Tuesday Reads: Life in the Twilight ZonePosted: July 30, 2019
Living in Trump world means you wake up almost every day to situations that previously could only exist in an Onion story. Now they are our reality.
This morning I opened Twitter to find trending topics based on satirical tweets sent by a guy named Dan Lyons. This morning he was mocking Trump’s claim to have been helping first responders on 9/11.
Pretty funny, right? But lots of people took them seriously, and it’s not difficult to figure out why that happened. Because we’re living in the Twilight Zone now.
#ObamaandBiden is still trending. Will some reporter ask Jim Jordan about it?
Also trending on Twitter: #MoscowMitch and #MoscowMitchMcTreason. The Moscow Mitch nickname was created in response to Mitch McConnell’s continual blocking of election security bills. Then yesterday McConnell had a tantrum on the Senate floor in which he claimed he was being targeted with modern date McCarthyism.
The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTreason began trending on Twitter Tuesday morning after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired back against the nickname “Moscow Mitch” in a fiery speech from the Senate floor.
The hashtag #MoscowMitch quickly began trending on Twitter following Scarborough’s comments.
McConnell responded on Monday, decrying the attacks against him as “modern-day McCarthyism.”
“I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies. I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said.
“These pundits are lying, lying when they dismiss the work that has been done. They’re lying when they insist I have personally blocked actions which, in fact, I have championed and the Senate has passed,” he added. “They are lying when they suggest that either party is against defending our democracy.”
Sorry Mitch, but everyone knows you blocked President Obama when he wanted to issue a bipartisan warning about Russians interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump.
Trump continued the Twilight Zone theme this morning as he left the White House. He issued an extended attack on Baltimore, claiming the city’s problems are all Rep. Elijah Cummings’ fault (nothing to do with the Mayor, Governor, or federal government). Next he responded to a question about Dana Millbank’s article calling Mitch McConnell a Russian asset by saying
“I think the Washington Post is a Russian asset, by comparison … Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence and even Donald Trump, and I know nothing.”
“Those people are living in hell in Baltimore. They are largely African American, you have a large African American population. And they really appreciate what I’m doing, and they’ve let me know it.”
Really? Oh yes, Trump said, African American have been calling the White House and telling him how happy they are with his policies.
TRUMP: “The African American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done.”
That Abraham Lincoln, he was such a loser, right Donald? For more of this nonsense, check out Aaron Rupar’s Twitter timeline.
In more serious news, the second Democratic primary debate begins tonight. NPR: Your Guide To Tonight’s Democratic Presidential Debate.
The Democratic presidential candidates take the stage for the second round of debates Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit. A lot is on the line for the candidates, who have been engaged in back-and-forths over race and health care coming into this round of debates.
On Tuesday, progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren face off for the first time in this campaign. And several other candidates will be scrambling for a breakout night to get back on voters’ minds.
Viewers will also see an odd dynamic onstage — by luck of the draw, all the candidates onstage on Night 1 are white….
In order of their placement onstage, left to right: Spiritualist and author Marianne Williamson; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.; and Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont.
The first meeting between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will be the marquee match up. Read more at the link above.
The most terrifying news of the day is that Trump is on the verge of taking control of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure. He has appointed Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coates as Director of National Intelligence, even though Ratcliffe has no intelligence background and is completely unqualified. If this appointment is approved by the Senate, we may never learn anything about Russian support of Trump in the 2020 election and Democrats in the House could be cut off from getting any information from the intelligence agencies.
If you watched the Mueller hearings, you may recall Ratcliffe’s unhinged attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ryan Bort at Rolling Stone: How John Ratcliffe Nailed His Audition to Become Trump’s New Intelligence Chief.
A week ago, Rep. John Radcliffe (R-Texas) was a largely anonymous congressman serving on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. On Sunday night, President Trump announced he would be nominating him to oversee America’s intelligence community, a position for which Ratcliffe is woefully under-qualified. Why? Look no further than Ratcliffe’s performance during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony last Wednesday.
In lieu of asking questions of Mueller, Ratcliffe used his five minutes to make a show of excoriating Mueller for noting that the special counsel report did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. Ratcliffe argued that, considering Mueller chose not to prosecute the president, it was outside of his legal purview to elaborate on a decision he chose not to make.
When Mueller tried to explain why the situation was “unique,” Ratcliffe cut him off and continued to rant. “Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not,” Ratcliffe concluded with a flourish. “But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him,” Ratcliffe said.
Back to Rolling Stone:
It was exactly the kind of sound bite designed to earn plaudits from Trump. So too was his appearance on Fox News Sunday morning. “I’m not going to accuse any specific person of any specific crime,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “I just want there to be a fair process to get there. What I do know, as a former federal prosecutor, is, it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.”
Trump announced the nomination hours later. “I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves. Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.”
Ratliffe is looney tunes and his only qualification is his loyalty to the mad king.
David Ignatius at The Washington Post: Trump’s intelligence shake-up could be his most dangerous move yet.
Among intelligence professionals, President Trump’s nomination of an inexperienced, partisan politician to oversee America’s spy agencies prompted deep dismay — but also a stolid reaffirmation of the spymaster’s credo: Let’s get on with it.
This combination of incredulity and stoicism was voiced by a half-dozen current and former officers I spoke with Monday about Trump’s choice of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) to become director of national intelligence. The worry is partly that Ratcliffe lacks any real experience, and perhaps more that he has embraced Trump’s “deep state” conspiracy theories about the CIA and FBI.
“This makes the workforce wonder, what are we doing here?” said one veteran CIA station chief. But a few moments later he affirmed: “This place is under siege. People say, carry on, protect the mission, avoid the firing range.”
“Analysts will be asking how well [Ratcliffe] will represent our product downtown,” said a second former officer who served in a senior position under Daniel Coats, the departing DNI. This former official predicted that it would take Ratcliffe a year just to understand the vast array of 17 intelligence agencies he will oversee, if he’s confirmed.
The deepest worry among intelligence professionals is how the Ratcliffe nomination, and the intense partisanship that fueled it, will be perceived by the United States’ intelligence partners overseas. “They’re in wait-and-see mode,” said a former senior CIA officer after canvassing a group of intelligence colleagues.
If the White House exerts political control through Ratcliffe, “foreign governments will be wondering if they should be sharing information” with the CIA and National Security Agency, said the veteran station chief.
More articles to check out on this topic:
The New York Times: Republican Senators Are Cool to Trump’s Choice for Top Intelligence Post.
Before I wrap this up, I want to call your attention to this long profile of Alan Dershowitz at The New Yorker by Connie Bruck, you really should. It’s devastating: Alan Dershowitz, Devil’s Advocate.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?