About that wall deal…

“Yes, by making a ridiculous demand to honor a dishonest and frivolous campaign promise Trump set himself up to be humiliated,” a Talking Points Memo reader fumed this morning about the purported deal reached about border wall funding between congressional Democrats and Republicans. “Fine. But it’s hard for me to see how this deal is much of a victory for anyone else, apart from representing a defeat for him.” Continue reading

On Democratic timidity

Without suggesting that the Democrats run Alexandra Ocasio-Cortezes in every district, Eric Loomis has theories about why party satraps are panicking:

They are scared of the grassroots taking over. They are scared of a left version of the Tea Party. They are scared of their now nearly two generations of received wisdom in the aftermath of McGovern’s loss (and then the disastrous campaigns of Mondale and Dukakis) being thrown out the window, long past their sell-by date. They are scared of bold policy proposals that challenge their carefully considered moderate stance that appeals to potential Wall Street donors.

Also up for ridicule: former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson’s dismissal of the Abolish ICE movement.

CE is not necessary for federal law enforcement. It’s only been around for 15 years and it’s not as if we didn’t have a semi-militarized border before that. He says elections have consequences, but that’s precisely what the Abolish ICE movement is working for–getting politicians to say that we need to abolish the agency and make that policy a consequence of the 2020 elections and a rallying point in 2018. Johnson talks about how Abolish ICE is destroying the chance for bipartisan immigration reform. What planet is he on? How is that possibly going to happen? What is the constituency for that in the Republican Party? The prospects for a bipartisan immigration bill is not Democrats outraged that ICE is separating babies from their parents. It died many times before on the shoals of Republican racism an[d] now that ethnic cleansing is the official policy of the administration and congressional Republicans, there is no room for compromise.

In a few hours Donald Trump will announce, with the subtlety of a game show host, his newest nominee to the Supreme Court. When Donald Trump returns to Mar-a-Lago in 2020 or 2024 – a property inching below sea level, thanks to his administration’s public postures – the rest of us must deal with a Court on which John Roberts becomes the swing vote by default. The idea isn’t to encourage Ocasio-Cortezes in every district – the idea is to encourage bold leftism that forces voters to consider tossing decades of received thinking. A living wage and Medicare for all were concepts so outré that noted socialist Harry Truman supported them, but don’t tell Bret Stephens, mysteriously employed by the NYT and one of MSNBC weekday afternoon Cassandras. Now that voters have gotten a taste of him it’s possible that Doug Jones can campaign on healthcare for everyone in Alabama; I’ve no idea how the policy polls up there. The only way to find out is to stop acting like we’re Mike Dukakis.

Acts of gratuitous cruelty

A possibly unconstitutional executive order that helps millions of people, even when these people aren’t citizens, isn’t the sort of conundrum citizens waste time puzzling over outside constitutional law classrooms — unless you oppose the law. Donald J. Trump has hinted or grunted or whatever he dose to express a thought that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is doomed, or he might grandfather in current Dreamers, or something. I don’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know what he wants. But the ripples are enough, apparently, to spook his congressional colleagues. Greg Sargent :

[Trump] has to decide whether to keep the program in the face of a threat from a coalition of states to sue to overturn it if he does not end it himself. But even if it doesn’t, this could still matter, because it could put added pressure on Congress, particularly Republicans, to legislate a solution for the dreamers if their protections are removed. The specter of people uprooting their lives — in the midst of pursuing an education to bolster their opportunities for self-advancement and enhance their potential to contribute to American life — may boost the moral and political urgency Congress feels to act.

So spooked is Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado that he’s filed a discharge petition to force a vote on on legislation protecting Dreamers — a move usually done by the minority party. Even the craven Speaker of the House has demurred. We’ll know on Tuesday, in a decision of gratuitous cruelty — men and women in the DACA program won’t enjoy their Labor Day weekend.

Muslim Ban II: The Smell of Fear

The Muslim ban? It got cleaned up.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.

Additionally, Trump’s order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The new version also to removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the U.S. while excluding Muslims.

As professional as it might look – “professional” meaning Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon used Spellcheck and Times New Roman 12 – the ban is still a dangerous farce. Why these six countries? How does the bill address the problem of radicalized American citizens? How does Trump force Rudy Giuliani to recant what he’s already said about the executive order’s intention? Every judge in America heard it.


‘It’s working out very nicely’

Cabinet officials without governmental experience? What could possibly go wrong?

It wasn’t until Friday — the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days — that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said.

The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well.

In Philadelphia, a Syrian family of six who had a visa through a family connection in the US was placed on a return flight to Doha, Qatar, and Department of Homeland Security officials said others who were in the air would be detained upon arrival and put back on a plane to their home country.

Fortunately, the president speaks in a calm, reassuring manner, befitting the dignity of his office:

Asked during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office Saturday afternoon about the rollout, Trump said his government was “totally prepared.”

“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump told reporters. “You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely and we’re going to have a very, very strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”

But the language of the executive order uses nuance and precision, eschewing jingoism:

The executive order, which he said was aimed at protecting Americans from terrorist attacks, singled out Syrian refugees as “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

When the refugee program resumes, the executive order calls for changes to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

“We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people,” Trump said.

I recognize that the president has legal authority over refugees. Context matters, though. The speed with which the order was issue shows a wanton, reckless disregard for consequences.

Redistricting? What redistricting?

Even John Roberts must have soul, or at least must occasionally hint that he’s got one. The plaintiffs’ claims in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission proved too much for the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that Arizona’s redistricting commission can draw its districts to reflect voting patterns. Guess what they’ll reflect? Guess whom the plaintiffs wanted to benefit?

A fascinating crew circled its wagons around this case. The founder of the Phoenix Tea Party lent his name to the suit. And there’s more:

In 2012, Harris launched a recall petition against Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), largely because he was upset that McCain had come to the defense of Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, who conservative conspiracy theorists have alleged is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time, Harris told the Arizona Capital Times that Muslims should not be able to serve in government. “Have you ever read the Quran?” he said. “I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If they are Muslim they have to follow the Quran. That’s their religion and that’s their doctrine.”

Several of his co-plaintiffs are members of a conservative group that backed the state’s widely condemned 2010 law authorizing police officers to stop people at will and demand proof of citizenship.

Who else? Hugh Hewitt, for years a fringe plasticine demento in the back alley called Townhall and now beloved of Chuck Todd, joined as a co-plaintiff. I suppose this naked partisanship galled even Alito and Thomas.

‘A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions…’

This morning’s Washington Post:


In thirteen words, we see a classic example of false equivalence, abetted by reporters conscripted by phony both-sides-do-it twaddle. Helen Thomas got the same treatment during the Bush administration. Because her questions didn’t defer to the authority of a Cabinet secretary or vice president, she got ridiculed by her sometime colleagues. From the WaPo:

While the 89-year-old Thomas is renowned as a trailblazer who aggressively questioned 10 presidents — including President Obama, whom she pressed last month on Afghanistan — her hostility toward Israel has been no secret within the Beltway. Though she gave up her correspondent’s job a decade ago, she retained her front-row briefing-room seat, even as colleagues sometimes rolled their eyes at her obvious biases.

“She asked questions no hard-news reporter would ask, that carried an agenda and reflected her point of view, and there were some reporters who felt that was inappropriate,” said CBS correspondent Mark Knoller. “As a columnist she felt totally unbound from any of the normal policies of objectivity that every other reporter in the room felt compelled to abide by, and sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters.”

Or as Glenn Greenwald wrote:

A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

If I wrote, “A columnist is not a journalist,” reporters would protest, correctly. David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Jonathan Chait are journalists. Asking a source to explain a point of view and refuting him, as Ramos did Trump, is journalism.

As for the piece whose headline I screen shot, he also wrote the one-sentence paragraph: “For Ramos, conflict has become a career.” Even when including chunks of Ramos’ experiences with childhood poverty, Michael Miller can’t resist banalizing him.

Majority of GOP voters support sending illegal immigrants back to Mexico

I’m shocked, I tell you:

By 56-42, Americans support developing a plan to legalize undocumented immigrants over stopping their flow and deporting those already here. Independents agree by 58-39, and moderates by 59-40.

But Republicans favor stopping the flow of undocumenteds and deporting those already here by 63-34. So do conservatives, by 55-43. “Those already here,” of course, amount to some 11 million people.

Now, it’s certainly possible that GOP support for deportation is inflated somewhat by the inclusion of securing the border on that side of the question. But even when the question is framed a bit less starkly, as a recent Post/ABC News poll did, a majority of Republicans does not think the undocumented should be allowed to live and work here even if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. This should not obscure the fact that a substantial number of Republicans are, in fact, open to legalization; it’s just that more of them apparently aren’t.

And as such, what the CNN numbers again confirm is that there is a deep and intractable divide between the two parties on what to do about the undocumented population. This fundamental underlying difference matters far more than Donald Trump’s vicious rhetoric, which (assuming he doesn’t run as a third party candidate) will likely prove ephemeral.

These “fundamental underlying difference” confirms that the “autopsy” commissioned by Reince Preibus (the man who Charles Pierce calls an obvious anagram) after the 2012 presidential election was pretty paper created for Ron Fournier types. The base hasn’t changed a jot. The party hasn’t budged an inch.

The virtues of doggedness

One of my favorite media appearances by Christopher Hitchens in the five years before his death was on the Hugh Hewitt show, to which I won’t link in accordance with the rule that one doesn’t invite vampires into one’s home. He made a passing reference to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, the “Mormon mediocrity.” Hewitt, in the midst of illustrating a coloring book dedicated to Mormon mediocrity Willard Romney, knew he couldn’t let even this crack go.

“Come on, Christopher. Harry Reid is wrong on everything, but I’m not going to pick on him because of his religion.”

“Why not?”

“Because you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Alright, Christopher Hitchens. You’re listening to Hugh Hewitt. We’re going to a commercial. Christopher, we’ll be praying for you.”

“The hell you will.”

I stand by this transcript because, words in the wrong places be damned, I remember Hitchens swollen with merry contempt when he said that last line. Now that the Mormon mediocrity has announced he won’t seek reelection it’s time to reflect on his legacy, which isn’t luminous but is better than mediocre, not least of which is the holding together of a fractious caucus while realizing that Barack Hussein Obama was touchingly, consistently wrong about the GOP opposition. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell became senators during the Reagan administration. Each took the measure of the other long ago. Each recognized the other’s capacity for resistance and the flouting of protocol. In March 2015, I can say their assessments were correct.

As the obituaries get filed, the salient fact that emerges confirms what many of us suspected: this hack product of the Nevada casino establishment, no liberal and in another lifetime a back bencher his own mother wouldn’t have lauded, revealed again and again how well he understood demographics by winning close race after close race. I was one of the people who thought he would lose in 2010 to noted wiccan Sharron Angle; instead he won, and comfortably. One of the reasons, it’s clear now, has to do with his decision to support the DREAM Act. VOX quotes a staffer:

“His words to me, back then, and to other staffers, were: ‘You know what? The people who are going to vote against me are going to vote against me. And the people who are going to vote for me, I need to give them a reason to vote for me.'”

For a while, it looked like Reid had made a tremendous blunder. “Our tracking poll,” says Parra, “actually showed Reid bleeding support” after he announced he was going to call a vote on the DREAM Act. “And people were wringing their hands in the campaign office because this decision was probably a big blunder.” Other Reid staffers would say to Parra, “This could cost us the election.”

The tracking polls, of course, were built on the assumption that Latinos wouldn’t turn out to vote in high numbers. That’s also the assumption Angle’s campaign made. The day after Reid committed to the DREAM Act, she released the first of a series of ads using stock footage of Latinos sneaking past fences to attack Reid on immigration. One ad called Harry Reid “the best friend an illegal ever had.” Another asked, “What does Harry Reid have against you?” — assuming that the “you” in question was, of course, white.

Gosh, even the normally useless POLITICO published a well-researched overview, although it’s cavalier on his donor base. His elimination of the sixty-vote cloture requirement for Supreme Court nominations may prove to be his legacy. Notice Mitch McConnell has made no moves to rescind Reid’s changes. He understands how his archenemy made things easier for future Republican presidents too.

The politics of ‘making your own laws’

Charles Pierce on John Boehner’s least visible body part, which the Speaker of the House thinks he’s got because he’s farted about suing the president over making Mexican American lives moderately tolerable:

I have lived through the administration of 12 presidents now. If what this president did Thursday night is “making his own laws,” then every one of those 12 presidents have “made their own laws.” Richard Nixon made his own law about bombing Cambodia and encouraging burglaries. Ronald Reagan made his own law about negotiating with terrorists and financing murderers in Central America. This is neither the time nor the place for an argument about how Congress steadily deeded its own constitutional powers to the Executive over the last 60 years, and how the current Congress pretends now that it only noticed what Congresses had been doing when the country elected the Blah Democrat a couple of times. But Boehner knows They’re Out There Somewhere.

And before my GOP friends comment, “EVERYBODY does it when they’re in power,” let me remind them that in 2007 Nancy Pelosi, who had more control over her caucus than Redman ever had or will, swatted aside any whispers about impeaching George W. Bush; and Lee Hamilton and Daniel Inouye made damn sure that whatever the House and Senate investigations into Iran-Contra discovered Ronald Reagan could remain in the White House until his vision of a Death Star vaporizing Soviet missiles was realized.

‘I can come out of the shadows’

Here we are:

Amid the hugs in the packed room of the immigration center, Jose Delgado quietly strode to a corner and searched for his friends.

Just as the image of President Obama faded from the wide screen on Thursday night, he turned to the others close by and smiled.

“I can come out of the shadows,” said Delgado, 64, who hung on every word of Obama’s announcement on prime time television that he — and millions of other undocumented immigrants — would be safeguarded from deportation.

The president’s move to protect the parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents struck deeply in South Florida, where more illegal immigrants have moved to in the past five years than nearly any other region of the country.

Delgado left after the broadcast beaming, while others, like Jose Santiago — a native of Mexico — departed with the same fears that have haunted them for years.

“There’s so much uncertainty,’’ said the 18-year-old Miami Dade College student. “This is a fight for a long time.”

‘The roots of prosecutorial discretion are extremely deep’

Sam Stein got this answer from a member of the Federalist Society at its Mayflower Hotel mingling, awaiting Alito and Scalia:

Before the crowd changed into black tie attire for Alito’s appearance, however, a smaller panel convened under the title, “Federalism: The President’s Duty to Take Care That the Law be Faithfully Executed.” Panelists discussed major confrontations between the branches of government, from enforcement of marijuana law and the implementation of health care to Obama’s impending executive order on immigration.

The talk was, well, lawyerly. Every conclusion seemed to have a qualification attached to it. But, by and large, the panelists agreed the president has wide legal latitude to prioritize and shape deportation laws, as regrettable for Republicans or the long-term balance of powers that may be.

“I think the roots of prosecutorial discretion are extremely deep,” said Christopher Schroeder, the Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies at Duke Law School. “The practice is long and robust. The case law is robust. Let me put it this way: Suppose some president came to me and asked me in the office of legal counsel, ‘Is it okay for me to go ahead and defer the deportation proceedings of childhood arrival?’ Under the present state of the law, I think that would be an easy opinion to write. Yes.”

Love the tagline: “This story has been updated to reflect that the Federalist Society does not take formal positions, and that not all of its members are conservative on all issues.”

(h/t Digby)