This is the new GOP: Angry and afraid

One of the unpleasant surprises of your 50s (among many) is seeing the heroes and mentors of your 20s pass away. I worked for Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, who became, through his work with prisoners, one of the most important social reformers of the 20th century. I worked for Jack Kemp, who inspired generations of conservatives with his passion for inclusion. I worked against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries but came to admire his truculent commitment to principle.

Perhaps it is natural to attribute heroism to past generations and to find a sad smallness in your own. But we are seeing the largest test of political character in my lifetime. And where are the Republican leaders large enough to show the way?

President Trump’s recent remarks to evangelical Christians at the White House capture where Republican politics is heading. “This November 6 election,” Trump said, “is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion.” A direct, unadorned appeal to tribal hostilities. Fighting for Trump, the president argued, is the only way to defend the Christian faith. None of these men and women of God, apparently, gagged on their hors d’oeuvres.

.. “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that [Democrats] will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence.” Here Trump is preparing his audience for the possibility of bloodshed by predicting it from the other side. Christians, evidently, need to start taking “Onward, Christian Soldiers” more literally.

.. This is now what passes for GOP discourse — the cultivation of anger, fear, grievances, prejudices and hatreds.

.. “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game.” He comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people, and opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American” and “treasonous.”

.. As Robert S. Mueller III continues his inexorable investigation of Trump’s sleazy business and political world — and if Democrats gain the House and begin aggressive oversight — a cornered president may test the limits of executive power in the attempt to avoid justice. If the GOP narrowly retains control of the House, Trump and others will take it as the vindication of his whole approach to politics. The president will doubtlessly go further in targeting his enemies for investigation and other harm. He will doubtlessly attack the independence of the FBI and attempt to make it an instrument of his will. He will doubtlessly continue his vendetta against responsible journalism and increase his pressure on media companies that don’t please him. On a broad front, Trump’s lunacy will become operational.

.. But at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal, was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigor, and could no more be budged than a cliff.”

Republican leaders may dread it, but they will eventually be forced to identify that final area where they keep themselves — or find there is no one there.

The second-most dangerous American

Because John Bolton is five things President Trump is not — intelligent, educated, principled, articulate and experienced — and because of Bolton’s West Wing proximity to a president responsive to the most recent thought he has heard emanating from cable television or an employee, Bolton will soon be the second-most dangerous American.

On April 9, he will be the first national security adviser who, upon taking up residence down the hall from the Oval Office, will be suggesting that the United States should seriously consider embarking on war crimes.

.. The first two charges against the major Nazi war criminals in the 1945-1946 Nuremberg trials concerned waging aggressive war. Emboldened by the success, as he still sees it, of America’s Iraq adventure that began 15 years ago this month, Bolton, for whom a trade war with many friends and foes is insufficiently stimulating, favors real wars against North Korea and Iran. Both have odious regimes, but neither can credibly be said to be threatening an imminent attack against the United States. Nevertheless, Bolton thinks bombing both might make the world safer. What could go wrong?

.. Much is made of the fact that Bolton is implacably hostile to strongman Vladimir Putin, whom the U.S. president, a weak person’s idea of a strong person, admires.

.. It is frequently said that the decision to invade Iraq was the worst U.S. foreign policy decision since Vietnam. Actually, it was worse than Vietnam, and the worst in American history, for two reasons. One is that so far we probably have paid no more that 20 percent of the eventual costs of that decision that enhanced Iran’s ascendancy.

.. For the first time since World War II, when the mobilization of U.S. industrial might propelled this nation to the top rank among world powers, the American president is no longer the world’s most powerful person. The president of China is, partly because of the U.S. president’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without an alternative trade policy. Power is the ability to achieve intended effects. Randomly smashing crockery does not count. The current president resembles Winston Churchill’s description of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — “the only bull I know who carries his china closet with him.”

.. Bolton’s belief in the U.S. power to make the world behave and eat its broccoli reflects what has been called “narcissistic policy disorder” — the belief that whatever happens in the world happens because of something the United States did or did not do. This is a recipe for diplomatic delusions and military overreaching.

.. Speaking of delusions, one died last week — the belief that this president could be safely cocooned within layers of adult supervision. Bolton’s predecessor, H.R. McMaster, wrote a brilliant book (“Dereliction of Duty”) on the failure of officials, particularly military leaders, who knew better but did not resist the stumble into the Vietnam disaster. McMaster is being replaced because he would have done his duty regarding the impulses of the most dangerous American.

Trump’s New Solicitor General Could Fire Russia Investigator Robert Mueller

Francisco was a partner at Jones Day, which Bloomberg Businessweek has called“Trump’s favorite law firm.” The outlet reported in March that at least 14 lawyers from the firm had joined the Trump administration or had been nominated to do so, including Don McGahn, the White House counsel.

.. lawyers from “Trump’s favorite” firm contributed only $7,422 to Trump’s campaign, compared to $267,899 to Hillary Clinton’s.

.. Francisco also is an expert at the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarians in the legal world. The executive vice president, Leonard Leo, is said to have secured the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch and FBI Director Christopher Wray also are listed as experts there. Francisco has donated thousands of dollars to federal election candidates, all Republicans, though not to Trump.

..  Ted Cruz, who once worked with Francisco at the law firm Cooper & Kirk. “He’s a brilliant lawyer & a principled conservative.”

What Donna Brazile’s New Book Really Reveals

The former DNC chair’s sometimes-confused book illuminates the fundamental difference in approach between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

.. Brazile seems to have harbored unrealistic expectations about the DNC’s independence. By the time Brazile was named interim chair in July 2016, Clinton was already the de facto nominee, days away from formal nomination. It’s customary for the nominee to effectively control the party apparatus from that point, but Brazile repeatedly bridled at directives from Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn.
..  Brazile: She is a boisterous, vivacious presence, and Clinton’s campaign was cool and clinical to a fault. Conflict between the two was practically inevitable. And while Brazile’s critique of the Clinton team as overly dispassionate is widely held now, her own instincts were also questionable, as in her demand that money be spent in major cities to drive up turnout due to a fear that Clinton would win the electoral vote but lose the popular vote.
.. the differences between Clinton and Sanders neatly:
one the unshakeable party woman, fiercely devoted to institutions and willing to bend the rules a little to get what she felt needed to be done done; the other
an outsider, with no strong attachment to the party but a fierce sense of principle and propriety.
..  Clinton campaign officials have said the agreement was only about general-election details, and did not prejudice the primary. Mark Longabaugh, a top Sanders aide who was that campaign’s liaison to the DNC, dismissed the story for a different reason: “All Donna has done here is she’s put a little bit more detail on what we all knew,” he told me. “Hillary Clinton had a heavy hand at the DNC, if not outright control.
.. What does seem to be unusual are the terms laid out in an addendum
.. “If you go back and listen to his speeches, the core message of his campaign was he was battling a rigged economic system that was propped up by a corrupt campaign-finance system,”
.. Sanders could have signed states up, but he didn’t do so, for the same practical and ideological reasons he didn’t like the JFA in the first place.
.. the Clinton team should have used that occasion to oust Wasserman Schultz, rather than to demand control of parts of the DNC while leaving her in place... Many Democrats view her airing of dirty laundry now as similarly self-defeating

 

Chris Coons: Why Jeff Flake’s Fall Should Scare Democrats

I may disagree with Mr. Flake on policy, but I consider him an honorable man, a loyal friend and a valued colleague. His retirement is deeply troubling to me because he represents a principled and patriotic Republican Party, one that has long championed strong American leadership around the world, and one I now fear is falling apart.

.. Over the past few decades, our political culture has corroded. Traditions of compromise and civility have given way to a zero-sum, winner-take-all approach that is now out of control. As Mr. Flake said on the Senate floor Tuesday, “Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”

.. Republican leaders have offered occasional defenses of their colleagues from these attacks: Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, called Mr. Flake “a very fine man” of “high principles” on Tuesday. But they have largely remained on the sidelines as Mr. Trump and his allies have attacked those few Republicans who have dared to call for civility and compromise.

The consequences of this could be grave.

.. If the Republican Party under Donald Trump has no room for independent-minded conservatives, and if, in the coming years, senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are replaced by fringe conservatives handpicked because of their blind loyalty to this president, it will be too late for responsible conservatives to salvage the party they’ve built over generations.

.. As Democrats call for independence and pragmatism from Republicans, we should be asking ourselves how tolerant we are of dissent within our own party and how much we are really willing to reach across the aisle.

Candidate for DHS job withdraws because of transgender ban

A candidate for a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security withdrew from consideration on Wednesday, citing President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

.. “As I mentioned in our conversation, I am a strong advocate for diversity, both in the Republican Party and in government,” Fluharty wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO. “The President’s announcement this morning — that he will ban all of those who identify as transgender from military service — runs counter to my deeply held beliefs, and it would be impossible for me to commit to serving the Administration knowing that I would be working against those values.”

Fluharty, who is openly gay, said he interviewed for the job on Tuesday, one day before Trump’s surprise tweet that the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity” in the U.S. military.

General H.R. McMaster Fans Say They Would Follow Him Anywhere

Those who have served with and worked alongside Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s new national security adviser, describe a brilliant leader and military strategist they would follow anywhere.

.. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who recommended McMaster for the position, also served under him in Iraq. Cotton submitted his resignation from the army in 2007, partly because he was passed over for a promotion to a one-star general. He later rescinded that resignation to deploy to Afghanistan.

“H.R. McMaster is one of the finest combat leaders of our generation and a great strategic mind. He is a true warrior scholar, and I’m confident he will serve both the president and the country well,” he said.

.. Friends also say he is honorable.

“He is brilliant and principled. He speaks truth to power and that has occasionally rubbed some of his peers and superiors the wrong way,” said Collins.

.. McMaster wrote the book on military commanders speaking truth to power, which some say could cause him to collide with others at the White House.

.. “He has a forceful personality. He doesn’t suffer fools well. If he thinks somebody’s wrong, he won’t hesitate to say so,” Fitzpatrick added.

.. Fitzpatrick predicts McMaster will get along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who reportedly had battled over political appointments with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a retired army lieutenant general.

“They’re kind of birds of a feather. … I think he’ll play well with [Secretary Rex] Tillerson at the State Department. But others in the White House — that’s the big question. How well they play with him is maybe the question.”

.. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) said in a statement, “I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now.”