Category Archives: Congress

The Kavanaugh Mess: Reckless Disregard

Senate Republicans aren’t the only ones willing to do anything to secure a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court. Enter Ed Whelan who is a major player in the DC conservative legal establishment as well as a friend and associate of Federalist Society honcho Leonard Leo and a certain sleazy Supreme wannabe, Brett Kavanaugh.

In what could be described as death by twitter, Whelan posted a wildly conjectural thread that has already been deleted, followed by an apology to the man he libeled. Here is Josh Marshall’s distillation of the excised thread:

Ed Whelan, a key player in DC’s conservative judicial establishment, posted a lengthy twitter thread in which he made a highly conjectural argument that the accusation against Brett Kavanaugh is actually a case of mistaken identification and that Prof. Blasey Ford’s alleged attacker was actually a classmate of Kavanaugh’s named Chris Garrett.

Garrett is now a middle school teacher in Georgia and had actually signed a letter which a number of Kavanaugh’s classmates sent to the Senate in July attesting to Kavanaugh’s character. Blasey Ford put out a statement tonight stating categorically that she knew both Kavanaugh and Garrett at the time and that there is no way she could have mistaken one for the other.

It’s worth stepping back and contemplating just how wild and reckless an action this was. There’s really no way for me to capture the zaniness of Whelan’s argument. You can read it here. Suffice it to say it’s far-fetched an makes the most serious of accusations based on the flimsiest of conjectures.

There are two key pieces of context that are critical to understand. Whelan didn’t just spin out some hypotheticals. He clearly pointed the finger at a man who is not a public figure in any way and argued that he was likely the one who attempted to rape Blasey Ford. At the end of his thread he drew back and said he didn’t know specifically what had happened that night … but it was clear what he meant and what he was saying. This is almost certainly libelous.

The other point is that Whelan is not some random on Twitter or an eccentric but little known activist. He is close friends with Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, the group that chooses and then organizes the confirmation strategies for these nominees. Whelan is also close to Don McGahn, the White House Counsel who is formally in charge of shepherding Kavanaugh’s nomination through the Senate. Whelan is part of the very top handful of activists who play in this space.

I may be a lapsed lawyer but I know libel when I see it: a private citizen was dragged into the Kavanaugh mess and accused of committing a crime without a shred of proof. It’s called reckless disregard for the truth. Whelan’s defenders might say that there’s an Absence of Malice but Paul Newman and Sally Field beg to differ.

You didn’t think I could get through a Kavanaugh mess post without, uh, posting a movie poster, did you? That’s well-nigh imposterable…

It’s time for an early edition of Separated At Birth. Here’s the side-by-side picture Whelan used to “document” his mistaken identity/doppelgänger theory:

Kavanaugh is on the right, Garrett on the left. The two look like suburban preppies who plan to pledge to a frat when they go to college. Btw, Kavanaugh is a Deke (DKE) which is one of the rowdiest and most entitled fraternities around. That explains a great deal about him.

The biggest question about Doppelgängergate is what did Kavanaugh know and when did he know it? Wingnut twitter was buzzing for days over a “revelation” that would crack the Ford-Kavanaugh case. My belief is that it’s part of a co-ordinated strategy to save Kavanaugh’s worthless ass. Former GOP operative Steve Schmidt, who knows Whelan, does too:

Thus spake a former Republican hack who has forsaken the party of Trump. Twitter giveth and twitter taketh away.

In a sane world, this would doom the Kavanaugh nomination and he would withdraw in shame over the company he keeps. In the shameless Trump era, who the hell knows? It does, however, prove the accuracy of a meme I first posted on August 8th:

 

Another Fine Kavanaugh Mess: The Big Bluff

Remember when Senate Republicans were in disarray on the Kavanaugh nomination? That was so Monday. They’ve moved on to the lie, deny, and misdirect phase of the nomination process.

Last night Lawrence O’Donnell scorched Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch for their blatant hypocrisy:

A quick summary: Grassley and Hatch demanded that the FBI re-open its background check into Clarence Thomas to investigate Anita Hill’s charges. The Bush White House ordered the FBI to proceed. It took only a few days. The notion that checking out the credibility of Dr, Blasey’s story is “not the FBI’s thing” is another lie from a GOP ruthlessly determined to win at all costs. It’s what they do. Remember Merrick Garland.

A look at the facts behind the Thomas-Hill mess shows that Dr. Blasey is being treated worse than Anita Hill before she appeared before the Judiciary Committee. It would be hard to top the lurid questions of Hatch and former Senators Specter and Simpson. I would hope that current GOPers would at least be able to pronounce Long Dong Silver correctly. In 1991, Hatch referred to that porn performer alternately as Long Don or John Silver. I guess he was thinking of this dude:

There’s an interesting profile of Christine Blasey Ford  in the Failing New York Times. She comes off as an impressive and accomplished woman. That is exactly why Senate Republicans are trying their damnedest to make it impossible for her to testify publicly. These are the same Senators behind the Merrick Garland mess, so their protestations of fairness and compassion ring hollow.

Senate GOPers do not want a FBI background checkup because they’re afraid Brett Kavanaugh will lie to the FBI, which is a crime; just ask Mike Flynn. Kavanaugh has already lied to the Senate, after all.

The mere fact that Dr. Blasey is willing to speak to the FBI enhances her credibility Besides, the only time people make up sexual assault allegations is when there’s something in it for them, and that’s still exceedingly rare. There’s nothing but heartache, humiliation, and harassment in this for Dr. Blasey.

On a human level, I understand why Christine Blasey Ford would not want to testify. I hope she does because the rushed GOP timeline/deadline is a big bluff. Here’s how Slate’s Jim Newell, who is one of the savviest observers of Congress, ended his piece this morning:

Republican leaders didn’t want Ford to testify in a public hearing in the first place, and they still don’t. Her credible testimony, with or without additional witnesses or background investigations, is the one and only fatal threat to Kavanaugh’s nomination. As one very prominent Republican said Wednesday morning, “if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision.”

I would hate to be in Christine Blasey Ford’s shoes right now. Her attorney’s request for the FBI to look into the Kavanaugh mess is not only reasonable, but is in line with the Hill precedent. Public testimony will be painful BUT if she folds her hand, Kavanaugh will be confirmed. It’s unclear that the Republicans have a backup plan if she agrees to Grassley’s extortionate terms. It’s up to her. I hope she calls their big bluff.

That concludes another post chock-full-o-old movie references. I had hoped to post an image of Laurel and Hardy cutting neckties but could not find one. This will have to do:

Substitute Orrin Hatch or Chuck Grassley for Ollie and you get the idea.

Here’s hoping the last laugh will be on Senate Republicans:

UPDATE: Team Blasey Ford has called the GOP’s bluff. The fluidity index, if there is such a thing, on this story remains high.

The Kavanaugh Mess

I was almost hesitant to write about the Kavanaugh mess because the situation is so fluid. It’s like confidently predicting where a tropical system will strike when it’s off the coast of West Africa. Those who are convinced that a judiciary committee vote will take place on Thursday *could* be right. As of this writing, delay is in the air. And delay is not Brett Kavanaugh’s friend.

I was relieved when Christine Blasey Ford came forward on Sunday. I had gotten tired of the Feinstein bashing. She was between a rock and a hard place: a constituent (her boss) had requested that her identity remain confidential and Team Feinstein was trying to honor their commitment to her. Politics *should* be about people and people’s wishes should be respected; otherwise we’re just as bad as the Republicans.

Ms. Ford’s desire to avoid the inevitable blood-letting is completely understandable as is her decision to come forward when the press was hot on her trail. There were no easy answers for Team Feinstein and I’m glad that Ms. Ford and her lawyer have praised them. Let’s leave those process-based recriminations to the Republicans and move on.

The GOP’s original strategy was to issue that preposterous “Brett didn’t rape me” letter and hope that Ms. Ford would not testify. Her attorney has now stated that she’s willing to do so. A note on the GOP letter: these are not Kavanaugh’s “classmates:” he went to an all-boys school.

As of this writing, it’s unclear what will happen with the judiciary committee. It’s politically dangerous for them to proceed without hearing Ms. Ford when even Kellyanne Conway thinks she “should not be ignored.” I’m inclined to believe that the temporary senior senator from Arizona will not Flake out on his pledge to withhold his committee vote without hearing Ms. Ford. He’s made some fine speeches in the past BUT this is the first time he’s promised to do something, so I’ll take him at his word. For now. I told you things were fluid.

Delay is the Democrats’ friend and Kavanaugh’s enemy. The heavy-handed attacks on Ford are politically perilous when regime change in the Senate is suddenly in play. I realize that hardcore Trumpers don’t care about alienating suburban women, but they should. The gender gap in the 2018 midterms will be something to behold. Politically, the Kavanaugh mess is win-win for Democrats. Cynical but true.

The Kavanaugh mess has revived memories of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, which were re-opened to hear Anita Hill. Kavanaugh is in a much worse position than Thomas whose hearings had gone well. Nobody accused Clarence Thomas of lying to the senate or of having a gambling problem. Kavanaugh’s baggage is like a steamer trunk that’s weighing him down. I haven’t even mentioned his time as Ken Starr’s designated leaker or as a political hack on W’s staff. In a rational world, his baggage would sink him but this is the Trump era where a president* obstructs justice in broad daylight then brags about it on twitter.

If, like Brett Kavanaugh, I were a betting man, I’d wager on Kavanaugh being confirmed by the senate. Right-wingers have been waiting a long time to replace a swing vote and secure a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. It could, however, be a phyrric victory that results in Republicans losing both houses of Congress. Defending Brett Kavanaugh on the stump will be just as unpleasant as these confirmation hearings.

Repeat after me: the situation is fluid. Anyone who tells you that they’re certain what will happen should be drug tested or polygraphed.

Nothing is written

Hurricane Season Blues

Florence is a charmingly old-fashioned name. I don’t recall ever knowing a Florence or calling anyone Flo. The name is unlikely to make a comeback: Hurricane Florence is a dangerous system that appears to be the IT storm of the 2018 hurricane season.

It’s natural for people in New Orleans to compare the storm to Hurricane Katrina. I did so myself on the tweeter tube the other day:

There’s another severe past storm whose name is being dropped. Florence’s projected path is eerily reminiscent of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo; another storm with a charmingly old-fashioned name that was anything but charming.

I have a friend who does rescue work who is sounding the alarm about Florence:

Don’t fuck around with this storm, y’all, especially if you’re in a coastal area. The storm surge is potentially horrific. Leave as early as you can so you can Flo with the contra-flow on the interstate.

I posted the picture of the Insult Comedian’s obscene antics in Puerto Rico last fall as a reminder of his administration’s failures after Hurricane Maria. He, of course, thinks they did totally awesome:

“I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. I actually think it is one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,”

Nearly 3,000 people perished as a result of Maria. Trump is incapable of thinking everything associated with him isn’t the “biggest” and the “best.” It’s what con men do.

Those brown-people should just STFU and stop being uppity with Trumpberius, especially that lady mayor. #sarcasm

He’s bragging in advance about how the government will do in response to Florence:

Donald Trump has declared that his government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Hurricane Florence, as officials and forecasters warned that the “staggering” storm is shaping up to be catastrophic and unprecedented.

It would be nice if we had a president* who didn’t sound like a tween girl at a sleepover. Totally.

What strikes me about the revived Maria discussion is that there has been NO Congressional oversight whatsoever. Despite Republican control of Congress after Katrina, there *were* hearings. After Maria, crickets.

The lack of Congressional response is partially because of Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status BUT Republicans are afraid of the Kaiser of Chaos pitching a hissy fit. They seem to think that a nasty tweet will smite them dead. Their political cowardice seems poised to send them into the wilderness after the midterms. They’ll wish they’d risked the online wrath of Trump.

Heckuva job, GOP.

The last word goes to Neil Young and Roxy Music:

 

No More Mr. Nice Judge

I wrote an acronym laced post last month called GOP SCOTUS SOP. My point was that the GOP stresses “the nice guy narrative” when selling their Supreme Court nominees. It’s a way of balancing the harshness of their views with a dollop of niceness; by gosh, by golly. Here’s what I said about Brett Kavanaugh:

I hereby stipulate that Kavanaugh does not pull the wings off flies, walks little old ladies across the street, and does not beat his wife or children. Hereinafter I will call him Mr. Nice Judge. None of that matters. His views and experience are what matters. And that’s the problem with this nominee. His years as a senior aide to George W. Bush have given him the most expansive position on executive power imaginable. As far as Mr. Nice Judge is concerned, the Oval One is an elected dictator who can do whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants to.

That is, of course, why the Kaiser of Chaos nominated Kavanaugh. He sees him as a human get-out-of-jail-free card, or as a one-judge cavalry who will ride in to save the day when Trump’s wagons are circled. Somebody has to keep the Insult Comedian out of an orange jump suit, after all. That look, however, would have the virtue of matching his spray tanned mug and the dead nutria pelt atop his head.

At the first day of his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh played Mr. Nice Judge by nattering on about coaching his daughter’s basketball team. Then the mask slipped:

Here’s Mr. Guttenberg’s side of the story:

The White House claimed that security intervened to separate the two men without any prompting by the nominee, but the damage was done. The Mr. Nice Judge smiley face image was shattered and replaced with the frown of Judge Republican Hack. That’s what Brett Kavanaugh really is: a political hack, a partisan political operative in judicial drag.

What would it have cost Kavanaugh to shake Guttenberg’s hand and say, “sorry for your loss” before walking away? Nothing. It’s also what a genuine Mr. Nice Judge would have done. The rude fucker didn’t even offer “hope and prayers.”

Lawrence O’Donnell nailed Mr. Nice Judge to the wall on The Last Word:

“I had high hopes for Brett Kavanaugh. High hopes that he would find Fred Guttenberg in the audience and just shake hands with him, say something sympathetic to a grieving father in his opening remarks, perhaps, but he didn’t,” O’Donnell said. “He could easily have just added a sentence or two. That’s the most it would take to his opening remarks. He didn’t say a word about Fred Guttenberg or Fred’s daughter Jamie.”

If you thought Lawrence would get the last word, you’re wrong. The look on Brett Kavanaugh’s face when Fred Guttenberg approached him evoked one of Richard Thompson’s most sarcastic songs. It centers on a chance meeting and a handshake:

Repeat after me:

INSTANT UPDATE:

Beto, Ted Cruz, and Weasel Voice

No sooner do I read this academic blog about “weasel voice” in journalism: 

The Economist took a look at how it’s not passive voice or active voice that creates the biggest problem for writers and readers. It’s “weasel voice” writing that does the most damage. The article makes several key points about clarity and information that you can use, even if you aren’t covering political insurgencies or violent insurrections. Consider what weasel voice does and what we can do to fix the problems:

Weasel voice hides the identity of the person committing an action:Passive voice provides readers with a limited amount of information because we lack crucial information about the “who” in the sentence.

Than along comes a prime example of it: 

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

Emphasis mine because WHAT THE HONEY BAKED CHRIST.

“Could now emerge.” From whence, pray tell, could this “attack point” (ugh) “emerge?” The mists of Avalon? The reeking trash of whatever Cruz-tinted Super-PAC farted this into the Houston Chronicle’s tipline? And what the hell is a “potential attack point” anyway? Because Beto wasn’t already getting tarred as a soft-on-crime peacefreak who wants to let serial killers out of jail to rape white Texas debutantes?

I mean, I know the answers to these questions because I read and interpret stuff like this for a living and once upon a long time ago before the earth’s crust cooled I wrote it, too, and the answer is either I’m not really confident in what I’m saying or I don’t want to upset anybody or I’m doing somebody’s job for them, and all of these are bad reasons to write a news story.

You use this kind of language to disavow responsibility for what you’re doing, and it’s cowardly, and it’s one of many reasons people left journalism in droves: the demand to use bloodless language to describe bloody things.

Lest you think I’m just picking on one line in this story, here we go again a few paragraphs later:

Neither arrest has factored significantly into O’Rourke’s political career, though both were used against him in his successful 2012 campaign against former El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes in a predominantly Hispanic district.

[snip]

The law enforcement reports show two elements of the incident that have been overlooked: that there was a crash involved, and that O’Rourke allegedly attempted to flee.

Overlooked by whom? A good editor (and a good writer) would address that obvious point.

Doc and I were having a conversation a few weeks back about the endless blogger ethics panel we’re having, and I couldn’t have invented a better example of how American journalism today has defined “acting ethically” as “not upsetting anyone” which leads to “writing so opaque that absolutely no one is served.” If I’m a reader, not a political operative or a journalist, how does this O’Rourke story serve me? What does it tell me that I don’t already know?

Is the writer saying with these grafs that voters SHOULD have rejected O’Rourke previously, based on this police report and his other arrest?  If you have a point, just make it. Hell, do what a really creative reporter would do and find a local university poli-sci professor who likes seeing his name in print and get HIM to make your point for you. This mealy-mouthed nonsense serves no one.

It doesn’t even shield the paper from criticism, which would be a chickenassed enough reason to do anything. I know all Super Savvy Reporters think the job is done if everyone’s mad at them but sometimes everyone’s mad at you because you’ve done something bad and stupid, like write a story about imaginary scenarios without any attribution whatsoever.

Schmucks. Weasel-voiced schmucks. 

A.

Everybody Plays The Fool: My Senator Tweets

Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy continues his tiresome fake idiot/cheapskate routine:

This is, of course, genuine political imbecility. This could cost the Republicans several GOP-held House seats in Virginia and Maryland. The RNC is already considering cutting Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, who objects to this move, loose. Thanks, Donald.

I wonder if Neely will quote George Wallace next and refer to federal employees as pointy-headed bureaucrats who can’t park their bicycles straight.

Neely remains a political mystery. He’s an intelligent, well-educated man who persists in acting like a village idiot. As the old soul song goes, everybody plays the fool:

 

 

First Draft Potpourri: Of Violence, Wise Guys & Peckerwoods

I have a dream that some day soon we will have a normal news cycle. Every time I step away from the computer and/or iPhone to focus on personal and/or local news, all hell breaks loose. (It also makes me type and/or twice in one sentence, which is lazy writing.) But that’s life in the Trump era where even a news junkie like me craves a respite of dullness from the dullards running the government.

That was a long-winded of way of introducing a potpourri post. It’s the only way I can keep up with the news of day since, unlike some other bloggers, I decline to do so on the tweeter tube. Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” When I see a 20 part thread, my response is: That’s not writing, that’s tweeting. It’s fine for short bursts but I prefer writing to typing and/or tweeting. Uh oh, another and/or. Next thing I’ll want to fire Bruce Ohr and/or someone else…

Violence: The Insult Comedian loves scaring the shit out of people. He did it the other night during an event with evangelical supporters. Trumpy claimed that violence will ensue if Democrats win the midterms. He’s projecting once again: his supporters are the ones apt to riot. Hell, Rudy’s already promised that as a response to attempts to remove the president* from office. Bullshit: most Trumpers can barely get off the couch to find the remote. Besides they only watch Fox News so why get up at all?

Speaking of Violence,  it’s time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, glam rock style. No guns allowed, just fists.

Unfortunately Trumpberius and company are apt to agree with Ian Hunter’s lyrics:

Violence, violence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense.

Back to the couch and stay there, motherfuckers. It’s time for Michael F’s image from earlier this morning to play a repeat performance:

Life Imitates Billy Bathgate: Very little scares a white-collar criminal more than hearing that their accountant has made a deal with Federal prosecutors. And (but not or) Allen Weisselberg is not just a bookkeeper, he’s the Trump Organization’s CFO. He also happens to be one of the people running the company while the boss is ruining the country.

At first I wondered if Weisselberg would be the token Trump loyalist instead of a snitch and/or rat; there I go again with the and/ors. Then I read this:

Last month, the New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, sued the Trump Foundation. Weisselberg had been deposed and showed a surprising willingness to give answers that put the President in an unflattering light. In January, 2016, during Trump’s Presidential campaign, his foundation made a series of donations to veterans-advocacy organizations in Iowa that were explicitly designed to gain support for his candidacy. Weisselberg filled out the checks. In his deposition, he volunteered that the Trump Foundation had no procedures in place to insure it followed the law and that Trump himself knew of and directed Weisselberg’s participation in the scheme to pay those Iowa veterans groups. Were Weisselberg eager to protect his longtime boss, he could have answered the questions far more narrowly. It was an early hint that Weisselberg, like Cohen, may not jeopardize his own freedom to defend Trump. News that Weisselberg had accepted immunity so that he could share potentially damaging information in the Cohen case provides more support for the view that Weisselberg is ready to share whatever information he has. And he has a lot.

It increasingly appears that Trump’s downfall will be his sleazy business tactics. Holy money laundering, Batman. Allen Weisselberg knows more than the Fixer or the Pecker notwithstanding the latter’s cache of Trump dirt. Why do you think the president* has been melting down even by his own standards?

You’re probably wondering why I titled this segment Life Imitates Billy Bathgate. Here’s why: EL Docotorow’s novel is based on the life and times of Dutch Schultz nee Arthur Flegenheimer. (I’d change my name too if it was Flegenheimer. Who wants a name that sounds like phlegm?) Dutch’s numbers wizard was a guy named Otto Berman who everybody called Abbadabba. Tom Dewey’s “racket busters” considered him the linchpin to unraveling Shultz’s rackets but Lucky Luciano whacked Abbadabba before prosecutors could flip him. End of arcane mob history lesson.

In Billy Bathgate, Abbadabba Berman was the most interesting character. He mentored the title character and protected him from Flegenheimer’s unphlegmatic wrath. The movie version was not as good as the book but the cast was excellent: Dustin Hoffman played Schultz, and Steven Hill played Abbadabba. Ironies abound as Steven Hill also played the Manhattan DA in Law & Order who shares a name with one of Trump’s pursuers, Adam Schiff. I am not making this up. I even posted about the Adams when the Kaiser of Chaos was a mere birther.

In the Trump Organization’s saga, Allen Weisselberg is Abbadabba Berman. And an Abbadabba trumps a Fixer or a Pecker any day.

It was harder than hell to find pictures of either numbers wizard. I skipped the picture of Abbadabba after he was whacked. Abbadabba-doo. You knew that was coming, right?

That concludes the wise guy part of the post, let’s move on to the peckerwoods.

The Senate Building Flap: It hasn’t been a great week for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. His deal with Chinless Mitch to let his members go home and campaign has been roundly criticized.  But he did put some points on the board when he suggested that the Richard Russell Senate office building be renamed for John McCain.

The name change should have been easy: Russell, one of the most powerful Senators of his time, was an avowed racist and white supremacist. Unlike some of his fellow Southerners, Russell never became reconciled to Civil Rights. He was a Lost Causer til the bitter end.

It appeared that the name change would sail through until some Southern GOPers expressed concerns about it. The Turtle punted it to a “bipartisan gang.” It’s unclear if members of the Russian mafia and/or La Cosa Nostra will have any input. It’s a pity that the Fixer flipped because he’d know how to set it up…

Think about it: Southern Republicans were afraid of removing the name of a Southern Democrat from a building. They’re obviously scared of alienating their white nationalist base and/or the Racist-in-Chief. They’ve lost Pecker, so they can’t afford to lose the peckerwoods.

So much for all those GOPers who have bashed reformed segregationists like Robert Byrd, Russell Long and, yes. even Richard Russell’s protegé, Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ didn’t really “threaten” Russell. He presented him with a fait accompli that obliged him to serve on the Warren Commission.

It’s time for me to stop stirring the potpourri and writing and/ors. The last word goes to Randy Newman. Some Southern Republicans are still rednecks and/or peckerwoods who “don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.”

Malaka Of The Week: Duncan Hunter

California Republican Duncan Hunter was the second Congresscritter to endorse the Insult Comedian. As if to confirm he’s one of Trump’s “best people,” he was indicted on the heels of corruption charges against the first Congresscritter to endorse Trump, Chris Collins. Collins has opted to shuffle back to Buffalo, Hunter vows to fight the charges. And that is why Duncan Hunter is malaka of the week.

Hunter “inherited” his seat from his father one-time House Armed Services chairman and “why not me” presidential candidate, Duncan Lee Hunter. Hunter has styled himself as Junior. He is not, he’s Duncan Duane Hunter. One might even say that he’s a Catfish Hunter

As a true blue Trumper, Hunter is a major grifter and fraudster. He and his wife Margaret have been charged with a lengthy bill of particulars:

“I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two,” he said to Fox News’ Martha McCallum. “She was also the campaign manager. So whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it.”
How gallant. This is NOT how a Marine is supposed to behave. In addition to being tackier than a 3-three-year-old who just ate cotton candy, it’s a feeble defense. The money was donated to Not Junior’s campaign and he’s responsible for any credit card fiddling. Shorter Adrastos, Duncan is a donut in the Gordon Ramsay sense of the word:
 

A federal indictment alleges that House Armed Services member Duncan Hunter was not happy when he didn’t get a tour of a military base in Italy and had this to say: “Tell the Navy to go fuck themselves.”

Prosecutors also accused the California Republican of falsely claiming that personal expenditures were for “wounded warriors.”

Fuckin’ A. A is for asshole.

Before the shit hit the fan, Hunter’s seat was safe: 538.com gave him a 91.83% chance to win. In the wake of the indictment, the Cook Political Report has moved the race from likely to leans Republican. Here’s hoping Ammar Campa-Najjar, Not Junior’s Democratic opponent, can pull off a minor miracle. The whole “it’s my wife’s fault” thing will definitely hurt. I suspect Hunter will double down on Trump-style racism and xenophobia against his opponent who is Palestinian/Mexican-American.

Duncan Hunter epitomizes the greed and mendacity of Trump’s so-called best people. He’s an entitled little putz who expects daddy and/or Trumpy to get him out of this mess. And that is why Duncan Hunter is malaka of the week.

The I-Word: Don’t Take The Bait

The dread Sarah Huckabee Sanders trotted out some of her snappiest patter at Wednesday’s White House briefing. Yes, I’m being sarcastic although she does have a Bob Newhart-style deadpan delivery. Maybe she should try wearing a cardigan like Bob did as Dick the innkeeper in Newhart. It couldn’t hurt. Larry, Darryl, and his other brother Darryl already work in the West Wing alongside a wide variety of Dicks, after all.

“Impeachment is the only message Democrats have going into the midterms.  I think that the biggest contrast you could possibly make is the message of the Democrats, which is nothing more than attacking the president and looking at cheap political stunts while this White House and Republicans in the House and Senate are focused on doing good things for the American people.”

Sarah is such a cut-up.  As usual, she’s making shit up. Leader Pelosi, quite correctly, has urged her members to stay focused on health care, corruption, and whatever issues work in their districts. It’s back to Tip O’Neill’s message that “all politics are local.” It was an approach that helped Democrats hold the house from 1954-1994. There were even two blue wave elections in that era: 1964 and 1974. Shorter Nancy Smash: Just win, baby.

Trump is already the main issue without mentioning the I-Word. Democrats would be wise to focus on Team Trump’s rampant corruption and use this phrase: “putting a brake on an out-of-control president*.” Voters already know that the I-Word is a possibility after Dems take control of the House: why awaken the depressed GOP base?

The mere fact that Zany Sarah, Senator Cornhole, and other GOPers are talking about impeachment is why Democrats should not. Why take the bait and let Republicans set the agenda in a year that the wind is blowing in their faces? And we know how much the Insult Comedian “hates the wind” unless it’s the hot air coming out of his big stupid bazoo.

The main reason we should NOT take the bait is what happened in the 1998 midterms. Newt Gingrich and his merry band of wingnuts went all in on impeachment. It backfired and Democrats *gained* 5 House seats and held their own in the Senate.

To follow Tom Steyer’s lead and go all in on impeachment is playing into the GOP’s hands. Do we really want to be like Newt? Don’t take the bait. Just win, baby.

The Band and Marvin Gaye get the last word:


Here Comes the Turn, Any Minute Now

Trump will be nearing the end of his 6th term, Weekend-at-Bernie’s style, as he gibbers and drools, and Official Washington will still be predicting that any moment Republicans will rise up and evict him from the Citadel: 

An inexorable decline is underway. Trump is learning about — and railing against — the limitations of his power. (He even had to cancel his proposed military parade.) But he cannot control himself. His demeaning tweets, his rampant lying, his compulsive attacks on the news media and his breathtakingly bratty behavior might thrill his base, but the rest of Washington is growing sick of him. Republicans will use him to stock the courts with conservatives, repeal regulation and finally get back at Franklin D. Roosevelt, but as soon as Trump is shown to be politically weakened, they will throw him under the bus.

Any day now. Any day. They’ll disown the monster they created. Sure they will. We have been waiting for this train since day one of the Republican primaries back in 2016 and maybe it’s time to accept IT AIN’T GONNA COME.

Look. Republicans might disavow Trump in the aftermath of an electoral loss in 2020, but in no way are they going to give up his slavering hordes of supporters, his in-house and outhouse media, the mailing lists of all the festering boils like the NRA which got Trump elected. They need those people. Those people are all they have left.

They owe the racists and hicks, the stupid great-uncle who still calls people “colored” and the tight-permed aunt who thinks it the height of tyranny to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish. It’s not that those are Trump’s only supporters, it’s that those are the ones who make the Nice Polite Racists possible.

So long as Trump’s deplorables are still around, his wealthy white-flighters in Washington and Waukesha counties can excuse continuing to vote for anything with an R after its name because (lowers voice, sips from wineglass full of ice cubes) too many people in this country are on welfare. That will still be okay to say, because they’re not driving trucks plastered with Confederate flags around, after all.

White anxiety about the changing world is their only animating principle. Everything is explained by, and undergirded with, racism. Lower my taxes? Yes, because I don’t want my money going to Those People. Better education? Sure, give us money for private schools, because the public ones are full of Those People. Policing? Gotta keep Those People under control. Foreign policy? Just keep Those People out.

This is the base, and the money people know it. That’s all they’ve got, and once Trump made it obvious, they can’t go back. The base has had a taste of the hard stuff now, and they’re not going to support a Romney or a W. Bush ever again, not after Trump. Weak-chinned boys in suits whistling for dogs? Get on up out of here with that shit. J. Frederick LaCrosse-Tenniscourt is going to be begging people to clap for his plan to, I don’t know, privatize oxygen, and the crowd will be chanting WE WANT TRUMP.

They’ll have to roll him out like Immortan Joe and Republican senators can talk to Richard Cohen all they want about how much they hate it. This is the deal they made. It’s the deal they make every single day they don’t impeach him or resign en masse, but Richard Cohen still believes in their sacred honor:

Trump will soon learn the same lesson. It is not his government, it is ours. It is not his White House, it is ours. The deep state is very deep indeed. It booted Nixon from the White House and compelled Clinton to roll up his sleeve. To Trump, it looks like a monster rising from the swamp. To me, it looks like a shivering soldier at Valley Forge.

THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? That shivering soldier at Valley Forge, first of all, was fighting against a capricious man-baby who threw public tantrums whenever he didn’t get exactly what he wanted from his inferiors. Sound familiar?

More than that, though, that poor cold lice-ridden bastard wanted to go home. He wanted to screw the local tavern wench, smoke a pipe, and put his trench-feet up by the warm fire, and I know that because that’s all anybody wants. The only reason to fight a war is if the alternative is worse. The only reason that soldier was freezing his ass off is that a tyrannical madman overrode the desires of the people until they rose up against him. Things had to get BAD for that to happen. So far I see no Republicans being Boston-Massacred. Trump isn’t even quartering soldiers in their homes. Their stamps are still tax-free.

I don’t know who Cohen thinks the GOP is in this scenario but Republican senators are far more likely to be courtiers simpering about the glory of George III, than soldiers shivering beneath Betsy Ross’s banner.

A.

The Ego Has Landed: Why Not Me Avenatti 2020?

It’s time to press pause on my pledge NOT to write about the 2020 election until after the mid-terms. Porn star mouthpiece and cable teevee big mouth Michael Avenatti attended the Iowa State Fair last week. He was not just there to dine on food-on-a-stick: he claims he’s exploring a presidential candidacy. He even spoke at the Iowa Democratic party’s annual Wing Ding thing. Wing-a-ding-ding.

I suspect he’s missing the limelight since he’s been eclipsed by the Manafort trial and has been less ubiquitous on cable news the last few weeks. His rationale, such as it is, is that Democrats need a fighter as opposed to someone with actual experience. In short, he wants to be our version of the Current Occupant and fight hot air and bullshit with hot air and bullshit. He’s equally unqualified, opinionated, and brash. Unlike Trump, he’s smart and may even understand the complexities of international time zones.

Get ready for more of this nonsense. The election of an unqualified Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head was bound to lead to a spate of Why Not Me candidates. I hereby dub it Why Not Me-ism. We’ve seen this movie before: Jimmy Carter’s out of nowhere 1976 bid was inspired by McGovern winning the Democratic nomination in 1972. Carter’s campaign biography was titled Why Not The Best? when it should have been Why Not Me? Of course, McGovern and Carter had some qualifications as opposed to Why Not Me Avenatti whose sole “qualification” is yelling at Trumpy and Cohen on MSNBC, CNN, and the Tweeter Tube.

Avenatti is a natural-born citizen who’s over 35 years old so he meets the constitutional qualifications to run. He can run if he wants to but we’re NOT obligated to take this publicity hungry egomaniac seriously. Here’s why not: as opposed to the nihilists in power, Democrats believe in governing. Donald Trump and the Republicans have made an unholy mess. The next president will do what Barack Obama was obliged to do: spend much of their time in office cleaning up after their predecessor. It will not be pretty but it needs doing. It’s hard to see the likes of Avenatti having the skills and knowledge to wield the political mop.

Speaking of bad ideas, the Republicans have decided to run against Nancy Pelosi. It’s unlikely to work, but the MSM has picked up on the notion and is asking all Democrats if they plan to vote for her for Speaker. Nancy Smash’s response is a cool “Just win, baby.” She knows she has the votes and that the House will need able and experienced leadership when the Democrats resume control. Our House leadership *should* get younger but I think a better target is Steny Hoyer. The notion of an inexperienced leader replacing one of the best Speakers in recent memory is as absurd as Michael Avenatti as president.

Democrats are not so desperate that we need to resort to the likes of Why Not Me Avenatti. Just say no to Why Not Me-ism.

Wingnuts Can’t Count

I hate what the Republicans have done to the House of Representatives. It was never a perfect institution (nothing human ever is) but, beginning with Newt Gingrich, they’ve transformed it into a theatre of the absurd. I almost called it a Kabuki theatre but I don’t want to confuse Jason Spencer into thinking that’s a Chinese, not Japanese thing. Kanichiwa, Sushi, Sony, Nissan. Sorry, I just can’t let go of Malaka Spencer a man who puts the dim in dim sum.

The latest empty GOP gesture comes in the form of articles of impeachment filed against Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. The so-called Freedom Caucus is the author of this idiot plot led by the Tar Heel twit, Mark Meadows, and the Buckeye rape enabler, Jim Jordan.

The charges are specious. Essentially, Rosenstein is accused of insufficient servility towards House GOPers and failure to aid and abet Trump’s Kremlingate cover up. The votes don’t appear to be there but the Insult Comedian is pleased: he likes others to do his dirty work for him. Jim Jordan seems to be his new fixer. He’s even dumber than Michael Cohen and that’s saying a lot.

Rod Rosenstein has turned out to be the unlikely hero of this sordid mess. He looks like the sort of guy who got stuffed into lockers in high school by louts such as Jim Jordan. Rosenstein turns out to have a steel spine and brass balls. He rarely lets House wingnuts see him sweat and he shouldn’t sweat this fakakta impeachment effort.

The House Wingnut Caucus does not appear to have the votes for this abuse of democracy. They don’t care. It’s all about publicity and sucking up to the Insult Comedian. It’s a sham and a shame, but one cannot shame the shameless or those who cannot count.

Here’s Jim Jordan trying to count:

He *may* be able to count to 20 by using all his fingers and toes but I have my doubts.

This preposterous impeachment is yet another reason that Democrats need to retake the House. Let’s put Jordan and Meadows out to pasture.

To Hell With The Trump Base

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about the vaunted Trump base. It causes Republican Senators to retire and Congresscritters to wet their pants in fear. Their entire political world is based on doing nothing that will upset the Trump base. They’re obsessed with Republican primary voters, which will cost them dearly in the next general election as long as our people turn out.

The power of the Republican base is wildly overrated. It’s ridiculous nonsense to anyone who can count. The number of voters who identify with the GOP has been declining for years. There are currently 25-26% of the voters who call themselves Republicans. That means the 88% of Republicans who support Trump make up 23-24% of the total electorate. That’s why the GOP has long been devoted to voter suppression culminating in 2016 where the Trump/Bannon/Russian strategy was to depress the Democratic vote. It worked then but we’re on to them.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of Americans do not support this president*. If they turn out to vote in November, Republicans will lose the House and hopefully the Senate and a slew of state house races. There is a solid anti-Trump majority in the country and the hardcore Trump base makes up at most 1/4 of the voting public. Their only hope is that Democrats and Independents stay home. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Vote them out. As Al Gore was fond of saying in 1992,  “It’s time for them to go.”

I was probably too polite in my post title. Here’s what I should have said:

FUCK THE TRUMP BASE.

That concludes this political pep talk. Class dismissed.

The Strzok Hearing: Shitshow Or Kangaroo Court?

The post title is a rhetorical question: that fakakta hearing was both. It was inevitable in the Trump era that a joint hearing of two Congressional committees would be a shitshow.

I only watched a few hours of the Strzok hearing. In addition to having other shit to do, I found the posturing and Kangaroo Court antics of Congressional GOPers to be tiresome in the extreme. Perhaps that’s because they’re extremists as well as extremely stupid. I’m old enough to remember when *some* Congressional right-wingers were intelligent. The door slammed on that era in 2010 with the teabagger wave election.

As to the witness, he’s a badass with an awesome first name. Peter Strzok held up under withering fire and never called Louis Gohmert Piles and Jim Jordan stupid or Trey Gowdy a weasel. It must have been hard: Strzok is so much smarter than the Kangaroo Court critters who were grilling him. To use a grilled cheese analogy, he did Gouda…

Republicans tried to flip the old adage “actions speak louder than words” on its head. As far as they were concerned, Strzok’s texted words were more important than the fact that he never acted on them. The hearing could have been shut down after the witness pointed out that all he had to do to torpedo the Trump campaign would have been to leak word of the investigation. Instead it went on for 11+ hours of madness.

I learned this week that Peter Strzok was the counter-intelligence agent who cracked the case that inspired The Americans. I saw some members of the twitterazzi compare Strzok to Stan (The Man) Beeman when in fact (fiction?) Strzok is comparable to his first boss, Frank Gaad who was played by Richard Thomas. Good night, John Boy.

The Strzok shitshow won’t change any minds. It was a performance piece staged by House Republicans to support the Kaiser of Chaos by blowing enough smoke to cover the Capitol Dome. You cannot shame the shameless.

Let’s circle back to the post title.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Kangaroo Court as:

  1.  a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted
  2.  a court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures

I first heard of Kangaroo Courts when I was a kid. It’s customary for baseball teams to hold them to boost morale and esprit de corps. The judge is usually a veteran player, the best player on the team, or the funniest guy in the locker room. Holy locker room talk, Batman.

Two of the greatest players of the Sixties, Bob Gibson and Frank Robinson, were the judges for the Cardinals and Orioles respectively. That was a long-winded way of posting a picture of Judge Robinson and teammate Davey Johnson both of whom were later managers:

Obligatory San Francisco Giants reference. Frank Robinson was not only the first African-American manager in baseball history, he managed the Giants from 1981-1984. F Robby could do it all: hit, run, field, manage, and judge.

Invasion Of The Federalist Society Body Snatchers

Charlie Pierce has a theory that the Federalist Society has a lab where they grow GOP judicial nominees. It’s hard to argue the point that they’re pod people like the ones grown in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Btw, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version is one of the few remakes I like. It’s more of a re-imagining. Besides, what’s not to like about a movie set in San Francisco with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. I do, however, still revere the 1956 Don Siegel directed original with Monty Clift’s bestie, Kevin McCarthy who should never be confused with the House Majority leader. End of film buff reverie.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand: pod person Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I skipped the fakakta dog and pony show staged by Trumpy’s new flack, Bill Shine. It was timed to boost the ratings of Shine’s pal, Sean Hannity. That Fox News meathead is now the most influential media type in the land. I feel as if I’ve died and gone to hell. At least the 8PM EST timing juiced up my girl Rachel Maddow’s ratings as well.

One deviation from the Federalist Society playbook is that Kavanaugh had a rough ride in his first confirmation process. He was nominated by George W Bush in 2003 and not confirmed until 2006. He’s been compared to two movie characters: Zelig by Chuck Schumer and Forrest Gump by Dick Durbin. Here’s why: Kavanaugh is a political animal who was involved in the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 Bush-Gore recount, and was a senior aide to George W Bush before moving to the Federalist Society greenhouse/lab and rehatching as a federal judge.

One serious problem Kavanaugh faces is that Senator Durbin believes that he lied at his confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh claimed that he was ignorant of some of the nastier practices of the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror. Unfortunately, lying is not disqualifying in the Trump era. Durbin is still on the judiciary committee and ready to call Kavanaugh out.

The more I look at Kavanaugh’s track record, the more I see why McConnell preferred another pod person. Kavanaugh’s paper trail is long, extensive, and contradictory. Senators have customarily been allowed to pour over the nominee’s documents, which in this instance could number up to a million because of Kavanaugh’s association with Ken Starr and Bush the younger. There are emails involved. That should give wingnuts a boner but it won’t because:

There seem to be two reasons why pod person Kavanaugh was selected in the face of opposition by social conservatives:

First, Team Trump schmoozed Justice Kennedy into retiring with the promise that his former law clerk would be his successor. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would join fellow Kennedy clerk Neil Gorsuch on the bench. There’s been some mutterings of a corrupt deal but this seems more like mentoring run amuck. You can tell that Trump out-sourced that part of the process because he’d have no problem betraying Kennedy. Stiffing people is what he does. Just ask his former chaffeur.

Second, I’m convinced that the president* selected pod person Kavanaugh because he views him as a human get-out-of-jail-free card. I’ll let girlfriend Dahlia Lithwick explain:

Over what I believe to be a surprisingly authentic warning from Mitch McConnell not to select Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left by Anthony Kennedy, the president chose the guy who had the most to say about imperial presidents. This is not a surprise. Beyond the fact that Kennedy doubtless approved of Trump’s selection—Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, clerked for Kennedy—the single greatest selling point for Kavanaugh had to have been the much-reported line from his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which he wrote, “Even in the absence of congressionally conferred immunity, a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” A President Trump seeking justification to immunize himself from prosecution needed to look no farther than Kavanaugh’s caution in that same article that the indictment and trial of a president “would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.”

Being a GOP pod person, Kavanaugh was for vigorously investigating presidents before he was against it. I suspect that had something to do with his days in the Beavis-Duce White House. Repeat after me:

I’m milking that meme for all it’s worth. It was originally supposed to be the featured image for a post centered on the IOKYAR-ness of this nominee. That was before I entered the Federalist Society lab/greenhouse and tripped over a pod.

The nomination of pod person  Kavanaugh provides opponents with more ammunition than any other potential nominee, which is the incompetent Trumper twist on the Federalist Society formula. I still expect the latest pod to be hatched at the Supreme Court after narrowly being confirmed. BUT the extent of Kavanaugh’s paper trail should slow things down considerably. I’m sure the Turtle has a few tricks stored in his shell but we saw with the failed ACA vote that Chinless Mitch is not infallible.

More importantly, Trump has given Democrats an issue gift for the election. Here’s girlfriend Dahlia again:

In short, this means that Trump didn’t just give Senate Democrats the talking point that Kavanaugh is an all-but-certain vote to erode or end Roe v. Wade. That statement, while true, could’ve been made about any of the judges on the president’s short list. In selecting Kavanaugh, Trump has given Democrats an additional talking point: The president picked a guy he hopes will hand him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

A pair of Democratic senators have already jumped on this bandwagon, with Jeff Merkley tweeting that the pick indicates Trump “is terrified of Robert Mueller” and Cory Booker stating that he “literally selected the one person who has a pretty good written record of saying, ‘Hey, if you’re a president under investigation, I don’t think you should be allowed to be under criminal investigation.’ ”

Whether this is true or not, or even supported in Kavanaugh’s extensive record, the fact is that Senate Democrats will be able to spend the summer arguing precisely what the president doesn’t want them to argue: that the Mueller probe is ongoing, that close Trump confederates have been indicted and other indictments are coming, that many of the legal questions surrounding the Mueller investigation may end up before the Supreme Court, and that the president may have hand-picked a judge solely for the possibility that he may vote to exonerate him.

Donald Trump always puts his own selfish interests ahead of the national interest. He’s done it again. He can’t even follow the Federalist Society script and nominate another Roberts or Gorsuch. Kavanaugh seems genial enough but he’s a flawed pod person who will make it easier for the Senate minority to slow things down. Thanks, Trumpy.

I’m not though throwing memes at you. Let’s pay a visit to the Federalist Society lab/greenhouse in glorious black and white.

Quote Of The Day: Alternate Reality Edition

It comes from a column by the Observer’s Will Hutton. He’s writing about hardcore Thatcherites and Brexiters but it applies equally to American teabaggers.

There is truth. One of the reasons for our current disastrous plight is that politicians, especially but not only on the Thatcherite Eurosceptic right, have come to feel that what is true is what they believe. Their beliefs may not correspond to reality but that does not matter. Others may think they shamelessly lie or deceive, but what matters is an intent to be truthful to their beliefs, even if the gap between what they say and what is true is so yawning anyone else would regard their utterances as bare-faced lies.

This reminds me of the members of the so-called House Freedom Caucus. They’re currently in thrall to the Insult Comedian but *they* believe their own rhetoric. They hate Hillary Clinton and she was Secretary of State when Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi happened. Therefore she must be guilty of some sort of crime. And don’t forget those emails.

One of the most obnoxious and deeply stupid members of the Freedom Caucus is Ohio’s Jim Jordan. He’s gotten himself in a spot of bother over accusations that, as an assistant wresting coach at Ohio State, he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse by the team doctor. Jordan has denied the allegations but I’m skeptical. This is a man who lies, or fantasizes in the sense described by Will Hutton, every day. The president* insists he’s a good man who’s being lied about. That means, of course, that he did it.

There are some calls for a Congressional ethics inquiry but that’s unlikely. The activity occurred long before Jordan was elected to the House. I am, however, enjoying this sanctimonious investigator being hoist on his own petard. The dotard who watches teevee at the White House probably doesn’t know the word petard. Look it up, dude.

Jordan’s inaction in the face of evil makes him a third-rate Joe Paterno to Dr. Richard Strauss’ Jerry Sandusky. He’s not as culpable as Paterno because he wasn’t head coach BUT his moral responsibility is the same. Inaction often speaks louder than words.

Jordan will continue to denounce and deny the allegations. I’m sure he believes his story because he’s certain of his own rectitude.  To paraphrase the immortal words of Difford and Tilbrook, the truth is NOT his middle name:

 

Moderate Republicans Always Cave

The vote spread in the Senate is tantalizing. The GOP has a two vote margin, one if you don’t count John McCain. Defeating a Trump Supreme Court nominee seems doable IF the two Republican Senators who are on the record as pro-choice vote against a nominee. Don’t hold your breath: moderate Republicans always cave.

Yeah, I know, Collins and Murkowski voted against  ACA repeal but that’s an exception to the rule. Unless Trump picks a nominee as outlandish as his twitter feed, they’ll vote the party line. One reason I expect a smooth and genial Gorsuch/Roberts-type nominee is who vetted the potential Supremes for the Trumpers:

Leonard Leo — the anti-abortion Federalist Society executive vice president currently on leave to advise the President on Supreme Court nominees, and the originator of Trump’s campaign-era list of potential nominees — has been careful to note that names on the list have not taken a public stance on abortion.

“None of the people who are being talked about now in the public space in the media are people who have a clear position on Roe v. Wade,” he said, as quoted by the Washington Free Beacon.

The right has these things down to a science. They’ve been honing their craft since the Robert Bork was, well, borked by the Senate. They tend to pick nominees who are rational on the outside but stone cold wingnuts on the inside. It’s one reason they prefer to nominate federal judges because they’re not out there writing inflammatory articles. The Gorsuch nomination proved this is one area in which Trumpism hasn’t dumbed down the GOP.

Senator Collins is making reassuring noises about how she wouldn’t support a nominee who “demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade.” But she’s also convinced that neither Roberts nor Gorsuch would vote to overrule it. That naive notion seems to be based on her belief that they’re “nice guys” and that “nice” Neil Gorsuch wrote a book about stare decisis:

“I had a very long discussion with Justice Gorsuch in my office and he pointed out to me that he is a co-author of a whole book on precedent,” she said. “So someone who devotes that much time to writing a book on precedent, I think understands how important a principle that is in our judicial system.”

Collins is willing to be hoodwinked by private assurances when the Court overruled several longstanding precedents this term:

Liberals leading the charge against Mr. Trump’s potential picks quickly dismissed Ms. Collins’s remarks, suggesting that the senator was either being hoodwinked or knowingly obfuscating her position. They pointed to court decisions as recently as last week — when the justices overturned a four-decade-old precedent in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to deal a blow to organized labor — in which it reversed earlier rulings.

“This proves how flimsy Collins’ pro-Roe position is,” Brian Fallon, a longtime Democratic operative whose organization, Demand Justice, is helping organize opposition to potential nominees, wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning, referring to Ms. Collins’s comments on Mr. Gorsuch. “She is perfectly happy to let herself be suckered based on phony assurances about ‘precedent.’

Repeat after me: moderate Republicans always cave. The moderate to conservative red state Democratic Senators up for re-election this year have NO incentive to die on the SCOTUS hill unless Collins and Murkowski break with their party. It’s hard to imagine the most vulnerable Dem, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, voting against a conservative court pick in any event. He was elected because he ran in a presidential election year and had an appalling opponent. Conservative Democrats *usually* cave on Republican Supreme Court nominees, after all.

There is no path to defeat a Trump nominee unless Collins and Murkowski announce their opposition early and often. Otherwise the red state Democrats will cave since they’re already running scared. That, too, could hurt their campaigns by flattening out enthusiasm among liberals. There *are* red state liberals: I’m one of them

Of particular interest to me is how Alabama’s Doug Jones comes down on this issue. He has to run again in two years BUT he’s a rather learned lawyer who has surely thought about the implications of replacing Kennedy with a hardcore conservative. There’s no incentive for him to do the right thing if Collins and Murkowski cave.

The best case scenario is for the vote to be delayed until after the election. Given the nuking of the filibuster on SCOTUS votes, I’m not sure how this can be accomplished. I know for certain that Chinless Mitch does not give a shit about the so-called McConnell rule. He could care less about accusations of cynicism: he’s cynical and damn proud of it.

I agree with Larry Tribe and Cory Booker that Trump should not be allowed to appoint a Justice who might rule on issues involving the Mueller probe. I have my doubts that such considerations will move any GOP votes since some of them are working to destroy the investigation. Besides, a prospective nominee could theoretically defuse that issue by promising to recuse themselves. That’s only likely to happen if they think they’re going to lose. Here’s how Jessie Jackson might have phrased it in his prime: If you’re going to lose, defuse and recuse.

I remain committed to fighting the nomination, but Josh Marshall presented some contrary views at TPM that are worth considering. The one upside to the political corner Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has painted us into is that  GOP money is flowing from House to Senate races. That helps Democratic odds of retaking the House but the Senate was always trickier given the map.

Anything can happen and a few months is a lifetime in politics. But one should never forget: moderate Republicans always cave.

On Our Own Now: Justice Kennedy Exits, Stage Right

I planned to write about the McConnell Court after the appalling decision in the Muslim ban case, which featured an off-hand reversal of the infamous Korematsu ruling. I hadn’t planned to write about Anthony Kennedy but then the news cycle went berserk and my plans changed.

Liberal twitter was on suicide watch after Kennedy’s announcement. There was fear in the virtual air. Kennedy *was* a swing vote on some issues that matter to liberals: abortion, guns, and gay rights. BUT he was also a conservative Reagan appointee who voted with right-wing justices in 13 out of 13 5-4 decisions this term.

The great Dahlia Lithwick wrote one of the best pieces about Kennedy’s exit, stage right:

It was always more fan fiction than reality that Justice Anthony Kennedy was a moderate centrist. Democrats liked to soothe themselves with the story that Kennedy was a moderate because he’d provided the fifth vote to support continued affirmative action, reproductive rights, and gay rights and had strung the left along with the tantalizing promise of someday finding an unconstitutional political gerrymander. But we always knew that Kennedy was a conservative, indeed a very conservative conservative. Recall that in the famous study done in 2008 by Richard Posner and William Landes, “Four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the Supreme Court since the time of Franklin Roosevelt, including [John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito, are currently sitting on the bench today.” And Kennedy? He was ranked in that study as the 10th most conservative justice in the past century.

To the extent we wrote paeans to Kennedy, it was for his occasional defections in areas that materially affect the lives of millions of people—women, minorities, LGBTQ couples, voters, Guantanamo detainees. And to be sure, each of those votes was well worth it. But we knew that for each such vote, there was a Bush v. Gore, a Citizens United, a Shelby County.

Kennedy’s opinions this term reflected an exhaustion with the law and the court that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s 81 years old and ready to sit back and do whatever retired Supremes do. We should have never regarded him as a legal savior of sorts. We’re on our own now.

I am not optimistic about the chances of defeating Trump’s next nominee BUT it’s a battle well-worth waging. The filibuster was nuked for SCOTUS nominees during the Gorsuch confirmation process BUT the GOP majority is nominally 51-49 but actually 50-49 because of John McCain’s illness. I am not optimistic about rhetorically pro-choice Senators Collins and Murkowski voting NO since Republican moderates almost always cave. Jeff Flake has made noises about holding up judicial nominees until McConnell allows a vote on tariffs but it’s unclear if that would apply to Kennedy’s soon-to-be vacated seat. Besides, Flake has been all hat and no cattle in his opposition to the Orange menace. We’re on our own now.

Having said that, Senate Democrats owe their base a fierce fight over this nomination. The future of Roe v. Wade is at stake. Overruling that 45 year-old precedent will NOT automatically render abortion illegal nationally, BUT it would allow states to do so. I expect the Gret Stet of Louisiana to be one of the early entrants in the odious race to abolish abortion. Louisiana Republicans have been working over-time to make Democrat John Bel Edwards a one-term Governor and a Roe reversal would hand them a cudgel. Edwards is rhetorically  pro-life and, like Justice Kennedy, has supported restrictions. But Governor Edwards would have to deal with an enraged Democratic base if he signed a bill banning all abortions. I somehow doubt he views that prospect with anything but foreboding. He needs Gret Stet liberals if he is to be re-elected. It will be a major test of coalition politics here in my backyard. Stay tuned.

Kennedy’s exit-stage right-is a reminder to liberals that we should stop looking for saviors. There’s no deus ex machina that’s going to drop from the sky and save us from the Trumper horde. We have to do it ourselves at the ballot box. There remains an excellent chance to flip the House but control of the Senate is up in the air despite the GOP’s narrow margin. It’s a tough map for Democrats, which is why everyone needs to forget about 2020 and focus on state and congressional elections. We on our own now.

Like many, I had hoped that Anthony Kennedy’s personal qualities would make him loath to allow the loathsome Insult Comedian to appoint his successor. Kennedy is famous for using words like dignity and respect in his opinions. Ain’t nobody less dignified or more disrespectful than Donald Trump who has already made the Kennedy retirement about himself. Dahlia Lithwick, once again, summed up my feelings on this point:

Many of us predicted that Kennedy would not allow Trump to replace him with someone who would dismantle his legacy. We were wrong. Many of us believed that a lifelong devotee of dignity, civility, and the rule of law would not want his work tarnished by a president who routinely attacks individual judges and the very notion of an independent judiciary. We were wrong. That two of Anthony Kennedy’s last judicial acts included a letter that opened “My dear Mr. President” and a vote to grant that same president a virtual blank check on the national security front certainly suggests that nothing about a president who liesbullies, and destabilizes the rule of law was any kind of real impediment to Kennedy’s departure.

2018 is the most important off-year election in the history of the Republic. It’s a chance to check the wild excesses of the executive and legislative branches.  Organize and vote like your life depends on it.

We’re on our own now.

INSTANT UPDATE: In the least surprising development ever, Jeff Flake has announced that he won’t put a hold on a Supreme Court nominee.

We’re still on our own.

You Say Jungle Primary, I Say Open Primary

There’s even a third alternative used to describe electoral systems such as California and the Gret Stet of Louisiana: top two. I prefer open but hate the system itself. It led to much advance agita about yesterday’s election in California. There is rare good news: Democrats were NOT locked out of any Congressional primaries. A collective sigh of relief was heaved, otherwise we might have hurled.

I admit that I was surprised when California adopted an open primary system via ballot initiative in 2011. No state should emulate Gret Stet politics but they did. At least the California lege can pass a budget, which ours cannot do as I pointed out on the tweeter tube:

The premise of the open/jungle/top two primary is that the role of political parties should be limited. It’s a deeply silly goo-goo notion. Repeat after me: You can’t take politics out of politics. It’s the system that gave Louisiana the run-off from hell in 1991: the Charming Crook versus the Kreepy Klansman. Mercifully, things turned out well yesterday despite this goofy system. The best way to check the Kaiser of Chaos is to retake the House and unleash the subpoena power. Then Scott Pruitt will really have to go to the mattresses.

The teevee punditocracy insist on calling the open/top two system the jungle primary. It has the virtue of being dramatic, it certainly beats the hell out of a *fourth* term of art: non-partisan blanket primary. I hate to be a wet blanket but that sounds like a dull and wonky slumber party.

Jungle primary is a meaningless term that must have been dreamt up by someone who watched too many Tarzan movies on teevee as a kid. I watched a few of those fakakta flicks on TCM recently and I cannot decide if they’re from hunger or campy fun. Tarzan even fights the Nazis in a couple of war-time entries. Tarzan good, Nazis bad.

The news from New Jersey was also pretty darn good. Democrats have an excellent chance to flip four seats held by the GOP. There’s even a rising star in the bunch:  former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill who’s also a graduate of the Naval Academy.

It was a another good night for Democrats. Turn-out was good and the enthusiasm gap was visible; something the inside the beltway pundit class continues to have a hard time spotting. I think Nate Silver nailed it:

They’d rather beat the drums for jungle primaries. You say jungle primary, I say open primary. Let’s call the whole thing off.

What would I do without Ira Gershwin? Or Ella and Louis for that matter: