Lazy Caturday Reads: We Survived Another Wild Week in Trump WorldPosted: September 26, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2020 presidential debates, 2020 presidential election, Amy Coney Barrett, coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump, Hitler comparisons, Joe Biden, Reichstag fire, SCOTUS 18 Comments
We’ve reached the end of another wild week in Trump World. The 2020 election is only 38 days away; on Tuesday Biden will meet Trump in the first presidential debate; and we’re still in the first wave of an out-of-control pandemic and the resulting economic meltdown. Today Trump nominates a woman to the Supreme Court who will vote to end the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. On top of all that, the fake “president” suggests he won’t accept the results of the election if he loses, and he’s counting on the election being decided the newly far right SCOTUS. That’s where we are right now.
Last night at his super-spreader rally in Virginia, Trump doubled down on his promise to disrupt the election. Raw Story: Trump tells supporters he won’t be ‘stupid’ enough for peaceful transition of power if he loses.
President Donald Trump continued to spread debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election during a Friday night campaign rally in Virginia.
Trump argued that it was impossible for him to lose the election, thus concluding he would be “stupid” to hand over power peacefully should he lose.
“We not gonna lose this, except if they cheat,” Trump falsely claimed about the 2020 campaign, where he trails Joe Biden in national and battleground polling.
“That’s the only way we’re gonna lose is if there’s, uh, mischief,” he argued. “And it will have to be on a big scale.”
“And we do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘oh, let’s transit — we’ll go and we’ll do a transition’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating,” he said, repeating the debunked conspiracy theories.
“We’re not going to stand for it,” he vowed. “We’re not going to stand for it.”
Yesterday at The Washington Post, Dana Millbank brought out the Hitler comparisons: This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning.
With his repeated refusals this week to accept the peaceful transfer of power — the bedrock principle that has sustained American democracy for 228 years — President Trump has put the United States, in some ways, where Germany was in 1933, when Adolf Hitler used the suspicious burning of the German parliament to turn a democracy into a totalitarian state.
Overwrought, you say? Then ask Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a top authority on Nazism and Stalinism. “The Reichstag has been on a slow burn since June,” he told me. “The language Trump uses to talk about Black Lives Matter and the protests is very similar to the language Hitler used — that there’s some vague left-wing conspiracy based in the cities that is destroying the country.”
Trump, as he has done before, has made the villain a minority group. He has sought, once again, to fabricate emergencies to justify greater powers for himself. He has proposed postponing elections. He has refused to commit to honoring the results of the election. And now, he proposes to embrace violence if he doesn’t win.
“It’s important not to talk about this as just an election,” Snyder said. “It’s an election surrounded by the authoritarian language of a coup d’etat. The opposition has to win the election and it has to win the aftermath of the election.”
If not? There won’t be another “normal” election for some time, he said. But that doesn’t have to happen, and Snyder is optimistic it won’t. To avoid it, we voters must turn out in overwhelming numbers to deal Trump a lopsided defeat. The military must hold to its oath. Homeland Security police must not serve as Trump’s brownshirts. And we citizens must take to the streets, peacefully but indefinitely, until the will of the people prevails.
“It’s going to be messy,” Snyder said. “He seems pretty sure he won’t win the election, he doesn’t want to leave office,” and he appears to Snyder to have “an authoritarian’s instinct” that he must stay in power or go to prison.
There’s more at the link.
Trump has announced that he will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The New York Times: To Conservatives, Barrett Has ‘Perfect Combination’ of Attributes for Supreme Court.
…Judge Barrett…would be the sitting justice with the least courtroom experience, but one viewed as a home run by conservative Christians and anti-abortion activists.
“She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group….
Liberal groups have been sounding the alarm over Judge Barrett for two years because of concerns over how she might rule on abortion and the Affordable Care Act.
“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the A.C.A. and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” said Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal group.
Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast: Kiss Your Rights Goodbye When Amy Coney Barrett Joins SCOTUS.
Like Judge Garland, who was denied even a hearing, Judge Barrett is unquestionably qualified. She has written numerous scholarly articles on a wide variety of legal and philosophical issues, and unlike some recent Trump nominees, appears to have a spotless ethical record.
But Barrett is also an arch-conservative who has espoused troubling views about the intersection of her personal beliefs with her role as a judge, and who will fundamentally alter the American legal landscape on a number of issues.
Obviously, abortion is the highest-profile of these, and it’s easy to see why every major anti-abortion organization in America hailed Barrett when she was appointed to the Seventh Circuit. She has criticized Roe v. Wade as “judicial fiat” and an “erroneous decision.”
And at a Notre Dame Law School event 2013, she asked, rhetorically, “Would it be better to have this battle in the state legislatures and Congress rather than the Supreme Court?”
That, of course, is intrinsically an anti-choice position. We don’t ask whether it would be better or worse for a state to violate constitutional rights–for Mississippi to outlaw Islam, for example, or Vermont to ban the Republican party. If a constitutional right is at issue–as the Supreme Court held in Roe–then the whole point of judicial review is that it doesn’t matter if it would be “better” for legislatures to fight it out.
Barrett has made similar remarks about same-sex marriage and is a guaranteed vote against Obamacare. On Monday, Dakinikat discussed Barrett’s extreme religious beliefs. From the Daily Beast article:
On its own, none of that matters since Barrett’s religious beliefs should have no bearing on her fitness as a Supreme Court justice.
However, Barrett has made several troubling statements regarding how religious belief impacts the roles of lawyers and judges. Most famously, she said in 2006 that a legal career should be “a means to an end,” namely “building the Kingdom of God.” Now, despite much liberal hand-wringing over this comment, it, alone, is not so problematic. It may simply mean to build a more just and equitable world, as the Bible requires. Indeed, Justice Ginsburg herself had Biblical injunctions to pursue justice on her chamber walls.
But when Barrett’s “means to an end” statement is placed in the context of other statements she has made, it raises questions. For example, in her first law review article, published in 1998, Barrett wrote that “Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.”
That is an unusual position, suggesting that a judge cannot discharge her public duty if she has a personal religious belief regarding it. Ironically, if that principle is applied to all cases in which the Catholic Church has stated moral positions, it might require Justice Barrett to recuse herself from cases regarding abortion and homosexuality, as well as the death penalty.
On next Tuesday’s debate, The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey anticipate vicious Trump attacks: Trump readies a debate onslaught — and Biden allies worry.
President Trump is gearing up to launch blistering personal attacks on Joe Biden and his family in the first presidential debate on Tuesday, while Biden is bracing for an onslaught and worried allies are warning the Democratic nominee not to lose his temper and lash out, according to people with knowledge of the strategies in both camps.
Trump has told associates he wants to talk specifically about his opponent’s son Hunter Biden and mused that the debates are when “people will finally realize Biden is just not there,” according to one adviser. The president is so eager to lay into his rival that he has called aides to test out various attacks, focusing on broadsides that cast Biden as a longtime Washington insider with a limited record of accomplishment, said another adviser, who like many interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private talks.
Biden and his advisers are anticipating a venomous barrage, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking, and they are preparing to counter with an affirmative case for a Biden presidency. The Democrat wants to stay focused on how he would address the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic problems, which he blames Trump for worsening.
The prospect of a cage match between a president for whom no subject is off-limits and a challenger who can be openly emotional is making some Biden advisers nervous. They see a fine line between Biden’s passion and empathy, which can appeal to voters, and the raw anger that sometimes gets him in trouble and could undercut his pitch as a calming alternative to a president who thrives on chaos.
“When you go at his family, he becomes hotter than hell, which is part of the thing I worry about,” said John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and major Biden donor. “I think what Biden has to be careful about is not letting his Irish temper blow when that happens.”
Would it really be so awful for Biden to give Trump a tongue-lashing? I’m not so sure.
Philippe Reines writes, also at The Washington Post: I played Trump in Clinton’s debate prep. Here’s what Biden can expect.
Donald Trump is a very bad debater. Donald Trump is very difficult to debate.
These two seemingly contradictory statements are equally true. He’s a dangerous opponent. In 2016, it was because he had nothing to lose. Now, it’s because he has everything to lose.
I would know. In the last cycle, I had a unique assignment: playing Trump’s stand-in during Hillary Clinton’s mock debates. Before donning the ill-fitting suit I had tailored, my preparation included studying the 11 Republican primary debates in which Trump participated, watching each three times: once start to finish; then only exchanges involving Trump; and finally only Trump, standing at a lectern in my living room with the sound off to focus entirely on his gestures and body language.
Mimicking his appearance, gesticulations and histrionics aside, my overall approach meant zeroing in on the four topics that obsessed Trump: immigration, Obamacare, trade and “the swamp.” When he was on offense, his attacks on (and nicknames for) Clinton were honed and simple by the time the debates began in September. But he rarely, if ever, defended himself. No matter the attack against him — and there were some doozies — he dispensed with them quickly. And in the GOP primary debates, his answers involved three parts: I am great; you are terrible; and a nonsensical digression that often changed the subject entirely.
Four years later, Trump is not different, but the circumstances are. The Trump we see at the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday may be even harder to debate than last time, because whatever ability he possessed to engage has been subsumed by a constant need to launch into tirades over grievances. (“I sort of prepare every day by just doing what I’m doing,” he told “Fox and Friends” about his pre-debate regimen.) He exists in a double bubble — isolated in the Oval Office, consuming and regurgitating nothing but friendly right-wing media and Twitter bile. And he’s desperate: The debate presents the first big chance to shake up a race he’s losing, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan to turn things around other than to hope for Joe Biden to collapse.
Read Reines’ suggestions for Biden at the link.
Finally, at The New York Times, Hannah Beech reports that the world pities the USA: ‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the U.S.
BANGKOK — Myanmar is a poor country struggling with open ethnic warfare and a coronavirus outbreak that could overload its broken hospitals. That hasn’t stopped its politicians from commiserating with a country they think has lost its way.
“I feel sorry for Americans,” said U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar. “But we can’t help the U.S. because we are a very small country.”
The same sentiment prevails in Canada, one of the most developed countries. Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border.
“Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan, where locals used to venture for lunch.
Amid the pandemic and in the run-up to the presidential election, much of the world is watching the United States with a mix of shock, chagrin and, most of all, bafflement.
Click the link to read the rest.
That’s it for me. What’s happening from your point of view? I hope you all have a great weekend, and please check in at Sky Dancing blog if you have a moment free.
Tuesday Reads: Trump Tantrum Live From The Oval Office TonightPosted: January 8, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Dunning-Kruger effect, immigration policy, John Bolton, Kurds, Mike Pompeo, Nazi Germany, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Reichstag fire, Turkey 40 Comments
The TV networks are giving Trump free time tonight to spout lies about a non-existent “crisis” at the Southern border. Fortunately, they are also giving equal time to Democrats to respond. But they should have just said no. After all, they refused to carry an Oval Office speech by Obama in 2014. Matthew Yglesias at Vox:
In 2014, Obama was ready to announce a series of executive actions on immigration in the wake of the collapse in negotiations over a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. The plan had a lot of moving parts, but the centerpiece was to give work permits and formal protection from deportation to millions of unauthorized immigrants while focusing the nation’s immigration enforcement resources on immigrants who’d committed violent crimes.
This was, naturally, very controversial. And Obama, naturally, wanted to try to make it less controversial by convincing people that it was a good idea.
Conservative pundits were, at the time, pushing the notion that Obama was essentially seizing power like a Latin American dictator, so essentially anything that refocused the conversation on banal policy details would have played to his advantage. TV networks, however, didn’t give him what he wanted, in part because it was November sweeps time, but officially because he was playing partisan politics rather than addressing a true national emergency.
So why are they running Trump’s obviously political speech? Because they’re scared. This is what what one anonymous network executive told CNN’s Brian Stelter.
This “exec” didn’t even have the guts to let Stelter use his name!
Here’s what the U.S. Secretary of State thinks of what Trump plans to say tonight.
These people are pathetic. Meanwhile, in Turkey, more pathetic incompetence from National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Bloomberg: Erdogan Snubs Trump Adviser Bolton for Blocking Syria Roadmap.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, frustrated by evolving U.S. conditions for quitting Syria, refused to meet with visiting National Security Adviser John Bolton and ripped into U.S. proposals to give Kurds a key role in Syria after the withdrawal.
Turkey is angered that Bolton, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and top American military officials are slowing what President Donald Trump suggested only weeks ago would be a quick exit. The delay would restrict Turkey’s ability to launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers enemies but who allied with a U.S. coalition to oust the Islamic State terrorist group from Syria.
“Although we made a clear agreement with U.S. President Trump, different voices are emerging from different parts of the administration,” Erdogan said as Bolton prepared to leave Ankara, where he met with other Turkish officials. “Trump’s remarks continue to be the main point of reference for us.”
It looks like attempts to walk back Trump’s insane policy decisions are no longer working.
Will Trump try to declare a national emergency tonight? I have no idea, but if he does it’s going to cause more problems than any of us can predict. Here are some opinions about what could happen, beginning with the worst case scenarios
Elizabeth Goitein at The Atlantic: What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency. A brief excerpt:
It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without bumping up against the limits set by the Constitution and Congress and enforced by the courts. Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check.
But will they? Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.
This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down.
Read the whole thing at The Atlantic.
At Bloomberg, Noah Feldman disagrees, because only Congress can authorize spending: No ‘Emergency’ Will Allow Trump to Build His Wall.
President Donald Trump has said that he can declare a national emergency and order his border wall to be built. He’s wrong. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t contain any national emergency provision that would allow the president to spend money for purposes not allocated by Congress. And it’s clearer than clear that Congress not only hasn’t authorized money for a wall along the border with Mexico but also doesn’t intend to do so.
The upshot is that any attempt by Trump to get around Congress by using invented emergency powers would violate the Constitution. It almost certainly would be blocked by the courts. And it would constitute a high crime and misdemeanor qualifying him for impeachment.
Of course, Trump may not care. He’s established a pattern of taking clearly unconstitutional action, waiting for the courts to block it, and winning (at least in his estimation) political points with his Republican base regardless. It would be perfectly within that pattern for Trump to announce that he can do whatever he wants in a national emergency. He is expected to lay the groundwork for such a declaration in a prime-time address Tuesday. But we should recognize any such action for what it is: a usurpation of clear constitutional commands for the purposes of political grandstanding.
A bit more detail:
The Constitution does contain an emergency powers clause. Article I, Section 9 allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion or invasion.
Those emergency powers are unsurprisingly varied and broad. But none of them can displace the Constitution itself. And it is the Constitution that says the Congress appropriates money and the executive spends it.
If there were some statutory provision saying that in an emergency the president could do things Congress otherwise has told him he can’t do, that would pose an intriguing constitutional question: Which law would prevail in a conflict between one saying the president could do something and another saying he couldn’t?
But I know of no law that says the president can spend money on purposes that Congress doesn’t want him to spend it on.
From the fact that the suspension clause exists, you can deduce something very basic to the U.S. constitutional system: There are no other inherent constitutional emergency powers. Yes, the president is commander in chief, with the power to defend the United States — but he can only do that with an army authorized and paid for by Congress.
That means any emergency power the president might have must come directly from Congress. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 is Congress’s last word on what emergency powers it gives the president. That law was enacted after Senate staffers’ research revealed some 470 emergency provisions across the whole of the U.S. Code.
As Trump often says, “we’ll see what happens.”
Trump thinks he knows better than anyone about anything, and yet we can all see that he knows almost nothing about what his job entails. This video has been floating around lately.
How to explain Trump’s illusion of competency? Seemingly in answer to this question, The Washington Post has posted an article on the Dunning-Kruger effect: What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon.
You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socializing with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: Someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert.
This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not a disease, syndrome or mental illness; it is present in everybody to some extent, and it’s been around as long as human cognition, though only recently has it been studied and documented in social psychology.
In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.
To test Darwin’s theory, the researchers quizzed people on several topics, such as grammar, logical reasoning and humor. After each test, they asked the participants how they thought they did. Specifically, participants were asked how many of the other quiz-takers they beat.
Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.
That’s it for me today. I’m trying to decide whether to leave the TV off tonight or just mute it until the Democratic response begins. What are you going to do?