Trump’s Soylent Green Budget

Let’s review:

Now, let’s look at what Trump put in the budget proposal released yesterday, from Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent:

Some of the highlights:

  • The Trump budget would cut about $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years
  • It cuts $241 billion from Medicaid
  • It would push Medicaid toward block grants which cap the amount each state would receive, which when the money runs out would result in pared-back benefits, recipients being tossed off the program or both
  • It would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which would mean millions would lose their health coverage
  • It would cut $25 billion from Social Security
  • It would impose work requirements on recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, forcing them to navigate a bureaucratic maze or lose their benefits
  • It would cut $220 billion from food stamps
  • It would cut $1.1 trillion from domestic discretionary programs, which do not include Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security
  • It would cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 16 percent and the Education Department by 12 percent
  • It would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent

In short, it’s Ryan’s dream come true.

Now, it’s entirely possible this stuff was cobbled together by staff, and Trump himself never saw it. After all, in the past few days he’s been hard at work tweeting that climate change is a hoax and that he has found new ways to be more efficient with names. But he might have noticed that the timing of this budget was a tad awkward, as we’re in the middle of a tax season in which millions of Americans are realizing they were conned about getting a tax cut.

Further, in 2016, older white voters were Trump’s most reliable demographic. You’d think this would piss them off. However, one suspects they aren’t calling this out much on Fox News …

Stuff to Read

David Corn has a post at Mother Jones headlined A Florida Massage Parlor Owner Has Been Selling Chinese Execs Access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Unfortunately, David Corn presents no evidence that Trump received payments from the massage parlor owner. On the other hand, there is lots of evidence the massage parlor owner and Trump have connections. See, for example, Plutocrat Whose Fortune Is Built on Sex Slavery Watched Super Bowl With Trump.

This is not a new article, but I’m just now seeing it — Politics is Failing Mass Transit. Our inability to address things we reallly need — like better mass transic or fixing our failing infrastructure — speaks to broken politics and our inability to make our elected politicians accountable for delivering what we really need.

Lots of buzz about this New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, The Making of the Fox News White House.

I also endorse Sarah Jones, The Democratic Party Needs Ilhan Omar.

See Charles Tiefer at Forbes, Judge Who Let Manafort Off Easy With 47 Months Was A Reagan Appointee.

On Bigots and Bigotry

The terrible irony of the Ilhan Omar controversy is that it amounts to swarms of bigots using alleged bigotry as an excuse to hate-target a Muslim woman of color and feel righteous about it.

Paul Waldman wrote yesterday:

In what is surely the most shameful decision of her current term as speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decided that the time has come for the House to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for things she didn’t actually say, and ideas she didn’t actually express. In the process, Pelosi and other Democrats are helping propagate a series of misconceptions about anti-Semitism, Israel, and U.S. political debate.

I’m going to try to bring some clarity to this issue, understanding how difficult it can be whenever we discuss anything that touches on Israel.

To be clear, I do this as someone who was raised in an intensely Zionist family with a long history of devotion and sacrifice for Israel, but who also — like many American Jews — has become increasingly dismayed not only by developments in Israel but by how we talk about it here in the United States.

Of course, Democrats are well conditioned to assume the fetal position and plead guilty whenever the Right mounts one of these swarm attacks, and on cue they began an atonement/cleansing ritual in the form of the House rebuke of Rep. Omar.

But some Dems objected.

Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday defended Rep. Ilhan Omar against the backlash to her comments slamming pro-Israel groups and politicians, which have been called anti-Semitic.

Sanders, who is Jewish, said criticism of Omar and efforts to get her taken off the House Foreign Affairs Committee, primarily from House Republicans, are aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel.

“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” the Vermont independent said in a statement. “That’s wrong.”

Warren expressed the same opinion, in so many words, and Harris expressed concern that the targeting of Omar was putting the congresswoman at risk.

What did she say this time? Back to Waldman:

In the latest round of controversy, Omar said during a town hall, regarding U.S. policy toward Israel, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

And this was a problem because …

This comment was roundly condemned by members of Congress and many others for being anti-Semitic. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) called her statement “a vile anti-Semitic slur” and accused her of questioning “the loyalty of fellow American citizens.”

Pelosi then announced that the House would vote on a resolution which, while not mentioning Omar by name, is clearly meant as a condemnation of her. It contains multiple “whereas” statements about the danger of accusing Jews of “dual loyalty.”

But I don’t think she was talking about the “dual loyalty” of Jews. I think she was talking about the way Israel has become a third rail, or sacred cow, or whatever metaphor you want to hang on it ti indicate that Israel must not be criticized no matter what for fear of the critic being called anti-Semitic. We’re all being roped into dual loyalty, Jewish or not.


Here’s the truth: The whole purpose of the Democrats’ resolution is to enforce dual loyalty not among Jews, but among members of Congress, to make sure that criticism of Israel is punished in the most visible way possible. This, of course, includes Omar. As it happens, this punishment of criticism of Israel is exactly what the freshman congresswoman was complaining about, and has on multiple occasions. The fact that no one seems to acknowledge that this is her complaint shows how spectacularly disingenuous Omar’s critics are being. ……

…Ilhan Omar certainly didn’t say that Jews have dual loyalty. For instance, in one of the tweets that got people so worked up, Omar said, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.” You’ll notice she didn’t say or even imply anything at all about Jews. She said that she was being asked to support Israel in order to have the privilege of serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was true. Many on the right have called for her to be removed from that committee (see here, or here, or here, or here). Her argument, to repeat, isn’t about how Jews feel about Israel, it’s about what is being demanded of her.

See also Wajahat Ali Rabia Chaudry in WaPo:

The firestorm around Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent tweets about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and criticism of Israel has drawn attention to what language rises to the level of anti-Semitism, the shamefuldouble standards for Muslims and people of color, and how anti-Semitism is often hypocritically used as a political bludgeon. GOP leadership has called for an official censure and her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and House Democrats called for a resolution this weekdenouncing anti-Semitismafter Omar recently tweeted, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country,” which some have said plays on the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty. Notably, no such outrage from Republican members of Congress emerged after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used anti-Semitic tropes during the 2018 midterm election or during much of the tenure of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has a long history of making offensive comments about race and white nationalism.

In response, #IStandWithIlhan has trended with people, including Jews, who support the Muslim congresswoman. Omar (D-Minn.), who has faced anti-Muslim hate linking her to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and death threats, is being unfairly demonized for her critical comments on Israel and AIPAC, especially when compared to white Republican men like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) who recently used “$teyer” in a tweet to refer to Jewish American billionaire Tom Steyer.

Monday night, President Trump tweeted that Omar’s comments are a “dark day for Israel!” which is rich coming from the man who falsely blamed George Soros, a Jewish billionaire, for funding a “caravan” across the border and praised white supremacists, who chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, as “very fine people.”

This whole episode just stinks out loud, and Democrats who are not defending Rep. Omar should be ashamed of themselves.

Rep. Ilhan Omar

A Richard Mellon Scaife Front Group Targets Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The National Legal and Policy Center is “a front group and industry funded right-wing political and policy lobbying organization,” according to SourceWatch. NLPC has a history of targeting liberal politicians and unions by spreading rumors and sometimes filing complaints. SourceWatch says the NLPC’s chief source of funds is Richard Mellon Scaife, whom you might remember was the instigator of the “Arkansas Project” that bought us the nearly endless Whitewater investigation against President Bill Clinton.

Now NLPC is targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Brand New Congress project. NLPC filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Election Commission claiming that AOC’s “top aide illegally funneled campaign donations to two companies he owned,” it says in the right-wing Washington Times.

Saikat Chakrabarti set up Brand New Congress PAC to collect and bundle donations for newbie politicians including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. He then diverted more than $1 million to two of his companies that did campaign work, skirting reporting requirements. …

…The PAC money went to Mr. Chakrabarti’s Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC, entities that, unlike PACs and candidate campaigns, do not have to report or itemize their spending.

The Ocasio-Cortez campaign also was paying Brand New Congress LLC for “strategic consulting.”

Saikat Chakrabarti was AOC’s campaign chair and then named by her as chief of staff when she won the November election.

I noticed this story is only running in right-wing media, which made me suspect it’s bogus. If there were a real scandal, mainstream media would not have hesitated to pick it up and run with it. Sure enough, I found this —

The Justice Democrats page explains how Brand New Congress was set up.

One thing we knew we needed to have was a Federal PAC (not a SuperPAC — Federal PACs have a $5,000 donation limit, and we wanted to make sure that we had a cap on donations). This PAC would be necessary to do the work of policy development and candidate recruiting. So we created Brand New Congress as a PAC. But actually running the campaigns — meaning doing direct work for campaigns — is not something a PAC can do for a candidate for free. If a PAC did free work for a campaign, that would literally be the definition of dark money (technically, a PAC can ‘in-kind’ work like this, but we’d be capped at $5,000 worth of work). The FEC puts value on many kinds of campaign work (e.g. direct message consulting, writing press statements, any field work or voter outreach work, etc.). So, we knew that in addition to a PAC to recruit and train candidates, we needed some mechanism to charge the campaigns for the work we’d be doing for them as cheaply as possible while doing it all legally and according to FEC rules.

We originally thought that we could set ourselves up similar to PCCC ( They do something similar, where the PAC is set up to do activities like training and recruiting candidates, and then they provide some campaign services for a fee to candidates. However, when we talked to our lawyer, he explained to us that this kind of ‘fee-for-service’ work has to be a small percentage of a PAC’s total work. With BNC, our plan was to essentially run the full campaigns for the vast majority of our candidates, so we were advised that this would definitely be too much fee-for-service work for a Federal PAC to do and still maintain its status as a Federal PAC. The ONLY way to do work for multiple candidates legally at this scale is to create an LLC and act as a vendor.

For that reason, we created Brand New Congress, LLC. To keep things simple, we put all our staff in that LLC and had it act as the vendor for both the PAC and all the candidates. We had in our operating agreement that the goal of the LLC was not to make a profit, and as such, we made our prices as low as possible while still satisfying the FEC’s requirement that we are charging something reasonable because, again, if we weren’t we would essentially be doing heavily discounted work for candidates and that is illegal and immoral since fighting dark money is literally what we want to do. To try to make this as clean as possible, we not only had the language in our operating agreement about the LLC’s purpose, but we also made sure that Saikat Chakrabarti was the only controlling member of the LLC, and that he took no salary (either from the LLC, from Justice Democrats, or from Brand New Congress the PAC). Saikat is lucky to have a small side business that generates him enough income that he is able to do all of this work as a volunteer.

The post goes on to explain the Justice Dems’ setup also.

Today, right-wing blogs and media outlets like Red State, Breitbart and even the Daily Caller are running screaming headlines about how AOC and her aide may face jail time. The problem is that even after the FEC eventually bats down the nothingburger complaint, the charge will live on forever in right-wing mythos, and the Right will continue to charge AOC with campaign finance violations forever and ever.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with aide Saikat Chakrabarti, AP photo

A Neoliberal Democrat Concedes Defeat

If you read nothing else today, read the interview of Brad DeLong by Zack Beauchamp at Vox. And then read Greg Sargent’s column on the interview. Brad DeLong has some comments on the interview at his blog.

Brad DeLong says he identifies as a mostly neoliberal guy who prefers market-oriented solutions to problems. But, he acknowledges, that approach doesn’t work politically any more and hasn’t for some time. From Vox:

The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

Greg Sargent:

Instead, once Republicans took total control for two years, we saw the rewards granted to Democrats for trying to be compromising. The reward for adopting Mitt Romney’s health-care plan in hopes of getting bipartisan support for it was unremitting scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare, including a failed effort to repeal it entirely, which Republicans undertook while pretending they were maintaining people’s protections.

The reward for Obama and Democrats reaching deals to cut spending and treading lightly in response to the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and keeping full-blown economic populism at bay, was President Trump’s massive deficit-exploding corporate tax cut that showered enormous benefits on top earners, which Republicans passed while pretending their plan was pro-worker.

The reward for Obama and Democrats embracing market-oriented “cap and trade” climate policy was that Republicans blocked it with a wall of intransigence and fossil-fuel-industry-funded climate change denialism. Now Republicans are all-in with Trump’s even more explicit climate denialism and a full-scale effort to roll back everything Obama did to combat global warming, including Trump pulling us out of a painstakingly negotiated international deal in a manner that is enraging our allies.

As a result, DeLong concedes that it’s time for the “centrists” to pass the torch to the Left. That’s because the centrist political approach depends on there being reasonable Republicans to make deals with. There are no such people in Washington any more. I’d say there haven’t been enough reasonable Republicans in Washington to accomplish anything for at least twenty years. Arguably thirty. Why has it taken the “centrist” Democrats so bleeping long to figure that out?

Waldman writes that the working political theory was that “striking broad bipartisan deals on policy might be worth doing, even if the result is somewhat less progressive,” because it would result in the policies being more popular and more strongly entrenched.  But, again, how long has it been since that actually worked? Instead, using that theory, Democrats have delivered watered-down crap policies that nobody cares about because they don’t do all that much.

And the Democratic party brand became meaningless, and as the quality of life for middle- and working-class people became more and more precarious, and  Republicans successfully blamed everybody’s problems on liberalism, and right-wing populism grew, and then Mrs. Pragmatic Incremental Do-Nothing Democrat lost to Donald Trump. Brilliant.

It’s time, then — well, it was time twenty or thirty years ago — for the neoliberals to step aside and let the leftists (who occupy where the center used to be, remember) take the lead.

Not everybody gets it. Paul Waldman writes that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who announced his candidacy for the presidency today, is clueless. “I’m running for president because I believe that not only can I beat Donald Trump but that I am the person that can bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done,” Hickenlooper said.

Has he been paying no attention at all lo these many years?

See also Martin Longman, “The Sanders and Hickenlooper Fallacies.” The Bernie Sanders fallacy, according to Longman, is “a grass-roots movement so powerful that it would force Republicans in Congress to vote for things they despise such as single-payer health care and free college.” I don’t think Sanders ever suggested Republicans would support those things; he has been about getting head-up-their-asses centrist Democrats to support those things. But let’s go on. Longman writes,

The second fallacy can be called “the John Hickenlooper fallacy,” after the former Denver mayor and Colorado governor who just announced his candidacy for president. In this scenario, you can convince a sufficient number of Republicans to vote for your agenda by having a respectful dialogue with them.

Which of course is absurd. The current Republican party has to die. There is no other way the government is going to work again.

Longman doesn’t think the Dems have a prayer of taking the Senate back in 2020. I hadn’t heard it was that bad. But if it is, that means that the neocons really should have wised up twenty years ago, because the United States can’t survive much more of this.

Trumpism Is Not Going to End Well

Some parts of “mainstream” media have gone so far as to call Trump’s CPAC speech “unhinged.” So it will not surprise you to know that the Right loved it. Indeed, one of the libertarians at the comically named Reason magazine said of the speech, Trump Just Might Have Won the 2020 Election Today. “The president’s speech at CPAC was a bedazzling mix of bravado, B.S., humor, and positive vision no Democrat will be able to top,” the article blurb gushes.

There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn’t be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.

In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire (“Crooked Hillary,” “build the wall,” “America is winning again,” and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams’ genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, “This is how I got elected, by going off script.” Two years into his presidency and he’s just getting warmed up.

Whether the qualities the writer, Nick Gillespie, describes here are qualities most Americans actually want to see in a president is another question, of course. And from here I could launch into a diatribe on the irony of self-described “libertarians” aligning themselves with the increasingly anti-liberty and authoritarian Party of Trump. But let me just link to some stuff in the archives for that — see “The Black Heart of Libertarianism,” “Libertarianism is BS,” “Libertarianism vs. Liberty,” “Libertarianism vs. Reality,” and “The Libertarian Mytisque.”

The basic thrust of all of these posts is that libertarianism is a strategy for privileged white people to bullshit themselves into believing they are some kind of principled freedom fighters when they are really just protecting their own property and privilege. It shouldn’t surprise us that libertarians would cheer for Trump, because deep down they recognize he expressess their deepest and most cherished value — the hell with anyone else; what’s in it for me?

What I really want to talk about, though, is the shocking immensity of delusion one must be living in to not see that Donald Trump is, um, a really bad president. Not to mention a really bad human being. Seriously, Trump admirers are not living in the same time-space continuum as the rest of us. I’m saying that the behavioral model that comes closest to Trumpism is not a political or ideological movement, but a religious cult.

Now, what often happens when a religious cult breaks apart? Think David Koresh or Jim Jones. People who have been living that deeply in a grotesquely fantastical mass delusion often would rather die than face the reality that the universe that they inhabited and the beliefs that took hold of the center of their lives and the core of their own self-identities were all lies. Violence and mass suicide result. I don’t see Trump himself commiting suicide because he’s too much of a weenie. He’ll probably just flee the country if it comes to that. But if the Trump bubble ever breaks, expect at the very least to see clusters of murder-suicides that, unfortunately, will include children. Replays of Ruby Ridge wouldn’t surprise me, either.

And it could easily be worse. In his testimony this week, Michael Cohen said he was concerned Trump would refuse to vacate the office peacefully if he loses the 2020 election. However he is removed from office, if he resists his culties could take the cue to attempt violent resistence against the nation at large.

So no, this is not going to end well.

CPAC, Cows, and the Green New Deal

Last week a woman told me that the Green New Deal would outlaw all but electric cars. This week the nutjobs meeting at CPAC are raving that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to take away their hamburgers.

Sebastian Gorka: “They want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Here is the text of the Green New Deal bill that was introduced to Congress. It doesn’t say squat about automobiles or hamburgers. Or beef, cows or even livestock. It does say that reducing gas emissions is an essential goal. This is the section that addresses gas emissions and agriculture —

(2) the goals described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of paragraph (1) (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal goals”) should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal mobilization”) that will require the following goals and projects—

(A) building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies;

(B) repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including—

(i) by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible;

(ii) by guaranteeing universal access to clean water;

(iii) by reducing the risks posed by climate impacts; and

(iv) by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change;

(C) meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including—

(i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources; and

(ii) by deploying new capacity;

(D) building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and “smart” power grids, and ensuring affordable access to electricity;

(E) upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;

(F) spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry;

(G) working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—

(i) by supporting family farming;

(ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and

(iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food;

(H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail;

From this, the nutjobs at CPAC have concluded that the Left is coming for their hamburgers. See also The Energy 202: How the hamburger became the GOP’s rallying cry against the Green New Deal.


Trump gave a two-hour speech at CPAC today. I don’t know if he mentioned hamburgers. There is no transcript; I take it there was no script.

The rollicking two-hour-plus appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland offered the president a brief respite from an otherwise miserable week in which his much-touted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ended in failure and his former personal lawyer delivered explosive testimony to Congress.

Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, largely glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration.

The speech amounted to a boatload of red meat for conservatives, with Trump promising he’ll protect them from undocumented immigrants, socialism and liberal Democrats he claims are dead set on bankrupting the country with proposals like the Green New Deal.

“You know I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. As his meandering remarks continued, it became clear that his assessment was an understatement.

See also GOP strategist stunned by reception to Trump’s ‘unhinged’ CPAC speech: The Republican Party is dead

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, GOP strategist Rick Tyler was visibly upset at what he heard from Donald Trump during his speech at CPAC, and even more so by the enthusiastic reception the president was receiving.

“It’s interesting about CPAC,” Tyler began. “It used to be the confab of conservatives who would get together once a year but it’s not CPAC anymore — it hasn’t been since 2016. It’s now Trump-pac and should be TPAC.”

“The people there talk about being pro-tariffs, anti-justice, anti-law enforcement, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, pro-Russia, pro-autocrat,” he continued. “It’s unrecognizable what Donald Trump has done to the party and what he’s done to the conservative movement — it’s a shame.”

Asked by host Witt, “What can be done to resurrect the Republican Party as it was — or is that gone?” Tyler said the party is dead.

“Rest in peace,” he lamented. “No, it’s over. The problem is that the Republican Party has no grounding governing philosophy anymore because they’ve signed on to all these things as I just mentioned that were antithetical to the conservative movement.”

“So it’s the Trump party,” he conceded. “When Trump passes on, one way or the other, the party will no longer exist and the Republican party will have — it has no fundamental belief. You have to believe in something, and I don’t know what the Republican Party believes in or what its message is anymore.”

He could be right.

No Joy in Hanoi

We’re getting conflicting reports about what went down in Hanoi that abruptly ended the “negotiations.” Trump said that Kim Jong Un wanted all U.S. sanctions lifted in exchange for closing only one nuclear site. North Korean’s foreign minister said his country wanted only partial sanctions relief as part of a framework for more dismantling of nuclear weapons facilities. And, of course, they both could be lying.

Perhaps Trump will tire of his fake diplomacy publicity stunts and leave the nogotiations to diplomats. Nicholas Kristof writes that Trump had already overplayed his hand before the meeting began. 

In particular, he signaled that he eagerly wanted a deal and that “fantastic success” was likely, all of which probably led Kim to raise demands in the belief that Trump would fold.

With normal presidents, summit deals are largely agreed upon ahead of time. As one veteran diplomat put it, presidents pull rabbits out of hats, after diplomats have worked diligently ahead of time to stuff the rabbits into the hats. But Trump has never had much patience for that meticulous diplomatic process, instead placing excessive faith in breakthroughs arising from personal relationships — and his faith was clearly misplaced this time.

The North Korean side had refused to hash out the summit outcome in advance with the highly regarded U.S. special envoy, Stephen Biegun, presumably because Kim thought that he could outfox Trump in person in Hanoi the way he had in Singapore nine months ago.

I’m guessing that’s exactly what went down. But with Mike Pompeo in charge of the State Department, I am not hopeful follow-up negotiations will do any good. It’s also possible that Trump was so unhinged over the Cohen testimony that he had to be stuffed into a straightjacket and loaded on Air Force One before he started World War III.

Cohen Sings

I’m listening to Michael Cohen’s opening remarks. If you want to comment on the unfolding testimony, feel free.

Update: The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are mostly just yelling that Michael Cohen is a liar. There was a poignant moment in which Cohen told the Republicans that they were just protecting the president, as he used to do.

Update: Other stuff going on —

Pakistan says it shot down two Indian warplanes in Pakistani air space. Note that both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.

Whether the photo op with Trump and Kim in Hanoi is anythiing but a photo op isn’t yet clear. I can’t tell if any firm agreement on anything has been reached.

While in Vietnam, Trump took a heroic stand for censorship and totalitarianism by banning reporters who asked him questions he didn’t like

Reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays.” Among the questions asked of Trump was one about the congressional testimony of his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Update: If only there were a way to ban grandstanding by committee members, because that’s all the Republicans are doing. It’s tiresome.

Update: Ann Telnaes is live-sketching the hearing.

Update: Charles Pierce, The Republican Party Completely and Utterly Disgraced Itself at Michael Cohen’s Hearing

Dems: Stop Making It More Complicated Than It Is

Greg Sargent writes that Trump is on the political ropes. His support in the “rust belt” is withering away. Futher, GOP donors are panicking because Trump seems to have no strategy for 2020 other than whip up his base. Democrats should be optimistic about 2020. But, then, we’re talking about Democrats.

True to form, some Democrats are responding to these developments in the worst conceivable way. They are feeding the impression that they face a major dilemma: They must choose between appealing to one or the other of those two broad groups — Midwestern voters on one side, or the younger, more diverse and more educated voter groups on the other. But this is mostly a false choice. Hyping it hurts the Democrats’ cause — and arguably helps Trump.

This is a variation of the squabble the Democrats had after the 2016 election. Appealing to working class voters, it was argued, meant betraying the Dems’ commitment to racial justice. Which is a stupid argument, especially since many working-class voters are people of color. There is absolutely no reason why policies that strengthen the working class against the kleptocracy cannot be in harmony with racial and gender equality.

But Sargent points to a New York Times article that reveals Democrats arguing between seeking votes in the “heartland” with bread-and-butter issues, or appealing to racial and gender diversity.

Should Democrats redouble their efforts to win back the industrial heartland that effectively delivered the presidency to Donald J. Trump, or turn their attention to more demographically promising Sun Belt states like Georgia and Arizona? … there is a growing school of thought that Democrats should not spend so much time, money and psychic energy tailoring their message to a heavily white, rural and blue-collar part of the country when their coalition is increasingly made up of racial minorities and suburbanites. The party should still pursue voters who have drifted toward Republicans, this thinking goes, but should also place a high priority on mobilizing communities more amenable to progressive politics. …

…The dispute is not merely a tactical one — it goes to the heart of how Democrats envision themselves becoming a majority party. The question is whether that is accomplished through a focus on kitchen-table topics like health care and jobs, aimed at winning moderates and disaffected Trump voters, or by unapologetically elevating matters of race and identity, such as immigration, to mobilize young people and minorities with new fervor.

Clue: Young urban progressives of all racial backgrounds care passionately about health care and jobs, too. And rust belt residents have noticed that all the bennies go to the top 1 percent these days, and they don’t like it. Or are the Dems really just debating about whether they can afford a ticket that’s not two white guys?

Back to Greg Sargent and where the Democrats stand on race, identity and immigration:

Democrats can’t back away from any of this. What’s more, the notion that this new emphasis somehow deprioritizes “kitchen table issues” is confused. Matters of race and identity are in many ways economic issues. There just aren’t really clear and separate lanes here, and the real story is that the leading Democratic candidates have internalized this complicated truth.

Thus, the candidates most often associated with economic populism — Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown — are also talking about how structural racism limits economic opportunity in particularized ways in addition to the structural problems with the economy that have stagnated wages and exacerbated inequality across the board.

The very idea that focusing on race and identity somehow cuts against a “kitchen table” focus itself helps Trump. It falsely implies that policies geared in that direction — many of which are aimed at working-class minorities — of necessity must distract from addressing the needs of working-class whites.

Beneath this discussion is the assumption that all working-class whites are racists. I assure you that’s not true.A lot of them,  yes, but not all, and you don’t need to win them all to win elections.

See also Taking Back the Map.