Washington Post / YouTube Trump addresses the 73rd U N...
Washington Post / YouTube

This column actually ran way back on Monday, but I’ve been clutching it all week to use it today…

Catherine Rampell: The GOP has become the Soviet party
Washington Post

Once upon a time, Ayn Rand-reading, red-baiting Republicans denounced Soviet Russia as an evil superpower intent on destroying the American way of life.

My, how things have changed.

The Grand Old Party has quietly become the pro-Russia party — and not only because the party’s standard-bearer seems peculiarly enamored of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Republican leadership, the United States is starting to look an awful lot like the failed Soviet system the party once stood unified against.

Supposedly middle-class workers — people who have government jobs that are supposed to be stable and secure — are waiting in bread lines. Thanks to government dysfunction and mismanagement, those employed in the private sector may also be going hungry, since 2,500 vendors nationwide are unable to participate in the food stamp program while the government is shuttered and unable to renew licenses for the Electronic Benefit Transfer debit card program.

Reagan was wrong. Government is not the enemy. And Trump is wrong. Socialism is not the enemy. Bad government, government that cares more about protecting the power of the autocrats in control than it does in doing it’s duty to the public. That’s the enemy. And even then it’s wrong to call it “bad government.” Because what it really is, is bad leadership.

Why? Because of the whims of a would-be autocrat who cares more about erecting an expensive monument to his own campaign rhetoric than about the pain and suffering of the little people he claims to champion. …

The would-be autocrat surrounds himself with toadies who spend more time scheming against one another — sometimes to comic effect — than trying to offer their boss sound guidance or thoughtful policy solutions. In his presence, and perhaps especially when the cameras are on, they praise him relentlessly: his brains, his leadership, his “perfect genes.”

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” might produce a lovely government, if it were administered by angels. Plato’s government by philosopher kings might bring on a genuine Kallipolis (just think of it as Utopia before there was Utopia), but only if the philosophy of the kings doesn’t turn out to be an amalgam of greed and brutal stupidity. The beauty of our series of representative democracy is supposed to be that it does not entrust too much power to anyone, even the titular leader of the executive branch. By ceding Trump that power, Republicans are granting him a role our Constitution is designed to protect against.

And … I’ve gone off on my own riff too long. Take a look at the rest of what Rampell had to say, then come inside. Let’s read pundits.

Donald Trump’s Mammoth Cave

For what it’s worth, Mammoth Cave is my favorite national park, and while I wouldn’t want Trump’s name associated with it in the long term, I would be willing to consider ordering up some temporary signs to commemorate this week. With more than 400 miles of mapped passage, Mammoth is the biggest cave on the planet … until this week.

Charles Pierce on how Republicans ran an experiment, and got results they didn’t want.
Esquire

The White House got rolled on Friday by Nancy Pelosi, to be sure. But it also got rolled by TSA agents, and air-traffic controllers, government employees standing at food co-ops and pantries, as well as thousands of inconvenienced ordinary Americans standing in line at airports. This is more important than the fact that the president got beaten again by the new-slash-old Speaker of the House.

It was said by more than a few people that the shutdown would prove to be an alpha test for small government. Instead, it became a demonstration that 40 years of that kind of thinking may finally have run out of energy. Without necessarily meaning to do so, those thousands of Americans made the opposite case by standing in all those lines. Without necessarily meaning to do so, those thousands of Americans decided that government was the solution, and not the problem, at least as far as getting from the ticket counter to the jetway.

Even the brief time when it appeared that things were not falling apart, was an illusion generated by multiple carve outs and hundreds of thousands of people dragooned into labor without pay. If the actual experiment was to prove that serfdom is cool … that test was already run.

I’m stressing the whole air-traffic business because that’s where the long slide toward Trumpism began. When Ronald Reagan broke the controllers’ union, he signaled that the federal government was a) open for business, and b) on the side of management, and therefore on the side of capital and not labor, and the Republican Party committed itself to that equation as a matter of faith. Simultaneously, it adopted supply-side economics as its only real policy in that area. And that’s where it’s been since 1981. Until, I suspect, maybe, now.

Yes. I don’t know if it’s obvious that I’m pounding the table in agreement. Trust me. I’m pounding the table in agreement.

Jonathan Chait on Trump’s big fold, and general awfulness at everything.
New Yorker Magazine

President Trump’s painful delusion that he could use a government shutdown to force Democrats to fund his campaign theme came to a predictable yet bizarre conclusion. Trump strode to the podium in front of the White House like a conquering hero. “My fellow Americans,” he announced, “I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government!”

Trump declared this in the soaring tones of a conquering hero, as if he were announcing the safe return home of hostages from Iran, rather than the release of hostages he had taken himself. He thanked the federal workforce and absurdly insisted they “did not complain.”

Was this finally the week people finally realized that Donald Trump couldn’t negotiate his way to the bathroom without assistance? Eh, probably not. And by Tuesday there will be a whole host of brand new “Trump supporters still support Trump” stories to demonstrate that I’m wrong to think Trump demonstrably folding in exchange for zip diddly might finally convince someone that the the emperor’s saggy orange new clothes are just … eww.

The part of the speech where Trump had to paper over the fact that he had received nothing in return for the shutdown was couched in hilariously obtuse bureaucratese. He announced that “a bipartisan conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers and leaders will immediately begin reviewing the requests of our homeland security experts … they will put together a homeland security package for me to shortly sign into law.” To put this more simply, Congress will immediately … continue debating border-security policy options. Or put it even more simply than that, Congress isn’t going to pay for the wall any more than Mexico is.

After that, he delivered a long, rambling, off-script fantasy about women bound by duct tape being transported over the border, probably designed to create a dramatic narrative distraction from the deflating reality that he had won nothing more than a promise by Congress to listen to his staffers’ budget requests.

I had to keep this piece going until I got to the part about the duct tape because … damn. Every single time Trump talks about the border, his kidnapping fantasy gets longer and more elaborate.  The driving directions (a fast right, then a left, but sometimes right, except usually left), the multiple women in the trunk, but especially the descriptions of that tape. Would someone take a look at what’s on Donald Trump’s phone? But please, wear gloves.

Karen Tumulty on Donald Trump’s big boo boo.
Washington Post

There is no way around it: President Trump lost.

He lost his gamble on shutting down the government. And though he will pretend otherwise, he has also lost his grandiose plan to build a border wall that most of the country does not want.

Trump walked away with nothing more than an assurance from congressional Democrats that they will sit down with Republicans for three weeks and try to come up with a border security plan that both parties can agree upon. There’s a reasonable chance they will come up with a solid proposal. But there’s just as much likelihood that Trump’s dream for a wall will die a quiet death there.

Nonetheless, this is the consequence of Trump’s obsession with satisfying the red-hatted, nativist throngs who chanted “build the wall” at so many of his rallies.

Has the New York Times posted a new article about how Trump supporters still love Trump and still believe he’s going to get that wall? (checks watch) Surely there are at least two by now.

Not only do 6 in 10 Americans now disapprove of the job that the president is doing, but his party has also lost the 10-point edge it once held over the Democrats on the question of which party to trust on border security, according to a fresh Post-ABC News poll.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has shown that she better than Trump understands the art of the deal in Washington. She is the one who succeeded in building a wall — and Trump ran right into it.

It’s almost as if at that White House meeting Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer set out a trap. Not a subtle trap, but a big red box slapped with a picture of Admiral Ackbar and a label saying “It’s a trap!” And Trump took it anyway. It’s almost like that. Almost exactly. It’s exactly like that.

Michael Tomasky clearly had a blast writing this column.
Daily Beast

What a joke. What a fraud. As Bugs Bunny used to say, what a maroon.

Art of the deal? Deal?!

Donald Trump is in this so far above his head he’s like Danny DeVito in the Lakers’ locker room. To extend the metaphor, Nancy Pelosi is LeBron, and Chuck Schumer is, uh, whoever their second-best player is these days. But the two of them, Pelosi in particular, have just made the president of the United States look like 1) a fool and 2) a moral eunuch, which you might say shouldn’t be hard, because he is obviously both of those things, but he is the president and he has the bully pulpit and all that, along with a propaganda network that every night tells millions of Americans that he farts roses, so actually it is kind of hard, what they did.

It’s hard to even picture Donald Trump as Wyle E. Coyote … he’s too low energy.

There’s a lot riding on a government shutdown. I hope he learned that. I hope Wilbur Ross and Kevin Hassett and Lara Trump learned.

But what am I thinking? These people don’t learn. Wait, maybe that’s slightly wrong. Ann Coulter is mad, apparently. So what Trump et al. will probably learn is exactly the opposite of what a reasonable human being would learn. Sure enough, at the end of his Learseque Rose Garden soliloquy, he basically threatened another shutdown. Either that or he’ll invoke emergency powers to address the emergency that no expert thinks exists. That will be fun.

Roger Stone

Virginia Heffernan on the downfall of the dirty trickster.
Los Angeles Times

On Friday around noon, Roger Stone preened in vain for a crowd in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

President Trump’s close friend and advisor, freshly sprung from shackles on a $250,000 bond, had been indicted in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s Russia ties.

Stone tried to hide his panic with bravado, a boy whistling in the dark. But his shtick seemed moth-eaten and creepy. He struck the moribund Nixon two-V-hands victory/corruption pose. He smiled nervously. He broke out an old chestnut: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about!”

Sure, bud. He sounded like private-sector cons Elizabeth Holmes (of Theranos) and Billy McFarland (of the Fyre Festival), who are sunny and delusional even as they’ve been revealed as stone-cold frauds.

The only thing wrong with Stone going down is that it’s happening 40 years too late.

And then there’s the special prosecutor’s disclosure that Stone served as a liaison between WikiLeaks and the most senior echelons of the Trump campaign. WikiLeaks is, of course, the Kremlin-connected hacktivist organization that published material evidently stolen by Russian military intelligence in 2016. By staging the ill-gotten material in an effort to smear Hillary Clinton, WikiLeaks substantially aided the Russian effort to sway cognitively vulnerable voters and install Donald Trump as president.

Thus, if Stone was indeed running info between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, for which he was an informal advisor, he is a keystone in what Mueller’s office has called “the conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

Stay tuned for further indictments (and yes, there are good legal reasons that Mueller would not include conspiracy this time around, even if he means to charge Stone and others with exactly that crime).

Climate Change

Will Bunch on why a tiny island is the most important story of 2019.
Philadelphia Inquirer

The tiny, isolated island’s problems are very much a consequence of humankind’s addiction to fossil fuels — first from the wetlands that were destroyed by the canals that Big Oil cut through the Gulf of Mexico marshlands, and increasingly because of sea levels that are rising worldwide as a result of climate change. With an alarming 98 percent of the island vanished since 1955, Isle de Jean Charles made news in 2016 when the federal government — yes, a very different federal government from the one we have now — gave the island a $48 million grant to relocate everyone who lived there to safer ground. But that goal has proved easier said than done. …

Unfortunately, the huge problems — both logistical and emotional — around losing a settled American community to the rising tides of global warming will not be unique to this one shrinking island off Louisiana, On the Pacific Ocean, for example, the California town of Imperial Beach, hard against the U.S. Mexico border, is finding its biggest threat isn’t from undocumented immigrants but from the higher and higher “king tides” that swamp the small city’s streets and have led to a heated debate about a “managed retreat” from its oceanside homes.

Donald Trump could announce that he’s going to build a wall along all of America’s coasts … which might actually address a real threat for a change, but would be just as impractical as the wall he already loves to talk about.

Labor

Dana Milbank on the resurgent labor movement.
Washington Post

Something funny happened on the way to the labor movement’s funeral.

When Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and his antilabor colleagues on the Supreme Court handed down the Janus v. AFSCME decision last June, unions braced for the worst. The American Federation of Teachers expected it might lose 30 percent of its revenue after the high court gave public-sector workers the right to be free riders, benefiting from union representation but paying nothing.

Instead, the 1.7 million-member union added 88,500 members since Janus — more than offsetting the 84,000 “agency-fee payers” it lost because of the Supreme Court ruling. And the union has had a burst of energy. There has been a surge of high-profile strikes by teachers’ unions in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Rallies, pickets and local campaigns mushroomed by the hundreds. The union has tallied 11 organizing wins since Janus, tripled its “member engagement” budget from 2014 and nearly doubled the number of voters it contacted in 2018.

Yeah, but … it was still a terrible decision that needs to be reversed. If not for that decision, the union might have added those 160,000.

Racism

Leonard Pitts goes back to DC to cut through the PR campaign.
Miami Herald

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. We’ll have to make do with 600 or so.

The picture in question — the video, actually — electrified social media over the weekend. In it, a white high school boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, confronts an older Native American man who is beating a ceremonial drum and singing a Native song. The encounter took place Friday on the National Mall. The man was there as part of the Indigenous Peoples March. The boy was with a group from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky that was participating in the “March For Life” anti-abortion rally.

The man sings. The boy smirks. Some of his classmates mock the Native man. Someone yells, “Build the wall!” And there was, for many of us, something starkly symbolic in all of it, something that spoke of American fracture.

And there still is, because even in the story that the boy has been telling — the story that’s supposed to exonerate him and leave him with “nothing to apologize for” he is still the one who escalates this into a confrontation.

The students began what they described as a school spirit chant to drown out the black men. Tensions were high. And into this cauldron of ideology and identity stepped Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old elder of the Omaha people and a Vietnam veteran. His aim in walking through the crowd, he said, was to settle things down. As he told The New York Times, “I stepped in between to pray.”

The crowd, he said, parted to let him through. All except for the boy, since identified as Nick Sandmann, a junior. Phillips said the boy blocked him when he moved left. When he moved right, Sandmann did the same.

In a written statement, the boy denied blocking Phillips. “To be honest,” he wrote, “I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me.” But the boy in that video, smirking, trying not to laugh, is not startled or confused. He looks, rather, entitled and smug.

If you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone steps directly in your path, refusing to move, and when you try to step around them, that person moves to block your way, which if you is causing a confrontation? Sandmann is just a Pool Patty who happens to have a PR firm and media connections.

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