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Cillizza’d

[ 127 ] January 4, 2017 |

dana_milbank_and_chris_cillizza

The Washington Post acquitted itself better than a lot of mainstream outlets during the 2016 campaign, if only because of David Farenthold amd David Weigel. But they really shouldn’t be let off the hook, either, because they continued to publish one of the most ridiculous purveyors of the Clinton rules, Mr. Chris Cilizza. Cillizza was, even by Beltway hack standards, consumingly obsessed with the EMAILS! non-scandal. In itself, this is damning.

But in addition to the bizarre priorities, Cillizza’s work was a near perfect-embodiment of the Clinton Rules while also being incompetent. Consider this story about an alleged “quid pro quo” between the State Department and FBI. Cillizza bungled every important fact in the story — there was not only not a quo, there wasn’t a quid and the State Department didn’t raise the issue with the FBI — in a way that was slanted against Clinton. And even sillier is his treatment of utterly banal and ubiquitous disputes between federal bureaucracies over which material should be classified as evidence of the unique perfidy of Hillary Clinton, which is ultimately the core premise of the whole EMAILS! non-story.

Needless to say, Cillizza applied the same approach to the Clinton Foundation. Here’s Cillizza’s reaction to the infamously botched AP story about Clinton’s meetings as Secretary of State:

But, COME ON, MAN. It is literally impossible to look at those two paragraphs and not raise your eyebrows. Half of all of the nongovernmental people Clinton either met with or spoke to on the phone during her four years at the State Department were donors to the Clinton Foundation! HALF.

It is literally impossible to read this and not wonder how Chris Cillizza could be paid to write about politics. The framing of the AP story, which Cillizza swallows without a hint of skepticism, was so misleading the AP had to delete its tweet promoting it. I mean, COME ON MAN. The “more than half the meetings” premise was transparently wrong. The denominator used by the AP was ludicrously low, not only arbitrarily excluding government officials but excluding various meetings with non-government officials. And without that attention-grabbing distortion of the facts, there is nothing at all to the story — there was nothing inappropriate about these meetings and no reason to believe Clinton behaved differently than any other Secretary of State. Does Cillizza then use the aspersions he casts on Clinton based on the AP’s fake news to make presumptions of bad faith in re: EMAILS!? I think you know the answer. But, hey, Hillary Clinton, WHAT A BITCH, amirite?

Still, in writing fact-challenged stories that embody the Clinton Rules, Cilizza is hardly unique. So my favorite Fix moment of the campaign was Cillizza’s assertion that “the image of the FBI…has been sterling.” Cillizza cited two figures who embodied the FBI’s universally acknowledged history of rectitude. The first, Clarice Starling, is a fictional character who had intimate relations with a cannibalistic serial killer. The second, Eliot Ness, did not work for the FBI (although I would bet that Cillizza wasn’t thinking so much about Eliot Ness as “Eliot Ness,” the character in the DePalma/Mamet film The Untouchables, who also did not work for the FBI.) Omitted from Cillizza’s narrative about the “sterling” reputation of the FBI — serial illegal wiretapper among many other things J. Edgar Hoover.

I would like to unilaterally award Chris Cillizza LGM’s coveted “hack of the year” trophy for 2016. But other nominations are welcome.

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But Where’s the Tort Reform?

[ 125 ] January 4, 2017 |

keefner-ayn-rand

Rand Paul, the true progressive alternative in the 2016 race, finally offers a blueprint for heathcare “reform”:

What should we replace Obamacare with? Perhaps we should try freedom:

1. The freedom to choose inexpensive insurance free of government dictates.

2. The freedom to save unlimited amounts in a health savings account.

3. The freedom to buy insurance across state lines.

4. The freedom for all individuals to join together in voluntary associations to gain the leverage of being part of a large insurance pool.

Shorter Rand Paul: “Under the majestic equality of my law, the rich and poor alike will be able to save unlimited amounts of money to pay for health care, and healthy people and people with pre-existing conditions alike are welcome to try to purchase worthless insurance that meets the standards of the state that offers the fewest protections to consumers.”

I can see why the GOP leadership prefers the “repeal and…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!” approach.

Thomas Frank’s Own Private Idaho

[ 280 ] January 3, 2017 |

rep-keith-ellison-photo

Remember when Lewis Lapham wrote some cliches about a Republican convention that hadn’t happened yet as if he had already watched it? His Harper’s successor’s coverage of the 2016 campaign is the near-equivalent of this. Frank has a narrative about American politics in which it’s always 1996, the Democratic Party is always running to the right, and there is literally no set of facts that could get him to in any way modify it.

His latest column is roughly three million words based on this ludicrously false premise. Although, once again, he has to start by being far too charitable to the Republican Party:

But first let us focus on the good news. Donald Trump has smashed the consensus factions of both parties.

This is just utter, embarrassing nonsense. Trump has smashed nothing important in the Republican coalition. Ryan, McConnell and Trump have fit together like a glove, and the Republican coalition came out of the 2016 election intact.

Along the way, he has destroyed the core doctrine of Clintonism: that all elections are decided by money and that therefore Democrats must match Republican fundraising dollar for dollar.

I agree that if the United States only conduced one national election every 4 years, the Supreme Court’s gutting of campaign finance law — which I’m old enough to remember people on the left opposing — wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Alas, it matters more at lower-level and state races. How are Democrats doing there?

But let’s get to the meat of the argument:

Neither were any of the other patented maneuvers of Clintonism. With Hillary carrying their banner, the Democrats triangulated themselves in every way imaginable. They partied with the Wall Street guys during the convention in Philadelphia, they got cozy with the national security set, they reached out to disaffected Republicans, they reminisced about the days of the balanced federal budget, they even encouraged Democratic delegates to take Ubers back and forth from the convention to show how strongly Democrats approved of what Silicon Valley was doing to America. And still they lost.

The idea that Hillary Clinton ran a campaign of “triangulation” is an utterly absurd lie. Again, Clinton ran, very explicitly, the most left-wing economic campaign of any Democratic candidate in decades. She ran, explicitly and proudly, on (inter alia) a family leave plan, an increased minimum wage and better overtime rules, the Employee Free Choice Act, increased child care funding, Social Security increases, a public option for health care, and support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. The idea that this was really a conservative campaign because she occasionally mentioned that her husband ran surpluses is silly. And his examples give away the show — Clinton ran a centrist campaign, irrespective of her policy agenda, because convention delegates at events with open bars were encouraged to take Ubers? His ability to cherry pick to massage his narrative is remarkable. The slightest empty gesture to economic populism by an extremely right-wing Republican campaign gets him excited, while on the other hand when the Democratic Party runs exactly the campaign he’s been urging them to run for time out of mind he focuses on some random less-than-trivia to argue that they haven’t changed at all.

You can criticize Clinton’s messaging, although the idea that there’s One Magic Trick that Hillary Clinton could have used to get the media talking about policy rather than EMAILS! strikes me as absurd. And it’s certainly true that Clinton’s strategy of peeling off suburban Republican women was a failure, although it’s hard for Frank to criticize the campaign for that when he’s still arguing that Trump shattered the Republican coalition. But, in context, what’s important is that Clinton did not try to appeal to Republicans with policy trimming, but with attacks on Donald Trump’s character. This was ineffective tactics, but what it is not is Bill-Clinton style “triangulation.” Clinton’s core appeal was to the Democratic base.

To talk about “Clintonism” as a single thing that conflates the massively different campaigns of 1992/1996 and 2016 is, at best, pure bad faith. It misunderstands how politics works, but even leaving that aside Frank’s argument is just straightforwardly factually wrong. You can argue that the “real” Hillary Clinton is Bill Clinton circa 1996 and that’s how she would have governed, but that’s not Frank’s argument here. His argument is that Hillary Clinton ran in 2016 like Bill Clinton did in 1996, which could not possibly be more wrong.

The rest of his piece is the classic refusal by people on the left who hate the Democratic Party to ever take “yes” for an answer. Not only does he ignore the Democratic shift to the left, he argues that it won’t happen in the future:

There are some indications that Democrats have finally understood this. Elizabeth Warren’s star is on the rise. Bernie Sanders is touring the country and reminding people that class politics are back whether we like it or not. Keith Ellison is running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

But the media and political establishments, I suspect, will have none of it. They may hate Donald Trump, but they hate economic populism much more.

Despite the Democratic Party running on its most liberal policy platform ever, the Democratic establishment hates economic populism and will prevent the party from ever moving to the left of where it was in 1996. The fact that the contest to head the DNC will be between Keith Ellison and Obama’s populist, left-liberal Secretary of Labor is central to Frank’s point.

It goes on from this anti-factual premise for quite a while. If you want to get out of the boat, don’t say you weren’t warned.

EMAILS! Was a Non-Scandal About Nothing, Period

[ 347 ] January 3, 2017 |

nytsat

The biggest EMAILS! villains are, of course, the media and the FBI. But it’s also true that many liberals were remarkably timorous about pushing back against the silly pseudo-scandal that ended up putting Donald Trump in the White House. Perhaps it was exaggerated by Republicans, but surely Clinton’s use of private server RAISED TROUBLING QUESTIONS and CAST SHADOWS about Hillary Clinton? The answer is no. There was never anything there. Kevin Drum recently had an excellent, comprehensive post on the subject:

So here’s what we’ve got. Clinton used a private server for her unclassified emails. However, that doesn’t provide any reason to think she was any more careless about discussing classified information than any other secretary of state. Nevertheless, Republicans used the excuse of the Benghazi investigation to demand an inspector general’s audit of her emails. The intelligence community, naturally, concluded that Clinton’s archives contained thousands of discussions of classified programs. They would most likely conclude the same thing if they audited the email account of any ranking State Department official. It’s just a fact of life that State and CIA disagree about this stuff.

Comey certainly knew this, and he also knew that Clinton had done nothing out of the ordinary. However, in an attempt to appease congressional Republicans, who were sure to go ballistic when their hopes of putting Clinton in the dock failed yet again, he held a press conference where he called her actions “extremely careless.” Then, three months later, with absolutely no justification, he announced that more emails had been discovered—and he announced it in the most damaging possible way.

This is the meat of the whole affair. The rest is chaff. Did Clinton violate the Federal Records Act by holding her email on a private server? Was she trying to evade FOIA requests? Did she lie about wanting to use one email device? Did she violate agency regulations because she used an outside mail account for all her communications, rather than just part of them, as others have routinely done? Etc. etc. We can argue about this stuff forever and we’ll never know the answer. If you hate Clinton, you’ll insist that these are major felonies that should have landed her in a Supermax for life. But if you don’t hate Clinton in the first place, none of these will strike you as anything more than minor infractions at best and ungrounded speculation at worst. Plus there’s this: No one ever came close to investigating any of this, let alone trying to bring charges. Among the folks who know the most about these things, there was never so much as a hint that there was anything illegal among all the sensational accusations.

The bottom line is simple: There was never any real reason for either the IG investigations or the FBI investigation. And in the end, the FBI found nothing out of the ordinary—just the usual State-CIA squabbling. Nevertheless, under pressure from Republicans, Comey spent a full year on the investigation; reported its conclusions in the most damaging possible way; and then did it again two weeks before the election. Because of this, Clinton lost about 2 percent of the vote, and the presidency.

Liberals should have defended her with gusto from the start. There was never anything here and no evidence that Clinton did anything seriously wrong. And yet we didn’t. Many liberals just steered clear of the whole thing. Others—including me sometimes—felt like every defense had to contain a series of caveats acknowledging that, yes, the private server was a bad idea, harumph harumph. And some others didn’t even go that far. The result was that in the public eye, both liberals and conservatives were more or less agreeing that there was a lot of smoke here. So smoke there was. And now Donald Trump is a month away from being president.

The last point is important. Even among liberals who recognized that this was an empty pseudo-scandal, you would sometimes hear the line that “Clinton should have known not to give Republicans any ammunition.” This argument is, at his late date, almost shockingly naive. Whitewater, the years-long “scandal” that started George W. Bush’s path to the White House, was based on nothing. And EMAILS!, the “scandal” that sent Donald Trump to the White House, was also based on nothing. As were many intervening “scandals.” The idea that there’s some set of choices that Hillary Clinton could have made to stop media coverage of her campaign from being dominated by a Republican-generated snipe hunt. If it wasn’t this, it was going to be something else. Content is unnecessary. And way too many liberals are willing to half go along, which doesn’t help.

Oh, and take a look at the three above-the-fold stories about Comey’s letter containing no information about a silly non-scandal on the October 29 New York Times. Now look at today’s A1, in which the GOP gutting House oversight gets one lonely column. The press ludicrously portrayed Hillary Clinton as the corrupt candidate in a contest against Donald Trump.The result will be federal corruption on an unprecedented scale, and we’ll be lucky if it gets covered with a third of the energy and focus devoted to Hillary Clinton’s goddamned emails. Really, heckuva job.

Donald Trump’s Ability to Capture the Republican Nomination is an Eternal Mystery

[ 71 ] January 2, 2017 |

butheremails

Finally, honesty and integritude in government:

On the eve of the official start of the new Congress, Republican members of the House moved to gut Congress’ independent ethics office, raising questions among ethics watchdogs about the GOP’s commitment to make good on Donald Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” and hold Washington officials accountable.

In a vote conducted by secret ballot in the House’s Rules Committee Monday night, members voted in favor of an amendment that would absorb the independent Office of Congressional Ethics into the House’s Committee on Ethics, putting the group directly under a committee of members of Congress, whom the office is expected to investigate.

If they were capable of embarrassment, this really should embarrass the journos who concluded that Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! were more important that every substantive issue put together. But not only this will not happen, the next time there’s a Democratic administration expect the media to dutifully chase each and every snipe hunt House Republicans set up yet again, no matter how obviously partisan the investigations are and how devoid of content virtually all of them are.

Oh, and of course, Paul Ryan’s reputation for integritude and seriousity must not be breached:

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy both opposed the measure in a Monday night meeting, the Washington Post reported.

If Ryan and McCarthy stop the amendment from being enacted, this is meaningful. If they don’t, and they almost certainly won’t, their “opposition” means shit. But look at Speaker Ryan’s hang-dog expression! He’s learned his lesson! Let’s buy him a pony and praise his plan to massively cut upper-class taxes and strip health care from tens of millions of people as a serious plan to reduce the deficit!

I’ll stand down by the door and catch the headsetted men when they dive from the fourteenth floor

[ 111 ] January 2, 2017 |

jedyorktrentbaalkesanfrancisco49ersd37rgw8gjrpl

Jed York — may he remain in charge of the 49ers in perpetuity — has fired Chip Kelly (in a classless way, natch) and post-postmaturely fired Trent Baalke. We’ve been through this before, but the recent sequence of major 49ers decisions is one of the most astoundingly inept you’ll ever see outside of a Republican administration:

  • The 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh, who immediately proved himself one of the best coaches in football, turning a 6-10 team into an instant contender, ultimately getting within one play of a Super Bowl and another play from a Super Bowl appearance.
  • There was a power struggle between Harbaugh and the legendarily incompetent GM Baalke. The Yorks sided with…Baalke.  It’s amazing. As Tanier puts it,Baalke Deficiency Syndrome is caused by years of Baalke‘s boldly counterintuitive drafting, mixed with the kind of blatant boardroom skulduggery that makes a franchise unappealing to both its own veterans and available free agents. Baalke gave Kelly a roster with little that was even worth damaging.”
  • Did they get rid of Harbaugh to hire a coaching super-prospect? Nope — they promoted a company man who had never even been a top-level coordinator.
  • They were so committed to the company man they pushed out a great coach for that they fired him after one year, and to replace him handed over the worst roster in the NFL to a coach who is an outstanding tactician but a dubious judge of talent (although, to be fair to Chip, he’s still a better judge of talent than Baalke.)
  • They finally recognized the obvious and fired Baalke, which practically required them to fire yet another coach after a year as well. How does their third attempt at replacing one of the 3 or 4 best football coaches in the country look? Well:

The 49ers want to recreate their “championship culture,” but they’re apparently trying to do so on a budget as well.

Whether or not it’s connected to the buyouts they’re paying Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, the list of candidates emerging so far certainly leans toward the young and less expensive.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the list of candidates includes Seattle offensive line coach and former Raiders head coach Tom Cable, Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn, Jaguars interim coach Doug Marrone and Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, along with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

So a failed former Raider head coach and current offensive line coach presiding over a world-historically terrible offensive line, a guy with less than a full season as an offensive coordinator whose head coaching experience consists of losing by 20 points to a 5-11 team, a somewhat more experienced former Bills retread, a guy with one year of experience as a defensive coordinator, and Mr. Josh McDaniels.  Have I mentioned that I hope Jed York stays in charge of the 49ers forever?

Some other Black Monday notes:

  • McDaniels seems to be getting actual interviews this time, although I think he’d be even crazier to take any of those jobs than the teams would have to be to hire him.
  • Good deep dive into the Age of Rex by Jenny Vrentas.
  • It’s hard to know what to make of Chip Kelly at this point, but I’d say he deserves another shot as a head coach. The 49ers were a hopeless situation, and seemed to do a better job with player management — despite the firing being leaked the team played hard for him in the final game and there didn’t seem to be a lot of grumbling. The problem with someone whose strength is more in tactics than team-building is that it’s hard to find the right fit; organizations with coaching vacancies are more likely to have issues with the latter. I bet the Titans would be in the playoffs had they hired him, though. (The Tanier article linked above is a good case for skepticism.)
  • On reflection, I think I was too dismissive of Kubiak yesterday. The record he compiled with Houston feat. Matt Schaub looks pretty impressive in retrospect. And while Phillips deserves a lot of credit for the Broncos winning a championship with unprecedentedly bad QB play (play that, as we now know, was definitely not Kubiak’s fault), we should also remember that he had been out of work for a year: not every coach of a contending team is willing to bring in a star coordinator and work with him effectively. Maybe Kubiak is very good rather than great, but as Phillips and many other top coordinators have shown, “very good” is a hell of a high bar to reach as an NFL head coach.
  • McCoy had John Fox levels of conservative play.” Ouch!
  • Looks like Lynn will be staying in Buffalo in any case, and it’s not necessarily a bad hire, although while he’s clearly an outstanding position coach it would also concern me that the Bills seem to remain fixated on ground-and-pound. I am curious to see how Gus Bradley does as a defensive coordinator without Carroll.
  • The Jets are stricking with Bowles, which after one good year and one bad year is defensible if not compelling. I might have made a change if only because it’s hard to change the GM and not the coach, and if the GM has any idea what an NFL QB looks like he’s kept it very well hidden. But can I see there’s a clearly better candidate than Bowles out there? Not really.

Democrats to Shatter Imaginary Tradition of Senate Comity and Dispatch

[ 53 ] January 2, 2017 |

MItch McConnell

LOL:

Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

LOLOLOLOLOLOL:

“It’s curious that they’d [Democrats] object to treating the incoming president’s nominees with the same courtesy and seriousness with which the Senate acted on President Obama’s nominees,” Antonia Ferrier, a McConnell spokeswoman, said in an email. “Our committees and chairmen are fully capable of reviewing the incoming Cabinet nominations with the same rules and procedures as the same committees did with President Obama’s nominations.”

Um, treating Trump’s nominees with the “courtesy” and “seriousness” with which Senate Republicans treated Obama’s nominees is exactly what Senate Democrats should be doing. It really is amazing that O’Keefe can just disappear this extensive history, though.

[Many links thanks to @realworldrj]

The Perfidy of Andrew Cuomo, An Ongoing Series

[ 87 ] January 2, 2017 |

gideon-0

A Democrat like Andrew Cuomo is better than a Republican because he’s at least susceptible to pressure from the left on high-profile issues. But a Democrat like Andrew Cuomo is worse than an actual liberal because on lower-profile issues he’ll remain a conservative:

The New York Civil Liberties Union today condemned Governor Cuomo’s late-night, New Year’s Eve veto of bipartisan legislation that would have overhauled New York state’s failing public defense system. The legislation would have established statewide standards for effective counsel and shifted financial responsibility for public defense services from counties to the state – reforms based on the results of a settlement in the NYCLU’s lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v. New York. The new standards would have included limits on public defense attorneys’ caseloads, the presence of counsel at a criminal defendant’s first court appearance and access to the resources necessary to provide adequate representation.

“We are deeply disappointed that the governor has vetoed the most important criminal justice reform legislation in memory,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “He has rejected a groundbreaking and bipartisan fix to our deeply flawed public defense system and left in place the status quo, in which the state violates the rights of New Yorkers every day and delivers unequal justice.”

The obvious question here is whether Cuomo can be subject to a primary challenge. Teachout maybe, although I’m not sure she can put together a majority coalition and the loss in the House race doesn’t help. A tweep suggested Paul Tonko — no idea if he’d be interested but he’d be great and could do a lot more as governor than as a minority party House backbencher, and NY-20 is safely Democratic. There really needs to be a serious challenge (note: threatening to withdraw Working Families support is not any kind of serious threat to Cuomo.)

NFL Open Thread: Week 17 Edition

[ 191 ] January 1, 2017 |
at Georgia Dome on November 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.

at Georgia Dome on November 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Only one playoff spot on the line, and it might not be much of a game, with the #6 team in DVOA going up against #27, and the QB on the latter had a bad throwing hand. Anything can happen in one game and I’ll be rooting for the Lions, but let’s just say that if I were in Vegas I’d be putting a sawbuck or three on Green Bay – 3 1/2.

With not many meaningful games, perhaps we should discuss the MVP. This is, in fact, a very easy case: it’s Matt Ryan. He’s probably been better play for play than Brady, and he had 4 more games. Given how outrageous the suspension of Brady was I might vote for him anyway if he was significantly better and had less quality, but Ryan has been better. As for Elliott, puh-leeze with that shit. The idea that a top running back is more valuable than a top QB is insane to begin with, and there’s also the fact that Darren McFadden — the definition of a replacement-level running back — ran for 4.6 yards a carry behind Dallas’s historically good run blocking line last year. Even on the Cowboys, he’s not nearly as valuable as Prescott or Smith. More on how good the Falcons offense has been here — they’re very serious contenders.

And, in-late breaking news, props to regular commenter CrunchyFrog, who speculated that Gary Kubiak’s health concerns had seriously affected his work: he’ll be stepping down. I don’t think he was a great coach, and if you want to say that Wade Phillips was the most important coach of the 2015 Broncos like Marvin Lewis was the most important coach on the 2000 Ravens, I’m not sure I disagree (although Kubiak is definitely a better coach than Billick.). But give Kubiak this: he got — well, not good performance out of Brock Osweiler, but good enough to get his defense into the playoffs. This year, working under QUARTERBACK GURU Bill O’Brien, Osweiler has put up an adjusted QB rating (100 is average) of 73. For context, Ryan Leaf’s lifetime rating was 64 and JaMarcus Russell’s was 78. If the Broncos plan on going into next year with Siemian and Lynch and a different coach…well, good luck with that. Although I hear Josh McDaniels is tanned, rested, and more mature!

Nixon Lied, People Died

[ 107 ] January 1, 2017 |

nixon_brays

America’s Last Liberal President (TM), everyone!

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

[…]

Haldeman’s notes return us to the dark side. Amid the reappraisals, we must now weigh apparently criminal behavior that, given the human lives at stake and the decade of carnage that followed in Southeast Asia, may be more reprehensible than anything Nixon did in Watergate.

Look, Nixon may have killed large numbers of people for cynical political purposes, but he only vetoed some of the good legislation congressional supermajorities put on his desk, so I’d put him well to the left of Hillary Clinton.

2017

[ 31 ] January 1, 2017 |

Well, on balance 2016 was rather terrible. And, yet, 2017 will be much worse! So let’s play some rock n’ roll. Or whatever.

Thanks for reading. There wouldn’t be much point without you.

Can Chuck Schumer be a Wartime Consigliere?

[ 102 ] December 31, 2016 |

harry-reid_5220

Here’s another random event that could substantially alter the course of American history:

Reid appears significantly older than his 77 years. A horrible exercise accident on New Year’s Day in 2015 — when an elastic band he was using in his suburban Las Vegas home snapped and he tumbled into some cabinets — broke bones in his face, as well as his ribs, and left him blind in one eye. It was his declining physical condition that ultimately led him to decide not to seek reelection in 2016.

Sorry, that should be “exercise accident.” The lamestream media will never get to the bottom of the conspiracy very plausibly identified by Time magazine’s erstwhile Blog of the Year.

At any rate, it’s very possible that had Reid not been injured we would have a Senate minority leader who is 1)exceptionally good at his job, 2)would understand the necessity of a laser-focus on keeping Trump as unpopular as possible, and 3)would understand that this is accomplished by not collaborating with him. The one we’re getting instead? Well:

But the job that Reid had in mind for Schumer when he anointed him as his successor isn’t the one Schumer will actually be doing. “Schumer would be a very good majority leader under President Hillary Clinton, and that’s what he thought he was signing up for,” says one prominent Democratic strategist, noting how aggressively Schumer waded into several Democratic Senate primaries in 2016. “He made the calculation that he wanted to win the Senate with people who were easily tamable and then he could be a majority leader like LBJ, just ramming things through.” As a minority leader with a Republican in the White House, however, Schumer will have a very different task — and there’s concern among some Democrats that he might not be cut out for it. “Chuck will go to the ramparts on an issue when it’s polling at 60 percent, but as soon as it gets hairy, he’s gone,” says one senior Democratic Senate aide. “Chuck wants issues to have no negatives, but it’s the Trump era. He’s looking at polls ­showing 60 percent for the Carrier deal” — in which Trump persuaded the company to keep a furnace plant in the U.S. in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks — “and thinking to himself, Maybe we should support that.”

Indeed, in the days immediately after Trump’s victory, Schumer sought common ground with the president-elect. Other Senate Democrats soon followed suit. Even Elizabeth Warren, who had spent the presidential campaign taunting Trump, pledged to work with him on increasing economic security for the middle class. Much of this was, presumably, typical morning-after posturing, but Reid was nonetheless alarmed. Three days after the election, he released a statement branding Trump “a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.”

It’s not inevitable that Schumer will screw this up — the fact that he’s Reid’s protege hopefully will mean that Reid retains some influence. Democrats have no choice but to assume that Schumer is persuadable and act as hard as they can to persuade. But I can’t say I’m very optimistic either. We could well end up looking back as Reid’s exercise accident as the flap of the butterfly wings that gave us a second term of Donald Trump (and, hence, a near-total evisceration of the welfare state, decades of a median Supreme Court vote that would have to turn to the left to see Antonin Scalia, soaring economic and racial inequality, escalating environmental catastrophe, etc. etc.) in 2021.

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