Monday Reads: Canned Hostility

0b0a1c822749322f2b6c29e57355c588Good Afternoon!

Populist insurgencies usually get ugly.  We’ve got two campaigns that are pretty representative of that assertion. I’m a veteran of a lot of political shenanigans and ugliness having run against a mean ass outsider in my day.  People that only see themselves and their “movements” as some savior of society are willing to do and say just about anything.   That goes for the kinds of people they attract to the campaign also.  I’ve seen some ugly ass comments coming from surrogates this year that really have made my stomach churn.  I know this isn’t a particularly cheery topic but since New York, all I see is two campaigns resplendent with hostile, angry people, candidates, surrogates, and staff.  It’s beginning to feel a lot like a Nixon campaign.

We knew it would probably get ugly when Donald Trump started surging. He’s been friends with two of the worst Nixon ratfuckers that ever lived.  How could you possibly trust a guy with mentors like Roy Cohn and Roger Stone to be anything but a mean, nasty piece of work? Jeffrey Toobin scored an interview with Stone for the New Yorker.  All that’s missing is Donald Segretti when it comes to the Trump Equation.

Roger Stone, the political provocateur, visited the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel on primary day last week to reminisce about his long friendship with Donald Trump. It started in 1979, when Stone was a twenty-six-year-old aide in Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign. Michael Deaver, a more senior campaign official, instructed Stone to start fund-raising in New York. “Mike gave me a recipe box full of index cards, supposedly Reagan’s contacts in New York,” Stone said. “Half the people on the cards were dead. A lot of the others were show-business people, but there was one name I recognized—Roy Cohn.” So Stone presented himself at the brownstone office of Cohn, the notorious lawyer and fixer.

“I go into Roy’s office,” Stone continued, “and he’s sitting there in his silk bathrobe, and he’s finishing up a meeting with Fat Tony Salerno,” the boss of the Genovese crime family. Stone went on, “So Tony says, ‘Roy here says we’re going with Ree-gun this time.’ That’s how he said it—‘Ree-gun.’ Roy told him yes, we’re with Reagan. Then I said to Roy that we needed to put together a finance committee, and Roy said, ‘You need Donald and Fred Trump.’ He said Fred, Donald’s father, had been big for Goldwater in ’64. I went to see Donald, and he helped to get us office space for the Reagan campaign, and that’s when we became friends.”

Stone is now sixty-two, and he’s allowed his hair, which used to be a kind of yellow, to evolve into a shade more suitable for an éminence grise than for an enfant terrible. He has played roles in many of his generation’s political dirty-tricks scandals. He was just nineteen when he had a bit part in Watergate; he sent campaign contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was running against Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Almost three decades later, he helped choreograph the so-called Brooks Brothers riot, which shut down the Bush v. Gore recount in Miami-Dade County.

This is one of the reasons I groan when a member of the Bernie cult tries to tell me that Charles Koch is “backing” Hillary Clinton.  How nixonpic-thumb
much we’ve forgotten of the Nixon years.
 How much we need to pay closer attention to the connections between the old Nixon CREEPS and Trump. Nixon evidently even had a thing for Trump when he appeared on a Phil Donahue segment back in the day.

At the time, Trump was only 41 but was already a New York media darling. The Art of the Deal had just come out, which would make him a national figure. Most of the interview isn’t about politics, but the parts that are are very Nixon-friendly. Trump defends Nixon and his father against allegations that they discriminated against black tenants, and talks admiringly of Roy Cohn, the right-wing lawyer most famous for prosecuting theRosenbergs and serving as Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel in the Senate.

Cohn (who spent his whole life closeted and died of AIDS the year before the interview) was a friend of Nixon’s and reportedly helped him win reelection in 1972 by leaking Democratic VP candidate Thomas Eagleton’s psychiatric history.

“The one thing I’ll say about Roy is that he was an extremely loyal guy,” Trump says. “Loyalty is a great trait.”

The prospect of Trump running for office comes up again and again:

Donahue: You tell us also in your book that you left Queens and you left Brooklyn for Manhattan to get away from rent control! You’re honest to tell us in this book.

Trump: I’m honest. Hey, I’m not running for anything, Phil, I’m not running for office. I don’t have to lie in a book. I want to tell the facts, okay? Do you want me to say little fibs and little this and little that, and how much we all love rent control and what a great thing it’s been for New York? It’s been a disaster for New York, it’s badly hurt New York, it’s crippled New York.

Trump follows that up by engaging in the kind of political rhetoric that he’s perfected over the past year: populist while simultaneously drawing upon his own power as an elite. He condemns rent control for primarily helping the politically well-connected, bragging in the process that he has those connections (“it’s the people with the connections — somebody knows Trump, somebody knows somebody else, they call up and say, ‘Do me a favor,’ that’s what it’s all about”).

Pardon me for citing the National Review, but they see it too.s-l300

Richard Nixon might have been right at home in the bully-boy politics of today. As a young candidate, Nixon conducted what he called “rock ’em, sock ’em” campaigns. Donald Trump sometimes seems to be channeling Nixon in his pursuit of “the silent majority,” a phrase coined by Nixon. Trump would be lucky to do as well as Nixon did in attracting voters with his populist rhetoric. While winning a second term in a landslide in 1972, Nixon got the votes of 35 percent of self-described Democrats — many of them lower-middle-class blue-collar whites.

Trump also seems to suggest that he would be like Nixon in another way: as a deal maker. This side of Nixon sometimes gets overlooked, but it is worth examining as Republicans (and possible the country as a whole come November) contemplate whether Trump would be a good president. As president, Nixon was willing to compromise. Democrats controlled Congress, so Nixon worked with their leaders to pass a raft of environmental and social-welfare legislation. In part, Nixon was being politically opportunistic. Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine hoped to ride the nascent environmental movement to the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House in 1972. Nixon saw a chance to outflank Muskie by creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon was not just posturing — he really did want to get things done. In his crafty way, Nixon was willing to outmaneuver his own subordinates. He told Chris DeMuth, a young aide assigned to write up the new environmental-law regulations (and later president of the American Enterprise Institute), to steer clear of Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, a prolific Nixon fund-raiser who was closely allied with big industry. “I’ll take care of Stans,” said Nixon, and he did, keeping him away from the rule-making process.

Nixon’s capacity to play to the emotions of voters while still governing effectively was best displayed in his approach to civil rights. In 1968 and 1972, Nixon employed what was called the GOP’s “southern strategy.” Appealing to southern Democrats (then the majority), Nixon loudly inveighed against forced busing to integrate schools. To liberals, he seemed to be pandering to racists. But with Nixon it was important, as his attorney general, John Mitchell, said, “to watch what we do, not what we say.” Working quietly behind the scenes to overcome resistance to federal court orders, Nixon set up citizens’ committees in each of the Deep South states to integrate the schools. When Nixon became president, 70 percent of black kids in the Deep South attended segregated schools. Within three years only 10 percent did.

Perhaps in today’s noisy and instantaneous media environment, Nixon could not have gotten away with such politically deft sleight of hand. Nixon, who was always muttering that “the press is the enemy,” did not have to contend with bloggers or cable-news talking heads. Nixon wrote many of his own speeches (including the “silent majority” speech) but was cunning about using the right speechwriter to set the tone he wanted in any particular moment — Pat Buchanan for red-meat populism, Ray Price for high-minded good governance. Still, sometimes he was too clever by half, especially when trying to be both a hawk and a dove on Vietnam.

ed813061d0c2887e9af83467bf60121fNixon was one of those guys that got where he did by bringing out the worst in people. Trump is following in that style.  So is the other populist in the race. Just when you thought the attacks couldn’t get any more personal from the sinking Sanders campaign, up jumps Rosario Dawson with a Monica Lewinsky reference.

Bernie Sanders’ lone Senate endorser on Monday rejected the notion that the recent comments made by one of the candidate’s celebrity surrogates represents more than an isolated, inflammatory incident.

“No. This is individuals going off track on their own,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” addressing actress Rosario Dawson’s invocation of Monica Lewinsky against bullying while introducing Sanders over the weekend in Delaware.

Such remarks are “not helpful to the campaign, and it’s certainly not in keeping with what Bernie wants to see.”

“Those are complete distractions. They take away from the conversation about core policy issues. In a campaign you have many people who step forward on your behalf. They come out with some things that go off track,” Merkley said. “Hopefully everything I say will be on track, because I do believe that this is a conversation about so many important issues.”

Dawson’s comments are not the first from a Sanders surrogate to have raised eyebrows among those on the Hillary Clinton campaign and beyond. For example, when actor Tim Robbins compared Clinton’s victory in South Carolina as “about as significant” as winning the island of Guam, the territory’s lone congressional delegate and former first lady fired back, pledging her support to Clinton ahead of the May 7 primary. Robbins later apologized, saying he did not intend to make light of the territory’s lack of full voting representation.

For his part, Sanders declined to directly address Dawson’s comments about Lewinsky on Sunday, praising the actress in a CNN interview for doing a “great job” in discussing the “real issues” facing the country.

Bernie’s silence on the matter screams a lot about his intent to me. I think he’s so mad about not being the recognized savior that he doesn’t give two shits about what his people say about Clinton or the Democratic Party.  The man has a mean streak as large as Richard Nixon’s paranoia.b9257fb0e492168168042a9b4ebcfcb6

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont did his best on Sunday to avoid talking about comments made by one of his supporters, the actress Rosario Dawson, who invoked Monica Lewinsky at a rally for Mr. Sanders this weekend.

Ms. Dawson created some controversy Saturday when she referenced Ms. Lewinsky, the former White House intern who had an affair with President Bill Clinton. Though Ms. Dawson was talking about cyberbullying and about being under pressure to support Hillary Clinton, the Clinton campaign has called the comment “vitriol.”

“We are literally under attack for not just supporting the other candidate,” Ms. Dawson said while introducing Mr. Sanders in Wilmington, Del. “Now, I’m with Monica Lewinsky with this. Bullying is bad. She has actually dedicated her life now to talking about that. And now, as a campaign strategy, we are being bullied, and, somehow that is O.K. and not being talked about with the richness that it needs.”

On Sunday, Jake Tapper of CNN questioned Mr. Sanders about Ms. Dawson’s comments. “One of your high-profile surrogates, actress Rosario Dawson, invoked Monica Lewinsky at one of your rallies,” Mr. Tapper said. “Do you think it’s appropriate for your surrogates to be talking about Monica Lewinsky on the campaign trail?”

Mr. Sanders, however, declined to speak about the reference to Ms. Lewinsky and instead expressed support for Ms. Dawson. “Rosario is a great actress, and she’s doing a great job for us,” he said. “And she’s been a passionate fighter to see that we increase the voter turnout, that we fight for racial, economic, environmental justice.”

He added: “What our job right now is to contrast our views compared to Secretary Clinton. That’s what a campaign is about.”

Bernie’s chances at the nomination are all but gone but he can and is destroying whatever goodwill and legacy he may have built. He’s getting a series of open letters written to him in newspapers begging him to stop self-destructing and begging him to stop doing Donald Trump’s  “dirty work”.  I suggest that he’s just ratfucking at this point in time. This from the op-ed by Michael Cohen at the Boston Globe.

But here’s the thing – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but maybe a little tough love is in order — you’re not going to win the Democratic nomination. This isn’t one of these “yeah, it’s a long shot, but maybe if I get lucky and everything goes my way” things. You’re not going to overcome Hillary Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates and you’re certainly not going to convince super delegates to vote for you over her. I mean, think about it: You’re trying to convince them to vote against the person who is almost certainly going to win in pledged delegates.

And even if you could win that way, would you really want to? In fact, if we’re really being honest here, the way your campaign has gone the past six weeks isn’t the way you want to win — or even the way you want to lose. Remember back in May 2015 when you said you didn’t want this campaign to be about Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders? Remember when you said you weren’t going to engage in character assassination and personal attacks?

Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries accuses Bernie of giving aid and comfort to Donald Trump.   Bernie’s dodged every chance to disown the comment.

A Brooklyn congressman is accusing Sen. Bernie Sanders of providing “aid and comfort” to Donald Trump and the GOP after a top surrogate referenced Monica Lewinsky at a recent Sanders rally.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said Mr. Sanders needs to “stop it” and disavow the comments made by Rosario Dawson, an actress.

“Bernie Sanders ran a scorched earth campaign in New York that personally attacked Hillary Clinton at every turn, and he was crushed by 16 points,” Mr. Jeffries said today, referring to Ms. Clinton’s triumph over Mr. Sanders in the April 19 New York primary. “Instead of learning from past failure, supporters of Bernie Sanders continue to play dirty pool in a desperate attempt to halt Hillary Clinton’s clear path to the Democratic nomination.”

A lot of us think that Charles Koch is ratfucking by joining Karl Rove and America First to turn Bernie voters against Hillary.  Unfortunately, it’s working on some of them as I’ve seen from time lines and feeds.   I’m going to close with this one from MSN and the Daily Beast: Trump, Sanders, and American Ignorance.nixon man thing

Civic participation is one of the most important responsibilities of being an American. I’m o
ld enough to remember when being selected to lead your  homeroom class in the daily Pledge of Allegiance was a source of great pride. As kids, with our hands over our hearts,  shoulders squared, we’d recite those venerable words, “…and to the republic, for which is stands…” with purpose.  Unfortunately, the moral imperative of being a good steward of this great nation and understanding what it takes to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is an afterthought for many, if any thought at all.

Without question, the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have jolted many Americans out of their normal political malaise. Bringing more citizens into the political fold is a good thing.  But, what many of them are now realizing is that it takes more than just rolling out of bed to rage against the machine at big political rallies to select the next leader of the free world.

Surprise! There are rules involved. Rules governing the presidential election date back to our founding and the establishment of Electoral College. The Constitution also gives latitude to the states in how to structure their nominating process. Electing the president wasn’t necessarily meant to be easy. Nothing worth safeguarding usually is. The founders deliberately designed our constitutional republic that way to avoid the tyrannical pitfalls of past societies like ancient Greece or the monarchies of Europe.

The Framers wanted multi layered stakeholders invested in the best interest of the republic making it less vulnerable to the rash whims of a majority. They understood how pure democracy without checks and balances historically led to the subjugation of minority voices. It was true then and still rings true today. That’s why our constitution does not allow for direct voting to elect the president.

The best thing I’ve seen on the internet for days is this interview with Joy Reid and Sanders Reality Denier Jeff Weaver who was doing his usual Baghdad Bob routine on MSNBC.  Go watch it as she makes this point to him:  “You Only Win White Voters and White Caucuses”.  It’s a hoot!  The fact neither Trump, Nixon or Sanders can fool minority voters or most women just says something, doesn’t it?

That our country was designed to confound populist impresarios is the best thing to remember when all this craziness from populists goes down. They can scream about rules they don’t like and don’t know about.  But, the rules basically come straight out of our Constitution and it’s to stop nonsense like this current round of ratfucking from creating a situation where the leader of the free world is a loud mouthed, egoist, know nothing.  Oh, you can apply that label to which ever candidate you prefer or all of the above.  Remember, the system eventually dealt with Richard Nixon who was everything but a know nothing.  It just took some time.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

A woman wearing a turban while drinking a chocolate shake and reading the newspaper

Good Morning!!

The news that bleeds this morning is the shooting at Fort Hood.

So here’s the most recent article on that from the Boston Globe: Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment.

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

Within hours of the Wednesday attack, investigators started looking into whether the man’s combat experience had caused lingering psychological trauma. Fort Hood’s senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems.

How is that even a question? I’ve written for years that we’ll pay a terrible price for these pointless wars and the way the men and women sent to fight in them. Massive numbers of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD, Agent Orange exposure, drug addiction, and unemployment; and those guys mostly just went for one two-year deployment. But we didn’t have a draft when Bush decided he just had to act out his daddy issues and go back into Iraq and kill Saddam Hussein like his father failed to do. Talk about psychological problems!

The volunteer army wasn’t big enough for that, and they redeployed men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan again and again even when they were obviously had head injuries or PTSD. Now we’re all going to keep paying the price for Bush and Cheney’s folly, and the way they treated human beings like cannon fodder.

Back to the Globe article on the latest shooting:

The shooter was identified as Ivan Lopez by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. But the congressman offered no other details, and the military declined to identify the gunman until his family members had been notified.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday afternoon and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building, but he was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Milley, senior officer on the base.

As he came within 20 feet of an officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.

The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had been undergoing an assessment before the attack to determine if he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.

He arrived at Fort Hood in February from another base in Texas. He was taking medication, and there were reports that he had complained after returning from Iraq about suffering a traumatic brain injury, Milley said. The commander did not elaborate.

One more from the Washington Post: Pentagon grapples to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

Wednesday’s mass shooting by an Army specialist in Fort Hood, Tex., put the Pentagon on a dreaded, if increasingly familiar, footing as officials grappled to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

It unfolded just two weeks after the Defense Department unveiled the findings of threeinvestigations into last year’s fatal shooting at a Navy Yard building in Washington, D.C., by a contractor and four years after a similarly extensive inquiry into a massacre at Fort Hood by an Army psychiatrist led to vows of sweeping reforms.

“We do not yet know how or why this tragedy occurred, but nearly five years after the Nidal Hasan shooting at Fort Hood in 2009, it is clear that we must do far more to ensure that our troops are safe when they are at home on base,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), a former Army lawyer who was based at Fort Hood, said in a statement. “We must thoroughly investigate what happened today so that we can take whatever action is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again.”

Yeah right. Keep on telling yourself that. To use an old military expression, “Situation Normal, All Fu*cked Up” (SNAFU).

Now let’s move on to the latest outrage from our right-wing, “religious” Supreme Court.

scotus blank check

From Adam Liptak at the NYT: Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Political Donation Cap

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle….

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.

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