Donald Trump

Go high or go low? Democrats face a rhetorical crossroads

At the end of the day, it's the votes that really count:

In 2016, Michelle Obama’s words became the Democrats’ defining creed to counter Donald J. Trump’s battering ram of a presidential campaign: “When they go low, we go high.” Two years later, the appeal of “high” seems low. As much as any policy tensions or messaging debate within the party, this question of tone — of how to combat Mr. Trump effectively without slipping into a pale imitation — is perhaps the central divide of this Democratic moment (and the next one, with the 2020 campaign looming).

How will Democrats choose to revise Mrs. Obama’s sentence, with Mr. Trump heaving insults from the White House and the rally stage — his pre-midterm bully pulpit? “When they go low, we kick them,” Eric H. Holder Jr., the former Obama administration attorney general and a possible 2020 candidate, said this week.

I think the first thing we need to remember before making any decisions on our "tone" is that it doesn't need to be an "either/or" situation. Maintaining a high level of anger and outrage is not only exhausting, it threatens to dull the senses, allowing truly outrageous things to occur with little opposition. There are values associated with each incident or issue, and how we assess those values sends a message about our own judgment and moral character. The second thing we need to remember is that things happen even when we don't "fail.":

Don McGahn's crusade to entrench Republican power

Running interference for Brett Kavanaugh is only part of a broader strategy:

An exasperated President Trump picked up the phone to call the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, last Sunday. Tell the F.B.I. they can investigate anything, he told Mr. McGahn, because we need the critics to stop. Not so fast, Mr. McGahn said.

Mr. McGahn, according to people familiar with the conversation, told the president that even though the White House was facing a storm of condemnation for limiting the F.B.I. background check into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding — and Mr. Trump was suggesting — would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Not to take away from Trump's disgusting and contemptible behavior during this fiasco, but this particular issue reveals the machinations behind the GOP's supposed "kow-towing" to the President. That is a façade, a way for them to get unethical things done while appearing to keep their hands clean. For almost two decades, Republican leaders have been pushing a mostly clandestine effort to entrench their power via corporate money and voter suppression, and Mitch McConnell's fingerprints are all over that:

Trump's attack dog Mark Meadows gunning for Rosenstein

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The very definition of a traitor:

House Republicans plan to privately question the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, about discussions last year where he suggested secretly taping President Trump to expose a chaotic White House and removing him from office under the 25th Amendment.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump’s, said that if Mr. Rosenstein does not comply with their latest request, he will be subpoenaed to appear before lawmakers.

It's important to understand the gravity of what Meadows and others are attempting to do. They're not just defending Trump against an adversary (Mueller), they are putting our national security at risk by trying to undermine an investigation into a foreign (super)power's efforts to manipulate not only our elections, but also our foreign policy. We have been compromised, repeatedly, and because of Trump's many (many) intellectual shortfalls, and Congress' inability and/or unwillingness to balance that, the only defense we have against these attacks is the Mueller probe. We need to stop calling Meadows' little cabal the "Freedom Caucus," and start calling them what they are, the "Happy To Be Ruled By Russia Caucus":

Trump's tariffs will make Florence rebuilding up to 30% more costly

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Steering the ship of state right onto the reefs:

Homebuilders and contractors say the administration’s trade policy will add to the price increases that usually follow natural disasters. In addition to materials like lumber, steel and aluminum, the United States will impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports next week, including countertops, furniture and gypsum, a key ingredient in drywall. All told, some builders estimate that construction costs could be 20 to 30 percent higher than they would have been without these tariffs.

“We’re all going to pay the price for it in terms of higher construction costs,” said Alan Banks, president of the North Carolina Home Builders Association.

Of course Trump doesn't understand this, and neither do many of his supporters. Our town is going through a growth spurt, and I've had several NIMBY citizens ask me why we are in "such a rush" to approve new housing projects. When I tell them about the cost of building going up because of these tariffs, which will (probably) slow things down quite a bit in the near future, I usually get blank stares. One obviously Trump-supporting dude tried to make lemonade out of it by saying, "Good! My home will increase in value." When I asked him if he was thinking about selling, he said, "No! I love my house!" When I broke the news the only thing he would get out of the deal was higher property taxes, he wandered off with a vacant look on his face. Bless his little MAGA heart. And the tariff punishments just keep on coming:

Rockingham county sheriff's border wall funding scam

With Hurricane Flo, you might have missed this recent news story, which you can file under "There's a Sucker Born Every Minute".

Rockingham Sheriff Sam Page is promoting a scheme to - get this - raise money for Trump's border wall through a crowdfunding page.

Page recently returned for a trip to the nation’s capital for a meeting with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and 43 sheriffs from 35 states.

Trump whines about NC Gerrymandering ruling during Charlotte visit

He can't understand it of course, but it seems wrong for some reason:

President Trump suggested Friday that there is “something wrong” with a recent decision by a three-judge federal panel in North Carolina that ruled the state’s congressional map was an illegal partisan gerrymander.

“I think it’s unfair with this whole redistricting thing they’re doing in North Carolina,” Mr. Trump told supporters in a Charlotte ballroom. “It’s very unfair you have an election in a little more than 60 days, and they change the district on you? And you’ve gone through primaries.” North Carolina’s population is closely divided between the parties, but the map drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature produced a 10-to-3 Republican advantage among its U.S. House seats. The court raised the possibility that the state’s 13 districts could be redrawn for the midterm elections. “There has to be something wrong on this,” he added. “I know you guys are working on it.”

Okay, first of all, only one of those "guys" is actually in Congress, the other is a bible-thumping wannabe. But even the guy in Congress really has no standing, because redistricting is done by the state, not the federal government. You know what, I'm just going to stop right there, because arguing with Trump is about as pointless as predicting which way the squirrel will dash when he senses a car approaching. Even when he's almost all the way across the road, that doesn't mean he won't change his mind and run right under your wheel.

Why it's pointless to try to reason with a Trump supporter

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They no longer live in the real world:

What about the criminal troubles of Trump’s former associates, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen? “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” Duffy said. “I voted for him and I will continue to vote for him.”

What about Trump’s oft-documented failure to tell the truth? “He’s been asked questions that he’s been less than forthcoming about, but he’s not the first politician to do that sort of thing. I suspect his competition in the last election has been as untruthful, if not more so. So that’s not going to change my opinion.”

I get why a lot of Trump supporters are still with him, because (pardon me for saying so) they simply don't have the mental capacity to walk to their mailbox without seriously injuring themselves. But this dude got his JD from UNC School of Law, and apparently passed the Bar exam after that. There is simply no easily identified reason for his near child-like devotion to such an irredeemable person:

Populism in opposition to Fascism may be the same (dangerous) road

It may not quench your revolutionary thirst, but Madeleine Albright makes some valid points:

Aside from North Korea, I do not accuse any current government of being fascist. I do, however, see disturbing parallels between contemporary trends and the conditions that gave rise to Mussolini, then Hitler. These include economic disparities, a declining faith in mainstream political parties, the corrosion of public discourse, the defamation of minority groups and a concerted effort by repressive leaders to undermine free expression, pervert logic and distort truth.

A point I've tried to make several times, especially since the rise of Trumpism, goes sort of like this: "If your opposition to an individual or group results in you emulating their tactics, you should take a step back and view it more critically." Some have automatically accused me of weakness, or waffling, or not really caring, which I find especially distasteful. The thing is, we (as Democrats) are not just fighting various battles against regressive policies, we are also trying to define our character as a party. And two of the major traits of that character should be compassion and intelligence, both of which are virtually non-existent in the Republican Party. Here's more, which will likely please and infuriate:

Richard Burr sticks head in the sand over Trump crime ring

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And the irresponsibility reaches an astounding level:

Though some GOP senators expressed discomfort with the the plea deal reached by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the guilty verdict rendered on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, there has been no seismic shift in the GOP after a bombshell Tuesday. Some Republicans attacked Cohen as not credible, some said Manafort’s conviction has nothing to do with Trump and others still said the matter doesn’t fall in their purview as senators.

“I’m not sure why that would change my support for the president,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) of the past day’s events. “He was elected by the American people. Short of impeachment or death, he’s the president.”

Hoo boy, talk about being oblivious to irony. Impeachment would require a 2/3 vote from the U.S. Senate, and one of those Senators just admitted that Trump directing his attorney to violate campaign laws did not even diminish his support of the President one iota. Here's a translation of Burr-Speak: "Until he's impeached, I support him. But I support him, so he won't be impeached." Doesn't get much more Orwellian than that, folks.

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Pollution "watchdog" was lawyer for polluters

This is starting to read like a really bad dystopian future novel:

As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants. Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients — this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official.

On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes.

If Trump was merely "incompetent," his staffing decisions would be bad enough. But we've gone far beyond a lesser (or least) qualified appointee, and into the realm of a "fox in the hen house." And for those who saw a glimmer of hope in the possible rift between Trump and the Koch Brothers, put those hopes back in your pocket:

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