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.

Are We Down to President Pence?

Lately, Trump’s stupendous instability has actually been looking like a plus. There he was, telling Democrats that he didn’t want to cut taxes on the rich. Trying to find a way to save the Dreamers

.. Better insane than sorry.

.. Then came the U.N. speech, and the reminder that the one big plus on Pence’s scorecard is that he seems less likely to get the planet blown up.

.. Nikki Haley, our U.N. ambassador, argued that the president’s speech was a diplomatic win because “every other international community” has now started calling Kim “Rocket Man,” too.

.. Does this sound like a triumph to you, people? It’s perfectly possible Kim takes it for a compliment since he does like rockets. And I’ll bet he likes Elton John songs, too.

.. But about the “totally destroy North Korea” part: I believe I am not alone in feeling that the best plan for dealing with a deranged dictator holding nuclear weapons is not threatening to blow him up.

.. We tell ourselves that the president is surrounded by men who are too stable to let him plunge us into a war that will annihilate the planet. But Trump’s U.N. speech was a read-from-the-teleprompter performance, not a case of his just blurting out something awful. People in the White House read it and talked about it in advance.

.. He tried to be super-nice at a luncheon with African leaders, assuring them, “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.”
.. The big takeaway, however, was that the president of the United States had threatened to destroy a country with 25 million people.

Comments:

We can survive an ultra conservative president who is not totally insane and who listens to advisors…at least until 2020. It’s not at all clear that we or the rest of the world can survive the insanity of the Child in Chief now in the Oval Office.

.. There’s little doubt that Democrats stand to gain politically from the train-wreck presidency of impulsive and short-sighted Trump. But the Democrats must choose country before party. A sane, hard-line conservative like Pence is better for the nation than an irrational narcissist who could plunge the entire world into war.

.. A president Pence would give the right just what they wanted a twitterless occupant of the Oval Office. If anyone would like to know how a Pence would run the 50 states just look at how he ran the state he was governor of.

.. Trump, while not exactly the devil I know, is at least fairly predictable in that his main concerns are self preservation and self enrichment.

.. It is time for this fantasy of impeachment to stop. An election is not “fraudulent” because a foreign power releases information that persuades Americans to vote one way or another. Absent evidence that Russia actually hacked the voting machines and changed votes, or that Trump personally colluded with Russia to influence the elections, there is no shot at impeachment, and such evidence seems unlikely to emerge. Russia should pay a price for its actions, and the Democrats – and I am one- should forget about Hillary, stop the apocalyptic rhetoric, stop fantasizing and demonstrating, and concentrate on winning state, local, and. Congressional elections in the short term, and the next presidential election after that.

..  Threats like these only ADD to Kim’s determination to escape the fate of Iraq and Libya. The US has a “big stick.” It should “speak softly.”

.. 70 percent of the voters in Pennsylvania were Democrats and yet Pennsylvania is represented by a majority of Republicans.

.. That’s called gerrymandering.

.. In Pence’s favor he does not have a legion of “supporters” who back him no matter what he does or says. Pence doesn’t seem to have won allies either as a governor or a representative from Indiana. Trump supporters seem to tolerate him, but reserve their adoration for Trump himself.

.. there will be no easy end to the Trump/Pence administration. Their crimes against the people of the US will linger for generations. They will not go quietly by vote or impeachment.

.. As awful as he is, I’ll still take Trump over Pence. Trump is so ignorant and unhinged that he’s not helping the Republicans destroy our own country with their selfish, hate-the-people agenda. Pence would be the driving force that would allow the destruction to move ahead unchecked. We’d lose Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, women’s reproductive rights, and religious freedom. (The Republicans and their extreme-right-wing Christian supporters believe in religious freedom only for themselves and want their beliefs turned into law.)

 

Trump Tweets Tough

He differentiated between bad leaks “coming out of intelligence and various departments” and good leaks from the White House staff, which just involve people who “want to love me and they’re all fighting for love.”

.. When a reporter asked about Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to expel 755 workers from the American Embassy, Trump demonstrated once again that there is absolutely nothing Putin can do that will make our president criticize him. (“No, I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll. … We’ll save a lot of money.”) What do you think he’d have said if Putin had jailed our diplomats? Expressed gratitude for the free room and board?

.. On Friday he claimed he was just being sarcastic. Still, he couldn’t resist adding, “But we have reduced payroll very substantially.”

There’s certainly something about Putin that makes Trump go gaga. Maybe the North Korean craziness is his attempt to impress Putin with his own manly manhood.

.. Speaking of Venezuela, Trump spoke vaguely about “a possible military option” there, too.

.. Trump tends to talk big and act, um, minimally. Try counting the moments of real change, drama or even strong reaction over the last six months that go beyond verbal, and before you’ve gotten through the fingers on one hand, you’ll probably already be down to the firing of the Mooch.

.. People who’ve dealt with the private Trump often say they found him less crazy than the public version.

Of course, he’s definitely a lazy thinker who doesn’t like to confront a memo longer than a page. But nobody’s perfect.

Let’s Make a Wall Deal

The House passed a bill that would pony up nearly $1.6 billion for the first stretch of Donald Trump’s pet project.

.. And the release of a government report that estimates the Department of Homeland Security would have to screen 750,000 applicants to meet the president’s target for new Border Patrol hires.

.. And the discovery that Trump’s sudden announcement about barring transgender volunteers from the military was actually all about getting money to start building the … barrier.

.. But final passage was being held up by social conservatives, who were trying unsuccessfully to add an amendment barring the military from paying for gender reassignment surgery.

.. The vision of what the president wants in a wall keeps shifting. At first it was a 2,000-mile, 50-foot-tall concrete monolith. Then it became maybe a little shorter, and something with solar panels.

.. Trump also wants to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol officers, which the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general estimates would require the screening of 750,000 applicants. The jobs, it seems, can be both demanding and extremely boring. Clearly, the only answer would be to bring in foreign workers. As our president said when he was explaining why Mar-a-Lago keeps getting special visas to hire cooks and cleaners from abroad, “It’s very, very hard to get people.”

.. It’s not clear he thinks building it would do any good, but he certainly believes it makes him look good.

.. But Trump was fixated on his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall — not actually making it happen so much as making Mexico say it would happen. Or that “we will work it out.” Or just not mentioning that Mexico was never going to put up a dime. (“… you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”)

.. So it’s all about image.

.. The chances we’ll ever see this $20-billion-plus project completed are minimal. But just keeping up pretenses will mean an enormous waste of money and effort. Maybe we could make a deal like the one Trump was trying to urge on the Mexicans. Whenever the subject of the wall comes up, we would all agree to say, “Hey, you never can tell.”