From the Atlantic:
In Trump, [John] Dean says he has observed many of his former boss’s most dangerous traits—obsessive vengefulness, reflexive dishonesty, all-consuming ambition—but none of Nixon’s redeeming qualities.
Headline summaries and political forecasting don't come any more succinct than this, from WaPo's Richard Cohen:
Not that it's needed, but Cohen does expand:
Trump … is already on thin ice and he will plunge through it the moment Congress takes the measure of his unpopularity…. Trump will have his moment, that’s for sure, but when things go wrong he will be chased from office.
This aligns with my tentative hypothesis that Trump's true nemesis will, in time, be his own party.
Being creatures of self-interest (i.e., political self-preservation) rather than loyalty, congressional Republicans will sit back rather helplessly as they watch Trump's many catastrophies-in-waiting morph into "things going wrong," at which point the latter's approval rating will nosedive to historic lows — one already delightfully low, even before he launches his many catastrophes. Fear, anxiety and panic at early retirement will then sweep the Republican conference as riotous town hall meetings, massive street demonstrations and perpetually ringing congressional office phones settle in as the norm, what with America's promised re-greatness flushing counterclockwise (I double-checked) into the sewer.
This — the inescapable link between his approval rating and his party's support — even the Donald seems to appreciate. Otherwise he wouldn't be tweeting, as he did this morning, preemptive assaults on the validity of these ratings:
And that, of course, the old guard and rank-and-file Republicans won't buy. What they will buy is any excuse (and Lord knows they'll have their pick) to impeach his reckless and party-ravaging ass, to be done with him, and to save their own butts.
Such, anyway, is my — and, it appears, Richard Cohen's — working hypothesis.
HHS nominee Tom Price "does not want the sole focus of his appearance before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday to be his own proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare," reports CNN, via a Trump transition official.
That shouldn't be a problem. For there's likely to be a wee bit of interest (at least among committee Democrats) in Rep. Price's entirely serendipitous purchase, I'm sure, of stock in a medical device manufacturer "days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company." Subsequent to that extraordinary fluke of timing, the device manufacturer's political action committee then contributed to the lawmaker's reelection campaign. As with lightning, happenstance can indeed strike twice, it seems.
I once worked in political finance, but that was under the ancien régime. America was straining to be great again, yet mired as it was in the malarial swamp of the old ways, she just couldn't make it. In those malodorous days it was generally understood that the boodle came first, then the legislative favors. How amateurish, how craven, that now seems. Trump's nominated cesspool-keepers have boldly added a layer of linear graft: first they invest, then propose, then siphon the plunder — twice over.
Meanwhile comes the headline news that the president-elect "is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of 'insurance for everybody.'" That's what he said. "We’re going to have insurance for everybody." Trump, however, was "coy about its details." Before disclosing them he's waiting until investment-whiz Tom Price is confirmed, who, as noted, has agreed to stifle himself about his revolutionary alt-Obamacare plan, whose stirring innovations include little more than the same old Republican piffle about health savings accounts and such.
The vast suspense that Trump asks us to endure may have been a trifle more suspenseful had he not already posted his plan on the "Trump-Pence Make America Great Again!" website. To wit, his healthcare "reforms" will "follow free market principles," will "modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines," will "block-grant Medicaid to the states," and will "allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts."
In short, the old Republican piffle — the very same, aged GOP feculence that nearly 60 percent of the American public opposes, favoring instead a "federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans." To whom — many of them members of the president-elect's white working-class base — Trump is saying: Up yours; you'll take my scamming swindle of a Pricey, Ryanesque-Randian healthcare swamp — and you'll like it.
Mine is, perhaps, a fine distinction.
Is Donald Trump a legitimate president? I'd answer that his presidency is legitimate, but that Trump is no president.
He's imbued with neither the dignity of the office nor any of the commonly recognized qualifications for it, save the rawness of acquiring 270 or more Electoral votes, which — alone — legitimates his presidency. He possesses disdain for the nation's laws and contempt for its political traditions. He is wholly ungrounded in policy, principles, and official propriety. He's ignorant, shiftless, ominously reactive. He's mendacious beyond even Nixonian mendacity; he is megalomaniacal, combustible, vulgar, capricious, authoritarian, pathologically aggressive and clinically narcissistic.
He reminds us with a ghoulish consistency that he's the incompatible voice of the plutocracy and white working class, but no others. His approach to national "leadership" is the toxic antithesis of Obama's "We're not Democrats first" or "Republicans first" but "Americans first"; of Jefferson's "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists," which, even more poignantly, our third president followed with: "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated."
To Trump — as he demonstrates daily on his chosen medium of communication — virtually any opinion but his is intolerable, it's subject to an instant bombardment of savage damnation and grotesque overreaction, and, indeed, his words and actions threaten the undisturbed "safety" of dissent, which is the most fundamental peril to our republican form.
This morning, the NYT's Charle Blow (who has been inspired, of late, to magnificent heights of eloquence by the nation's most ineloquent pol) is agreement with me that "Trump is, by all measures of the law, the legitimate president-elect." He's also in agreement with Rep. John Lewis that Trump is illegitimate, not in reference "to [its] meaning in law," but in "principle" — of "accepted rules and standards."
While Blow does note that Trump's "buck[ing of] our conventions" and "percolating conflicts" have violated accepted standards of personal behavior in a president, he swings with much greater force to the impersonal in professing the president-elect illegitimate: "[FBI Director] Comey threw a wrench in the works with his meaningless, last-minute letter about Clinton’s email" and "the intelligence community has determined with high confidence that Russia interfered in our election in an effort to hurt Clinton and help Trump." The latter's "presidency is illegitimate," concludes Blow, "insofar as outside interference in an election violates our standards and principles."
That may be. The effective depth of such interference is, however, in dispute, and it may forever remain in dispute. I would dearly prefer that it does not; that incontrovertible evidence of Trump's imaginably nethermost transgression — that of his electoral collusion with a foreign power (see: 2 U.S.C. § 441 and its assorted prohibitions of such) — comes to light, presenting even his own party with the devastating duty of impeachment.
What goes to my argument is the past, the here, the now, the forever indisputability of the personal — the characterological deficiencies of Donald Trump that are so vast, so abysmal, so unpresidential, no one with any fondness for human decency could ever deem this horror of a little man a legitimate president of these United States.
According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration….. The media [would] be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room … to the White House Conference Center—near Lafayette Square—or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building.
In vintage, we're-doing-this-for-them humbug, press secretary Sean Spicer said: "There's been so much interest in covering a President Donald Trump. A question is: Is a room that has forty-nine seats adequate?… Is there an opportunity to potentially allow more members of the media to be part of this?"
Another transition official — one who, unlike Spicer, never attended the P.J. Goebbels School of Advanced Studies in Authoritarian Pretexts — was somewhat less sympathetic to the plight of cramped journalists, however, and probably a trifle more honest: "They are the opposition party. I want 'em out of the building. We are taking back the press room."
Upon reflecting that Trump has called the press "scum," "slime," "disgusting," "horrible people," "terrible people," "not good people," "illegitimate" and "dishonest," I'm inclined to go with the transition official's unstudied view.
You had [American journalists in the 1920s and early '30s] meeting Hitler and saying, "This guy is a clown. He's like a caricature of himself." And a lot of them went through this whole litany about how even if Hitler got into a position of power, other German politicians would somehow be able to control him. A lot of German politicians believed this themselves. Of course, everyone began to reassess that very quickly after he took power. But some of the Americans were much more prescient -- for instance, Edgar Mowrer, the Chicago Daily News correspondent, kept frantically trying to warn readers and the world … [—] "Don't underestimate him."
Trump's regime will come with the sort of institutional checks that had been ravished in postwar and depression-era Germany, thus analogies are extraordinarily precarious. Frantic warnings, however, still apply.
[American intelligence officials have informed their Israeli counterparts] that they believed Russia President Vladimir Putin had "leverages of pressure" over Trump – but did not elaborate. They were apparently referring to what was published Wednesday about embarrassing information collected by the Russian intelligence in a bid to blackmail the president-elect.
The Americans implied that their Israeli colleagues should "be careful" as of January 20, Trump’s inauguration date, when transferring intelligence information to the White House and to the National Security Council (NSC), which is subject to the president. According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians [via the Russians].
The American Action Network, a 501(c)(4), House GOP leadership mouthpiece and think tank (or "think-and-do-tank," as the AAN calls itself), is spending $1.4 million in 28 congressional districts, "including those of some vulnerable GOP incumbents and committee chairmen." The dark boodle is being plowed into "telescreen" and digital ads asking you to Imagine "a new path forward" in health insurance — an alt-Obamacare path, one that "provides more choices and better care at lower costs," as well as "peace of mind to people with pre-existing conditions."
You had damn well better imagine it. Or rather you can only imagine it, for of course no such plan exists, although the think-and-do-tank "is ensuring" that we Americans know, as the organization's executive director puts it, "that there is a conservative, patient-centered plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare."
Ignorance is strength. Newspeak. Doublethink. Goodthink. The Ministry of Truth. Ingsoc …
The befuddling of the proles. A living, not dead or fictional, language. A cognitive-dissonance-crushing mental process in which one can "tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient." Party-approved thoughts. A hauntingly massive apparatus, including bankrolled sub-ministries, of truth invention. And, finally, Ingsoc, the once-conservatively derided, ironhanded pseudo-ideology of Big Brother's "English Socialism," gloriously resurrected in doubleplusgood GOPquack (pronounced 'gäp-kwak).
And you can see all of it here:
Have a nice day.
Daughter E.J. with with her lovely host parents on a weekend visit to a very mysterious location.
For those of you wondering, E.J.'s French language skills have soared. She arrived there in late August, scarcely able to converse in French at even the most fundamental level. Two days ago we "Facetimed," and when she finished updating me (in English) on her travel plans for this weekend (apparent, above), I finally asked — something I had resisted doing for nearly five months, since I didn't wish to embarrass her or put her on the spot — "Say, would mind repeating everything you just told me, but in French, not English?" At which point she launched unhesitatingly into a French recitation. She is now officially bilingual.
Next, Xhosa and Pirahã, or maybe just German.
Bless his petty little heart and thinnest of skins, he took the bait:
Let's see, is there anyone of gentle, spotless, upright, honorable or heroic stature whom Trump has left uninsulted — and his or her admirers unalienated?
That would have demonstrated maturity, shown a bit of hitherto-absent graciousness — on this Martin Luther King holiday weekend, no less — and perhaps earned Trump some goodwill.
But he just couldn't resist taking the bait, and snapping back. Democrats can keep him tied up on his dumbphone for four years.
He's a dancing poodle in a tutu, a Pavlovian cur, an amazingly compliant elephant balanced on a ball.
As a political commentator, I tend not to write evangelical preachments — impassioned exhortations that scheme to goad, instruct, persuade or reproach with the intent of effecting some "higher" purpose. The innermost nature of the merely commenting beast is one of omission: that is, we prefer to leave preachy, inspirational messaging to sincere missionaries, self-righteous ideologues, and irrepressible cheerleaders.
That said, I confess that I do on occasion fall off the non-hortatory wagon, and morph into something of a crotchety Dutch uncle (which, Q.E.D., I did only five days ago). And on not one but two matters — why not double down while I'm at it? — I'm about to do it again. To wit …
In its chronic, seemingly incurable disparagement of virtually the entire political press, as well as what I see as its sniffish rejection of making common cause with thoughtful conservatives, the American left is blowing it.
As to all things journalistic, progressives and liberals are isolating themselves in a self-pitying, echoing right-winglike chamber of they're-all-against-us-ism ("they" being political journalists) and plunging into a squalid abyss of victimization and helplessness. They're adopting the Agnew-esque attitude of condemning the press as nothing more than an undifferentiated assemblage of nattering, negative nabobs — as feckless boobs who have not only universally failed to present facts as facts and villains as villains (which, retrospectively, is largely true), but, more to the critical point, as negligent clowns who will continue to do so, again without fail.
This — the making of the press as a permanent enemy — is an enormous tactical error. As have most lefty critics of modern political journalism — especially that of the truly wretched, 2016 sort — I have blasted the Fourth Estate for its many reflexive, infuriating, Fournierlike lapses into lazy both-sides-ism and vacuous "balance." And those blasts were as they should have been. The press's habitual comparison of, say, Hillary's relatively innocuous email "scandal" to Trump's legion of unambiguously scandalous rhetoric was a scandal itself.
The past, however, is not necessarily prologue. Corrective lessons and more responsible journalistic practices can be learned by the profession's practitioners — and from what I've read in their countless self-critical analyses and autopsies, many of them are learning just that. The swelling, mainstream consensus seems to be: We fucked up, we know we fucked up, and we won't fuck up like that again.
Although we now have from much of the press its welcome (or what should be welcome) self-examinations, from the left I nonetheless read commentator after commentator screaming Well, fuck you, and what's more, fuck you forever; the manner in which you reported 2016 was unforgivable, hence we shall never forgive; we instead shall crawl into our tribalistic chamber of righteous and everlasting condemnation. This — the making of the press as a permanent enemy — is, to repeat, an enormous tactical error. And the left, it follows, should stop committing it. Approbation of journalistic atonement and lessons learned, as well as the encouragement of further rehabilitation, should go forth — not endless censure.
Remaining, for just a bit longer, on my evangelical soapbox: The left — in this case strategically — is playing a self-injurious game in so broadly disdaining the making of common cause with somewhat thoughtful conservatives, those being rather easily defined as Trump-wary Republicans who nevertheless fell into the partisan fold and voted for the authoritarian idiot. Appalling, indeed. But for the left to adhere to a status of permanent belligerence toward such a massive segment of the American electorate — one, after all, in rough sympathy with the left's contemporary and essentially Burkean goal of preserving the American political traditions of incrementalism and compromise — is to cost itself a potential ally in the enduring, transcendent cause of anti-Trumpism.
A 2018 and 2020 electoral alliance looms in the progressive, center-left and center-right wings; and yet, as the left's resentment lingers, it is going unexploited. Belligerence should be traded for collaboration — its potential, anyway.
So there you have it: my reproachful, higher-purposes-effecting preachment. I shan't make a habit of this, though, for it goes against my innermost nature of mere commentary.
Writing for Vanity Fair, Pointer.org's chief media writer, James Warren, bemoans the absence of professional solidarity in confronting Donald Trump's press-conference authoritarianism:
[The press] could essentially insist on a greater level of civility, even issuing an ultimatum or two of its [own]…. Thus when Trump dissed [CNN's Jim] Acosta Wednesday and declined to recognize his question, the notion is the press could have acted with greater fidelity to Acosta rather than shouting and straining to get their own questions answered.
Warren fails to precisely define "act[ing] with greater fidelity." But whatever that might be, he predicts "It’s not going to happen." Each reporter will shout and strain out of pure self-interest — the oddest sort of pack mentality, one, that is, in which dog eats dog.
My version of the Fourth Estate's retaliating with (what could be more fun?) Trump-irritating fidelity is this: In all reporting on Trump, refer only to "Mr. Trump" or "the president" — but never, never "President Trump." It would be "Mr. Trump did this" or "the president did that" — whatever the latest this-or-that insanity is — but deprive him the dignity of his constitutional title. It would bug the bejesus out of him.
And keep it up until Trump conceded a "greater level of civility" toward the press, which of course would never come, because he's Trump.
Poor Chris Christie. He's like a scorned lover, waiting for the phone to ring. Politico:
[Christie] is playing the long game, betting that Trump’s senior aides and Cabinet nominees, nearly all of whom lack governing experience, will face unexpected challenges when they settle into the West Wing. Christie turned down several offers to join the Trump administration when he was denied the attorney general post, but he has told associates he expects Trump to turn to people like him — seasoned lawmakers and political hands — if and when the neophytes begin to flounder.
I love Timothy Egan:
Watch for [Trump's] counterweight of sanity, the nominee for defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis. On Thursday, he broke with Trump, saying the United States must confront Putin and should try to make the Iran nuclear deal work. You know we’re in trouble when the only reasonable voice during a week of capital chaos is a man whose nickname is Mad Dog.
In the rebel Jack Cade and his insurgent disciples, as portrayed in the three-volume Henry VI, Shakespeare's first and weakest play — a product of inexperience and collaboration — the eternal Bard nonetheless brilliantly anticipates Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, Donald Trump, and the madness of modern America's rabble:
CADE: Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hooped pot; shall have ten hoops and I will make it felony to drink small beer:… [A]nd when I am king, as king I will be,—
ALL: God save your majesty!
CADE: I thank you, good people: there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.
[REBEL]: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
CADE: Nay, that I mean to do.
Those pesky lawyers for sure, although in Shakespeare's play they're also a metaphor for society's educated, the literate, the "elite" — all those who, grounded in the thorny realities of civilization, might complicate Cade's extravagant simplicities and laughable promises of overnight redresses. Coping with unpleasant realities and those who remind us of their equally unpleasant tenacity can be hard, hence Cade and his radical throng's why-didn't-we-think-of-this-before? solution: Just ignore reality in all its disagreeable forms, exterminate the realists, and conjure a utopian alternative — simple as that.
In an impressively economical update of Shakespeare's derision, Jack Cade's absurdities, the rabble's gullibility — and Trumpism — the Post's elitist Michael Gerson beholds that the president-elect has promised revenue-imploding tax cuts of approximately $7 trillion over 10 years, an infrastructure program that would cost roughly another trillion, tens of billions more toward the military's "rebuilding," no fiscal tampering with the nation's costliest social programs, and a speedy "move … toward a balanced federal budget."
Simple as that.
The rebel Trump and his professed political program, as the elitist columnist unforgettably reminds us, are "unfocused and erratic." The hapless demagogue "is dismissively impatient with policy meetings" and "wants others to sweat the details, allowing him to focus on bigger things" — "such as Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe remarks," or a few hundred Carrier jobs, or tweeted vapidities such as "@CNN is in a total meltdown with their FAKE NEWS because their ratings are tanking since election and their credibility will soon be gone!"
Nothing in Trump's many absurdities even remotely addresses reality; nothing connects with serious remedial advocacy or has much to do with anything but witless tabloid sensationalism or the disordered fantasies of the anarchic mind (as Jack Cade put it, "But then are we in order when we are most out of order"). Offers Gerson inconclusively — and rather superfluously: The president-elect "has made a series of pledges that can’t be reconciled. If he knew this during the campaign, he is cynical. If he is only finding out now, he is benighted."
That Trump is both cynical and benighted is among those rarities of absolute doubtlessness. The tweeting, yapping rabble-rouser is a manifest bundle of unreflective sociopathy and ruthless indifference to intellectual dignity. To engage in a bit of superfluity myself: He is that familiar horror of evil banality.
Which is to say, we have of course seen the incendiary, authoritarian, evil banality of Donald Trump before. History brims with such brutes. And yet what fascinates this student of megalomaniacal, sociopathic rabble-rousing are the aroused it attracts — more so than the cynical arousers. Which is to say further, every mass-movement leader's patently cretinous and often cruel promises underscore less the leader's barbaric ignorance than that of the massively moved.
Virtually every demagogue, cultish personality or carnival-barking populist — whatever one wishes to call him — is, as noted, sneeringly indifferent to both truth and ignorance. In that, he's a singular phenomenon. But how — and this is what fascinates to the very depths of wonder — are millions of otherwise reasonably well-functioning John and Jane Q.s capable of embracing the demagogue's immensely conspicuous absurdities?
Among them, to repeat, is Trump's promise to slash revenue and lavish yet more aid on the superwealthy while balancing the budget and benefiting his white working-class base. The eyes of a still-subliterate but twice-thinking child would glaze over in the presence of such arrestingly self-evident falderal; nonetheless more than 62-million American adults have said to themselves and unfortunate others: Well, the Donald may be a trifle off here and there, but let's give this insufferable ass a chance, and just see how things work out.
The breadth of this collective gullibility, searing ignorance or utter disregard for the vastly empirical certainty of Trump's coming calamities is, to me, fascinating. This collective drives to work, finds its way home, raises children and remembers to turn off the stove — but somehow it's unable or simply unwilling to recognize the most sinister political con that ever descended on these disunited states of America.
It — all of it — is just fascinating. Deeply perverse, but fascinating nevertheless.
FiveThirtyEight has a too-long, too-repetitive but nonetheless worthwhile internal discussion on the "journalistic ethics and political implications of Buzzfeed’s decision to publish a memo full of unsubstantiated allegations against" Trump. The site's senior political writer, Clare Malone, argues:
Under the circumstances — a number of unverifiable and not-yet-verified allegations in a document rife with errors — no, I don’t think Buzzfeed should have published.
I think it’s journalistic malpractice to have done so.
And I say that not because I think the American public can’t decide things for themselves (Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith reasoned that by publishing the full document, the site allowed readers to evaluate it themselves) but because part of the responsibility of journalists is to act as a filter for people to help them discern what is real and what is not.
Pace Malone, Nate Silver writes:
[Remember,] the campaign press was happy to speculate based on incomplete information in the case of the Comey letter.
True. In the Comey instance, how were journalists "act[ing] as a filter for people to help them discern what is real and what is not" when journalists themselves merely speculated (ad nauseam) as to the basis of Comey's actions?
More broadly, did journalists help readers discern "what was real and what was not" when it came to Hillary Clinton and Whitewater? Travelgate? Filegate? Vince Foster's suicide? Benghazi? Her family foundation's "real" doings? Her "real" purpose in securing a private email system? Her "real" health? Her "real" personality?
What's especially amusing about the principal argument made by 538's senior political writer — again, that her journalistic responsibility is that of helping readers "discern what is real and what is not" — is the following passage (with Harry Enten, also a senior political writer at 538, intervening):
natesilver: … I think the politics of [BuzzFeed's full document release] are quite helpful for Trump.
clare.malone: Oh yeah.
natesilver: It was nicely timed from his perspective, in terms of letting him claim the moral high ground in the press conference.
harry: Well, hold on a second. I don’t think this loses him a single supporter. But I’m not sure it helps him gain one either.
clare.malone: I dunno, Harry.
My take on this debate is here.
"As the end of his presidency draws close, America is confronted with the reality of what is being lost," reflects the NYT's Charles Blow.
"Deprived of" is more accurate, thanks to Republicans' legacy of 22nd Amendment vengeance. For them, one Democratic president of monumental greatness was one too many, so begone the nation's democratic will. Not only conceivable but discernibly credible was the prospect that given a third term (which the American electorate would have granted, also given 2016's Republican alternative), Barack Obama would have gone on to, or very nearly approached, something akin to FDR's presidential greatness.
No doubt the characterological elements were present for such an apotheosis -- Obama's "extraordinary" "decency and dignity," "solemnity and splendor," "loftiness and literacy," observes Blow -- as were the practical ingredients of an increasingly healthy economy at home and a nation at determined, intelligent peace abroad. History's judgment will be decisively favorable to Obama's presidency as it stands; and had it not been for 14 muscled, amending words -- "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice" -- an even vaster favorability awaited. Or so I believe.
No political benediction is believable at its core, however, unless some periphery of discontent is also noted. Mr. Blow's offering is this: "I have not always agreed with the president’s positions or tactics, and this feels normal to me. Freethinking people are bound to disagree occasionally, even if a vast majority of their values align. I was particularly frustrated with what I believed was his misreading and underestimation of the intensity of the opposition he faced, and his approach of being a gentleman soldier in a guerrilla war."
Blow's rather expansive criticism of Obama's tenure is, among the latter's friends, perhaps the most common of all. That which counters it -- half of it, anyway -- is just as common: The odds of America's first black president profitably conducting himself as a guerrilla warrior -- read: angry black warrior -- were always low. Even lower was the probability that President Obama's reserved temperament could have expressed itself as anything less than a gentleman soldier. Such secondary conduct should unfold naturally, or not at all. Throughout Obama's two terms, he chose wisely.
There nonetheless remains the question of "his misreading and underestimation of the intensity of the opposition he faced," all of which was outlandishly fetid, freakish, and chronic. It is on this question that I tend to agree with Blow, although I would modify the terms of my agreement. Did Obama really misread and underestimate the opposition? -- or did he, to so many's frustration, merely tolerate it to excess, thereby giving the impression of a purblind underestimation.
I encountered some pretty heavy flak from a lot of readers (soon manifested in the loss of their readership; die-hard Obama loyalists who in no way would countenance any critical writing about him) when, subsequent to the president's reelection, I reproached him again and again for playing nice -- then, on the impending matter of immigration reform -- with the proudly unpleasant, immovably disagreeable opposition. Obama's dismaying habit was that of extending cordial overtures to determined crackpots of mooning obstructionism, all in the press-reported calculation that presidential reserve and reason might drag at least a few of the perversely unreasonable to enlightened cooperation.
Hopeless, of course, was the White House's calculation. Congressional Republicans feigned and headfaked here and there, but only as run-ups to shafting the president's hopes. Their malignant intentions were appallingly self-evident, but Obama just kept trying, he persisted in playing nice.
It was then that I leapt from the critical to the exhortative. Throughout the next four years of nation-wounding Republican obstructionism, I adjured, Obama's most useful public service would be that of a sustained campaign of electoral enlightenment. He should forget pursuing assorted policy proposals such as immigration or tax reform, which at any speed were bound for nowhere. With his selfsame calm reasoning and presidential reserve, he must instead educate voters on the inextinguishable principles of good governance, I urged; on national speaking tours and in townhall meetings he must remind the prudently inclined but often unheeding body politic that the opposition's sinister hyperpartisanship and malign obstructionism are gravely unsustainable.
Aside from the good-governance virtues of this imagined project, the pragmatic political side of Obama's voter-enlightenment campaign would of course have been a more amplified and motivated anti-GOP turnout in 2014 and 2016 -- much as Obama is about to pursue, in presidential retirement, with eyes toward 2018 and 2020. His post-2016 farewell speech, laden as it was with better-governance encouragement, was a trifle late.
But aside from that as well? Charles Blow could not be more powerfully correct. As the end of Obama's presidency draws close, we are confronted with the reality of what is being lost. And given the loss's replacement, tomorrow's reality could not be more chilling.
Today, at her first press conference since losing to her Republican opponent by nearly three million votes, President-elect Hillary Clinton announced that not only would her global family foundation remain active, she would personally solicit huge foreign donations to it, parts of which she would skim from later in retirement -- although all such graft would first need to be approved by her soon-to-be-appointed "ethics adviser," Carlo Gambino III.
PMC Commentary's non-recompensed intern, Gonzo Thumperson, was in attendance at Mrs. Clinton's presser. Upon hearing the president-elect's rather unorthodox plan for padding her purse, he asked: "Mrs. President-elect, isn't your plan flagrantly, insultingly illegal?"
Mrs. Clinton paused, pondered and replied: "Fuck off, Thumperson. You're attacking me. You represent a disgraceful, terrible, failing pile of garbage and I'm not gonna give you a question because you are hustling fake news."
Gonzo T., being the eager scooper of all the poop that's fit to print, later reached out to House Oversight Committee chairman, Democrat Jason Chaffetz, for comment on Mrs. Clinton's bribery scheme. Chaffetz remarked that, notwithstanding the widespread outrage inspired by Mrs. Clinton's flagrantly, insultingly illegal maneuver, it would be "silly" of him to stage a committee investigation into it -- because she isn't yet president.
Non-recompensed Gonzo is now hitchhiking his way home, and reconsidering his choice of careers.
If ever there was an instance of the "liberal media" deferring to journalistic conventions when reporting -- or rather not reporting -- on the political right while circumventing the same journalistic conventions with respect to the political left (such as it is), this is it.
For weeks, throughout the recent unpleasantness, the national media trafficked in WikiLeaks' revelations about Clinton & Co.'s internal emails: "explosive" material dubiously obtained, selectively released, possibly tampered with and probably coordinated with the Trump campaign -- in the end, however, scarcely explosive and, in fact, of no real value in terms of the public's need to know. At best, WikiLeaks' machinations and Team Trump's exploitation of them warranted journalistic mention in the back pages or asides on cable news as a kind of bemusing curiosity, but no more.
Such near indifference to WikiLeaks' rolling, vengeful, anti-Hillary disclosures would have conformed to prudent journalistic conventions. No such conformity ensued, however. On its surface this was the stuff of the sensationalistic sort, and so print and broadcast media ran with it -- not just prominently, but obsessively. Its self-justification was that the material was already out there, "everyone knew" of its presence, and thus downplaying WikiLeaks' "news" would have constituted not only journalistic sloth, but journalistic favoritism toward the Clinton camp.
And Lord knows the media couldn't abide that. It would bear its objective fangs and demonstrate its balanced chops by ripping into the Clinton email stories with frenzied zeal. That would show "liberal media" criticism and (in reality) its chronically unappeasable malcontents that "liberal" and "media" were indeed a legally separated couple.
Again, for the media to prove itself, prudent journalistic conventions had to be trashed -- on one side. All along, bubbling within journalistic circles was vastly more sensationalistic material "exposing" what the NY Times, this morning, calls "compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump" and his complicity in -- to just as vastly understate the matter -- Vladimir Putin's U.S.-election-interfering mischief.
"Details of the reports began circulating in the fall," notes the Times, "and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington." CNN notes much the same: "Some of the memos were circulating as far back as last summer." So too does BuzzFeed, which has now published the sensationalistic, salacious, Trump-compromising details: "[They] have circulated for months and acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers, and intelligence officials who have seen them."
Where was this story last summer or fall -- one that, in sheer sensationalism, easily would have eclipsed the Clinton-compromising WikiLeaks story? Nowhere in sight, that's where, except for David Corn's singular, October piece in Mother Jones, which, unlike right-wing media stories in which mere rumor invariably yields damning conclusions, was rather muted in its development. ("There's no way to tell whether the FBI has confirmed or debunked any of the allegations contained in the ... memos," observed Corn.)
All of which is to say, this whopping incommensurability in the media's coverage of one sensationalism versus another posed, and continues to pose, nothing less than a crisis in political journalism. Its fairness, objectivity, impartiality, whatever one wishes to call it, could have been achieved by either covering both stories with at least equal zeal or covering both with a rough indifference. Instead, the media hammered Team Clinton's "revealed" shenanigans while dismissing Team Trump's, violating virtually every tenet of journalistic conventions.
Of course even more monstrous than the crisis of journalism's unpardonable campaign coverage was its foul, squalid, yet-immeasurable fallout. Had the media balanced itself in either zealous aggressiveness or professional prudence in reporting the Clinton and Trump stories, the latter would have almost certainly swamped the former in electoral significance -- and today we wouldn't be only nine days away from the infinite horror of a peerless swindler and ignorant goon being sworn in as president of the United States.
The New York Times:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz .. said that his committee will still poke around in Hillary Clinton’s email issues in the new Congress, pointing out that new ones have emerged just this week.... "I don’t want this to linger," he said.... Mr. Chaffetz said ... that the six letters he has gotten from Democrats on the committee concerning Mr. Trump were "silly" because he isn’t president yet.
Donald Trump on Tuesday reportedly said he wanted Republicans in Congress to press for immediate repeal of Obamacare and replace it "very quickly or simultaneously." [He] demanded a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act "probably some time next week," and said "the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter." "Long to me would be weeks," Trump said.
And again the Times:
Mr. Trump on Tuesday asked a prominent anti-vaccine crusader to lead a new government commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, ushering debunked conspiracy theories about the dangers of immunization into the White House. Mr. Trump, who has embraced discredited links between vaccines and autism, has asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, to be chairman of the commission. Mr. Kennedy’s appointment spread alarm through the medical community.