Divide and Rule

President Trump is operating from an ancient political playbook.

Gail: Perhaps my single favorite revelation was that our self-made billionaire was earning $200,000 a year from the family empire when he was a 3-year-old. Do you think all the nation’s toddlers are now eyeing their parents and wondering, “O.K., where’s my income stream?”

.. The idea that the president is self-made is almost as laughable as the notion that he writes (or, for that matter, reads) his own books.

..  The Democrats need to come up with a compelling, forward-looking agenda for the 2020 elections. Demanding an end to tax loopholes would allow them to talk about real change for the future while eviscerating Donald Trump at the same time.

.. Do Trump fans care about this stuff? Thanks to our colleagues, we know he’s a phony billionaire who represents all the things they in theory hate about the New York economy. But he’s already run a populist anti-immigration campaign that managed to jump right over the undocumented workers he’s hired.

.. Mainly, though, they don’t care because it’s an investigation that dwells on the past, while the presidency is about the present and the future. And while the rest of us were busy tearing our hair out over Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Dow hit another record and trade disaster was averted when a new Nafta agreement was reached by Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

All of which is to say that you’re right. Democrats really do need to come up with a forward-looking agenda for 2020, because if all they have to talk about are the Trump family’s tax dodges from 30 years ago, or if they try to relitigate the 2016 election, they will lose again.

.. Back in days of yore the media was mainly TV networks and big newspapers that wanted to communicate with a large audience. Now the stars are — people who yell. Blogs, Twitter — we’ve been painfully aware since 2016 that power belongs to whoever can get their followers really, really worked up.
.. There’s a lot of talk about divisions between left and center among the Democrats, but it doesn’t compare to what’s happened to the Republicans. It’s really two parties, with the establishment so terrified of the Trump train, they’re afraid to peep.
.. I wish the G.O.P. were more divided: One of the most depressing political facts of our day is the extent to which Trump has captured the party, leaving conservatives like me who oppose him feeling politically homeless.
.. But you’re right. It does feel different this time. And I think the difference is that the fights aren’t really about policy. They’re about our personal experiences and deepest fears.
.. By the end a vote for Kavanaugh was a vote for a guy who went out of his way to rally the troops by turning the nomination into a partisan us-against-the-Democrats battle. I realize the Democrats were not exactly working above the fray themselves. But the Supreme Court is about transcending partisanship. That’s supposed to be the whole point. And if the justices don’t always live up to that goal, that doesn’t mean you pick a new guy who’s given up the fight before he starts... something tells me that if the nominee were Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats would look for a reason to postpone the vote, hope to retake the Senate and then … take revenge for Merrick Garland by refusing to hold a vote.

.. Gail: Not necessarily agreeing, but Merrick Garland is an open sore. Particularly since Mitch McConnell keeps gloating about it.

.. One thing we can probably agree on is that the process managed to degrade and demean just about everyone who participated in it. Blasey never intended to go public, but Washington can’t keep a secret so her name got leaked. I doubt Kavanaugh intended to go on the attack quite the way he did, but, yet he was advised by White House counsel Don McGahn to “channel his outrage and indignation.”

.. The news media reported stories that otherwise violated normal journalistic standards. And most senators made fools of themselves one way or another: The low point for me was Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, who famously lied about his military service, lecturing Kavanaugh on the legal concept of “false in one thing, false in everything,” as I noted in my column.

.. my constant preoccupations: the way this country is organized to disenfranchise urban voters and empower people from rural areas.

.. The 59 million people in California and New York are going to elect Democratic senators. But they’ll be completely canceled out if the less than two million people in Wyoming and Montana decide to go Republican.

This Revolution, Too, Will Eat Its Children

Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility rests heavily on the fact that she vividly described details of the alleged assault, named witnesses, and told several people about them long before Kavanaugh’s nomination. It’s because she has been able to supply this level of corroboration that her claims deserve to be taken with the utmost seriousness, both by the media and the Senate.

But this is not nearly as true for Ramirez

.. Apply a presumption of guilt standard to the people you oppose, and a presumption of innocence standard to the people you favor. Hear something you like about someone you don’t — what used to be known as gossip — and repackage it as “news.”

.. Is it now fair game to draw moral inferences about a nominee because he went to an elite prep school, or was a member of a rowdy fraternity, or said something mean and dumb in his yearbook, or drank somewhat more than he would like to admit?

.. In an age in which our digital footprints are all-but unerasable, such an accounting will become increasingly easy to furnish, and hence to demand. There are advantages to this kind of radical transparency. But it’s hard to imagine who — except for the odd souls who are either morally stainless or utterly shameless — would want to be subjected to the ordeal.

.. To some, all this will be worth it if Kavanaugh is exposed as a sexual predator and stone-faced liar. That’s why today’s hearings are essential — and would have been helped by an F.B.I. investigation and sworn testimony from Mr. Judge. We need to get, as best as we can under imperfect circumstances, the truth of what happened between Kavanaugh and Blasey, two credible witnesses with stories to tell.

But this is not what the Kavanaugh nomination seems to be about anymore. To half the country, it’s about the future of a Supreme Court nominee, pure and simple. To the other half, it’s about that — as well as a paradigm shift in the culture, belated reparation for unequal treatment, and a battle in the service of a moral revolution.

.. it’s worth remembering that revolutions borne by high ideals have a habit of eating their children. If the price of this revolution is the subordination of ordinary fairness to abstract justice, the elevation of rumor over fact, the further debasement of journalism, the devaluation of the rights of the accused, and the complete toxification of public service, it will be a price too high.

Donald Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The principled case for impeachment is clear. What’s missing is the courage.

.. To overturn the results of an election for anything less than unambiguous evidence of criminal behavior is a danger to democracy itself.

At least that was my view until this week. Michael Cohen’s guilty plea changes this. The Constitution’s standard for impeachment is “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The standard is now met.

.. That means that, as a candidate, Trump is credibly alleged to have purposefully conspired with Cohen to commit criminal acts. That means the duo did so “for purposes of influencing [an] election for Federal office,” which is the legal definition of a campaign contribution.

.. In Trump’s case, there is little doubt about the purpose of the payment to Stormy Daniels:In Trump’s case, there is little doubt about the purpose of the payment to Stormy Daniels: To prevent disclosure of their alleged liaison, less than a month before the election and barely two weeks after the Access Hollywood tape came to light.

.. The president is now, in effect, an unindicted co-conspirator on charges already prosecuted by the government as a criminal matter against Cohen. Why should a lighter standard apply to Trump, since he’s the one at whose direction Cohen claims to have carried out the payments?

.. That question should especially engage those conservatives who demanded Clinton’s impeachment (as I did). Take South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, one of the House managers overseeing the case against the 42nd president.

.. “Twenty-five years ago,” he said that December, “a Democratic-controlled judiciary committee, with a minority of Republicans, reported articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. Why? Nixon cheated — he cheated the electoral system by concealing efforts of a political break-in, and his people thought the other side deserved to be cheated. They thought his enemies deserved to be mistreated. Ladies and gentlemen, they were wrong.”

..  “Today, Republicans, with a small handful of Democrats, will vote to impeach President Clinton. Why? Because we believe he committed crimes resulting in cheating our legal system. We believe he lied under oath numerous times, that he tampered with evidence, that he conspired to present false testimony to a court of law. We believe he assaulted our legal system in every way. Let it be said that any president who cheats our institutions shall be impeached.”

.. If breaking the law (by lying under oath) to conceal an affair was impeachable, why is breaking the law (by violating campaign-finance laws) to conceal an affair not impeachable?

.. If cheating “our institutions” (by means of an “assault” in “every way” on the legal system) is impeachable, why is cheating those institutions (by means of nonstop presidential mendacity and relentless attacks on the Justice Department and the F.B.I.) not impeachable?

.. The Constitution matters more than a tax cut. What the Constitution demands is the impeachment and removal from office of this lawless president.

After You, Mr. Putin

Live in Helsinki, Trump brings his blame-America-first tour to a close.

.. let me admit that my absolute top take away was that at a critical moment in modern American history, our president managed to mention his winning margin in the Electoral College.

Bret: Also, I’m thinking about just what Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and the rest of right-wing punditry would be saying if it had been President Barack Obama at that podium, saying the sort of things Trump was saying, not to mention the way he said it.

.. They’d call him the Manchurian Candidate. They’d accuse him of treason. They’d call for an armed insurrection or something close to it. They’d say he hates America. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Here is a president of the United States who repeatedly blames America first; who takes the word of a former K.G.B. agent over his own intelligence agencies; who promises to work constructively with a despot whose regime

  • kills journalists,
  • shoots down civilian airliners and
  • uses nerve agents to assassinate its enemies abroad;

and who aims his rhetorical fire on an opposing party instead of an enemy government. And the Make America Great Again crowd, with an exception or two, says pretty much nothing, or averts its gaze, or switches the subject.

.. John Brennan has noted, “people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”

.. The thought that the government — our government — just put this child through that trauma for no other reason than Jeff Sessions’ fantasy that it will “deter” desperate migrants or otherwise help Stephen Miller work out his manhood issues turns my stomach as nothing else has in a long time. That a majority of Republicans support the policy turns it even more.

In some ways, this worries me a lot more than whatever Putin and his cyber-armies might be trying to do to us. Putin is a former KGB agent, so at least he’s playing to type. It’s the trashing of democratic values from the inside that concerns me even more.

.. During his press conference in the U.K. with Theresa May, he warned Europe to watch out for immigration because it was “changing the culture.” It was such a pathetic call for racism to rise up. And then of course he blamed Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim mayor, for encouraging terrorism.

.. I guess that, as horrific as I find the stories about those poor kids being tormented at the border, I’m even more disturbed by the way our president is trying to promote this kind of ideology around the world.

..  it’s also important to understand why they’ve gained so much strength recently. The key is their ability to traffic in half-truths, to pick up on a legitimate issue and put it to an illegitimate end.

.. That’s why I think calls in the United States to “abolish ICE” are so dangerous: They create the impression that Democrats want unregulated migration, as opposed to a generous but lawful immigration policy. And that just helps Trump and the Bannonites.

.. Gail: For most Democrats, “abolish ICE” is just shorthand for getting rid of the Trump anti-immigration agenda. Although I do agree we could use a better code. Perhaps involving a quote from the Statue of Liberty.

..  in California, their state of nearly 40 million people is only going to be represented by two senators, which is exactly the same number as Wyoming, population 579,315. I keep harping on the fact that the real division in this country is between the empty-places people and the crowded-places people. Us crowded folk are virtually disenfranchised.

.. I think Democrats need to find a way to change the conversation about immigration, in two ways. First, stop feeding the perception that immigration is an act of humanitarianism by the United States. It’s a matter of self-interest: Newcomers mainly bring energy and drive and imagination and ambition to this country. Second, accept the premise that we need to police our borders, while making the case that we can police them better with a much more liberal system that diminishes the incentive to come into the country illegally.

.. Gail: And maybe we can get somebody from Mar-a-Lago to testify on how hard it is to get affordable help.