Quick hits (part II)

1) Quinta Jurecic and Ben Wittes, “23 Dangerous Propositions the Senate Just Ratified”

At least in those circumstances in which the president and the majority of the Senate are of the same political party, the Senate has adopted the following propositions:

  1. It is not an impeachable offense for the president of the United States to condition aid to a foreign government on the delivery of personal favors to himself.
  2. It is not an impeachable offense for the president of the United States to demand that a foreign head of state dish dirt on the president’s political opponents—or demand that he make dirt up if none is available to dish.
  3. For that matter, it is not an impeachable offense for the president to push a foreign law-enforcement agency to investigate a U.S. citizen for conduct no U.S. law-enforcement agency has found to warrant an investigation.
  4. Abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. The oath he swears to “faithfully execute” his duties and “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” notwithstanding, the president is generally free to use his powers under Article II of the Constitution to benefit himself and harm those he disfavors.

And 19 more…

2) Good stuff from Seth Masket, “Trump Will Slime His Democratic Opponent, No Matter Who It Is”

It should be clear by now that this is how Mr. Trump runs for office. He goes into 2020 in a political situation similar to the one he was in four years ago — he’s trailing modestly in polls and is largely seen as ethically challenged. His approach with Hillary Clinton then and with Joe Biden (or any Democrat) now is not to appear more ethical than they are but to besmirch their character with scandal. The idea is to make them look no better than he is, so that political journalists and voters come to see them as equally tainted by scandal, thus neutralizing ethical considerations. [emphasis mine]

It is a remarkable innovation in presidential campaigns. And as the Democrats get deeper into the actual voting toward selecting their nominee and fret over Mr. Biden and Ukraine or Bernie Sanders and socialism, they might keep in mind that it can be applied (early and often) to any opponent…

Traditionally, candidates followed a “glass houses” approach, trying to steer conversations away from areas in which they were vulnerable. Bill Clinton wasn’t about to accuse George H.W. Bush of having an affair, and it would have been strange to see Barack Obama accusing John McCain of inexperience or having a radical minister.

Mr. Trump runs in the opposite direction. He directly accuses his opponents of scandals in which he himself is implicated.

As Masket notes, this only works if the media is actually complicit.  And, of course, we know they damn well will be:

This will be the Trump campaign agenda throughout 2020 if Mr. Biden gets the Democratic nomination — not to portray himself as ethical, but to get voters to say, “Well, both of them have scandals, so whatever.” And some political journalists will feel compelled to acknowledge the accusations against the Bidens. They’ll offer caveats, of course, as one news story from 2019 did, saying, “There’s no evidence that Hunter or his father acted improperly or violated any laws. But the arrangement, government ethics experts say, raises concerns.” The “raises concerns” part is the key — it will be just enough to plant seeds of doubt in voters’ minds about the Democrat’s ethical commitments.

3) Just some stuff Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh has said.  Not offensive/racist/sexist at all.

4) You know I am fascinated by hockey goaltending.  With Ovechkin continuing to tear up the NHL, I was looking for some nice analytical pieces on why he is able to score at such a high rate.  Did not come up with all that much that was particularly insightful (he’s strong and skilled), but I did come across this great piece on goalkeeping (from 5 years ago) by Jonathan Quick.

5) This McKay Coppins piece on Romney’s impeachment vote was really good.  You should read it:

Romney was similarly unmoved by the Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz’s contention that a president who believes his reelection is in the national interest can’t be impeached for pursuing a political advantage. “I had Professor Dershowitz for criminal law in law school,” Romney said, “and he was known to occasionally take his argument to its illogical conclusion.” Nor was the senator swayed by the theory that a president can be impeached only for breaking a statutory law. “To use an old Mormon hymn phrase, that makes reason stare,” he said. “The idea that Congress would have to anticipate all of the offensive things a president could possibly do, and then make them a statute?” Romney posed a hypothetical: What if the president decided to pardon every Republican in prison nationwide, while leaving every Democrat locked up? “There’s no law against that!” he said. “So it’s not a crime or misdemeanor. But it’s obviously absurd.”…

“I was under the misimpression that what brought Republican voters together was conviction in a certain number of policy points of view,” Romney said. He recalled a political strategist during one of his early campaigns explaining how to court the three main factions of the GOP coalition—social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and foreign-policy hawks. Much of Romney’s career since then has been spent trying to win over ideological purists on the right. In 2012, he said, some Tea Party activists refused to support him, because he didn’t have a plan to balance the federal budget within a single year.

Now the conservative movement is ruled by a president who routinely makes a mockery of such litmus tests. Deficit reduction? “There’s no purchase for that,” Romney said. Foreign policy? “The letters with Kim Jong Un didn’t seem to frighten people away … The meeting with the Russian ambassador in the White House right after the election didn’t seem to bother people.” Somehow, Romney said, he is the one constantly being told that he needs to “be with the president.”

“I get that a lot—‘Be with the president,’” Romney told me, sounding slightly perplexed. “And I’ll say, ‘Regardless of his point of view? Regardless of the issue?’ And they say yes. And … it’s like, ‘Well, no, I can’t do that.’”

6) I like Drum on Trump’s seeming appeal to Black voters that is really just about trying to help Trump supporters tell themselves they are not supporting a stone cold racist:

Who else? A number of people think Trump’s speech was aimed at suburban centrists who are uneasy with his usual harsh rhetoric. The idea here is for Trump to look more moderate and inclusive toward blacks while continuing to bang the drum about immigrants who have murdered white folks. The message is that Trump is no racist, but he’ll keep you safe from all the brown people.

But that’s not all. Something that I think people miss is that this kind of inclusive racial rhetoric is also aimed directly at Trump’s base. Remember this?

Donald J. Trump


Happy ! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics! https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrump/posts/10157008375200725:0 

Anybody with a liberal sensibility cringed at this, but the message to Trump’s base was clear: See, I’m trying to reach out to Hispanics. But no matter what I do they call it racist.

The inclusive SOTU rhetoric works the same way: Trump is telling his base that he’s no racist and, by inference, that they aren’t racist either. Liberals just call everyone racist who disagrees with them. It’s a very comforting message.

7) Dan Froomkin on the horrible “both sides!” coverage and theater coverage of the SOTU.

8) Josh Putnam argues that people have been complaining about the Iowa Caucus coming first for a long time without it being changed, so don’t expect it now.  True, but never the intensity of complaint or the amazing ammunition to bear, so I remain optimistic.

9) I always enjoy journalists taking Susan Collins to task for her sanctimonious idiocy instead of falling for her act.  In some ways, I really wonder if Collins is just that dumb?  Thinks we’re all that dumb?  Or is just delusional?  Anyway, Ruth Marcus on Collins and other preposterous Republican excuses

President Trump is not going to change. Not now, not ever. “Chastened” is not in his vocabulary; pivoting to presidential is not in his repertoire. If there is anything the country should have learned in the age of Trump, it is this.

So of all the amazing things that Republican senators have said in defense of their impending votes to acquit Trump, it is that a president who has been unwilling to or incapable of learning lessons will somehow have learned a lesson by being . . . not punished by them.

The latest to join this self-delusion caucus is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. “I believe that the president has learned from this case,” she told CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell on Tuesday, expanding on a floor speech in which she announced — surprise — her vote to acquit. “​The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”…

So the reasons to think Trump has, finally, learned the lesson and will adjust his behavior accordingly are precisely zero. You cannot learn a lesson if you continue to insist that your behavior was perfect. Collins offered a concise summary of the problems with Trump’s behavior: “​Because the president of the United States should not be asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. That is just improper. It was far from a perfect call.”

Correct. But that is not what Trump believes. There was Trump tweeting the day before the Collins interview, decrying the “totally partisan Impeachment Hoax.” Lesson learned — not.

The human capacity for self-delusion is exceeded only by the politician’s capacity for self-justification. Aspects of both might be at play here. And Collins, as I mentioned, is not alone. There was Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I think that he knows now that, if he is trying to do certain things — whether it’s ferreting out corruption there, in Afghanistan, whatever it is — he needs to go through the proper channels,” Ernst said. Uh huh. Trump. Proper channels. Right.

There was Indiana Sen. Mike Braun on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” similarly, willfully delusional. Trump, observed host Chuck Todd, is “going to take acquittal and think, ‘I can keep doing this.’ ” Braun begged to differ: “No, I don’t think that. Hopefully, it’ll be instructive.”

10) I’ve been following Rachel Bitecofer on twitter since back when she had hardly any followers and she relentlessly hawked her 2018 election prediction model by jumping on tweets from Nate Silver, Harry Enten, etc.  Thanks to a good model and zealous self-promotion, she’s gotten herself regular appearances on MSNBC and 60,000+ followers.  She tweets some good stuff, but I follow plenty of more insightful political scientists. What has been fascinating is watching her in real-time basically reverse engineer the algorithm for successful social media self promotion.  I’ve been particularly taken aback by the “she’s ignored disrespected because she’s a woman” theme, when, it always struck me as pretty clear that she was ignored and disrespected because she had no history of this and because she’s a professor at Christopher Newport University.  Anyway, interesting profile of her not-nearly-as-unique-and-innovative-as-she-claims (but, hey, that works) approach in Politico.

11) This is from way back, but Matt Yglesias‘ “Immigration makes America great” piece is great.  And, this is a pretty short quick hits, so you should click through and read it:

The main sources of immigration — and the main occupations likely to employ immigrants — have changed over time, but the story has been the same from the beginning. A larger and more diverse population supports more intensive development of the resources available and a more complex division of labor, leading, over time, to a steadily more sophisticated and prosperous national economy.

A lone person on an island by himself will struggle to get by even if he is surrounded by natural abundance. A small band would live at a subsistence level. To achieve true affluence, people need to be able to specialize and trade with one another. To an extent in the modern world, that means access to global markets — grain can be shipped to Europe and timber to Japan. But for most people, it means direct access to other people, who serve as customers and co-workers and suppliers…

Going forward, demographers forecast that immigration — both the people it provides directly and the children that immigrants bear and raise — is the only reason America’s working-age population isn’t declining. This is doubly true when you consider that immigrants’ work in the household and child care sectors likely serves to increase native-born Americans’ childbearing as well.

A declining working-age population, seen already in Japan and some southern European countries, poses some serious challenges to a national economy. It tends to push interest rates down to an incredibly low level, making it difficult for central banks to respond to a recession. It also makes it more difficult to sustain public sector retirement programs and elder care more generally.

There are some offsetting upsides (less strain on transportation infrastructure, for example), and, like anything else, the problems are solvable. Fundamentally, however, an America that is shrinking is a country that is going to be a lesser force in the world than an America that is growing. It’s true, of course, that an America that continues to be open to immigrants will be a progressively less white and less Christian country over time. That’s a threatening prospect to many white Christian Americans, who implicitly identify the country in ethnic and sectarian terms. But America’s formal self-definition has never been in those terms.

And for those who believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the value of America’s ideals, accepting a future of decline and retreat in the name of ethnic purity should be unacceptable. That the more homogeneous America will be not just smaller and weaker but also poorer on a per capita basis only underscores what folly it would be to embrace the narrow vision. That hundreds of millions of people around the world would like to move to our shores — and that America has a long tradition of assimilating foreigners and a political mythos and civil culture that is conducive to doing so — is an enormous source of national strength.

It’s time we started to see it that way.


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