Fomenting distrust in mainstream media

Oliver Darcy interviewed right talk show host Charlie Sykes, who admitted the truth:

Over the years conservative talk show hosts, and I’m certainly one of them, we’ve done a remarkable job of challenging and attacking the mainstream media. But perhaps what we did was also the destroy any sense of a standard. Where do you go to have any sense of the truth? You have Donald Trump come along and the man says things that are demonstrably untrue on a daily basis. My experience has been look, we live in an era when every drunk at the end of the bar has a twitter account and maybe has a blog and when you try to point out “this is not true, this is a lie” and then you cite the Washington Post or the New York Times, their response is “oh that’s the mainstream media.” So we’ve done such a good job of discrediting them that there’s almost no place to go to be able to fact check.

No revelations, just exposure of MO.

Krugman: GOP ‘currying’ favor with bigots for tax cuts

Paul Krugman, never a writer of felicitous prose, reminded me in clear English of Obama administration tax policy in the last four years:

What’s that? It’s the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the average federal tax rate for the top 1 percent in 2013, the latest year available. And it’s up from just 28.2 in 2008, because President Obama allowed the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire and imposed new taxes to pay for a dramatic expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxes on the really, really rich have gone up even more.

If Hillary Clinton wins, taxes on the elite will at minimum stay at this level, and may even go up significantly if Democrats do well enough in congressional races to enable her to pass new legislation. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that her tax plan would raise the average tax rate for the top 1 percent by another 3.4 percentage points, and the rate for the top 0.1 percent by five points.

But if “populist” Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).

When the rest of Washington asks whither Paul Ryan’s soul (don’t worry: no soul to leave), Krugman has none of it: “Just to be clear, I’m not saying that top Republicans were or are personally bigoted — but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they were willing to curry favor with bigots in the service of tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation.”

Alas, poor whites

Conservative think tanks still hatch rotten eggs. The Republican Party’s reform plan on 2002 having been consigned to ignominious exile, leaders must give interns at Koch summer camps and Heritage Action for America some work that justifies their salaries. What they have in mind:

Whether Mr. Trump prevails or the party is left to rebuild from defeat, these conservatives in think tanks, advocacy groups and the news media — and a few in political office — will be pressing for a new agenda: to update the Reagan-era playbook with an eye to working-class voters without a college education who form the Republican base. Ronald Reagan’s notions that policies that benefit the rich and big business lift all incomes now appear outmoded in an era of rising wealth inequality and stagnant wages.

“Update” is the key word. What is one of those ideas?

Rule out fully privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and reassure workers they will be exempt from cost-cutting.

• Acknowledge that universal health care is here to stay, but push for market-oriented changes.

The “but” is key; the reporter could have used “butt,” for that’s what these ideas are. To anyone who doesn’t rely on Social Security and don’t rely on Affordable Care Act plans and Medicaid subsidies, these “market-based solutions” amount to purloined drivel from human resources seminars. And what is “fully” doing modifying the verb “privatizing”? So often do reporters gloss over the subtle horrors of “entitlement reform” that their work implicitly aborbs conservative messages. Who can balk at the word “reform,” right? The choice is designed to appeal to the guilt at the heart of the liberal imagination?

Lessons learned

What I learned about Republicans from watching their convention in Cleveland:

1. They have a special affinity for Station to Station, David Bowie’s 1976 masterpiece about the kabbalah and the search for lasting love after snorting shovelfuls of cocaine.

2. Rick Perry, who no doubt keeps a framed printout of this post, wears glasses like Ronald Reagan wearing spangled purple space boots.

3. Confirming what we learned from a former ghostwriter about his attention span and probing intellect, Donald Trump was calling FOX News shooting the shit with Bill O’Reilly while Patricia Smith and the dude from Duck Dynasty did his bidding.

4. The phrase “the weaponization of grief.” It’s by Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s former 2008 campaign manager, the man who didn’t light himself on fire after introducing the world to Sarah Palin.

5. For months I’ve waited for Trump to get so carried away in one of his arias of incoherence that he’ll call Hillary Clinton the b word or the c word. It’s going to happen.

6. I figured out which movie star Chuck Todd studied to perfect his haircut.

7. Gazing at the non-crowd, I think, “This is what America looked like in 1976.”

8. “Mike Pence is headed for the RNC” is a sentence I expected to hear after “Addressing the RNC is Scott Baio.”

Bob Bennett: ‘He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party’


In 2010, Colorado senator Bob Bennett got his comeuppance when his support for TARP won him the ire of Tea Party members, then at the apogee of their power. The abortion and gay marriage opponent and Patriot Act supporter famously lost a primary to the curiously illiterate Mike Lee, often considered an expert on a Constitution that froze in 1861. To quote The Magnificent Ambersons, Bennett had gotten his comeuppance — and his cup runneth over. Dying of pancreatic cancer, Bennett shared regrets with his wife and son, both of whom then spoke to The Daily Beast in a legacy-building effort:

Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast.

The rise of Donald Trump had appalled the three-term Utah senator, a Republican who fell victim to the Tea Party wave of the 2010 midterms. His vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, had alienated many conservative activists in his state, who chose lawyer Mike Lee as the GOP nominee for Senate instead.


As they traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas break, Bennett approached a woman wearing a hijab in the airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” his wife said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

“He was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had… He had absolutely no respect for Donald Trump, and I think got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism,” his son relayed.

We love posting these stories. A man whose senatorial tenure worsened the lives of millions of people, including his constituents, purportedly said the words he couldn’t say aloud in DC, much less Denver. Death loosens lips.


EDIT: I had no idea about Bennett’s CIA past, including involvement in the Watergate and ITT scandals.

Trump as conservative – who cares?

Charles Krauthammer shook with excitement when Donald Trump released a list of conservative justices he might nominate to the Supreme Court. Why not? It’s an updated list of the horrors that keep popping up since the days when we used Palm Pilots (I’m offended Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown didn’t make the cut). The relief on the conservative side exemplifies the gradual but eventual surrender of every principle to Trumpism, reducing to clickbait all those stories published by Slate and the like in early May about the GOP “establishment” bemoaning its candidate.

Paul Waldman:

When Republicans in Congress craft legislation, is he going to stay up late at night going over each sub-section to make sure they reflect his beliefs? Of course not — they’ll pass it, he’ll sign it, and he won’t bother reading more than the title. Is he going to worry about who all his undersecretaries and deputy secretaries are, and make sure he agrees with the policy decisions they make? Not on your life. He’ll say, “Get me some fabulous people, really top-notch, the best” — and the Republicans around him will put the same people in those positions who would have served in any Republican administration.

Trump has said many things during the campaign that contradict conservative dogma. So what? If you’re a conservative worried about some policy stance Trump took today, you can just wait until the next time he gets asked about the same topic, and he’ll say something completely different. That may mean he isn’t committed to your position deep in his heart, but that doesn’t matter. If on a particular day as president he takes some policy stance that runs counter to conservative ideology, is he really going to care enough to pursue it, especially when the people around him are objecting? Or is he more likely to say, “Eh, whatever — what else is going on today?”

In a section I didn’t cite, Waldman classifies Ike as a president independent of GOP orthodoxy, which is true insofar as he didn’t touch Social Security and transformed Harry Truman’s CIA into a Murder, Inc, but he also believed in balanced budgets and such.

Trump is conservative and not conservative. By showing the malleability of positions when power’s at stake, he’s called the bluff of every Republican since January 1981 who bellyached about Hayek and von Mises.

General Ross Douthat and his civil war

A time will soon come when our descendants will look at writers like Ross Douthat like the speaker in Shelley’s “Ozymandias” staring at ruins. Here’s another meteor slamming into Pangaea:

With Marco Rubio’s grudging, painful statement this week that he intends to support “the nominee” (for many Republicans, He Who Must Not Be Named), and with Paul Ryan possibly contemplating assimilation, it’s a good time to take one last look back at what I got wrong — oh, so very wrong — about the Republican Party’s leadership in the age of Donald Trump.

You and I both know this look won’t be the last. Five months and several thousand words await, not to mention the inevitable post mortem on November 9.

Before Trump’s emergence, the Republican elite was in the midst of a long-running civil war, pitting the much-hated “establishment” against the much-feared “base,” the center-right against the Tea Party, the official party leadership against a congeries of activists, media personalities and up-and-coming right-wing politicians.

The scare quotes give the game away. The “establishment” vaporized on January 20, 2009 when a black Democrat called Barack Hussein Obama put his hand on the Bible, looked Chief Justice John Roberts in the eye, and delivering the oath of office (and causing Roberts to himself fumble the words of the oath). The vapors faded when several months later a congressman named Patrick Wilson called the president of the United States a liar on national television.

But beneath the noise of battle, the establishment’s leaders and the base’s tribunes were often in near-agreement on policy (or, in some cases, on the absence thereof). The establishment wanted a more cosmopolitan and compromise-oriented party and the base a more socially conservative and combative one.

The first sentence – yep. The second – well, if you consider cutting taxes for the rich and stepping away from Mitt Romney and Bob Dole’s health plans and example of being compromise-oriented, I’ll order a round of Cosmopolitans.

Then the person whom Lord Dothan calls The Great Exposer complicated this game of bridge.

Beyond confusion and incompetence, though, there was also flirtation, normalization and finally acceptance, as a wide array of figures whose own commitments seemed incompatible with Trumpism decided that he was worth defending and eventually supporting.

Hell, no legislator wants to pass up an invitation to Sunday brunch at Cokie’s or lukewarm coffee on Chuck Todd’s show. Besides, legislators need to send their kids to private school too. They remember how good they had it in, oh, 2005.

Of course many converts to Trumpism were motivated simply by expediency, ambition, power worship.

“Many” = “all.” “Simply” = “inevitably.”

But many were clearly motivated by grudges and fears instilled by the party’s civil war, and by a sense that even though Trump might represent a grave threat to their vision of Republicanism, it would still be better to serve under his rule for a season than to risk putting their hated intraparty rivals in the catbird seat.

Now I’ve reached the diseased heart of the column. After digging a chasm as deep as a puddle between himself and the participants in his invented civil war, Douthat hints at how he’ll write the terms of his own surrender.

For those of us who have long been frustrated precisely by the smallness of those differences, the narrowness of the G.O.P. policy debate, it’s a particularly staggering result:

Sez the man who ten days ago explained how he and everyone else, including libs, want a king for president. Sez the man who wondered why gays have to be so goddamn pushy to churchgoers.

It is possible that a dishonorable, cowardly, unprincipled course will yield the result that many in both G.O.P. factions clearly crave: Trump defeated in the general election, his ideas left without a champion, and then a reversion to the party’s status quo ante, to the comforts of a tactically narrow “wacko birds versus RINOs” family feud.

But then again it’s possible that the establishment and the Tea Party are more like Byzantium and Sassanid Persia in the seventh century A.D., and Trumpism is the Arab-Muslim invasion that put an end to their long-running rivalry, destroyed the Sassanid Dynasty outright, and ushered in a very different age.

George Will is the only conservative columnist allowed to make inapposite historical and literary allusions, buddy!

Austerity and public sector jobs

A little discussed consequence of our national obsession with austerity is the depletion of the government work force. When Rick Scott cuts state jobs, he’s trimming fat, but when two thousand people find private sector jobs in Naples he can promote himself as the jobs governor. Good on them! But here’s a startling fact: once unemployed, black women were “the least likely to find private-sector employment and the most likely to make a full exit from the labor force.”

A New York Times Magazine article explains how for millions of black Americans public sector jobs represented the best hope of a middle class job.

The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years.

Then Bobby Jindal came. Then Scott Walker. Meanwhile Sam Brownback won’t stop cutting services until he can drive from Topeka to Wichita on the bodies of the poor.

The GOP: an engine harnessing ‘white resentment on behalf of higher incomes for donors’

Solid on economic policy but hobbled by a less than felicitous prose style, Paul Krugman nevertheless comes up with as succinct a definition of Republicanism as a columnist can write:

After all, what is the modern GOP? A simple model that accounts for just about everything you see is that it’s an engine designed to harness white resentment on behalf of higher incomes for the donor class.

What we call the Republican establishment is really a network of organizations that represent donor interests because they’re supported by donor money. These organizations impose ideological purity with a combination of carrots and sticks: assured support for politicians and pundits who toe the line, sanctions against anyone who veers from orthodoxy — excommunication if you’re an independent thinking pundit, a primary challenge from the Club for Growth if you’re an imperfectly reliable politician.

To a very casual observer, it may look as if this movement infrastructure engages in actual policy analysis and discussion, but that’s only a show put on for the media. Can you even imagine being unsure how a Heritage Foundation study on any significant issue will come out? The truth is that the right’s policy ideas haven’t changed in decades. Paul Ryan’s innovative idea on Medicare — let’s replace it with vouchers! — is the same proposal Newt Gingrich offered in 1995.

Gore Vidal said the Republicans weren’t a party but a pathology — and he said this in the early 2000s.

Martin Longman’s piece on the GOP disintegration uses the day when Barack Obama invited Republican leaders to Blair House in February 2010 for a discussion on the endangered Affordable Care Act.

Whatever you want to say about the ideology that drove Democrats to support the Affordable Care Act, it ought to be generously recognized that providing people access to health care was the priority, not taxing or spending to provide that access. As for the Republican opposition to the Dodd-Frank bill (and the American Recovery Act), this was more than a remarkable display of party discipline. It was an appalling display of refusal to take any responsibility for running the global economy into the Great Recession. When Dick Cheney justified Bush’s giant tax cuts by saying that Ronald Reagan had proven that budget deficits don’t matter, there was barely a peep of objection from conservative Republicans, but once Obama needed spending to save the economy, they suddenly thought the deficit was the biggest problem facing the country. They did nothing as the housing bubble inflated, pumped up by toxic under-regulated financial products and mortgage lending standards, and they bemoaned the bailout of failing colossal banks, but they couldn’t be bothered to support legislation designed to prevent a repeat of those mistakes.

But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Women who get abortions are murderers or victims. Democratic enemies are fools and charlatans, therefore Jesus. Epistemic closure, now unto eternity.

And should Hillary Clinton win in November the party is as doomed as it was in 2008, 1964, and and 1932.

Easter cheer

“This is the age of entitlement. This is the age of the victim. This is the age of the failing leader, the angry citizen, and the vulgar response,” David French writes, already masturbating over the collapse of Rome. But he’s just getting started:

This is the age where virtue is deemed too hard — too cruel — so we justify and ultimately celebrate vice. In other words, it’s an age like most other human ages — when our depravity prevails, and Christians are reminded that this world is not our home.

We live in times as terrible as the ones in which Christ walked Galilee and was ever thus. What a marvelous way to cheer a Trump presidency.

This truth should give us courage. In the age of entitlement, we should model gratitude. In the age of the victim, we should act as both servants and protectors. Virtue is not too hard because we know that God did not give us a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power and love and self-control.

Correct. So let transgenders use bathrooms in North Carolina, accept responsibility for the lead water crisis in Flint, and realize that Kansas is a basket case that you couldn’t sell in Target’s reduced bin.

No matter the alleged “arc of history” or the outcome of any given culture war, there will always be a remnant, and Christ prevails. He is risen. May God bless you all.

“No matter how decisively we might lose in November and how stupid and gross our Democratic enemies, we believe Jesus will hug us like lepers.”

Happy Easter.

Encouraging pragmatism


David Atkins shakes his head over the predicted conservative brouhaha regarding Barack Obama’s remarks in Argentina (i.e. a populace chooses the economic system and system of governance that best serves it):

The result of the conservative movement’s failure to acknowledge policy realities can be seen most prominently in Kansas and Louisiana, where the red-state model of governance is failing catastrophically even as blue states like California are booming. In a functional political ecosystem that would be a cause for reckoning and introspection, but no acknowledgement of failure has been forthcoming from the GOP. Instead its candidates are doubling down on more of the same. For them, conservative orthodoxy cannot fail; it can only be failed.

In the days of the Cold War when capitalism and communism vied for supremacy, there was an understanding that one’s preferred system of governance had to actually deliver results or the people would revolt and make a change. The openness of democracies and market economies allowed them to soften the sharp edges and mitigate the flaws of capitalism with a healthy dose of compensatory socialism, while the closed systems of state communism led to brutal totalitarian outcomes. So capitalism won the war of ideas and appropriately so—but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system. Modern Republicans have totally lost sight of that fact. For them, markets don’t exist to serve people. Rather, people exist to serve markets.

Which is to say, live by capitalism and die by capitalism. Now gay and lesbian and transgender North Carolinians must rely on market forces to redress the obscenity of its legislature’s passage of a draconian anti-LGBT law:

While San Francisco is the first governmental entity to take a stand against the law, a huge number of businesses have already spoken out. A number of technology companies — including IBM, which has a big presence in the state; PayPal, which just announced the opening of a new office there; Apple; Facebook; Google; and Salesforce — have all spoken out against the law.

In the sports world, the NBA, which is set to host the All-Star Game in Charlotte next year, has spoken out against the law and put the location of that event into question. The NCAA, which is planing to hold the men’s basketball tournament in the state in 2017 and 2018, says it’s monitoring the situation, as is the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest African-American sports conference, which holds its annual basketball tournament in the state every year.

Gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans helped these businesses understand how supporting these rights is incommensurate with a healthy bottom line. I’m reminded of Fredrik deBoer’s caution about embracing systems we’re supposed to question.

The book of David

A week after flinging himself onto Eighth Avenue, David Brooks was caught by pigeons and flown back to his cubicle. An exquisitely prepared plate of crow awaited him.

This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative.

Have you spoken to Bill Kristol in the last month? He needs a Hallmark card.

For decades now the Republican Party has been groaning under the Reagan orthodoxy, which was right for the 1980s but has become increasingly obsolete. The Reagan worldview was based on the idea that a rising economic tide would lift all boats. But that’s clearly no longer true.

This view was discounted after Arthur Laffer scribbled a complex theorem on a cocktail napkin that David Stockman took seriously; this was 1981. Even before Bill Clinton took the mantle of Reaganism it was “increasingly,” to use David’s favorite adverb, clear that the rich got to keep most of their dough; this was 1992.

Now along comes Donald Trump, an angel of destruction, to blow it all to smithereens. He represents not only a rejection of the existing Reaganite establishment, but also a rejection of Reaganite foreign policy (he is less globalist) and Reaganite domestic policy (he is friendlier to the state).

Trumpism will not replace Reaganism, though. Trump is prompting what Thomas Kuhn, in his theory of scientific revolutions, called a model crisis.

Trump is promoting what Sinclair Lewis, in his book Elmer Gantry, called hucksterism. See? I can pull inapposite allusions from my asshole too.

That’s where the Republican Party is right now. Everybody talks about being so depressed about Trump. But Republicans are passive and psychologically defeated. That’s because their conscious and unconscious mental frameworks have just stopped working. Trump has a monopoly on audacity, while everyone else is immobile.

The party’s conscious and unconscious mental frameworks began to disintegrate in 1980, collapsed in 2008, and have been replaced by a mixture of Mr. Clean and liquid mercury.

That’s where the G.O.P. is heading. So this is a moment of anticipation. The great question is not, Should I vote for Hillary or sit out this campaign? The great question is, How do I prepare now for the post-Trump era?

“How do I pitch this column to Dean Baquet if Trump wins?”

This is also a moment for redefined compassion. Trump is loveless. There is no room for reciprocity and love in his worldview. There is just winning or losing, beating or being beaten.

It is as if he was a person who received no love and tried to compensate through competition. That is an ugly, freakish and untenable representation of the human condition. Somehow the Republican Party will have to rediscover a language of loving thy neighbor, which is a primary ideal in our culture, and a primary longing of the heart.

Yeah, well, the North Carolina state assembly, enjoying the sound of its conscious and unconscious mental frameworks collapsing, wants a word with you, David, about getting mentioned in a future column. So would Rick Scott. As would Rick Snyder and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. These people and organizations know much about compensating through competition.

We’re going to have two parties in this country. One will be a Democratic Party that is moving left. The other will be a Republican Party. Nobody knows what it will be, but it’s exciting to be present at the re-creation.

Not only do you think you’re clever for garbling Dean Acheson, but you confuse “exciting” with “shit running down your leg” and still give not a good goddamn about the women and working poor your new old GOP supports.