Editor’s Blog

No Senate Deal On Shutdown Yet But May Be Closer

The Senate has adjourned for the night, pushing off the planned vote from 1 a.m. ET Monday until later in the day tomorrow. No deal has been announced, but the tone of Senate leaders tonight was muted, as if they were making space for a deal to come together. The deal, to be clear, still seems to be centered on resuming funding until Feb. 8, so not a long-term deal. Our latest report from the Hill.

Party Taxonomy

Our politics begin to make sense when you realize that the GOP is two parties: Party A, a rightist, ethno-nationalist party similar to rightist parties in Europe and Party B, a center-right pro-business party that is distinct from but controlled by Party A. The Democrats, meanwhile, are a coalition of progressive and center-left factions.

Trump, Wolff and The Secret of the Russia Story

A year ago, as most of the media struggled to make sense of the reality of the Trump presidency and the Russia probe moved from the fringes of political discussion to the center, Michael Wolff’s was a conspicuous discordant voice – and quite intentionally so. Among his media colleagues, Wolff is quite well-known and not terribly well-liked. This appears to be as he likes it. He’s a canny journalist and a masterful self-promoter. He’s written a number of successful books and never seems to have a shortage of outlets ready to run his columns. About this time a year ago, Wolff was sidling up to Trump’s inner circle and crapping on basically every other journalist covering Trump. They wanted opposition, resistance, to say ‘this isn’t normal’ till they were blue in the face, he claimed. He wanted the story. He was a real journalist, not an activist.

What was ‘the story’? That Trump had achieved the impossible, bent the political nation to his will. That was the story and Michael Wolff was going to get it. Read More

No Obvious Movement On Shutdown

Cameron Joseph catching you up on the latest from the Hill.

There It Is. We Have a Shutdown.

The key vote just went down to defeat. The government is shutting down. In theory, there’s still 90 minutes to go before that happens. But there’s no plan for any other attempt to happen before midnight. We have a government shutdown.

You Have to Watch This

This is what your wingnut uncle was watching tonight on Hannity. Nothing is at it seems. A vast conspiracy of disloyal Republicans has plotted against President Trump. But their deeds have been uncovered. They will soon all be in prison. And all will be well. Watch this short video after the jump. Read More

Senate Vote Under Way

The Senate is now voting on the House CR. Still expected to fail. Our report from the Hill soon after the vote …

Disturbing

Earlier this month, the White House announced it was ending so-called “temporary protected status” for some 200,000 Salvadoran migrants living in the United States. The migrants were allowed into the US following two major earthquakes in 2001. El Salvador is a poor, small country. Reintegrating 200,000 people will likely be a highly destabilizing process and certainly very expensive. According to reports in Al Jazeera and Reuters, the government of El Salvador is in talks with Qatar to see if those migrants expelled from the US can be sent to Qatar. Read More

Shutdowns Are Part of the GOP Brand. Of Course They Get the Blame.
President Donald Trump hosts a meeting with House and Senate leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Washington. From left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Trump, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A new poll from The Washington Post shows that the public overwhelmingly blames Trump and the GOP for what seems to be an imminent government shutdown. 48% blame Trump and Republicans, 28% blame Democrats. A key indicator: independents fault the GOP 46% to 25%. None of this is a surprise. Those who are surprised are deluded or not paying attention. Every factor that plays into how the public views these questions makes the Republicans seem like the ones to blame. Read More

On To The Senate

House passes stopgap spending bill 230-197: 5 Dems voted for it; 11 Republicans voted against it. Senate passage appears unlikely and so Friday will probably be another day of intra-party brinkmanship.

All The Puffery

The Freedom Caucus, after its usual Hamleting, has agreed to support the House GOP leadership’s short-term budget, virtually guaranteeing it’s passage this evening.

There’s goes most of the evening’s drama. Or … was there really genuine drama in the first place?

The dance is so well-rehearsed at this point that maybe the price of Freedom Caucus acquiescence is allowing them to Hamlet. The legislative “concession” they extract is more or less besides the point. The real point is public prancing about being more purely conservative than Ryan et al.

It’s getting tired.

Sign of the Trump Times

Senator Cotton confirms that his office sends out ‘cease and desist’ letters to constituents “under extreme circumstances.”

This One Is Big

There’s a very important article out this morning from McClatchy, one I’ve been waiting a very long time to read. The headline is that Bob Mueller’s probe is investigating whether Russia used the NRA to funnel money into the effort to elect Donald Trump. This news is not out of the blue. Read More

Bannon in the Chair

A few interesting things to note about Bannon’s House testimony today, as described by Axios. Having started by saying he wouldn’t answer any questions about events during the transition or his time in the White House, Bannon flubbed and did discuss a key event: a conversation with Priebus, Spicer et al. about the Don Jr./Trump Tower meeting. Accident? That indisciplined? (The idea that privilege applies to the transition seems to be a complete nonstarter.) Read More

Did Trump Self-Report His Height?

Longtime TPM Reader BW has an interesting hypothesis about the chatter surrounding President Trump’s medical exam results. Read More

Like a Perfect SAT Score

From Reuters … Trump’s pumped he scored so high on a cognitive decline diagnostic test …

He blamed his three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the crisis and, a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score on a cognitive test, suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it.

“I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he said.

This was first flagged by Daniel Dale.

Off To A Great Start!

Tierney Sneed offers this reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on the innumerable ways Paul Manafort’s attorney has already gotten crosswise with the federal judge in the case.

Give This a Read

Definitely give this piece by Alice Ollstein a read. It’s not what the article is mainly about. But it’s another example of a key reality everyone should understand by now. John Kelly is really what amounts to Total Quality Trumpism, the same politics, in all its dimensions just with better impulse control and organizational discipline. He’s not some career professional doing the best he can to keep Trump normal. He’s all in. Definitely read this piece.

Hmmm

Steven Bannon’s attorney was relaying questions to the White House during his House intelligence committee interview. The White House repeatedly said not to answer questions.

Can Social Networks Do Better? We Don’t Know Because They Haven’t Tried

In the on-going tragedy of the expulsion and massacre of the Rohingya from Myanmar there’s a small part of the story which overlaps with our domestic discussion of the way social media platforms have been used to sow propaganda, hate speech, fake news and even become the tools of foreign intelligence organizations. It turns out that Facebook has been one of the primary channels for organizing the expulsion and the incitement of religious/ethnic hatred and vigilanteism which is a key part of it.

Much of the central role of Facebook, apparently, is tied to the fact that much of Myanmar until very recently had little modern media infrastructure. Then cell phones grew rapidly. So Facebook is a key way many people get their news. It’s a singular or near singular source of news to a far greater degree than in the developed world or many other parts of the developing world. Read More

Wisconsin Dems Flip GOP Held State Senate Seat

In an upset victory, Democrats flipped a reliably Republican state senate seat in Wisconsin tonight. Barack Obama lost Wisconsin’s 10th senate district by 6 points in 2012 and Hillary Clinton lost it by 17 in 2016. But Democrat Patty Schachtner defeated Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow. Late returns showed Schachtner ahead by roughly 1600 votes out of more than 20,000 cast. Read More

Meet the New Class of Extradition Migrants

Few stories I’ve read recently better capture the Trump administration’s mix of mendacity and ridiculousness. The Department of Justice prepared a report seeking to show that a huge percentage of terrorist crimes in the US are committed by immigrants. They did this by defining people extradited to the US to face terrorism charges for crimes committed overseas as “immigrants”. Here’s the story.

Worse Than We Thought

We’ve been focused for several days on the President’s “shithole countries” remark, as we should be. But that only seems like one part of the story of that meeting, in some ways, not the most consequential or significant, inasmuch as it’s really not a surprise that President Trump thinks or speaks this way. A big story in The Washington Post and other information that has come out over the course of the day puts the whole meeting in a different light. Read More

Lies, Bad Lies and Trump Lies
Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., left, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., right, look on as President Donald Trump speaks during the unveiling of legislation that would place new limits on legal immigration, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

One of the most striking things about the last several days after the President’s “shithole” outburst is that two of the Senators in the room have now willingly and repeatedly lied on the President’s behalf to serve his narrow interests. Of course, politicians lie. Even the good ones will shade the truth and fail to speak up to clarify public confusion. But this is an extreme and almost unique case. Read More

Thoughts on Dr. King’s Day

A few more miscellaneous thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. on this day of remembrance.

One: King was a troublemaker. In many ways, he became more of a troublemaker as he progressed through his life. In key ways, in the final years and especially the final year of his life, he was being abandoned by key supporters and sidelined because he was focusing not solely on race (on which the country was then beginning to build at least a notional elite consensus) but on poverty and democratic socialism and the Vietnam War, issues that divided many of his supporters. It is always important to remember that King died in Memphis because he was there to support a strike not an integration march, though racial discrimination and labor rights were and are impossible to separate. Read More

“King, There Is Only One Thing Left For You To Do.”

The fact that the FBI sent Martin Luther King a letter demanding he kill himself or risk the release of recordings of his extra-marital assignations has been known for decades. But the complete and uncensored version of the letter only came to light three years ago. You can see it here. Yale historian Beverly Gage happened on the original version of the letter during research at the National Archives.

There is a lot contained in this letter. To put it mildly. Read More

False Alarm Terrifies and Terrorizes Hawaii

We still have no clear explanation, certainly no good explanation, other than that it was a false alarm. But just after 8 AM this morning in Hawaii residents received an emergency alert on television and mobile devices warning of an incoming missile attack on the state. It was explicitly alerted as “not a drill.” Again, it was a false alarm.  Read More

Trump’s Tirade is a Return of the Repressed in American Politics

I am of Trump’s generation, and I grew up with the sentiments that he expressed about Haiti and African countries. When I was a kid, one of the hit songs in 1948 was the Andrew Sisters’ “Civilization.” You can click here to listen to it. Here’s a stanza:

So bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t wanna leave the Congo, oh no no no no no
Bingo, bangle, bungle, I’m so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go
Don’t want no jailhouse, shotgun, fish-hooks, golf clubs, I got my spears
So, no matter how they coax him, I’ll stay right here.

So to many people of, say, sixty years or over, what Trump said resonated. It was all very familiar. So what? you might ask.

Read More

A Lot of Must Watch Video These Days

This is what Martin Luther King, Jr’s nephew said about President Trump after appearing with him at a White House even honoring Dr. King.

“I don’t think he’s a racist in the traditional sense.”

Thoughts on Shithole and Racist Xenophobia At the Heart of Trumpism
on January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Let me take a moment to speak up for the word “shithole” which is seeing its reputation damaged by association with Donald Trump. We went to this dive bar. It was a total shithole. That town? Total shithole, never want to go there again. It’s a dump. Closer to President Trump’s ugly usage, Trump wouldn’t be the only American to call a poor or underdeveloped country a shithole. That’s not okay. But my point here is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the word – nothing more than any other not for polite conversation swear word. And even this ugly usage doesn’t capture the essence of Trump’s meaning.  The context and import of President Trump’s remarks are not simply that the countries are “shitholes.” It’s much more than that. It’s that we don’t want people from those countries because the awfulness of the countries attaches to the people themselves. Speaking of whole classes of people, specifically people of color, as basically garbage – is not only disgusting but entirely of a piece with the campaign President Trump ran in 2016 and the policies he is implementing as President today. Read More

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