Let me offer a few thoughts on President Trump's first address to Congress.
I think purely as a speech, its crafting, the thematic cadence and delivery, it was pretty average to unremarkable. It wasn't a very good speech. Having said that, I think Trump may pick up a few points of support from the public because he seemed like a fairly normal person delivering it. This is admittedly an extremely low standard. But when you compare this Trump to the meltdown press conference Trump or the rageful, spewing Twitter Trump, he can't help but seem more balanced and less threatening by comparison. Low bar. SAD! But there it is.
10:09 PM: I'll give Trump a little credit for not being goaded into going off message after being jeered and mocked to his face several times.
10:03 PM: This is the essence of Trumpism (Bannonism): that international institutions are our enemies.
10:00 PM: I will only say this moment is a very jarring contrast between the agony of the wife of a fallen soldier and the fairly transparent and clearly political purpose of this passage of the speech, which is that questioning whether this raid was a 'success' means attacking this woman's husband. As a colleague just said, these guys' don't do subtle
9:53 PM: The concept of this VOICE office is repulsive. Special status for people injured or killed by undocumented immigrants. This is simple incitement. Undocumented immigrants do not commit murders at any higher rate than the rest of the population. In fact, immigrants commit murder at a slightly lower rate than Americans who have been here for a couple generations or a dozen generations. Undocumented immigrants are no more dangerous than other residents of the country, in fact a bit less. Again, it's simply an effort to exploit these deaths for political goals.
9:51 PM: The national murder rate is close to the lowest it's been since before I was born in 1969.
9:46 PM: Cutting to the chase, Trump's health care principles don't do anything to provide people with coverage. It makes it possible to create bare-bones insurance which doesn't provide substantial coverage, allows you to get tax credits which may not be refundable and also health savings accounts. This doesn't address any of the real issues tied to access to affordable health care. Millions of people will lose coverage.
9:44 PM: For those watching at home, 'purchase across state lines' means preventing states from being able to regulate health insurers.
9:42 PM: Note the one thread through all the Obamacare repeal discussion: the number of people with no health insurance will skyrocket. That's the only real standard of success and failure.
9:39 PM: Trump's 'infrastructure' plan appears to contain little or no public spending but is actually based on tax breaks and so-called "public private partnerships", which are disastrous. Here's our deep look at the topic.
9:37 PM: This speech is riddled with false claims. I'm curious how much Trump gets away with this since I think people, unsurprisingly, expect most of his statements will be false.
9:35 PM: Remember, 'America First' is a phrase first used and historically identified with the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist 'America First' movement of the 1930s.
9:31 PM: After a few early notes to the contrary, the theme here still seems pretty dark.
9:21 PM: There is now outbreak of 'criminal cartels' sweeping across the country. This is dystopic rage speak. This isn't a thing. It's not Colombia. It's not late 20th century crack epidemic.
9:18 PM: I guess we're about to see how Trump reacts to people laughing in his face about 'draining the swamp.'
9:17 PM: That jobs run-down was almost entirely false.
9:15 PM: Bit of a hard time following that one. Everyone agreed? But majority didn't ever vote for Trump. I know this is a bit of an old saw at this point. But what?
9:14 PM: "The rebellion."
9:11 PM: It is too bad that it comes as a bit of a surprise to see Trump condemn anti-Semitic and racist attacks as the introduction to his first speech to Congress. But he did it.
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As I try to pull all this stuff together, I wanted to mention a few more fascinating details. Yesterday we noted that renegade Ukrainian MP Andrii Artemenko says he's known Cohen for years. They first met when Cohen was setting up that ethanol business with family in Ukraine. Artemenko also says he started talking to Cohen about his "peace plan" for Russia and Ukraine back during the presidential primaries - long before the meeting in early February with Cohen and Felix Sater, which the Times reported last week. We also noted that in addition to Artemenko and the ethanol business, Cohen seems to have a lot of business and personal ties to Ukraine. Almost everywhere you look actually.
Well, it turns out there's more.
Recent desecrations of cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia and the low-fi terror campaign of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country reminds us why in the post-Emancipation era, European Jews and subsequently American Jews, have gravitated heavily toward progressive political orientations. This is not always the case. In various times and regions, Jews have belonged to conservative parties like the UK tories or French Gaullist parties, for instance. But they are virtually absent from rightist politics. The reason is clear enough. Anti-semitism is almost inevitably and almost always part of rightist political movements. It is a natural feature. This is not always explicitly so. It is not always that way at first, but eventually it is always there.
That is the case with Trumpism.
Over the weekend I was involved in some Twitter back and forth about the outcome of the DNC leadership race. My take, as someone who has been a big fan of both Ellison and Perez for years and was genuinely uncertain about which candidate I preferred, was that it drove me a bit crazy seeing Perez labeled as a "corporate Democrat" or "establishment pick." The first description is ridiculous; the second is simplistic. But I think Dave Weigel's take on the outcome is on the mark and gets at some key dynamics of the race, beneath the labels, which proved determinative.
I noted yesterday that President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appears to have a longer-standing relationship than he'd let on with that renegade member of the Ukrainian parliament, Andrii V. Artemenko. Artemenko is the guy who met with Cohen and erstwhile Trump business associate Felix Sater to discuss Artemenko's "peace plan" to settle things between Ukraine and Russia. Cohen originally told The New York Times that he took a copy of the "peace plan" in a sealed envelope and passed it on to Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, days before Flynn resigned in disgrace.
A day later Cohen denied doing so.
Confused yet? Welcome to my life.