etc. It would also serve as dress rehearsal for impeaching Nielsen’s boss.

In Remembrance of Fred Korematsu

100 years ago today, Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California. After being turned down for military service in 1940 for health related reasons he lost several jobs due to his Japanese heritage after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He underwent plastic surgery in order to pass as Latinx so he could work. Finally, Korematsu went into hiding to evade the internment camps. He was arrested in San Leandro and jailed in San Francisco. It was there that he was approached by the ACLU and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today is Fred Korematsu Day in a number of states:

Several states celebrate Fred Korematsu Day on January 30, Korematsu’s birthday. Established in 2011, the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties & the Constitution” honors the legacy of Korematsu, who resisted Japanese American incarceration during World War II. He was one of three who legally challenged imprisonment, all the way to the Supreme Court.

The issuance of Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 allowed for the removal of any persons from Western coastal areas. Although EO9066 did not specifically target Japanese Americans, it paved the way for the forcible removal of those of Japanese descent from their homes and into camps. In March, “Civilian Exclusion Orders” were posted for all those of Japanese ancestry in Washington, Oregon, California, and southern Arizona. The majority of those of Japanese descent in the US lived in these areas and two-thirds were native-born citizens of the United States. When faced with having to report to an assembly center, Oakland, California-born Fred Korematsu chose a different path. Korematsu, a 23-year old welder, stayed in Oakland with his Italian American girlfriend. He even had minor plastic surgery on his eyes and changed his name in an attempt to avoid recognition.

For those interested, there are more resources at The Fred Korematsu Institute.

It is especially important to remember Korematsu, as well as what he and other Japanese-Americans went through given the current travel ban, attempts to change immigration law and end asylum by executive order, and build a wall solely because the president’s advisors needed a way to make sure he’d talk about immigration while campaigning and because the idea of immigrants, legal or undocumented, makes Stephen Miller feel icky.

From The Washington Post:

Long ago, Fred Korematsu was arrested in San Leandro, Calif., his home town, for defying an executive order that led to the expulsion or imprisonment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

He later went to the Supreme Court to fight it, much as others now oppose President Trump’s executive order barring people from seven mostly majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Korematsu lost in 1944 and, although his criminal conviction was vacated in 1983, the case was not overturned.

Until Tuesday.

More than 30 years after Korematsu challenged, for the second time, what is widely considered one of the most unjust government actions in U.S. history, the country watched another legal battle conclude this morning, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Trump v. Hawaii. The court upheld Trump’s travel ban and overturned Korematsu’s case.

The irony is that Korematsu’s vindication came as the Supreme Court actualized his worst fear by “racially profiling of a group because they looked like the enemy,” according to Fred Korematsu’s daughter, Karen.

“The Korematsu court presumed people were dangerous because they were of Japanese descent. Today, it is because they are from a particular country,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, who is dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School and once called the Supreme Court’s ruling against Korematsu “one of the worst decisions in history.” Neither assumption, he said, is rooted in equal protection of the law.

“In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, ‘Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided.’ I think a future court will one day say [today’s decision] was a huge mistake,” Chemerinsky said.

“Korematsu may be overruled, but it’s not to be celebrated,” said Karen Korematsu. “Unfortunately with this decision, we are continuing to repeat history.”

For months, Karen Korematsu heard echoes of her father’s old warnings in the way Trump’s order cast suspicion on an entire class of people, and the way its defenders in court made claim to national security without citing any evidence against the people the order affected.

She was reminded that during the campaign, Trump promised a broader ban on Muslim foreigners — as well as a registry of Muslims living in the United States.

She was reminded that one of his top backers cited her father’s case as legal precedent for such things.

“Racial profiling was wrong in 1942 and racial profiling and religious profiling is wrong in 2018,” Karen Korematsu lamented. “The Supreme Court traded one injustice for another 74 years later.”

Much more at the link.

Korematsu was sent to the Central Utah War Relocation Camp in Topaz, Utah.

(Topaz Internment Camp Historic Marker)

(Topaz Internment Camp)

Never again must mean never again!

Open thread.

Lashed to the Mast

W. Bush-era torture apologist Marc Thiessen extruded an especially stinky turd of a column in The Post. Thiessen has never written anything worth reading, but I call your attention to the log he laid in the opinion page litter box yesterday because it’s an especially gross example of how, when “conservatives” buy into Trumpism, they drop all pretense to every principle they previously claimed guided their lives and become walking, talking manifestations of Cleek’s Law.

This column purports to advise Trump on how he can pull a “win” from the shutdown loser-town wreckage that is smoking all around him. Idiotically, Thiessen’s genius plan involves Trump calling Pelosi’s bluff, as if Trump didn’t just try that last week and get burned to the fucking ground for his trouble. But I digress — an excerpt:

[Trump] should go back to the experts at the Department of Homeland Security and ask them: If Democrats refuse to give you the addition physical barriers you have said are essential to secure the border, what other funding would you need to make up for it?… The total, he should tell the border professionals, can be far more than $5.7 billion. Just tell me what you need — the sky’s the limit.

Then, the president should then use his State of the Union address to demand that congressional Democrats fund every single penny. He should announce that if Democrats won’t pay for a wall, this is what border agents and homeland security professionals say they need immediately to secure the border without one. Unfortunately, it is more expensive to secure the border with people and technology than it is with steel slats.

Trump should make clear these demands are nonnegotiable. He will not make any concessions for them. No protections for “dreamers” or extension of the Temporary Protected Status program. Those things are still on the table, but only in exchange for a physical barrier.

If Democrats refuse, Trump will have regained the moral high ground… But Democrats will not refuse, because they have no grounds to do so. They have repeatedly claimed over the past few weeks to support such measures. Well, now it is time to start funding them.

If Democrats agree, then Trump can legitimately claim to have done more than any president in history to secure the southern border. He will have essentially built a virtual wall. And he can do all this without giving up on a physical barrier. Trump can make clear that he will make wall funding a condition of every policy initiative that Democrats put forward in the coming two years. He can declare that he is more than willing to cut a bipartisan deal to reform our broken immigration system — as long as that deal includes a wall.

To recap, if this plan works the way Thiessen thinks it will, Trump will extract untold billions of taxpayer funds for a virtual wall that makes a physical barrier obsolete, then turn around and demand a physical wall too. Why build not one but two walls? So Thiessen’s impotent orange idol can chalk up a “win.”

As we all know, Republican claims about being the party of fiscal responsibility have been garbage for decades. From the sainted Reagan to the present day, Republicans run up huge deficits and bugger the economy in myriad ways, and then Democrats have to come in and clean up the mess.

That said, Republicans used to be disciplined enough to try to disguise their profligacy, using scams like “trickle down” as a pretext for shoveling cash into their donors’ pockets, or lying that a ruinous, pointless war will “pay for itself.”

But here, Thiessen just straight-up urges Trump to spend many billions of dollars on a “virtual wall” and then insist on a multi-billion dollar spite wall that the first project rendered unnecessary. He thinks the American people — the majority of whom don’t want one wall, let alone a belt-and-suspenders boondoggle — won’t mind the expense, point out that Mexico was supposed to pay for it, or object to a vanity wall demand jamming every other piece of legislation for the next two years. Only a cultist could be so deluded.

Because our Beltway press is a dysfunctional garbage heap that privileges phony notions of “balance” over accuracy, Thiessen and fellow neocon trashmongers like Hugh Hewitt retained their prominent perches after cheerleading W. Bush’s epic fuckup in Iraq. Maybe we can make Trump cultism a bridge too far, or at least try to do so.

When Trump is finally exposed as the utter fraud he is in terms that even balance junkies can’t deny — and I think that will happen — let us resolve to use our power as consumers to unseat his worst media enablers, people like Thiessen, Hewitt, etc. — pundits in mainstream outlets who’ve lashed themselves to the mast of the SS Trumptanic.

Let them be reduced to peddling their rancid hot takes at InfoWars or Breitbart, not in the pages of The Washington Post. Or better yet, let them enjoy a steaming mug of STFU.