Monday Morning Open Thread: Here We Go Again

This used to be one of the slowest weeks of the news year, when reporters and political cartoonists could go on vacation with little fear of missing a big story. I’d like to go back to those halcyon days, thank you!

Mangy Jay phrases it well:

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!

A Couple of Matters for Your Consideration

Nothing too earth shaking, I hope, but there’s a couple of things I’d like to share. The first is that the article adapted from my keynote address at the US Army’s Psychological Operations Regiment’s 100th anniversary regimental dinner is now published. If you are interested, you can find it at this link or on page 26 of the pdf below.


But wait, there’s more…

Thanks to one of our commenters, who I will let self identify, I have been honored with an invitation to give a keynote address at a digital media/digital news media conference in October 2019. I’ll also be giving the cocktail hour/party teaser talk on the first night and participating in a round table panel. The details on the conference are here. And it is my understanding that the organizers plan to stream this, and, if so, provided John doesn’t have a problem, I’ll put links up here so those so inclined can watch.

To build support for the conference, I’ve been asked to do a weekly column, entitled Thinking Security dealing with issues in the information domain  – information warfare, influence operations, etc – that are, or should be, major concerns for digital publishers, the digital news media, more traditional news media, and consumers of the news. The first column went up at the end of last week and the next one will be up next week. You can find that first column at this link.

Open thread!

Beating The War Drums

National Security Advisor John Bolton still thinks that the Iraq war was a good idea. He has never met a war he didn’t like or a treaty that he did. Now, as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, he has a great deal of power to make war against Iran. Bolton has given speeches for the MEK, a cultish organization that wants regime change in Iran.

Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran deal) a year ago, under the fiction that his great deal-making skills and “maximum pressure” would force Iran into a deal where they would change their government, stop supporting Hamas, end all nuclear work, and, probably, build a Trump Tower Tehran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has listed twelve points that Iran must meet to become a good world citizen in his eyes. Presumably, as in the case of North Korea, Iran must meet all those points before sanctions will be removed.

The JCPOA covers the possibility of Iran’s making nuclear weapons in full detail. Iran is complying with the agreement. But that’s not enough for a faction in the United States and Israel who opposed the JCPOA from the beginning and have continued to agitate for withdrawal from it. Read more

Greg Sargent: Trump Is Flailing

Greg Sargent does something I was thinking of doing – listing all the ways Trump is flailing. Trump has always been protected from his own incompetence and sadism by layers of lackeys – Javanka, Michael Cohen, and even when he first became President, his generals, Javanka (still), and a minimally competent but toadying cabinet. He thought that being President means having unlimited power.

He had done what he wanted – or thought he did – as the head of the Trump organization. He never cared to see the people who were steering away from the rocks he found so alluring or who actually did the work to make things happen.

It turns out that there are many things that a President can’t do. That’s why we have a Constitution. The Founding Parents were quite explicit about that. People like John Kelly and Jim Mattis reminded him of that, so they had to go.

Now we have Trump unbound. Kirstjen Nielsen was one of the last to tell him no, if some of the reports are to be believed.

The handlers also steered Trump away from the places where they would have to tell him no. Without them, he is getting more noes.

Here’s Sargent’s list:

  • “Total exoneration” and Attorney General William Barr’s attempt to keep the Mueller report away from the public
  • Throwing in with the suit against the ACA and promising a new Republican health plan
  • The immigration clusterf**k

Trump is clearly becoming desperate on immigration. His emotions are getting out of control. He seems to believe that there is some physical way – his wall, the brutality of what he would like to be his Gestapo – to stop immigration from the south. That is simply not going to happen for both logistical and humanitarian reasons.

Trump knows only bullying and brute force. It’s hard to predict what he will do next in his flailing. But it’s better to note it than to pretend it’s some n-dimensional strategy for his base.

Open thread.