I think you make yourself a victim almost every single day

This is a good piece by Adam Serwer. And what he’s saying about the FBI is true of all of institutions, especially the media:

Republicans, insulated from the potential backlash by the very “law and order” voters who put them in office, are willing to attack the FBI publicly as a covert political tool of Democrats in a way that the opposition party simply is not.

That asymmetry means that the FBI often responds to Republican or conservative criticism differently than it responds to criticism from Democrats. As I wrote in May, the FBI’s attempts to shield its reputation for political independence from conservative criticism has resulted in its actual political independence being compromised. Comey’s July 2016 press conference excoriating Clinton, and his subsequent public letter announcing the investigation had been reopened, were attempts to pre-empt conservative criticism that the FBI was biased. Several FBI officials have been demoted or pushed out of the bureau because their actions or views might be taken as biased by Trump officials or their allies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department oversees the FBI, has been largely silent in the face of the conservative attacks, despite his frequent jeremiads against alleged liberal demonization of law enforcement. Behind the scenes, rather than defend the bureau’s independence, he has urged Trump’s hand-picked FBI Director Chris Wray to acquiesce to the president’s public denunciations of FBI officials.

What do to about this? You probably know what I think: if the media and the FBI cave in every time a conservative hits them, liberals need to start hitting them too. That will never happen, but it would be good if the totebagging masses started to understand the dynamic that’s at play right now.

(h/t Hawerchuk)

And let’s try to reach our goal for Conor Lamb in PA-18 today.

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To hear the lamentations…

There’s an article in the current edition of “The Atlantic” authored by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes (he of the baby cannon on Twitter). It’s called “Boycott the Republican Party,” and in it, Rauch and Wittes contend that the only way the GOP can be reformed and American democracy saved is if everyone outside the Trumpist base votes against Republicans:

[T]he most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold…

We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.

We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.

Brian Beutler answered that article with a great piece in Crooked Media yesterday: Boycotting Republicans Isn’t Enough. I urge everyone to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts, which start from the premise that even if they lose two landslide elections in a row (as they did in 2006 and 2008), Republicans won’t take that as a mandate to reform but will instead become even more hypocritical and reactionary:

After years of engaging enthusiastically in corruption and fiscal profligacy, Obama-era Republicans adopted a pose of rectitude and austerity. Anyone who had been paying attention knew these were just poses. Their immediate jettisoning of Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” ethos and overnight embrace of hawkish budget rhetoric was nakedly insincere, but was nevertheless accepted in good faith by nearly the entire political elite. Just this week, in an otherwise astute assessment of Republican base voters, Axios’ Jonathan Swan asserted that Trump “has moved the party away from decades of orthodoxy on…deficits,” as if such an orthodoxy has existed in the post-Reagan era. As if Republicans’ re-embrace of expansionary fiscal policy after reclaiming power weren’t completely foreordained.

Republicans spent the full eight years of the Obama presidency making arguments they didn’t believe, claiming to be outraged about things that didn’t really outrage them, fabricating controversy out of things they knew to be uncontroversial. They spent four years pretending to believe an attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans was a historic scandal, eclipsed only by the revelation (which they also didn’t really care about) that Obama’s secretary of state used a private email account to do work. When they were rewarded for this plain-as-day bad faith with control of the entire federal government, they immediately forgot about Benghazi, ignored botched operations for which Trump bore responsibility, and continued to use private email and encrypted third-party communication applications with impunity.

Beutler makes the obvious point that the same cycle will repeat unless Democrats play hardball when they again control the government and — crucially — are supported in that effort by other elements of society:

After Trump, Democrats could adopt a more aggressive approach than they have in the past, on the fool-me-twice principle. They could abolish the filibuster, expedite legislation to widen the franchise and reform campaign finance laws, right Mitch McConnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat, and conduct oversight of the institutions of government Trump corrupted. They could set up a commission to examine, the role of propaganda in American media, and report out how and why, under Trump, the Republican Party entered a de facto partnership with hostile foreign intelligence to influence American politics.

I think they can and should do all of these things and more, so long as they can be done on majoritarian and representative bases.

But to truly marginalize the GOP’s political style would require a level of cooperation from many conservatives that doesn’t exist, and a level of buy-in from generally non-partisan institutions—the media, the bureaucracy, corporate America, and civil society—which have proven ill-equipped to defend themselves from Republican efforts to coopt or discredit them.

Corporate America has giddily joined a banana republic-style public relations campaign to thank dear leader Trump for his corporate tax cuts, and portray them as a boon to workers. Mainstream journalists are so petrified of bad-faith accusations of liberal bias that many of them genuinely can’t grasp how hostile the American right is to the vocation of journalism, or how to report on bad-faith in the public square more generally.

Beutler is correct that the level of cooperation outlined above doesn’t exist. I don’t know how we solve that conundrum, but solve it we must. As horrible and destructive as the current Republican administration is, it is headed by a preening, addled, incompetent clown. After the Trump era, I’m not confident we’d survive a resurgent GOP headed by a more skilled fascist wannabe.

Cancellation is the Sensation Rocking the Nation

If your best friend had a drug habit, would you give him or her money to go buy smack? Well, bothsides is a hell of a drug, and until the Times kicks, save your pennies. More from Steve M.

That all said, fuck this Nunes sideshow. Trump is going to fire Mueller at some point, and the Republican Congress isn’t going to do jack shit except put on their concerned faces. The only cure for our main ailment is the 2018 and 2020 elections. Let’s start with 2018.

You can give here to the Balloon Juice fund that is split equally among all Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

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You can give here to Swing Left, which is promoting grass roots action against Republicans in 70 swing districts.

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“The Self-Indulgence of It All”

Shortly before Trump took the stage for his solo teleprompter recital this week (a performance watched by “the highest number in history,” he assures us this morning via Twitter, lying as usual), Hillary Clinton posted thoughts on Facebook about the way she handled a sexual harassment incident among staffers during her 2008 campaign. It’s worth a read.

To sum up, Clinton says if she had it to do over again, she’d fire the harasser. She describes the measures she took at the time and the thought processes behind them. She expresses support for the woman who came forward then and all the women who are standing up against sexual harassment today. She notes that the actions she took 10 years ago are similar to those taken by The Times in the Glenn Thrush case (i.e., consequences, not termination).

I found Clinton’s musings on the topic interesting because they were genuinely thoughtful, and also because of her long and complicated history and significance to millions of women in the US and around the world. Her post could serve as an excellent starting point for a debate about what we owe women who are harassed in the workplace, how to deal with offenders, what our goals should be as new social norms emerge, etc.

Because of who Hillary Clinton is, critiquing her actions then and now is fair game. Thoughtful analysis of these topics is welcome in comments and would be a service to readers of a major daily like The Post. This piece, published in yesterday’s Post about Clinton’s statement, ain’t that:

[Clinton] released a tepid response via Twitter the day the story broke and a more thorough one via Facebook days later. But it’s not clear whether either said enough. Does Clinton’s handling of this latest story exemplify a fatal flaw?

Opinion writers Christine Emba, Ruth Marcus, and Alyssa Rosenberg discuss.

It’s a 9th grade slam book that merits display in the Heathers Hall of Shame. Some excerpts below the fold, annotated in bold font: Read more

Of Trees and Forests

I found more pleasant things to do last night than watch Trump’s teleprompter recital, but I read it this morning. It was what I expected: a mélange of unearned brags and bellicosity, alternately layered with military valorization and mindless jingoism, then sprinkled with a somewhat more refined form of the usual racist, xenophobic appeals.

As I mentioned in comments this morning, I was heartened to see that most mainstream media outlets didn’t buy the “pivot” bullshit this time. Could our Beltway pundits be learning? Maybe, but not fast enough. Even the criticism gives Trump too much goddamned credit.

Here’s an excerpt from local columnist Joe Henderson’s hot take that illustrates this point:

Donald Trump’s missed opportunity in State of the Union

Your opinion of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech probably hinges on whether you like him or not. This isn’t about that. It’s about something much more basic — the chance to change the narrative about his presidency.

He had an opportunity to make a splash about what’s happening with Puerto Rico, and he didn’t take advantage.

After all, did anyone else find it curious that he pledged his love and support for the people of Puerto Rico on the same day NPR reported that FEMA will end hurricane food and water shipments to that American island?


So, about that whole thing the president said to Puerto Rico about how “we love you” and we’ll be there with you, what’s the deal?

You know what would have been a real headline-grabbing moment for the president?

He could have taken that stage to announce, “You know, I saw that today about FEMA and Puerto Rico. That was a bad decision. People are still suffering, and I am hereby issuing a presidential executive order that the aid be immediately restored and continued until the island is back to 100 percent.”

Okay. But seizing that public relations initiative would require Trump to actually give a shit about our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico — to recognize that they deserve better — something his words and actions since the hurricane have proved he does not. To discuss it in terms of a lost public relations opportunity is to ignore the profound, racist malevolence behind the neglect of that island.

It disturbs me greatly that the columnist, a garden-variety centrist-y guy I’ve been reading for many years now, seems to miss that point entirely. Maybe it’s a minor thing, but it strikes me as emblematic of a larger blindness that threatens to keep us in the dark indefinitely.

I’ll Be In My Basement Room

I’m sure I’m not the first one to make this observation, but the supposed accelerated news cycle is having a stroboscopic effect on the passage of this presidency for me. At first everything was moving at such a breathless pace that I felt an almost physical sense of movement. Now, everything has been moving so fast for so long that it’s as though things are standing perfectly still. One scandal feels much like the next. We are in a land that has no signposts: a featureless plane of stupidity, a weird stasis.

And so, in spite of the oft repeated cliche that any X amount of time is an eternity in politics I will defy the scolds and gaze into deep time, like I did in 2010 when Republicans had their Tea Party wave. Back then, I’d looked forward to 2020, the next redistricting year, and concluded that Hillary would be the best set-up to take us back to the promised land. I made a few key phone calls and said only, “Clear the field.” You know the rest. Looks like I may have been right in my assessment. But not in the way I expected.

Looking beyond 2020, one thing that concerns me about a post-Trump world is the sort of anti-First Law of Motion of the media. Once a body is set in motion in the vacuity of media space, no countervailing force will stop it from doing the thing that gets eyeballs, clicks–turns a profit, in other words. And so I look forward and wonder, will Jake Tapper be able to prevent himself from scolding President Gillibrand for some totally anodyne shit? Will the media be so high on its own supply of rageahol that it won’t be able to wind itself down and cover a “normal” presidency? What possible incentive will it have to do that in what will likely be an even more fragmented media landscape?

It seems like the kind of question media boffin Jay Rosen might have some thoughts about. Or the enlightened jackal salon of the Balloon Juice commentariat?

Not that there’s much we can do about it. (And lamenting the deteriorating level public discourse is as old as the agora.) But what we can do is elect some Democrats. And here’s how: This is the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

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Credit Where Due Open Thread: Now He Tells Us…

So long as President Trump continues disgracing the Oval Office, thoughtful people will probe their own role in helping him get there.

Such appeared to be the motivation behind a mea culpa issued by CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on comedian Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast. In a discussion of presidential politics, Wilmore argued that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, was the victim of a “coordinated attack” coming from Republicans. “Benghazi was … the expression of that attack. In fact, what’s his name, was it [former Rep. Jason] Chaffetz who actually kind of agreed that that’s what they were doing, was weakening her as a candidate.” (Wilmore may have been referring to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who said in 2015, ““Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”)…

“And I hold myself somewhat responsible for that,” continued Toobin, a steady presence on CNN since 2002. “I think there was a lot of false equivalence in the 2016 campaign. That every time we said something, pointed out something about Donald Trump — whether it was his business interests, or grab ’em by the p–––y, we felt like, ‘Oh, we gotta, like, talk about — we gotta say something bad about Hillary.’ And I think it led to a sense of false equivalence that was misleading, and I regret my role in doing that.”

I would really, really like to believe Toobin’s confession was the first sign that the “savvy” journalists are panicking about the ham-handed half-wittery of Trump’s enablers and sidling towards the exits. But I don’t think he spends enough time on what Calvin Trillin calls “the Sabbathday Gasbag circuit” to qualify as a leading indicator, unfortunately.