The Latest Dignity Wraith

Josh Marshall coined the phrase “dignity wraith” to describe establishment conservatives who exchanged whatever meager principles, decency, independence, credibility, etc., they possessed to align with Trump. The theory is these folks believe they’ll be able to advance their personal agenda by signing on with the vulgar conman, whom they flatter themselves they can easily control. But they soon find it’s all a dominance game with Trump. Chris Christie was an early victim.

Trump is a fool and a knave, but he understands primate dominance hierarchies at least as well as an average orangutan, so he follows the instinct to humiliate any presumptuous silverback who strategically submits to his will. Michelle Goldberg in the NYT identifies the latest victim:

Say this for Donald Trump. He may be transforming American politics into a kleptocratic fascist reality show and turning our once-great country into a global laughingstock, but at least he’s humiliating John Bolton in the process…

It’s nightmarish to live in a country where our foreign policy has been reduced to an intramural battle between Fox News reactionaries. And there’s still a danger that Bolton could outmaneuver the isolationists. But right now there is a thin, bitter consolation in knowing that he, like so many others who’ve worked for Trump, sacrificed his principles for power and will likely end up with neither.

Goldberg points out that under Trump, Bolton has thus far been thwarted in pursuing every single war he enthusiastically monged for two decades. After calling for preemptive strikes on North Korea just last year, Bolton was dispatched to Mongolia this weekend while bland-faced Javanka met with Kim Jong Un and Tucker Carlson provided justification for American rapprochement. That had to sting a bit.

I’m too old and cynical to hope that Trump will manage to transform the entire Reagan-Bush neocon-reactionary Axis of Hubris into a heap of desiccated husks that will trouble us no more. As that crew demonstrated by reclaiming their sinecures after lying us into a ruinous, deadly and pointless war, a combination of personal shamelessness and media credulity is remarkably restorative.

Moreover, it looks like some potential dignity wraiths escape their just fate, managing to tick off items on their agenda and then ducking out before being fully slimed by Trump. (I’m thinking of Don McGahn and Nikki Haley here.) The jury is still out on their fates, IMO, and much depends on how disastrously this catastrophic presidency ends.

But I’ll take my “thin, bitter consolation” where I can these days. Open thread.

Bargain Basement Borgias

A two year old quote from an anonymous Indian diplomat is making the rounds again for obvious reasons:

An unnamed Indian diplomat told Bobby Ghosh, the editor-in-chief of the Hindustan Times: “We regard Ivanka Trump the way we do half-wit Saudi princes. It’s in our national interest to flatter them.”

He later added: “Yes, it is a shame that the US should be compared to a kingdom. But that is America’s shame, not Modi’s, or India’s.”

The event that occasioned that remark was Princess Complicity’s participation in a the Hamburg G-20. This weekend’s embarrassing antics in Japan and the Korean peninsula are all of a piece.

Of course, we’ve only seen or heard snippets of world leaders’ reactions to having a father-funded knock-off bag-and-shoe peddler and her failed real estate scion husband thrust so pointlessly on the world stage. How much don’t we know?

It’s safe to assume the people at these events who know what they’re doing are running circles around the Trumps. Whatever the Trumps collect in the way of ego inflation and photo-ops is more than paid for in costs to this country’s foreign policy and trade objectives. Not to mention the reputational hit we’ll bear for generations for allowing the Bargain Basement Borgias to seize power in the first place.

Does it follow that the Democratic Party’s nominee needs to have strong foreign policy experience? Arguably, yes. On the other hand, literally anyone — you, me, either of my dogs, etc. — could walk into the Oval Office on day one and appoint educated, experienced and motivated people to represent America and start cleaning up the mess, and that would be huge.

Anyhoo. Open thread.

Open Thread: Crown Princess Dunning-Kruger

From the smirk on her face, absolutely. Eighteen months watching Daddy Dearest in the Oval Office, and she’s convinced she can finish off the important bits of the job — yelling at aides about their inadequate PowerPoint presentations, putting the arm on foreign dignitaries and potential celebrity donors — in an hour or two a day. So if she mindfully curates her twitter feed, she’ll be able to accomplish her “real” work (rigorous self-care, supervising the kids’ and Jared’s nannies) and still have plenty of time for celebrity tuft-hunting!

The Washington Post, “‘Surreal’: Ivanka Trump plays a prominent role in her father’s historic Korea trip”:

The first daughter’s prominence in Japan and South Korea appeared to be by design — a sign of her influence with President Trump and the current absence of influential opponents within the administration.

It’s not clear, however, to what end.

Ivanka Trump shuttered her clothing business after joining the administration, although not right away, and has largely stepped away from her old life as an entrepreneur and social mainstay in New York. She and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, let it be known last year that they would remain in Washington and in the White House indefinitely.

Her ambitions are unknown — she demurs on any desire for public office…

Mostly, her prominence on a major foreign trip sends a message about who other countries should listen to or court, said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and other nations.

“It looks to the rest of the world like we have a kind of a constitutional monarchy,” said Hill, who oversaw nuclear talks with North Korea at the close of the George W. Bush administration.

“It’s increasingly problematic in terms of our credibility,” Hill said. “It says to our allies, to everyone we do business with, that the only people who matter are Trump and his family members.”…
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“Two nuclear-armed narcissists with tragic hairdos walk into a Stalinist hellhole…”

AP Photo: Susan Walsh

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Historic! Historic, I tell you! That’s the mainstream media hot take on Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un and the 20-pace corpulent shuffle across the border and back (no golf cart!). A few tidbits from the coverage:

“Lots of good things are happening with North Korea,” [Trump] told South Korean business leaders, repeating his belief that the US “would have been at war with North Korea” if someone else had been elected to the White House.

The latter is a bald-faced lie. That a ruthless despot had nuclear weapons and was testing missiles was worrisome of course; doubly so with a thin-skinned despot-wannabe in control of America’s nukes.

But was anyone certain the US was going to war with North Korea before our unhinged leader Trump began taunting their unhinged leader Kim on Twitter? Once again the arsonist wants credit for dousing the fire.

There’s more:

Trump said at Seoul news conference that Obama was “begging” for a meeting with Kim Jong Un…

An emphatic NOPE on that from PBO’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes:

Trump is lying. I was there for all 8 years. Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un. Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality.

Per CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump attacked the REAL enemy several times during the coverage:

Still grumbling about the media, Trump says press “would have hit me hard” had Kim Jong Un not shown up for the DMZ meeting.

True, just as restaurant reviewers would hit a pizza joint hard if its free pizza promotion failed to attract a customer. Why on earth wouldn’t Kim show up to collect his unearned imprimatur of legitimacy from the orange clown? Kim may be evil, but, unlike Trump, he’s not stupid.

Acosta again:

No breakthrough after DMZ meeting with Kim Jong Un. Trump says both sides will designate teams to keep the negotiations going over the next few weeks “to see whether they can do something.”

In other words, it was a photo-op. And you know what? Maybe that’s okay.

People who know a lot more about foreign policy than I do say it’s a mistake to give Kim the legitimacy he craves without extracting a major concession. Maybe they’re right, but it’s possible they’re wrong. We make peace with enemies, not friends, and sometimes that requires extending a hand without preconditions to get things started.

But I wish the non-wingnut media would wait until Trump actually accomplishes something before blowing up my phone with hosannas about the historical shitgibbon. Oh, and this from NPR’s David Folkenflik:

The American contingent in NK appearance included Trump’s daughter and son-in-law advisors and his Fox foreign policy adviser, Tucker Carlson, per multiple reporters.

Reminds me of that time President Obama brought Sasha, Malia and Bill Ayers along for the Autocrats Roadshow. Except that never happened, and if it had, the media explosion would have rendered the prospect of nuclear annihilation redundant.

Both Sides Open Thread

The New York Times has some graphics that should kill the “both sides” narrative, but they won’t.

[The] findings are based on data from the Manifesto Project, which reviews and categorizes each line in party manifestos, the documents that lay out a group’s goals and policy ideas. We used the topics that the platforms emphasize, like market regulation and multiculturalism, to put them on a common scale.

The resulting scores capture how the groups represent themselves, not necessarily their actual policies. They are one way to answer a difficult question: If we could put every political party on the same continuum from left to right, where would the American parties fall?

The Democratic Party is leftish, the Republican Party, extreme.

An explanation is easy to see in two parts. Part the first: Tea Party primarying forces moderate candidates to the right or out of the race. Part the second: Reasonable people leave the Republican Party.

It’s also an argument against courting the flyover diner crowd, but none of that will change the media.