R.I.P. McMaster’s credibility

McMaster may very well still be, relatively speaking, the adult in the room when Trump is handling foreign policy, but wow, did he just trash his own reputation in the past 24 hours.  Yesterday at

this time, most journalists/pundits would assume if McMaster said it, it’s probably true.  Today, not so much.  Trump just seems to ruin and corrupt everything he touches.

Dara Lind:

If it’s possible to work for Donald Trump and still remain an honest person, we haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

Time and again, even the most serious and respected people in the Trump administration — people who were looked to as good influences on the ignorant and impulsive president, or, in a worst-case scenario, as canaries in the coal mine — have ended up going out to defend Trump over something indefensible. They may not be technically lying, but they are advancing Trump’s narrative instead of advancing the truth. And more often than not, Trump has repaid them by making them look like fools — admitting he committed whatever sin they’ve helped to cover up. [emphases mine]

Take National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was trotted out to the press Monday night to push back against reports that Trump had divulged super-classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting last week (and possibly put a key anti-ISIS source in danger by doing so).

McMaster’s carefully worded non-denial denial all but went up in smoke by Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted that he’d had very good reasons to give information to the Russians. By the time McMaster delivered a second press briefing Tuesday, he was affirmatively defending Trump’s decision to share information as “wholly appropriate” — and chiding the press for the “leaks” he’d earlier tried to discredit…

What McMaster, Pence, and Rosenstein have done is different. They’ve made statements that are carefully crafted to avoid saying anything that’s technically inaccurate. But those statements have been made to serve a White House narrative that is, itself, a lie.

They’re being accurate. But they’re not being honest…

There are other definitions of integrity. You can decide that you’re acting with integrity if you failed to stop something bad from happening but didn’t do anything to facilitate it. You can decide you’re acting with integrity if lies are going on around you but you don’t say anything that is a lie yourself.

If you’re concerned with preserving your own reputation, that may well make sense. “Yes, I was part of the Trump administration,” you can imagine someone saying a decade from now, “but they never made me lie.” You might be impressed by that. It’s an impressive feat.

Right now that’s the standard that McMaster, Rosenstein, and Pence have met. They have never made false statements. They have only been used to make falsehoods appear true — and made people look like fools for taking them at their word.

Alex Ward:

This might seem like a Post-said, White House-said scenario, but this is much, much more than that. Specifically, there are three main takeaways from the press conference:

  1. One of the most respected generals of the past 20 years is laying his reputation on the line for the president.
  2. When repeatedly asked if Trump leaked classified information, McMaster refused to answer.
  3. McMaster did not deny that Trump decided to leak the information on his own without having first discussed doing so with intelligence officials…

Here’s what is clear: McMaster is entering dangerous territory here by trying to refute this story and adopting the administration’s talking points. For the “hero” who once passionately argued for the importance of standing up for truth in the face of a president’s lies, that course of action seems decidedly unheroic.

Josh Barro:

“It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said on Tuesday, not denying that President Donald Trump shared classified information from an allied intelligence service with Russian diplomats last week.

This is the sad, laughable defense the White House is left with: When the president does it, that means it is not inappropriate.

When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

The president indeed has the legal authority to share classified information if he wants. Contrary to what McMaster claimed, this doesn’t make his choice to do so automatically appropriate.

 

 

Various on-point tweets:

 

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The war that is the biggest failure

Terrific piece on the idiotic decision of Trump/Sessions to “get tough” on drugs from the editors of The National Review.  The fact that this is the source gives me some hope.  At least some conservatives see the utter folly of the war on drugs approach:

Jeff Sessions wants to get tough in the war on drugs. The problem with his line of thinking is that managing the duplex problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking is not a war, however much the rhetoric of war may be mistaken for the fact of war, and the Trump administration’s get-tough posture is unlikely to produce the desired result…

The problem with the war on drugs is the war on drugs.

To believe, as we long have, that the decriminalization of some drugs is preferable to the prohibition of them is not to adopt a stance of moral neutrality on the issue of drug abuse and drug addiction. It is instead a concession to reality, which even politicians must take into account from time to time. The reality is that drug prohibition has not produced the desired results; that it is not an effective means of managing drug abuse or drug addiction; that it creates enormously powerful economic incentives for domestic trafficking operations and allied cartels abroad; that incarceration is in many cases not the best way to turn a drug user or drug dealer into a citizen; that the human and financial costs of fighting a “war” on drugs are enormous, and that the martial rhetoric and assumptions associated with that effort are a menace to privacy and civil liberties; that fighting drug crime has become a ready excuse for police and prosecutors to abuse tools such as civil-asset forfeiture; that our focus on winning the so-called war distracts us from the much more important business of winning the peace by helping addicts and offenders reenter society as productive and valued citizens.

Wow!  Could totally imagine the same thing on the editorial pages of the Times or the Post.  Alas, the guys actually setting policy are retrograde morons.

And, speaking of which, Secretary Tom Price, M.D., is just a stupid, angry old man when it comes to the reality of opiate addiction:

Addiction experts are up in arms following remarks from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as “substituting one opioid for another.”

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to “set the record straight.”

The medicines Price referred to are methadone and buprenorphine, both of which are opioids. The letter notes that there is a “substantial body of research” showing the drugs’ effectiveness, and that they have been the standard of care for addiction treatment for years…

Experts say Price’s remarks, made last week to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, ignore the primary benefits of such medications and go against scientific evidence.

“I was just totally gobsmacked,” says Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Saloner says that Price’s own Department of Health and Human Services displays information online that contradicts his comments.

Yeah, but who needs scientific evidence– much less common sense– in Trump’s America.

The 7-year-old-in chief

Brooks today is devastating and completely on point:

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom…

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself…

His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence…

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires. [emphasis mine]

Chart of the day (Identity Politics)

Been meaning to share this nice chart from 538 using PRRI data:

Yes, just so we’re clear hear, Republicans think Christians and Whites face more discrimination than Blacks and that Christians face more discrimination than Muslims.  Hard to imagine more clear data that Republicans truly are living in an alternate reality.  Thanks Fox and talk radio!

State news

Foxnews.com just now.

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