Tag: Donald Trump

No, Guys, This is Normal

So the Trump Administration announced that they have asked 46 of the US Attorneys to resign. There’s been some moaning from the Left but as no less than Vox reminds us, this is normal. Janet Reno asked all the USAs to resign when Clinton did office. So did Bush 43. Obama waited a few months but eventually replaced them all. The USAs are political appointees. Most administrations will let them hold over long enough to finish any important business and for a replacement to be chosen. But all Presidents want the 94 USAs to reflect their law enforcement priorities. Trump won the election, he gets to pick his prosecutors.

There was a mini-scandal when Bush fired some USAs midway through his term. That was a bit different as he was firing his own appointees, apparently for not moving fast enough on cases against his political opponents. Several members of the Justice Department ended up resigning over it, including AG Gonzalez. But Trump’s firing are not that. This is typical house-cleaning for a new Administration.

Today, however, USA Preet Bharara decided to make his bid for jumping into politics. That’s the only reason I can think of that he decided to tell the press he would refuse to resign. This was somewhat unprecedented. USAs serve at the pleasures of the President and he can ask them to resign at any time. He was apparently miffed that Trump told him he’d be allowed to stay on, then changed his mind.

Bharara has been immediately proclaimed a hero in some quarters, with many calling for him to run for public office. But as I pointed out on Twitter this was not “bold defiance”. This was a USA refusing to follow lawful instructions to make himself look like a hero. I said Trump should fire his ass.

Well, Bharara just tweeted out that Trump fired his ass. Good. Trump is perfectly within his rights here. I only hope the replacement is better. Bharara may sound familiar to you. He was the overreaching prosecutor who tried to force The Best Magazine on the Planet to reveal the identities of blog commenters who said things he didn’t like, then silenced Reason about even the existence of the subpoena. Anyone who would abuse his power that way does not belong in government. And the Left should not try making this guy into a hero just because he stuck a thumb in Trump’s eye.

How Trump Won

This is amazing. A couple of college professors did an experiment where they recreated the 2016 debates with actors replicating the exact words and gestures of the candidates. But there was one twist: Trump was played by a woman and Clinton by a man. They wanted to see how sexism played into our perception of the debates.

Yeah, it’s not how you’re thinking:

We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it. Another theme was about not liking either candidate—you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.” Someone said that Jonathan Gordon [the male Hillary Clinton] was “really punchable” because of all the smiling. And a lot of people were just very surprised by the way it upended their expectations about what they thought they would feel or experience. There was someone who described Brenda King [the female Donald Trump] as his Jewish aunt who would take care of him, even though he might not like his aunt. Someone else described her as the middle school principal who you don’t like, but you know is doing good things for you.

This reflects something I heard from a lot of my friends and family who supported Trump. All the pundits (including me) concluded that Trump’s debate performances were disastrous. And certainly there were times when he flailed badly. His grasp of facts was non-existent. Had this been a high-school debate team match, he would have lost.

But this wasn’t a high-school debate. This was two highly unlikable candidates trying to win our trust. And for all of Trump’s bumbling, he was straight-forward and had a clear message. Clinton had reams of policy details but no real message other than, as Dave Barry noted, “I’m a woman and I will fight for families or something”.

Here is a clip.

I always disliked Clinton and found her debate performances to be poor. I couldn’t understand how the media proclaimed her to be such a great politician and the clear winner of each debate. Having a male actor play her enhances my perception, driving home why I dislike her performance. She was smug, entitled and disconnected from ordinary concerns. It jumps a little more strongly when the opponent isn’t an asshole as well.

But what surprises me is how much this changes my perception of Trump. With his personal baggage removed, his message becomes much clearer. I still disagree with it but I can understand why it appealed to people and why many could overlook his personal/political/financial shortcomings.

There are caveats here: it’s only one experiment and could be entirely a result of the actor and actress chosen for the roles. Perhaps, with different actors, we would perceive it differently. But even with those caveats, I think it’s an astonishing result. It shows just how thick the liberal bubble was and just how much their perception of Clinton was shaded by their hatred of Trump and their heartfelt desire to see a woman become President. It really illustrates a point one Trump supporter made to me right before the election: if you took away Clinton’s gender, what was left? An ethically-dubious philosophically-muddled long-time political insider who couldn’t understand why the country was so angry.

Tapping Trump

So this happened:

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

While citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

This appears to be a result of internet telephone. Last summer, Louise Mensch revealed that the FBI (not Obama) has sought a FISA warrant to investigate members of Trump’s team’s ties to the Russians (this was after it was discovered that a server in Trump tower was communicating with Russian banks). The FISA Court rejected the initial warrant, then granted one more narrowly focused on four members of the Trump team. These details have been reported on many times. A few days ago, Mark Levin did one of his connect-the-dots pieces alleging a conspiracy to derail Trump. It showed up today on Breitbart and thus went into Trump’s brain.

If that’s all there is to it, Trump is being incredibly stupid here because he is reminding the public that his campaign staff were under investigation for espionage owing to credible accusations that they were working with the Russians to enable Trump’s election. If there’s more, then Trump needs to provide the evidence because warrantless wiretapping by Obama would indeed be a gigantic political scandal.

More Money for … What Exactly?

Donald Trump has now proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending to be offset by as yet unspecified cuts in discretionary spending (supposedly from Foreign Aid, the EPA, etc. — the usual Republican bete noires. There’s a lot to unpack here even without specifics. National Review gets into the budget specifics, pointing out that Trump is already promising big tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Moreover, Trump is punting on the biggest budget issue: entitlements. On Twitter, my e-migo Kevin Wilson noted:

This is an important to keep in mind with EPA budget cuts. Without change to regulations (promised by Trump but not yet delivered), all EPA budget cuts will do is drag out paperwork cycles and prevent some laws from being actively enforced (laws that we might want to be enforced, e.g., lead restrictions).

However, our friend Thrill hits a very important point that seems to be being glossed over.

Trump is following Reagan by developing a stronger military, pursuing a nuclear arms race, and other policies. What was different with Reagan is that we knew who we were arming against, what was at stake, and what would be the horrible outcome of a war with them. A strong military had been a core US Cold War policy held by presidents in both parties from when Truman had to convince a reluctant, war weary nation to accept it.

What I can’t figure out is whether anyone believes that our gigantic, sophisticated, and well-trained military just isn’t already good enough compared to what’s out there in the world. Who exactly are we trying to deter?

Exactly. Ronald Reagan didn’t just increase military spending. He increased in specific ways to counter potential Soviet aggression. The arms buildup made a Soviet invasion of central Europe impossible, made their nuclear arsenal unwieldily and put them into a potential race for “Star Wars” that they couldn’t possibly win. Moreover, they had to try to keep up with a much weaker economy. In the end, the arms race bankrupted them. And the weapons systems developed in the 80’s were so effective than when we finally did get a face-off between Soviet and American weapons during the Gulf War, it was no contest. Those weapons are still with us today and still outclass almost everything in the world.

A military spending budget should not just be some amount we send to defense contractors. That’s what’s gotten us into the F-35 debacle. You need to start with a strategic vision and work forward from there. Maybe you find that we’re spending too much. Maybe you find we’re spending too little. Maybe (very likely) you find we’re spending on the wrong things. But you don’t just increase military spending to increase military spending. That’s DemocratThink: hope spending money solves problems, maybe even ones that don’t exist.

Eating the Meatloaf

There was a time when I was fond of Chris Christie. But the struggles of his New Jersey governorship and his embrace of Trump soured me. (The thing that soured most people — his embrace of Obama after Hurricane Sandy — did not bother me. Politicians working together during a crisis used to be uncontroversial.)

So it’s somewhat satisfying to see the ritual humiliation of Christie. He hasn’t gotten a role in the Administration, likely due to the ongoing Bridegate scandal. And then there’s this:

The Republican governor said while guest hosting a New York sports talk radio show Thursday that Trump pointed out the menu and told people to get whatever they want. Then he said he and Christie were going to have the meatloaf.

‘‘This is what it’s like to be with Trump,’’ Christie said. ‘‘He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’’’

Trump said ‘‘I’m telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous,’’ according to Christie.

Trump and Christie discussed the nation’s opioid epidemic during the lunch.

This is, of course, part of Trump’s 1980’s alpha-male business bullshit. It also shows up in his weird handshakes where he pulls people toward him and won’t let go. But it has to be humiliating for Christie, who once thought he would be Trump’s Vice-President.

It’s also given me a new phrase. From now, any time the Republicans acquiesce to a bad Trump policy, I shall call it “eating the meatloaf”. For example, if the Republicans agree to reopen NAFTA, I will say, “It looks like the Republicans are eating the meatloaf on trade.”

(Aside: Christie’s opioid policy is a mix of decent ideas and incredibly dumb ones. Dumb ones are restricting access to prescription pain meds. This sounds smart but one of the things that has caused the surge in heroin use is restrictions on prescription pain killers. People get addicted to prescription meds, are cut off and then turn to heroin. It’s depressing how we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.)

Flynn Out

I just stepped off a plane in Brisbane and have had very little sleep. But the news this morning is that Mike Flynn has resigned as Trump’s NSC due to his contact with the Russians about sanctions and his deceptions regarding said communications.

There is an instinct among Republicans to be defensive, but this is a good thing. Mike Flynn was part of what I call Camp Crazy Trump, the people who come up with ill-considered crackpot ideas like barring green card holders from entering the country. He’s a conspiracy theorist, cozy with the Russians and, apparently a liar. Good riddance.

One theme I’ve been hitting on Twitter is that we should be trying to keep Trump surrounded by good people. I’m disappointed when I see people pressuring Musk or Kalanik to refuse to work with the Administration. Because, like it or not, Trump is going to be President for the next four years. And we should want the people advising him to be smart and of good character. I realize that a lot of Trump opponents want his Administration to be a flaming disaster. But is this about what’s best for the country? Or is this just about getting Democrats elected? Because if it’s the former, you should be encouraging good people to work with Trump. And if it’s the latter, go get stuffed because the country is more important than Team Blue.

Ninth Circuit Rules Against Trump

The Ninth Circuit issued a ruling on Trump’ immigration EO, maintaining a nationwide suspension of the order.

While I think that Trump’s ban was poorly reasoned and executed with the skill of a brass band falling down a flight of stairs, I’m a bit bothered by this decision for reasons David French gets into here:

Finally, and crucially, the court made a statement near the end of its opinion that is deeply, deeply troubling. In discussing the evidence before the court, the panel says this:

The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.

Putting aside, for the moment, the administration’s inexplicable failure to include in the executive order or the record the extensive documentation and evidence demonstrating the threat of jihad from the seven identified countries (including terror attacks in the U.S., plots in the U.S., and a record of plots and attacks abroad), whether an attack has been completed in this country is not the standard for implementing heightened security measures. The president doesn’t have to wait for completed attacks to protect the U.S. from dangerous immigrants. He can see the deteriorating security situation on the ground, evaluate the intentions and capabilities of the enemy, and then act before the enemy can strike. Indeed, that’s the goal of national defense — to prevent attacks, not respond after the carnage.

I’ve been hearing versions of this argument over and over again. “No refugee has launched a terror attack against the US!” “No one from those seven countries has attacked the US soil!” “Since 9/11, more people have been killed by Right Wing terrorism than Jihadists!” For a while, I was swayed by these arguments. But I’ve come to realize that they are complete horse manure.

First, as French notes, the job of the federal government is to prevent attacks, not close the barn door after the horse has been stolen. If they have credible intelligence of an attack or a danger, they are supposed to act (within Constitutional limits).

Second, terrorist attacks are, by their very nature, stochastic. They are thankfully few and when you try to do any analysis of them, you are immediately swallowed by small number statistics. This is obvious when you think about it. Any sentence that starts with, “well, excluding 9/11 …” is just silly. 9/11 was the biggest terrorist attack in American history. It completely dominates the discussion. Our entire anti-terrorism policy is designed around preventing another 9/11. You simply can not exclude it from consideration and act like you’re clever for doing so.

It would take only one successful Jihadist attack to upset those numbers (indeed, the numbers changed dramatically after San Bernardino and Orlando). It would take only one attack by a refugee from, say, Somalia, to make those arguments completely moot. When your argument can be rendered useless by a singular event, it’s a terrible argument.

Think about where we were on 9/10. At that point, the most successful attack on American soil was the Oklahoma City bombing. Should Bush have therefore ignored the threat of Jihadists? On the contrary, many liberals slammed him for paying insufficient attention to the “Al-Qaeda determined to strike in US” memo.

Just to be clear: I think the danger presented by people coming into this country with visas or as refugees is low. But it is not zero. Can we quit pretending that it is?

(I would note, in passing, that deciding on the wisdom of a policy is not the Court’s job. Antonin Scalia used to note that the Courts were required to uphold laws that were ill-advised but passed Constitutional muster. He joked that he wished he had a stamp: “Stupid but Constitutional.” I’m not quite familiar enough with this case to opine on whether Trump’s order is legal or Constitutional. It may be dumb. I know many on this blog disagree. But even if we assume it’s dumb, it’s not the Court’s job to stop stupidity.)

Australia, Mexico and the Hysteria Cycle

So yesterday, the internet erupted with claims that Donald Trump had threatened to invade Mexico and had a testy phone call with the Prime Minister of Australia. I tweeted a little bit about but was a bit skeptical. But I did keep my policy on blogging about Trump-related news, which is this:

I will not blog about anything bad Trump supposedly does until it is confirmed, either by audio, video or in writing. I do this for my own sanity, if not for the sake of the debate.

To give you an example, I tweeted and blogged very quickly about last weekend’s airport debacle because it was obviously real. People were being detained and sent back, an EO had gone out, Whitehouse spokesmen had gone on record that it applied to green card holders. But I didn’t blog about rumors about an anti-LGBT EO that was supposedly on the way because it was all anonymous sourcing.

Now it turns out that the Australia phone call was a bit overblown. Trump is upset about the deal to send 1250 refugees here. But we have no idea how often world leaders get into these sort of tiffs and the Australian PM downplayed it. Trump took to Twitter to complain and it does appear he lashed out at the PM in some fashion. So it’s a bit concerning, but not exactly the start of a war. Meanwhile, Mexican and US authorities have denied that the phone call was confrontational and the transcript indicates that his “threat” to send troops down there was more of light-hearted joke and both sides saw it as such.

This is becoming a very big problem in the Trump Era. Things have moved very fast for the last two weeks. And, unfortunately, there has developed a tendency for the entire internet to jump at shadows. Garbage stories flourish with thousands of retweets and posts. The corrections are buried. The opposition is losing their damned minds, freaking out over everything Trump supposedly does only to find out later that at least half of it was fake news.

There are now dozens of Twitter accounts claiming to be “rogue” accounts inside NASA, the Parks Service and even the White House itself. There is zero evidence that these accounts are anything but trolls. In fact, one Tweeter contends that the spelling and diction indicate they are being run out of Russia (and Trump thought Putin was his friend). And yet these unsourced unreliable accounts have thousands of followers and every time they tweet something that confirms liberal biases, they get tens of thousands of retweets. Anonymous sourcing is taken as gospel. Rumors become headline news. It’s insane. It’s exhausting. It’s so discrediting that many people think it’s Trump’s team doing it to make the media look unreliable.

I realize that Trump scares a lot of people (including me). But if you turn the volume up to 11 on every whisper of malfeasance, you will exhaust yourself and everyone else. People who support Trump or are in the middle or are not political junkies will tune out. It’s not like there’s a shortage of real stuff to get mad about.

During the Obama years, I cautioned against screaming over everything he did. The same goes double for Trump. Focus on the bad stuff that’s real, not rumors. Support him when he does something right. Don’t burn your energy up and exhaust the nation chasing phantoms.

It’s Gorsuch

Well, it was done like an Apprentice finale, but we finally got Trump’s nominee to replace Scalia: Neil Gorsuch. So far, the conservative wing is extremely pleased. Gorsuch is a textualist, an independent thinker and a good writer. He clerked for Kennedy. He’s another member of the Harvard-Yale axis, unfortunately. I will have to read up more but my initial impression is that this is a solid nomination by Trump.

I thought that the GOP should have considered Garland. And I think the Senate should move forward on Gorsuch. Grill him. Vet him. Question his rulings and opinions. That’s their job. But if he’s qualified and has not serious issues, he should be our next Supreme Court justice. I expect the Democrats to put up a bit of a fight but, as he’s replacing Scalia, it will probably not be too bad. If they’re smart, they’ll save it for if/when Trump has to replace a liberal or moderate.

Trump Fires Yates

A few thoughts on Trump firing Sally Yates, the acting AG.

First, he is well within his rights to do so. The Attorney General answers to the President and, if she won’t obey his instructions, should resign. I have frequently defended politicians who are criticized for legal arguments they made while attorneys general, pointing out that arguing the state’s position is their job, whether they agree with it or not. If Yates didn’t want to defend Trump’s EO, she should have resigned, as Elliott Richardson once did.

That having been said, his statement on the matter is a bit odd, referring to her “betrayal” and trying to argue for the policy. This is politics, not some personality cult. We had enough of that nonsense with the last President. But I guess we’re going to have to get used to these Trump temper tantrums.

Finally, if there is one candidate I hope can be scuttled, it’s Jeff Sessions.