John Brennan isn’t the real victim

Mr. Trump, in fact, made no secret of his illegitimate motive: In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, he blamed Mr. Brennan for the special counsel’s investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Revoking Mr. Brennan’s clearance is an act of petty vengeance.

.. The real victim here is not Mr. Brennan, who will get along fine without his security clearance, but the national security of the United States and its democratic norms. National security is harmed because administration officials and members of Congress benefit when they can draw upon the wisdom and experience of long-serving public servants such as Mr. Brennan. Mr. Trump has threatened eight other former officials , and even one current official, with similar treatment. Over time, that would make their advice less useful to officials who might otherwise benefit from it.

.. Democratic norms erode as the president, inventing insulting pretexts for his actions, uses his authority over access to classified information to bully and punish critics and would-be critics.

Those who may be more vulnerable than Mr. Brennan, who rely on their security clearances for their employability in the private or public sector, may indeed be intimidated into silence.

.. “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” he writes. “If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken.”

In Mr. Trump’s America, every transition of power would result in the vilification, demotion and humiliation of those who served before, even civil servants who were honorably performing their duty. His conception of government denies the possibility of any motivation beyond partisan — or, in Mr. Trump’s case, personal — loyalty, at the expense of the principle that patriotic Americans can put the national interest above such considerations. It is pettiness distilled and more revealing of the president’s malformed sense of duty than that of his targets. This is the national debasement that Mr. Ryan and the rest of his party have enabled.

How Dark Money, Gerrymandering And Democratic Complacency Altered Wisconsin Politics

.. Six years before Trump’s win, the state’s voters elected conservative populist Scott Walker governor. With the help of a Republican-controlled legislature, Walker waged an unprecedented assault on public employee unions in the state and later signed a right to work bill, which undermined private-sector unions.

.. he would go along to these small towns and speak to people about this danger of corporate influence on their lives.

DAVIES: And how far into the 20th century did this sort of progressive trend hold in Wisconsin? And I note that Senator Joe McCarthy – probably the most notorious anti-communist of the century – came from that state.

..  he undertook a pretty radical approach to dealing with public employee unions. What did he propose to do?

KAUFMAN: Well, he proposed to all but strip them of collective bargaining rights, which is their ability to speak as a collective voice around wages, benefits and other workplace concerns, workplace safety, basically, reducing their ability to act as a collective voice. He exempted the police and fire department unions. Some would say that cynically because some of these unions supported him.

..  Tim Cullen, a moderate Democratic state senator – he said, the one thing that was non-negotiable was the automatic dues checkoff.

..  He stoked resentment against the public workers. It was clear in his inaugural address in 2011. He said the public employees can no longer be the haves, and the taxpayers can no longer be the have nots. Privately, he even went further.

There’s a famous recording of him speaking to a billionaire donor where she says when will we become a completely red state? When will we become a right-to-work state? She conflated the two. And he answered, you know, have you seen what we’re going to do with the public employees? And then he went on. He said, you know, because you use divide and conquer. What he meant by that was he was going to first attack the public employees. And then several years later, he instituted a right-to-work law against the private sector employees. Now you have a state that went from 14 percent union density when he was elected to 8 percent.

.. in 2016, the presidential election arrives in Wisconsin, as it does in the rest of the country. The Democratic primary – Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton by 13 points. Why did Hillary Clinton have trouble connecting to Democratic voters in Wisconsin?

.. she has never been a close ally of labor. Wisconsin progressives were deeply wounded by the attacks on labor. She was a former corporate board member of Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company. And she also supported for many, many years free trade agreements, like NAFTA and the China’s membership into the World Trade Organization, that have really impacted the industrial Midwest in such a profound way. People are aware that you can drive by a factory, and they’ll say, oh, this factory moved to Mexico and then went on to Vietnam. They are very keenly aware. Other factors played a role – automation and so on – but these agreements really impacted particularly the industrial Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio.

DAVIES: And particularly unionized workers, I think.

..  I think people forget that Donald Trump’s message during the campaign – he also twinned his message of resentment – racial resentment – with a defense of the welfare state. You can look at his speeches. He staged five huge rallies in Wisconsin. He almost always mentioned, we’ve got to protect Social Security and Medicare, and he railed against these free trade agreements. So there was a different kind of Republican message that resonated with a certain sector of the population enough to put him over the top, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s noncampaigning and non-effort in these places, and it really impacted the race.

.. There was frankly a weak Democratic opposition to his message, and there was a stoking of resentment in a time of economic insecurity. That is very powerful. And they weren’t – people weren’t being offered an alternative – a very compelling one anyway.

..  Another example is gerrymandering. In 2012 election, Wisconsin Democrats won an aggregate of almost 200,000 more votes than the Republicans, and yet they lost seats. That…

DAVIES: You’re talking about in the state legislature.

KAUFMAN: In the state legislature in the assembly, and that leads to demoralizing (laughter) of your party. I mean, it’s hard to get candidates to run when they know they’re going to be defeated if the district is just so heavily drawn to favor the Republicans where – and the Democratic seats are – you know, they’ll routinely win more than 70 percent of the vote. So they pack them in. And that case was, you know, brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s the first partisan gerrymandering case to go to the Supreme Court in more than three decades because the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs – the Democrats – that their rights had been denied because it was so extreme.

The old tea party may be over, but the new one is at peak power

Pompeo’s ascent underscores just how many politicians who came to prominence with the tea party — including Vice President Pence, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney — now occupy powerful positions in Trump’s administration. Depending on how far Trump goes to try to remake the GOP in his image, tea party alumni may form the core of a new Republican establishment.

.. The grievances that animated the movement and fed Trump’s presidential candidacy live on. The tea party’s insurgent impulses have fused with his erratic populism to become one of the three contending forces in the Republican Party — the other two being establishment Republicanism and ideological conservatism. Tillerson’s fall is a prime example of how traditional Republicans are becoming yesterday’s men and women in the Trumpified GOP. Tomorrow, will it be the ideological conservatives like House Speaker Paul Ryan?

.. The Washington Post reported that Trump disdained Tillerson, the pro-big-business former ExxonMobil CEO, for being “too establishment” in his thinking, by which the president seems to have meant Tillerson’s prudence (at least in relation to Trump), adherence to traditional diplomatic protocols, and unwillingness to rip up trade agreements and the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo, on the other hand, first won election to Congress in 2010 as a tea party favorite, in a race where some of his supporters urged Kansans to “Vote American ” to defeat his Indian American opponent.
.. party leaders were uneasily aware that the tea party stood apart from the Republican Party and in some ways defined itself in angry opposition to the GOP establishment. (The divide plagued the speakership of John Boehner and ultimately helped lead to his resignation.)
.. Republican and Democratic leaders came across to tea party activists as equally uninterested in their worries about immigration, the loss of jobs and industry to global economic competition, and a social agenda of “political correctness” pushed by academia and the media. Trump built his movement by championing these issues both parties seemed to ignore and projecting a willingness to fight to the death rather than surrender.
.. In the long view of history, the tea party was one more episode in a series of right-wing populist revolts that marked the development of the modern conservative movement.
  • .. President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, squelchedSen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade, while the conservative intellectual champion
  • William F. Buckley Jr. expelled the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society from the respectable right. At other times, leaders like
  • Ronald Reagan brought conservative activists into the mainstream of the GOP without permitting them to engage in intra-party fratricide.

.. When the conservative supporters of Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona came together in the early 1960s, for example, they took over many state and local party organizations and threw out anyone they deemed insufficiently committed to the cause.

.. As for Burch, after Goldwater’s massive defeat, he repented and told the RNC that “this party needs two wings, two wings and a center, or I fear it may never fly again.”

.. The grievances of most tea party supporters didn’t fade with time but were inflamed by Trump’s campaign, which strengthened the movement’s tendency to view opponents as illegitimate and un-American, and compromise as treason.

.. Despite the tea party’s provenance as a conservative movement, there was little about past political patterns and practices that it wanted to conserve. Activists hoped not only to “throw the bums out” but also to get rid of anything that passed for the status quo.

.. The affinity of tea party veterans for Trump is based in part on their common interest in disruption. Ryan may soon be in trouble because his authority and his orthodox conservatism have become another establishment to be overthrown

 

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

But unlike the Godfather character, the president of the United States is backed by powerful people enabling him.

.. The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.

.. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter

.. the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”

.. Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades.

  • Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist.
  • Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host.
  • Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate.
  • Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.

.. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.

The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.

.. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.

.. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

.. the important thing about Trump is not the man; it’s the system of power surrounding the man.

.. What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway.

Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him;

conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes;

rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country.

.. he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country

.. without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.

 

The Quiet American

Paul Manafort made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom. Getting Donald Trump elected will be a cinch.

Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s palace, is impressive by the standards of Palm Beach—less so when judged against the abodes of the world’s autocrats. It doesn’t, for instance, quite compare with Mezhyhirya, the gilded estate of deposed Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Trump may have 33 bathrooms and three bomb shelters, but his mansion lacks a herd of ostrich, a galleon parked in a pond, and a set of golden golf clubs. Yet the two properties are linked, not just in ostentatious spirit, but by the presence of one man. Trump and Yanukovych have shared the same political brain, an operative named Paul Manafort.

.. “Manafort is a person who doesn’t necessarily show himself. There’s nothing egotistical about him,”

.. The late Washington Post columnist Mary McGrorydescribed him as having a “smooth, noncommittal manner, ” though she also noted his “aggrieved brown eyes.” Despite his decades of amassing influence in Washington and other global capitals, he’s never been the subject of a full magazine profile.

.. As Roger Stone has boasted about their now-disbanded firm: “Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, lined up most of the dictators of the world we could find. … Dictators are in the eye of the beholder.” Manafort had a special gift for changing how dictators are beheld by American eyes. He would recast them as noble heroes—venerated by Washington think tanks, deluged with money from Congress.

.. he remade Ukrainian politics and helped shift the country into Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence.It

.. The genesis of Donald Trump’s relationship with Paul Manafort begins with Roy Cohn. That Roy Cohn: Joe McCarthy’s heavy-lidded henchman, lawyer to the Genovese family.

.. It was Roy Cohn who introduced Stone and Manafort to Trump.

.. Dirty tricks came naturally to Stone. He assumed a pseudonym and made contributions on behalf of the Young Socialist Alliance to one of Nixon’s potential challengers. He hired spies to infiltrate the McGovern campaign.

.. Manafort had a very different mentor. He studied under the future secretary of state, James A. Baker III, who wielded his knife with the discipline of a Marine and the polish of a Princetonian.

.. “Paul modeled himself after Baker,”

.. Despite his Yankee stock, Manafort ran Reagan’s Southern operation, the racially tinged appeal that infamously began in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the hamlet where civil rights activists were murdered in 1964.

.. Manafort and Stone pioneered a new style of firm, what K Street would come to call a double-breasted operation. One wing of the shop managed campaigns, electing a generation of Republicans, from Phil Gramm to Arlen Spector. The other wing lobbied the officials they helped to victory on behalf of its corporate clients.

.. he began with his rote protestations of friendship. “Nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump.” He then proceeded to worry that the tribes would prove unable to fend off gangsters. “There is no way Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob … It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone … An Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation? It’s unbelievable to me.”

.. Trump poured money into a shell group called the New York Institute for Law and Society. The group existed solely to publish ads smearing his potential Indian competition. Under dark photos of needles and other junkie paraphernalia, the group asserted, “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” (It wasn’t.) “Are these the new neighbors we want?”

.. Later, they lured Lee Atwater, the evil genius who would devise the Willie Horton gambit for George H.W. Bush.

.. Black would later boast that the firm had schemed to gain cartel-like control of the 1988 Republican presidential primary. They managed all of the major campaigns.

  1. Atwater took Bush;
  2. Black ran Dole;
  3. Stone handled Jack Kemp.

A congressional staffer joked to a reporter from Time, “Why have primaries for the nomination? Why not have the candidates go over to Black, Manafort and Stone and argue it out?

.. He took on clients and causes that even most of his colleagues on K Street considered outside the usual bounds. Black, Manafort, and Stone hired alumni of the Department of Housing and Urban Development then used those connections to win $43 million in “moderate rehabilitation funds” for a renovation project in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey.

..  Local officials had no interest in the grants, as they considered the shamble of cinder blocks long past the point of repair.

.. Two years later, rents doubled without any sign of improvement. Conditions remained, in Mary McGrory’s words, “strictly Third World.” It was such an outrageous scam that congressmen flocked to make a spectacle of it. Manafort calmly took his flaying. “You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying,” he explained in one hearing. “That’s a definitional debate.”

 .. Strangely, the HUD scandal proved a marketing boon for the firm. An aide to Mobutu Sese Seko told the journalist Art Levine, “That only shows how important they are!”
.. Indeed, Manafort enticed the African dictator to hire the firm. Many of the world’s dictators eventually became his clients. “Name a dictator and Black, Manafort will name the account,
.. The client list included
  1. Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos (with a $900,000 yearly contract) and the despots of the
  2. Dominican Republic,
  3. Nigeria,
  4. Kenya,
  5. Equatorial Guinea, and
  6. Somalia.
When the Center for Public Integrity detailed the firm’s work, it titled the report “The Torturers’ Lobby.”
.. Indeed, the firm was an all-purpose image-buffing operation. As the Washington Post has reported, Manafort could book his clients on 60 Minutes or Nightline—and coach them to make their best pitch. He lobbied Congress for foreign aid that flowed to his clients’ coffers.
.. Manafort understood the mindset of the dictator wasn’t so different from his corporate clients
.. Despite his client’s Maoist background, Manafort reinvented him as a freedom fighter. He knew all the tricks for manipulating right-wing opinion. Savimbi was sent to a seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, hosted by the anticommunist stalwart Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a reception thrown by the Heritage Foundation, and another confab at Freedom House. (Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi, who conscripted soldiers, burned enemies, and indiscriminately laid land mines, as a “linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior … one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”)

.. His lobbying helped convince Congress to send Savimbi hundreds of millions in covert aid. Indeed, every time Angola stood on the precipice of peace talks, Manafort, Black worked to generate a fresh round of arms—shipments that many experts believe extended the conflict.
.. “So the war lasted another two more years and claimed a few thousand more lives! So what? What counts to a Washington lobbyist is the ability to deliver a tangible victory and spruce up his client’s image.”
.. Like Henry Kissinger, Manafort can claim that he merely “consults” with foreign governments, relieving him of the legal burden of announcing his benefactors.

‘He Doesn’t Know What the Word Sacrifice Means’

Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.

As Philip Rucker summed it up, with less than 99 days until the election, the Republican nominee is debating with the parents of a slain American serviceman over whether he has sacrificed as much they have. David Simon, creator of The Wire, added, “If I scripted this, it would critiqued harshly and correctly as West Wing-era liberal wish-fulfillment.” But over the last 14 months, Trump has repeatedly done things that made liberals rub their hands in glee—only to see him escape unscathed.

.. In late 1953, Senator Joe McCarthy turned his red-baiting crusade toward the Army, accusing it of being stocked with Communists. McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, had miscalculated, and the reaction doomed McCarthy’s crusade and career. Decades later, Cohn became a close friend of a young real-estate developer named Donald Trump. If Cohn’s protégé learned anything about from him about why it’s unwise for a politician to go to war with the U.S. Army, it isn’t showing today.