Changing the Channel

In a recent thread, Anne Laurie expressed a wish that I share: that engaging in blatant hypocrisy was physically painful. In that ideal world, posting these tweets yesterday evening would have caused Mango Mussolini to writhe in agony and bellow like a ruptured wildebeest:

Politico managed to cover that pair of tweets without mentioning that racism is as central to Trump’s brand as the “golden arches” are to McDonald’s. It also neglected to mention that Trump called for the execution of the Central Park 5 and continued to advocate for their lynching even after the men were exonerated in a court of law.

It’s weird how impervious Beltway hacks are to the siren call of “both sides” when there’s a “Dems in Disarray” angle to exploit. The Politico piece notes that some Democrats have problems with Biden’s work on the crime bill, specifically 2020 rivals Harris and de Blasio, who called it “a huge mistake.”

As we now know, Russian trolls operating fake accounts pushed the “super predator” line relentlessly against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and blamed her for the crime bill, even though she wasn’t a senator back then and was thus not eligible to vote on it. Was that line of attack effective? I don’t know.

I’m not making excuses for Biden, but it’s a lot easier to criticize that bill in hindsight, and if Twitter had been a thing in 1994, Trump would have been one of the biggest loudmouths on the platform, blasting the crime bill as weak sauce. That said, Biden will have to account for his advocacy and vote to an electorate that includes many voters who either weren’t alive in 1994 or were too young to remember the prevailing sense at the time that crime was spiraling out of control. Will that matter? I don’t know.

Trump’s astoundingly cynical and hypocritical tweets signal his 2020 “strategy,” which is the same strategy he’s employed every minute of his worthless public life: divide and conquer through a boundless capacity for projection and shamelessness and a willingness to accept help from malignant actors (including foreign autocrats) who want to weaken and destroy the country.

And Politico’s hackery in this instance is yet another signal that the Beltway media will be as worthless and destructive in 2020 as it was four years back. So, we’re on our own, with the stakes even higher.

I’m not sure how we (as a party) address it. At the risk of igniting a salvo of anti-Buttigieg trollery, here’s a clip of a recent interview in which Buttigieg addresses Trump’s “strategy” vis-à-vis opponents and how to push back on it, which he called a “crazy uncle management” approach:

TL;DR summary: call out Trump’s lies and point out when he’s wrong, but don’t let him make everything about himself because attention of any kind feeds Trump’s gigantic ego and media dominance. Maybe that’s the answer, but I’m not so sure. Whether the person Trump is lying about in any given comment punches back or not, the media hacks will broadcast the lies.

Toward the end of the clip, Costa (WaPo interviewer and former NR wingnut) asks Buttigieg if Cadet Bonespurs should have gone to Vietnam, and Buttigieg gives a pretty good answer:

“If he were a conscientious objector? I’d admire that. But this is someone who — I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us — took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place. And I know that that dredges up old wounds from a complicated time during a complicated war, but I’m also old enough to remember when conservatives talked about character as something that mattered in the presidency.”

That’s a response with a point that is larger than Trump. Maybe that’s an effective approach. I honestly don’t know. It seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, as Hillary Clinton found out the hard way. She focused on policy and took on Trump, but people (including Buttigieg!) interpret her loss as a failure to follow their own as-yet untested prescription for defeating the Tang Tyrant.

My guess is there’s no magic formula, and whoever wins the Democratic Party’s nomination will win the general election and be hailed in the media as a genius for their approach to dealing with Trump. But the truth will be that all but the hardcore cultists are just sick and tired of the Ochre Ogre and are ready to change the fucking channel already.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread

Also from Catherine Rampell, in the Washington Post“Trump’s narrative is nonsense. So why is the media buying it?”:

Yes, Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time. The problem right now is that all anyone ever asks about is the gum-chewing…

There have been a lot of other issues — kitchen table issues, you might even say — that Democrats have also been pursuing, and to which pundits like me haven’t given sufficient time or attention. Many of the proposals are good, some are bad; but, in any case, it’s hard to argue that Democrats have been underinvesting in policy because they’re overinvesting in oversight…

One major bill addresses drug costs (by banning pay-for-delay generic prescription agreements) and repeals Trump’s expansion of junk insurance plans (which often don’t cover preexisting conditions). Another bill attempts to narrow the gender pay gap. Another would require the United States to remain in the Paris climate accord, while another reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act.

Still another is a sweeping anti-corruption and election integrity measure. That may not exactly be a “kitchen table” issue, but it should theoretically appeal to all those Trumpkins who say they want to drain the swamp.

Again, these bills have all already passed the House. The reason they remain bills, rather than enacted legislation, is not that they’re being crowded out by Democrats’ supposedly all-consuming impeachment agenda. It’s that the Republican-controlled Senate refuses to take them up.

And Trump himself is not exactly trying to move the ball forward, including on issues with opportunities for bipartisan consensus. Such as, oh, infrastructure — which, as you might recall, was the subject of the meeting Trump stormed out of last week, for his preplanned news conference on how Democrats supposedly only cared about investigating the president.

Which is to say: If anyone is too laser-focused on the threat of impeachment, it ain’t the Democrats. It’s the object of that potential impeachment, aided and abetted by a media he manages so masterfully.

2020 Election Thread: The DNC’s Random Draw

When it gets Chuck Todd excited, you know it’s not good for the Democrats:

A new rule adopted by the Democratic National Committee and NBC News will evenly divide top-tier candidates across two nights in the first Democratic presidential primary debates in June, a move to maintain viewer interest in both events by making sure well-known contenders are on stage both nights.

Democrats getting at least 2 percent support in the polling average will be randomly and evenly split between the two nights, which will each feature 10 candidates, according to the formula obtained by POLITICO. Candidates below that threshold will also be evenly and randomly divided between the two debate lineups…

Eight candidates have a polling average at or above 2 percent right now: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. With the newly announced rule, four would be guaranteed to appear on the first night, and four would be guaranteed to appear on the second night.

Biden and Sanders, currently occupying first and second place in most polls, will still have a close to 50-50 chance of appearing on the same night — about the same odds they would have under a purely random draw that does not break the field into two groups.

According to a POLITICO analysis, 19 candidates have qualified for the first debates on June 26-27 in Miami: Biden, Booker, Steve Bullock, Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

Thirteen of those candidates — Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Harris, Inslee, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren, Williamson and Yang — have crossed both thresholds, virtually guaranteeing them a spot in one of the two nights…

So both Wednesday and Thursday will feature four potential candidates, plus five or six randomly chosen no-hopers, wannabes, and publicity hounds. No wonder Chuckles is fondling his facial hair in glee at the prospect. (And Murphy the Trickster God forbid that Biden, Buttigieg, O’Rourke and Sanders all draw the Wednesday spot.) Were I in charge, no candidate who couldn’t poll at least 2% would be permitted in the auditorium, much less on the stage.

Of course, this rigamarole was put into place mostly to placate one noisy group of (theoretically) Democratic voters, so of course they are pleased with the due attention paid to their complaints. Suuuure they are:

I know going from “angry young rebel” to “aging old crank” is common enough to be a trope, but there are few examples as stark as that of Matt Taibbi. Unless you include Taibbi’s inspiration here, but as far as I can tell, that dude was an aging old crank by the time he was old enough to decamp from Brooklyn to Chicago (before fleeing to Vermont).

Russiagate Open Thread: Speaking of Reagan Administration Malfeasance, Here’s A Fawn Hall for the New Generation

If you want a ‘responsible’ newspaper to gin up false sympathy for a treason-adjacent GOP minion, the NYTimes is your outlet. And if you want a reporter who’ll do a dishonest job with real dedication, Maggie Habermann is your willing gull:

Like few others in the White House, Ms. Hicks was witness to some of the president’s angriest moments and most pointed directives about the investigations into the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russians in 2016. Her dilemma now is how to respond to House Democrats, who have grown frustrated and increasingly aggressive in the face of a sweeping decision by the Trump administration, and the Trump Organization, to oppose such subpoenas.

Ms. Hicks was instructed by the House Judiciary Committee to turn over documents by June 4 and to appear in person on June 19. She and another former West Wing aide, Annie Donaldson, who was the chief of staff to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel at the time, were subpoenaed to testify…

A White House spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment about whether they will instruct Ms. Hicks to follow Mr. McGahn’s lead, or what legal grounds they might invoke to do so. But for Ms. Hicks, the options are fraught.

Witnesses have generally followed the White House lead, in part because of institutional concerns about areas that could be viewed as covered by executive privilege. But if Ms. Hicks does not cooperate, she would potentially be in legal jeopardy with the House.

The likeliest possibility would be a compromise, where she would submit to an interview as long as certain topics are off limits. More recently, Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee to come in for a limited interview, after he balked at a subpoena…

Always there with a helpful suggestion, our Ms. Haberman!

(Side note: The Washington Post — which is interested in the business of politics, not the politics of our oligarchical ‘betters’ — chose to focus on note-taker Annie Donaldson, not ego-fluffer Hope Hicks. And they got there almost a month ago, because honest reporting takes less time than beat-sweetening.)

Fisking by Emptywheel, who’s an expert at this:

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“Shocking” News: Elizabeth Warren Is Extremely Competent!

Annie Linskey has been paid to hate-stalk her since Elizabeth Warren first challenged Scott Brown; she’s got a real shot at being this election cycle’s Amy Chozick. Read anything she produces with that bias firmly in mind.

Stripped of its some people say innuendo, the ‘news’ is that Elizabeth Warren was a very good bankruptcy-law expert, and firms who could afford the best were willing to compensate her accordingly. I guess Trump’s go-to racial slur is no longer working so effectively, so his Media Village defenders are switching to the ‘This woman accepted money from rich people!!!’ kabuki-outrage that worked so effectively against HRClinton. The ‘raises questions’ crap about whether taking money from asbestos manufacturers or Dow Chemical to get the best possible compensation for their victims was extensively pundit-litigated during Warren’s first Senatorial campaign, and it didn’t work then, but no doubt Linskey and her cronies will do their best to make it the new ButHerEmails:

Warren’s presidential campaign released a list of 56 cases on her website on Wednesday night, revealing a far higher number of cases than Warren (D-Mass.) had previously disclosed and lending detail to an aspect of her career that she rarely discusses in public…

“Elizabeth was one of the nation’s top experts on how to make sure victims hurt by bankrupt companies eventually got paid,” Warren’s website said Wednesday night. “Throughout her career, she worked to help set up trusts and other mechanisms to return $27 billion to victims and their families.”

A nationally recognized expert in bankruptcy law, Warren consulted for more than a dozen committees representing claimants and creditors in these cases, often in partnership with the law firm Caplin & Drysdale, for an hourly rate of $675…

Details about Warren’s compensation were scant in court records. Documents reviewed by The Post showed that Warren made at least $462,321.75 from her work in 13 cases, although the total for those cases might be much higher. Warren has released only her last 10 years of tax returns, and much of her legal consulting work is not reflected in those documents.

The Post found that Warren took on outside legal work in as early as 1991, when she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The work appears to have picked up in 1995, when she joined the faculty at Harvard Law School, and intensified through the early 2000s as she worked on a series of mass tort bankruptcies.

Warren’s roles in these cases varied. At times, she served as an expert witness or filed briefs; at other times, she advised fellow attorneys or represented clients directly. She worked in more than 20 different courts, including the Supreme Court, where she worked on at least eight cases…

Note the new standard, per my emphasis: “only” the last ten years’ tax returns. Sometimes I wish hypocrisy at this level was physically painful.