Now Be Thankful

Warning! Flaming Hot Take Ahead: Thanksgiving is the least musical holiday. Apart from one very long “song” that I don’t think anyone under the age of 40 is aware of, when you think of Thanksgiving, no music springs to mind. Can you think of a song that even mentions Thanksgiving? If you say The Cranberries are a Thanksgiving band I will come to your house and make you pay for what you done said.

In order to satisfy my own curiosity I had to see if The Cranberries were a “the” band or just Cranberries. Some bands will try to pull that on you. I’m glad I did because otherwise I’d never know Google’s opinion on the matter. Burt Reynolds, huh?

And as long as we’re being bold, let me say that since I predicted a 40-seat net gain in Congress and came pretty close, I am back in the prognostication game: It’s going to be Beto.


The Trump Doctrine and the US’s Abdication of the Pursuit of Justice for the Extra-Judicial Execution of Jamal Kashoggi

Yesterday the President issued a factually inaccurate, morally bankrupt screed dressed up as his official statement, and therefore the official position of the United State’s, regarding the extra-judicial execution of Jamal Kashoggi.  The President’s statement referenced the nowhere near finalized Saudi offer to buy US weapons to outfit the Saudi military. An offer that if it were ever actually finalized, is actually a horrible deal for the US. Jared Kushner, negotiating on behalf of the President, negotiated a huge discount on the arms sale that favors the Saudis and agreed to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s demand that 50% of the weapons would be manufactured in Saudi Arabia. The manufacturing portion of the agreement is not going to either protect or create manufacturing jobs in the US.

Yesterday, during his impromptu press gaggle as he was departing the White House to once again go on vacation to Mar a Lago, the President referenced not only the arms sales that haven’t been finalized, but also oil prices.

This morning he once again referenced the price of oil, Saudi oil production, and why it is good for the US.

Like so many of his statements regarding Saudi Arabia, US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the facts surrounding the extra-judicial execution of permanent legal US resident Jamal Kashoggi by agents of not just the Saudi government, but of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the President’s statements yesterday and his tweet this morning about Saudi Arabia and the price of oil are also factually inaccurate. It also demonstrates the steady state of his ignorance; he clearly has no idea how the global petroleum market works or what Saudi Arabia is actually doing in regard to petroleum production. It also shows his willingness to disregard the best analysis of the US intelligence community, as well as his contempt for it.

What we’re seeing with the President’s official response, which is now the US’s official response, to the extra-judicial execution of Jamal Kashoggi is the Trump Doctrine in action. As a refresher, the Trump Doctrine, first delineated by me in April 2016, is:

America’s allies are taking advantage of our treaty and other obligations in the national security space; America’s allies and peer competitors are ripping the US off through our trade agreements; the US should go it alone if it can’t renegotiate better deals; and only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly – or else. That only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly, whether in national security arrangements or global trade, was simply an extension of one of the major, if not the major theme of his campaign: Donald Trump would be treated fairly or else and only Donald Trump could guarantee that Americans, especially the forgotten men and women as he phrased it, would be treated fairly or else.

That the US will be treated fairly or else, and that only a President Trump could guarantee that happening became the central, unifying theme of his national security and foreign policy approach was actually a stroke of strategic communication genius. A significant amount of the President’s initial strategic communication approach was through tying his primary opponents, the Republican National Committee, and the broadcast and cable news networks in knots about treating him fairly. This included trying to get Megyn Kelly removed from debate moderation after he felt she treated him badly, as well as actually dropping out of a GOP primary debate on Fox News and holding a competing charity event for veterans because he did not like that Fox wouldn’t comply with his demands. And if they failed to do so he’d deal with them harshly. Then candidate Trump threatened his fellow primary opponents and the RNC by making it clear that if he didn’t feel he was being treated fairly by them, then the “or else” would be his running as an independent candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote for president, and handing the election to the then presumed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

By making this the dominant theme of his national security and foreign policy approach, he was able to make a singular through line for his campaign – “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the forgotten men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”. Here was the simple through line to connect Make America Great Again both domestically and internationally by placing America first. It is also the essence of the real Trump Doctrine: President Trump and by extension the forgotten men and women of America, as well as America itself, will be treated fairly or else.

The Trump Doctrine, and the President’s application of it, is actually making the world less safe for everyone, including Americans. As I wrote back in October 2018:

As long as the President places being treated fairly, and specifically his subjective understanding of being personally treated fairly, as the central consideration of US policy, we will see more of this type of behavior from the authoritarians, autocrats, despots, tyrants, neo-nationalists, and neo-fascists that the President finds so admirable. During his 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, he all but gave Putin a green light, and anyone else who was paying attention and might have similar interests, to keep assassinating people – from political rivals to opposition figures to journalists to defectors from Russia’s intelligence services – as long as they’re not American citizens and the wet work doesn’t take place in the US.

While there is an old political science/international relations axiom that state’s don’t have friends, they have interests, the Trump Doctrine has turned the US into a transactional state. A transactional state being run by the head of an ongoing white collar criminal and organized criminal enterprise. It is no surprise that authoritarians and aspiring authoritarians like Muhammad bin Salman are developing strategies that leverage the treat the President fairly part of the Trump Doctrine to get away with whatever they want in order to avoid the “or else” response.

The Trump Doctrine is the gift that keeps on giving to the President, his family, his businesses, his family members’ businesses, and the autocrats, authoritarians, tyrants, despots, and dictators that have figured out that it is in their best interests to treat the President fairly rather than receive an “or else”. Jamal Kashoggi was just the most prominent casualty of the Trump Doctrine to date even if he wasn’t the first. And he most certainly won’t be the last. But as long as the President feels like he’s being treated fairly, what is the US to do? If I was Fethullah Gulen or anyone connected to him residing in the US, I’d be looking into seeking asylum in Canada as soon as possible.

We are off the looking glass and through the map!

Open thread.

Roy Clark 1933-2018

Hi, everybody! Jewish Steel here. How’ve you been?

By a strange coincidence I was just watching this the other day. I was expecting some virtuoso hillbilly guitar. What I was not expecting was Steve Martinesque anti-comedy. Where there aren’t jokes necessarily, but the humor is in the stupidity, surprising turns, and flashes of insight contained in the material itself. I was kind of shocked at the sophistication of it all.


A Few Thoughts About What Comes Next Despite the Election Results

Despite the results of the mid-term election, we need to think about a few important things. Specifically what happens next. The Democrats had a very good night, regardless of the hot takes. They had the largest mid-term electoral swing since 2008, bigger than the Tea Party wave in 2010. The Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives. As of right now given that Georgia is still out, the Democrats have retaken 7 governors’ mansions, flipped 7 state legislative chambers, and flipped 333 state legislative seats. The Democrats have also wiped out all the local Republican control in both Dallas and Houston. There are also a lot of other local successes, such as the redistricting referendum in Michigan, referendums on automatic voter registration in a number of states, and the reenfranchisement amendment in Florida. While the Democrats weren’t able to thread the needle and retake the Senate, last night, overall was a good night and the few outstanding high profile races that we’re watching are close enough that there may still be further positive gains.

Unfortunately, we need to be prepared for backlash. The reason for this is simple: the President and his supporters – the base of the Republican Party – are both sore losers and sore winners. I’m not even sure it is possible to work out whether they’re sorer losers or sorer winners. The good news is that because the Republicans lost the House, at least 7 governors’ mansions, 7 state legislatures, and 333 state legislative states overall, we’ve got some breathing room. It is now much, much, much harder for the President and the Republican Party he has fully remade in his image to accelerate what they have been doing over the past two years. Additional tax cuts, another attempt to repeal the ACA, and an effort to get rid of Social Security and Medicare are now all off the table. The chances that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigations will be interfered with, let alone shut down, have significantly decreased. And while the anti-immigrant, anti-ethnic minority, anti-religious minority, and anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the executive branch will continue, there is both a legislative branch check on them through House oversight, as well as a check in the states where Democrats have taken the governors’ mansions. And those Democratic governors, state legislatures, and the overall increase in Democratic state legislatures will be an important check on attempts to further gerrymander state and Federal legislative districts. Finally, the attempt to fully transform Congress into a subordinate arm of the executive branch has failed, though the GOP majority controlled Senate will still slavishly go along with what ever the President wants.

Because the President and his supporters are both sore losers and sore winners, they were guaranteed to act out whatever happened with the 2018 mid-term election. And, unfortunately, I expect that some of that acting out will be violent. And this is really what we need to be thinking about despite these very good electoral outcomes. Specifically those of us who are white and straight need to be thinking about what we’re going to do to protect those who are not. Especially those who are visible ethnic minorities (people of color), visible religious minorities (because of religiously required apparel), and visibly identifiable LGBTQ people. Some of this protection will now come at the state level because of the 7 new Democratic governors, 7 new majority Democratic state legislatures, and the Democratic increases in other state legislatures that allow them to block harmful legislation. However, a lot of what will need to be done to protect visible ethnic minorities, visible religious minorities, visibly identifiable LGBTQ people are not going to need to be done in relation to Federal or state legislation or regulation. Rather, it is going to be directed by our fellow citizens, individually and in groups, at visible ethnic minorities, visible religious minorities, visibly identifiable LGBTQ people. As a result, those of us who are white and straight need to begin thinking about what we’re able to do, what we’re willing to do, and under what circumstances we’re willing to do it in regard to protecting our ethnic minority, religious minority, and LGBTQ neighbors.

I hate to have to think this, let alone write it, but we have reached a point in the US where regardless of who wins or loses any given election, we need to be aware that significant numbers of our fellow Americans – citizens, legal residents, and even undocumented – are at significant risk. And the threat is coming from inside the house, from other Americans! It is far better to think about how much risk we are willing to assume in the protection of our fellow Americans who are at risk now, rather than having to just react without reflection in the moment. Are you comfortable and willing to use your smart phone to videotape an unfortunate interaction to make sure there is a clear record? Are you comfortable and willing to say something to an aggressive and abusive person? Are you comfortable and willing to put yourself bettwen an aggressive and abusive person and their victim?

The President’s off the cuff, free wheeling, and frankly bizarre press conference today demonstrates the danger that America in general, and the most vulnerable Americans in specific, still faces.

As Norm Ornstein and Jim Manley remarked shortly after the press conference:

Stay alert! Stay focused! Stay alive!

Open thread.

* I had originally starting drafting this post last night. I stopped and decided to hold off finishing it and publishing it till today, if I finished and published it at all. Given the President’s press conference, as well as the termination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, I decided it needed to be finished and published.

Way To Go Colorado!!

And we flipped a solidly red house seat:

No matter what happens, this is good. (Sorry to step on DougJ – oh, and looks like Adam, too, just so excited about Polis & Crow)