ON THE RECORD. . .
“He was clearly loved by women. He was a guy’s guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms. I’m fascinated by Mussolini.” — Stephen Bannon, in an interview with the Spectator UISA.
“We should be able to elect a box of hammers in this district. If we’re losing here, you can bet there is a Democratic wave coming.” — Veteran Republican consultant Mike Murphy on the Pennsylvania special election.
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you. -- Former CIA Director John O. Brennan@JohnBrennan
Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr Putin. -- Ret Four Star US Army Genera Barry R McCaffrey
“When you are innocent… act like it. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.” -- Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) urging Trump and his lawyer to let Mueller"s probe continue unimpeded.
“I think one of the really sad realizations over the last year is not what kind of a president Donald Trump turns out to be — I think it was all too predictable — but rather, how many members of Congress would be unwilling to stand up to him, and more than that, would be completely willing to carry water for him. That is a very sad realization. I did not expect that. I thought there would be more Jeff Flakes, more John McCains, more Bob Corkers.” — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
“Here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to go out on a limb. The president has calculated now — and I think it’s true — is the reaction from the Republicans. He is going to fire Robert Mueller. And you know what’s going to happen? Nothing. That’s what’s going to happen. There will be no response from Republican leadership, from Congress. He is now going about — the reason to fire [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe], the reason to deny him his retirement is he has to discredit him. And he has to systematically discredit everybody who’s involved in this Russia investigation. And he has now seen that he can do these things without any recourse. The Congress is not going to reign him in.” -- Republican strategist Rick Tyler on MSNBC
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.” - Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.” —Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, explaining to friends why he quit his job as a Fox News analyst.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.” --Sen. John McCain, after Trump told reporters that he had congratulated Putin on his recent election.
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Andy Borowitz: N.R.A. Proposes Having Second Armed Teacher in Every Classroom to Stop First Armed Teacher from Misfiring
Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.
“Had there been a second armed teacher in the classroom to shoot the first armed teacher, this regrettable incident would never have occurred,” Wayne LaPierre said. “The only thing that stops a bad teacher with a gun is a good teacher with a gun.”
The N.R.A. executive vice-president said, “In a perfect world, you would have a third armed teacher, in case the second one messes up, but right now I’d settle for two.”
He blamed anti-gun activists for blocking measures that would allow multiple teachers with guns to shoot at one another and thus keep the nation’s classrooms safe. “It’s time to stop the madness,” he said. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/
2. Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom
The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.
In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/stormy-daniels--not-robert-mueller--might-spell-trumps-doom/2018/03/19/8ba6c58a-2b95-11e8-8ad6-fbc50284fce8_story.html
3. Insiders See Democratic House Gains of 30-45 seats
Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.
Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed. The attitudinal evidence begins with national polling.
President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has settled into a relatively narrow range, with between 39 percent and 42 percent of registered voters approving of his performance. Only 33 percent to 37 percent of respondents say that the country is headed in the right direction, another bit of evidence that reflects the extent of support for Trump and the Republican Party.
The current congressional generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have an 8- or 9-point advantage, a significant margin even if it is at least a couple of points below what Democrats would ideally want going into the midterms.
Taken together, these numbers paint a dangerous picture for the president and his party. http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/insiders-see-democratic-house-gains-30-45-seats
4. GOP Losing Ground In Republican-Held Districts
The latest NBC/WSJ poll finds Democrats with a 10-point lead in congressional preference, with Dems holding the advantage in enthusiasm and among independents, and with college-educated white women breaking heavily against the GOP. But there’s another ominous sign for Republicans in our poll: They’re losing ground on the congressional-preference question in GOP-held congressional districts.
Bottom line: Given that so much of the 2018 House battleground is in red/purple areas, the GOP being in single digits — or even — in Republican-held districts is a problem. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/it-s-primary-day-illinois-here-are-four-storylines-watch-n858176
5. Cabinet shakeups give Democrats a chance to block Trump picks
The White House was hoping for a smooth 2018 on Capitol Hill. Instead, President Donald Trump is staring at two bitter confirmation fights — and the possibility emboldened Democrats could block his new Cabinet nominees.
Trump’s decision to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department — and to elevate Pompeo’s controversial deputy Gina Haspel, who hasn’t previously been confirmed — has created a pair of high-stakes battles in the Senate, where the GOP enjoys a threadbare 51-49 advantage. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opposing both nominees and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent while he undergoes treatment for brain cancer, Trump will need Democrats to support his picks.
The looming struggle to get Cabinet replacements through underscores just how much the political calculus has changed for Trump since the early days of his administration, as Democrats look ahead to the midterms and throw off any semblance of cooperation with the White House. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/16/cabinet-shakeups-give-democrats-a-chance-block-trump-picks-466336
6. The DAILY GRILL
"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!" -- Trump on twitter
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”-- FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
“I think Governor Brown has done a very poor job running California. They have the highest taxes in the United States. The place is totally out of control.” -- Trump touring the touring border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa
On the same day that Trump toured his border wall prototypes in San Diego, a study released Tuesday by WalletHub <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-to-be-a-taxpayer/2416/> found that California has the eighth lowest effective tax rate at 8.77 percent. That’s less than Florida’s 8.83 percent and a little more than a percentage point higher than the 7.44 percent in legendarily low-tax Nevada. -- Times of San Diego
“We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S. (negotiating), but they do … they almost all do … and that’s how I know!” --Trump on twitter
The United States has a trade surplus with Canada. In 2016, the United States exported $12.5 billion more in goods and services than it imported from Canada, leading to a trade surplus, not a deficit. -- The Office of the United States Trade Representative
“The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis. He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, ‘Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.’” - Trump on Conor Lamb
Conor Lamb explicitly ran against the tax cuts, and he also criticized the GOP’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and said he backs Roe v. Wade despite his personal opposition to abortion. -- NBC News
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added… does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” -- Trump tweet
The president is ignoring one important fact: Robert S. Mueller III, who heads the team, is a longtime registered Republican. He was appointed by another Republican, Rod J. Rosenstein, whom Trump nominated as deputy attorney general. -- Washington Post
7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
Fox's Juan Williams: If you want to work in the Trump administration you have to start "in the Fox green room." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/15/foxs-juan-williams-if-you-want-work-trump-administration-you-have-start-fox-green-room/219659
Conservative media say students protesting gun violence can’t think for themselves. https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2018/03/15/conservative-media-say-students-protesting-gun-violence-can-t-think-themselves/219656
Alex Jones: Lesbians have just had a bad experience with men, and once they find a man they become very happy. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/15/alex-jones-lesbians-have-just-had-bad-experience-men-and-once-they-find-man-they-become-very-happy/219651
Trump’s pick for National Economic Council is a CNBC host who gives bad financial advice. https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2018/03/13/trump-s-pick-national-economic-council-cnbc-host-who-gives-bad-financial-advice/219619
Fox News contributor calls former President Barack Obama "clearly an enemy of Donald Trump." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/18/fox-news-contributor-calls-former-president-barack-obama-clearly-enemy-donald-trumps/219670
In a special appearance on Fox & Friends this morning that President Donald Trump promoted on Twitter, Fox News host Sean Hannity said there “never was any Trump-Russia collusion,” claimed that Hillary Clinton and top FBI and Justice Department officials should be investigated and prosecuted, and lashed out at the “fake news media.” The interview and Trump's tweets about it shed light on the feedback loop between the president and Fox -- a loop in which Trump cheers as his TV news propagandists play to and encourage his worst and most destructive impulses. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/03/19/sean-hannity-brought-his-propaganda-fox-friends-and-donald-trump-was-thrilled/219672
Fox's Brian Kilmeade defends Trump's attacks on the FBI and CIA: “He has every right to fight back." Kilmeade: "Or should you just sit there like a pin cushion and say I guess I will be railroaded right out of office?" https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/19/foxs-brian-kilmeade-defends-trumps-attacks-fbi-and-cia-he-has-every-right-fight-back/219671
Alex Jones defends the integrity of Russia’s elections: Putin can't be a dictator because he won 76 percent of the vote. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/20/alex-jones-defends-integrity-russia-s-elections-putin-cant-be-dictator-because-he-won-76-percent/219686
Fox's Greg Gutfeld: "Nobody cares about" reports that Trump connected data firm Cambridge Analytica blackmailed politicians with prostitutes. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/03/20/foxs-greg-gutfeld-nobody-cares-about-reports-trump-connected-data-firm-cambridge-analytica/219690
8. From the Late Shows
Anderson Cooper White House Turmoil Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/V48t_A5fPVw
Weekend Update on Andrew McCabe's Firing - SNL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa8-lElti1E
Jimmy Kimmel’s Shocking Discovery About Trump Merchandise: https://youtu.be/gVh_wGJWn3c
Trump Lies to Trudeau, Fills His Staff with Loyalists: A Closer Look: https://youtu.be/0FQfThSU11E
Fox News Gets a New Slogan - The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper: https://youtu.be/L3gXRE6aFJ8
Rex & Mike & Conor & Teens: Full Frontal w/ Semantha Bee: https://youtu.be/1dmNlsZhTUQ
Mike Pence: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): https://youtu.be/rs2RlZQVXBU
9. Late Night Jokes for Dems
President Trump said today that he and Vladimir Putin will probably get together in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race. Oh, sorry, I misread that — it's to race into each other's arms. -- Seth Meyers
When asked today if the Russian election was free and fair, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, quote, "We're focused on our elections. We don't get to dictate how other countries operate." "Ha, ha! Good one," said Iraq. -- Seth Meyers
President Trump today met with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia at the White House. The prince asked for Trump's help fighting terrorism, and Trump asked for three wishes. -- Seth Meyers
According to reports, adult film star Stormy Daniels took a polygraph test in 2011 about her relationship with President Trump, and the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth about their affair. And we know Trump is lying because we can hear him. -- Seth Meyers
Establishing relationships with friendly foreign leaders is important for Trump right now, because he needs to build a network of countries he can flee to when the time comes. -- Jimmy Kimmel
The Russia-collusia-palooza continues to get bigger every day. The president's legal team is working overtime to help him avoid a lengthy interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to one of his advisers, Trump's lawyers are in crunch time right now. Which is funny, because “crunch time” is also what they call it when an extra crispy bucket of KFC arrives at the White House. -- Jimmy Kimmel
As the Russia investigation moves forward, Trump and his legal team have submitted documents in writing in the hopes that Trump's interview under oath will be shorter. Sources say Trump's attorneys are worried he would be vulnerable in a long interview. It's never a good sign when your attorneys are like, "You need to meet us halfway here because my client can't go 10 minutes without lying." -- James Corden
Speaking of Trump's lawyers, Trump has hired a new attorney for his defense team. Trump's newest legal counsel is a man named Joseph diGenova, who has frequently and vocally pushed the conspiracy theory that the FBI is plotting to frame the president. Now, I personally don't think any of that is true. But let's hope so! -- James Corden
Trump’s son Donald Jr. is making headlines after it was reported that he had an affair with singer Aubrey O’Day, who was a contestant his father’s show "Celebrity Apprentice.” So it turns out, on "The Apprentice" there was something even worse than getting fired. -- James Corden
A former Playboy Playmate named Karen McDougal says she had an affair with Trump and now she's suing him. You know things are crazy when you hear the president is being sued by a porn star and people go, "Which one?" -- Jimmy Fallon
Earlier today, President Trump called Vladimir Putin and congratulated him on his presidential win. Coincidentally, Trump made the same call to Putin on Nov. 9, 2016. -- Conan O’Brien
10. Paul Manafort Takes Another Crack At Challenging Robert Mueller's Appointment As Special Counsel
Paul Manafort “asked a judge to dismiss the criminal case filed against him in federal court in Washington, DC, arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was invalid and that Mueller had exceeded the scope of his authority.
This is the second time that Manafort has attempted to challenge the lawfulness of Mueller’s appointment last year as special counsel as well as the reach of the special counsel’s investigation. Manafort is separately pursuing a civil lawsuit that raises the same arguments. https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/paul-manafort-takes-another-crack-at-challenging-robert
11. Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach
The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.
A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorization in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election
12. Inside Russia’s Network of Bots and Trolls -- VIDEO
This video explains how bots and trolls infiltrate social media platforms and influence U.S. elections. https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000005414346/how-russian-bots-and-trolls-invade-our-lives-and-elections.html
13. Andy Borowitz: The End Of Trump (revisited) -- VIDEO
Andy Borowitz discusses Nazis, Donald Trump and impeachment, and starting his own movement, élitism. http://video.newyorker.com/watch/the-new-yorker-festival-andy-borowitz-the-end-of-trump
14. Judge rejects Trump bid to dismiss suit from woman alleging sexual advances
A New York judge has rejected a bid by President Donald Trump to dismiss a lawsuit relating to his alleged groping of Summer Zervos, a contestant on “The Apprentice,” in 2007.
Lawyers for Trump argued that he was immune from the suit in state court while serving as president, but Judge Jennifer Schechter ruled on Tuesday that there was “absolutely no authority” to justify tossing out litigation over “unofficial conduct.”
“No one is above the law,” Schechter wrote in her 18-page decision. “Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility.” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/20/trump-summer-zervos-lawsuit-474026
1. Jeffrey Toobin: Donald Trump and the Craven Firing of Andrew McCabe
If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.
Andrew McCabe, who turned fifty on Sunday, will be fine as he moves to the next stop in his career. The demeaning and unfair act that ended his law-enforcement career will be seen, properly, as a badge of honor. Still, this is far from a great day for the men and women of the F.B.I., who now know that they serve at the sufferance of unethical men who think that telling the truth amounts to “sanctimony.” https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trump-and-the-craven-firing-of-andrew-mccabe
2. Chris Hayes: What ‘Law and Order’ Means to Trump
Donald Trump is not subtle. While normal political language functions through implication and indirection, Mr. Trump luxuriates in saying the quiet part loud. But in doing so, Mr. Trump exposes what drives the politics of the movement he commands. That is most evident in the way he talks about crime and punishment.
A political movement that rails against “immigrant crime” while defending alleged abusers and child molesters is one that has stopped pretending to have any universalist aspirations. The president’s moral framework springs from an American tradition of cultivating fear and contempt among its white citizens against immigrants, indigenous people and people of color, who are placed on the other side of “the law.” It’s a practice that has taken on new strength at a time when many white people fear they may be outnumbered, outvoted and out of time.
This is the opposite of what we like to tell ourselves is the traditional American civic creed: one symbolized by a blindfolded Lady Justice who applies the law without fear or favor to whoever may come before her. It is one of Mr. Trump’s most insidious victories that he has given his supporters permission to drop any pretense of insisting that their actions and views should conform to this principle.
If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/opinion/sunday/chris-hayes-trump-law-order.html
3. Matt Bai: The Artifice of the Deal
Remember that time, way back about two weeks ago, when President Trump berated leaders of his own party, in front of a room full of cameras, for being afraid of the NRA, and he vowed to pass a bipartisan bill that would make it harder for kids to get assault rifles?
Yeah, well, in case you missed the latest — which wouldn’t have been hard, since the one-day story was instantly eclipsed by a Cabinet shakeup and a special election — that whole thing went away Monday with a mumbled “never mind” from the White House.
We’re still letting this president perform for the cameras as if he were actually planning to govern, without giving nearly as much attention to what happens on the issue once the cameras are gone. We’re still allowing ourselves to be carried along by one dramatic turn after another, because Trump knows instinctively that if he keeps us moving today, we won’t have time to dwell on whatever he promised yesterday.
Trump was dead right about our politics over the years — too much of it became a tired kind of stagecraft. But that kind of stagecraft was almost always designed to sell an agenda.
And that’s the distinction between a serious politician and a con artist. The latter only sells himself. https://www.yahoo.com/news/the-artifice-of-the-deal-090054747.html
4. Rhonda Garelick: Stormy Daniels Is the Anti-Trump He’s finally met his match.
Behold: Out from the chaos, lies, secrets, and misdirection of the Trump administration has emerged a figure of bracing honesty, clarity of purpose, even purity: Stormy Daniels — perhaps the one adversary who could take down this presidency.
If Trump thought Daniels would just ride along prettily until he was done with her, and then retreat into silence, Trump misjudged the situation. Daniels, a champion equestrian, does not enjoy being a passive passenger. “I was fine with saying nothing. But I am not fine with being bullied into lying, or being bullied at all,” she told Rolling Stone. And so, Stormy defiantly refused to remain the silent commodity or secret indulgence of a rich man. In effect, she jumped out of that Cadillac golf cart. What’s more, Daniels would never have been one to be muzzled about a sexual encounter. Sex for her is not a shameful secret.
Stormy Daniels won’t allow herself to be turned into a secret, an object, a lying toady, or a golf joke. In Daniels, Trump has more than met his match. Like him, she wields the power of theater, but unlike him, she seems to have nothing to hide. In her salty talk (she told In Touch magazine she could easily describe Trump’s “junk”), her wit, her business sense, and most of all her refusal to be quiet and go away, there’s a brash feminism to Daniels. She resists even the high-minded distaste of the many mainstream journalists who insist that her story is secondary to matters of campaign finance law or legal agreements. (We’ll see what Anderson Cooper does with her soon.)
Daniels knows that she’s the story. That everyone is interested in her and all the dirty details, whether they admit it or not. She shares that kind of assured narcissism and feel for the carnivalesque with Trump. And this is why Daniels may be the only gladiator who has a chance right now in the ring with him.
Un-hushable, un-secret, and unashamed, Stormy Daniels — gloriously authentic for all her inauthenticity — may yet be the ray of sunlight we need, the one who exposes enough of Trump’s iniquity for the tide to turn. An antidote. The anti-Trump. https://www.thecut.com/2018/03/stormy-daniels-is-the-antidonald-trump.html
5. Paul Waldman: 'You're looking handsome, Larry': How the reality TV president found the perfect idiot to be his chief economic adviser
In Larry Kudlow, Trump has really outdone himself. The man he's replacing, Gary Cohn, wasn't a trained economist, but at least Cohn didn't have such a comprehensive record of public idiocy. Do you think I exaggerate? Let's take a little tour around Kudlow's economic musings.
A fervent supply-sider, Kudlow never wavers from the conviction that not only is there no ill that cannot be fixed by a healthy tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, as long as you stick to that plan then nothing can go wrong. "There is no recession coming," he declared in December 2007. "The Bush boom is alive and well." We remember what happened right after, but by the next July, with the world plunging into what would come to be known as the Great Recession, Kudlow was convinced that people didn't understand just how great the economy was doing. "We are in a mental recession, not an actual recession," he insisted.
Everyone can be wrong now and then, but few people are wrong as often as Kudlow. "There is no question," he wrote in 1993, "that President Clinton's across-the-board tax increases ... will throw a wet blanket over the recovery and depress the economy's long-run potential to grow." When a genuine boom ensued, Kudlow knew exactly what had occurred. "I've always believed the 1990s were Ronald Reagan's third term," he wrote later.
Larry Kudlow certainly knows how to do that, and he'll make a perfect addition to the team. "I'm really at a point," Trump said not long before offering Kudlow the job, "where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want." You bet he is. http://theweek.com/articles/760937/youre-looking-handsome-larry-how-reality-tv-president-found-perfect-idiot-chief-economic-adviser
6. David Faris: Pennsylvania's special election is an urgent warning sign for the GOP
The results of Tuesday's Pennsylvania special election should be an unbearably loud fire alarm for national Republicans about the state of public dissatisfaction with their party. If they aren't covering their ears and sprinting for the exits, they are making a fatal error.
Democrats should be elated. If Republicans aren't safe in PA-18, they aren't safe anywhere. Trump carried Pennsylvania's 18th district by 19.6 points, and last night's showing was a shocking 20-point swing away from the 2016 results. Republican turnout collapsed. If you take last night's results literally and seriously, they could put more than 120 Republican seats in play in November. While many of those districts will have strong, popular incumbents and other factors that will make them far out of reach for Democrats, Lamb's strong showing must be terrifying for Republican strategists. Even 10 or 20 additional winnable districts for the Democrats could have a transformative effect on their chances of taking over the House.
PA-18 isn't some strange Obama-Trump situation either, where a formerly competitive district is reverting to a pre-2016 status quo. Pennsylvania's 18th went deep red during the Bush administration and has been a layup for the national party ever since. While he wasn't a great candidate, Saccone was scandal-free, had aligned himself closely with the Trump administration's positions, boasted the full (if panicked) support of the national party, and was rewarded with his own personal rally headlined by the president himself over the weekend. If that's not enough to put an overwhelmingly red district away for the GOP, there is really no salvaging Paul Ryan's sordid majority. Sure, Saccone's fundraising was mediocre, but it might be time for the national GOP to wonder whether that was the candidate's fault or Trump's. http://theweek.com/articles/760370/pennsylvanias-special-election-urgent-warning-sign-gop
7. Matthew Walther: President Trump's exuberant humiliation of Rex
Trump's administration is haunted by the ghost of Stephen Bannon. The spirit cannot be exorcised. What was conceived in chaos, dedicated to no principle save that of vindictiveness and intrigue for their own sakes, cannot be governed by any maxims of prudence or moderation. Cooler heads, assuming they can still be found, will never prevail. Bannon's departure last summer, as he seems himself to have recognized, was an irrelevance. The White House was his before the inauguration and will remain so until Trump's successor succeeds to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
This, rather than negligence or incompetence, explains why Tillerson learned of his firing from a tweet. It was not, as some have called it, an "unceremonious" dismissal. The president's tweet was a carefully staged, maximally evocative gesture of theatrical cruelty. It was meant to humiliate, and in this aim it seems very much to have succeeded. Meanwhile it will have no significant political consequences. It's a curious thing that on virtually every issue about which Tillerson is said to disagree with the president, with the possible exception of the decision to convene a summit with the leadership of North Korea, the latter enjoys the full support of the Republican establishment, including those who opposed his candidacy.
Trump's long campaign for the presidency was an unceasing exercise in self-indulgent viciousness. Why would we expect his presidency, conducted via Twitter from the seraglios of Mar-a-Lago in between bites of fast-food hamburgers, to be different? http://theweek.com/articles/760651/president-trumps-exuberant-humiliation-rex-tillerson
8. Lili Loofbourow: Stormy Daniels is crushing President Trump at his own game
The entire Trump playbook — imply that an enemy's motives are shameful, dishonest, and not what they claim — falls apart when they have no interest in seeming better than they are. Daniels is open about the fact that her motive is money. Just as Trump has always been. He's every bit as flummoxed by her shamelessness as others are by his. Rumors that Trump's attorney Michael Cohen might try to quash Daniels' upcoming interview with 60 Minutes smack of desperation (one is reminded, in fact, of Trump's opponents flailing in the primaries).
If shamelessness is Trump's weapon of choice, it's also his Achilles heel. Stormy Daniels won't let this story drop, she's smart enough to hire great lawyers, and she's set up a legal conundrum that lands the president in a world of trouble no matter how he responds.
The trouble with Trump's antics is that they only work if his is the only game in town. It's easy to imagine Stormy Daniels rolling her eyes at the amateurishness of his act. When it comes to America's rogues' gallery, the porn star will always trump the reality star.
That might deliver poetic justice, or even, if this suit works, the real thing. http://theweek.com/articles/760471/stormy-daniels-crushing-president-trump-game
9. Paul Krugman: Voters May Be Wising Up
There’s no mystery about the Republican agenda. For at least the past 40 years, the G.O.P.’s central policy goal has been upward redistribution of income: lower taxes for the wealthy, big cuts in programs that help the poor and the middle class. We’ve seen that agenda at work in the policies of every Republican president from Reagan to Trump, every budget proposal from party stars like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.
This policy agenda is, however, deeply unpopular. Only small minorities of voters favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; even smaller minorities favor cuts in major social programs. So how does the G.O.P. stay politically competitive? The answer is that the party has mastered the tactics of bait and switch: pretending to stand for one thing, then doing something quite different in office.
But if special elections in the Trump era are any indication, voters are wising up. Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate in a deep-red Pennsylvania congressional district that Trump won by almost 20 points, tried not one, not two, but three different bait-and-switch strategies. And on Tuesday he still seems to have suffered a hair-thin defeat. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/opinion/pennsylvania-election-voters.html
10. Damon Linker: The last, dying gasp of Republican America
The partisan gerrymandering is impossible to justify as anything other than an attempt by Republicans to rig the system in their own favor. And that's how the GOP may well have set up the conditions of its own undoing.
If Republicans wanted to maximize the chance of getting away with their power grab, they would govern with humility and restraint, seeking compromise and conciliation whenever possible, realizing that the party's raw political strength lacks a firm foundation in public opinion. Instead, the president and his party have actively antagonized Democratic voters from day one, pushing a hard-right agenda, attempting to pass it without any votes from the other side of the aisle, issuing sweeping executive orders, and making an endless series of public statements that seem intended to keep liberals and progressives in a constant state of fury against the president and his party.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that in a country where the Republican presidential nominee has managed to prevail in the popular vote just oncesince 1988 and the sitting president appears permanently stuck below 42 percent approval, his party has decided to embrace flagrant cheating. But that doesn't mean that the voters are going to accept it indefinitely. A tidal wave is coming. When it arrives next November, Republicans may find they've lost the last advantage they had in their effort to forestall electoral reality.
The GOP has become a minority party. And sooner or later, minority parties lose. http://theweek.com/articles/761221/last-dying-gasp-republican-america
11. Jacob Heilbrunn: No, Really, This Is Normal. Did You Forget Bush-Cheney?
Trump appears to be embarking upon a restoration of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s hard-line doctrines, which George W. Bush dutifully mouthed. It is no accident that everyone from William Kristol to the Wall Street Journal editorial page is making approving noises about Trump’s new picks: “Mr. Pompeo has the advantage,” the Journal noted on March 14, “of sharing Mr. Trump’s more hawkish instincts on Iran and North Korea in particular.” Far from representing an aberration, Trump represents the logical culmination of the longstanding Republican tradition of foreign policy unilateralism.
During the Bush administration, there was an alliance between the neocons, who espoused the promotion of democracy by regime change, and outright nationalists such as Cheney and Bolton, who had zero interest in democracy promotion and simply wanted to pulverize any upstart nations that might pose a threat to the supremacy of American might. Today, under Trump, it is this latter, dark vision that is emerging triumphant. Maybe the only thing worse than Trump the isolationist is Trump the interventionist. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/16/no-really-this-is-normal-did-you-forget-bush-cheney-217647
12. Maureen Dowd: Trump, Flush With Power
This was the week Donald Trump became president.
Or at least the week he became the president we were always expecting. He ceased bothering to pretend that he was ever going to do the job in any normal sense of the word. He decided to totally own the whole, entire joke that he is.
He started hiring people right off TV. He extended his tiny fingers into his giant flat screen, “Purple Rose of Cairo”-style, and dragged cable conservatives directly into the administration.
We’ve always known Trump makes stuff up. But now he has stopped bothering to pretend that he doesn’t. Truthful hyperbole is out. Outlandish fabrication is in. Trump began bragging to Republicans at a private fund-raiser in St. Louis Wednesday: Oh, get a load of this trade stuff I made up to outfox that fox, Justin Trudeau. I felt bad doing it to such a nice, good-looking guy. But it’s hilarious!
He is no longer bothering to pretend that governing involves a learning curve. Now he finds it’s clever to be a fabulist, concocting phony facts about the trade deficit when talking to the Canadian prime minister — one of our closest allies — or inventing a story for donors about how Japanese officials test American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet up to see which ones dent.
The president thinks he’s navigating to his true north while the rest of the world thinks he’s headed due south.
President Trump is doing it his way now. But soon, he’ll be doing it Mueller’s way. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/opinion/sunday/trump-fox-news-dowd.html
13. Albert A. Hunt: There's a Blamer-in-Chief in the Oval Office
Trump never accepts responsibility for anything. Reflecting the lessons he learned decades ago from his fixer-lawyer-mentor Roy Cohn, his approach is always to stay on the offensive, as if any sign of contrition amounts to an unacceptable show of weakness. At some stage this tactic will threaten his already fragile presidency.
Trump's most dangerous evasion of presidential responsibility involves the investigation into possible connections between his campaign and Russian hackers who, according to a U.S. intelligence report, tried to help him win the 2016 election.
Trump started by blaming former President Barack Obama. Confronted with reports that a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer met secretly with his son and son-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton, he first lied about the purpose of the meeting. Then he blamed it on Obama's attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on the grounds that the Justice Department had approved a visa for one of the Russian attendees. More recently he has attacked his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for failing to hold Obama responsible for Russian election meddling.
If Americans believe that a president won't admit a mistake, "the public fears he will go on to make the same error again," said the presidential scholar Michael Beschloss. Acknowledging mistakes, by contrast, shows that a president is "human and learns from his shortcomings, all qualities the public finds attractive in a leader," Beschloss added. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-18/trump-is-the-white-house-blamer-in-chief
14. Michelle Goldberg: Trump’s High-Tech Dirty Tricksters
Whether or not Cambridge Analytica’s methodology works, the fact that the Trump campaign had a crew of high-tech dirty tricksters on its payroll is significant. We already know that Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange about finding and disseminating Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. We know that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has asked the company to turn over documents related to the Trump campaign.
At a minimum, we’ve learned that the Trump campaign’s vaunted social media program was built on deception. Shortly after the 2016 election, Forbes ran an article crediting Jared Kushner for his father-in-law’s shocking triumph. Thanks to digital tools, it said, the traditional presidential campaign was dead, “and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it.”
Cambridge Analytica’s corruption helps provide the missing piece in this story. If the Trump campaign had a social media advantage, one reason is that it hired a company that mined vast amounts of illicitly obtained data.
There’s a lesson here for our understanding of the Trump presidency. Trump and his lackeys have been waging their own sort of psychological warfare on the American majority that abhors them. On the one hand, they act like idiots. On the other, they won, which makes it seem as if they must possess some sort of occult genius. With each day, however, it’s clearer that the secret of Trump’s success is cheating. He, and those around him, don’t have to be better than their opponents because they’re willing to be so much worse. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/trump-cambridge-analytica-.html
15. Dean Obeidallah: Democrats' 2018 midterm hopes strengthened by decline of 'purity tests'
The old political cliche “Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in line” is nevertheless alive and well when it comes to the Democratic base. Many Democrats, including myself, still do need to be in love to be inspired politically. But what’s changed is that we no longer need a particular candidate to set our hearts a flutter. Rather, Democrats have begun to fall head over heels in love with the goal of defeating Donald Trump and his agenda. And to achieve that, it seems more and more Democrats may be willing to check progressive purity at the door in favor of progressive pragmatism.
Come 2020, I’m sure there will be fierce, passionate battles about over the progressive credentials of the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. And there should be. But for 2018, it’s looking more and more like Democrats think blocking Trump’s agenda in Congress is more important than finding the perfect person to run in every district. Republicans have experienced firsthand the successes of falling in line. The fact that Democrats may be co-opting this strategy should concern them most of all. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/democrats-2018-midterm-hopes-strengthened-decline-liberal-purity-tests-ncna857431
16. Cristian Farias: Mueller’s Interest in Obstruction Is Probably Just the Tip of the Iceberg
The word that’s been used and abused to describe this synergy between the Kremlin and the Trump camp is collusion, but Mueller has given us a better, more legally grounded term: conspiracy. Last month, Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager and a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, became the first person in Mueller’s crosshairs to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. This curious, catchall offense also appeared in the February indictment of 13 Russian trolls, all of whom were charged with “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”
Unlike collusion, which makes for good sound bites but not real cases, conspiracy has deep roots in American law. As independent journalist Marcy Wheeler has laid out, even Jared Kushner may be on the hook for it. If the last ten months or so of the Mueller investigation have shown us anything, it is the tangled web of lies and cover-ups the Trump campaign weaved to hide its dealings with Russia. Don’t be surprised if Mueller untangles yet more of this mess and presents us with more indictments against conspirators in the U.S. or abroad. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/muellers-obstruction-focus-is-likely-the-tip-of-the-iceberg.html
17. Damon Linker: Trump's maximal tribalism
Without fully grasping the consequences of his words and deeds, President Trump has done more than any previous president to advance a politics of sophistry and cynicism. It's a politics defined by the unrelenting effort to prove that every apparent act of virtue is in fact an example of something lower — of the very tribalism that motivates Trump's every public utterance and act.
If all politics is zero-sum tribalism, then the president's own zero-sum tribalism no longer seems quite so out of line. It can even seem normal. Which is no doubt one reason why he delights in tearing down the norms that call on us to put aside our self-interest, or to view our self-interest as reaching its ultimate fulfillment, in pursuit of the common good.
We dare not lose sight of the fact that this new normal is much lower than the one it replaces. Once we're no longer capable of recognizing that difference, the collapse in higher political ideals that Trump has helped to bring about will have passed beyond the point at which they can be easily repaired. And then all we'll be left with is gangland politics. http://theweek.com/articles/761735/trumps-maximal-tribalism
18. Paul Krugman: Trump and Trade and Zombies
Almost four decades have passed since Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously declared, “Of a sudden, the G.O.P. has become a party of ideas.” And his statement still holds true, with one modification: These days, Republicans are a party of zombie ideas — ideas that should have died long ago, yet still keep shambling along, eating politicians’ brains.
The most important of these zombies is the “supply side” insistence that cutting taxes on the rich reliably produces economic miracles, and conversely that raising taxes on the rich is a recipe for disaster. Faith in this doctrine survived the boom that followed Bill Clinton’s tax hikes, the lackluster recovery and eventual catastrophe that followed George W. Bush’s tax cuts, the debacle in Kansas, and more.
And Donald Trump’s selection of Larry Kudlow to head the National Economic Council confirms that the tax-cut zombie is undead and well. For Kudlow is a fervent believer in the infinite virtues of tax cuts, despite a track record of predictions based on that belief that, as New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait once wrote, “has elevated flamboyant wrongness to a form of performance art.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/donald-trump-trade-.html