Review: What Happened

 

What Happened by Hillary Clinton

It was no surprise that Hillary’s Clinton’s latest book was greeted by many as yet another attempt by a calculating politician to deflect blame and reposition her reputation. Here was the former Democratic nominee, not even a year removed from a shocking electoral defeat that by all accounts should not have happened and that has imperiled American democracy, reinserting herself into the national discourse to yet again defend and explain her values and choices. Always opposed to losers, frequently distrusting of Clintons, and often unsympathetic to women, political pundits focused their reviews on whether Clinton sufficiently accepted responsibility for her election loss, seeking their pound of flesh. In a media landscape that allowed vague suspicions about Clinton’s motives and morals to reach equal footing with the daily outrages of Donald Trump, it was all too easy to dismiss Clinton as the worst interpreter of “what happened.”

In many ways, the critical reception proved the unstated thesis of the book. That once set, narratives never die. And for Hillary Clinton—a smart, ambitious, private, and independent woman—that narrative has always been that there was something lurking behind the curtain even when she was most exposed. Fortunately, then, Clinton didn’t write What Happened for those viewing her through that prism. Instead, she set out to expose that prism and show its effect on both the campaign and her public life. Continue reading

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The Wrong Stuff

It has been clear for some time now that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the United States. This observation has little to do with recognizing his profound lack of knowledge, expertise, or interest in the job, to say nothing of his gusto for dousing America’s smoldering racial and religious divisions with kerosene, or his penchant for looting the government’s coffers for his own private gain. All of that is true, and supports the years-long insistence from Democrats and half-hearted, anonymous leaks from timid Republicans that Trump is fundamentally unable to perform even the most minimal functions of the job. What has become increasingly clear since he took the oath of office, however, is something even more serious—Trump is exhibiting significant mental deterioration and instability. Continue reading

This Has to Stop

Nuclear explosion

It’s not the most egregious thing Donald Trump has ever done. He’s made far more vulgar statements before. His past utterances have been far more bizarre and nonsensical. His presidential actions are more likely to cause greater lasting harm than any incendiary comment gushing from his addled, angry brain—from environmental deregulation to regressive tax cuts to the destabilization of health care markets. Besides, maintaining peak outrage over a Trumpian tweet is a hopeless endeavor. He can always go lower, and he’ll waste little time doing so.

But the series of 2018-christening presidential tweets this week were a truly nauseating display, and they culminated in a proclamation that should instigate his speedy removal from office. At 7:49pm on January 2nd, Trump pressed “send” on the following inane missive:

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works! Continue reading

Goodies

On July 11, 2012, Mitt Romney, then the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States, addressed the NAACP at its annual convention, defending the rich while promising to repeal Obamacare. He was loudly booed. Later that day, before a crowd of supporters in Montana, Romney indicated that perhaps earning the derision of the civil rights organization was entirely planned. After mentioning his earlier speech to the NAACP, Romney proudly stated that, “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok…but I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.” Continue reading

Moore Responsibility

What is there to say about this special election in Alabama? In the race to fill an open Senate seat in the Heart of Dixie, a neck and neck campaign is being waged between two candidates with significant baggage. On one side, we have Roy Moore, an incendiary demagogue who was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to follow federal court orders, has advocated policies criminalizing being gay and prohibiting Muslims from serving in congress, has brandished a pistol at a campaign rally, and who has molested, assaulted, propositioned, and chased after a procession of children when he was more than 30-years-old. And on the other side stands Doug Jones—a Democrat. Bemoaning the conservative culture that has made this contest a fair fight has become tedious. Stressing the stakes has been done to death. Decrying our society’s moral perversion at the hands of partisan politics is nearly trite. There is no ambiguity here. The facts are simple; the consequences clear. This is a contest between a mainstream, center-left politician and the forces of evil. The only question to be answered is who will win.

It is a component of that open question that is up for debate right now. Not so much who will win—that will be decided cleanly on December 12th—but how will they win and who is responsible? Because Alabama is repeating the distressing storyline we have watched time and again about male predators and pigs up for election—that it’s up to women to stop them. Continue reading

Party Control

Voters will go to the polls next week to select new governors in New Jersey and Virginia. In the Garden State, New Jersians appear poised to erase the stain of Chris Christie’s eight years of degradation by electing Phil Murphy over Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Virginia, however, appears to be a closer call, with polls all over the map, from a 17-point lead for Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam to an 8-point advantage for the Republican, Ed Gillespie. The Virginia race is quite interesting not only for its potential for election night drama, but also for the fascinating and disturbing dynamics currently playing out on the campaign trail. Continue reading

It Takes a Party

Today was the final day that the Republican-led Senate could pass a health care bill with only fifty-one votes.  Under Senate procedure, budget measures can pass through the end of the fiscal year under the reconciliation process with mere majority support; once that window closes, a free-standing health care bill would lay vulnerable to the filibuster’s sixty-vote threshold applicable to all other legislation. As became clear a few days ago when Maine Senator Susan Collins joined Senators John McCain and Rand Paul (and their forty-eight Democratic colleagues) in opposing the latest iteration of this zombie bill, Republicans do not yet have the votes to accomplish their seven-year promise of radically reshaping the American health care system.

The entire multi-part Republican effort to dismantle the current health care regime has been rather surreal. Continue reading

If The End Is Near, Why Are We Here?

Politicians and pundits have tried their best for the last ten months to unlearn the faulty logic and mistaken axioms that led to one of the biggest election day surprises in American history. These efforts have been earnest and sincere in certain quarters. Professional pollsters have taken up the unpleasant task of meaningful self-criticism with admirable gusto. A sharp dose of humility has appeared to take hold of the pundit class, at least for now. Overall, the media has covered President Trump more fairly than candidate Trump (that is, it has been more willing to honestly label dishonesty). Yet, there is one important area of political analysis that remains unchanged from the campaign to the resistance: a conviction that politically damaging, morally abhorrent behavior from Donald Trump will lead to his exit from the public scene. Continue reading

Live-Tweeting Obstruction of Justice

Three strains of executive incompetence and self-immolation came to a head this week. First, on the policy front, the administration’s absent leadership and ham-fisted threats continued its unbroken string of legislative futility as the Senate failed to pass its promised healthcare bill. Second, the wild and revolting West Wing drama cultivated by President Trump reached new heights as newly hired (and now newly fired) communications director Anthony Scaramucci caused Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Preibus to resign, while embarrassing himself with unhinged, confusing, and vulgar statements to the media. And third, the President escalated his assault on the rule of law by assailing his own Attorney General for recusing himself from overseeing the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation due to unavoidable conflicts just as powerful evidence between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin came to light.

Yes, it has been an unnerving few weeks for the country (to say nothing of the last six months, or the last two years). What seems to make it all the more unsettling, though, is the sense—that heavy, dank, oppressive feeling—that that there will be no consequences. The sense that the rules have changed, that none of this will make a difference, and that these monsters will get away with everything. Certainly, this fear has informed and shaped much of the media coverage, with our weekly check ins on whether the Trump diehards are holding fast (newsflash: they are!).

This aura of invincibility that many across the spectrum—left, right, middle, and the media alike—perceive enveloping President Trump is understandable. There’s a legitimate concern that our politics are so polarized, and that the Republican Party is so radicalized, that Trump will survive all outrages and abuses and stand a decent chance of reelection should the economy continue rolling along. Perhaps in the short term this view is correct; Trump will hold most Republicans and the hearts of its most active supporters, and in turn the congressional GOP will muddle along, leaving him unchecked. But the problem with applying the “Teflon Don” theory to all things Trump—including his piques of obstructionist rage and the assorted sordid happenings of son Donnie Jr.—is that it imposes a cable TV framework to legal and policy worlds unconcerned with political theatre. A criminal investigation is not a news cycle. Continue reading

Lies Are Lies Are Lies Are Lies

There are a lot of ways to lie. That was the upshot from Thursday’s dramatic Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where former FBI Director James Comey spent the better part of three hours recounting the latest chapter in the 1960s political thriller that is our ongoing national nightmare. The hearing uncovered new ground when Comey described President Donald Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Michael Flynn investigation and implied that there was a greater scope to the underlying Russia investigation than previously thought. It also exhibited the many flavors of falsehoods.

The tutorial began the day before the hearing, when the Intelligence Committee prematurely released Director Comey’s written testimony. That seven-page submission detailed presidential intimidation in a dramatic first-person chronology of dinners and telephone calls between a wooing President Trump and a reluctant Comey. The testimony described a series of efforts by Trump as both president-elect and president to pressure the then FBI Director into engaging in deceit in its subtlest form—lying by omission. Continue reading