Flop Sweat (Open Thread)

They should have given it a different name. Who the fuck would watch an interview called “President Trump: 30 Hours”? Just reading those words makes me want to reverse-engineer a shop-vac so I can shotgun a quart of bourbon. [Oliver Willis at ShareBlue]

Americans would rather watch ‘Family Feud’ than Trump’s unhinged interview

ABC’s primetime special featuring Trump was a ratings flop.

“President Donald Trump’s much-teased interview with ABC was not the ratings bonanza the numbers-obsessed president likely would have wanted,” Politico noted on Monday.

The program, which featured ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos following Trump for 30 hours, came in third place during it’s time slot on Sunday night, behind the U.S. Open on Fox and “60 Minutes” on CBS…

Trump’s special attracted 3.91 million viewers, far below the 6 million viewers ABC attracted in the same time slot a week ago with “Celebrity Family Feud,” hosted by comedian Steve Harvey.

A friend once produced a local news show that got lower ratings on Christmas than the public access version of the Yule log (a program featuring a single camera on a log in a fireplace with Christmas music playing in the background). This is worse.

Maybe Trump could try the kitty cat filter. (H/T: valued commenter Trollhattan.)

Open thread!

Impeach the Motherfucker III

According to The Times, the U.S. is taking “more aggressive digital action” in Russia’s power grid “in a warning to Moscow and in a demonstration of its abilities,” explicitly to brush Putin back from further election interference. Yesterday afternoon, Ryan Goodman, professor and former special counsel to the DoD, highlighted this excerpt from The Times article (source):

So, Pentagon and intelligence officials are taking action independently because everyone’s afraid if they clue Trump in, he’ll blurt out details to a hostile foreign power’s officials or quash the effort altogether. My gratitude that at least someone is taking the threat of Russian interference seriously is tempered by the knowledge that, under normal circumstances, unelected officials shouldn’t freelance U.S. foreign policy. There’s a norm that will be difficult to reestablish.

Anyhoo, yesterday evening, Trump confirmed that efforts to counter Russian interference in U.S. elections either have to take place behind his back or not at all:

Recall former DHS Sec Kirstjen Nielsen’s failed attempt to put plans in place to deal with Russian interference in the upcoming election. One of the primary duties of the DHS secretary is to ensure election security. But in a bid to save her job, Nielsen focused on caging kids instead when she was told that bringing up Russian interference wounds Trump’s ego. [Mother Jones]

When former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen began to prepare a plan to address potential Russian interference in the 2020 election, she was told by President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to refrain from discussing the issue in front of the president, according to a report from the New York Times.

A senior Trump administration official recalled to the Times that Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level,” because Trump considers any discussion of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to be a challenge to the legitimacy of his presidency.

The DHS is the federal agency primarily responsible for election security, but despite Nielsen’s growing concerns about Russia’s continued involvement in the 2018 midterms, she abandoned her effort to organize a meeting with the White House in the hopes of creating a cohesive strategy for 2020 after pushback from Mulvaney. The issue therefore did not gain traction within the White House and has resulted in a lack of public awareness regarding the latest potential attempts of Russian election interference.

These are two instances we know about where Trump’s ego and unwillingness to address urgent threats compromised national security.* Mitch McConnell was complicit before and after the 2016 election, refusing to join a bipartisan effort to counter foreign interlopers prior to the last presidential election and refusing to bring a bipartisan election security bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote now.

We know what’s going on here. Trump always abandons his responsibilities as president when they conflict with his personal interests and is keen to avoid any suggestion that someone other than his magnificent self was responsible for his glorious victory. McConnell and the Republicans have known for some time that they can’t harness white grievance to secure power to enact plutocrat-friendly policies forever, which is why they started laying the groundwork for minority rule long before Trump came along, rigging elections and cheating in every conceivable way.

The House is the last line of defense. The situation demands an impeachment inquiry focused on Trump’s attempts to thwart an investigation of previous election interference and failure to protect the country from foreign interlopers going forward. Hearings would expose Republican complicity and, if House leadership follows Laurence Tribe’s recommendation, deny McConnell the opportunity to “exonerate” Trump via acquittal in the Senate — all while underscoring the corruption of the Republican Party.

I have a ton of respect for Nancy Pelosi, who knows a lot more about congressional procedures and political strategy than I can ever hope to learn. My hope is she’s being deliberate about impeachment because she has a strategy to not only expose Trump but also his corrupt enablers in Congress. I sincerely hope so, because lawlessness will continue until lawbreakers are held accountable, and past a certain point, it will be too late.

*Thanks, it must be said, to The Times. Their garbage Beltway reportage notwithstanding, the paper still breaks some incredibly important stories.

Social Democracy vs Democratic Socialism

So, I tried to watch Bernie Sanders’ big speech yesterday, which was entitled “How Democratic Socialism Is the Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism.”

The speech was touted (preposterously, IMO) by at least one pundit as akin to then-candidate Obama’s famously effective “race” speech in Philadelphia. Obama’s speech, if you’ll recall, allowed the candidate to put the Reverend Wright flap behind him. Sanders’ speech was allegedly delivered to quell the specter of “socialism” that hangs over Sanders’ campaign.

I think Republicans are defanging the negative connotations associated with the word “socialism” by slapping the label willy-nilly on everything that benefits a non-corporate person. But while there’s zero chance I’ll vote for Sanders in the primary, I was interested to hear what he had to say about democratic socialism because I figured he’d use the occasion to stake out a difference between himself and a candidate I am interested in voting for: Elizabeth Warren.

I’ll level with y’all: I got bored and wandered off early in the speech. But I did read the transcript, and you can too here, if you’re interested. I can’t really recommend it, though, because it was basically a recycled stump speech from the 2020 race, which is basically a recycled stump speech from the 2016 race.

Americans in general have a hazy understanding of what the word “socialism” means. I am no exception, but here’s my definition: The distinction between social democracy as practiced in, say, Sweden, and democratic socialism has to do with ownership of the means of production. Democratic socialists want the people to own the means of production — eventually, and by democratic consensus — whereas social democrats are mostly focused on regulating capitalism and ensuring its fruits are shared more equitably.

If that’s the correct definition, Sanders is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist, according to his speech yesterday, as was FDR, whose political heir Sanders says he aspires to be. Elizabeth Warren is also a social democrat by that definition, and so is every candidate who wants to transform the way wealth is distributed in the United States in a truly significant way.

Anyhoo, since Sanders failed to make a case for himself over Warren in a definitional sense, the job was left to his paid and unpaid media spokespeople, including one perched over at The Post, Elizabeth Bruenig, who had to resort to misrepresenting Warren’s views in a column entitled “So, what’s the difference between Warren and Sanders?” Bruenig accuses Warren of tinkering around the margins in the conclusion:

But for those who see our political moment as a crisis greater in breadth and content than a few unenforced or misbegotten laws, Sanders’s wide-ranging, historical approach may have greater appeal on its second try than its first.

Ms. Bruenig shouldn’t count on that. The real difference between the two is getting clearer by the day.

House Intelligence Committee Hearing on the Mueller Report and Counterintelligence

The House Intelligence Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications. I just noticed that C-Span was not airing it until a few minutes ago. And the cable news networks don’t appear to be broadcasting it either. I’m not sure if this is a result of the snooze fest that was Monday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller Report or because they were expecting to cover several hours of hearings by the House Oversight Committee culminating in a contempt vote for both Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross. That vote has been postponed until, at least, this afternoon. So for those interested, here’s the live feed of the ongoing House Intelligence Committee on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications.

Open thread!

Jon Stewart Is an Unsupervised Child Playing With a Loaded Gun

If you haven’t seen or heard about it yet, earlier today Jon Stewart, on behalf of ill 9-11 first responders, threw a temper tantrum in front of the cameras during a House subcommittee hearing. Specifically the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. This subcommittee, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, has fourteen members: 8 Democrats and 6 Republicans. And in today’s meeting Congressman Nadler, who is an ex-officio member as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was also sitting in. At the point that Stewart decided to pitch his fit during his opening remarks about there being an “empty Congress”, seven of the subcommittee members were in the room. Though you could only see six of them in the video because of how the cameras were angled. The subcommittee meets in the same chambers as the full House Judiciary Committee, so even if everyone was there, the dais at the front of the room where the members of the subcommittee sit would look somewhere around 2/3 empty as there are 41 members of the full Judiciary Committee.

If Stewart did not know or did not understand that this was the case, then he’s a moron. More likely, he knew, understood the optics, and used them to gin up outrage. Stewart knew, was counting on, and was not disappointed that 1) it won’t be initially reported that this was a 14 member subcommittee and 2) most Americans will neither know, nor understand that this is why, despite at least half the subcommittee members actually being in attendance at the time he was ranting, most of the seats on the dais are empty.

The House is going to pass the extension without an issue. With an actual large numbers of votes from members of both parties. The vote to move it out of the Judiciary Committee is actually scheduled for tomorrow and it will pass there, and then the full House in short order, with significant bipartisan support. But once it does, it has to go across the Capitol to the Senate. Stewart knows, and if he doesn’t, then he should, that the problem isn’t the House or its Democratic majority. Rather it’s the McConnell controlled, GOP majority Senate. Should Senator McConnell deign to allow this to move forward, given he’s bottled up everything else the House has passed, he’s likely to demand ransom to do so. Why? Because he watched how Stewart manipulated the news media today to hammer the Democrats running the House of Representatives for failing to take care of 9-11 first responders who are ill because of their service on 9-11. Senator McConnell also knows that if he does nothing, because there isn’t going to be an equivalent hearing in the Senate to produce equally negative publicity, that he and his GOP majority in the Senate will take no blame. And because he knows that if it fails, Stewart will simply rebroadcast today’s video, the news media will follow like lemmings, and he’ll have made this a problem for Democrats going into a presidential election year where his Republican senators are defending more seats than the Senate Democrats are in 2020. Senator McConnell already had too much leverage and Stewart’s tantrum today simply gave him more.

Steve Cohen, who chairs the subcommittee, should have stopped Stewart, cut his mic if necessary, and explained that 1) this is a subcommittee with only 14 members, 2) as is standard procedure, subcommittee members would be in and out throughout the hearing as they had to do business, including taking votes in other committees and subcommittees (the ranking member actually did this at one point), and 3) Stewart could demagogue or the subcommittee could do the important business that Stewart wants them to do, but they could not and would not do both.

I appreciate Stewart’s passion. I understand why he’s angry. From his perspective even five year reauthorizations are a potential hindrance and failure to do right by the ill 9-11 first responders. But what he did today didn’t actually do anything to advance the cause he’s fighting for. It did make it easier for Senator McConnell to claim another scalp. Stewart’s bothsiderism served him, those for whom he’s advocating, and the Republic poorly today.

Open thread!