Thursday Reads: Trump’s Ugly American Tour and Kavanaugh’s #MeToo Problem

Activists inflate a giant balloon depicting US President Donald Trump as an orange baby in north London…ahead of a demonstration in London to coincide with the visit of the US president. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

As expected, Trump made a complete fool of himself at the NATO meeting, embarrassing his aides, attacking our allies, lying repeatedly, and generally throwing his weight around in a sustained tantrum. Then at a ridiculous impromptu press conference he once again referred to himself as “a very stable genius.”

The Washington Post: Trump says NATO nations make major new defense spending commitments after he upends summit.

 President Trump reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO on Thursday, after he upended a summit here to admonish leaders and demand that they quickly increase their defense spending.

Trump’s ambush jolted the transatlantic alliance, and some diplomats perceived his comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared in a news conference, “I believe in NATO,” and, as he prepared to depart Brussels, he reiterated that the United States is committed to its Western allies.

“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels never thought of before.”

NATO member nations committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. It was not immediately clear what specific new commitments had been made. Trump said that leaders responded to his demands by agreeing to reach that goal soon.

“It was not immediately clear” because Trump was lying as usual.

Trump’s focus on defense spending rocked the NATO summit on its final day. He used a morning meeting to discuss Georgia and Ukraine, two countries with tense relations with Russia to trumpet his spending concerns and rail against European countries, including Germany and Spain, for failing to contribute more to their defenses and for relying too heavily on the largesse of the United States. The moment sent “everyone into a tailspin,” according to one diplomat briefed on the morning’s events. Trump came armed with facts and figures, and it appeared to be a well-planned attack.

In the closed-door session, Trump told his counterparts that if they did not meet their defense spending targets of 2 percent of gross domestic product by January, the United States would go it alone, according to two officials briefed on the meeting. The officials said Trump threatened to “do his own thing.” [….]

Another official who was in the room said that Trump read out the spending figures for every single NATO nation, sometimes telling leaders: “My friend, you’re so nice to me. I’m sorry you’re spending so little.”

Trump then held an impromptu news conference, where he was asked whether he could withdraw the United States from NATO without congressional approval. The president replied, “I think I probably can, but that’s unnecessary.” He added: “The people have stepped up today” as they never have before. “Everyone in the room thanked me. There was a great collegial spirit in that room. . . . Very unified, very strong. No problem.”

At a breakfast meeting yesterday, Trump embarrassed his aides with a diatribe against Germany. USA Today: Power breakfast: How Trump lambasted Germany over eggs and fruit salad.

BRUSSELS – President Donald Trump aired his grievances against one of America’s closest and most powerful allies on Wednesday, deepening the growing rifts on the North Atlantic alliance and setting a contentious tone for a summit of NATO leaders who have pledged to defend each other in the event of an attack from Russia….

“Good morning to the media – the legitimate media and the fake-news media,” Trump began. With cameras whirring in unison, a reporter asked Trump which countries he thought should be paying more for the collective defense of NATO.

“Just look at the chart. Take a look at the chart. It’s public. And many countries are not paying what they should,” Trump said. “So something has to be done, and the Secretary General has been working on it very hard.” [….]

Soon, Trump was no longer addressing the media but looking directly at Stoltenberg, using him as a stand-in for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He complained about a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany that the German government approved.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” Trump complained.

You’ve probably seen the video of the breakfast tantrum by now. If not, you can watch it at the Washington Post: When Trump attacked Germany in Brussels, his aides pursed their lips and glanced away.

Angela Merkel gives Russia “captive” Trump the side-eye.

Trump begins by citing German imports of Russian gas as evidence that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg remains stoic as Trump lays out his complaint, but U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly look uncomfortable. Hutchison appears to avert her gaze from her NATO colleagues sitting across from her, while Kelly looks down, then shifts his body and glances away, lips pursed tightly.

Of course, it’s impossible to say exactly what was going through the minds of Trump’s aides.

In a statement to The Post, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.”

Except, according to the USA Today article, they had eggs and fruit salad for breakfast. Good old Sarah Sanders, pathologically lying again.

Patrick Stewart, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, said Kelly’s facial reaction at that moment can be described as a combination of a “chin-raiser”  and a “lip-corner dimpler,” both of which are associated with annoyance. “He’s expressing with his lower face that he’s displeased, maybe irritated,” said Stewart, who is certified in the Facial Action Coding System used by experts to break down human facial movement. “It’s not really hardcore anger.”

Mary Civiello, an executive communications coach with 15 years of experience studying body language, agreed. She noted that Kelly rarely looked directly at Trump, suggesting that he is “not completely synced up” with what the president is saying.

Typically, when people are “involved in a persuasive effort together,” those in nonspeaking roles will gaze at the person who is talking, occasionally nod to reinforce what they are saying and then look at those on the opposite side of the table to convey a sense of unity, Civiello said. In contrast, she said, Kelly looks away from the table and at the ceiling but rarely at Trump or at the NATO representatives across from him.

“Kelly looks like he wants to be anywhere but where he is,” Civiello said.

Read more body language analysis at the the WaPo. In summary, the entire Trump performance was a complete clusterfuck.

Now Trump is off to the UK to embarrass us further. I hope he’ll see at least some of the demonstrations against his visit. There is currently an effort to fly the Trump baby balloon over one of his golf courses in Scotland while he’s there.

Politico: Call for giant baby-Trump balloon to fly over Scottish golf course.

A petition has been started calling for a giant inflatable of Donald Trump as an angry baby to be flown over the Scottish golf course where the U.S president is expected to play Saturday.

The inflatable — which portrays Trump as a baby with a diaper, combover and smartphone — has already been given permission to fly near the parliament in London during Trump’s visit on Friday, after a petition called “Let Trump Baby Fly” garnered over 10,000 signatures….

More than 6,100 people had signed the petition for the balloon to be flown in Scotland as of Thursday lunchtime. It calls on the acting head of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, to authorise the flying of the six-metre high balloon near the Turnberry golfing resort on the west coast of Scotland, which is owned by Trump and where he is anticipated to spend the private leg of his British trip.

The other big story is Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I want to highlight a story about his that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention so far.

Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars: Brett Kavanaugh May Have A Jim Jordan Problem.

Reach back into your memory to December, 2017, when 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski abruptly “retired” amid a cascade of accusations about how he harassed his clerks and others.

Alex Kozinski

Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, and then served alongside him to screen clerks for Anthony Kennedy.

Heidi Bond, a former clerk of Kozinski’s and now a romance novelist writing as Courtney Milan, wrote a wrenching first-person account of what it was like to work with him. In her account, she describes Kozinski pulling up pornographic photos and asking her opinion of them. But worse — far worse — than that was his constant abuse of power and bullying.

As an example, one day, my judge found out I had been reading romance novels over my dinner break. He called me (he was in San Francisco for hearings; I had stayed in the office in Pasadena) when one of my co-clerks idly mentioned it to him as an amusing aside. Romance novels, he said, were a terrible addiction, like drugs, and something like porn for women, and he didn’t want me to read them any more. He told me he wanted me to promise to never read them again.

“But it’s on my dinner break,” I protested.

He laid down the law—I was not to read them anymore. “I control what you read,” he said, “what you write, when you eat. You don’t sleep if I say so. You don’t shit unless I say so. Do you understand?”

There was nothing to say but this: “Yes, Judge.”

This sort of diatribe was a regular occurrence. The judge had incredibly high standards, and when we failed to meet them, we were raked over the coals. I do not think a week passed without at least one such outburst; during bad times, they were a daily occurrence.

Kozinski’s despicable treatment of women was an open secret according to Alexandra Brodsky. “In law school, everyone knew, and women didn’t apply to clerk for Judge Kosinski despite his prestige and connections to the Supreme Court,” she wrote on Twitter. That meant more openings for men — openings that would lead to a clerkship on the Supreme Court for the rest of them.

Kavanaugh had to know about Kosinki’s behavior. So far the story has only appeared in one major outlet, McClatchy: Opponents of Brett Kavanaugh hope a MeToo link will derail Trump’s high court pick. There’s also a piece at Above the Law: Did Brett Kavanaugh Know About Alex Kozinski? Will anybody ASK him?

Another good read on Kavanaugh by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Brett Kavanaugh Was a Mistake.

Over what I believe to be a surprisingly authentic warning from Mitch McConnell not to select Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left by Anthony Kennedy, the president chose the guy who had the most to say about imperial presidents. This is not a surprise. Beyond the fact that Kennedy doubtless approved of Trump’s selection—Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, clerked for Kennedy—the single greatest selling point for Kavanaugh had to have been the much-reported line from his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which he wrote, “Even in the absence of congressionally conferred immunity, a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” A President Trump seeking justification to immunize himself from prosecution needed to look no farther than Kavanaugh’s caution in that same article that the indictment and trial of a president “would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.” [….]

But the problem for Trump is that Kavanaugh has been extraordinarily transparent—perhaps too transparent—about his affinity for broad constructions of executive power. Nevertheless, the president—whose administration is currently the subject of a wide-ranging criminal investigation—somehow chose the judge who’s most likely to endorse the Trumpian view that this is all a massive witch hunt, this despite the gamble that Kavanaugh’s selection makes him look guilty. Pro tip: It makes him look guilty.

To be sure, as Jed Shugerman notes, Kavanaugh’s law-review article doesn’t promise presidential immunity so much as suggest that Congress can and should confer such immunity. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh’s lengthy and complicated record with respect to presidential investigations (ranging from his work on Vince Foster’s suicide to his zealous pursuit of Bill Clinton in the Whitewater probe) will require the review of a massive trove of documents from his time at the White House and working for Ken Starr, an endeavor that will consume huge amounts of time. And Kavanaugh’s record will include emails on so many questions connected to the Mueller probe—including issues that Trump himself has raised such as the nature of presidential obstruction and presidential immunity—that a deep dive into that record will ensure (as if it needed ensuring) that the Mueller probe stays in the headlines in the runup to the midterm elections.

Read the rest at Slate. It’s very interesting.

So . . . What stories are you following today?

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31 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Trump’s Ugly American Tour and Kavanaugh’s #MeToo Problem”

  1. joanelle says:

    You said, “embarrassing his aides, attacking our allies, lying repeatedly, and generally throwing his weight around in a sustained tantrum.” and embarrassing the more than half of the US citizens who didn’t vote for him, but because of the repugs keep him in office.
    The man is insufferable

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    The miserable GOP has given this insane man a free reign to act with impunity and not be held accountable for his behavior.

    It is the GOP who is most responsible for Trump. I believe they are more dangerous as a group then any outside threat.

    And they are our fellow Americans. Unbelievable.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Agree 100%. tRump’s base and the GOP party are the biggest threat to this nation and the world; not Kim Jung-Un, not Putin and not even tRump himself. This is a group of people who will elect child and sex abusers to office just to stick a middle finger at “elites”. This is a group who are dangerously insecure and insulated from reality.

      We can blame Fox News and the media – but this group were ready and waiting for that propaganda. Sadly my entire extended family and half my immediate family fall in to this group. It’s a huge disappointment in life for me.

    • joanelle says:

      The only reason I can think of that so many in the party would not want to put a stop to this insanity is that he is holding something over each of their heads, blackmailing them and they are terribly fearful that if they push back he will spill the beans

  3. Jslat says:

    Surprise, surprise! Trey Gowdy making an a** of himself again. Strzok hearing sounds like Bengazi hearing.

    • bostonboomer says:

      This hearing is unreal. Strzok is doing a fantastic job. He’s staying calm through amazing ignorance and abuse from Republicans.

      • NW Luna says:

  4. NW Luna says:

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I haven’t heard the whole thing, I am at work with limited access, but it sounds to me like they are messing with the white male version of Auntie Maxine.

      Strzok seems to be giving them more than they can handle.

  5. dakinikat says:

    I’m having a hard time getting kick started today. This is worth a read.

  6. Jslat says:

    Trial Runs For Fascism

    Fintan O’Toole wrote this July 6 in The Irish Times:

    “To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

    It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

    Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
    One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

    Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about forty percent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your forty percent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too.

    And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.
    But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery.

    Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

    People have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group.

    It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.

    To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”.

    And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

    And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious?

    Second, the hardcore fans loved it: Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
    This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable.

    So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.”

    Let us protect our freedom with all our democratic power, and continue to be brave with everything we must face.”

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I agree with this completely.

      i have felt all along that most of the outrageous things that this cabal does is for hte purpose of “demonstration.”

      1) To show their followers what levels of audacity and cruelty they are capable of,
      2) To demonstrate the fecklessness of the institutions responsible for checking their bad behavior and
      3) To reinforce the idea that their opponents have no value or rights that they are bound to respect.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    We all tiptoe around the subject of religion. As someone who was raised in the Catholic faith having spent 12 years in Catholic schools, I know firsthand the culture that emanates from dogma.

    It amazes me how educated and enlightened people can cling to the belief in a “savior” who lives in the sky passing down “wisdom” through signs and revelations without any proof. The expectation is to “worship” a being who instructs the believer to wage war, suffer chaos, creates cancer in children, allows the Holocaust, sends storms in objection to homosexuality, and demands praise without question. All without proof of any existence whatsoever.

    But faith is supposed to be “blind”. Acceptance without question. A personal decision that either accepts or denies ones belief. Yet it is rare to see or hear the non believer shove his/her beliefs down the throats of others. But those who do believe it is their “duty” to shove their superstitious beliefs go as far as making it law.

    I do not wish to live under the laws that are based on religious beliefs. Don’t approve abortion? Don’t have one. No one is forcing you. But that is not good enough for these fanatics. They truly do not believe in the separation of church and state. They would have us all shut off our minds and “accept” without question that everything is “god’s will”. And for those of us who do not accept we become the “infidels”.

    It is a slippery slope to follow this logic. The boundaries are off. One by one our civil rights and our privacy will be replaced with whatever next foolishness arises from following a superstition that has yet to be proven. Little by little we are watching them slip away under the hands of fanatics unable to see beyond their noses.

    Believing is your right. Non believing is mine. Keep them separate.

    • dakinikat says:

    • teele says:

      Religion is political by its very nature. It was created to control populations. It is always based on fear, insecurity, guilt. All dictators support religion (but they always show preference to the one practiced by the majority or a sizeable minority). One of the first things Putin did was bring back the Russian Orthodox church, and it has proven very useful to him. When you can persuade people to bow down before an unseen, unheard imaginary being, you have them in the perfect position to step on their necks.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      Republicans seem to think he’s a one man Justice Department and Investigation with self supervisory and review duties rolled into only him sheesh

    • dakinikat says:

      FBI Agent Peter Strzok Scorches GOP in Testimony Fit for Aaron Sorkin Script

      http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/peter-strzok-transcript-hearing-watch-fbi-agents-searing-testimony.html?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=s3&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t

      “My presumption [was] based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok explained. “It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate. ”

      “At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took,” Strzok continued. “The suggestion that I’m in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI [and] would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me — it simply couldn’t happen.”

      The FBI agent went on to assail Republicans for corroding “what the FBI is in American society,” and impairing its capacity to execute its mission.

  9. dakinikat says:

    I’m posting this here because freaking facebook considers it against community standards. Evidently girl nips are obscene.

    • dakinikat says:

      “Do not post:
      Images of
      Real nude adults, where nudity is defined as …Uncovered female nipples except in the context of breastfeeding, birth giving and after-birth moments, health-related situations (for example, post-mastectomy, breast cancer awareness or gender confirmation surgery) or an act of protest”

      “Our nudity policies have become more nuanced over time. We understand that nudity can be shared for a variety of reasons, including as a form of protest, to raise awareness about a cause, or for educational or medical reasons. Where such intent is clear, we make allowances for the content. For example, while we restrict some images of female breasts that include the nipple, we allow other images, including those depicting acts of protest, women actively engaged in breast-feeding, and photos of post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”

      I appealed. We will see what happens.

      • teele says:

        So… you think some incel at faceplace got a boner looking at an artsy black and white photograph of a woman who is undoubtedly long decayed into a literal skeleton? Kinda sad, isn’t it?

      • NW Luna says:

        Looks like art to me.

  10. dakinikat says:

    OMG

    A no-deal Brexit survival guide: what food to stockpile
    With news that the government is planning to stock up on processed foods in case we crash out, what should ordinary shoppers be looking to bulk buy?

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/shortcuts/2018/jul/12/a-no-deal-brexit-survival-guide-what-food-to-stockpile?CMP=fb_gu

    The story broke on Tuesday that the government, in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit, has been drawing up plans to stockpile processed foods, in the event that, by 29 March next year, they have still not worked out a way to maintain the free flow of goods – which includes food and medical supplies – between EU producers and UK consumers. Because the UK, as has been since the 2016 referendum, produces only half of what it eats. And, when it comes to fruit and vegetables, .

    A free flow of goods means minimal delays in transit, which is crucial for anything fresh. As the head of the British Retail Consortium warned Theresa May and Michel Barnier last week, a no-deal Brexit could mean

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. NW Luna says:

    Stupid should hurt.

  13. bostonboomer says:

    12 Russian GRU officers indicted for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Podesta email accounts.