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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Anti-Trump Manual Sounds Like Tea Party Guidelines

The Iron Law of Emulation is at work.  In 2009, liberals complained about astroturf protests at Democratic town halls, pointing out that the protesters had written guidelines.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:












— Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
— Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
— Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
Paul Sperry reports at The New York Post:
Organizing for Action, a group founded by former President Barack Obama and featured prominently on his new post-presidency website, is distributing a training manual to anti-Trump activists that advises them to bully GOP lawmakers into backing off support for repealing ObamaCare, curbing immigration from high-risk Islamic nations and building a border wall.
In a new Facebook post, OFA calls on activists to mobilize against Republicans from now until Feb. 26, when “representatives are going to be in their home districts.”
The protesters disrupted town halls earlier this month, including one held in Utah by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who was confronted by hundreds of angry demonstrators claiming to be his constituents.
The manual, published with OFA partner “Indivisible,” advises protesters to go into halls quietly so as not to raise alarms, and “grab seats at the front of the room but do not all sit together.” Rather, spread out in pairs to make it seem like the whole room opposes the Republican host’s positions. “This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.” It also urges them to ask “hostile” questions — while keeping “a firm hold on the mic” — and loudly boo the GOP politician if he isn’t “giving you real answers.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Anne Frank Center on Antisemitism and Trump

From the Anne Frank Center:
MR. PRESIDENT, YOUR TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE ACKNOWLEGMENT OF #Antisemitism TODAY IS NOT ENOUGH.
Statement of Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, on President Trump's acknowledgment of Antisemitism today:
“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

Iowa to the Right, Nevada to the Left

Thomas Beaumont writes at AP:
After decades as the crossroads of prairie populists and checkbook conservatives, Iowa has suddenly become solidly Republican like many of its Midwestern neighbors.
It was one of four states — along with Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire — that flipped to complete GOP control in the November election, but Iowa's rush of new legislation has been the most intense.
In an all-night session last week, Iowa lawmakers approved a bill similar to one enacted in Wisconsin six years ago that strips most public sector unions of long-held collective bargaining rights, including health insurance.

Jeff Orvis, a veteran northern Iowa high school teacher, said he sees the measure leaving permanent damage to Iowa's century-old reputation for quality schools, enshrined on the state's 2004 commemorative quarter: "Foundation in education."
"Now, I don't even see how Iowa is going to attract good teachers," said Jeff Orvis, a union representative from northern Iowa. "That's my biggest worry."
Jeff Singer writes at Daily Kos:
Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Nevada, a rare Democratic bright spot in 2016. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Hillary Clinton carried the Silver State 48-46, a drop from Barack Obama’s 52-46 win against Mitt Romney. However, Clinton’s narrow victory, thanks in no small part to the formidable get-out-the-vote machine built by retiring Sen. Harry Reid, helped Team Blue avenge its embarrassing loss of both chambers of the state legislature two years before. Democrats all but conceded the 2014 gubernatorial race against GOP incumbent Brian Sandoval, and uninspired Democratic voters largely stayed home; Team Red won a 27-15 majority in the Assembly, and an 11-10 edge in the Senate.
But 2016 was a complete reversal, with Democrats taking back a 27-15 Assembly majority and an 11-10 Senate edge. A few days later one Republican, state Sen. Patricia Farley, announced that she was becoming an independent and caucusing with the Democrats, giving her new allies a 12-9 majority. The entire Assembly is up every two years, while half the Senate was up in 2016 and the other half, including Farley, will be up in 2018.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Iran-Contra Redux

Megan Twohey and Scott Shan report at The New York Times:
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
...
The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.
But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.
“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”
Sounds an awful lot like Iran-Contra... 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Powerful Analysis of Trumpism

If some of you in this room are students of political philosophy, you know where this argument originates. This is a version of Thrasymachus’s argument in Plato’s Republic that justice is the advantage of the stronger and that injustice “if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.”
Substitute the words “truth” and “falsehood” for “justice” and “injustice,” and there you have the Trumpian view of the world. If I had to sum it up in a single sentence, it would be this: Truth is what you can get away with.
...
One of the more fascinating aspects of last year’s presidential campaign was the rise of a class of pundits I call the “TrumpXplainers.” For instance, Trump would give a speech or offer an answer in a debate that amounted to little more than a word jumble.
But rather than quote Trump, or point out that what he had said was grammatically and logically nonsensical, the TrumpXplainers would tell us what he had allegedly meant to say. They became our political semioticians, ascribing pattern and meaning to the rune-stones of Trump’s mind.
.
In his 1953 masterpiece, “The Captive Mind,” the Polish poet and dissident Czeslaw Milosz analyzed the psychological and intellectual pathways through which some of his former colleagues in Poland’s post-war Communist regime allowed themselves to be converted into ardent Stalinists. In none of the cases that Milosz analyzed was coercion the main reason for the conversion.
They wanted to believe. They were willing to adapt. They thought they could do more good from the inside. They convinced themselves that their former principles didn’t fit with the march of history, or that to hold fast to one’s beliefs was a sign of priggishness and pig-headedness. They felt that to reject the new order of things was to relegate themselves to irrelevance and oblivion. They mocked their former friends who refused to join the new order as morally vain reactionaries. They convinced themselves that, brutal and capricious as Stalinism might be, it couldn’t possibly be worse than the exploitative capitalism of the West.
I fear we are witnessing a similar process unfold among many conservative intellectuals on the right. It has been stunning to watch a movement that once believed in the benefits of free trade and free enterprise merrily give itself over to a champion of protectionism whose economic instincts recall the corporatism of 1930s Italy or 1950s Argentina. It is no less stunning to watch people once mocked Obama for being too soft on Russia suddenly discover the virtues of Trump’s “pragmatism” on the subject.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"You Are the Special People"

Darren Samuelsohn and Annie Karni report at Politico:
So, this is my real group,” Trump said at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, on November 18, according to the audio tape. “These are the people that came here in the beginning, when nobody knew what this monster was gonna turn out to be, right?”

He added: “I see all of you. I recognize, like 100 percent of you, just about.”
Trump had a packed schedule of meetings that weekend less than two weeks after the election. On the Saturday after the cocktail party, Trump met with Mitt Romney, Michelle Rhee, Betsy DeVos, Todd Ricketts, Bob Woodson, Lew Eisenberg and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. On Sunday, John Gray, Kris Kobach, Wilbur Ross, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Robert Johnson and David McCormick all schlepped out to Bedminster for meetings.
Trump often appears to want to include his friends in the decision-making process.
Turning to a longtime club member that night, he said: “We were just talking about who we [are] going to pick for the FCC, who [are] we going to pick for this, who we gonna accept -- boy, can you give me some recommendations?”
The supportive crowd ate it up as the relaxed Trump, in his element, gave them a close-up view of how he was setting up the government. “You are the special people,” he told the crowd of about 100 members, who mingled around a sushi station served by a waiter wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again” cap.

Meat Loaf and Beans

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says President Donald Trump made him order meatloaf when they dined together at the White House this week.
Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, joined Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

The Republican governor said while guest hosting a New York sports talk radio show Thursday that Trump pointed out the menu and told people to get whatever they want. Then he said he and Christie were going to have the meatloaf.
‘‘This is what it’s like to be with Trump,’’ Christie said. ‘‘He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’’’
There is a similar story about LBJ, who also liked to humiliate people.   In a 1995 issue of The Washington Post, Diana McLellan reviewed  the memoirs of Pierre Salinger, who served as press secretary under Kennedy and (briefly) under Johnson:
Sadly, he omits everybody's favorite LBJ-Pierre Salinger tale. According to this grand and ancient legend, Johnson shouted down the table to him at a small luncheon, "Pierre, you haven't eaten your beans." "Mr. President, I happen not to care for this variety of beans." "Pierre, eat your beans!" Eventually, reluctantly, the tale went, Salinger ate all his beans -- and that was the day he quit. Does the story's absence mean that it's purely apocryphal? A pity, if so. But you'd think that a one-time gossip's apprentice would give it an airing if just to deny it.

Incompetent Vetting

Tara Palmeri reports at Politico that the White House dismissed six aides who were already on the job. They flunked  the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions
Among those who won't be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.
Rene Marsh and Eugene Scott report at CNN:
A political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development was fired for an op-ed he wrote before the election that criticized then-candidate Donald Trump, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
In an October op-ed for The Hill, Republican consultant Shermichael Singleton said Trump was taking the Republican Party to a "new moral low."
"We allowed that hostile takeover to happen on our watch," he wrote. "This individual recognized a moment of great disparity in the Republican base and, like cancer, attacked and spread, consuming everything in his path."
Singleton's piece criticized Trump's rhetoric about African Americans during the campaign. After the election, the 26-year-old worked with Ben Carson during his confirmation process to become HUD secretary. Singleton, who is African American, then joined the department as a senior adviser.
Eliana Johnson reported last week at Politico:
President Donald Trump intervened at the last moment to deny Rex Tillerson his pick to be deputy secretary of state — former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams.
The president overruled his secretary of state — following meeting with Tillerson,
Abrams and son-in-law Jared Kushner — after reading news reports about their meeting, which included references to Abrams' criticisms of Trump during last year's presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the decision. Though his staff was aware of Abrams' statements, the president was not — until he read news reports about their meeting earlier this week.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Defying the Odds


Bitterness and joy, outrage and satisfaction, shame and pride, escapes to safe places and displays of celebration—these were just a few of the conflicting reactions that greeted the election of Donald Trump. One point lays beyond dispute: Donald Trump defied the odds, whether set by bookmakers or political pundits, or pollsters.

In this book—as they have for every presidential election since 1992—James Ceaser, Andrew Busch, and John Pitney Jr. revisit the race for the presidency and congressional and state elections through the short lens of politics today and the long lens of American political history. At the core of the 2016 election, they seek to understand and explain the different reasons for Donald Trump’s success at each stage of the campaign. With its keen insights into the issues and events that drove the 2016 election, Defying the Odds will be an invaluable resource for students and all political observers seeking to understand an election that was decades in the making and will continue to resonate throughout American politics for many years to come.

Approval

President Donald Trump's 40% job approval rating about one month into his presidency is 21 percentage points below the historical average rating for elected presidents in mid-February (61%). It is also 11 points below the lowest mid-February reading for any other president.
Bill Clinton held the previous low for a president near the end of his first month in office, at 51%. Ronald Reagan was the only other president with ratings at this point in his tenure below 60%. John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter enjoyed approval ratings above 70% at similar points in their presidencies.
Trump's initial job approval rating was 45%, making him the first president to begin his term with less-than-majority approval. Since then, his approval has fallen by five percentage points.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Tell-Tale Trump

...with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

True! But why will you say that I am ranting and raving? I don't rant and rave. Hearing?  I have amazing hearing.  I hear everything. Sit down.  I will tell you the whole story.

I have the best memory, but I don't remember when I got the idea.  I have a lot of ideas, terrific ideas. That's why I won the election by the biggest margin, ever.   I loved the old man.  So much love.  But he had this eye, a disgusting eye.  [Opens his eye wide with his fingers and imitates a spasm.]  "Oh, look at me, I'm so horrible!"  It was like a vulture's eye, with a film over it. So like, many people were saying, you gotta do something about it.

Now this is the point. The very dishonest media say "Trump's a bad man." Bad men don't know anything.  But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I acted.  Terrific caution. Fabulous foresight.  I was never kinder to the old man   So nice.   And every night I checked in on him, which you won't hear from the lying media.

On the eighth night, I had my head in,, and the old man got up in bed, yelling --"Who's there?"  Don't blame him. Crime is terrible there.  People have to lock themselves in.  We'll fix that, believe me.

I kept still and said nothing. I have terrific silence and stillness.  Then I put a pillow on his head, very very gently, you know, like one of those snore strips.  Just wanted him to go to sleep, so he would close that disgusting eye.  And he did.  As Spicer would say, plain and simple.

I knew he was okay because I could hear his heart. Did I mention that I have the best hearing? Anyway, I am the greatest real estate guy, so I knew that he would have a  nice place to sleep under the floorboards.  Really classy.  Really clean. Like a fine-tuned machine.

Then somebody leaked.  They will pay for that, by the way.  Three police officers came by.  I had them set down and we had a wonderful meeting.  I told them that we are going to have law and order in this country and support our police,  Crooked Hillary never said that, did she?

The thing about the old man was supposed to stay secret.  I'm a big believer in privacy.

I showed the police officers around the place.  Melania is doing a great job with the tours, by the way. But I kept hearing the old guy's heart.  Now, I believe that you gotta have heart, but this was getting ridiculous.

The officers absolutely loved me.  Big supporters. Then some reporters came by.  Bad people, Disgusting people.  They said that they heard something about the old man dying.  "Fake news!"  I said.  The police laughed, cuffed the dishonest media, and went away.  Gotta remember to comp them to a reception at Mar-A-Lago.

But I kept hearing that heartbeat.  So I knew what to do.  I want to get along with the Russians, not fight with them.  So I called Putin and told him the story.  He said, "We can make problems like that disappear."  And he did.  Great guy.

And I lived happily ever after.

Inheriting a Mess

Trump just said: "I inherited a mess. At home and abroad. A mess.... no matter where you look, a disaster... we'll take care of it. I just wanted to let you know- a mess."
  • And at home, we were facing a financial crisis that just about every credible economist said had the potential to plunge us into another great depression, an economic crisis that was producing stagnant wages, falling incomes, and a shaken middle class, and a deficit crisis that was saddling our children with a mountain of debt. That's what we inherited when we came in. -- Barack Obama, September 29, 2010.
  • "We inherited a recession. The first three quarters of my Presidency were negative growth. That means it's a recession." -- George W. Bush, August 24, 2002
  • "Now they want to hold us accountable for all the messes that we inherited from them. At least we can hold them accountable for the decisions they've taken in the last 21 months." -- Bill Clinton, November 7, 1994
  • "Who can remember any other time in this country when we faced double-digit inflation, a trillion-dollar debt, 21 1/2-percent interest rates, and the highest peacetime tax burden in our history, all at the same time? Yet, that's exactly the situation that we inherited 20 months ago." -- Ronald Reagan, October 6, 1982
  • "I said 2 years ago that we would remove fraud, waste, and corruption from the Government, and we are doing it-not overnight; it took a long time to create the mess that we inherited and we can't eliminate it in 1 year." -- Jimmy Carter, September 27, 1978
  • "Why have they [prices] gone up? Very simply: because the previous administration, over a period of years, had spent far more than the tax system would produce with full employment. And when you do that, when you have runaway spending in Washington, you have runaway prices at home. And I say, let's get the big spenders out of Washington and get the savers into Washington." -- Richard Nixon, October 19, 1970 
  • The times demand that all of us solve problems which at times appear to some of us to be unsolvable, problems that we inherited, problems that are thrust upon us by years of injustice and years of neglect. -- Lyndon Johnson, June 10, 1968

Immigration Opinion

Thomas Edsall writes at The New York Times:
National polls show majorities in support of granting legal status or citizenship to undocumented immigrants. The problem for those calling for the enactment of liberal policies, however, is that immigration is a voting issue for a minority of the electorate. And among those who say immigration is their top issue, opponents outnumber supporters by nearly two to one. In this respect, immigration is similar to gun control — both mobilize opponents more than supporters.
Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, put it this way:
Purely in terms of politics and strategy, the Democrats have played immigration badly. They have allowed their position to be associated with open borders and sanctuary cities. They have based their opposition to the immigration restrictionists in terms of identity politics rather the economic benefits of well-managed immigration. This has caused them to be deaf to concerns that many voters have about the effects of immigration on wages and public services. While I do not think the evidence shows immigration has these alleged harms, the Democrats have to do better than dismiss all opposition to immigration as racism.
McCarty specifically disputed the argument that Clinton’s lenient position was a net plus because it was crucial in mobilizing Hispanic voters.
It was probably her underperformance in mobilizing African-Americans that hurt her most, and they are generally the group least enthusiastic about open door immigration policies.
McCarty cited an October 2016 Pew poll to show that “African-Americans support for immigration is about 15 points below Democrats overall.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Puzder

The Senate lists rejected and withdrawn Cabinet nominations.  At the bottom of this page are the seven that have failed during the past 30 years, and I add the reasons for the failure.  All involved questions of about ethics or personal misconduct.  (Kerik later went to prison on other charges.)

The list shows that the last four presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all lost a nominee in their first couple of months in office.

It seems very likely that Labor nominee Andrew Pudzer will be the latest entry.

Manu Raju reports at CNN:
Top Senate Republicans have urged the White House to withdraw the Andrew Puzder nomination for labor secretary, a senior GOP source said, adding there are four firm Republican no votes and possibly up to 12.
Puzder needs at least 50 votes to pass with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence, and Republicans only hold control of 52 seats.
Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food chains, has faced fierce opposition mostly from Democrats in part related to his position on labor issues as well as the fact that he employed an undocumented housekeeper.
=========================================================
Name: John G. Tower
Nominated by: George Bush
Nomination Position: Defense
Date Nominated: January 20, 1989
Date Rejected: March 9, 1989 Vote: 47-53
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Name: Zoe E. Baird
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Attorney General
Date Nominated: January 21, 1993
Date Withdrawn: January 26, 1993
Reason:  Undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Anthony Lake
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Director, CIA
Date Nominated: January 9, 1997
Date Withdrawn: April 18, 1997
Reasons: policy disputes, financial issues
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Hershel W. Gober
Nominated by: William J. Clinton
Nomination Position: Veterans Affairs
Date Nominated: July 31, 1997
Date Withdrawn: October 27, 1997
Reason: sexual misconduct allegations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Linda Chavez
Nominated by: George W. Bush
Nomination Position: Labor
Date Nominated: January 3, 2001
Date Withdrawn: January 9, 2001
Reason: undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Bernard Kerik
Nominated by: George W. Bush
Nomination Position: Homeland Security
Date Nominated: December 2, 2004
Date Withdrawn: December 10, 2004
Reason:  undocumented household employee
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name: Tom Daschle
Nominated by: Barack Obama
Nomination Position: Secretary of Health & Human Services
Date Nominated: December 11, 2008
Date Withdrawn: February 9, 2009
Reason: tax issues

The Manchurian Candidate and His Campaign

Back in August, Tim Mak and Alexa Corse reported at The Daily Beast:
The Trump campaign went out of its way to dramatically alter the Republican Party’s official position on Ukraine—against the wishes of GOP hawks and despite senior Trump aide Paul Manafort’s insistence that they weren’t involved.

The move, first reported by The Washington Post, alienated Republicans who have made up the party’s foreign policy base for decades, and indicates that the Trump campaign has a particular interest in Ukraine, where Manafort had previously worked for a pro-Putin leader.

Manafort said on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend that the change in language on Ukraine “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.”

But this account is contradicted by four sources in the room, both for and against the language.
The New York Times reports:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Evan Perez report at CNN:
High-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence, multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials tell CNN.

President-elect Trump and then-President Barack Obama were both briefed on details of the extensive communications between suspected Russian operatives and people associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump business, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Both the frequency of the communications during early summer and the proximity to Trump of those involved "raised a red flag" with US intelligence and law enforcement, according to these officials. The communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence.
Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Prescott Bush's Comments on McCarthy Also Fit Trump

On December 1, 1954, Senator Prescott Bush (R-CT), the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush, explained why he was voting for the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy:

He has caused dangerous divisions among the American people because of his attitude, and the attitude he has encouraged among his followers, that there can be no honest differences of opinion with him.  Either you must follow Senator McCarthy blindly, not daring to express any doubts or disagreements about his actions, or in his eyes you must be a Communist, a Communist sympathizer, or a fool who has been duped by the Communist line.

Congressional Record (bound), December 1, 1954, 16268.


Flynn Flies

Michael Flynn quit as national security adviser. Rick Klein reports at ABC:
Flynn’s abrupt departure reveals a national-security team in disarray at a time when President Trump is being tested by friends and foes alike. With demands for answers and investigations only increasing, the story goes significantly deeper than questions of who is in charge and who knew what, and when.
The circumstances of Flynn’s exit raise the most delicate and dark brand of questions for the White House he wound up serving only briefly. They revive questions of alleged Russian interference with the election, demanding inquiries that could lead to far more serious revelations about the president and his inner circle.

Sen. John McCain, who is rapidly emerging as the most influential counterweight to the administration on Capitol Hill, Tuesday said there is “significant disarray” in the national-security realm. He also made the connection that has Washington fixated on a series of bigger pictures.
“General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” McCain, R-Ariz., said.
Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker report at The Washington Post:
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the ­Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the ­information.
John Schindler writes at The Observer:
In light of this, and out of worries about the White House’s ability to keep secrets, some of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office. Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway? A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets.
Since NSA provides something like 80 percent of the actionable intelligence in our government, what’s being kept from the White House may be very significant indeed. However, such concerns are widely shared across the IC, and NSA doesn’t appear to be the only agency withholding intelligence from the administration out of security fears.
What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.
None of this has happened in Washington before. A White House with unsettling links to Moscow wasn’t something anybody in the Pentagon or the Intelligence Community even considered a possibility until a few months ago. Until Team Trump clarifies its strange relationship with the Kremlin, and starts working on its professional honesty, the IC will approach the administration with caution and concern.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Stephen Miller, Alexander Hamilton Would Like a Word...

On Fact the Nation, White House aide Stephen Miller said of court action on the travel ban:
Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is -- is -- is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.
The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.
Mr. Miller, Alexander Hamilton would like a word with you:
This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and which, though they speedily give place to better information, and more deliberate reflection, have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community. 

Exploiting GOP Gains in the States

At The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Mitch Smith report that Republicans are moving fast to exploit their gains in state government.
Acting fastest at the moment, though, are four states where Republicans won total control of the government only in November. In addition to Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire became one-party states with the election of Republican governors, and Republicans in Iowa snatched away the State Senate, where Democrats had held their last grip on power.
In all four states, Republicans are racing to strip back the influence of labor unions, a key Democratic constituency.
In Missouri, where union membership has waned, Gov. Eric Greitens, a telegenic former member of the Navy SEALs, signed a “right to work” bill into law on Monday, denying unions the power to require that workers at companies they represent pay dues or their equivalent as a condition of employment. In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin signed a similar measure in January, along with the repeal of a law that kept wages high on public construction projects. And in New Hampshire, State Senator Jeb Bradley, the Republican majority leader, said so-called right-to-work legislation was a top priority.
In Iowa, Republican leaders announced this past week that they would pursue sweeping changes to the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senator Bill Dix, the new Republican majority leader, said his party had campaigned on such changes — which would cut deeply into unions’ negotiating power — and intended to make good on its commitments. He said Republicans would also seek to change state laws governing health care and to enshrine in the State Constitution the right to bear arms.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Stupid Party





Valerie Strauss reports at The Washington Post:
It’s not just the White House that seems to have a problem with spelling. Someone at the U.S. Education Department, now led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, does, too.
At 8:45 on Sunday morning, the department’s official Twitter account misspelled the name of W.E.B. Du Bois, a black sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. Du Bois was misspelled as DeBois — an error that might be understandable from a young student, but the U.S. Education Department?
Hours after the tweet was posted — and after the error was lampooned by a number of people on Twitter, it was corrected, with an apology:

Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo. — US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017




The department fixed that tweet quickly, changing “apologizes” for “apologies.”


Trump Does Not Read. He Watches TV.

Trump does not write anything longer than tweets.  He does not read much more.

Greg Degen writes at The Huffington Post:
I used to manage President Obama’s briefing materials, delivering them late in the evening through the Colonnade at the White House or down the narrow hallway aboard Air Force One. I know what presidential briefings contain, and regardless of what you think of President Trump’s policies, reports that he has trouble concentrating on these materials should be a matter of concern.

The daily flow of presidential memos not only prepares the president for each day, it is central to decision-making and policy planning. The White House paper process carries recommendations from his advisors, through relevant White House offices for review, and finally to the president’s desk for consideration – from trade deals and treaties to military matters.

Mr. Trump has reportedly requested that his memos be no longer than one page, containing no more than nine bullets. The brevity of recently leaked memos regarding the president’s early immigration actions suggest this ‘CliffsNotes’ approach may already be in place. By way of comparison, Mr. Obama received a 57-page memo when considering his early administration priority: how to rescue the economy. The leaked memos for Mr. Trump contain far less information than comparable documents that I saw reach Mr. Obama’s desk, and suggest that his advisors do not think Mr. Trump will bother to read even the very brief memo they have written.
He does watch a lot of TV, so that is how lobbyists try to reach him.  Politico reports:
MSNBC and Fox News are capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s TV watching habits, dramatically increasing issue-advocacy advertising rates in recent weeks as companies and outside groups try to influence Trump and his top lieutenants.
The ad rates for “Morning Joe” have more than doubled post-election, according to one veteran media buyer. Trump, who reportedly watches the show most mornings, has a close relationship with “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, and they talk regularly.

Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” and other prime-time programs on Fox News have boosted their rates about 50 percent. Trump also is a frequent viewer of the network’s prime-time shows.
“The president’s media habits are so predictable, advertisers migrate to those areas,” said one media buyer.
One prominent D.C. consultant said some of his clients, including a big bank and major pharmaceutical company, were negotiating this week to buy ads on “O’Reilly” and “Morning Joe” because they knew they had a good chance of reaching the president. Trump has also been known to respond directly to what he’s watching on television and tweet statistics and topics he sees on-air. Those tweets often drive news coverage during the day.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Impeaching Trump

CBS News has learned that the 35-page dossier compiled by a former British spy is gaining credibility among law enforcement. Before he was sworn in as President, Donald Trump dismissed the document, but sources tell CBS News that investigators continue to vet it to see whether there is any truth to the allegations.

At issue is whether the Russian government gathered compromising information on the president during his years of doing business in country as a private citizen. The FBI is leading the investigation but several intelligence agencies are also involved. Typically an investigation of this scale would involve the sources and methods of the CIA and NSA.
CNN first reported the sustained interest in the dossier by the intelligence community.
The dossier first came to the attention of U.S. officials several months ago, and it took time for it to circulate. A U.S. official familiar with the document’s origin says that even people who discounted it initially have begun to take it more seriously.
From PPP:
PPP's new national poll finds that Donald Trump's popularity as President has declined precipitously just over the last two weeks. On our first poll of his Presidency voters were evenly divided on Trump, with 44% approving of him and 44% also disapproving. Now his approval rating is 43%, while his disapproval has gone all the way up to 53%. If voters could choose they'd rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump.
Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. Support for impeaching Trump has crept up from 35% 2 weeks ago, to 40% last week, to its 46% standing this week. While Clinton voters initially only supported Trump's impeachment 65/14, after seeing him in office over the last few weeks that's gone up already to 83/6.
At The Washington Post, Charles Lane compares Trump's behavior to Andrew Johnson's:
These circumstances fuel a persistent hope that the GOP will rid itself of Trump, just as the very different Republicans of Johnson’s time rose up against him. “Given the sheer danger to the Republic as well as to the Republicans, Trump’s impeachment will happen,” predicts liberal journalist Robert Kuttner in an American Prospect article wishfully subtitled “The Inevitability of Trump’s Removal.”
Among the many facts this scenario overlooks are that Trump won election in his own right, legitimately, despite the electoral-popular vote anomaly, and that a large minority of the country — including a majority of Republican voters — still supports him.
If anyone is running scared in Washington now, it’s the Republican establishment, which grumbles here and there but hesitates to cross Trump lest his loyal fans among the GOP electorate turn on them.
Similar though his conduct may be to that of Andrew Johnson, a man widely considered the worst of his predecessors, Trump is far stronger, politically, than Johnson ever was.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Campaign Talk Comes Back to Bite Trump

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reminds Trump of stupid stuff he said during the campaign:
The States argue that the Executive Order violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses because it was intended to disfavor Muslims. In support of this argument, the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order. It is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal Protection Clause claims. See, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (“The Free Exercise Clause, like the Establishment Clause, extends beyond facial discrimination. . . . Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”); Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral statute violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266 68 (1977) (explaining that circumstantial evidence of intent, including the historical background of the decision and statements by decisionmakers, may be considered in evaluating whether a governmental action was motivated by a discriminatory purpose)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fake Jobs News

Hamza Shaban reports at Buzzfeed:
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich visited President Trump at the White House Wednesday and announced a $7 billion investment in a semiconductor factory in Chandler, Arizona that he claims will employ 3,000 high-wage workers at the height of production.

Dubbed Fab 42, Intel’s Chandler factory will build some of “the most advanced 7-nanometer semiconductor chips on the planet,” Krzanich said, adding that the company’s investment in the factory is also an investment in American manufacturing. Intel — which announced layoffs of some 12,000 employees in 2016said the facility will create “approximately 3,000 high-tech, high-wage jobs” and “more than 10,000 total long-term jobs in Arizona.”
“We’re very happy and I can tell you the people of Arizona are very happy,” President Trump said of Intel’s factory announcement.
Today marks the second time Intel has announced Fab 42 alongside a sitting US President. In February of 2011, the company announced Fab 42 during a visit to an Intel facility by President Obama. At that time it said the facility would “create thousands of construction and permanent manufacturing jobs,” with a scheduled completion date in 2013.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Nevertheless, She Persisted"

German Lopez writes at Vox:
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought he was giving a valid reason for the Senate’s decision to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday night. In reality, he inspired a feminist rallying cry for Democrats opposed to President Donald Trump and his attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). 
“She was warned. She was given an explanation,” McConnell said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
It’s that last part that quickly caught fire on social media, almost immediately trending as #ShePersisted as soon as the words were public.
Here’s the background: Earlier on Tuesday, Warren tried to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., written in opposition to Sessions’s 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship. (Sessions has a history of opposing civil and voting rights legislation, making him a major threat to civil rights advocates — not just back in 1986 when he was nominated for a judgeship, but today as he’s nominated to head the Justice Department, which enforces civil rights laws.)
Section 2 of Rule XIX of the Senate says:
No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.
At The Washington Post, Derek Hawkins explains that the rule originated in a 1902 floor fistfight between two senators from South Carolina.
When the fight ended, the Senate voted to censure the two men. A panel found that their behavior was “an infringement of the privileges of the Senate, a violation of its rules and derogatory to its high character, tending to bring the body itself into public contempt.”
The episode prompted the senate to tighten its rules governing decorum in floor debate. Rule 19 (sections 2 and 3, to be precise) was adopted later that year.
In the time since, the rule has rarely come up. One instance flagged by Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux occurred in 1979, when Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) called Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) “an idiot” and “devious” in a debate on the Senate floor. Heinz reportedly stormed to the front of the room with a rule book and showed him Rule 19. Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) defused the situation and asked them to shake hands.
Other examples are hard to come by.en the fight ended, the Senate voted to censure the two men. A panel found that their behavior was “an infringement of the privileges of the Senate, a violation of its rules and derogatory to its high character, tending to bring the body itself into public contempt.”
On November 17, 2005, Emily Pierce reported at Roll Call:
The partisan spat over the veracity of testimony by oil company executives last week spilled over into personal barbs on the Senate floor Wednesday, with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) accusing Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) of impugning his character on the chamber floor.
"It's been brought to my attention that the Senator from Illinois has unfairly maligned my character," Stevens declared on the floor almost three hours after Durbin accused Stevens of making it easier for oil executives to lie to Congress about whether their companies were involved in closed-door energy policy meetings with Vice President Cheney in 2001.
...
Stevens said Durbin's comment violated the Senate's Rule 19, which states, "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator" during floor debate. A ruling that a Senator has violated Rule 19 causes the offending Senator to lose his or her right to the floor until the full Senate permits him or her to speak again.
Because Stevens was not on the floor at the time of Durbin's speech, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that Stevens could not raise the issue of whether Durbin ran afoul of Rule 19, according to Stevens and the Senate parliamentarian's office.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one."



At CNBC, Dan Mangan reports on a tough new ad from VoteVets:
It lasts just 30 seconds. But in that half minute, the ad lands a series of punches at sore spots of Trump's ego, all delivered by a weightlifting unidentified veteran.

"President Trump, I hear you watch the morning shows," the veteran says in a voiceover.
 "Here's what I do every morning," the vet says, as he squats to begin lifting a barbell in his garage.
"Look."

"You lost the popular vote. You're having trouble drawing a crowd. And your approval rating keeps sinking," the vet's voice says, as the camera pulls back to reveal that he is lifting the weight while using just a single leg.

"But kicking thousands of my fellow veterans off their health insurance by killing the Affordable Care Act, and banning Muslims, won't help," he says.

"That's not the America I sacrificed for," the vet says. "You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one."

The Gang That Couldn't Spin Straight

The White House misspelled San Bernardino, Calif., in its Monday evening list of terrorist attacks it says “have not received the media attention they deserved.”
The list calls the Dec. 2, 2015, mass shooting the “San Bernadino” attack before accurately that the “coordinated firearms attack” was perpetrated by “two US persons" who killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) criticized the spelling error late Monday.
“If the White House didn’t know how to spell San Bernardino they should’ve read one of thousands of heartbreaking articles remembering victims,” he tweeted.
Monday's list additionally features repeated misspellings of "attacker" and "attackers" as "attaker" and "attakers," respectively.
The White House distributed Monday’s list to illustrate how “most” of the noted attacks had not received adequate media coverage.
The list spans from September 2014 to December 2016 and contains 78 attacks planned or carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) both at home and abroad.
The collection includes major attacks such as San Bernardino and the November 2015 massacre in Paris that dominated news coverage for weeks.
Aaron Blake reports at The Washington Post:
Kellyanne Conway thinks she took too much flak for citing a nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre” to justify President Trump's travel ban. She said she simply meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists,” and she later said, “I misspoke one word.”
Except now she doesn't appear to have misspoken at all; she seems to have believed that the Bowling Green massacre was a real thing.
How do we know? Because she cited the same nonexistent attack in separate interviews with two other outlets — Cosmopolitan magazine and TMZ.
Jim Rutenberg reports at The New York Times:
Yet by the end of the weekend, it was Ms. Conway’s credibility that was receiving the most scrutiny (which she described as unfair and coming from “a lot of the haters” in her interview with Mr. Kurtz).
Some, like the New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, were calling upon the television networks to stop booking her. And CNN declined to have her as a guest on Sunday — in part because the Trump administration offered her in lieu of Vice President Mike Pence, but also because of what the network told me were “serious questions about her credibility.”

Monday, February 6, 2017

"Forget That. Forget All of That."

Bill O'Reilly interviews Trump:
O’Reilly: Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things you can’t back up factually, and as the president, if you say, for example, that there are 3 million illegal aliens who voted and then you don’t have the data to back it up, some people are gonna say that it’s irresponsible for a president to say that. Is there any validity to that?
Trump: Many people have come out and said I’m right. You know that.
O’Reilly: I know, but you’ve gotta have data to back that up.
Trump: Let me just tell you. And it doesn’t have to do with the vote, although that’s the end result. It has to do with the registration. And when you look at the registration and you see dead people that have voted, when you see people that are registered in two states that voted in two states, when you see other things, when you see illegals, people that are not citizens, and they’re on the registration rolls. Look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have this. It’s really a bad situation. It’s really bad.
O’Reilly: So you think you’re gonna be proven correct in that statement?
Trump: Well, I think I already have. A lot of people have come out and said that I am correct.
O’Reilly: But the data has to show that 3 million illegals voted.
Trump: Forget that. Forget all of that. Just take a look at the registration, and we’re gonna do it, and I’m gonna set up a commission, to be headed by Vice President Mike Pence, and we’re gonna look at it very, very carefully.
PolitiFact:
In November, we rated claims about 3 million "illegal aliens" voting in this year’s election False.
Erroneous reports on the subject point back to tweets from Gregg Phillips, who has worked for the Republican Party and has a voter fraud reporting app. Phillips has still not provided any evidence to support his claim. In addition, Trump’s claim is undermined by years of publically available information such as a report that found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2000 and 2011.
...
While there is room for concern about poorly maintained voter rolls, there is little to no evidence that those erroneous registrants turned into votes, which would be voter fraud. During the election, Trump said "14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote." We rated that False. Trump was citing a highly contested study, which used a small sample size and an unreliable database of Internet respondents.
A few months later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrongly cited a 2008 Pew research study to support the same 14 percent figure in late January. We rated his claim False, too, as no study supports that statistic. If 14 percent of all voters in 2008 were noncitizens, that would have to mean that more than 80 percent of America’s noncitizen population voted.

Obamacare Town Halls: The World Is Round

David Nather reports at Axios:
This time, it's the Republicans who are getting the blowback from Obamacare supporters, rather than Democrats being shouted down by the law's opponents. Rep. Tom McClintock had to have a police escort as he left a crowded and angry town hall meeting in Roseville, California, per the Los Angeles Times. One reporter's video captured a group of demonstrators chanting, "Shame! Shame!" And in Florida, a constituent with a heart condition pleaded with Rep. Gus Bilirakis not to get rid of the law, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
What it means: On one level, it may be the second-least-surprising Obamacare development, and it certainly shouldn't have been a surprise to Republicans. (There are people who like the law and depend on it? Who knew?) But it's also more vocal than most Obamacare supporters have been during the law's many other challenges. Like the polling that shows the law is getting more popular now, it's another sign that energy is moving toward the pro-Obamacare side — right when it might be too late.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Anti-American Donald: Blame America First


He also rejects the idea of American exceptionalism, echoing Vladimir Putin.

Abby Phillip reports at The Washington Post:
In an interview with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, which will air ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday, Trump doubled down on his “respect” for Putin — even in the face of accusations that Putin and his associates have murdered journalists and dissidents in Russia.
“I do respect him. Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get along with them,” Trump told O'Reilly.
O'Reilly pressed on, declaring to the president that “Putin is a killer.”
Unfazed, Trump didn't back away, but rather compared Putin's reputation for extrajudicial killings with the United States'.
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
In the 1980s, Jeane Kirkpatrick warned us against this line of thought:
Marxism incorporates, at the verbal level and the intellectual level, the values of liberal democracy in its assault on liberal democracy and this is precisely why it entraps so many Western intellectuals who are themselves serious liberal democrats. Thus the slightest restriction on, let’s say, the presumption of innocence of the accused is said to demonstrate the absence of the rule of law. The slightest failure of an electoral system demonstrates contempt for political equality. Any use of force in international affairs establishes the lawless character of the society. Now, it is a short step from having demonstrated that a country like the United States is not a law-abiding society to demonstrating that it is lost and that it is like any other lawless society. The Soviets can always claim “We are no worse than you. Even if we are a lawless society, you too are a lawless society, we are no worse than you.” This is the “logic” of the doctrine of moral equivalence.






Kirkpatrick again:
 Along with this kind of redefinition, falsification, and utopianism goes something and that is a simply colossal historical denial, especially on the part of the Russians. Their systematic continuous denial of their own history and practices is epitomized by their denial of the Ukrainian famine, which was denied for decades successfully and is still denied today. The Ukrainian famine is a non-event in the view of Soviet interpreters of reality.