No More Confirmations. Period.

It’s not chaos if the dizzying madness is caused by careful design. Yet, the nation’s front pages insist day after day that “chaos” and “turmoil” are “roiling” the White House, as Rex Tillerson is sacked on the can, as Rick Perry potentially moves from one agency he can’t remember to another. The repetition is nauseating, which is a better descriptor for the effects of our president’s childish gamesmanship with executive branch personnel. For there is nothing chaotic or tumultuous about a deliberate plan by an institutional terrorist hell bent on dismantling the citizenry’s trust in its own government. How else could you describe a president so gleeful over the sickening drama he has injected into his own administration’s bloodstream? Rather than replenish a government he has failed to adequately fill, Donald Trump continues to haphazardly hack away.

In doing so, President Trump has undermined the basic functioning of responsible government even beyond his own unprecedented ignorance. We are about to be on our second CIA director, secretary of state, and FBI director in little over a year, to say nothing of the breakneck churn of the president’s own staff. Trump’s impish disregard for the orderly functioning of government has even impeded his own priorities—deportations of undocumented immigrants are far lower than they were during any time under President Obama (though they are more arbitrary and cruel).

Fortunately, the president’s effort at disrupting his own cabinet is one of the few areas over which Congress has strong, constitutional authority to affect. The response must be strong and unmistakable: the U.S. Senate should refuse to confirm—should refuse to even consider—any Trump cabinet-level nominee. Continue reading

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Much Wahoo About Something

Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians displays the Chief Wahoo Indians baeball cap.

We are now entering year four of what some might call our national war over political correctness. In 2015, multiple Republican presidential candidates placed curtailing political correctness at the heart of their campaigns. In 2016, one of those candidates engaged his supporters with racially charged, politically incorrect rhetoric and won the presidency. In 2017, that president reignited the conservative version of political correctness, condemning football players, mostly African-American, for boycotting the national anthem in protest of racialized police violence. And we’ve begun 2018 with a debate about immigration from “shithole countries” and the dismissal of hundreds of thousands brought to this country illegally as children as immoral and deportable.

It is into this thicket that Major League Baseball stepped gingerly last week when it reached agreement with the Cleveland Indians to retire Chief Wahoo—the grinning, red-faced caricature of America’s first people that has symbolized Cleveland’s professional baseball club since 1947. The Indians will continue to sell limited issue Wahoo merchandise in northeast Ohio to retain its intellectual property rights and prevent mass marketing of the image by others, but the team will heavily reduce the logo’s circulation and will cease featuring it on its uniforms after next year.

One might imagine that an athletic team’s choice of mascot would not engender controversy or bitterness. That might be the case were it not for the deep-seated emotions caused by issues of race and sports in American culture. The day MLB announced its decision, a poll on Cleveland.com was running about 9 to 1 in favor of retaining Chief Wahoo, before settling a little above three-fourths support over the following week. A change.org petition collected over 15,000 signatures in support of the mascot and against “all the P.C. hype!” Polite opinion and corporate dollars are on the side of change, but the passion is with Chief Wahoo. Continue reading

The New Republican Moment

In his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Donald Trump proclaimed a “new American moment.” Unlike the annual address’s typical, forward-thinking framing, that moment, the president told us, is not near, close, or upon us—it is now. According to our ever-circumspect commander-in-chief, the Trump presidency has ushered in a new golden age in just one year. It will apparently not, however, contain any policy prescriptions or legislative initiatives. The speech was long on celebration but almost entirely devoid of new ideas. President Trump appears to have no agenda for his moment other than to bask in it.

Empty thought it may have been, the speech was a fitting capstone for the administration’s first year of restructuring the Republican Party. Trump boasted about a soaring stock market and large corporate tax cuts (populism!) while once again framing the immigration crisis as one of murderous Latino gangs roving suburbia’s sidewalks. Moments before calling for unity, he impliedly chastised black celebrities for not standing for the national anthem. It was a clear marker of where his administration now stands. Trump is a plutocrat happy to hand his less fortunate supporters the figment of control that is white supremacy. Continue reading

Intellectual Shutdown

I’m sure by now you are thoroughly sick of the transparent messaging squabbles involved in the “Schumer shutdown” versus “Trump shutdown” debate that ended earlier this evening. The particulars of how we arrived at this strange moment in American politics are complicated but comprehensible, and they involved a detailed accounting of the parties’ (and the president’s) positions on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, not a silly hashtag war about who is to blame. Both parties are to blame in a sense, of course. The salient question, however, is whose role in shutting down the government was justified and to what extent. That’s an inquiry that involves both an assessment of the parties’ values and whether their negotiating positions and public statements support them—a full consideration of who is being consistent, who is negotiating in good faith, and whose words are backed up by their actions. But that’s not what we are getting.

For all the talk of how the media has adapted to the Trump era, the shutdown coverage has shown how far we have yet to go. Continue reading

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

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