The White House Mess

Michael Wolff’s The Fire and the Fury (also, get it for your Kindle or get it on Audible) is the talk of the town and certainly the book of the moment. It jumped to #1 bestseller list from nowhere at about 11:00 p.m. last night, which has to make the publisher pretty happy. Some preview takeaways:

  • No one, including Trump, thought Donald Trump would win the 2016 election. Trump had laid substantial plans for post-election ventures.
  • Since no one thought Trump would win, no one thought hanging around with disreputable characters and engaging in shady transactions was going to matter. Which explains things like why Michael Flynn was kept close to the center of things, despite knowledge that he’d had some questionable dealings with the Russian and Turkish government.
  • Having had no real plans to win, there were no real plans to govern.
  • Having had no real plans to govern, even purported subject matter experts were reduced to doing things like looking up policy proposals within their own disciplines on Wikipedia.
  • Also having had no real plans to govern, no one thought to ask why the hell Michael Wolff was just sort of hanging around the transition office and later the West Wing with no particular agenda, employer, role to fill, or apparent boss.
  • The internal power dynamics of the first year of the Trump White House resemble nothing so much as a banquet hosted by King Joffrey in Game of Thrones. Pregnant with intrigue, full of people ready to stab one another in the back, and decided ambiguity about whether anyone is in any sort of control of the situation at all.

And, of course, there’s all sorts of questions about Wolff’s integrity, veracity, and reliability. This, I suspect, is a good indication that the author has touched a nerve and is telling at least something truthful that hurt the people yelping loudest about them.

So there you go. I’ma buy this book tonight, which is something I wouldn’t likely have done had Donald Trump not sicced his attorneys on the author and publisher to silence them. Having proven the validity of the Streisand Effect, I expect to be ready for a full discussion soon.

If you’ve read it, are reading it, plan to read it, or have read the preview that New York magazine published, I’m particularly interested to hear from you.


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Pseudonymous. Practices Law. Lives in Southern California. Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. Homebrewer. Atheist. No Partisan Preference. Likes: respectful and intelligent dialogue, good wine, the Green Bay Packers, and puppies. Dislikes: mass-produced barley pop, magical thinking, ketchup, and insincere people. Follow him on Twitter at @burtlikko, and on Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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384 thoughts on “The White House Mess

  1. I read the preview and I think your summary of the points made by the book (that we know of so far) is masterful.

    What concerns me is actually not that I don’t want it to be true, or that I hope it’s true, or whatever, it’s that I’ve been ruefully sure much of it was true since 2016. Which concerns me b/c it leaves me quite open to the Shattered Glass effect – ie how much do I believe it because it confirms my priors? How much is it that the reporter’s version of events rings completely and utterly plausible to me because I “just know” those people must be like that?

    PS this is completely off-topic but how is it that I’m only just now realizing that Buzz Bissinger (the Friday Night Lights guy) is the same writer who wrote the Vanity Fair takedown of Steven Glass?? Dang. Someday I hope to buy that man a beer.

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    • I don’t think there’s reason to believe, yet, that Wolff fabricated anything.

      That is quite different from believing that the book is true, and even he includes an interesting disclaimer to that effect. I guess I’ll link to my comment elsewhere.

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      • The interesting part of your comment is this:

        Also, how much of an open secret can it be that Trump is completely unfit for office if half the country believes it?
        Does the answer change if something like a quarter would believe he is completely unfit for office in the face of a great deal of evidence to the contrary?

        Part of what you’re getting at here is partisan preference: there are people who would say “Trump is completely unfit for office” because he either pursues policies that those people strongly dislike, or at least signals that he will pursue such policies. A convenient shorthand for this is “Trump is a Republican.” And obviously, there’s a difference between “fitness to serve” and “serves in a manner that pleases me.”

        Mike Pence would not be the sort of President I would like. He would do things as President I would not like. He would appoint judges I’d rather not see on the bench. He would sign laws that I would prefer be vetoed and probably veto laws I would prefer be signed. He would direct regulations, deregulations, and law implementation priorities that I disagree with.

        But Mike Pence is, to my eyes, fit to serve as President. He is apparently intelligent, able to keep mental focus and attention, speaks in a reasonable and calm tone of voice, makes judgments responsive to the information in front of him, engages in mental deliberation, observes the formalities and norms of our government, and consciously governs his outward expressions of his inner emotions.

        Congressional Republicans aren’t willing to pull the impeachment trigger and get the same policy results they’re getting now with a more reasonable face and tone from a hypothetical President Pence, and that’s evidently a pretty cynical political calculation rather than an assessment of Trump — “We’ll just live with all the antics and probably all the corruption too, as long as we get good judges, deregulation, and signatures on bills we pass.” The Fire and the Fury profoundly exposes the degree of the antics that they’re willing to tolerate.

        As to the openness of that secret? Perhaps an analogy will help. How long did Hollywood knowingly put up with Harvey Weinstein’s antics? For as long as he was powerful enough to retaliate against people speaking out against him. So too for Congressional Republicans — they’ll put up with President Trump’s not-emotionally-grown-out-of-the-anal-stage behaviors for so long as they get the policy results they want, for so long as as they fear the voters within Trump’s cult of personality.

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        • Isn’t the issue here that impeachment is a fundamentally political process and not a constitutional one? Trump is still extremely popular with the GOP base and it would be suicide for a GOP congress to go after him. This only changes when it looks like clinging to Trump is suicide.

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          • This is mostly it. I just checked Gallup and darned if Republican approval rating for Trump isn’t 82% (seems high compared to the Trump voters I know, but…)

            I mean, if you were to ask – and for all I know Wolff did – Ryan and McConnell if they could wave a Magic Wand and have Mike Pence as president, would they? I’m sure they’d say yes. They have the Wand, just not the Magic.

            Adding to notes on the nature of Unfitness, we have to allow for duly elected bad and incompetent presidents; presidents we would say are unfit for the job in a competence and execution sort of way. But Wwoollff is certainly exposing the possibility of the open secret that the unfitness really goes into the health category. But even that needs to be managed politically… you can’t diagnose anything from office rumors and gossip… but maybe the book provides enough rope for Trump to start making his own noose.

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              • Now the interesting what if is if the Democrats win enough seats in 2018 that allow them to impeach Trump.

                No, not enough GOP seats up in the Senate, even if Democrats won every election.

                They have a chance (better with Jones now) of taking control of the Senate, but not the numbers needed to impeach.

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                  • I think it’s flatly impossible, as long as the pro-Trump base remains hardcore.

                    To win in the general election, you have to win the primary. Winning a primary with roughly 1/3 of your base spitting angry about you “backstabbing” Trump? Not good odds.

                    And if you win, you go into the general election with a 1/3 of your base likely to stay home. The GOP already has a problem with fire-breathing right-wing challengers.

                    Trump would have to lose his support — not of the 82% of Republicans he has now, but that 1/3 of the GOP that stuck with him the whole primary process. The rabid xenophobes, white supremacists, and angry pseudo-populists that just want someone to punch. Not the folks who supported him later, or threw in with the winner, but the guys who were lapping this stuff up when he was a vanity candidate.

                    I’m not sure Trump can really do anything that’ll lose them. They’re more likely to blame RINOs for ‘making Trump’ do anything they might not like.

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            • Part of the issue for the Republicans is going to be whether a credible primary challenger is about to emerge. Going back to the last election cycle, Ted Cruz announced his candidacy on March 23, 2015, which is the equivalent of about 14 months from now. I assume there are going to be discussions among the establishment about a strategy for 2020 and questions about whether a united non-Trump candidate can emerge among them. It seems like those discussions will influence what happens on Capitol Hill.

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              • What does a credible primary challenger mean post-2016?

                Suppose Trump costs the Republicans bigly in 2018 and 2020. Can the GOP go back to nominating people like Bush the Jebber, Mitt Romney, and McCain in 2022 and 2024? Or is Trumpism now a thing and is the base going to demand Trumpian candidates instead of a country club Republicans?

                Can someone wrestle the nomination from Trump in 2020 if the GOP loses by a lot in 2018.

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                • I have lost the ability to even pretend to handicap the future.

                  Our present situation is so bizarre and preposterous I am willing to believe that the 2020 GOP candidate might be Dwayne Elizondo “Mountain Dew” Herbert Camacho, in a valiant effort to return a sense of dignity and gravitas to the office.

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                • I believe someone will challenge Trump in the Republican primaries, but it would need to be someone more credible than David Evan McMullin or Roy Moore, and it can’t be a lot of candidates. Trump can easily navigate a crowded field like he did last time.

                  But that process has to start happening soon, if it is to happen. Going back to Bush II, he was being shopped around in April 1998 to gather support and eliminate potential rivals. The mid-terms are a long way away.

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                  • The precedents for challenging a sitting President are thinner, and most (off the top of my head) have started later than the normal ‘open’ primary cycle.

                    (Then again, the 2008 – 2016 contests being such extended marathons may be the ‘new normal’ for everything)

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                    • I will do the hand waive and say Trump is different, but I do have supporting evidence in the fact that when it appeared that Trump was going to win the nomination, Republicans belatedly began looking for ways to prevent him from getting the nomination, including the attempt at a third-party challenge. They started too late for all of it, but why would that same segment not be preparing for the same now?

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                      • They are… I think Douthat’s point is that 2016 showed them that they have no constituency… depending on who exactly we mean by “they.”

                        If the goal is to put 2012 Romney or 2016 Kasich (or whomever) up against Trump… I’d speculate that that would not go very well.

                        If 2020 Romney and/or Kasich moves away from the old Republican orthodoxy… maybe there’s a play there. But that’s the tension… the Donors/Establishment are getting what they want with Trump… so why challenge Trump in a way that puts the things they want in the bargaining pool.

                        Super cynical hot-take: With Trump you get Donor/Establishment legislation with Populist Rhetoric that will cost you in the long run. But a pivot to inclusive populism costs the Donor/Establishment faction their wins… so what’s the point of having a winning coalition? Who’s going to fund that?

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                        • A lot of it is that it’s really, really hard for a party to successfully pivot away from a President who is one of their own, no matter what kind of a problem he is. When I try turn off the partisan part of my brain, and look at the incentives for GOP officeholders and anti-thought leaders [1], it’s pretty clear that the upsides of sticking by Trump vastly outweigh the downsides.

                          Additionally, almost by construction, this is the set of people who are typically least likely to buck their party on matters of principle.

                          [1] I did say I would try to turn it off.

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                          • Yes, it is. That’s what he’s commenting on.

                            President who is one of their own

                            That’s your partisan category error; Trump has intra-party vulnerabilities, he’s just not vulnerable to 2012 Romney*. Maybe if we state the unstated premise of Douthat’s article: The Republican Party of 2012 no longer exists… and you can’t keep the party together by killing Trump… you can co-opt some of his supporters and broaden the base, but in so doing you’re no longer Romney 2012… you’re something else. That’s hard. That’s unlikely. That’s probably why I see this realignment swimming over the next few cycles. And remember… realignment stalks both parties.

                            *or any Democrat I’m presently aware of… I could imagine a Democratic archetype who could cause him problems… but negative partisanship is the only thing holding the brand together.

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                            • I think the incentives I’m talking about make that distinction untenable. He’s the one who doles out executive and judicial appointments, he’s the one who sets regulatory policy and foreign policy, and he’s going to be the public face of the party for most voters and most media outlets. And he can veto bills, too, if it comes to that.

                              Cutting against that is extremely costly. I think it’s illustrative that every Senator who’s been set to bolt has talked a big game for a week or two and then folded.

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                              • Context.

                                Is Trump going to primary Romney in Utah? Mike Lee?

                                Also, cutting against Trump isn’t the same is co-opting better ideas for “the base” and pointing out that Trump isn’t representing their interests the way [insert person here] would. Its not pussyhat resistance, so it is bound to disappoint your faction, I’d expect; rather its a different way forward for people who care about the Republican brand.

                                The only thing harder than fighting a sitting president is starting a new political brand.

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                                • I’m sure it would disappoint me, which is fine.

                                  I just think the people who could do that have much stronger reasons not to do that. If everything is on fire in 2019 or so [1], that might change.

                                  Is sticking by Trump likely the best path ahead for the GOP as a whole?

                                  I doubt it, but party actors have done a lot of stuff that struck me as dumb and self-destructive because of horrible(-seeming) incentives [2], and while I certainly don’t think it was cost-free for them, they still got over the finish line in 2016 with complete control of the government.

                                  So maybe it works, and even if it doesn’t, maybe they think it works. Not well enough to get them a second term or hold Congress, but well enough to keep them in the game until 2024 or 2028 and hope that people move on from Trump the way they did from W.

                                  [1] Dems control both chambers of Congress and the WH is handling aggressive oversight about as well as you expect, plus a meh-to-bad economy, plus a foreign policy or national security screw-up with serious consequences, say.

                                  [2] If the incentives don’t lead to disaster, are they really that bad?

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                  • There’s no winning scenario there though. If Trump is challenged and defeated in a primary then his base will be out for blood and the winner will go down in flames. If Trump is challenged and not defeated then Trump is crippled with the moderates going into the general.

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              • That’s the nub isn’t it?

                What exactly is the Republican party post 2016? Can you go back to Romney? Personally I think not. Rubio is trying to make some populist noises, but honestly he’s such a Neo-con puppet that he looks like a caricature doing it.

                Douthat has posited the same thought… if the Republican Remnant thinks that Romney circa-2012 is the way forward, then I’m pretty sure the party dies in flames. Long live the party. If the party absorbs some of the lessons learned and adjusts (a tall order for any party), then I could see some sort of reformed Republican party offering an alternative to Trump that isn’t (simply) a repudiation of Trump. But at this point, I’d put that as playing to an inside straight or shooting the moon.

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                • Douthat’s musings are a little more wonky than mine. The Trump supporters I know will explain their views as (a) Trump as agent of change, and/or (b) he’s much better than Hillary. I can see them telling a pollster they have a favorable view of Trump, but I can also see these as relative valuations, that they would be willing to switch horses, particularly if they think one has jumped into the deep end of the pool. Trump’s primary success was fairly opportunistic, or pluralistic.

                  If I was a behind-the-scenes Republican, I think Kasich would be the candidate or the type of candidate to look at. He is generic Republican, who IIRC polled in the Republican primaries as least offensive. He would be able to emphasize the importance of governance, without upsetting the basic ideological framework. He ran a belated and poor campaign, but if the field was cleared and he received the non-Trump support and organization. Maybe someone younger would be better, but I assume conversations are being had and they will influence how the GOP acts going forward.

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              • Its higher than I expected given that I live in Trump country and disappointment/disapproval is running high.

                Doesn’t mean that Democratic approvals would crack 20%, but that’s a totally different question.

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                • I wish I knew how to measure how last year was for people in a way that didn’t telegraph that I’m asking a political question.

                  I ask because, on twitter and on most internet terms, I had an awful stressful year. (I mean, I had some pretty good posts, but going by twitter, last year was intense and crazy bad.)

                  But, personally? Like in a “get up, be married, go to work, occasionally do other stuff” sense, I had an awesome year.

                  But if a pollster asked me what my last year was like, I’d want to know who was asking and why.

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                  • True enough… if the Corporate Tax cut gooses the economy, Gorsuch doesn’t turn a mandate into a tax, and everyone keeps their nuclear buttons in their pants… maybe we’ll get 4 more years.

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                    • Seems like a stretch. The GOP isn’t going to have a Clinton to run against nor will the rotating 16 year Nader syndrome be assisting them as it does after an eight year Democratic stint.

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                        • So what is the number that justifies this level of deficit spending in an expansion? We talking 4, 5, 6%? The marginal GDP swing under Obama’s deficit spending was decried as utterly unjustified with deficits out of control so how big a number does this tax cut have to yield to justify conservatives and conservatarians change their tune?

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                          • Justifies? I’m not sure that’s the point I’m making. But if we see 6% growth not only will DJT be president in 2020, Ivanka will be president in 2024.

                            At 6% growth the conservatives and conservatarians not only don’t have to justify a change of tune, but they get to sing I told you so to everyone who will listen and a few who wont.

                            At 2-3% growth? The Dem’s could nominate HRC and probably* win.

                            * probably… like, don’t, but that’s how easy it will be to campaign against it.

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                        • I would be surprised if they get much mileage out of this.

                          They seem to have structured their tax cut to strip the copper out of the walls, not to give the economy a nice shove.

                          If you’ll pardon my mixing of metaphors.

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                          • Yeah, I don’t know… but forget all the personal income tax stuff… that has nothing to do with anything.

                            If reducing corporate taxes from 35% to 21% and massive de-regulation doesn’t do anything to the economy… well then your campaign speeches practically write themselves.

                            But you had better hope that 21% taxes and massive de-regulation don’t do anything.

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                            • Absolutely, if they get up to 6% off this then yes I agree they’ll be in the catbird seat and justifiably so. That seems fair enough to me. Obviously that seems mighty unlikely considering how they tried these exact same things previously both on the state and national level and got no such results.

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                              • If the GOP can get steady 6% growth out of our economy, I’ll switch and forgive most of the craziness. I just don’t see it happening under any administration and certainly not because of that administration’s policies.

                                Whoever is lucky enough to be in office if an American company invents cold fusion or solves general AI will have a great ride, I’m sure.

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                                • I doubt that X% economic growth means very much.

                                  Quick, without Googling, can you remember what it was under Obama?
                                  I can’t either, because GDP growth is an abstraction.

                                  “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” is the acid test for Presidents.
                                  Reagan, Clinton, and Obama all used some variant of that.

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                                  • Without googling it was 1.5-2% revving up to 3% by the end of his term. GDP is an abstraction but it is an abstraction that does point in the direction of senses of wellbeing. It’s not perfectly correlated but ceteris paribus higher GDP tends to translate into a higher sense of economic wellbeing for independents and voters who’s party has a president in office.

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                                  • GDP growth is an abstraction.

                                    In any economy over any period of time, there’s going to be people who did great and others who did poorly. GDP growth is the most “math” way of summing up all of those people and seeing whether the country, as a whole, is better off or whether we’re worse off.

                                    Yes, it has problems but “Are you better off” can’t be answered without polling and all sorts of bias and selection issues.

                                    GDP growth, as a measurement, also eliminates the various tribal and social noise which we like to introduce. For a good hunk of the country the wrong tribe is in charge and the country is headed in the wrong direction.

                                    The biggest flaw of GDP growth as a measurement of “Are you better off” is it includes population growth which really should be excluded.

                                    without Googling, can you remember what it was under Obama?

                                    Yes but to be fair I’ve used Google to look this up in previous conversations. If we’re going to make this apples and oranges, then the counter question is what percentage of people would have said they were better off under Obama and what year, and then we’d have to graph that.

                                    If we’re using GDP growth as an approximation of “better off” under Obama, then he averaged 1.5%, or if we subtract population growth, about 0.6%.

                                    A 0.6% growth rate means if one region (the coasts) is above 0.6%, then other parts of the country are in recessions. So we should expect regional unhappiness.

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                                    • The biggest flaw of GDP growth as a measurement of “Are you better off” is it includes population growth which really should be excluded.

                                      Can’t really to that tho, right? The best approximation would be per-capita GDP growth, but even that doesn’t answer the question of whether YOU (dear reader) are better off.

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                                          • Much of Trump’s support came from the upper middle class, earning some 70K per year, who haven’t seen any particular losses in the Obama years.
                                            Their wages have been stagnating, but no more than the Hillary voters, and that started decades ago anyway.

                                            So they were demonstrably better off because of the ACA and strengthening of the consumer safety net provided them with income security which they didn’t have in 2008.

                                            Trump’s support didn’t have any economic basis, is the takeaway.

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                                            • So they were demonstrably better off because of the ACA and strengthening of the consumer safety net provided them with income security which they didn’t have in 2008.

                                              Everyone can not subsidize everyone.

                                              You’re pointing to people who make too much money to get their healthcare subsidized and who don’t make so much money that HC is a handwave. As a class they were happy with their insurance before the ACA. From their point of view all the ACA did was force them to get different insurance, increase (or not decrease) the cost of healthcare (as measured by money being taken from their pocket), and perhaps increase their taxes to pay for other people.

                                              “Demonstrably better off” seems like an opinion more than a fact, one presumably they’d disagree with.

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                                      • The best approximation would be per-capita GDP growth,

                                        Median Household Income after adjusting for inflation.

                                        but even that doesn’t answer the question of whether YOU (dear reader) are better off.

                                        Yeah but money is countable and something the gov has some influence over.

                                        We could put in stuff like “close relative died”, “number of close friends”, “percentage of population in prison”, or even something about sex but I doubt our ability to gather and evaluate that sort of thing. It seems like the sort of thing where we’d be introducing noise, probably for the purpose of moving away from ugly numbers.

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            • That 82% depends strongly on the phrasing of the question, which is not normally a “thing”.

              Do you disapprove of Trump?
              -Yes (18%)

              Are you willing to ignore everything he says and his personality and vote for him again because you like what he’s accomplishing?
              -Yes (100%)

              Trump seriously over-punches (i.e. votes over his polling) because of the difference between those two questions.

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        • Yes. I bring it up from time to time, but the habit some of my co-partisans have of saying, “Well, Mike Pence would be worse than Trump!” makes me want to throw things, or at least take a deep breath and log off Twitter for a couple minutes.

          I thought GWB was a really terrible President, but he was fit for the office. He understood the job, understood it’s seriousness, and competently executed its ceremonial and symbolic aspects. Before Trump, it didn’t really occur to me we might some day have a President who couldn’t manage the last. But we do, and it matters more than I would have thought it might.

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          • Counterpoint – if people had as little confidence in Bush Jr as they do in Donald Trump, no way the Iraq war is authorized by Congress.

            Eta – Countercounter point – the implosion of Nixon rubbed off on Ford and Congress wouldn’t let Ford fight any more war either

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            • I don’t think Pence would do well. he’s not a gifted politician, for starters. (There’s a reason he was willing to join Trump’s campaign). He’s not a popular one.

              He’s creepily religious enough to scare the straights, as it were (whereas you can’t really beat Trump’s numbers among the religious). He’s close enough to Trump to serve as a proxy for those that hate Trump, yet too different, too “Establishment” to satisfy Trump’s hard-core base. He’s sane, but that just means people can focus on the unpopular crap the GOP is doing. He was intimately involved in the transition, and with all the crap under investigation, so he’s going to be tainted by proximity even if he’s got clean hands.

              Ditching Trump for Pence basically sets up a situation where (1) the opposition is still just as angry and motivated (2) The focus can now be on unpopular policies not just crazyness — no more distractions and (3) is likely to anger more of the base than it appeases. There seems to be far more members of Trump’s angry base than Never Trumpers.

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              • Does the intensity in opposition to Trump that’s buoyed every Democratic candidate for every office since Trump’s election (even if it hasn’t carried them over the finish line) pass onto President Pence in 2019?

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                • Frankly, I think no. The opposition to Trump appears to be very much driven by Trump’s personality, his outrageous statements and flamboyant, attention-demanding behavior as well as resentment over the unorthodox and norm-defying-if-not-actually-illegal way he gained office.

                  Pence is both a reasonable-sounding man — dare I use the phrase “generic Republican”? — and has managed to avoid having any of the scandalous behavior from the campaign stick to his public image.

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                  • I would suggest looking into why Pence was both free to — and willing — to board the Trump Express when everyone thought it was a losing proposition.

                    That doesn’t get into whether he’s smeared by sheer proximity or whether he, as a key transition team leader, was involved in all this crap.

                    He was not a popular Governor, nor a particularly popular politician. The only reason he looks “reasonable” and “generic” is because he’s standing next to Trump. Without the constant blaring of crazy that is Trump, with the limelight focused entirely on him, you’d be back to “Why I’m an unpopular governor in my own State” Pence. And that’s at best.

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                  • well pence is a slimy sycophant and liar, but he looks so slick doing it. so, yeah, no, I don’t think it will matter, and that’s why the Democrats aren’t going to impeach Trump.

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          • Its that habit of viewing politics solely through the lens of abstract policy that leads leftists to assert that Trump is merely a vulgar Republican.
            And they are right insofar as policy goes.

            But I think there is damage done simply by the callous disregard for the norms of democracy; His autocracy, placing himself as the embodiment of the state, sweeping away checks and balances and demanding personal loyalty from the government.

            We can fight bad policy when the norms and separated powers are observed.
            Without them, we don’t even have the tools with which to fight.

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            • Yeah all of this. And while I think there’s something to ‘s point about W and Iraq, I shudder to think about how the aftermath to 9/11 would have gone domestically with Trump running the show.

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      • One thing about his disclaimer is that he didn’t, in many cases, want to (or was even able) to research whether what he was told was the truth. But the fact that he was told this at all was worthy of note, even if he was told the opposite by someone else later.

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        • Going back to the priors thing, one of my priors is that the current Administration is a hive of scum and villainy, with a dusting of incompetence. So a lot of these assertions made by Wolff’s sources are going to be really unreliable, because the people making them are lying out of self-interest, or are repeating lies other people told them because they’re credulous fools., or just like jerking people around and creating drama.

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          • Heh, probably a nugget of truth there… have you ever been near a corporate Exec level power struggle?

            The Trump presidency isn’t a Power Vacuum, it is a Vacuum of Power.

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        • @chip-daniels Y’all’s priors may be determined by evidence and more power to them (especially since they resonate with my own priors which makes me feel better about mine ;) ).

          My priors are determined mainly by my gut in this particular case, since it took me until … February 2017 to stop being (literally) triggered by the man’s name, his picture, transcripts of his speeches, or worst of all, his voice, because he just reminds me of my extremely abusive father *that much*.

          So all my own priors were determined by “what would my terrible father do if he were Trump? I assume Trump is doing that.”

          Which is evidence, and personally unrejectable evidence at that, but …. not evidence I expect (or expected) anyone else to take particularly seriously.

          And yet, it was wholly sufficient to have my priors firmly in place by mid-2016, without needing to consult the additional evidence.

          Thus, I, personally, am very cautious at the moment about any Trump stories that confirm my priors.

          Arguably I’m equally as cautious about getting my hopes up that SOMETHING, anything, might allow the rest of the country to see the man for what I believe he is, as I am about believing the story per se.

          But caution remains uppermost in my reactions at this time.

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          • (I would note, on the unrejectable side of that – so far it’s been a highly predictive heuristic. Far more so than I am usually able to manage with US presidents, not having grown up under this political system…)

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        • If the phrase “solipsistic epistemic circle” means something like “me constantly telling myself how right I am,” then I follow you.

          Because while it’s always good to make sure that your priors are not wrong, it turns out that sometimes, your priors really are correct. For instance, in high school, my prior was that Jennifer S. was just plain out of my league and therefore would decline a date with me were I to ask. My mother, as some mothers will, proceeded to tell me the story about the pretty girl who was so pretty all the guys were afraid to approach her and so she was lonely and would have gone out with anyone. Thus setting in motion a chain of events leading to the predictable and humiliating result that Jennifer S. did, in fact, decline a date with me after I summoned up the courage to ask her, and I then saw her at the dance with a very good-looking guy as her date. My prior was correct all along, as confirmed by actual evidence.

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  2. During the 2016 Campaign, Woolf wrote a bunch of anti anti-Trump essays which probably explains how he got so much access and why some people on the left think this might help Trump.

    I don’t think it will help Trump but I wonder if McConnell and Ryan knew and/or expected that Trump had no plans and they wanted it that way. Trump will sign almost anything (if not everything) that they put in front of his desk. Him being an ignorant empty vessel allows for the GOP hardcores to achieve stuff they have been dreaming about for decades.

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    • Him being an ignorant empty vessel allows for the GOP hardcores to achieve stuff they have been dreaming about for decades.

      Except, strangely, they haven’t been. And worse yet, Trump seems to be creating a massive backlash effect.

      I mean we’re talking monkey’s paw sort of wish here.

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      • There’s a bit of two-universes going on here. I am much closer to yours than to theirs, but Trump supporters – especially those that didn’t like him in the primary but jumped on board for the general – have been doing touchdown dances saying “I told you so” to NeverTrump conservatives about all that he’s accomplished.

        The tax bill gave them quite a bit of ammo. And there’s the judicial appointments. The weakest part of their arguments are the executive orders, which are going to be reversed as soon as there’s a Democrat in the White House again, which will probably be in about three years. It mostly strikes me as pyrrhic victory stuff, though I will still take it where he’s done stuff that I’ve liked.

        But Trump supporters and enablers do have a point that he’s delivered more to them than many expected, which granted wasn’t too much, and changed the party’s priorities less than they had feared.

        We’ll just see where things stand when the bill for all of this comes due (and we find out how high it is).

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        • At least in the space where my particular policy concerns are, the Trump administration (and Republican Congress) have accomplished a lot. Granted, almost all bad from my personal perspective, but that’s neither here nor there. They are rolling back environmental regulations left and right. They are, slowly but steadily, making significant changes to energy policy. Depending how many people they put on the DC Circuit court, they are probably going to get significant changes in the courts’ approach to regulatory policy.

          At least in this space, it certainly looks like they have a plan and are executing it. I’m inclined to think, given how haphazard Trump seems generally, that it’s not his plan. But he’s signing the things he needs to sign.

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      • I agree and disagree with your assessment. It’s true Congress is a mess but the corporate tax rate is almost certainly staying lower than it was. I also wonder how much of the most damaging aspect of the tax scam can be undone by Democrats. The GOP (despite a few embarrassing examples) is jam-packing the judiciary at a record rate with youngish ideologues who can be on the courts for decades. ICE is going full fascist, non-Americans are deciding against attending American universities*. Pruitt is dismantling regulations at the EPA, Tillerson destroyed state, Net Neutrality is dead, etc, etc.

        It might be all adhoc but it is happening and we will see the damage later. I still think even on the best case scenarios, the Democrats will need to expend an enormous amount of political capital to just fix some of what Trump is destroying/doing.

        *And I do think there is a substantial part of the GOP base that would trade the United States being a poorer nation if it meant immigrants and foreigners stayed away.

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        • ICE is going full fascist

          I think the lesson of the story is that the real fascism was within ICE the entire time. All they had to do was believe in themselves.

          No, seriously, they were already a bunch of fascists held barely in check. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, I suspect any ‘law enforcement’ agency that solely exists to track down ‘already guilty’ people(1) and lock them up will quickly devolve into full-on fascism, _especially_ if the communities they interact with have very little political power.

          Sure, at some level, Trump’s personality is egging them on, but he hasn’t actually ordered them to be vicious, just to no longer put criminals first.

          1) Instead of investigating crimes and having to deal with victims and suspects that turn out to be innocent.

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          • I would say this is right. They started rebelling in Obama’s term and seemed not to follow him. TAL had one story about the son of Mexican immigrants who joined ICE after college to do good but he was probably an exception and IIRC he got disenchanted too.

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  3. So let’s talk about Trump’s threats against the publisher and the author. Is this drifting towards authoritarianism? a sign of Trump’s horrible ineptness? Both? Can it count as a prior restraint at all because he is going through a private attorney instead of the Justice Department?*

    On the one hand, the Streisand effect looks like it needs to be called the Trump effect now. The publisher sped up the publication date and the book looks like it will be a gold mine for them and Woolf.

    On the other hand, no one is shrugging that Trump decided to threaten a publisher and an author and it is impossible to tell whether Trump is going to create a new normal where it is possible for politicians to shut down dissent via lawsuits and/or threats of law suits. One of the Lee Kwan Yew tactics was to use defamation and libel laws against critical opposition politicians and journalists.

    Can we imagine how the right-wing would have reacted if Obama threatened to sue Fox News for libel?

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    • I’d be more worried about two GOP Senators “suggesting” to the FBI that they charge Steele with lying to the FBI*, and of course investigation 47 into the Clinton Foundation, based on what even “inside sources” seem to indicate is “Well, nothing really. Just kinda looking around”.

      *They released the complaint and suggestion to the FBI, but everything else is redacted, so there’s no way to tell what they hell they’re saying. As best I can tell, their either think Steele lied to the FBI and the FBI didn’t notice, or — and I suspect this is the case — they consider that by giving the dossier to the FBI, anything incorrect in it is a “lie” to the FBI by Steele. Which is about as stupid as one would expect from Grassley.

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      • Agreed, aggrieved subjects of books suing to try and prevent publishing and failing is so normal it’s banal. I’d say that’s a total shrugfest until/unless Trump tries to involve the government in his campaign against the book in which case he’s too late.

        The desperate attempts to turn the subject back to Clinton is definitely more problematic though obviously not likely to work. If there was any there there the GOP would have dug it up and used it years ago.

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        • I’m honestly surprised at how certain bellweathers I know haven’t started breathlessly speculating about Clinton.

          People who have jumped on every Clinton rumor for 20 years, who week in and week out would speculate darkly about the latest email rumor have been pretty quiet. Maybe they just haven’t heard yet.

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          • I think they’re keeping their powder dry. Trumps FBI hasn’t even made an effort yet. You’ll hear the usual suspects jump onto the train if it gets rolled out of the garage, right now Trumps people have barely finished kicking the tires (and all four fell off).

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      • “For the second year in a row, Mr. Obama released his summer vacation music and reading lists. And within a day, Mr. Obama’s playlist was the…”

        President Obama’s Emotional Spotify Playlist Is a Hit New York Times 8/14/2016

        Calling the Pres. Mr. is pretty common.

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          • Yes? It doesn’t appear to be an official Presidential letter.

            IANAL, but this seems to be 1) Threat of Libel and 2) Set-up for suing Steve Bannon for violating some sort of confidentiality agreement.

            In fact, if I had to guess, #2 is perhaps the more pressing matter. Basically all those tapes and first hand accounts? That’s what they are after specifically with regards Bannon.

            The lawyerly types here can comment more on the requirements for Public Figures and Politicians suing for Libel, but my suspicion is that it doesn’t cost (much) to throw that in while you are locking down all the materials for your coup de grace against Bannon.

            Perhaps my ignorance of law obscures the real zinger in the letter, but my hunch is that the Libel stuff is pure posturing and public utterances of protest, but locking down the source material might prove valuable in certain internecine fights and/or to embarass Wolff with some obvious howlers… thereby setting up the dynamic of not knowing what’s real and what’s… fake.

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            • Not a lawyer here, but I suspect that NDA, in court, will get you the legal equivilant of hysterical laughter.

              In any case, I think you’re taking Trump too seriously here. The man drops cease and desist letters and promises lawsuits at the drop of a hat, but he tends to only follow through for those who can’t pay. (And when he accidentally gets one who can, he tends to settle). The man is known for baseless legal threats. It’s his signature move. So don’t expect this to be anything else, because becoming President has neither improved his temperament or his lawyers — it’s not like he’s managed to hire better representation. (In fact, he rather notoriously failed at hiring a better legal firm when this Russian stuff first came up)

              Smart money says this will never see a judge. And if it does, Bannon is in the clear. Wolfe is certainly in the clear, as he is a reporter, was in a one-party consent state for pretty much all of it, and as best I can tell never signed an NDA anyways.

              So even if the NDA is legal and binding against Bannon, it’s not against Wolfe. And Wolfe’s tapes are entirely unrelated, except possibly the courts wishing copies to listen to what Bannon said to determine if he violated his NDA.

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          • The point was that calling a sitting president Mr. is not an unknown action and considering that the NYT was using it with the former pres. (whom they had a seemingly positive opinion of) it really doesn’t mean anything.

            Although, if the case were to continue past the time he is pres. it might make legal issues easier/less confusing, or it could mean that he is not being represented as the pres. but as a private citizen. Would have to defer to our legal team (Saul and Burt).

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  4. I listened to an interview with Wolff about his book on NPR on the way home. Things that stand out:

    1) Almost zero access to Trump. He claims 3 hours of contact over a 200 day period of time, that’s less than a minute a day.

    2) His description of Trump is the Left’s wet dream. Trump is stupid, illiterate(?), doesn’t listen except (maybe) to a few select billionaires, repeats himself over and over (he’s crazy, senile, or both), is somewhere between semi-functional and non-functional, and is basically an empty suit with no plans. He’s basically unable to hold an adult conversation.

    He, his staff, and his family never expected to win and would have been happier if they hadn’t.

    3) The White House is shockingly dysfunctional for various reasons to compensate for all this.

    My takeaways are…

    a) If somewhat close to reality, there’s no way things don’t fall apart in months if not weeks. In fact it’s truely shocking they’ve gone on this long (funny that).

    b) This sounds too good to be true. Things which are too good to be true normally aren’t.

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      • Woodward’s interviews with Bush Jr and Obama for various books, that each cover about 2 years of realtime, were typically about 4 to 8 hours a book.

        This guy was interviewing other people while hanging out in the WH… did he actually interview Trump at all?

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          • I thought you just said 3 hours.

            He weasel worded it.

            It could have been 3 one-hour interviews… (although, if so, it’s weird he had Nothing to repeat about what Trump said directly and no first hand impressions that came up on NPR)… or it could have been passing him in the hallway two or three times a day during his 200 day stay.

            At the moment I’m leaning towards the latter.

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            • I believe Wolfe said he has many hours of recordings of interviews. Those would be interesting to hear and could validate his general credibility. If he talked with many other people in the WH then having only 3 hours with Trump wouldn’t be an issue for painting a picture of the first year of the admin.

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    • The general note here is a good caution, which dovetails into the discussion above about affirmation of priors. I’ll cop to having priors about Trump that he is a crass, egoistical, vulgar, shallow, superficial man lacking any substantial intellectual merits, of suspect veracity, dubious downward loyalty, and a demonstrable track record of broken promises and transactions that left people who did business with him worse off than they were before. That was my opinion of him before 2015 when he was just a full-of-shit New York blustermongering real estate guy — the guy who somehow managed to lose money operating a frickin’ casino — before he started making any serious noises about running for President.

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      • Cosigned, that I am an openly partisan liberal.
        Having said that, this book re-iterates almost every observation about Trump since the 1980s, when I first heard of him through Doonesbury’s mocking of him.

        In order to refute the characterization, one has to believe that dozens, hundreds of different people’s testimony and observations over a period of decades are somehow wrong, fictitious, or based on malign exaggerations.
        Further, one would have to believe that there is a hidden Trump which no one has seen or described, even though he has been in the media spotlight for most of his adult life.

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        • Further, one would have to believe that there is a hidden Trump which no one has seen or described, even though he has been in the media spotlight for most of his adult life.

          Evidence for “hidden Trump” is…

          1) As described, he’s a few months or even weeks away from burning things down (including and especially himself). He’s interesting in the way a Trainwreck is interesting.

          2) He’s been a few weeks away from self-destructing for the last 40+ years.

          3) Subtract the drama and he’s successful. His kids aren’t trainwrecks, he hasn’t burned down his fortune.

          I don’t see how to combine all of those without “it’s an act”. I know people a lot less crazy than he supposedly is and the insanity is packaged pretty tightly with “dysfunctional”.

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          • I think that starting with a large fortune and survivorship bias are a potential alternative explanation.

            If he left behind a long series of business successes, I’d be more inclined to buy the “all an act” explanation*. But his business batting average is pretty low, which smells a lot more like using capital and connections he inherited from his father and slowly burning those out over a lifetime of living large and making bad bets.

            *Even so, I’m not clear on why he’d have been putting on the act all these years. Is there some benefit to having everybody think you’re a vindictive con artist with limited business acumen and no ethics? Unless he started planning to get into politics 30+ years ago and knew that he’d get votes from future reality TV fans if he carefully cultivated that image, I’m not see what the plan was.

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            • I’m not sure that having a low “business batting average” actually means all that much. Starting a successful business is hard, and I think it’s pretty common for people who have done so to have had a long line of failed prior attempts.

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              • Having started a business that ran for a few years and then failed, I’m not unfamiliar with the dynamic.

                I’m just not buying Trump’s “success” despite his apparent intellectual and character defects as evidence that those defects are fake. It’s very likely that it’s the “success” that’s largely fake. What makes it look real is that unlike most of us, he had a lot of connections and resources to start with and repeated access to capital that the rest of us don’t get, so he could keep swinging and missing and making hay out of the times he contacted the ball.

                If he was actually worth $10B, I’d be inclined to believe that he was a pretty functional guy and his eccentricities are some sort of performance art, but I don’t believe that people with $10B scam a few hundred thousand bucks from campaign donors. People whose fortunes have slowly dwindled due to mismanagement do that.

                I may not have a string of successful startups behind me, but I’m pretty sure that if I was given Trump’s start 40 years ago, I wouldn’t be running petty scams for six-figure sums.

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                • If he was actually worth $10B, I’d be inclined to believe that he was a pretty functional guy and his eccentricities are some sort of performance art

                  Fortune mag thinks he’s worth $4 Billion.

                  I don’t believe that people with $10B scam a few hundred thousand bucks from campaign donors.

                  Sharks are always swimming.

                  We’ve seen other legit Billionaires do similar “young and hungry” stuff. Normally that mindset is how they became rich, and after they’re there it’s more like a habit. Trump also turns off the lights to save money (my back of the envelope suggests it’s about a penny an hour), and there’s no check so small that it’s not worth his time to personally sign.

                  He’s obsessed with money and he has no ethics.

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                  • Fortune mag thinks he’s worth $4 Billion.

                    That’s one estimate, and I think it’s the highest anybody has credibly come up with–certainly nowhere near Trump’s assessment. Which of course, “varies with how he’s feeling.” Investigative reporters who dig into his claims (as well as banks that have decided not to finance his ventures) have come up with much lower estimates at various points in recent history.

                    I’m not arguing that Trump is not a very rich man–just that his net worth is definitely a lot lower than he claims and probably lower than estimates that come from just eyeballing what Trump makes public. There have been times when credible investigations put his net worth as negative, and whatever his positive net worth is now, it doesn’t appear to produce the cash flow he needs to live his life the way he lives it. “Turns off the lights to save money” doesn’t really jibe with “Was put on a $450K/month allowance by his creditors for personal spending” except in that he’d need every penny to feed his spending habits.

                    What I’m driving at with the “business batting average” point is that even if you take the high range of public estimates of his wealth, using his earlier estimates from decades ago, it seems pretty clear that he’d probably be richer if he’d just invested passively and let other people manage the business end. How much richer depends on when you set the endpoints, but basically, he seems to have been spending money to play businessman instead of maximizing returns.

                    There’s nothing directly wrong with that. I’d be richer if I’d just worked a regular job for the past few years and dumped my earnings into the market. But I’m not billing myself as a once-in-a-generation genius who can fix all things because I’m good at business.

                    To me, the evidence points to just another rich kid playing at business with inherited money. From the hordes of them, there have to be a few survivors who avoid ruin or even hit the jackpot and end up as public figures. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence of hidden depths. At least, not enough to reject the simpler hypothesis that he is what he plainly appears to be.

                    But this all goes back to my original question: What’s the incentive for Trump to trick everybody into thinking he’s a reckless egomaniac who only thinks he’s a business genius? Why would he start a decades long project to that end and sink gobs of money into it? If his plan was to dupe future reality TV fans into voting for him, that’s unprecedented Machiavellian genius, but it seems pretty far fetched.

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      • I’ll cop to having priors about Trump that he is a crass, egoistical, vulgar, shallow, superficial man lacking any substantial intellectual merits, of suspect veracity, dubious downward loyalty, and a demonstrable track record of broken promises and transactions that left people who did business with him worse off than they were before.

        It’s been a tough afternoon. I’ll cop to me being crass, egotistical, shallow, and often superficial. Also aimed at a set of policies that many people would classify as crazy, naive, ignorant, and (to some extent) treasonous. I think they’ll serve my granddaughters well; yours, maybe not. I have done things that, in hindsight, I would now like to have done differently. Certainly I am guilty of the Wilde? Shaw? Russell? quote: “We’ve established what you are, we’re just haggling over the price” classification. And guilty of sometimes taking the easy way out. Which leaves me in the position of being really unhappy about what Ryan/McConnell/Trump are doing in combination, but…

        If I had started campaigned for President for reasons that assumed I would lose, and wound up in the Oval Office, with huge amounts of pressure, I’m reluctant to say that I would have absolutely, positively, done the right things once I was there.

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    • I find it entirely plausible that the current Administration is staffed mostly with malignant clowns.

      This leads me to believe that people basically told Wolff what he says they did [1], but to not place a lot of creedance in the truthfulness of those statements.

      [1] Though it also sounds like he’s done some pretty sloppy work here and in the past.

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      • This leads me to believe that people basically told Wolff what he says they did [1], but to not place a lot of creedance in the truthfulness of those statements.

        I haven’t read the book, but I have read the forward — and the fact that he was recording the statements of braggarts and liars is, in fact, seems to be one of the themes of the book.

        “These are the things they say. The real, life, actual people running the White House. This is what they tell me, this is what they tell each other, these are the things they tell themselves.” with the read left to go, presumably, “WTF?”

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    • Well, you’ve got to admit, Trumps cease-and-desist letter to the publishers sure didn’t do a particularly effective job of stopping the publication of the book, nor help bury it in obscurity.

      You could almost say that anyone with a working grasp of reality could have predicted this is exactly how sending that letter would play out – and yet, he sent the letter…

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    • a) Umm… what would it even look like for things to “fall apart”? Trump has moved absolutely no legislation of his own. He just rubber stamps whatever Congress passes. Trump isn’t picking his own judges, he’s outsourced that choice and it’s pretty easy to simply pick judges off a list of acceptable judges*. Likewise his executive orders are just standard GOP wish lists. He hasn’t staffed his departments, hasn’t prosecuted any significant movements in foreign policy. I mean, sure, he hasn’t destroyed the country or whatever but the institutions and other arms of the government don’t want to destroy the country either. I mean how is what we’ve gotten different from what we’d get if Trump just sat in the White House and did nothing?

      *Which, note, is great from a GOP and conservative point of view. I’m not knocking that.

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        • There would also not be about 11 scandals primed to boil over at any minute.

          Those may not hurt him in MAGA-land, and the Congressional GOP may be too tightly lashed to the mast to leave a sinking ship, but if the Dems retake either Chamber in November, it’s hard to see how things don’t get much tougher than they would otherwise.

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      • I remember all of these sorts of criticisms against Obama. I.e. that he’d give a speech and leave it totally up to Congress and everyone else to sort out the details and get it passed. I think the expressions “empty suit” and “rubber stamp” were used.

        Trump isn’t picking his own judges, he’s outsourced that choice and it’s pretty easy to simply pick judges off a list of acceptable judges…

        First, stealing someone else’s homework and taking credit is basically a professional skill for his current job. It’d be more worrying if he wasn’t doing this. I think it was Johnson who was planning out where to bomb between WH events. The Prez is supposed to outsource most aspects of governance.

        2nd, as “easy” as it is, he’s the first to do so openly and imho it was a brilliant move. If there was a moment he transformed into someone to be taken seriously by the establishment, it was when he published his Supreme Court list.

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        • Your memory would be pretty faulty then. Obama rolled into town and went nuts driving the direction himself for both better and worse. The stimulus, for instance, was a large part tax cuts which wasn’t something the Dems were happy about. He did indeed leave drafting the ACA mainly to congress which was, itself, a change in direction (previous health care reforms were driven straight from the White House). Obama did actually get down in the trenches and argue with the GOP and acquitted himself tolerably well. For worse, of course, Obama traded the sequester for lifting the budget ceiling then had to spend, like, four budget cycles breaking the GOP of the delusion that they could clean him out using that strategy. He also came right up the line of a deficit deal with, what, fifteen to one spending cuts/tax increases as his party screamed in horror (thank God[ess?] that the GOP’s own derangement caused them to walk away from that deal). Yes the GOP had their teleprompter nonsense but Obama did a lot of stuff that ran against the grain of his party and that the Dems would never have considered had Obama just been a suit in the Whitehouse. Perhaps its my unabashed partisanship but I can’t think of anything the GOP has done since Trump got into the Whitehouse that is comparable in terms of running against the grain of their own inclinations. All the populist pap Trump spouted to get elected has, so far amounted to absolutely nothing.

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          • I mean heck, let’s make it simple. Can ya name 3 policy/legislative actions that have been done* since Trump took office that the GOP would not have done absent Trump?

            *And to make the arguement strong you’d probably want them to be objectively helpful things at least from a GOP/conservative point of view.

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            • Things Trump has done that a generic Republican Prez wouldn’t have done that have ‘worked’ to some extent*

              1) letting ICE off the leash
              2) relaxing the ROE and delegating down the authority for many of the kinetic military operations around the world.
              3) reducing national momument scope in western lands.
              4) openning most the continental shelf on both coasts to oil drilling
              5) publically announcing recognizing the capital of Israel as Jerusalem (though there’s still some paperwork he’s deliberately postponing to make it ‘official’)
              6) going all in in embracing the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (It’s a difference of degree from generic GOP prez more than a difference of kind, but it’s a substantial difference of degree – even with the precedents set by both Bushes vis a vis Saudi Arabia)

              *e.g. the so called Muslim Travel Ban has been uniquely Trump, possibly the most uniquely Trump thing of the past year, but hasn’t ‘worked’ in the main because of court injunctions

              Also to be clear, I’m not in favor of anything on the list, though on some, I am partly in favor of some of the policy facets.

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              • And maybe counterintuitively, I don’t think a President Romney or Bush! would have signed the tax bill without substantial downward revisions due to worries not only about efficacy but political blowback. Without cover provided by Trump’s populism Ryan and McConnell wouldn’t have been able to cynically pass a bill tilted so disproportionately to the wealthy.

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  5. Yesterday’s Ben Shapiro Show was glorious. For two years he’s been calling out Steve Bannon as an untalented, egotistical parasite. This book is largely based on Bannon’s leaks, from the sound of it. Now with Bannon’s inevitable break from Trump, and his utter failure with Moore, and now with him getting tarred and feathered by Trump via Twitter, Shapiro is beaming with joy.

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  6. Wolff has pushed back against this characterization, telling Axios that he has tapes that back up private (and seemingly dubious) conversations between Bannon and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes. But already Wolff has been caught making very suspicious claims. The claim that Trump didn’t know who John Boehner was, relayed with relish in Fire and Fury, is meant to illustrate Trump’s basic policy illiteracy: This guy is so clueless he doesn’t even know who the last speaker of the House is! The problem, however, is that Trump obviously knows John Boehner. The two went golfing together, and Trump repeatedly mentioned Boehner on the campaign trail and in his tweets…

    There is value in publishing a larger, contextualized account of the Trump White House. There is nothing to be gained, however, from reporting information about Trump that can’t be locked down. Wolff’s recklessness fuels the Trump administration’s critique of journalists and the media. It suggests that journalists really are out to get the president—after all, in Fire and Fury, Wolff suggests that journalists will print anything, so long as it casts Trump in a bad light. The rewards are clear: His cavalier reporting has led to TV bookings, a #1 Amazon bestseller, and insane traffic for any of the outlets that agreed to publish his work.

    Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury Is a Gift to Donald Trump The New Review

    TNR is no conservative pearl clutcher and the Washington Post has a similar review: A provocateur and media polemicist, Wolff has a penchant for stirring up an argument and pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate, according to his critics. He has been accused of not just re-creating scenes in his books and columns, but of creating them wholesale.

    I think this is going to end up in the same pile as the Michael Bellesiles book and a former Rolling Stone “reporter.” When things look too good to be true, they usually are.

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    • This seems about right to me. I read the excerpt and got a real kick out of it but between the bias confirmation, unreliable sources, and unreliable author this thing needs to be taken with a spoonful of salt. Its possible Trump’s presidency was born of a publicity stunt that got out of control but even if thats true I doubt the book’s description of it is. It seems to suffer from the ‘these people are calculatingly smart when we want them to be but also hilariously stupid when we want them to be’ problem.

      Reading that chapter actually reminded me of Fear and Loathing in the Campaign Trail ’72*, which, despite some very interesting insights, we all know isn’t really factual.

      *This is not to compare Wolff to Thompson, as we all know Thompson actually had a soul.

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        • Yeah… when the book comes out and others read it for me, what I’ll be looking for is whether he made the distinction between the gossip and the target.

          That is, I could perfectly imagine say Steve Bannon coming out of a meeting and telling him that Ivanka is soooo stupid [how stupid is she?] she’s so stupid she thinks that Syria is Apple’s next gen voice assistant.

          One hopes that Wolff writes this as the obvious conflict and disdain among Trump’s advisors and that he documents the timelines and the actual policy fault lines… perhaps humorously and possibly without much restraint… but if he tries to sell us on the idea that Ivanka has odd notions about Apple products, well then… issues.

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      • I don’t think there’s any way its a ‘win’ for Trump. There is however a good chance it does nothing but prove things people already know, with what it is they know depending in large part on their priors.

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        • All he has to do is demonstrate that “the establishment” is against him.

          This will shore up his base. Get those “on the fence” to say something like “jeez… the establishment really has it out for him! It’d be one thing if they had feeding frenzies over stuff that was later proven true… but they’re having feeding frenzies over crap like the Gorilla network and that fabulist Wolff guy.”

          And, after that, if you can also get the rightmost lefties to switch to being on the fence enough to be skeptical of the next huge bombshell sure to bring down Trump?

          That’s one hell of a tie.

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          • I think it will have essentially no benefit. The base are the base. If they weren’t shaken by anything before now, they aren’t shaking loose later.

            People who are on the fence about Trump are not the same people who are extremely online or otherwise plugged in to political news enough to even notice a silly few-news-cycle story two years from the election.

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            • I agree. For all the talk about Trump winning news-cycles his approvals have pretty consistently declined over the course of his first year in office. This book will likely contribute to it.

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          • I hear what you and aaron are saying but this feels different to me. Michael Wolff isn’t the same as CNN. The MSM seems to hate him, or at least not consider him to be one of their own and he isn’t recognizable to most media consumers. I think he’s less Wolf Blitzer and more Michael Moore.

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        • No one really believes Trump is smart, or wise, or mature. They never have.

          Look at any rightwing site like Powerline or Gateway Pundit, and rather than presenting an argument for his brilliance, the selling point, over and over again, is how Trump makes the liberals angry, how he makes our heads assplode, how he makes us crazy with his antics.
          These aren’t liberal accusations, these are Trump supporters, speaking in their own words.

          His mission, the reason they voted for him, was to go on offense against the enemies of white Americans and punish them for the list of offenses.

          Trump himself was entirely correct in saying he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose support.
          He can go on tv and drool and wet himself, or release footage of him molesting Ivanka, and so long as Jake Tapper was offended, his supporters would cheer lustily.

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          • I don’t think anyone, even his supporters, think Trump is smart. My point is about the kind of work this is. If your priors are that Trump is a blithering dope utterly unqualified for the job its a good, fun read (I found the chapter out there quite enjoyable, despite thinking its, at best, unsubstantiated gossip). But if you’re a Trump supporter I’d imagine you’d look at this in a similar way to how non ditto heads would look at a book about Barack Obama written by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. Yea you’ll say its trash but the author’s priors ars such that you’re not going to take it seriously. I’m not saying there’s no truth to this book but it isn’t really journalism and for that reason will be looked at more like Fahrenheit 9/11 than the Pentagon papers.

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            • All very true.
              Its a gossip column expanded to book length.
              So its not like it will be some foundational work used by historians as the Essential Trump history or something.
              And it won’t sway any of the committed partisans on either side.

              But its another piece of the mosaic, that gradual accretion of things that is the public image of Donald Trump.

              I’m old enough to remember Watergate. I remember my parents as die hard Nixon supporters, and how they gradually grew quieter and quieter about their support, just like millions of people across America.
              Even as he stood on the steps of the helicopter and gave his famous victory salute and departed the White House forever, Nixon enjoyed something like the crazification factor support of 27%.

              There was never a time when people slapped their foreheads and said, “Wow, all that other stuff was one thing, but this testimony by Alexander Haig really did it! I’m a Democrat now!
              It was just a slow steady erosion of support, both in intensity and size, as people would quietly scrape the old Nixon ’72 bumperstickers off.

              That’s how this is going to go.
              Jim Hoft and John Hinderacker will be loud and effusive until their dying day, but slowly and imperceptibly, MAGA hats will be tossed in the back of closets, and angry old uncles will find other things to talk about.

              Because of this book, his tweets, and a million other things.

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  7. Trump is doing a superb job pushing back against the picture The Fire and the Fury paints of him as an erratic buffoon.

    ….Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018

    ….to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018

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  8. So it appears Wikileaks has put up a downloadable PDF of Fury and the Fire. Now that is truly a transparent move. Radically transparent. Can’t you just feel the disinfecting power of such transparency.

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      • It’s more like a really not subtle at all comment at people who think/thought wikileaks wasn’t at the very least totally pro-trump and at the most acting as a method for the russians to distribute stolen material. Putting up a free download hurts the author and publisher since it could cut their sales. Not a huge blow but that is what free downloads of stuff does. It did have a slight effect on the music industry. It’s a dig at the author, just the kind of dig a guy like Trump will enjoy. It’s not like the book wasn’t readily available at fine book stores already. So how is “radical transparency” being served here?

        But at this point i can’t imagine their are many people who are still naive enough to think wikileaks is about transparency. I mean is anybody that naive.

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          • The book is readily available already. I bet even those commie libraries have it. If someone wanted it they can get it. Nothing has been disinfected by all this radical transparency. Does the author lose some sales…yup.

            Here’s a little bonus. Right after Mueller was appointed SP wikileaks put out some nasty info, waaaay out of context, to make him look bad. Transparency!!!!

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            • So… I don’t understand.

              What’s the transparency granted by this book being put on WikiLeaks?

              Is it a deliberately transparent move to steal money from the author in retaliation against him striking against Trump?

              Or is it a deliberately transparent move to get more people to read the information in the book to get them to see the truth about Trump?

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                • I’m not certain that there is a lot of overlap between the “torn on buying the book” crowd and the “willing to pirate it on WikiLeaks” crowd.

                  If we were talking about, say, a Scalzi book, I’d agree that this would put a dent in sales. Since we’re talking about this very particular book… I’m not sure.

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              • What do you think WL’s goal here was?

                I see a few possible ones…

                1. More eyeballs on the book’s contents. This means folks downloading/reading from Wiki who wouldn’t have gotten the book otherwise.
                2. Putting a dent in sales. This means folks downloading/reading from Wiki who would have gotten the book otherwise.
                3. Muddying the waters. Linking F&F with Wiki may put a different taste in people’s mouths about the book based on their visceral response to Wiki. Or may challenge people to evolve their response to Wiki based on their priors about the book.
                4. Putting Wiki back in the news.

                My hunch? Mostly 4 with some of 3 mixed in. We’re talking about Wiki again! And maybe changing our opinions of the book as a result.

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                • 3 and 4 make sense to me.

                  1 makes sense to me if the document is searchable. Like, people who want to cut and paste stuff easily from the book would probably get it from there but I don’t see the book being read like that. (As I told Greg, I’m not seeing 2 at all.)

                  Dan Drezner wrote an essay about an essay about the book and while the essay talks more about the essay than the book, there’s enough in there about the book for me to conclude that Drezner thinks that the book is making criticism about Trump more difficult.

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                  • Faulty criticism can indeed make legitimate criticism harder to levy. It is one reason why I not only refuse to engage in but also push back on all irrelevant criticism (especially that focused on appearance… e.g., Trump’s hair or skin, Christie’s weight, etc). It makes it easy for the supporters of your target to just say, “See those guys over their? The critics? They’re ALL nutsos…”

                    My impression is that F&F is indeed faulty in a number of ways.

                    But this is where I return to my comments on the weird place we are in. Ideally, most reasonable folks on either side would try to sift through the faultiness, find what is valid, and work to make sense of it. Instead, far too many will say, “THIS IS OBVIOUS TRUTH OF HIS OBVIOUS ABSOLUTE AWFULNES!” while others will say, “That thing on page 57 was a little off so the whole book is obvious proof of the awfulness of others and only confirms Trump’s own greatness.” That is weird.

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                    • When you find yourself in a weird place, you’re probably in the middle of a dialectic.

                      Look for stuff like “people using arguments that they were calling immoral just a few months ago”. That’s a huge indicator.

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                      • Look for stuff like “people using arguments that they were calling immoral just a few months ago”. That’s a huge indicator.

                        Nah, that’s just people engaging in partisanly-based instrumental reasoning. A better example that we’re in a dialectic right now might be how people view the Wolff book: one group of people views it as an indictment of Trump, another group views it as a vindication.

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                    • Well,the weird place here is that you both are speaking in the second person.

                      As in, “here’s what some imaginary folks are thinking and how I imagine they are going to react.”

                      When these imaginary folks are not even party to this discussion. So we have to analyze imaginary reactions from imaginary folks.

                      This almost always leads to weird places.

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                      • I don’t think it’d be hard to find examples of any of the described behaviors. One of the difficulties is sussing out how representative they are. “A common voice on the internet” is not the same thing as “A common voice in the world”, as easy a conflation as that is to make.

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                        • We aren’t really hearing any voices saying “This book changed my opinion” because first off, that’s not how people work, ever, and second, very few have read the book anyway.

                          So what we have is, “I’m a Trump supporter and I hope this book exonerates him” except no one really wants to say it that way so they drape it in detached objective language about media credibility and the collapse of journalistic ethics.

                          Or the opposite, “This puts a fork in him!” but phrased in a more scholarly way.

                          But really, since it doesn’t really tell us anything radically different than we have been hearing for 30 years, it is just one more data point.

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                          • But really, since it doesn’t really tell us anything radically different than we have been hearing for 30 years, it is just one more data point.

                            Agreed. There’s really no way this book can help Trump – the higher the spin cycle *has* has to go, the less effect it will have. Much more likely is that it adds to already well-established evidence regarding his character, intelligence, business practices, etc.

                            The most compelling claims in the book (based on the excerpts) refer to collusion, obstruction, and money laundering, ie., claims with legal and not strictly political significance.

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                            • And in a world where enough Republican leaders are willing to wave away such issues as irrelevant to their actual objectives, and their partisan voters are willing to go along with that, the question is really whether there are enough people who do care about that beyond being merely scandalized.

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                              • where enough Republican leaders are willing to wave away such issues as irrelevant to their actual objectives

                                See that’s the thing.
                                Trump is like a national Rorchach figure, where he himself has no meaning; He holds no firm principles, has no vision of his own, no platform or policy preferences.

                                Instead, he is the empty vessel into which the religious right put their dream of overturning Roe; Wall Street dreams of tax cuts; Neocons dream of yuge wars; and white supremacists dream of an apartheid state.

                                Virtually everyone agrees he is a boob and charlatan, but most importantly, a useful idiot for the various agendas being presented.
                                His support will rise or fall depending on whose agenda he stops being useful for.

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                        • Drezner is writing from a dreamland where Trumpism can be countered by the media presenting more accurate information. He doesn’t realize that it’s not the accuracy of the information Trumpists reject, but the ideological and institutional paradigms held by dispensers of that information. People just like Drezner. Without knowing it, he’s part of the problem.

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                  • I see where both are coming from. There is a problem with access journalism in my view because it does make journalist more like courtiers constantly throwing softballs.

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                • Well 2 is obviously going to happen to some degree. How is it not going to? Some people will download instead of buying. It’s not like that doesn’t happen or is some mystery. In some countries it’s very common. We can debate whether that is the reason for this but it is a fact.

                  4 seems very plausible.

                  If WL wants to change peoples minds about them being either Pro Trump or a Russian tool that should be incredibly easy and obvious. Are they doing the obvious things to change that view? I’m not seeing it.

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                • What do you think WL’s goal here was?

                  At this point Assange doesn’t have any goals other than self-serving ones. I think he supported Trump during the election on a far-flung hope that Trump, if he won (and obvs unlike Clinton) would liberate him from lockdown in the Ecuadorian embassy. The question of how posting this book for free downloads, effectively encouraging even more people to read it, helps win Trump’s favor is 89 dimensional chess which I’m sure he’d love to tell Trump over cocktails at the DC Trump Hotel.

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                  • It hurts Wolfe. If you are a petty person, like some people might just be, that could appeal to them. It’s like one dimensional checkers….give an owie to someone out of spite.

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                      • He could want to hurt Wolfe because that would please a petty guy like Trump. Now the better counter would be that Trump’s lawyers are trying to stop publication of the book. Of course even Trump’s lawyer are likely to know that is snowballs chance in heck territory.

                        Increasing sales? Meh. It’s not like this book is short of publicity. People who are tuned into WL already follow politics.

                        I’ll say again, if WL wanted to show they weren’t pro trump and a russian tool there are far more obvious and substantial ways to do it. And i’ll add that, though it didn’t get a lot of press, right after Mueller was appointed, WL put out some weak sauce attacking info about him. Which seems like something.

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                        • I’ll say again, if WL wanted to show they weren’t pro trump and a russian tool

                          I can only follow the first 57 dimensions of this chess match, but what would that look like: Publishing the anti-Trump book or *not* publishing the anti-Trump book.

                          Or are we now going in against Sicilians when death is on the line?

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                          • If WL wanted to show they were’t russian tools then they should shine some of their disinfecting transparency on Russia or Trump. This book is widely and readily available, it’s not like it’s some secret. They aren’t putting out hidden info. The political press has been talking about since last week. They aren’t exactly breaking news or letting us see something we weren’t already hearing about.

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                            • I got nothin’ on why the don’t publish Russian secrets other than the obvious

                              1. Assange is a Russian Shill
                              2. Assange would rather publish Western secrets than be dead.
                              3. Maybe both.

                              We could assassinate Assange so that the next leaker is more balanced.

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                  • The question of how posting this book for free downloads, effectively encouraging even more people to read it, helps win Trump’s favor is 89 dimensional chess which I’m sure he’d love to tell Trump over cocktails at the DC Trump Hotel.

                    1) It keeps Assange in the news. He’s not getting released without some act of God and out of sight, out of mind.

                    2) It’s a veiled threat. “Look at what I can do. Be nice if I were on your side, think of how bad it’d be if I weren’t.”

                    3) It’s a random move, made not because it’s a great move but because it can be made. If it accomplishes something, then great, Assange can take credit. If it destroys Trump then maybe Pence will be better. If it does nothing then maybe Trump will think Assange is kissing ass.

                    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Assange has WL.

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  9. Speaking of dumb stuff, Oprah apparently gave a wowser of a speech at the Golden Globes and now some aspects of the social media left are saying Oprah 2020.*

    *My social media feed seems to be roughly 1/3 run Oprah run and 2/3 “Good speech but you are not Presidential material.”

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    • One of Myers opening jokes was about him ripping Trump years back at the Correspondence Dinner supposedly motivating Trump to run, which after relaying he turned to Oprah and “ripped” into her accordingly.

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    • Actually I think Oprah could be a very effective Democratic Candidate and potentially a competent Executive with the right team.

      I disagree though with the internets that that sort of idiosyncratic Hollywood speech would propel her there… that’s not the Obama hope/change/unity message that would win. But assembling a team and running as the head of that team… I expect she’d do a lot better than Sen. Warren.

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      • I’ve seen two types of Oprah fluffing. The first is that she’s an all-around better *candidate* than anyone else in the field. So Draft her! The other is that she’s a better candidate than anyone else in the field only because the Dem Establishment is so bereft of talented candidates with actual experience. So draft her! Unfortunately, I agree with both views.* It’s a sad state of affairs for the Dem Party and our democracy that Oprah is now the defacto Dem nominee.

        *I have a soft spot for Booker for a reason I can’t quite explain. I think he’d be a good candidate and, should he win, be quite good at making pragmatically based domestic policy decisions. I have worries about his foreign policy skills.

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          • In terms of garnering votes in the primary, Oprah would be the best candidate. (I agree with the folks saying this. She’d win!)

            In terms of garnering votes in the general, I think Booker has a better shot than Oprah despite my own misgivings about his foreign policy views (I actually have no idea what they are).

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              • yeah, I just re-read that. I wrote it poorly.

                Add: Booker *potentially* has a better shot. He’d (just like any other Dem candidate expecting to win, will have to reach into what used to be called moderate middle, but now we might want to call the disaffected middle. Folks who really dislike both houses. But maybe Oprah’s star still shines after a year of Trump and rightwing attacks.

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        • Bracketing the fact that I can’t possibly imagine why a billionaire with an Estate on Hawaii (its true, I actually saw it) would come out of retirement (in the prime of her freakin’ life) to run for President…

          For me it depends on whether she thinks she’s the answer or whether she recognizes that she’s not so much the answer as the reason to vote for an answer. I kinda laugh at the argument (put forth here no less) that Trump only picks from lists; that’s exactly what presidents do… they pick from three choices that their team gives them. We’re voting for the Lists, not the picker.

          But yeah, I have no idea whether she’d appeal to the Democratic base… I’m not even sure my theoretical vote would be gettable by her (depends on how she comes down on a slate of Dem non-negotiables)… but as far as a candidate that *ought* to be able to Navigate the Dem base plus put together a broad coalition… I could see her doing it.

          The temptation, in my not very well formed opinion, would be trying to make her into the champion of a certain sort of Leftist agenda… she might be very good at that and maybe she eeks out a victory. But Oprah the National Unity president… that’s a landslide.

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          • But Oprah the National Unity president… that’s a landslide.

            Man, I’m not seeing that. From the moment she declares (even before that, if folks believe it’s even likely) the media will be swamped with anti-Oprah attack ads. For two full years she’ll have to maintain a shine sufficient to capture a majority of voters comprising 10% of the electorate and those folks priors will be heavily micro-targeted to persuade them to vote R.

            Maybe you’re right tho. In which case it really comes down to whether Oprah wants to subject herself to years of political and personal attacks and watching her legacy be torn apart and shattered.

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            • Well she shouldn’t declare *now* :-)

              But yes, your sentence is a given with whomever the Democrats select… Candidate Booker will be subjected to anti-Booker attack ads. That’s why it takes a certain sort of presence and personality to sell their vision.

              It still comes down to execution… I’m not saying Oprah has the goods, I’m saying that *if* Oprah has the goods, she might tromp her way to a landslide. For all I know she is simply clueless and mostly uninterested in all sorts of possible world-events and policy matters… an Oprah Palin. Maybe all teleprompter and nothing much else…

              Free pro-tip… allow other people in the primary.

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              • Free pro-tip… allow other people in the primary.

                Last time people were prevented from, this time they’d choose to not.

                Actually, Gillibrand has all but formally declared. She’d show up.

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      • I’d sure like to get away from the notion that success in business means success in government. Near as I can tell, there is a lesson about success in publicity translating to success in elections, but the skill set needed to govern well appears to not be substantially similar to the skill set needed to build a business empire.

        Oprah Winfrey is both charismatic on mass media and the architect of a business empire. So was Donald Trump and his attempt at Presidenting has so far been an unmitigated disaster. Very debatbly, things have changed in the government but that’s the result of comptent appointments, civil servants, or legislators, the degree of effectiveness they’ve demonstrating being inversely proportional to proximity to the President.

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        • Sure, I’m not one who assumes that business success = a good political leader either.

          But I do put quite a bit *less* emphasis on the individual Executive as some sort of wonky fixer. In that sense, I do see the Executive as a partly symbolic office whose job is to assemble a competent team, set direction, and manage to objectives as defined by the political coalition that put you there.

          That’s not a terribly glamorous view of the President, but it is a role that many different folks could fill, even Senators.

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          • In that sense, I do see the Executive as a partly symbolic office whose job is to assemble a competent team, set direction, and manage to objectives as defined by the political coalition that put you there.

            Yup.

            The presidency is not a job that needs a competent person in it. You can put some random guy in there, let the party assemble the team and give him cues, and frankly the system works. I suspect that’s how it worked for some of the Bush presidency, although he did have some stuff he wanted to do.

            This is basically why the Katrina response fell apart…that wasn’t something Bush cared about, and the Republican party didn’t really have any politician who was a ‘Republican Emergency Response Expert’ who wanted to slot in there, so some horse guy randomly got in there. (I.e., the Republican always have someone who wants to be Sec of State, or Sec of Defense, or whatever. They just didn’t have any FEMA guys.)

            That sounds like I’m damning Bush, but in reality, it shows how well the system actually works with someone who is somewhat apathetic to large parts of it. Bush sorta checked out for most of his presidency, and the only part of the system that actually failed(1) was the part that _couldn’t_ be run on automatic, emergency response, and is weirdly erratic and specialized enough that the parties don’t really have people who have worked their entire lives to hold that position, unlike every other position.

            Trump, however, is not incompetent…he is anti-competent. He installs the wrong people, not even the wrong people _within_ the party like Bush and neocons, but wrong people that the party itself won’t go along with (2)..and on top of that has to be carefully managed, compounding the problems.

            1) Well, ignoring the part that failed because Cheney and the neocons were running it. But that wasn’t failure due to incompetence, that was failure due to a group of the Republican party having some _really stupid_ foreign policies and managing to get in charge. The desired outcome was reached, it was just a really idiotic outcome.

            2) Like Sessions, which everyone seems to think was an ‘establishment’ choice…uh, no. Sessions might be an establishment Republican, but the Republican establishment was keeping him the hell away from any sort of executive law enforcement position, despite the fact that is literally his history before being a Senator, both because of his problematic history in that field they didn’t want reexamined, and because of the fact he is an anti-drug tough-on-crime lunatic stuck in the 1980s.

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            • The presidency is not a job that needs a competent person in it. You can put some random guy in there, let the party assemble the team and give him cues, and frankly the system works.

              IMO we’re in the middle of an acid test of that proposition right now. A partial one because, as you say, several of Trump’s appointments were sub-optimal even from a GOP perspective.

              This does not, however, address the President’s role as head of state, the symbolic embodiment of the nation and the government. As a cultural leader, the President’s job can be scripted and managed, but not delegated. He (or she, Gods willing in our near future) must perform the civic rituals and send the cultural signals personally. I’m coming around to the school of thought that about half the time, Trump is from a policy perspective a “generic Republican.” (The other half of the time he’s less pleasant than that.)

              But culturally, he’s sending a message that America is about him personally, about spite and ego and pettiness and fear of the Other.

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              • IMO we’re in the middle of an acid test of that proposition right now. A partial one because, as you say, several of Trump’s appointments were sub-optimal even from a GOP perspective.

                I…guess?

                There have been repeated stupid mistakes because of Trump’s bad appointments….or not even ‘appointments’, but just the sort of non-establishment-Republican advisers he surrounds himself with.

                We have also seen various agencies slowly grind to a halt, like the State Department.

                In the places where obviously stupid choices haven’t been appointed, where Trump either went establishment-Republican-pick or just left the deputies in charge, things keep working.

                At some level, though, the government has to operate as a whole, and even the not-sabotaged-by-Trump-being-very-dumb parts will eventually stop working as various other pieces fly off.

                As a cultural leader, the President’s job can be scripted and managed, but not delegated. He (or she, Gods willing in our near future) must perform the civic rituals and send the cultural signals personally.

                Yeah, but this basically requires the competency of anyone in the service industry. Like a waiter or a customer support guy, or flight attendant, except not even to that level, because the president mostly doesn’t have to deal with annoying people. He just helicopters in (Often literally), does whatever his protocol people said to do, and helicopters out. Occasionally, world leaders might want to discuss things in private, but there’s no actual rule that says he has to discuss those things with them…or he can just let them talk, and not really respond to them beyond ‘I will get back to you on that.’

                Seriously, just like the head of government can operate as a puppet of his party, the head of state can basically operate as a puppet of, well, the government.

                I mean, Trump can’t manage that, but not because it’s particularly difficult, but because Trump has a serious personality disorder.

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                • We have also seen various agencies slowly grind to a halt, like the State Department.

                  In what meaningful way has the State Department ground to a halt?

                  I assume that U.S. embassies are still functioning, still providing services for U.S. citizens abroad and still processing visas (at least for the countries not part of the ban). I see a lot of reports about unhappy Foreign Service Officers, but I am not sure that we have a way of judging what that means in any objective sense. If I became dictator tomorrow, I would drastically cut the defense budget and that would probably elicit a whole lot of complaints from folks in the armed forces and civilian defense policy folks. Does that mean that it is the wrong thing to do?

                  None of this is to say that I think Trump is doing a good job. Quite the opposite. But I think that is closer to the truth on this one.

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                  • I assume that U.S. embassies are still functioning, still providing services for U.S. citizens abroad and still processing visas (at least for the countries not part of the ban).

                    With regard to visas, because Trump has allowed nationalistic loons into the process, the ‘challenges’ issued against people requesting H1-B visas has almost doubled.

                    https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/12/05/trump-administration-slows-visa-approvals/jMunwvFWmF8JJnGFVW5NPN/story.html

                    But visas and passports are not the only thing the State Department does.

                    I see a lot of reports about unhappy Foreign Service Officers, but I am not sure that we have a way of judging what that means in any objective sense.

                    I think we can measure their unhappiness pretty objectively by the fact they keep quitting? Do you mean we can’t measure what their quitting means? Well, no, we can’t really, until it turns out we needed them.

                    The State Department has basically stopped inventing any sort of policy. There were entire levels of the thing that had the job of coming up with information, and passing it up the chain to various bureaus and Under Secretaries (Who are usually the end career position of the FSOs.), and they recommend policy.

                    Recommending policy, and hell, basically making probably 90% of the US’s foreign policy on their own and just getting it rubber-stamped because they know stuff about corn in Laos or whatever and no one else does…that’s basically the entire function and structure of the State Department. (1) The actual interface with the public to issue passports and visas is almost an afterthought.

                    Here is the structure of the State Department: https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/dos/436.htm

                    The Bureau of Consular Affairs, in charge of both passports and visas, is just one part of State. Now, admittedly, it probably contains the majority of the State Department _staff_, but they’re basically just the equivalent of the DMV. (Even the quasi-subjective decision-making stuff you’d assume they do, like background checks for visas, are mostly done by just asking the CIA.)

                    That part is still functioning.

                    The _rest_ of the State Department, the policy machine that has as a job ‘Know stuff about other countries and make recommendations’, is totally broken at basically every level. Data is presumably still being collected, I guess, and possibly handed up the chain, but at that point, there’s nothing. No one at the Under Secretary level is being listened to by Tillerson or his Deputies, which means the people they work for become disillusioned and stop actually trying to make recommendations, which means the entire structure of State (outside of Consular Affairs) basically just sorta gives up. (And people start quitting.)

                    1) In fact, it’s such a large policy machine that they have an official way to complain about the official policy decided upon called the ‘Dissent Channel’, just to make sure some reasonable countering viewpoint didn’t make its way up the chain.

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                    • The _rest_ of the State Department, the policy machine that has as a job ‘Know stuff about other countries and make recommendations’, is totally broken at basically every level.

                      This an absolutely absurd statement.

                      While I appreciate the State Department ‘splainer, I have more than enough personal experience to know how it works. I spent five years as a federal government employee, none of it at the State Department, but all of it in offices that were part of the inter-agency process.

                      And in my current job I regularly visit U.S. embassies to talk policy and to hear their assessment of what’s happening on the ground. And since Trump has taken over, I’ve asked at every one of those visits, “What’s happening back at Main State and how will effect U.S. policy in regards to X?” In 2017, I asked that question at seven different embassies (at three of which, my meetings included the Ambassador).

                      I will let you guess how many of those folks answered that their policy process was “totally broken at every single level.”

                      As for whether the State Department “has basically stopped inventing any sort of policy,” (which is simply an untrue statement), we could have a whole other conversation about the efficacy of State Department policy and initiatives under previous administrations and whether the current The truth is, it’s complicated, which brings me back to my original question of what it means to say that the State Department has ground to a halt. And the truth is that it doesn’t mean much of anything.

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                      • I will let you guess how many of those folks answered that their policy process was “totally broken at every single level.”

                        …I’m not sure what relevance checking with them has. Most of the people at embassies have very no connection to creating policy, at least as far as I know. Even Ambassadors don’t really do that, although they sometimes make recommendations.

                        Embassies are still implementing existing policies, which is their job.

                        And policies still obviously exist, hence my claim of policy making ‘grinding to a halt’ instead of ‘policy makers wandered off into the wilderness and aren’t answering their phones’. Policies just are not being changes or updated, because no one has the ability to get anything approved, because Tillerson has absurdly tried to implement his own level of ‘advisement’, via staff he has hired that no one reports to.

                        The actual people at State who make policy are sometimes found using literally the words I am using: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/31/how-the-trump-administration-broke-the-state-department/

                        And, of course, morale is not helped by the fact that even if something makes it to Tillerson and he tries to do it, it’s pretty clear Trump will just ignore it. Which is not, technically speaking, the fault of Tillerson, but it’s contributing to the problem at State.

                        As for whether the State Department “has basically stopped inventing any sort of policy,” (which is simply an untrue statement), we could have a whole other conversation about the efficacy of State Department policy and initiatives under previous administrations and whether the current The truth is, it’s complicated, which brings me back to my original question of what it means to say that the State Department has ground to a halt. And the truth is that it doesn’t mean much of anything.

                        You have grouped general policies with policy initiatives. But a very large part of policy isn’t some some fancy initiative, it’s just general background shit, or it is some ‘initiative’ that has been around long enough and is so successful that people don’t even think of it as such. Anti-drug stuff, health stuff, anti-slavery stuff, refugee stuff, etc.

                        All that stuff needs constant updating, or it becomes out of date. Maybe a specific disease has been eradicated in a certain area, and a new one has shown up and should be targeted. Maybe some new refugee spot has shown up, and needs resources. Etc, etc.

                        In those cases, the policy decision ‘we will do something about this sort of thing’ has already been made. The policy _still has to be updated_ to reflect real world conditions that can and do change. Under the Tillerson State Department, that apparently is not functioning very well, and while things continue to slowly change in the real world, they no longer slowly change, or change at all, at State.

                        And while you can argue whether any particular policy is a good thing or not, it’s rather hard to argue that implementing any policy, good or bad, in an outdated way is preferred. That can’t possibly make bad policies better, at least not statistically.

                        And on top of that, removing bad policies is part of policy making. Not only will they not go away under Tillerson, but it will be much less obvious they are not working because they are bad. Because they might not be working just because they are not kept up to date.

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                        • Thank you! I’ve been thinking that I should write some kind of explainer for how the USG inter-agency process works. As far as the executive branch is concerned, at least in regards to foreign policy, the inter-agency process is largely how the sausage gets made.

                          Or maybe should write it. Seems that he’s read some articles on FP.

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                  • But I think that Likko is closer to the truth on this one.

                    BTW, I don’t think Burt and I disagree that much. (In fact, Burt’s post is kinda agreeing with me to start with.)

                    The government can operate almost entirely fine by the president just handing the thing over to people who mostly know what they are doing….barring situations where the government has to react quickly in novel ways so needs a single decision made quickly. This can work almost indefinitely, as long as ‘inability to respond rapidly’ doesn’t result in the country being destroyed somehow. (Which is low probability but not impossible.)

                    The government can also mostly operate, for some time, by a president who doesn’t do the job and doesn’t hand it over to anyone. (And Trump is even doing _some_ aspects of the job, like signing legislation, so it’s not quite that bad.) This, however, cannot operate indefinitely, and will just keep getting worse and worse, and eventually the entire thing will fall apart.

                    I think everyone agrees with those things?

                    I just think there are already signs the wheels have started coming off. Having large amounts of X employees quit on you is a pretty big sign of dysfunction.

                    And that’s not just happened at State. The EPA has that happening also. And multiple entire advisory committees have resigned.

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                    • One potential positive is the reduction of bloated staffing at these agencies. There is an assumption that government agencies are staffed appropriately to their mission, yet anyone who has ever worked for a government agency at any level will tell you that managers tend to measure their self importance via the size of their budgets and their headcount. It’s normal that increases in headcount that were meant to address short term increases in workload quickly become permanent increases even after the workload falls off (because no one wants to lose the budget or headcount), thus resulting in managers looking for things for those extra bodies to do. Idle hands and all that rarely being a good thing.

                      You see this in large corporations as well (it’s not a government only thing). Part of the reason my wife is rebuilding her workgroup in AZ this year and next is because the WA staffing has become bloated beyond what is needed, and this is a good way to reduce headcount while also relocating an overhead workforce to a cheaper location.

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                      • One potential positive is the reduction of bloated staffing at these agencies.

                        I know a former software engineer whose approach to software engineering was “If I don’t understand why this is here, it’s probably not important”. The last thing he did on his job (at least, the job for which I know why he was let go) was to delete a critical subsection of code.

                        He didn’t know what it was for, he didn’t understand it, so clearly it wasn’t important.

                        I’m pretty sure that what’s going on with the State Department is a lot like that. Sure, maybe what’s walking out the door IS bloat. But it’s as likely to be meat and bone as fat.

                        Considering that a “bright side” is like a surgeon removing your arm to deal with some shrapnel in your hand.

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                        • That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? What is bloat and what is mission critical? Tillerson seems to be of the opinion that anyone walking out the door is bloat. People who’ve been in government a long time will tell you that the people walking out the door on their own are the metal, not the slag, because if they are walking, then they have good options elsewhere. The people who stay are either the true believers (who are probably good, but that’s always a bit iffy) and the people who are the 80% that only get 20% done.

                          Sure, some of the slag will leave, but probably not enough.

                          When my wife was tasked with her org move, part of her job was identifying keepers and layoffs. They created a priority chart, people at the top got offers to relo, next tier done got offers to move, but no relo, next tier was told they could re-apply at the new location, etc. As people at the top moved on to other opportunities, people from lower tiers might get bumped up. It isn’t perfect, and they lost some keepers they would really rather have kept, but thems the breaks. Still, they were trying to be smart about it.

                          Tillerson… not so much.

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                          • I am reminded of Yahoo and its calling in of all offsite employees. I thought that was the best solution for bloat, my wife thought it was the worst. The reality is neither of us really know, as we didn’t work for Yahoo.

                            Whether Tillerson has a plan, whether he is working it, I have no idea. What I do know is that normal info sources (CNN, ABC, etc.) have all proven to be complete shit lately.

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                            • We can’t know for certain, and I am very hesitant to believe that every person leaving is a blow to the org, but I do know that your high performers in government don’t tend to stick around just for the paycheck or benefits, they are there for more esoteric reasons, and if you change things such that those esoteric reasons are hard to realize…

                              From what I’m hearing (albeit from highly biased sources) is that the work environment is unappealing to those motivated by more esoteric goals.

                              Hell, at this point, perhaps the smart thing to do is wait for the tide to slow, then fire most everybody left and higher everyone who bailed early their jobs back.

                              If you are trying to clean out the bloat. If you have another goal in mind, however…

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                              • I agree with all of that, with one proviso. Namely, that the esoteric goals being as important as they are (and this is the reason my wife still works in gov’t, for certain values of gov’t) when those goals are no longer the goals of the organization, you may feel that you are top talent that is wasted, when in reality you are no longer top, nor talent. And in fact may be more of a hindrance in the new paradigm.

                                In other words, the previous direction in State is no longer the direction. Which employees are now helping vs. hurting?

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                                • Right! So if the folks leaving the EPA are the kind of top talent that agrees lockstep with everything the Sierra Club says, and the admin is openly hostile to the Sierra Club, then yeah.

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                            • Whether Tillerson has a plan, whether he is working it, I have no idea.

                              As far as I can tell, Tillerson’s plan is to absurdly have a single layer of policy makers, or an advisory council, underneath him, that magically comes up with everything.

                              This appears to be trying to treat ‘The entire planet’ as something comparable in size to ‘arts policy’ or ‘AIDs policy’.

                              “Oh, I’ll just get 15 to 20 really good advisers who know a lot, met with them occasionally”

                              It’s almost completely nonsensical for a department as large as State that does that much. In fact, State is _already structured_ that way, in a sense, in that the Under Secretaries are that…except they have entire structures to feed them information and proposals.

                              It is possible that under America First (Ugh, I can’t believe that jingoist rhetoric is a real policy.), the State Department would, indeed, be able to fit, policy-wise, into a single room.

                              But the problem is you can’t reduce management first…and hell, that’s not even what he’s doing, he’s leaving all that in place, just ignoring it while building a parallel track, which somehow manages to be even dumber than reducing management first.

                              If someone actually wanted to ‘America First’ the State Department, making it where we don’t care about the rest of the world (Regardless of how stupid I think that idea is.), they need to walk in and shut down or greatly reduce the, I dunno, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. And then the next Bureau, and the next, and the next, until all that is left are the stuff they want.

                              Not to start from the top building some new idiotic structure.

                              What I do know is that normal info sources (CNN, ABC, etc.) have all proven to be complete shit lately.

                              No, the problem is that Tillerson is unable to explain why he seems to want to make his own team of advisers instead of using the existing structure of State. And thus the media cannot explain it.

                              Note Tillerson also seems to be doing something with Special Envoys which is getting some press, as it’s not completely idiotic, or at least it’s _explicable_.

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            • As best I can tell, Trump’s business history is basically several failures then one notable success (Trump Tower) in a very-difficult-to-fail-if-you-have-any-connections environment, then a series of incredible failures despite the connections to mitigate them, then followed by increasingly desperate turn to branding and what looks a lot like money laundering.

              The man’s not black-balled from virtually every major bank for no reason, and really the only thing he’s done with something even approaching mild competence since the mid-80s was build golf courses. (In fact, all things considered, he’d probably be a lot richer if he’d just stuck to building golf courses).

              He’s spent his whole life failing and being bailed, first by dad and later by the Russians — by Trump Jr’s own admission.

              If his dad wasn’t rich as heck, he’d have just been a massive failure.. And as many people have noted, he’d be far richer if he’d just invested the money his father gave him, rather than trying to do anything with it.

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    • As fighting fire with fire goes, I can’t imagine a better television celebrity running for office on the Democratic Presidential ticket.

      That said, she’s got enough baggage that I can’t see the superdelegates getting behind her and the primary fight between Oprah and whomever else would make Bernie vs. Clinton look like Mondale vs. Hart.

      Like, with lasting damage. (I’m not sure that the Democratic base has fully recovered from the damage done at the last primary yet… though I’m fairly confident that they’ll be okay by 2019.)

      That said, Bill Kristol is on board with Oprah. So I dunno.

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      • What exactly is Oprah’s baggage? Like, actual baggage? Or baggage that probably doesn’t mean anything but which will matter to voters (e.g., not married, no kids, history of weight gain)?

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        • Doc Oz and Phil are baggage but i doubt more than a few people care. Of those that do i doubt it would change votes. But inflicting Oz and Phil on the world are bad things.

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          • There are also a number of pictures of her with Weinstein floating around out there (and the one with Rita Ora is spectacularly creepy).

            Nothing that couldn’t be overcome, I’m sure… but it’s still baggage.

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              • Rita Ora. She’s a pop singer.

                I’ve no doubt that there are pictures of her with the Clintons. The pictures with the Clintons probably aren’t really a problem (just show pictures of her with the Obamas!). The pictures with Weinstein will “raise questions”.

                Is it a dealbreaker? No. It is not a dealbreaker. Is it “baggage”? Yeah. It is baggage that will need to be handled.

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                    • I seriously doubt a #meeto voter wouldn’t vote O because of pixs with Weinstein. Someone correct me if they disagree but the number of votes lost would be counted on one hand.

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                        • Again i have a hard time believing pix with weinstein will hurt her with the voters who care about sexual harassment. She has plenty of credibility there and her own story to support her beliefs and who she is.

                          Re: the 80000 voters thing. Yup that is how it worked out. The people that should be most scared of that are R pols since that was a low probability outcome which would be hard to repeat.

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                          • I think that one of the necessary conditions for it to be repeated would be an attitude that baggage need not be handled but could be waved away and it pointed out that the people who are pretending to care about the baggage are concern trolls.

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                      • Right, but very few people are going to be single-issue #metoo voters. If she can be hurt on that issue (“She’s not really for women, she’s benefited from their harassers!”) her opponent will try to hurt her. If the attack is successful it means net-negative Oprah, net positive Trump. Enough of those dynamics and Trump wins!

                        But let’s be serious about this. Right now it’s almost impossible to imagine Trump winning re-election. I mean, we can imagine the screenshot of him winning the electoral college vote on election night, but we can’t (or at least I can’t) imagine precisely how that will happen given the political facts on the ground as they are right now. There’s just too much anti-Trump sentiment out there.

                        But one thing is pretty clear: if he does win, the way he’ll do it, like last time, is figuring out how to get people to hate/fear his opponents more than they hate/fear him. That’s the method. And even then, having said it, I still have a hard time seeing a clear path for that tactic to be successful again. But that’s his game and it would be astonishing if he were to switch it up.

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                        • I don’t disagree. But Trump ( or whoever) is going to attack whoever the D’s nominate. No one is immune to attacks of all sorts. There is no perfect candidate. Playing out how Trump will attack them and seeing only doom is the way to drive yourself crazy not gaming out a winner. Trump is going to go nasty with a supersized helping of name calling no matter who the opponent is.

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                          • While that’s certainly true, that underscores the importance of dealing with the issues rather than saying “hey, nobody’s perfect, right? No matter who got nominated, Trump would say this sort of thing.”

                            “Yeah, that photo where I was protecting Rita from Harvey does look bad and it’s awful that Hollywood requires that you play nice with some super unpleasant people. But I protected Rita and I got rid of Harvey just like I’m going to get rid of Trump and PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!”

                            Something like that would work a lot better than an umbrella defense like “there is no perfect candidate” that has the weird side effect of defending Trump even as it defends Winfrey.

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                            • I think it’s a wee bit early to start gaming out Oprah’s specific defenses for inconvenient pix in the next prez election. Maybe this summer will be the right time, but now, just a little early.

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                              • All too true.

                                But it is not too early to say that the prospective candidate, whomever it is, needs to handle the baggage rather than point out “hey, he’d say this crap about his opponent whomever it was!”

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                                • We have a President whose winning strategy was the exact opposite of this.

                                  See, again, this handicapping assumes that people react the same way we do.
                                  But what we politicos assume is “baggage” oftentimes isn’t.

                                  That’s why no one took Trump seriously, because by conventional analysis, he was unelectable to even City Council.

                                  But as it turns out, his winning message was “I hate the black guy and his uppity hag!” He just ignored the baggage, because it was irrelevant next to his message.

                                  I can imagine an election in which “I hate Trump!” is the only message necessary, and makes any baggage irrelevant.

                                  Or maybe “I hate Trump, and Medicare for everybody!”

                                  Or “I hate Trump, Medicare for everybody, and I will stop this endless stream of bodybags coming home from the war!”

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                                  • On one level, I kinda agree. I think that if Oprah ran against Trump, she’d slaughter him at the ballot box.

                                    Like, she’d win every state that Clinton won and also Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and probably West Virginia and Georgia. Maybe even Maine’s other electoral vote.

                                    Trump might pick up New Hampshire the second time around. I can’t see him picking anything else up.

                                    So maybe she wouldn’t need to do anything but go out and give fun speeches to do that and anybody who brought up stuff like the vaccines or the Weinstein thing could (AND SHOULD!) be dismissed as concern trolls.

                                    If she runs, she’d be unstoppable.

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                                    • Did you see this Michael Brendan Dougherty piece?

                                      Instead of the populist presidency Trump promised, Trump is ushering in much of the pre-existing “moderate” Republican agenda of corporate tax cuts and economic deregulation. The political class and the media allied to it were able to expunge most of the populist figures from the administration. Soon, they might even succeed in expunging Trump, too.
                                      Oprah Winfrey is perfect for this moment. So what if she believes in, and spent gobs of her career promoting, New Age quackery. That will be as relevant to her presidency as Donald Trump’s critique of military adventurism is to his: not at all. The wonks’ dream is coming true: A bureaucracy has come into shape, one that is able to fend off all democratic challenge, even as it uses a celebrity to gain democratic legitimacy. Wonks are now the producers, behind the scenes. The celebrities are just the talent, reading lines and leveraging their brand for the great project of governance.

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                                      • “I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” Trump said. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it. Because I respect them.“

                                        Even this feels a little internally inconsistent. It is different to sign off on an idea you don’t have if you trust/respect the process that created it than it is to just adopt as your iwb position whatever is presented to. Regardless, it is clear he is essenrially punting on leading in this area (i.e., immigration).

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                                        • Regardless, it is clear he is essenrially punting on leading in this area (i.e., immigration).

                                          Just like he did with his Supreme Court pick.

                                          The solution to many problems is to get a smart person (or bunch of smart people) and have them figure out the answer.

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                                            • Sure. Just a bit odd he is doing it in an area that he essentially ran on and with a very clear vision for what he’d do if he won.

                                              I’m very happy he’s not trying to implement his “very clear vision”.

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                                              • I’m not criticizing what he said there as much as connecting it with ‘s quote. If we take Trump at his word here, he is basically saying, “You guys figure it out and I’ll sign it.”

                                                There are reasons this might be a prudent route for a President to take. It just runs counter in so many ways to how Trump presented himself. Which, again, confirms what Ken quoted.

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                      • Time to bust out this oldie but a goodie again:

                        The point of any given effort in politics is to accomplish one of three things.

                        1) Get Your People Fired Up.
                        You want your people to say “Hells, yeah! I’m voting for my preferred candidate! I can’t wait!”

                        2) Get Your Opponent’s People Depressed.
                        Sure, most of the people inclined to vote for your opponent are never, ever, going to vote for you. That’s not a problem is you can get them to not vote for your opponent. Make them stay home. Make them say “I don’t care who wins.” Make them say “Both parties suck.” Make them *NOT* vote for their guy.

                        3) Get people on the fence to say “hey, you know what? I spent all that time thinking about the World Series and now that it’s over, I can think about the election. Who is running again? Hey. I think I’ll vote for the candidate the people in example #1 are singing the praises of because the people in example #2 are such downers.”

                        Weinstein is a great tool for Trump to use in service to #2 of that list. Maybe even a couple of #3s.

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                        • This thing about Weinstein which even the lowest of low info voters knows, is that there is a pic of him with virtually every person who ever brushed up against Hollywood in any capacity.
                          Every caterer, lighting vendor, aspiring entertainer, accountant or innocent bystander has a Weinstein pic.

                          But see, here we are again with the horserace handicapping.
                          And the thing about this is that any theory works, provided you dial up or down the voter stupidity level to suit.

                          Trump as the embodiment of #metoo Resistance? Sure, why not.

                          Oprah Winfrey saying “I love Dixie” standing in front of a Confederate flag, and suddenly capturing the white supremacist vote? Of course, it all makes sense provided there are enough dimensions to your chess game.

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                      • Sure. That’s the logic of politics, right? Metoo is a liberal issue, Hillary is a liberal, Hillary gets hurt by having associated with Weinstein. She’s either a hypocrite or a liar, right? She’s on the defensive.

                        What would have been weird is if Hillary – or Oprah – tried to throw shade at Trump based on the same reasoning. His supporters would laugh and laugh and laugh.

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                          • Not sure I understand the point here. To the extent I do I think your view that one side is held accountable while the other side isn’t only makes sense from the pov of a side. You haven’t really said anything about political dynamics except that supporters of one side see hypocrisy in the other.

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                            • It strikes me as problematic if there is an effort to hold Hillary or Oprah accountable for taking photographs with Weinstein but not hold Trump accountable for sexually assaulting numerous women.

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                              • In a political context the only way people are held accountable is by the voters. The first time up Trump sexual assault didn’t matter to enough people in a few areas. That sucks but that’s the way it worked out. If his sexual assault didn’t matter enough in 2016 it’s not going to be the deciding factor in 2020.

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                                • That’s what I’m getting at. It strikes me as problematic that enough people in enough places were able to look at Trump’s history/record with regards to sexual assault, shrug their shoulders, and pull the lever for him anyway.

                                  This isn’t a problem with the system. It’s a problem with the people. My issue is with those people.

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                                  • Yes it is a problem i agree. There is a some section of the populace that is never really going to care about it. Partly that is driven by partisanship and part by some people being really sexist. D’s are far from perfect but if they are holding themselves to a higher standard that is a Good Thing and , i like to believe, will help them politically. If R’s don’t hold themselves to a decent standard they will bleed middle of the road voters who do care about things like sexual abuse/harassment. There have been a fair number of R women who have loudly left the party over Trump.

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                              • Don’t look at it through the lens of moral judgment.

                                Instead look at it through the lens of the #1s, the #2s, and the #3s.

                                Let’s say that #MeToo is, to your mind, the most important issue to come along in decades. Finally, we’re going to take this bullshit on!

                                Are you someone who is going to vote for Trump? *NEVER*! I WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR THAT PUSSY GRABBER!

                                Oh, okay, good. Well, here’s the other option.

                                And then you find out it’s Oprah.

                                Can you see how someone who held #MeToo as the most important issue in decades would look at those pictures and say “You know what? I’m going to need an explanation.”?

                                Can you see how someone who held #MeToo as the most important issue in decades might not be convinced by “But Trump is really bad!”? I mean, they walked into this conversation saying that Trump was really bad and now you’re questioning their bona fides because they’re troubled by someone working with the guy who practically inspired #MeToo.

                                Can you then see how they might say something about how “Neither side *REALLY* cares about this, the issue that is the most important issue in decades…” and be demoralized?

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                                  • As far as I can tell, immigration, ressentiment, and jobs.

                                    As far as I can tell, Trump spoke to them directly about their concerns rather than telling them that they should have different ones and, besides, he’s better than Clinton and he has a problem with anyone who thinks that he needs to explain that he would be.

                                    He came out and said “I hear your concerns and here I am to address them.”

                                    Personally, from what I can tell about Oprah, she’s more likely to say “yeah, I took a picture with Weinstein! Here’s why! (List of reasons!) And I helped push him out! (List of un/verifiable claims!) And I’m going to help women even more when I’m president!”

                                    Rather than “(sotto voice) How Dare You Question My Bona Fides?”

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                                  • It strikes me as problematic that enough people in enough places were able to look at Trump’s history/record with regards to sexual assault, shrug their shoulders, and pull the lever for him anyway.

                                    Pot. Meet kettle.

                                    If sexual assault is really the issue you want to pull a lever on, then…
                                    1) HRC was Bill’s big enabler with her relentless attacking of any woman who dared step forward (which includes claims of rape).
                                    2) Harvey was one her primary backers and contacts. She’s very smart and has a crew to vet people (and needs to). Given how open a secret his “hobbies” were, the reports claiming she knew about him are probably right.

                                    So by this thinking, what were the “most important issues” that Trump supporters were motivated by to push his candidacy?

                                    In the Primary we had 15(ish) guys running, so “the most important issue” is actually name recognition, with the media giving Trump a Billion or two dollars in free advertising. If they knew what they were doing they didn’t care.

                                    By the time the field thinned Trump was impossible to stop.

                                    In the Presidential election? Guns! God! Moats! and Money!

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                                    • 1) HRC was Bill’s big enabler with her relentless attacking of any woman who dared step forward (which includes claims of rape).

                                      This is, flatly, not true. Hillary Clinton has never attacked any woman who claimed Bill Clinton attacked or even harassed her.

                                      If I am wrong, it should be really easy for you to disprove this. We just need the quotes.

                                      And no, her calling Gennifer Flowers a bimbo does not count. Flowers has always asserted a completely consensual relationship.

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                                      • Dark Matter: HRC was Bill’s big enabler with her relentless attacking of any woman who dared step forward (which includes claims of rape).

                                        David: This is, flatly, not true. Hillary Clinton has never attacked any woman who claimed Bill Clinton attacked or even harassed her.

                                        Depends on how creditable we view Bill’s various accusers. If we’re going to “believe the women”, then it’s worthwhile to see what they say.

                                        https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/14/hillary-clinton-haunted-by-efforts-to-destroy-bill/

                                        “Was dreading seeing my abuser on TV campaign trail for enabler wife but his physical appearance reflects ghosts of past are catching up,” Juanita Broaddrick, who in 1999 accused Mr. Clinton of having raped her decades earlier, tweeted last week.

                                        A day later she wrote: “I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73 it never goes away.”

                                        And Paula Jones, who sued Mr. Clinton for sexual harassment, winning an $850,000 out-of-court settlement to drop the case, said earlier this month that Mrs. Clinton enabled her husband in his abuse.

                                        “Well, she stood by her man, all right. And she allowed her husband to abuse women, to harass women, possibly other things that he did wrong to women. And she allowed it to happen. As a matter of fact, she would go out and she would try to discredit these women, including me,” Ms. Jones told Breitbart Radio.

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                                        • If we’re going to “believe the women”, then it’s worthwhile to see what they say.

                                          Uh, no.

                                          We need to believe women who say they were assaulted.

                                          We do not need to believe women who say ‘This person, in public, defended that attacker’.

                                          We can _see_ what happened in public. People are not allowed to just assert ‘This person ran around publicly saying these things’.

                                          Broaddrick’s claim that Clinton was an ‘enabler’, BTW, isn’t even a claim that Hillary ‘attacked’ her in an manner at all. It is a claim that Hillary threatened her, via a handshake with some threatening undertones, and it was a pretty damn dubious claim.

                                          There were about three non-obvious things Broaddrick is reading in to that handshake (That Hillary was referring to what happened between her and Bill, that Hillary knew the real facts what did happen between her and Bill instead of Bill just lying, and that Hillary was threatening her if she didn’t keep silent.) and, no, we don’t have to believe Broaddrick’s leaps of logic there.

                                          And, BTW, this is a claim Broaddrick has explicitly reputed at this point. She may still _assert_ that Hillary ‘enabled’ Bill Clinton, but when she was last asked point blank if anyone has ever threatened her about her attack, said no. This means literally the only example she’s ever given _of_ Hillary ‘enabling’ Bill is not something she believes.

                                          EDIT: Incidentally, this technically fails the requirements even if Broaddrick’s original claim was 100% correct. Broaddrick was not, at that point, an accuser of Bill, so Hillary ‘attacking’ her with a threat, even if we pretend that happened despite her now saying it didn’t, is not ‘Hillary attacking an accuser of Bill’.

                                          And as for Paula Jones, she is basically just making things up. She’s never give an example of ‘being attacked’ beyond claiming that ‘after the lawsuit was filed, the Clintons sent people to dig up dirt on me’, which she somehow thinks is objectionable behavior.

                                          Note the lawsuit that Jones filed against the Clintons included claims of _defamation_, so you’d think if Hillary was running around attacking her, it would have been mentioned in said lawsuit. Indeed, the lawsuit mentions that the 1994 Clinton White House staff made disparaging remarks about her to the press…but not a single claim about Hillary Clinton doing that, or that she was behind it.

                                          Here is as summary of the actual assertions that Hillary ‘attacked’ people that accused her husband:

                                          http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/11/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-bill-clinton-accusers/index.html

                                          And, again, I remind people that neither Jennifer Flowers or Monica Lewinsky never accused Bill of any criminal action at all (Lewinsky technically never accused Bill of anything at all, she was just forced to admit to an affair under oath, and Flowers just accused him of having an affair with her.), despite inexplicably being in that article.

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                                          • There were about three non-obvious things Broaddrick is reading in to that handshake… and, no, we don’t have to believe Broaddrick’s leaps of logic there.

                                            And we can also believe Bill’s “accidentally running into” the AG on an isolated tarmack a few hours before the AG has to decide whether or not to charge Hillary was totally innocent.

                                            Or we can understand that everyone involved is smart, everyone involved knows their role, everyone involved knows what’s being said and what’s not said but what’s on the table.

                                            It’s the whole “dancing close to the line” thing. Bill wasn’t “legally” offering a bribe to the AG… but if the AG is smart enough to read between the lines then that’s what is between the lines. Broaddrick is also reading between the lines, and giving us the translation.

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                                            • And we can also believe Bill’s “accidentally running into” the AG on an isolated tarmack a few hours before the AG has to decide whether or not to charge Hillary was totally innocent.

                                              …a few hours? What the hell are you talking about.

                                              Or we can understand that everyone involved is smart, everyone involved knows their role, everyone involved knows what’s being said and what’s not said but what’s on the table.

                                              Let’s check the actual topic here, shall we?

                                              ‘HRC was Bill’s big enabler with her relentless attacking of any woman who dared step forward (which includes claims of rape).’

                                              So, by ‘relentless attacking’, you mean ‘a claim of a private threat’, and by ‘women who dared step forward’, you mean ‘a woman who had not, in fact, stepped forward’, and by ‘(which includes claims of rape)’, you mean ‘(which did not include any claims of rape or anything other than sexual harassment at the time)’

                                              Glad that has all been clarified.

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                                              • One of Bill’s lovers, a top-10 Miss America finalist, got warnings serious enough that she fled to China and has slept with a pistol ever since, which was smart since his Penthouse Pet lover who didn’t keep her mouth shut ended up dead in an unexplained house fire.

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                                                • Do you have links/cites with any kind of evidence of those two claims (the pistol and the housefire)?
                                                  Or of the warnings being the reason she went to China?

                                                  It wouldn’t be the most out there thing you’ve referenced that turned out to have some solid truth behind it, but without actual backing evidence few people are going to see this as plausible.

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                                                  • Sally Purdue, Miss Arkansas, fled to China, keeps a pistol, has written a book about it, and talks to the press now that she’s pretty old. What’s interesting is that she’s almost unfindable on Google or other mainstream search engines, and has almost no media coverage. She’s not making it all up. She really was Miss Arkansas, etc. She really has been making her claims since the 80’s.

                                                    Daily Mail article

                                                    Bill & Penthouse Pet from the same source, aka “The Daily Fail” where basic competence in English is not required to be an editor.

                                                    Now the scary part is that this whole “#MeToo” outrage is predicated on the fact that powerful people can silence accusers because they have the press in their pocket, so the only outlets that will run any story are tabloids like The National Enquirer or The Daily Mail, which will discredit the accuser. That’s how the system works. That’s why the victims stay silent.

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                                              • Dark Matter: And we can also believe Bill’s “accidentally running into” the AG on an isolated tarmack a few hours before the AG has to decide whether or not to charge Hillary was totally innocent.

                                                DavidTC: …a few hours? What the hell are you talking about.

                                                On June 27, 2016, The AG (Lynch) and Bill met privately aboard Lynch’s Justice Department jet which was parked on the tarmac in Phoenix. In theory, Lynch was supposed to decide what to do about HRC’s email server. In reality, because that meeting ended up in the press, the job had to be handed to Comey after some delay announced what would happen on July 5, 2016.

                                                At one time I looked into the timeline for this and found decent sources saying Lynch’s decision was expected at the end of June, i.e. days or even hours after her meeting with Bill. Even with the press blow up, scandal, and hand off it still only 8 days later.

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                                                • I don’t know how you’ve decided that timeline makes sense, but it absolutely does not.

                                                  The _FBI_ had not finished wrapping up the investigation as of June 27. Hillary Clinton would not be interviewed until July 2. The DoJ could not possibly make any sort of decision until the FBI had finished the investigation.

                                                  Moreover, it wasn’t Lynch that was supposed to make a decision anyway. There is a special committee of prosecutors at the Justice Department who would have made that decision. They make decisions on possible political cases and make sure all the conflicts of interest are out of the way.

                                                  So the timeline was supposed to be: 1) FBI finished investigation. 2) It is given to the DoJ. 3) A committee of prosecutors at the DoJ approves moving forward with it. 4) Lynch signs off on the committee’s decision, or overrides it.

                                                  This entire process would have certainly taken another month, and Lynch’s action would be at the very end of that.

                                                  Lynch, of course, recused herself from that process, saying she would sign off on whatever the people at the DoJ said. This…wouldn’t really speed things up any.

                                                  Now, it turns out, instead of all that, Comey decided himself not to refer any possible charges, but even that took a week after June 27, mostly because the investigation literally wasn’t over yet. (I think basically he was waiting to see if Hillary Clinton would lie under oath, because he didn’t have anything else.)

                                                  If there had actually been charges, presumably that would have taken even more time to put together and refer up the chain.

                                                  At which point the decision would have to be made by the DoJ committee. Which could take who knows how long to even meet, and then they have to start going over stuff.

                                                  Even assuming some sort of super-human response time from both the FBI and the DoJ committee, there’s no possible way anything could have been on Lynch’s desk before the end of July.

                                                  I mean, seriously, you’re claiming that somehow Lynch was supposed to make a decision about something that was supposed to work its way up out of and through two different groups of people, and that would happen ‘in a few hours or days’, whereas it took almost a week for the first group to stop their work because they decided _not_ to pass it on. There is no possible way that hypothetical makes sense.

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                                                  • Rereading what you said, it’s clear you seem to be under the impression that things were at Lynch level and her recusal then moved down to Comey.

                                                    To clarify, that is not where we were.

                                                    And also not how a recusal would work anyway. Only Federal prosecutors can decide to move forward with Federal prosecution. It doesn’t matter if the FBI wants a prosecution to happen, they cannot do it over the objection of the actual DoJ lawyers.

                                                    Of course, the reverse is not true. If the FBI feels they do not have a case, they _won’t_ hand it over to the DoJ, and thus no prosecution happens.(1) Which is the events that happened here with Hillary’s email server, and is perfectly normal in general.

                                                    Well, except for holding a _press conference_ to announce a lack of referring charges, and to complain about the apparently legal behavior of someone, which was weird as hell.

                                                    1) Of course, prosecutors do not actually need the permission of law enforcement in the legal sense to charge people with crimes. But the legal process is not going to work particularly well if law enforcement is not actually investigating the crime and collecting evidence.

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                                                    • Well, except for holding a _press conference_ to announce a lack of referring charges, and to complain about the apparently legal behavior of someone, which was weird as hell.

                                                      NY field office problems coupled with an absolute belief that Trump wasn’t going to win, so what did it matter?

                                                      Comey was laying down a marker against what he thought was an incoming President, and also trying to quiet the NY field office’s little Guiliani led rebellion until he could deal with it. Oh, and to push back on GOP pressure. (Don’t forget how much smoke the GOP was adding. Every other day or so, even here, you’d have someone breathlessly speculating that THIS leak from a GOP committee member would actually turn into something…never did, of course).

                                                      He was spectacularly unsuccessful in all of that.

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                                                  • This entire process would have certainly taken another month, and Lynch’s action would be at the very end of that. Lynch, of course, recuse herself from that process, saying she would sign off on whatever the people at the DoJ said. This…wouldn’t really speed things up any.

                                                    It’s farcical to claim the process “would have certainly taken another month” when the process actually took 8 days, including unusual events we both think slowed things down.

                                                    You’re clearly wrong. Presumably people closer to the process (including Bill) at the time would have also known that.

                                                    They make decisions on possible political cases and make sure all the conflicts of interest are out of the way.

                                                    Bill’s meeting convinced Comey (correctly imho) Justice could NOT deal with their conflicts of interest.

                                                    What was Bill doing in Phoenix and how far ahead were those plans made? Does he have a habit of marching across airport tarmacs and boarding other people’s planes? Why not call? Did he not understand what meeting with the AG a few (at most) days before the decision was handed down would look like? Isn’t that sort of thing frowned upon by the law? Presumably talking about his children and family to the AG was so important that it was worth the risks, Bill isn’t stupid.

                                                    The obvious answer is Bill flew to Phoenix because he knew the AG would be there and he wanted to dance right up to the legal line of corrupting the system without quite going over.

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                                                    • It’s farcical to claim the process “would have certainly taken another month” when the process actually took 8 days, including unusual events we both think slowed things down.

                                                      Uh, no. I do not agree with that, and I think it is factually incorrect. There was absolutely nothing in what did happen that would have slowed anything down, unless you are arguing the press conference itself did that. (Which I guess you can argue if you want, but that at most adds a few hours.)

                                                      As I said, and you completely ignored, the ‘process’ was, as far as anyone knew at the time, ‘FBI finishes up their investigation, FBI puts everything together in one package, the DOJ’s special committee decides to prosecute or not, the AG gets it on her desk to sign off on it or not’.

                                                      What took place over those ‘seven days’ was ‘FBI finishes up their investigation’, and that was it.

                                                      Even what the FBI itself was doing was shortened, because presumably the ‘get all the evidence well-documented and ready to hand over to the prosecutors’ stage did not happen. I.e, a case that law enforcement sends to trial is automatically going to be more work for said law enforcement than one it give up on and does not, even if it gives up at the very end.

                                                      And note I’m basically allowing you to beg the question that the evidence was all already collected, except for the obvious ‘interview Hillary’ part. In a counterfactual world where the FBI did choose to keep pursuing the case, it seems likely they would have collected even more evidence, which would, of course, result in a longer delay. Hell, just scheduling a single additional interview would have taken a week.

                                                      You’re clearly wrong. Presumably people closer to the process (including Bill) at the time would have also known that.

                                                      That’s twice you’ve indicated you have information that the process was close to finished, but failed to state it.

                                                      See, the thing is, I suspect you’re correct. I bet you did read something that said it was ‘close to wrapping up at the end of June’.

                                                      …and that was said earlier. As a guess. Just as a general ‘This is how long investigations generally last’.

                                                      I bet you have absolutely nothing that indicates it was about to wrap up and Bill’s behavior delayed it.

                                                      ..also, in what universe is Bill ‘close to the process’? Isn’t your premise based upon the idea that he _isn’t_, that he needed to talk to the AG and had to do it that way?

                                                      Why not call?

                                                      Are you asserting that, instead of a public meeting, with witnesses, (At minimum Secret Service) above Lynch’s plane, you would have rather Bill Clinton communicated privately via phone with Lynch?

                                                      Actually, here’s my real question: Do you think that Bill Clinton could not have come up with some way of getting a message to Lynch privately? Or, just as likely, Hillary?

                                                      Do you think that various members of the government, especially people who were of the same party and worked for the same administration (although at different times) could not have come up with some staffer they know that would pass messages along? That Hillary, from her time as Sec of State, didn’t still know people at State, or, heck, that she didn’t still know people at the DoJ? And let’s not forget she was a Senator (From New York, the state that Lynch had as USA.), or that people stay in politics (Not just elected officials but staff also.) long enough that Bill Clinton probably knows a bunch of them also.

                                                      This is the dumbest theory ever. If Bill Clinton wanted to communicate something with Lynch, he very easily could have.

                                                      —–

                                                      Note in the actual real world, talking to the AG is a pretty stupid way to try to stop this investigation anyway. That’s way too late in the process.

                                                      As I have repeatedly pointed out and you ignored, when possible ‘political’ prosecutions show up in front of the DoJ, there is a special committee of prosecutors and former judges to make sure the cases are not pursued if they are invalid and politically motivated, and are pursued if they are valid but political motivations try to quash them. There is literally a committee that exists to explicitly stop what you are trying to assert would happen. (Sadly this is only true, or at least only public, for the DoJ’s prosecutors, and not the FBI or anyone else involved in process.)

                                                      Which means…let’s pretend there was a real case. And let’s pretend Bill convinced Lynch to squash things, and no one cared he met with her. (Or he intelligently did it in _secret_ like a non-stupid person.) So there would be two possible ways she could do that:

                                                      1) Lynch could try to order Comey to drop the investigation, which he…would not have done so that’s pointless. I guess she could then try to convince Obama to fire him for that? (I am sure firing Comey because he will not drop an investigation will turn out well and provoke no outrage at all.)

                                                      Actually, no, strike that, none of that has anything to do with Lynch anyway. Both of those are Lynch asking someone else to do something, and don’t make any sense to approach her for. If Bill or Hillary wanted to try to quash the investigation that way, they should have approached either Obama or Comey.

                                                      So we are left with one option:

                                                      1) Lynch could wait until the investigation finishes, at which point it gets handed to the DoJ, specifically, to the committee to ensure it is treated fairly. They decide it is legit, at which point she blatantly and in full view of the public overrides that committee’s outcome (And the FBI’s recommendation.) and chooses not to prosecute.

                                                      I remind everyone, Bill is a lawyer, and knows pretty well how the DoJ works.

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                                                      • in what universe is Bill ‘close to the process’?

                                                        Assuming Bill and HRC have some idea of the timeline seems a more reasonable assumption than thinking neither of them had any useful gov connections.

                                                        Do you think that various members of the government, especially people who were of the same party and worked for the same administration (although at different times) could not have come up with some staffer they know that would pass messages along?

                                                        Yes, for any legit message, he could have found a staffer, or sent an email, or whatever. What he can’t do is have that staffer tell the AG he’s interested in almost-but-not-quite bribing her, and put something to that effect down in writing.

                                                        (A warning to young corrupt politicians everywhere) “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink”. -Martin Lomasney, old political boss

                                                        “Never talk when you can nod and never nod when you can wink and never write an e-mail, because it’s death. You’re giving prosecutors all the evidence we need.” -Eliot Spitzer

                                                        …a public meeting, with witnesses, (At minimum Secret Service)…

                                                        That Phoenix runway was as private as he could reasonably get without attracting attention, of course it failed for that last part. The conversation has always been described as “private”, I don’t understand why you think the Secret Service would be in the room sitting with them as opposed to standing outside the room on guard. Presumably Bill also makes private trips to the restroom without the SS staring at him.

                                                        talking to the AG is a pretty stupid way to try to stop this investigation anyway.

                                                        He’s not trying to stop it. He’s just trying to “help” decide the outcome.

                                                        when possible ‘political’ prosecutions show up in front of the DoJ, there is a special committee of prosecutors and former judges to make sure the cases are not pursued if they are invalid and politically motivated, and are pursued if they are valid but political motivations try to quash them.

                                                        Wonderful. The AG has no influence at all. So why, when the AG decided to almost-but-not-quite recuse herself, did the decision end up with the head of the FBI instead of this committee? And why did Comey testify that Bill’s meeting with the AG convinced him there was no way Justice could handle this?

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                                                        • Assuming Bill and HRC have some idea of the timeline seems a more reasonable assumption than thinking neither of them had any useful gov connections.

                                                          Assuming they have an idea of the timeline doesn’t mean you get to come up with an extremely unlikely timeline and then ascribe it to reality. Moreover, it was you who suggested they were far enough outside the process that they needed to schedule some sort of meeting with her.

                                                          Moreover, I was not suggesting they would _write down_ something for a staffer to present. I am suggesting they would use a staffer to arrange a secret meeting. One not happening in such a blatantly obvious place.

                                                          That Phoenix runway was as private as he could reasonably get without attracting attention, of course it failed for that last part.

                                                          Ah, yes, airport tarmacs, a place where, notably, anyone is allowed to wander around without others noticing, and no one keeps records of anything.

                                                          Wait, no, I’m thinking of public parks, or, really, any other place in the nation except airport tarmacs, which are literally one of the most restricted locations. Except unlike most extremely restricted locations, it isn’t operated by the Federal government, which means that Lynch couldn’t try to keep the meeting secret by abusing her power and ‘classifying’ it.

                                                          Man, thinking about this, an airport tarmac is literally the stupidest possible place for someone to get out and wander around and try to keep a meeting secret.

                                                          Wonderful. The AG has no influence at all. So why, when the AG decided to almost-but-not-quite recuse herself, did the decision end up with the head of the FBI instead of this committee?

                                                          It didn’t have anything to do with the recusal. The FBI always had the ‘ability’ to stop the investigation without referring charges (I mean, that’s probably how half their investigations end. They can’t find evidence that they think would stand up in court, or determine there was no crime, so close the case.), it’s just that everyone was confused that they had done so in _this_ instance.

                                                          If you go back and actually read what everyone said at the time, it was ‘WTF?’. Admittedly, half that confusion was Comey deciding to have a press conference where he berates Hillary for apparently legal actions, which is really strange and a bit fascist for law enforcement to do.

                                                          But the other half of that was ‘Uh, it is rather weird for the FBI to be making this decision alone on an investigation that spanned months and is objectively political.’

                                                          I mean, that meant there were basically two alternatives: 1) The entire investigation was bogus, and the FBI had no evidence at the end, which means that entire process was really long and stupid and the FBI was behaving in a political manner investigating that long, or 2) The FBI did have some evidence (Even if not enough to convict.), in which case it should have gone to the DoJ committee (And possibly been shot down.), and failure to attempt that was the FBI behaving in a political manner.

                                                          For the record, the answer there is #1….the entire investigation was basically operated and constantly leaked by rogue New York agents who hate the Clintons as a political attack.

                                                          It was actually clear, from the start of the investigation, that the entire idea of Hillary being charged with something was bogus. You only commit a crime if you take or copy actual classified documents (Which basically requires smuggling them out of some secure facility, as that is the only place they exist.) or deliberately tell someone you know doesn’t have clearance something you know is classified. Hillary Clinton could have discussed classified nuclear launch plans over her email (Which, legally, is exactly as secure a channel as email on government servers, aka, not secure at all.), and that information could have been _actually intercepted_ by foreign agents due to her carelessness and truly damaged the US, and she _technically would have committed no crime_.

                                                          But there are people in the FBI’s New York office with a huge grudge against the Clintons. See also their deliberate hiding of additional emails, for weeks, until immediately before the election, with the hope that the emails would not gone through until after the election.

                                                          And so they conflated ‘Hey, here is some possible classified information sitting in an unclassified place, it is the job of the FBI, as the counter-intelligence agency that operates on US soil, to check to see what that is and if anything leaked’, which was correct, with ‘The FBI is investigating Hillary Clinton for possible criminal actions’, which was _not_ true.

                                                          But Comey didn’t really have the power to stop them without things looking worse.

                                                          And why did Comey testify that Bill’s meeting with the AG convinced him there was no way Justice could handle this?

                                                          Because Comey was attempting to short-circuit what he _assumed_ would happen: Clinton would win the election and this would result in years of hearings about whether or not the Department of Justice had made the decision not to prosecute in a politically biased manner, as part of the Republican’s official policy of ‘investigate the Clintons, and then investigate the investigations of the Clintons, and then investigate the investigations of the investigations of the Clintons, and then investigate the Clintons some more’.

                                                          Comey instead said ‘The FBI and I think investigation is pointless and no law was broken (Which is correct), and I won’t have the DoJ’s process get dragged through the mud like that, so I will put all the focus on myself, while making it clear that while I think that Hillary’s behavior was not ideal, it was not illegal’.

                                                          It’s the same reason that Comey held a press conference to announce the additional emails, which is not something that normally would have been announced: Part of the FBI had become politicized, and in that case, were about to leak it.

                                                          Now, I am not making any judgement on whether or not Comey’s behavior was a good thing or not. I tend to think Comey allowing this rogue group of agents to witch-hunt the Clintons for years sorta indicates he wasn’t a very good head of the FBI, especially as they were clearly committing things that aren’t allowed. (Constantly leaking information about active investigations to the press, for example.) Whether or not this was the correct way to deal with the situation he himself allowed to get out of hand is unknown by me.

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                                                          • Assuming they have an idea of the timeline doesn’t mean you get to come up with an extremely unlikely timeline and then ascribe it to reality.

                                                            Ascribing the timeline that happened to “reality” sounds reasonable.

                                                            I am suggesting they would use a staffer to arrange a secret meeting. One not happening in such a blatantly obvious place.

                                                            Because clearly there’s no potential for problems with having secret meetings, and also clearly the AG would have agreed to secret meetings.

                                                            Man, thinking about this, an airport tarmac is literally the stupidest possible place for someone to get out and wander around and try to keep a meeting secret.

                                                            It’s a bad idea, except all others are worse. Bill can’t assume Lynch will “abuse her power” and keep the meeting secret, ergo it can’t be secret. If he were sure then there’d be no point in having the meeting.

                                                            Ideally they “accidentally” run into each other in the course of other duties, with no one around, and he’d have total deniability (“of course this wasn’t a bribe”) if she takes it the wrong way.

                                                            For the record, the answer there is #1….the entire investigation was basically operated and constantly leaked by rogue New York agents who hate the Clintons as a political attack.

                                                            Some of the agents who were doing the Clinton investigations were recently kicked off the Trump investigation because they were Clinton supporters. That’s a bigger issue for doing a good job with the Clinton investigation than it is for the Trump investigation.

                                                            Part of the FBI had become politicized

                                                            See my previous statement.

                                                            …half that confusion was Comey deciding to have a press conference where he berates Hillary for apparently legal actions, which is really strange and a bit fascist for law enforcement to do.

                                                            Yes. Almost like he thought she was guilty but was forced to investigate hobbled because of political pressure.

                                                            the entire idea of Hillary being charged with something was bogus.

                                                            Then these constantly changing “explanations” she gave were amazingly self destructive for no reason. Similarly, Bill’s meeting with the AG was also amazingly self destructive and stupid for no reason. For that matter Comey’s statements about Justice not being able to handle it are also weird.

                                                            If the charges were “bogus” then we’re looking at an absurd number of unforced errors by highly intelligent people operating inside their area of competence. I’ve never considered the Clintons to be shockingly incompetent.

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                                • Can you see how someone who held #MeToo as the most important issue in decades would look at those pictures and say “You know what? I’m going to need an explanation.”?

                                  This is an example of what I mentioned above.

                                  Yes, this imaginary person will certainly need an explanation.

                                  That is, if they are irredeemably stupid.

                                  If they really truly are troubled by a picture of two celebrities standing next to each other.

                                  Do we have evidence such a person exists anywhere outside of this comment thread?

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                                  • If they really truly are troubled by a picture of two celebrities standing next to each other.

                                    One hopes no one is going to be truly troubled by a picture.

                                    But… Oprah’s one of the most powerful women in media. Presumably she’s made deals to support the existing power structure. Was one of those deals tolerating Harvey? Cosby? Someone else? Maybe even helping him?

                                    She’s been a force of nature in Hollywood for long enough that she probably has some history on this issue. She hasn’t gone through the process of having every rock she’s ever touched turned over and examined (and yes, distorted).

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                                • …I mean, they walked into this conversation saying that Trump was really bad…

                                  Yes, that. This is why time spent attacking Trump is time wasted. I already know Trump is bad. EVERYONE knows Trump is bad. That’s a hard lesson to learn and imho the Dems haven’t figured it out yet.

                                  If Trump can made my life better, then he gets a pass on the whole “bad” thing. I’d prefer not to do that but whatever. Him being bad isn’t a priority for me, the Presidency is too important for me to use it to “send a message”, I’ll never need to interact with him personally, “making my life better” is the priority.

                                  IMHO there’s a very strong possibility Trump wins re-election by running on economic growth while his generic-Dem opponent runs on little more than “Trump is bad”.

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                          • And we’re back to holding on side accountable for consistency of principle while not even bothering to insist the other side have principles.

                            Who exactly is the “we” in that calculation? My contention is that there simply is no “we.” And that means that any strategy based on “we” is simply not a strategy.

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                            • The electorate as a whole.

                              If Hillary was hurt more at the polls by her relationship to sexual harassment than Trump was by his, I contend that reflects poorly on us as a country. You can argue there is no “we” but our system functions on the “we”.

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                              • The problem with that way of looking at how our system functions, is that it is completely circular. You can’t learn anything new, when the priors assume the conclusion.

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                                  • To the extent that there is a “we,” it is an aggregate of individuals. When you paper over all the individual reasons and motivations for voting a particular way, or for any behavior, with an overarching narrative of “the electorate chose X for Y reasons,” you’re not really processing any new information.

                                    This is especially the case when you pitch it as “if X behavior, then Y cause.” It becomes tautological, a closed system. And closed systems don’t allow for new information or alternate explanations.

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                                    • To the extent that there is a “we,” it is an aggregate of individuals.

                                      j’r’s right. , seems to me what you’re doing is concluding that if a tug of war contest ends in a draw then no one was pulling in opposite directions. But they are. Especially at the national level, politics is a whole bunch of tug of war contests. And the game itself isn’t governed by by any rules. Whether the trick is honest, or fair, or moral doesn’t matter. What matters is whether it “resonates”.

                                      You know all that. :)

                                      The point, tho, is that if (what you view as) a dirty trick maligning Hillary’s credibility as a #metoo advocate gets people to pull less hard in her direction, or switch sides to pull in the other direction, or start pulling in her direction, people will use it.

                                      Whether or not doing so reflects poorly on the US is a subjective judgment. I mean, I agree with you about that, for whatever that’s worth. Our politics is broken because our culture is broken. And that brokenness is why Trump might win re-election. Come election day 2020 the vast majority of the electorate will be pulling against him, but they will be pulling in different, fractured directions. That means Trump doesn’t have to pull harder than the totality of everyone who opposes him to win, just each team in succession.

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                              • If Hillary was hurt more at the polls by her relationship to sexual harassment than Trump was by his

                                She wasn’t.

                                But her emails, But the deficit, But the economic anxiety, But the [insert issue here] is the excuse people give pollsters when they don’t want to reveal their real underlying animosity to a candidate.

                                Notice how these issues just magically disappear when the shoe is on the other foot?

                                Because they were never real in the first place.

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                                • I agree, though a lot of that was also due to the subject being HRC herself and I say this in sorrow rather than anything else. The Clintons were subject to a historic level of vituperation in an era where the right wing media was new and just coming into its own. That, coupled by their own behavior which ended up dancing pretty close to the line (because fish it, the wingers were gonna screech anyhow), pretty heavily branded them and they’ve never been able to shake it.

                                  The good news is, of course, that the Clintons are out of the scene and not coming back and the right wing media isn’t new anymore- the electorate has adapted. They tried to do the same stunt with Obama and it didn’t take with anyone outside of their own partisan base.

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                • Eeep… that’s a “caption this pic” if ever there was one.

                  On pictures with Clintons… even Trump won with Clinton pictures… its all about the bus and the shove.

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