Thursday Reads: An Attitude of Gratitude

Good Afternoon!!

I woke up this morning and suddenly realized that today is my anniversary. It has been 36 years since I got sober on May 10, 1982. It has been a long, strange trip. I have a lot to be grateful for today. Everything is crazy in our world today, but I’d rather be dealing with this than dead.

And I have something else to be grateful for too: Michael Avenatti is on the case, and he has blown it wide open. I wonder where he learned how to get so much public attention?

Jack Schaeffer at Politico: Michael Avenatti’s Rules for Radicals. Where Stormy Daniels’ lawyer got his tricks.

Go ahead and joke about TV’s bright lights sunburning his bald head all the way to skin cancer. Avenatti won’t mind. All the world is his court and all the men and women in it merely jurors. Appearing on Anderson Cooper 360° on Tuesday night, where he was as poised as a fat cat taking a limousine to the airport, he explained his method.

“There’s been some criticism about our media strategy and how often I’ve been on CNN and how often I’ve been on your show and other networks,” Avenatti said. “Here’s the bottom line, Anderson. It’s working. OK? It’s working in spades. And one of the reasons, and one of the ways that it’s working, is because we’re so out front on this, people send us information. People want to help our cause. People contact us with information.”

They sure do, as we’ve learned over the past couple of days of wall-to-wall media coverage of Avenatti’s revelations about Michael Cohen selling access to Donald Trump. So what’s Avenatti’s secret?

Although Avenatti grew up in St. Louis and attended college and law school in Washington, D.C., his media politics owe much to the famous teachings of Chicago political organizer Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), who formulated a set of 13 “rules for radicals” that have gained devotees on both the left and right for several generations, including Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, for whom Avenatti worked while in college.

Appearing on TV, Avenatti wears down his opponents by deploying Alinsky’s Rule No. 5, one that Trump has long observed in his own battles: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” Avenatti routinely mocks Cohen as a “thug,” “beyond stupid,” legally “radioactive” and “not that bright.” and goes after Cohen’s attorney with an ack-ack of insults and slights. Wherever possible, Avenatti makes personal everything that is legal, perhaps because he figures that a temperamental opponent like Cohen will grow unsettled and erratic in the face of ridicule, unable to muster any real defense.

“Keep the pressure on. Never let up,” Alinsky’s Rule No. 8, has guided Avenatti’s nonstop, inventive TV campaign. Yesterday, for example, he broadened his attack on Cohen by releasing leaked financial documents that documented suspicious cash transfers from corporations to Cohen. What, if anything this new, damning information has to do with liberating Stormy Daniels from her NDA, isn’t readily apparent. But it fills the ditch that Cohen occupies with fast-drying concrete. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have,” Alinsky’s Rule No. 1, has piloted Avenatti’s moves from the beginning: He teased his Twitter audience by posting a picture of a DVD, implying that it contains smutty pictures of Trump and constantly hints that new, detrimental evidence against Cohen is about to emerge, such as his prediction that new hush payments will be revealed or that the Russians might have covered the $130,000 silence payment to his client. Overstatement is one of his favorite games. Staging media events that please the gallery is another area in which the Avenatti and Alinsky worlds intersect (Rule No. 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”).

Head over to Politico to read the whole thing. I wonder if Barack Obama is following all this?

At New York Magazine, Frank Rich compares Avenatti to Woodward and Bernstein: Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places.

With Michael Avenatti’s revelation that the shell company Michael Cohen used for the Stormy Daniels payoff also received money tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg (as well as payments from other companies with government business), it looks like the two main threads of Donald Trump’s legal troubles may be part of the same story. Has Avenatti found the “collusion” that Trump has spent so much energy denying?

Avenatti, whose revelations have since been verified by the Times and others, is doing exactly what Woodward and Bernstein did in Watergate — following the money. By doing so he has unveiled an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election. Like the Nixon campaign slush fund that Woodward and Bernstein uncovered, this money trail also implicates corporate players hoping to curry favor with a corrupt president. Back then it was the telecommunications giant ITT, then fending off antitrust suits from the government, that got caught red-handed; this time it’s AT&T. Both the Nixon and Trump slush funds were initially set up to illegally manipulate an American presidential election, hush money included. But the Watergate burglars’ dirty tricks, criminal as they were, were homegrown. Even Nixon would have drawn the line at colluding with Russians — or, in those days, the Soviets — to sabotage the Democrats.

I know some accuse Avenatti of being a media whore, but he’s the one media whore I can’t get enough of. He knows what he’s doing, he has the goods, and he is playing high-stakes poker, shrewdly, with what appears to be a winning hand.

I can’t wait to see what Avenatti will do next.

I can’t find any news reports on this yet, but last night Giuliani told USA Today that the Michael Cohen revelations have nothing to do with Donald Trump.

President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that his client is not affected by investigations into payments to longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen from several American companies and a firm tied to a Russian oligarch.

“I don’t see it,” Giuliani told USA TODAY. “This has nothing to do with us.”

If Trump had some kind of legal exposure, Giuliani said, Russia special counsel Robert Mueller would not have passed on the information to federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Cohen’s business dealings.

Giuliani also scoffed at a suggestion made by Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti that Russian money went to the adult film star to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.

“I don’t see how that could be the case,” Giuliani said, noting that the entity cited by Avenatti is “not Russian; it’s an American company.”

There’s a lot that Rudy doesn’t see, like how Trump is likely to dump him next. Rick Wilson at The Daily Beast: Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump: This Will End Badly. And Probably Soon.

Like a bloated, portly fake billionaire rolling off a hooker after a hot 45 seconds of passionate sex, Donald Trump’s ardor for Rudy Giuliani seems to have cooled.

If the White House leaks are any barometer, it sounds more and more as if Donald wants Rudy to get his money off the nightstand and the hell out of his room at the No-Tell-Motel. This is what happens when you work for Trump, and Rudy is old enough, crafty enough, and knows Trump well enough to have known better.

Trump’s hiring of my old boss is a triumph of today’s Trump-right media bubble, where nothing matters but the coverage on Fox & FriendsHannity, Sinclair stations’ nightly Two Minutes of Hate, and on the nut-site constellation that comprises conservative “news” sites. Trump didn’t hire Rudy for his skills as a litigator, or as a warrior in the high-speed low-drag social-media world of today. He was hired to break shit and make loud noises, and he’s damn good at it. Unfortunately for Rudy, that probably won’t be enough to save him from the Trump curse.

Trump has been mostly unable to hire and retain top-flight litigators because he destroys everyone around him. His record of stacking former staffers like cordwood as they are either fired, humiliated, shamed, permanently scarred, forced to cut off a finger by the Yakuza, morally compromised, or moved into the Witness Protection Program will go down in presidential history. It’s no secret that he’s a spectacular liar at all times and on all subjects, leaving his legal team constantly wary they have a client who combines a stubborn streak and a self-destructive nature with an endless capacity to lie to them about his marital, financial, and political lies.

Even though he’s a right-winger, Wilson has a way with words. Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

That’s is for me this morning. I may have a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following?

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Thursday Reads: Trump Wants to Arm Teachers, and Other News

President Trump holds a card with talking points during a listening session with high school students and teachers on gun violence on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Good Morning!!

Yesterday afternoon, Trump held a “listening session” for victims of school shootings. (He was invited to the CNN town hall, but chose not to attend.) The Washington Post: This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything.

President Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump’s at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.

Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful little reminder.

Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured [an] image of Trump’s notes [see photo above].

Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads.

Activists and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attended a rally at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fl on Wednesday. Don Juan Moore Getty Images

I was surprised that the people at Trump’s White House meeting were permitted to speak honestly about their experiences. But when Trump himself spoke, it was clear he wasn’t really listening to their pain. You know who wouldn’t have needed those notes? Hillary Clinton.

After teenagers cried about losing friends and being terrorized by a person with an AR-15, after angry, heartbroken parents spoke of losing their children to senseless gun violence, Trump’s brilliant solution was to give teachers with handguns and expect them to kill suicidal shooters with semi-automatic weapons.

Trump must have seen some of the media reaction to this insane suggestion, because this morning he was on twitter claiming he never said it–but then he said it again.

And would these armed teachers be paid extra for this dangerous duty? Would the government pay for training them? Wouldn’t all this time spent training take away from their actual job of classroom teaching, which requires plenty of preparation and time spend grading papers? Trump isn’t concerned about all that: “far more assets at much less cost.” Trump sees teachers as slave labor!

Trump must have heard from his supporters at the NRA, because he later tweeted this:

Trump learned absolutely nothing from his “listening session.” Last night Lawrence O’Donnell explain why Trump’s idea is utterly insane. Check it out if you didn’t see it.

More from @Lawrence:

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The economics of arming America’s schools. Bump begins with Trump’s proposal:

“A lot of people are talking about it — it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss,” Trump said. “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

How would that work and how much would it cost?

Data from the Department of Education indicates that there are an estimated 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private-schoolteachers in the United States. In total, there are about 3.6 million teachers.

One-fifth of that total is 718,000 — a bit fewer than the number of people in the Army and the Navy combined as of last December. We’d essentially be adding 50 percent to the size of the military by mandating that three-quarters of a million people be trained and prepared to take up arms to defend civilians.

The first cost that needs to be considered is training. What sort of training would be required isn’t clear. Do we want to simply teach the teachers how to target an individual and fire a weapon? Or do we want something more expansive?

Let’s say we want the bare minimum, just enough to pass the safety requirement for gun ownership. In Maryland, there’s a company that will charge you $100 for that training. The cost, then, would be about $71.8 million for all of our teachers.

I’ll let you read the rest at the link. I think the proposal is idiotic. Would Trump expect teachers to pay for this training? It’s a good thing teachers have unions.

As an antidote to all this insanity, here’s a Tweet from Barack Obama:

In other news, Bernie Sanders is on the defensive after indictments from Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russians supported Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Politico: Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference.

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

Some Twitter reactions:

According to CNN, HR McMaster could be on the way out: McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump.

With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.

Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.

Read more at the CNN link.

I’ll end with a bit of positive news from the Dallas Morning News: Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting.

AUSTIN — Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary.

The total number of voters from the 15 counties with the most people registered is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day.

Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase….

Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.

“In general, there seems to be more energy, largely stemming from people’s reactions to President Trump and a lot of Democrat-leaning groups trying to get people out and organized,” said Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s maybe more Democrats than Republicans, but people who oppose him and don’t like the results of the election and can’t believe he won, [saying] ‘We obviously can’t vote against him this time but we can try to get more Democrats elected to respond to him.'”

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads

carrie-and-debbie

Good Morning!!

We just have three more days to go before we reach the bitter end of this terrible year, but there’s still plenty of time for things to get even worse.

Another Hollywood Icon Gone

Last night Debbie Reynolds left us, just one day after her daughter Carrie died. It sure seems as if Debbie died of a broken heart.

Variety: Debbie Reynolds, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Star and Carrie Fisher’s Mother, Dies at 84.

Debbie Reynolds, the Oscar-nominated singer-actress who was the mother of late actress Carrie Fisher, has died at Cedars-Sinai hospital. She was 84.

“She wanted to be with Carrie,” her son Todd Fisher told Variety.

She was taken to the hospital from Carrie Fisher’s Beverly Hills house Wednesday after suffering a stroke, the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died.

The vivacious blonde, who had a close but sometimes tempestuous relationship with her daughter, was one of MGM’s principal stars of the 1950s and ’60s in such films as the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” and 1964’s “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” for which she received an Oscar nomination as best actress.

Reynolds received the SAG lifetime achievement award in January 2015; in August of that year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voted to present the actress with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Nov. 14 Governors Awards, but she was unable to attend the ceremony due to an “unexpectedly long recovery from a recent surgery.”

Reynolds had a wholesome girl-next-door look which was coupled with a no-nonsense attitude in her roles. They ranged from sweet vehicles like “Tammy” to more serious fare such as “The Rat Race” and “How the West Was Won.” But amid all the success, her private life was at the center of one of the decade’s biggest scandals when then-husband, singer Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1958.


Thursday Reads: Democratic National Convention, Day Three

ObamaClinton

Good Morning!!

President Obama was magnificent last night. He praised Hillary Clinton and called her the most qualified person ever to run for president–including himself and Bill Clinton. Here’s the full transcript. An excerpt:

I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together—black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That’s what I see. That’s the America I know!

And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to that future; a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, and blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American—the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton. That’s right!

Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year and a half. Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels. And every time I thought I might have the race won, Hillary just came back stronger.

But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. And she was a little surprised. Some of my staff was surprised. But ultimately she said yes—because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us. And for four years—for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention—that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

Hillary has still got the tenacity that she had as a young woman, working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door-to-door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s still got the heart she showed as our First Lady, working with Congress to help push through a Strong Tie commercial trucking insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids.

She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11—which is why, as a Senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders, to help the city rebuild; why, as Secretary of State, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out bin Laden.

gty_obama_dnc_1_er_160727_12x5_1600

You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. You can read about it. You can study it. But until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war. But Hillary has been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes—what’s at stake for the working family, for the senior citizen, or the small business owner, for the soldier, for the veteran. And even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, and she keeps her cool, and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.

That is the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.

And Bill Clinton loved it! He stood and cheered along with the rest of the crowd.

Obama on Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton:

You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.

Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice?

If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, and better benefits, and a fairer tax code, and a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton.

If you’re rightly concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world, well, the choice is even clearer. Hillary Clinton is respected around the world—not just by leaders, but by the people they serve.

I have to say this. People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election. They really don’t. Because they know Hillary. They’ve seen her work. She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. She has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her. Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory. And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She will finish the job. And she will do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit and she is ready to be the next Commander-in-Chief.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster. Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights. He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, tells our NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection.

Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. We bear our burdens. That’s one of the reasons why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago when I took office.

America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election—the meaning of our democracy.

Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix. It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades—because he’s not actually offering any real solutions to those issues. He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.

And that’s another bet that Donald Trump will lose. And the reason he’ll lose it is because he’s selling the American people short. We’re not a fragile people. We’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that We the People, can form a more perfect union.

And there was much much more. At the end, Hillary came out on stage and they hugged. It was a beautiful moment.

Of course this morning’s papers are filled with warnings that Hillary had better be good tonight, and that she can never live up to Obama’s performance last night. There are even multiple articles about Bill and Hillary’s supposedly horrible, “incomprehensible” marriage. You know what? I’m not going to link to any of those. I believe that Hillary will do very well tonight. The crowd in the hall will love her and lift her up; and women and girls around the country will shed tears at the thought of a woman finally becoming President of the U.S.

The media will pick her speech apart; they’ll find fault with her appearance and her manner of speaking. It’s what they do. And we will do what President Obama asked:

Time and again, you’ve picked me up. I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. Because you’re who I was talking about twelve years ago, when I talked about hope – it’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!

America, you have vindicated that hope these past eight years. And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen. This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.

Thank you for this incredible journey. Let’s keep it going. God bless the United States of America.

Yes we can, Mr. President. We’ll pick her up and carry her to victory in November.

There were many wonderful speeches last night, including Tim Kaine and Joe Biden. The entire night was a parade of A-listers–what a contrast to the pathetic GOP convention! But I’m worn out from two late nights and lots of emotion, so that’s all I have to say for right now. I’ll add some news links in the comment thread. Have a great day everyone!

 


Open Thread: President Obama All But Endorses Hillary Clinton

hillary-clinton-obama

 

Dakinikat will have a post up later, but I just had to share this amazing interview that President Obama did with Glen Thrush of Politico. As Thrush noted in an article summing up his reactions:

Barack Obama, that prematurely gray elder statesman, is laboring mightily to remain neutral during Hillary Clinton’s battle with Bernie Sanders in Iowa, the state that cemented his political legend and secured his path to the presidency.

But in a candid 40-minute interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast as the first flakes of the blizzard fell outside the Oval Office, he couldn’t hide his obvious affection for Clinton or his implicit feeling that she, not Sanders, best understands the unpalatably pragmatic demands of a presidency he likens to the world’s most challenging walk-and-chew-gum exercise.

“[The] one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing,” a relaxed and reflective Obama told me in his most expansive discussion of the 2016 race to date.

Hillary+Clinton+Barack+Obama+Campaign+Weeks+a-JzlF_Xob_l

Here are some of my own takeaways from the interview transcript. First, there can be no doubt that Obama wants Hillary to win the nomination and the presidency. He damns Sanders with faint praise.

GLENN THRUSH: I mean, when you watch this, what do you — do you see any elements of what you were able to accomplish in what Sanders is doing?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, there’s no doubt that Bernie has tapped into a running thread in Democratic politics that says: Why are we still constrained by the terms of the debate that were set by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago? You know, why is it that we should be scared to challenge conventional wisdom and talk bluntly about inequality and, you know, be full-throated in our progressivism? And, you know, that has an appeal and I understand that.

I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives. I don’t want to exaggerate those differences, though, because Hillary is really idealistic and progressive. You’d have to be to be in, you know, the position she’s in now, having fought all the battles she’s fought and, you know, taken so many, you know, slings and arrows from the other side. And Bernie, you know, is somebody who was a senator and served on the Veterans’ Committee and got bills done.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton congratulates President Barack Obama on the House vote to pass health care reform, prior to a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, March 22, 2010.Ê (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton congratulates President Barack Obama on the House vote to pass health care reform, prior to a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, March 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the contrasts the media is drawing between Hillary and Bernie  (i.e. he has the enthusiasm, she’s just a boring policy wonk):

I don’t think that’s true. I think that what is — you know, if you look at both of them, I think they’re both passionate about giving everybody a shot. I think they’re both passionate about kids having a great education. I think they want to make sure everybody has health care. I think that they both believe in a tax system that is fair and not tilted towards, you know, the folks at the very top. But, you know, they — I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete longshot and just letting loose.

I think Hillary came in with the — both privilege and burden of being perceived as the frontrunner. And, as a consequence, you know, where they stood at the beginning probably helps to explain why the language sometimes is different.

On the media coverage of Hillary and the failure so far of the media to vet Bernie:

GLENN THRUSH: …Do you feel like it’s a little bit unfair to her, to some extent, the way this has been stacked?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah – well, yes. But I think that Hillary is tough and she has been through this before and she could anticipate it. If you are a frontrunner, then you are under more scrutiny and everybody is going to pick you apart….

GLENNTHRUSH: …and Bernie, of course, is an untested 74-year-old kid, right?

PRESIDENTOBAMA: Yeah, yeah.

GLENNTHRUSH: So, to what extent do you think it’s appropriate for that process to be aimed at him right now?

PRESIDENTOBAMA: Well, he hasn’t won anything yet.

GLENNTHRUSH: Right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that there’s always just a rhythm to this thing. I think that if Bernie won Iowa or won New Hampshire, then you guys are going to do your jobs and, you know, you’re going to dig into his proposals and how much they cost and what does it mean, and, you know, how does his tax policy work and he’s subjected, then, to a rigor that hasn’t happened yet, but that Hillary is very well familiar with.

l_apobamahillaryx1200

On the way the Obama campaign reacted to criticism from Hillary Clinton in 2008:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, here’s my view: that whoever the nominee is is going to need the other person’s supporters. And I think it is entirely legitimate to draw sharp contrasts where there are contrasts and it is important, however, to maintain a tone in which people feel as if you’re playing fair. And I think Hillary has done that so far, and I think that the truth is in 2007 and 2008, sometimes my supporters and my staff, I think, got too huffy about what were legitimate questions she was raising. And, you know, there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her and tilted a little my way in the — in calling her out when she was tough and not calling some of our folks out as much when we were tough in ads….

I think — look, I’ve gotten to know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country, and she has been in the public eye for a long time and in a culture in which new is always better. And, you know, you’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don’t, haven’t seen before. That’s a disadvantage to her. Bernie is somebody who —although I don’t know as well because he wasn’t, obviously, in my administration, has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, and great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless. His attitude is, “I got nothing to lose.”

On Hillary’s strengths as a candidate:

…like any candidate, her strengths can be her weaknesses. Her strengths, which are the fact that she’s extraordinarily experienced – and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out – sometimes could make her more cautious and her campaign more prose than poetry, but those are also her strengths. It means that she can govern and she can start here, [on] day one, more experienced than any non-vice president has ever been who aspires to this office. Her strengths, in terms of the ability to debate, the ability to, I think, project genuine concern in smaller groups and to interact with people, where folks realize she’s really warm and funny and engaging— ….

the other thing that I’ll always remember is the sheer strength, determination, endurance, stick-to-it-ness, never-give-up attitude that Hillary had during those primaries. I mean, we had as competitive and lengthy and expensive and tough primary fight as there has been in modern American politics, and she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels. She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her. She had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did and, you know, she was right there the entire time and, had things gone a little bit different in some states or if the sequence of primaries and caucuses been a little different, she could have easily won.

obamahillary

Finally, on the notion of a woman president:

…my No. 1 priority is having a Democratic president succeed me, and I think there’s no doubt that, given our history, I want more women in politics generally, and I want my daughters to feel that there’s nothing that they can’t do. I don’t think that Democrats are going to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman any more than they’re going to vote for Bernie just because they agree with him on one particular issue. I think, you know, voters are pretty sophisticated. They’re going to take all these things into account. I am proud of the fact that the Democratic Party represents today the breaking down of all sorts of barriers and a belief that you judge people on what they bring to the table and not what they look like or who they love or their last name.

I’ve quoted a lot, but I still hope you’ll go read the whole interview. I wonder if Obama agreed to do this in order to boost Hillary’s chances? His comments are certainly extraordinary, and they are going to be very disconcerting to the media and to Bernie’s supporters.

What do you think?


Biden Announces He’s Not Running for POTUS

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Unfortunately, after making this clear, Biden rambled on interminably as his wife and President Obama gritted their teeth and looked embarrassed. I didn’t think Biden would ever stop. Interestingly, Obama had nothing to say. I had gotten the impression that he was going to speak about Biden’s decision.

I’m thinking what must have happened is that Obama called Biden in and told him to stop undermining the serious candidates as well as Secretary of State Kerry and quit playing game with the media. But Biden acted as if he is everyone’s choice and he needed to advise all the other candidates on what needs to be done. It was painful.

Thank goodness it’s over.

Post your thoughts and links below. It should be interesting reading the media reactions.

 


Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Pope Francis is currently visiting Washington DC, and he will address Congress this morning. Yesterday he said a mass and canonized a questionable new saint. From NPR:

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., today. You can watch the proceedings in The Washington Post video above.

Serra, the first Hispanic American saint and the first saint to be canonized in the U.S., helped Spain colonize California in the late 1700s, converting tens of thousands of Native Americans to Catholicism in the process. Some Native American groups objected to the canonization of a priest who converted indigenous people to Christianity using force.

The pontiff addressed Serra’s history in his homily.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

After the mass, Francis met with Native Americans at the basilica to speak with them privately about the controversy.

At the link, you can read tweets from people who noticed that Francis fell asleep at one point during the mass.

CIRCA 1930: Fray Junipero Serra Postcard. ca. 1915-1925, Fray Junipero Serra Postcard (Photo by LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

CIRCA 1930: Fray Junipero Serra Postcard. ca. 1915-1925, Fray Junipero Serra Postcard (Photo by LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

NPR tried to soft-pedal the controversy over Serra’s canonization. NBC has more details:

Saint or Sinner? Pope Courts Controversy With Canonization of Junipero Serra.

…to some Native Americans, Serra’s achievements are nothing to celebrate. They say he created a military-backed mission system that thrived on brutality and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

“It is very offensive to canonize the person who actually enslaved, whipped, tortured and separated families and destroyed our cultural and spiritual beliefs,” said Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “How can that behavior be recognized as saintly behavior?” ….

Robert Senkewicz, a professor of history at Santa Clara University who has written a book about Serra, said it’s probably no accident that a pope who hails from Latin America, where the missionaries were seen as protectors, would support Serra.

He said he understands both sides of the debate: there’s evidence that Serra supported the flogging of the California Indians as punishment; he had women and girls locked away at night to keep them safe from rapists; and the crowded missions helped breed the disease that killed many.

“Serra, by his own right, really loved the Indians,” Senkewicz said. “But he thought of them as children. Like 99 percent of the people of the day, he thought Europeans were superior to the native people.”

Lopez said he was stunned by the pope’s elevation of Serra given that the pontiff has championed the downtrodden and even apologized in July for the church’s “grave sins” against the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Statue of Junipero Serra on Highway 280 south of San Francisco

Statue of Junipero Serra on Highway 280 south of San Francisco

Like most of what the Vatican does, conferring sainthood is a political process. Frankly, to me it’s meaningless; but I can certainly understand why many Catholics would be up in arms about it.

The Washington Post on Francis’ speech to Congress this morning:

Pope Francis, a symbol of unity for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, will address Congress Thursday morning, marking the first time a pope has bridged the church-state divide to speak to America’s elected representatives.

The pope is scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill at 9:20 a.m. Hours earlier, hundreds people began lining up outside the Capitol grounds, waiting to pass through security checkpoints and stake out a place to see him….

At 10:01 a.m., the House sergeant-at-arms is scheduled to announce: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.” His words will formally launch an event that would have been politically impossible through much of American history, when Catholics — especially waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and central Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — suffered widespread discrimination.

That began to change with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960, according to the article.

In speaking before Congress, the pope was to take the central position in a tableau reflecting a wholesale shift in Catholics’ place in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden (D), who is also Catholic, will sit behind him, next to Boehner. In front of him will be four justices of the Supreme Court — including three of the six Catholics who currently sit on the nine-member court.

There are 164 Catholics in this Congress, or 31 percent of the members. That’s a higher proportion than in the overall U.S. population, which is 22 percent Catholic. Despite those numbers, it seems doubtful that even a pope who has admonished world leaders to argue less and accomplish more can break the bitter, years-long political paralysis in the U.S. legislature.

Pope Francis meets with John Boehner before the historic speech to Congress.

Pope Francis meets with John Boehner before the historic speech to Congress.

Unfortunately, many of the “Catholics” in this Congress and the Supreme Court do not subscribe to actual Catholic values such as humility, helping the poor, protecting the environment, and making peace, not war.

Pope Francis also held a meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor to “quietly” support their battle against birth control being covered by Obamacare. USA Today:

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor Wednesday, a move that Vatican officials said was intended to send a message of support in the nuns’ battle against Obamacare.

The religious order of Catholic sisters is suing theObama administration over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that the administration has interpreted as requiring the sisters to purchase health insurance with birth control coverage.

Catholic teaching opposes the use of birth control. The sisters can request a waiver, but their lawsuit argues that requiring that paperwork infringes on their religious freedom. The sisters are suing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from placing a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion.

Last August, an appeals court sided with the government, but an unusual dissent by five judges this month called that decision “clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The question now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sigh . . .

News From the Clown Car

Donald Trump is once again feuding with Fox News.

From Politico: Trump says he won’t appear on Fox News. The Republican front-runner says Fox has been treating him unfairly, while Fox says it dumped Trump first.

Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly before the feud

Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly before the feud

Citing unfair treatment, Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is not going to appear on any Fox News shows “for the forseeable future,” reigniting a feud that has heated up and cooled throughout the summer.

“.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future,” Trump tweeted at mid-day on Wednesday.

Fox News fired back a couple hours later, saying Trump had it all wrong, and that it was Fox who dumped Trump. A spokesman issued a statement, condeming Trump’s attacks on Fox’s journalists.

“At 11:45am today, we canceled Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday, which resulted in Mr. Trump’s subsequent tweet about his ‘boycott’ of FOX News,” the statement reads. “The press predictably jumped to cover his tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about. When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome. He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”

The Republican presidential candidate had devoted Monday and Tuesday nights this week to blasting the network’s coverage of him on Twitter, tweeting and retweeting criticism.

More details at the link. Ugh.

Donald Trump at the South Carolina Freedom Summit

Donald Trump at the South Carolina Freedom Summit

Also from Politico: Trump: I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.

A seemingly exasperated Donald Trump announced on Wednesday, “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” telling a crowd of South Carolina business leaders that he’s still the straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy that surged to the top of the polls this summer.

The Republican presidential candidate is suffering a bit of a slump, due to some slippage in the polls, a lackluster debate performance, and another round of negative headlines due to his refusal to apologize for not correcting a questioner at a New Hampshire town hall who insisted President Obama is a Muslim and not an American.

On Wednesday, he tried to reclaim his mojo,  launching another Twitter-based attack on Fox News before taking the stage in South Carolina to blast his rivals. In the case of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, Trump remarked that both candidates “hate each other … but they can’t say it.” Rubio was state senator while Bush was governor of Florida.

Trump, addressing the Greater Charleston Business Association and the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, detailed his grievances with the way politicians act.

“This is what bothers me about politicians. He announces he’s gonna run and they go to Jeb, ‘what do you think of Marco Rubio?’ ‘He’s my dear, dear friend, he’s wonderful, he’s a wonderful person, I’m so happy that he’s running.’ Give me a break,” Trump said. “That’s called politicians’ speak. Then they go to Marco, what do you think of Jeb Bush? ‘Ohh, he’s great, he’s brought me along.”

Rubio and Bush “hate each other,” Trump said, blasting Rubio as “overly ambitious, too young, and I have better hair than he does, right?”

What Donald Trump refers to “political correctness” is behavior that normal people call common courtesy.

Jeb Bush had another stumble a couple of days ago.

CNN reports: Jeb Bush weighs in on ‘multiculturalism.’

Jeb Bush in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Jeb Bush in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Jeb Bush argued Tuesday that the United States is “creeping toward multiculturalism” and described it as “the wrong approach.”

His answer came in response to a question at an Iowa diner Tuesday from a woman who wanted to know how the former Florida governor would help refugees and immigrants integrate into U.S. society and “empower them to become Americans.”

“We should not have a multicultural society,” the Republican presidential candidate responded.

But Bush, who’s a self-admitted policy wonk and tends to use nuanced language, was referring to “multicultural” in the literal sense — a social model in which cultures live in “isolated pockets,” as he described them, rather than assimilating into society.

“America is so much better than every other country because of the values that people share — it defines our national identity. Not race or ethnicity, not where you come from,” he said. “When you create pockets of isolation — and in some cases the assimilation process is retarded because it’s slowed down — it’s wrong. It limits peoples’ aspirations.”

He added that people who aren’t “fully engaged” in a broader community will struggle to get the best education and argued that learning English would better accelerate access to opportunities.

Personally, I think it’s entirely possible for ethnic groups in the U.S. to hold onto their languages and cultures, while at the same time fitting in to American society. The children of immigrants usually assimilate; at the same time, I think they should be encouraged to understand their ethnic and cultural history and be able to speak their native language with older family members.

In The News

BBC News: Hajj stampede: At least 717 killed in Saudi Arabia.

Quora discussion: Why do Americans think helping even the less fortunate next-door neighbour is ‘socialism’?

The Boston Globe: Apple bans walk-in purchases of the new iPhone 6s in New Hampshire, three other states.

ABC News: Texas HS Football Assistant Coach Admits to Telling Players to Hit Referee, Principal Says.

ABC News: Pope Francis Cites Victims From Church’s ‘Difficult Moments.’

The Telegraph: Angela Merkel’s ministers ‘ignored warning over Volkswagen emissions rigging.’

The New York Times: Hackers Took Fingerprints of 5.6 Million U.S. Workers, Government Says.

Some Interesting Longer Reads

Foreign Policy: ‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to Be Dead’ What really happened two years ago in the bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

Scientific American: Why the Human Brain Project Went Wrong–and How to Fix It.

The New Republic: Down the Rabbit Hole. The rise, and rise, of literary annotation.

Slate: Yogi Berra Wasn’t Trying to Be Witty. And he wasn’t dumb either. How did the narrative of the wise buffoon come to dominate his life?

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?