Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Having a childish, incompetent madman in charge of the government is so exhausting. How much more of this can we take? Today, Donnie is headed for the Texas border with Mexico to do something or other. Who knows what insane gibberish will spew from his deformed lips. All I know for sure is that it won’t make sense.

Donnie has been touting his “steel slat” fence for the past week, but guess what? Those slats can be cut through with a common household saw.

NBC News: Test of steel prototype for border wall showed it could be sawed through.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat design for his border wall, which he described as “absolutely critical to border security” in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But Department of Homeland Security testing of a steel slat prototype proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS.

A photo exclusively obtained by NBC News shows the results of the test after military and Border Patrol personnel were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools.

The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Trump inspected the prototypes in March 2018. He has now settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.

However, testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

Photos of the breaches were not included in a redacted version of the CBP report, which was first obtained in a Freedom of Information Act Request by San Diego public broadcaster KPBS.

Gail Collins mocks Donnie’s wall obsession at The New York Times: Trump Hits the Wall. And what’s all that sniffling about?

We need to look at the bright side of Donald Trump’s border wall fixation.

Sure, he’s shut down the government and thrown the nation into chaos. But it could be worse. He could be demanding a fiery moat between us and Canada. Or building a 36,000-foot-deep barrier across the Pacific Ocean to drive home his commitment to tariffs.

See? There’s always a silver lining.

On Trump’s strange oval office address:

Maybe all this wall obsessing makes Trump tired. He certainly seemed low-energy during his Oval Office address. “He makes Jeb Bush look like a combination of Mighty Mouse and Bruce Springsteen,” a friend of mine said after the president finished his nine-minute speech to the American people.

For every viewer whose response to the talk was “Wow, we should do something about immigration!” there must have been a hundred whose first reaction was “Why does this man keep sniffing?” Deviated septum? Nasal polyps? Trump’s breathing has actually sounded strange for a long time, but most of us have chosen to ignore it rather than engage in a national conversation about the president’s nose.

If you watched the address — and really, you could have, it was only about as long as it takes to microwave popcorn — you saw a 72-year-old guy squinting at the teleprompter and making rather alarming breathing sounds while reading a speech about how we need a wall to protect women who are “sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

This is not a man who should wrap his arguments around the idea of protecting women from sexual assault. But also, gee, he sounded like Uncle Fred who you haven’t seen for a while and suddenly he shows up for Thanksgiving with weird colored hair and vacant eyes and he’s talking into his mashed potatoes.

As the Trump shutdown continues, the administration has been giving tone-deaf advice to government employees who are going without pay.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown.

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.

“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

The Coast Guard receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security and is subjected to the shuttering of parts of the government along with DHS’s other agencies. That stands in contrast to other military services, which are part of the Defense Department and have funding.

This is interesting, from Buzzfeed News: ICE Might Be Violating Federal Law By Keeping Immigrants Detained During The Shutdown.

A lengthy government shutdown over border wall funding has potentially put Immigration and Customs Enforcement at risk of violating a more than 100-year-old law that could not only require the release of “non-dangerous” individuals in the agency’s custody but also stop it from continuing to arrest and detain certain people, according to former senior ICE officials and experts.

The potential violation could complicate ICE’s operations at a time when President Donald Trump has argued that the shutdown is necessary to force Democrats to implement tougher immigration policies, such as building a wall on the US–Mexico border.

ICE contracts with nonfederal detention facilities, like county jails and private detention contractors, across the country to hold individuals detained by immigration agents. The agency pays for the bed space in various ways, including monthly payments or, in some cases, in advance.

As of Jan. 1, the agency was detaining more than 48,000 individuals, which is 8,000 more than the levels that had been provided for by the now-expired congressional funding. But nearly three weeks after its funding lapsed because of the shutdown, ICE has likely run out of money to pay contractors for the detention space it uses.

And while ICE has some non-appropriated funds it can lean on, those are not enough to pay for the overall detention space for more than a few weeks, said Kevin Landy, who was appointed during the Obama administration to run ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, a position he held for more than six years, up until 2017.

In other news, Kamala Harris is close to announcing a run for president in 2020.

KCBS Radio: Kamala Harris Ready To Enter Race For President, Sources Say.

Sen. Kamala Harris has decided to run for president in 2020 and will announce her candidacy on or around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, probably at a campaign rally in Oakland, sources close to the freshman senator from California tell KCBS Radio.

Harris, 54, has been making the rounds of television talk shows and appearing at several events this week as part of a brief tour to promote her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”

At every stop, when asked about running for president, Harris has answered with some variation of “I’m not ready yet” to announce her decision, citing family considerations. But several sources knowledgeable about her plans say she is ready, and has in fact decided to run, with the enthusiastic blessing of her husband and two stepchildren.

The debate within her camp is how, and where, to launch her campaign. The tentative plan is for Harris to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with a campaign rally, most likely in Oakland, where she was born and began her legal career.

And the media continues to belatedly vet Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Politico: Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate.

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention in July of 2016, Bernie Sanders’ staffers went out to a Mediterranean restaurant and hookah bar in Center City Philadelphia to celebrate and mourn the end of the campaign.

Sitting at the bar sometime after midnight, convention floor leader Robert Becker—who oversaw Sanders’ Iowa campaign, then helped lead his efforts in Michigan, California, and New York as deputy national field director—began talking with a female staffer who had worked under him along with her boyfriend.

Becker, now 50 years old, told the 20-something woman that he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his “pole,” according to the woman and three other people who witnessed what happened or were told about it shortly afterward by people who did. Later in the night, Becker approached the woman and abruptly grabbed her wrists. Then he moved his hands to her head and forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth as he held her, the woman and other sources said.

The woman said she didn’t come forward at the time, because Sanders’ campaign was over. But when she was recently contacted by Becker about 2020 the women felt she had to speak up.

“Candidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government,” said the woman, who was granted anonymity because she feared retaliation from supporters of Sanders and Becker, who has a loyal following of his own.

“It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020. You can’t run for President of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”

 

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Thursday Reads: Constitutional Crisis in Crazytown

Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to know where to begin. Trump is isolated, melting down, we are certainly in a Constitutional crisis. Here’s a summary of the current situation from Politico: Trump, Alone.

LINE OF THE MORNING … THE WASHINGTON POST’S PHIL RUCKER, ASHLEY PARKER and JOSH DAWSEY said the combination of the Woodward book and the Times op-ed “landed like a thunder clap, portraying Trump as a danger to the country that elected him and feeding the president’s paranoia about whom around him he can trust. … According to one Trump friend, he fretted after Wednesday’s op-ed that he could trust only his children.” WaPo

IN SOME WAYS, this is a version of the same story we’ve been living for the past three years. The Washington establishment appalled, and Trump unmoved. This will, of course, heighten Trump’s distaste for the media, and fuel the media-and-swamp-out-to-get-me narrative.

THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: Trump’s own administration is criticizing him behind the cloak of anonymity. Whereas TRUMP HAS NO ARTIFICE. He just says what he thinks publicly. JUST THIS WEEK HE …

— SAID he might shut down the government if he doesn’t get what he wants on immigration policy. This came after SPEAKER PAUL RYAN sheepishly said Trump knew better than that.

— LASHED OUT AT ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS for allowing the indictment of two Trump supporters in Congress.

— INTIMATED he wouldn’t be terribly critical of Nike because it paid him big rent for its Midtown Manhattan store.

JUST LOOK HOW HE RESPONDED ON TWITTER — @realDonaldTrump at 6:11 p.m.: “TREASON?”

… at 7:40 p.m.: “Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

… at 11:22 p.m.: “I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!”

WHAT’S THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE? How is it sustainable for the president to operate in an environment in which he trusts nobody? We’re about to find out.

Right now Democrats are staging a rebellion in the Senate Judiciary Committee over the unprecedented way that Republicans are trying to ram through Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while keeping secret hundreds of thousands of documents about the nominee’s past history.

Cory Booker threatened to release a document having to do with racial profiling, and he challenged Republicans to bring charges against him if he has broken a committee rule. Most other Democrats are supporting him.

Several Democrats have spoken about the process by which an outside private attorney, Bill Burck, who used to work for the nominee and currently works for George W. Bush has been permitted to decide which documents will be made public. Burck is also the criminal attorney for Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon in the Russia investigation!

Vox: Who is Bill Burck? Meet the former Bush attorney vetting Kavanaugh documents.

Bill Burck, a private attorney employed by former president George W. Bush and a longtime Republican, is a key linchpin in the process for reviewing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lengthy paper trail. In fact, he’s running the show — and Democrats see his involvement as yet another sign of how far norms have shifted in the way the Republican majority has conducted Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

Bill Burck

Burck’s name may sound familiar because he’s a deeply entrenched player in Republican legal circles. Not only is he reportedly a longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, he’s also more recently represented at least three current or former Trump White House officials — Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon — regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He’s currently a co-managing partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Burck’s representation of McGahn has particularly raised eyebrows, since McGahn is the main Trump White House official in charge of getting Kavanaugh confirmed. It’s also prompted questions given the potential role that Kavanaugh himself could have in ruling on elements of the Mueller investigation, if he advances to the high court.

What’s more, Burck and Kavanaugh were once colleagues in the Bush White House. He was a former special counsel and deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, while Kavanaugh served as White House counsel and staff secretary for the same administration. Certain Democrats argue that his ties across all these venues make him “triply conflicted,” per the Washington Post.

Democrats have also questioned why Burck — a private attorney as well as a very politically charged figure — has now been authorized to analyze and filter through all of Kavanaugh’s former White House records, documents that could include damning evidence about the nominee’s involvement in decisions on wiretapping, torture, and the detention of enemy combatants.

Read the rest at Vox.

Democrats on the Judiciary committee claimed last night that they have evidence that Kavanaugh lied in a previous confirmation hearing. In addition, they are suggesting that Kavanaugh discussed the Mueller investigation with someone in the a law firm that represents Donald Trump, Kasowitz Benson Torres. Kamala Harris questioned Kavanaugh about this last night and he was visibly rattled.

Vox: Kamala Harris’s mysterious Kasowitz question during the Kavanaugh hearings, explained.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday had the entire hearing room on tenterhooks, as she opened her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with a somewhat mysterious inquiry. Her question centered on a meeting Kavanaugh may have had about the Mueller investigation — with a member of a law firm founded by President Trump’s personal lawyer.

A meeting like this could underscore an inappropriately cozy relationship between Kavanaugh and the Trump administration, adding yet another potential conflict of interest to those that Democrats have been hammering throughout the hearing. And it’s one that a Democratic aide told Vox they believe might have taken place. (Democrats have argued that Kavanaugh’s nomination by Trump already poses a conflict of interest since he could potentially rule on elements of the Russia investigation.)

Kavanaugh, meanwhile, didn’t do much to settle the issue as he repeatedly deflected questions on the subject.

“Have you discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer?” Harris asked. “Be sure about your answer, sir.”

“I’m not remembering but if you have something, you want to …” Kavanaugh said, adding, “I’m not sure if I know everyone who works at that law firm … I’m not remembering.”

Harris continued this line of questioning for roughly five minutes, a move that not only seemed to make Kavanaugh uncomfortable but also elicited some broader confusion in the hearing room since she declined to provide immediate specifics about a person or meeting. “I think you’re thinking of someone and don’t want to tell us,” she said.

Democrats said last night that they believe a meeting did take place and they are working to get more information about it.

It looks to be another big news day today and tomorrow the Mueller grand jury meets. ABC News: Two Roger Stone associates to appear before Mueller grand jury Friday.

Two past associates of President Donald Trump ally and veteran political operative Roger Stone are expected to appear before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. on Friday in response to subpoenas from special counsel Robert Mueller, ABC News has learned.

Jerome Corsi, who until recently served as D.C. bureau chief for InfoWars, the alt-right program hosted by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and political humorist and radio show host Randy Credico are the two latest Stone associates to be summoned to testify in Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Read more at the link.

There is so much to read today that I’m going to list some stories of possible interest, links only.

Historian Sean Wilentz at The New York Times: Why Was Kavanaugh Obsessed With Vince Foster?

The Washington Post: ‘The sleeper cells have awoken’: Trump and aides shaken by ‘resistance’ op-ed.

The New York Times: Trump Lashes Out After Reports of ‘Quiet Resistance’ by Staff.

LA Times: Now Trump is targeting Vietnamese refugees.

The Washington Post: Trump administration to circumvent court limits on detention of child migrants.The Washington Post: McCain’s former chief of staff says he’s considering Senate bid as a Democrat.

There has been a shooting in Cincinnati, so cable new switched over to covering that. I’m going to keep watching the Kavanaugh hearing on C-Span. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings and Woodward’s New Book

Good Morning!!

I had difficulties with my internet connection this morning, so I watched the beginning of the Kavanaugh hearing. The Democrats raised quite a ruckus over the Republicans–and Trump’s–refusal to make documents available from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. Democrats moved to adjourn the hearing until the documents could be reviewed. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley refused to hold a vote on the motion.

The committee has now begun opening statements by Senators. Awhile ago, Grassley said the committee would adjourn after the opening statements and resume tomorrow. The opening statements are limited to 10 minutes each.

Raw Story: Kavanaugh hearing spirals into chaos as Democrats refuse to let GOP chair read opening statement.

The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, began in chaos as several Democratic senators interrupted the opening remarks.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tried to welcome Kavanaugh and was immediately interrupted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“Good morning. I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve as associate justice,” Grassley said.

“Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman? I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed,” Harris said.

“Mr. Chairman I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed. Mr. Chairman. I would like to be recognized to ask a question before we proceed. The committee received [requested documents] just last night, less than 15 hours ago,” Harris said. “We believe this hearing should be postponed.”

Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) gave a long speech appealing to Grassley to stop the hearing.

“You are taking advantage of my decency and integrity,” Grassley said.

There was much more after that. I have to at least give the Democrats credit for speaking up.

More from NBC News: Fireworks as Kavanaugh confirmation hearings get underway.

Sen Kamala Harris (D-CA)

The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh launched with chaotic scenes Tuesday morning as Democrats pushed to adjourn, and protesters repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh launched with chaotic scenes Tuesday morning as Democrats pushed to adjourn, and protesters repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

The complaints from Democrats on the panel and protester fireworks that lasted through the hearing’s first hour followed the late-night release of tens of thousands of documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House.

“The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago, 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to read, review or analyze,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said moments after the hearing opened. “We cannot possibly move forward with this hearing.”

Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Amy Klobluchar, D-Minn., chimed in, agreeing with Harris and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., then added, “Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn…we had been denied real access to the real documents we need” and also said that Republicans have turned the hearing into a “mockery.”

Other Democrats began to add to the chorus of concerns, interrupting Grassley. “What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

“This process will be tainted and stained forever” if the proceedings were not delayed, said Blumenthal. Grassley eventually denied Blumenthal’s repeated request for a roll call vote to adjourn the hearing.

As the Democratic pushback stretched into the hearing’s second hour, Grassley expressed mounting frustration. “Do you want to go on all afternoon?” he asked the panel’s Democrats.

Much more with background at the link.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed reports on the withholding of documents on Kavanaugh’s time in the White House: The Justice Department Was Behind The Decision To Keep 100,000 Pages Of Kavanaugh’s Record Secret.

After two days of questions about how it was decided that more than 100,000 pages of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s White House work would be withheld from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review, the Justice Department took responsibility for the decision on Monday night.

“The Department of Justice, which has advised both Democratic and Republican administrations on the application of the Presidential Records Act and constitutional privileges, was responsible for determining which documents were produced to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said….

The news that the documents were being kept from the public and the committee was reported on Friday night, when the lawyer overseeing the review sent a letter to congressional leaders about the final status of his review. The development was just the latest step in a series of fights over the millions of documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in George W. Bush’s White House from 2001 until when he was confirmed to his seat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

The office of former president Bush has been producing some of those documents to the committee in advance of the hearing — a decision that went outside of the usual process for congressional requests under the Presidential Records Act, which is handled by the National Archives.

Instead, lawyers for Bush, led by William Burck of Quinn Emanuel, reviewed the documents requested and then provided the presidential records they found to the Justice Department for review.

“[T]he White House and the Department of Justice have identified certain documents of the type traditionally protected by constitutional privilege,” Burck wrote. “The White House, after consultation with the Department of Justice, has directed that we not provide these documents for this reason.”

I don’t know what the basis is for a claim of “constitutional privilege” or “executive privilege” or why a lawyer who is not connected to the government would be able to make such a claim. Maybe someone else can enlighten me. Senator Dick Durbin said he’d never heard of it.

The mysterious and powerful William Burck of Quinn Emanuel.

The Bush lawyers released 42,000 pages of documents last night, too late for Senators to realistically review the material. Chuck Grassley ludicrously claimed that committee staff for the Republican had reviewed every page of the documents by this morning.

So we’ll see what happens. We know the Republicans are probably going to cram this nomination through, despite what the public wants. The biggest issue is that Kavanaugh would likely vote to overturn Roe V. Wade. According to Aída Chávez at The Intercept: There is No Grassroots Energy Rallying for Brett Kavanaugh. None.

LAST SUNDAY, SEVERAL hundred protestors rallied in Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado, against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh. Local reporters were on hand, and the protest earned a two-minute segment on that night’s local CBS broadcast. The “Unite for Justice” rally in Denver was just one of dozens held across the country that same day, and viewers of that evening’s news learned that the rally-goers were taking a stand against confirming a justice who would be the fifth vote to repeal Roe v. Wade.

The network’s attempt at balance, however, was foiled by advocates of Kavanaugh — or, more precisely, the lack of them. The anchor, at the end of the segment, deadpanned to the Denver metro viewership and said, “A pro-life rally was scheduled to run in opposition to the protest, but no one attended.”

Abortion opponents’ inability to gather even a handful of counter protesters in Denver made for an awkward aside, but it also underscored the near total absence of organic grassroots energy from a supposedly rabid anti-choice movement. As the Senate began confirmation hearings Tuesday, the politics of the nomination are being shaped by a myth that has been constructed over decades by a small minority of fervent abortion rights opponents: that the country is evenly divided when it comes to abortion.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

In reality, the politics are lopsided. Voters want Roe protected by more than a 2-1 margin, and even oppose overturning it in states like North Dakota, where Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is up for re-election. The opposition that does exist, meanwhile, is concentrated among a minority of hardcore Republicans who consider it a moral travesty to vote for Democrats — not the kind of voter Heitkamp could win over by supporting Kavanaugh.

All of this has been evident for years, yet the sophisticated political antenna of Democratic leaders in Washington suddenly fail them when it comes to reading polls on the question of abortion. Instead, Democratic leadership is worried about the political consequences for Democrats in red states who vote no. If all Democrats vote no, Republicans would need to win Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Republicans from Maine and Alaska, respectively, who publicly support abortion rights.

Click on the link to read the rest.

In other news, people are already talking about Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House, which is scheduled for release next Tuesday. The Washington Post: Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency.

John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point.

In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.

Bob Woodward

“This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.”

The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, “Everybody’s trying to get me”— part of a venting period that shellshocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.

A bit more:

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward reconts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’”

I’d say that’s being generous. a sixth grader would surely be able to understand that explanation. Read more at the WaPo.

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


Tuesday Reads

charlie13n-1-web

Good Morning!!

At left is the cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo. It depicts the Prophet Muhammed holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, with the words “all is forgiven” over his head.

The Wall Street Journal: Charlie Hebdo Puts Muhammad on Cover of Post-Attack Issue.

PARIS—Since Charlie Hebdo lost eight staff members in a terrorist attack last week, millions of people have declared their support to the French satirical magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie.”

Now the often-caustic publication, faced with the challenge of reconciling its new status as a cause célèbre with its reflex to mock, ridicule and offend, is putting a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of what is likely to be their most-read issue ever.

Distributors said Monday they were preparing to print as many as three million copies of Wednesday’s issue, 50 times the normal circulation. That is raising pressure on a small outlet known for skewering all forms of authority—including some that have rushed to its defense.

Suddenly the political and social elites who most likely had never heard of the small satirical magazine before the attack are parading around Paris and the Golden Globes pretending to be defenders of free speech. And what about the U.S. “journalists” who are little more than corporate lackeys who echoed right wing memes about President Obama supposedly not caring enough to attend a rally in France?

“It’s been extremely moving—and also hypocritical,” said Laurent Léger, a reporter for the magazine who survived the shooting. “All of a sudden, we are supported by the entire world. Whereas for years we were completely alone.” [….]

Another target for this week’s issue is likely to be Sunday’s solidarity march in France, surviving staff members said. The massive rally became a magnet for French and international political figures that have been a mainstay in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. Attendees included dignitaries from Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, countries that it has criticized for curbing free speech.

“All those dictators at a march celebrating liberty,” Mr. Léger said. “We of course are going to continue the mockery. We’ll see if it makes them jump.”

Crumb

That’s great news. As Dakinikat trenchantly pointed out yesterday, these same elites routinely ignore horrifying acts of terrorism that kill people who aren’t as high profile as the victims in Paris. And, as Dak also pointed out, it turns out those world leaders in Paris didn’t really march with the hoi-polloi. They just participated in a fake photo that showed them pretending to march. Dakinikat also posted this story from The Daily Banter in a comment yesterday, but I think it deserves to be front paged.

Now That These Leaders Are Done Pretending to March, They Should Pass Legislation Protecting Satire, by Bob Cesca.

President Abbas marched in Paris on Sunday, but a satirist in Gaza has been jailed for poking fun at the Palestinian leader.

It’s entertaining to observe the lengths to which American conservatives will overreach in order to make a nothing issue into a major scandal. Such is the case following the unity march in Paris, attended by 3.7 million people and world leaders from 40 nations. As we covered earlier today, conservatives all around are busily scolding and shaming the president for not walking hand-in-hand with those leaders, even though no president has ever marched in a protest rally overseas. Ever. But this president is, for some reason, held to a different standard than the 43 previous chief executives. It’s about “optics” they say. I often agree with that criticism and I agree that optics are important — except for the fact that no other president has been responsible for creating similar optics.

There’s another layer to this fracas. While lionizing the world leaders who marched in Paris, allegedly in support of Charlie Hebdo and free speech, critics of the president are neglecting two very important points.

1) British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande weren’t actually marching with the demonstrators. Their participation was staged on an empty street surrounded by security and merely photographed to look like it was part of the broader rally. It wasn’t.

2) Take a guess at how many of the nations represented by those leaders have statutes protecting satire as free speech? Not one. Indeed, there’s only one western nation where satire is protected speech. It’s the United States. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, Americans can’t be sued by other Americans for producing satire against public figures — regardless of whether the satire describes Jerry Falwell having incestuous sex or whether Saturday Night Live lampoons the president. They can try to sue, but the suit will never see the light of day.

So, while we’re applauding those 40 leaders for marching in a staged photo-op in support of a satirical magazine, bear in mind that none of those leaders come from nations where satirical speech is protected. In David Cameron’s England, for example, the prime minister or any public figure can sue cartoonists, writers, filmmakers or the producers of an SNL-style sketch show for making fun of them on television or elsewhere, and those lawsuits can actually be adjudicated and the plaintiffs can win. The same is true across the European Union and absolutely throughout the Middle East.

Frankly, I wish the White House hadn’t backed down and apologized.

TedCruzSnake

One of the loudest voices criticizing the president for not going to a European “unity rally” was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Time Magazine actually published an op-ed by Cruz yesterday.

On Sunday, leaders representing Europe, Israel, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East linked arms and marched together down Place de la Concorde in Paris. But, sadly, no one from the White House was found among the more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers who walked the streets with hundreds of thousands of French citizens demonstrating their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorists.

In other news . . .

Now that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has officially announced that she won’t run for reelection, there’s a “New Gold Rush” in California, according to Bill Press at The Hill.

Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection to the Senate has set off a frenzy in California not seen since the Gold Rush. Anybody could win. All you need is a pick, an ax and the ability to raise or cough up a minimum $40 million.

Wanna play? Lots of people do.

In fact, with Boxer and Dianne Feinstein occupying both Senate seats since the early ’90s, and Jerry Brown’s longtime lock on the governor’s office, younger California Democrats have been bottled up in a no man’s land for years, taking turns rotating among lesser state offices, waiting for their chance at the big time. Boxer pulled the plug. Now all that pent-up energy and ambition is bursting out. It’s fun to watch.

Three statewide officials might have the edge, but only because they’ve already run statewide a couple of times. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom have reached a pact not to run against each other, and Newsom’s already taken himself out of the race. That leaves Harris. But don’t count out state Treasurer John Chiang. He’s young, charismatic and still gets high marks for refusing to carry out former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to cut the minimum wage for state employees during a budget showdown.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Yesterday, Gavin Newsom announced that he’s not running for Boxer’s seat, and today Kamala Harris will announce that she’s throwing her hat into the ring. According to the LA Times story,

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer are seriously considering bids, as are several members of Congress. On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and two former state GOP chairmen are weighing runs.

Former VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced yesterday that he’s not going to climb into the GOP clown car in 2016. From an interview with NBC News:

“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan said in a phone interview, noting that he is “at peace” with the decision he made “weeks ago” to forgo a bid for the White House.

“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people – from friends and supporters – but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.

The nine-term congressman believes he can make that “big difference” in his new role as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee rather than as a presidential contender.

The committee will meet Tuesday to kick off the new Congress. By announcing that he’ll pass on a White House run, Ryan hopes to demonstrate that he’ll devote his “undivided attention” to the committee, although he admits that it will be “bittersweet not being on the trail” as a candidate this upcoming cycle.

Ryan has never initiated an important piece of legislation and gotten it passed, but now he’s going to head one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Let’s hope he continues his lack of meaningful accomplishments.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-28-at-5.52.16-PM

In other 2016 news, it looks like Mitt Romney is actually going to run for president for a third time. From The Washington Post, Romney moves to reassemble campaign team for ‘almost certain’ 2016 bid.

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.

Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.

Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Romney has worked the phones over the past few days, calling an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign. Among them was Ryan, whom Romney phoned over the weekend to inform him personally of his plans to probably run. Ryan was encouraging, people with knowledge of the calls said.

Other Republicans with whom Romney spoke recently include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, former Missouri senator Jim Talent and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah).

According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann, Romney is promising he’ll be ‘different’ this time.

…interviews with more than a dozen staffers and supporters who have recently spoken with Romney reveal conversations in which he promises a “different” path forward without providing specifics about what that means as far as mechanics and his own sometimes gaffe-ridden performance. And, aside from most of his communications team, Romney would still be expected to bring back the majority of his old staff, sources said.

“He really has to show people that he’d do it differently, rather than just say he’d do it differently,” said a former top adviser to Romney, one of half a dozen alumni to speak Monday with POLITICO. “He needs to assure folks he’d take a much more direct approach to laying out the vision for his campaign versus having those decisions driven by a bunch of warring consultants.”

please proceed

 

Mother Jones has posted a series of quotes in which Romney said he wouldn’t run again, along with the famous “47 percent” video.

 

Finally, from Boomberg Politics, David Weigel reports that Not a Single Person Has Donated to Dick Morris’s Anti-Hillary Super PAC.

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


President Obama Apologizes to Kamala Harris

Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom

President Obama showed some serious class today, and in the process, set a good example for the country. He called California District Attorney Kamala Harris for commenting on her looks in a professional setting. Politico reports:

President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday to apologize for his comments about her appearance that have drawn a storm of criticism.

“He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his briefing Friday, later adding that the president had also “apologized for the remark.”

Obama “did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities,” Carney said. “He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”

Good job, Mr. President!

At The Atlantic, Garrance Franke-Ruta explains Why Obama’s ‘Best-Looking Attorney General’ Comment Was a Gaffe

President Obama’s biggest gaffe yesterday when speaking of California Attorney General Kamala Harris was not in flirtatiously complimenting her as “the best-looking attorney general,” but in introducing an observation from the system of beauty into a forum that was about the system of power.

What’s that, you say? Irin Carmon does a great job in Salon in laying out the bounds of propriety for when it’s appropriate to talk about a woman’s looks as a general matter. But I’ve long felt we lack a solid theoretical underpinning for easily discussing these issues, and why precisely it is that admiring and complimenting women for the beauty they work so hard to maintain–and let’s be clear, nobody looks like Harris at her age (48) without effort and without herself valuing beauty and fitness, which are achievements as much or more than naturally occurring properties–can sometimes be inappropriate.

It seems to me–and I touched on this a bit a 2009 Slate piece–that a simple distinction between the two worlds in which women today operate can help us think about this: They are the system of beauty, and the system of power.

Take a look at the rest–it’s a thoughtful and well-argued piece.