Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

For just a moment, I'd like to back off the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office, is a serial liar, has been found guilty of rape/fraud, and faces 91 criminal counts in 4 different indictments. Instead, let's take a moment to think about what he and his enablers say he will DO if elected president again. 

Foreign policy

Trump will turn Ukraine over to Putin and is likely to pull the U.S. out of NATO. He's also said that he would encourage Russia to invade any NATO country that doesn't pay up. That is nothing short of an invitation to World War III.

Revenge

Trump has promised that a second term would be all about retribution.

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations... 
To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations.  

Immigration

At almost every campaign stop, Trump makes this promise: 

To understand what that means, let's take a look at what Ron Brownstein recently wrote.

Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration adviser, has publicly declared that they would pursue such an enormous effort partly by creating a private red-state army under the president’s command. Miller says a reelected Trump intends to requisition National Guard troops from sympathetic Republican-controlled states and then deploy them into Democratic-run states whose governors refuse to cooperate with their deportation drive.

Blue state governors are likely to object to such a move and would have constitutional grounds to do so. At that point, Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which would give him almost unlimited authority to use any military asset for his deportation program.

Who would be targeted? Stephen Miller, the white nationalist that Trump would likely put in charge of such an operation, told Charlie Kirk that at minimum, they're talking 10 million people. Included in that number are people who have overstayed their visas and, according to Miller, people who were let in on visas but "whose views, attitudes, and beliefs make them ineligible to stay in the country." That aligns with what Trump said last October (emphasis mine).

“I will implement strong ideological screening of all immigrants,” he said, reading from the teleprompter. “If you hate America, if you want to abolish Israel,” he continued, apparently ad-libbing, “if you don’t like our religion — which a lot of them don’t — if you sympathize with the jihadists, then we don’t want you in our country and you are not getting in. Right?”

Economy

To get some idea of what Trump's deportation operation would mean for our economy, let's take a look at what happened to Postville, Iowa in 2008 when one meatpacking plant was raided and about 400 undocumented immigrants were arrested. 

According to the Des Moines Register, not only were families torn apart, but a quarter of the town disappeared. Those left behind had to "pick up the pieces from an event that hit their town with the sledgehammer effect of a natural disaster." So just imagine that kind of thing happening in communities all over the U.S. - magnified exponentially.

Trump is also promising to escalate the U.S-China trade war he launched during his first term as president.

Trump’s trade war with China cost Americans an estimated $195 billion since 2018, according to the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. The economic battle also led to the loss of more than 245,000 U.S. jobs, according to the U.S.-China Business Council.

Finally, there will be more tax cuts, which ballooned the deficit during Trump's first term.

Climate change

Trump has promised to once again pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and roll back as many of Biden's accomplishments as possible.

Trump could slow down the progress of the clean energy transition as president by redrawing the rules for the IRA’s generous tax credits.

He would, his allies say, also scrap government considerations of the damage caused by carbon emissions; compel a diminished EPA to squash pollution rules for cars, trucks and power plants; and symbolically nullify the Paris climate agreement by not only withdrawing the US again but sending it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, knowing it would fail.

Abortion

While Trump hasn't stated a position on a national abortion ban, he made one thing perfectly clear.

Guns

Trump promised the NRA that if he is elected, "no one will lay a finger on your firearms."

Health care

Even as the rest of his party abandoned the idea, Trump continues his promise to repeal Obamacare.

So there you have it. Even when we ignore the fact that this man is unfit for office, tried to foment an insurrection, and could end up in jail for the crimes he is alleged to have committed, a second term would be a monumental disaster for this country - on every major issue.

Friday, February 16, 2024

The latest right wing conspiracy theory: Trump/Russia was a CIA hoax and Putin actually favored Clinton

There have been a lot of big news stories lately, but a major focus has been on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. 

  • CNN reported that a 10-inch binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.
  • Tucker Carlson interviewed Putin and is traveling around Russia telling us how everything is so much better there than it is here in the U.S.
  • Donald Trump said that he would encourage Russia to ‘do whatever the hell they want’ to any NATO country that doesn’t pay enough.
  • After the Senate passed the national security supplemental, including funding for Ukraine, Speaker Mike Johnson declared that it was "dead on arrival" in the House and sent representatives home for a couple of weeks.
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison - with the assumption being that Putin had the 47 year old murdered.
  • Putin said that Russia would prefer to see Biden win a second term, describing him as "more experienced and predictable."
If you believe that last one, then Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, and Alex Gutentag are in the midst of telling a tall tale that you will love. I'm not going to link to the articles they've published over the last three days because they're behind a paywall and I'm certainly not going to spend any money going after them. 

But these guys are basically saying that the entire Trump/Russia story was a hoax perpetrated by former Obama CIA Director John Brennan - who they accuse of doing two things:
  1. Kicking off the whole "Russia hoax" by asking our allies ("Five Eyes" intelligence services) to spy on 26 Trump associates in early 2016.
  2. Cooking the intelligence behind the January 2017 assessment of Russian activities to suggest that Putin aspired to help Trump when he really favored Hillary Clinton for the "continuity and stability" she would bring.
Here's Shellenberger on point #1:

And here he is on point #2: 

I'm not going to get into the weeds on all of the lies articulated in those two claims. But just to give you one example, in the second video Shellenberg says:

[The CIA] used the Steele memo, the infamous political document commissioned by the Hillary Clinton campaign, to cook the intelligence...for the early January 2017 intelligence community assessment claiming that the Russians favored Trump falsely. That relied on the Steele memo.

As a fact check on that one, let's actually go back and look at what Fox News reported in July 2020. There we learn that, in preparing the January 2017 report, it was Comey and the FBI who wanted the Steele dossier woven in, over objections from Brennan and the CIA. The compromise that they all agreed to was to avoid any use/reference to the dossier and simply attach it as an appendix. 

Shellenberger, Taibbi, and Gutentag didn't produce a single document to corroborate their claims. Instead, on several occasions they refer to their "multiple credible sources," but don't name them. They suggest that these sources are knowledgeable because of their involvement with the investigation done by the House Select Committee on Intelligence - the one that was initially chaired by Devin Nunes and staffed by Kash Patel

To assume that there is any credibility to these claims, all you have to do is take the word of people like that over the following:

The story these guys are trying to sell hasn't made it into the mainstream media. But it's not just showing up on Fox. It's also landed at places like The Federalist, the Washington Times, the Daily Wire, and RealClearPolitics. Apparently, Taibbi will be on Don Trump, Jr's. podcast tonight to talk about it. So of course, Jonathan Turley is also weighing in.

If this nonsense goes the way that other rightwing conspiracies have developed, it is very likely that we'll be hearing it from Republican politicians soon. So the question becomes, why now? I suspect it has something to do with all of those stories I listed at the beginning of this piece up above. So I'll be watching how it plays into all of the other lies Putin/Trump are trying to sell.

Friday, February 9, 2024

What Biden and Democrats learned from Obama

Last October, the Biden administration was in the process of preparing a supplemental funding request for aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Here's how Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson responded

What we've said is that if there is to be additional assistance to Ukraine, which most members of Congress believe is important, we have to also work in changing our own border policy.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed that demand, stating that "Legislation that doesn’t include policy changes to secure our borders will not pass the Senate."

In response, the Biden administration released a supplemental funding request that included measures to secure the border. But Republicans rejected that one because they didn't think it "adequately" addressed the border issue.

In response, a bipartisan group of Senators worked on a compromise. This week, they released their bill, which basically embraced a lot of what Republicans have wanted. But once again, Republicans played the role of Lucy pulling the football just as Charlie Brown tried to kick it. Speaker Johnson immediately called it "dead on arrival."

We could stop the story there and have a typical pundit-style conversation about how Democrats continue to be naive in thinking they can negotiate with Republicans - because this is what always happens.

But the truth is that the story is still unfolding. Yesterday this happened in the Senate:

The Senate voted Thursday afternoon to proceed with a stripped-down bill that would provide aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, one day after Republicans in the chamber rejected a bipartisan border security and foreign aid bill.

The vote of 67-32 means the Senate can begin consideration of the $95 billion package, although the next steps are uncertain and it’s not yet clear it will have the votes for final passage in the chamber.

You might notice that what is under consideration in the Senate is what Biden initially proposed BEFORE Republicans had their temper tantrum about the border. So in a sense, we've gone full circle back to where this all started.

Commentators are right to suggest that Republicans in general - and Speaker Johnson in particular - blew this one big time. They had leverage (funding for Ukraine and Israel) to get most of what they wanted on border security. But to be successful, they'd have to compromise a bit and risk Trump's ire for taking the issue off the table. So they got nothing.

This whole scenario reminded me that during the Obama administration, Jonathan Chait coined a term for the president's approach to negotiations: "conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy."

This apparent paradox is one reason Obama's political identity has eluded easy definition. On the one hand, you have a disciple of the radical community organizer Saul Alinsky turned ruthless Chicago politician. On the other hand, there is the conciliatory post-partisan idealist. The mistake here is in thinking of these two notions as opposing poles. In reality it's all the same thing. Obama's defining political trait is the belief that conciliatory rhetoric is a ruthless strategy.

Mark Schmitt captured it with this description of Obama's theory of change:

The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear: higher taxes, you won't be able to choose your doctor, liberals coddle terrorists, etc. One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.

I'm not suggesting that Biden and Democrats knew all along how this would play out. But they certainly drew Republicans into a conversation about how to solve the "border crisis." In doing so, they demonstrated that all the opposition has is fear-mongering - and they're not willing to give that up by actually solving the problem. 

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Republicans have used obstruction and lies to move the Overton Window rightward on immigration

It's been clear for a while now that, when it comes to the 2024 election, Republicans are determined to make immigration the one and only issue on the table. In doing so, many of their leaders are openly embracing the white nationalist's Great Replacement theory. Trump didn't just say that immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country, he also posted this:

Over the last few days, right wing billionaire Elon Musk has gone all-in on the Great Replacement theory.

Last May, Speaker Mike Johnson said this about the so-called border crisis: "The Biden administration has done this intentionally...For what reason? Everybody asks me all the time. I think that ultimately they hope to turn all these illegals into voters for their side."

The truth is that, spewing white nationalist conspiracy theories about immigrants has become an everyday occurrence for Republicans.

As Josh Marshall pointed out, a decade ago those are the kinds of things you'd have to go to a site like Stormfront to see. Now they're part of everyday political discourse on the right. It's worth taking a moment to think about how we got here.

In 2012, Latinos voted for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 71% to 27%. In response, the RNC performed an autopsy. Included in their report were statements like this:

We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only...

By the year 2050 we’ll be a majority-minority country and in both 2008 and 2012 President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups...The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic or community or region of this country.
That report was issued in mid-March 2013. By April, a bi-partisan group of Senators introduced comprehensive immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, along with unprecedented resources for border security. By the end of June, it had passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32. But then-Speaker John Boehner, surrendering to his lunatic caucus, refused to vote on it in the House. They wanted border enforcement, but no pathway to citizenship.

Two years after the Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president by claiming that immigrants are criminals and rapists. That launched a continuous series of lies, followed by horrific policies (ie, Muslim ban, family separation) once he was elected. The white nationalists in his administration even refused to support the DREAM Act for young people who came here as children.

What concerns me about this trajectory is that all of the obstruction and lies seem to have worked. Ten years ago the bipartisan bargain was to trade border security for a pathway to citizenship. But the current bipartisan Senate agreement doesn't even consider a pathway.

It gets even worse. Great Replacement theorists like Trump, Johnson, and Musk are now suggesting that offering a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is part of the Democratic plot to destroy (white) America. 

It is impossible to ignore the fact that Republicans have been successful in using obstruction and lies to move the Overton Window to the right when it comes to immigration.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

For Republicans, the issue isn't immigration - it's all about racism

According to a recent CBS News poll, 82% of registered Republicans agree with Donald Trump that "illegal" immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." Among Iowa Republican caucus-goers, immigration beat out the economy as their number one issue and three quarters of them said that immigrants are a negative for the country.

While the rest of us are focusing on the economy, democracy, and abortion, Republicans and their media propaganda machines are obsessed with fear-mongering about the so-called "border crisis." And from the results up above, it seems to be effectively stirring up the MAGA crowd.

So let's take the least onerous articulation of this fear and examine it. Are immigrants a negative for the country? By now we know that they're not taking our jobs, they don't commit more crimes, and they're not the ones bringing fentanyl into the country. The most ridiculous lie about immigrants is the one put forward by James Varney without a shred of evidence. He suggested that they are responsible for bringing back diseases like polio and the measles - completely ignoring the fact that the whole anti-vax movement might be responsible.

Of course, there's also the more nebulous arguments like the one from Elon Musk, who recently said: "it’s very easy for the United States to get swamped by illegal immigration, just absolutely swamped." I have no idea what he meant by that, but let's take a look at the numbers. During FY2023, roughly 2.1 million migrants crossed the southern border. In a country of 332 million, that is 0.6% of the population. I don't think that qualifies as "swamped."

In the end, all of these lies are simply code for tapping into the underlying racism of those who fear being "replaced" by black/brown immigrants. I am reminded of the fact that even Trump said he wanted more immigrants from [white] countries like Norway after he suggested that we should get rid of those from "shithole countries" like Haiti. In other words, this isn't about immigration - it's all about racism.

The bottom line is that we have nothing to fear when it comes to these migrants. The real problem is that the system we have in place is not capable of handling this refugee crisis - which is why Congress needs to pass legislation to fix it. That is not a call to open our borders, but a pathway towards staffing up to have an orderly and humane process.

The truth is that we are currently in the midst of a labor shortage due to the fact that baby boomers are aging out of the workforce. A well-ordered immigration process could play a part in solving that one. But for Republicans, the solutions are to eliminate child labor laws and/or outlaw abortion  (perhaps even birth control) so that women are forced to have more babies. In other words, they're willing to sacrifice women and children in order to maintain their white privilege. How sick is that?! 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Next target for white supremacists: the Civil Rights Act of 1964

In the interest of accountability, I need to acknowledge that something I wrote recently wasn't entirely accurate. I suggested that, as we head into Martin Luther King Day, we'd be hearing lots of hypocritical praise of the civil rights leader from voices on the right. While that might still be partially accurate, I wrote that before I saw this

[Charlie Kirk] recently said that he plans to release content to discredit MLK on January 15, King’s birthday, which is a US federal holiday honoring King.

“We're gonna be hitting him next week,” Kirk said on his podcast this week. “Yeah, on the day of the Iowa caucus, it's MLK Day. We're gonna do the thing you're not supposed to do. We're gonna tell the truth about MLK Jr. You better tune in next week. Blake has already been preparing. It's gonna be great.”

"Blake" is a reference to Blake Neff, Kirk's producer who was apparently even too racist for Fox News

But these attacks aren't merely an attempt to discredit Dr. King. 

Kirk argues that the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, ushered in a “permanent DEI-type bureaucracy,” referring to diversity, equity, and inclusion...

“The courts have been really weak on this,” Kirk told the America Fest crowd. “Federal courts just yield to the Civil Rights Act as if it's the actual American Constitution.” The law is ultimately a way to “re-found the county” and “a way to get rid of the First Amendment,” according to Kirk.

In other words, an attack on King is the entry point to an attack on one of the singular achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.

That tells us where this whole anti-DEI propaganda is headed. They've successfully launched attacks on affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act, so now they want to do the same thing to the Civil Rights Act - taking us back to the days when the Jim Crow laws of the south were legal. The claim is that the Civil Rights Act nullified the First Amendment rights [of white people].

Simultaneously, it was announced that Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA will partner with New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leader Lance Wallnau to help re-elect Trump. Wallnau and NAR are dominionists - “the theocratic idea that … Christians are called by God to exercise dominion over every aspect of society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.” So once again we see Christian Nationalists joining forces with white supremacists to sow division via racism and undermine our democracy.

Friday, January 12, 2024

For Christian Nationalists, it's always been about racism

On Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Even as Christian Nationalists attempt to dismantle everything he accomplished, we're likely to once again be subject to hypocritical praise of the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. So let's review some history.

We'll start with one of the founders of the current religious right - Jerry Falwell. Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, he gave a sermon titled "Segregation or Integration: Which?" and declared:

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line...

The true Negro does not want integration…. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.

So according to Falwell, both God and "the true Negro" endorse segregation. 

Then in 1965, Falwell gave another sermon titled "Ministers and Marches" in which he attacked MLK as a communist subversive and claimed that "preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners." He went on to blame the "marchers" for instigating hate and violence, saying:

I am fearful that all the rioting and demonstrating has produced a great amount of hate as evidenced through recent murders and other forms of violence.

The date of that sermon is significant. It came on March 21, 1965, a mere two weeks after this happened in Selma, Alabama:


Two days after Bloody Sunday, white supremacists murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, who had come to Selma to participate in subsequent marches. Falwell seemed to suggest that it was non-violent protesters who were responsible for his death.

Finally, Falwell's sermon was delivered on the SAME DAY that Dr.  King joined John Lewis and others in a second march from Selma to Montgomery in the fight for voting rights.

Years later, Falwell had to recant that sermon when he helped found the so-called "Moral Majority," the pre-cursor to Christian Nationalism. By then he was promoting the idea that preachers must involve themselves in politics. But contrary to what we've often been taught, he was NOT motivated by the fight against the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade, but due to the 1971 ruling in Green v. Connally which, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, striped "segregation academies" of their tax exempt status for discrimination. 

Of course, Christian nationalists are free to hypocritically cherry-pick quotes from Dr. King because, as long as we are still a democracy, they have the right to free speech. But the rest of us are also free to remind everyone of their past and current behavior - which is designed to undermine everything the Civil Rights leader stood for. 

Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

For just a moment, I'd like to back off the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office, is a serial liar, has been found guilty of rape/...