Monthly Archives: August 2017

Ivanka Is Either A Fake Or Stupid On Equal Pay

A few months ago:

From TPM:

First daughter Ivanka Trump, who made wage equality and workplace protections for women one of her signature issues on the campaign trail and in her personal brand, declared her support for the White House’s announcement Tuesday that it will halt a proposal requiring businesses to disclose employees’ pay, gender, race and ethnicity.

“While I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

Wait — information about employees’ pay and gender will not help provide information on gender wage gap?  It sounds to me like JUST the sort of things that is needed.

 

Maybe We’re Better Off With A Weak Trump?

Trump is a bad president, but he’s bad in two ways. He’s bad because his policies are evil, but he is also proving to be bad in the sense of being hopelessly ineffective.  The latter trait is a good thing if you are concerned about the former trait. The former trait was obvious to anyone paying attention during the campaign, but the latter trait — which couldn’t be known until he had actually taken office — is revealing itself everyday.

Let’s look at the bill of particulars, courtesy of Axios:

  • Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are going their own way on tax reform. Hill sources believe his original targets, including a 15% corporate rate, are dead.
  • SecDef Mattis didn’t immediately embrace his full ban on transgender troops.
  • His Justice Department won’t drop the Russia probe.
  • Courts won’t allow his full Muslim ban.
  • Mexico won’t pay for his wall.
  • Congress won’t pay for his wall.
  • The Senate won’t pass his promised health-care reform.
  • Gary Cohn and Sec State Tillerson won’t tolerate his Charlottesville response.
  • North Korea won’t heed his warnings.
  • China doesn’t fear his trade threats.
  • CEOs won’t sit on his councils.
  • Mexico and Canada won’t bend to his will on NAFTA.

And in fact, NOW Defense Secretary Mattis is “suspending” the transgender ban until he can fully assess the impact.  Although, he asserts that Trump’s order gave him the power to do this (and therefore, he is not contradicting Trump), he is… let’s be real… contradicting Trump.

Granted, a weak Trump isn’t ALWAYS a good thing.  North Korea, for example, not being threatened by him makes everyone a little unsteady.  But for the most part, Trump’s initiatives are DOA.

Greg Sargant notes that Trump is going to Missouri tonight to sell a “populist” tax plan, which is nothing more than trickle-down economics.

In reality, what we will actually hear at this speech is the death rattle of whatever pretensions to genuine economic populism Trump has ever harbored, if any. Trump will make it official that this rhetoric is merely a disguise for the same old trickle-down economics we have heard for decades — confirming that his economic agenda is in sync with the very same GOP economic orthodoxy that he so effectively used as a foil to get elected.

***

Trump’s plan, then, will be sold as targeting the well-connected few. But Axios reports on a remarkable quote about this from another White House official, who was pressed on how exactly Trump’s plan will target the well-connected few, given that it is expected to slash the top rate and corporate rate and repeal the estate tax.

“How I would look at this, from an American worker’s perspective, it’s basically a ‘made in America tax,’ “ the official said, adding that it would benefit workers to bring down the business tax rate to “level the playing field” with the “rest of the world.” Officials added that Trump’s plan would “un-rig” the economy by ending “special interest loopholes that have only benefited the wealthy and powerful few.”

But the broad strokes of that formulation, despite its packaging in the rhetoric of economic nationalism, actually constitute trickle-down economics.

“That’s trickle down,” Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told me today. “This whole notion that cutting taxes on rich guys and corporations is going to stimulate capital investment — that’s trickle down warmed over once again. We’ve seen this movie before. It always turns out badly.”

I hope enough congresscritters can prevent this from happening.

Meanwhile, Trump himself seems to be understanding that he is ineffective.

Of course, he takes a shot at the media, but this time it is of a whine (“All I Want To Do Is MAGA”, which is a terrible song title, by the way).

Harvey Update

The images just don’t stop. It’s actually pretty incredible that only 15 have died so far.

As they were saying before the hurricane hit, the real problem would not be the hurricane impact, but the rains that would follow for days and days.  According to the Washington Post, 30% of Harris County’s 1,777 square miles are underwater.  Harris County is home to Houston. Harvey has passed the 50” measured single-storm rainfall record for the continental US.

Here is just one little bit of video — floods carrying away the concrete barrier at the San Jacinto Bridge.

Officials say more than 30,000 people may be forced from their homes by Harvey, and many whose homes have been severely damaged or destroyed by deadly winds and astonishing floodwater may need shelter for weeks or months to come.

Another under-reported problem: the floodwaters are becoming a cesspool of harmful chemicals and bacteria.

Trump’s Ego Fires Social Director

Donald Trump is the kind of emotionally unstable individual that would see a crowd of 4,000 to 10,000 and consider it rejection, so he lashed out, and a longtime aide paid the price.

From Bloomberg:

As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment.

So Trump took the stage annoyed, and began his tirade against the media (of course), nonsensically defended his remarks regarding Charlottesville, threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t approve funding for the border wall (that Mexico was supposed to pay for), and then went after the two sitting Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

So what did Gigicos do wrong, that earned him the ire of the mad king?

Gigicos had staged the event in a large multipurpose room. The main floor space was bisected by a dividing wall, leaving part of the space empty. There were some bleachers off to the side, but otherwise the audience was standing — and the scene appeared flat, lacking the energy and enthusiasm of other rallies.

Gigicos has been in charge of arranging Trump’s campaign events for the past two years, and rallies, since he took office. But no more.

Trump shouldn’t be campaigning anyway, and he shouldn’t be wasting his time (on our dollar) with rallies. This presidency is just a reality show with an audience of one: Trump.

This is a good time to check in on the polls, because Pew just conducted a major survey.  I’ll dump the whole thing here, but here’s some major takeaways:

  1. Nearly a third of Republicans say they agree with the president on only a few or no issues, while a majority expresses mixed or negative feelings about his conduct as president.
  2. Issues aside, a majority of all those surveyed (58%) say they do not like the way Trump conducts himself as president, while 25% have mixed feelings about his conduct. Just 16% say they like the way he conducts himself as president.
  3. 58 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans think Trump should be listening more to the more experienced members of his party, while just 34 percent say he should listen less.  (So much for the anti-elite movement)
  4. Among those who approve of Trump’s job performance (36% of the public), more than half (54%) volunteer something about his personality or general approach as what they like most; mentions of Trump’s policies or agenda are a distant second, at 14%.
  5. Half of Americans say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries; nearly as many (46%) are at least somewhat confident he can make good appointments to federal courts. Trump draws less confidence in his ability to make wise decisions about immigration and the use of nuclear weapons (40% each). Majorities say they are not too or not at all confident in Trump’s handling of these two issues.
  6. A majority of Americans say prejudiced describes Trump at least fairly well (55%), compared with 42% who think it does not describe him well. And by 65% to 32%, the public thinks selfish is an apt descriptor of the president, including 46% who think it describes Trump “very well.”

  7. Large majorities of Republicans and Republican leaners think intelligent (87%) and decisive (76%) describe Trump at least fairly well. And most Republicans (71%) also think the word honest describes Trump well.  For Dems, it is 23%, 28%, and 10%, respectively.

But there is oh so much more. Dive deep.

As Houston Struggles, The Trump-Russia Collusion Story Deepens

Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States, is essentially paralyzed. Residents had to be rescued by helicopters and boats as streets turned into raging rivers and made evacuation all but impossible. Rain is expected for a few more days.  But the rescue efforts seem to be running along without Katrina-like snafus.

Seriously, the rain amount is insane for Houston:

Obviously, all media attention is turned to this, but as it happens, there is another big development in the Trump-Russia collusion story.

The New York Times reports:

A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

The business associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would be a political boon to Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises. Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, was a broker for the Trump Organization at the time, which means he was paid to deliver real estate deals.

In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting in Moscow. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

Here is part of that email:

The Washington Post picks up the thread:

A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Vladi­mir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress Monday.

Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide.

“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower – Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics. the communication between our two sides has stalled.”

“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen’s email marks the most direct interaction yet documented of a top Trump aide and a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.

The email shows the Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests, in the same months when Trump was distinguishing himself on the campaign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin.

In a statement Cohen submitted to Congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.

This is relevant in context:

We have been told – not credibly – for more than a year that Donald Trump doesn’t have any properties or business interests in Russia. But for the first six months of his presidential campaign he was actively trying to secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and in early 2016 a top Trump business executive solicited the assistance of one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides in making the deal happen. This of course was happening while Trump was singing Putin’s praises on the campaign trail.

This is, to put it mildly, a big deal.

UPDATE: A third shoe…

Wall Street Journal enters the fray:

Michael Cohen, an attorney for the Trump Organization, discussed a prospective real-estate deal in Moscow with Donald Trump on three occasions during the presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

In 2015, Mr. Cohen said, he informed the then-candidate that he was working on a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow. He subsequently asked for and received Mr. Trump’s signature on a nonbinding letter of intent for the project in October 2015. And in January 2016, he said, he informed the then-candidate that he had killed the proposal. Mr. Cohen said each conversation was brief.

Mr. Cohen’s communication with the president about the Moscow project may come under scrutiny because of a January 2016 email Mr. Cohen sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top press official to ask for “assistance” in arranging the deal. Mr. Cohen said he didn’t inform Mr. Trump that he had sent the email to the press official, Dmitry Peskov. He didn’t respond when asked why he hadn’t done so.

In the email to Mr. Peskov, Mr. Cohen said communication between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based company that was the prospective developer of the tower had “stalled” and said, “As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals.”

The email was reported by the Washington Post on Monday and was confirmed by a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Cohen said in the Journal interview that he didn’t recall receiving a response from Mr. Peskov and opted to abandon the project weeks later. Mr. Peskov didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The White House declined to comment and referred questions to Mr. Cohen’s attorney, who didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

So Trump was in the loop.

Hurricane Harvey

There’s a good reason why Mashable’s Andrew Freedman dubbed Hurricane Harvey—now barreling toward Texas and Louisiana—“the meteorological equivalent of a White Walker from Game of Thrones.”  This is no joke.  Harvey is likely to be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2005. Harvey will make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.  The storm is expected to hit middle Texas coast. After that, Harvey will likely stall over the state, which could lead to catastrophic flooding. In fact, the storm surge of 20+ inches is the highest ever predicted.

Harvey was upgraded to Category 3 (winds of 111 to 129 mph) less than an hour ago.

One HOPES that FEMA and other regulatory agencies are consistent despite changes of the President, but with Trump, you just don’t know. Trump has been active on the twitter front regarding the hurricane as well, re-tweeting a photo of his conversation with Texas Governor Greg Abbot, and a video of Trump meeting being briefed by various FEMA officials ahead of the impending storm.  But that’s PR.

Will FEMA handle Harvey as poorly as Katrina? Probably not. In the wake of Katrina, significant changes have been made to ensure more efficiency on the part of the agency, typified by their ability to work effectively with several state, local, and federal organizations in the wake of Superstorm Standy.  Regardless, FEMA faces its first major challenge in some time, and the first under the Trump Administration. All eyes are on the response, relief, and recovery of this forthcoming natural disaster.

So far, though, so good. Dallas News reports FEMA has also set up a command center at an Airfield near Seguin TX, stationed trailers containing supplies, food, and water in San Antonio, and placed FEMA staff at Texas’s State Operation center to make coordination efforts as seamless as possible – while letting Texas officials take the lead. Gov. Abbott activated 700 or so members of the national guard ,the Houston School District announced multiple closing ahead of the storm, a state of disaster has already been declared for multiple counties, and those in power are speaking directly to the citizens regarding what to expect, how to prepare, and how to get out.

PPP Poll On Trump Et Al [UPDATE: Quinnipiac Too]

There’s a lot to digest in the new PPP poll, so I’ll just give the topline results.

It does confirm what I suspected — that Trump is not going to go much lower because his supporters are simply ignorant about discrimination.  Check this out:

PPP’s newest national poll finds that Donald Trump’s approval rating is pretty steady in the wake of the Charlottesville attack, probably because his supporters think that whites and Christians are the most oppressed groups of people in the country. 40% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 53% who disapprove, little change from the 41/55 spread we found for him in July.

The reason Trump hasn’t lost more ground for his widely panned response to the attack is probably that many of his supporters agree with some of the beliefs that led white supremacists to rally in Charlottesville in the first place. Asked what racial group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 45% of Trump voters say it’s white people followed by 17% for Native Americans with 16% picking African Americans, and 5% picking Latinos. Asked what religious group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 54% of Trump voters says it’s Christians followed by 22% for Muslims and 12% for Jews. There is a mindset among many Trump voters that it’s whites and Christians getting trampled on in America that makes it unlikely they would abandon Trump over his ‘both sides’ rhetoric.

Overall 89% of Americans have a negative opinion of neo-Nazis to 3% with a positive one, and 87% have an unfavorable opinion of white supremacists to 4% with a positive one. Just 11% agree with the sentiment that it’s possible for white supremacists and neo-Nazis to be ‘very fine people,’ to 69% who say that’s not possible.

Confederate Issues

Voters have nuanced views when it comes to Confederate monuments. Overall 39% say they support monuments honoring the Confederacy to 34% who say they oppose them. That’s basically unchanged from the 42/35 spread we found on this question when we polled it in June. Trump voters support them by a 71/10 spread- to put those numbers into perspective only 65% of Trump voters oppose Obamacare, so this is a greater unifier for the Trump base. Even though voters narrowly support the monuments though, 58% also say they support relocating them from government property and moving them to museums or other historic sites where they can be viewed in proper historical context. There’s bipartisan support for that approach with Democrats (72/14), independents (52/27), and Republicans (46/42) all in favor of it. Voters don’t necessarily want Confederate monuments destroyed, but they also don’t necessarily think they need to be places where everyone is forced to walk by them every day.

Robert E. Lee has a 36/24 favorability with Americans, with 40% having no opinion of him either way. He’s at a 61/10 spread with Trump voters but just a 17/40 spread with Clinton voters. In a finding that says a lot about how we got to where we are today, Trump voters say they would rather have Jefferson Davis as President than Barack Obama 45/20. Obama wins that question 56/21 with the overall electorate.

Congress and 2018

Things are continuing to look good for Democrats in 2018, as they lead the generic Congressional ballot 49-35. The 14 point lead for Democrats may be too good to be true though- it’s a function of a highly divided Republican base at this point. While Clinton voters say they’ll vote Democratic for Congress next year 90-4, Trump voters say they will vote Republican by only a 74-13 margin. Part of the reason Republicans have done better than expected in 2014 and 2016 is they were divided earlier in the cycle and came together by the end, we will see if that trend continues in 2018.

A big part of the division among Republicans is being caused by extreme unhappiness with their Congressional leaders, perhaps driven by Donald Trump’s attacks on them. Both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell now have the worst numbers we’ve ever seen for them. Only 16% of voters approve of the job Ryan is doing to 62% who disapprove. A big part of that is even among Trump voters he has only a 30% approval rating with 52% disapproving of him. Ryan comes out looking popular in comparison to McConnell though. His approval rating is just 9%, with 61% of voters disapproving of him. Among Trump voters he receives just a 15% approval rating to 59% disapproving of him, not all that dissimilar from his 68% disapproval with Clinton voters. The possible pitfall for Trump with the attacks on GOP Congressional leaders is disincentivizing his base to go vote for them next year.

Their failed efforts on health care are a big part of what’s causing Congressional Republicans problems. Only 25% of voters support the health care bill that was considered by Congress last month, to 57% who disapprove of it. Even among GOP voters there’s less than majority support, with 48% in favor of it to 34% who are opposed. At this point only 33% of voters think the best path forward on health care is repealing Obamacare, to 57% who think it’s keeping the current law and making fixes to it as necessary. Voters say by a 21 point margin that they’re less likely to vote for a GOP member of Congress who supported the repeal bill- 46% are less likely to vote for such a person to 25% who are more likely to, with 22% saying it doesn’t make a difference either way.

Overall Congress has a 9% approval rating, with 73% of voters disapproving of it. It’s at 12/77 with Trump voters and 8/73 with Clinton voters.

Trump, His Promises, and 2020

Trump continues to be unpopular, with a 40/53 approval spread. Voters think he has failed on two of the core promises of his campaign. Only 15% believe he has been successful in ‘draining the swamp,’ to 64% who say he hasn’t. Even among Trump’s own voters just 26% think he has delivered on this promise to 53% who say he hasn’t. When it comes to whether Trump has come through on ‘Making America Great Again,’ just 33% of voters say he has to 59% who say he hasn’t.

Some of Trump’s issues are related to policy. For instance only 31% of voters agree with his edict to ban transgender individuals from the military, to 57% who oppose it. Similarly only 34% of voters support his proposed wall with Mexico, to 55% of voters who oppose it.

Trump also has issues with how voters feel about his character. Only 39% think he is honest, to 55% who say he is not. In fact 49% of voters come right out and call Trump a liar, with only 43% disagreeing with that characterization. By a 39/34 spread voters express the belief that Trump is more corrupt than Richard Nixon.

Another thing hurting Trump’s standing is a perceived lack of transparency. 61% of voters still think he should release his tax returns to 33% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. In fact by a 55/31 spread voters support a law requiring the release of 5 years of tax returns for a Presidential candidate to even appear on the ballot.

The upshot of all this is for the fourth month in a row we find a plurality of voters in support of impeaching Trump- 48% say he should be impeached to 41% who disagree. And there continues to be a significant yearning for a return to the days of President Obama- 52% of voters say they wish Obama was still President to only 39% who prefer having Trump in the White House.

Trump continues to trail both Bernie Sanders (51/38) and Joe Biden (51/39) by double digits in possible 2020 match ups. PPP never found Hillary Clinton up by more than 7 points on Trump in 2016. Sanders and Biden each win over 12-14% of the folks who voted for Trump last year. Also leading Trump in hypothetical contests at this point are Elizabeth Warren (45/40), Mark Cuban (42/38), and Cory Booker and Trump Twitter Target Richard Blumenthal (42/39). Trump ties Kamala Harris at 39% each and John Delaney at 38% each.

Generally speaking just 57% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s nominee again in 2020 to 29% who say they would prefer someone else. That 28 point margin for Trump against ‘someone else’ is the same as his 28 point lead over Mike Pence at 52/24. Both Ted Cruz (a 40 point deficit to Trump at 62/22) and John Kasich (a 47 point deficit to Trump at 68/21) are evidently weaker potential opponents than ‘someone else.’

Trump and the Media

With the absence of a ‘Crooked Hillary,’ ‘Lying Ted,’ ‘Little Marco,’ or ‘Low Energy Jeb’ to use as his foil while President, Trump has taken to attacking various media outlets as his new foes. He’s losing to them in a way that he never trailed during the campaign in our polling though:

Who do you trust more: Donald Trump or _____ Winner
ABC ABC, 53/35
CBS CBS, 53/35
NBC NBC, 53/35
New York Times New York Times, 53/36
Washington Post Washington Post, 51/36
CNN CNN, 50/35

And suffice it to say, Trump’s attacks on Amazon aren’t having much impact on the company’s image. 60% of voters see the company favorably to only 13% with a negative opinion of it. Amazon gets positive reviews from Clinton voters (67/9) and Trump voters (53/20) alike.

Full results here

Also this:

UPDATE:  Quinnipiac just came out today with a poll as well. It’s not as comprehensive, but it had some interesting things to say as well. Most notably,” Every party, gender, education, age and racial group disapproves [of Trump] except Republicans….”.

President Donald Trump is doing more to divide the country, 62 percent of voters say, while 31 percent say he is doing more to unite the country, his worst score on this question, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

President Trump gets a negative 35 – 59 percent overall job approval rating, down from a negative 39 – 57 percent rating in an August 17 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group disapproves except Republicans, who approve 77 – 14 percent; white voters with no college, approving 52 – 40 percent, and white men, who approve by a narrow 50 – 46 percent.

American voters disapprove 60 – 32 percent of Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville. 

President Trump’s decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist groups, 59 percent of voters say, as 3 percent say he has discouraged these groups and 35 percent say he has had no impact on them.

There is too much prejudice in the nation today, 55 percent of American voters say, while 40 percent say there is too much political correctness, the widest margin for prejudice since the question first was asked in June 2016.

Prejudice against minority groups is a “very serious” problem, 50 percent of voters say, while 31 percent say it is “somewhat serious,” a new high for these numbers.

Since Trump’s election, “the level of hatred and prejudice in the U.S. has increased,” 65 percent of voters say, while 2 percent say it has decreased and 32 percent say it hasn’t changed.

“One word – Charlottesville”. 

“Elected on his strength as a deal-maker, but now overwhelmingly considered a divider, President Donald Trump has a big negative job approval rating and low scores on handling racial issues,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Voters disapprove 63 – 31 percent, including 56 – 38 percent among white voters, of the way Trump is handling race relations. The president does not care about issues facing minority groups, voters say 60 – 37 percent, including 52 – 45 percent among white voters.

A total of 62 percent of American voters say prejudice against Jewish people is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem.

Voters oppose 50 – 39 percent removing Confederate statues from public spaces. White voters oppose removal 57 – 33 percent, with black voters supporting removal 67 – 21 percent. Among Hispanic voters, 47 percent support removing statues, with 42 percent opposed.

White supremacist groups pose a threat to the U.S., voters say 64 – 34 percent. 

President Trump does not provide the U.S. with moral leadership, American voters say 62 – 35 percent. Voter opinions of most Trump qualities remain low:

  • 61 – 36 percent that he is not honest;
  • 61 – 37 percent that he does not have good leadership skills;
  • 57 – 40 percent that he does not care about average Americans;
  • 68 – 29 percent that he is not level headed;
  • 59 – 38 percent that he is a strong person;
  • 55 – 43 percent that he is intelligent;
  • 63 – 34 percent that he does not share their values.

Trump, the Media and Tweeting 

American voters disapprove 55 – 40 percent of the way the news media covers Trump, and disapprove 62 – 35 percent of the way the president talks about the media. Voters trust the media more than Trump 54 – 36 percent “to tell you the truth about important issues.”

Stop tweeting from your personal account, voters tell the president 69 – 28 percent.

In an open-ended question, allowing for any answers, 64 voters (not percent) say “strong” is the first word that comes to mind when they think of Trump. “Idiot” is the first word for 59 voters. Another 58 voters say “incompetent,” as 50 say “liar” and 49 say “president.”

From August 17 – 22, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,514 voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, including the design effect. Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys nationwide, and in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Colorado as a public service and for research.

Two Trump Speeches

Well, Monday night we got Teleprompter Trump on live TV, giving an address about his Afghanistan plans. What was remarkable about it? Very little except that he did admit that presidenting is different from campaigning, which is why he is reversing his stance on getting the 100,000 troops out of Afghanistan.  You see, he learned that if you remove troops, you might create a power vacuum, which allows terrorists to grow and eventually come here.  Just like the Iraq power vacuum led to ISIS.

It’s NOT a horrible rationale, and obviously, Trump was listening to his military advisers (although he took credit). But realistically, what Trump proposed — a troop increase of undefined numbers, staying for an undefined amount of time — is just what he campaigned against: infinite war.

I don’t claim to know what is best to do about Afghanistan: quagmires be quagmires. I can’t second-guess the correctness of Trump’s “policy”. I just note that it is bizarre to see an isolationist learn in real time about the virtues of globalism.

And then came last night — the Trump Rally in Phoenix. It was pure campaign Trump, and although it was ostensibly for the 2020 election, it was really for Trump’s ego.

Clearly, Charlottesville was on Trump’s mind.  Four speakers took turns carefully denouncing hate, calling for unity and ever so subtly assuring the audience that the president is not racist. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proclaimed that “our lives are too short to let our differences divide us.” Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., led everyone in singing a few lines of “How Great Thou Art.” Evangelist Franklin Graham prayed for the politically and racially divided nation and asked the Lord to shut the mouths of “those in this country who want to divide, who want to preach hate.” And Vice President Pence declared that “President Trump believes with all his heart … that love for America requires love for all its people.” Meanwhile, a supporter seated directly behind stage even wore a T-shirt that stated: “Trump & Republicans are not racist.”

Okay, then.

Trump launched into one angry rant after another, repeatedly attacking the media and providing a lengthy defense of his response to the violent clashes in Charlottesville, between white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the counterprotesters who challenged them. He threatened to shut down the government if he doesn’t receive funding for a wall along the southern border….

He announced that he will “probably” get rid of the North American Free Trade Agreement, attacked the state’s two Republican senators, repeatedly referred to protesters as “thugs” and coyly hinted that he will pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County who was convicted in July of criminal contempt in Arizona for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.

Many of his “facts” were… well, false.  There’s not other word for it.

But he kept coming back to Charlottesville, and bashing the media for his response.  It was like Lenny Bruce when Lenny Bruce stopped being funny and simply started reading his trial transcripts.

At one point, Trump blamed the media for not properly covering his initial statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, and proceeded to read portions of his initial remarks.

“This is my exact words. ‘I love all the people of our country’ …. They (the media say), ‘Is he a racist?’ ” Trump said.

But Trump did not read the portion of his comments that were criticized by Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly condemning the racist, anti-Semitic protesters.

Here’s what Trump said in that first response to the chaos:

“We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.”

Trump ignored the “on many sides, on many sides” — something that post-rally pundits were quick to point out. Said one, “Does he not think we have video of what he ACTUALLY said?”

Ten Navy sailors were killed in a terrible at-sea collision between a destroyer and a freighter. Trump said nothing about that.

And in all his rants about Charlottesville, he never mentioned Heather Hayer, the woman killed by a Neo-Nazi.  Not once.

I guess that’s why Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer could hardly contain his glee:

WaPo reports that the sheen was lost after a while, even among his supporters:

But as the night dragged on, many in the crowd lost interest in what the president was saying.

Hundreds left early, while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up a conversation with their neighbors. After waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally hall — where their water bottles were confiscated by security — people were tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn’t keeping their attention.

Don Lemon’s post-rally lead-in spoke for millions:

But as many pointed out, this wasn’t NEW — this was Rally Trump. The guy we saw on the campaign trail. Whining, defensive, divisive.  It’s not like he is going to get impeached for any of this.  In fact, this is why he got elected.

The Great American Solar Eclipse Day

Although I am not in the path of the 100% eclipse, we will have about 96% coverage here in Winston-Salem.  Almost no clouds as I write this at 11:40 a.m.

Around 1:15 p.m. Eastern time, the total solar eclipse will first reach Oregon’s coast. Then it will race for the next 90 or so minutes over 13 more states: Idaho, Montana (barely), Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa (hardly), Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and finally South Carolina.

At about 2:49 p.m. Eastern time in South Carolina, some lucky souls in the Palmetto State’s marshes could be the last on American soil to experience the total eclipse. Just after 4 p.m. Eastern, the partial eclipse will end and all of America will again be under the full August sun.

This is the NASA live feed:


And WaPo:

UPDATE 1:16 EST —  Picture of totality in Oregon

My pictures to follow…..

UPDATE at 1:52pm EST : …. or maybe not.  Clouds moved in fast.  I saw the beginning of it.

3:00pm EST — Clouds moved about 20 minutes before “totality” here.  A nice yellow tint bathed Winston-Salem:

People on top of Winston-Salem highrise watching eclipse

Day’s Unfolding Events

(1) Protest in Durham NC:

Scheduled for noon and 4 pm.  I’m following live feeds and the anti-protesters seem to have taken over downtown Durham. Not much of a fascist presence. Looks peaceful at the moment — some minor vandalism of base of statue that once had confederate monument.  Basically everything postponed until 4 pm.

(2) By the way, this is Infrastructure Week at the White House, but it’s been overshadowed by racism in the Oval Office of the White House. Being Infrastructure Week, this news is particularly embarrassing:

(3)  BREAKING — Bannon Out:

Yup, it’s true. WaPo:

President Trump has decided to dismiss his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to two people familiar with the move.

Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispatch with Bannon, who many officials view as a political Svengali but who has drawn scorn as a leading internal force encouraging and amplifying the president’s most controversial nationalist impulses.

Bannon told friends on Friday that he expected to soon be informed whether he is being cut loose from the White House, according to multiple people close to him. One of them said Bannon is resigned to that fate, and has said he is determined to continue to advocate for Trump’s agenda on the outside.

“No matter what happens, Steve is a honey badger,” said this person, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. “Steve’s in a good place. He doesn’t care. He’s going to support the president and push the agenda, whether he’s on the inside or the outside.”

And this has gotta hurt:

Not surprising, since Bannon wanted a trade war with China.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Bannon was not pulling the strings on Trump. Trump was weened on rightwing and fake news, email forwards, and general bullshit. Bannon simply was a kindred spirit in ideology.  His removal was good in the sense that he was one of the few who could actually put some of the shit into action.

Remember, Bannon was not a party loyalist or even a Trump loyalist. Trump served Bannon’s interest. But Bannon, the ideologue, is unchained, and he has a mouthpiece in Breitbart News. This could get ugly:

Our Bigoted President: An Historical Week of Shame

It’s Friday, and it’s still difficult for me to comment on the fallout from Trump’s moral equivalence press conference on Tuesday.  Having tucked into his pocket some notes about what he was SUPPOSED to say…

Trump “went rogue” (i.e., was himself) and spoke some of the most upsetting words of any President ever.

The national discussion is all on my Twitter feed and there are so many angles:

(1) Bannon — Does he stay or go?
(2) Trump’s Councils — Mass resignations, including this one today (read the first letter of each paragraph)

(3)  Where the hell are Ivanka and Jared (they’re JEWISH for crying out loud)? (They are on vacation in Vermont, but still… they need to weigh in)
(4)  The movement to take down confederate statues. Personally, I think this is important, but only in a symbolic way. There are actual neo-nazis in our presence and they have the implicit support of our President. That’s a much bigger deal. However, they are coming down as communities demand it.
(5) The public silence from Republicans.  Many Republicans are willing to talk to reporters off-the-record, saying what everyone else says: that Trump has lost it, that he is damaging to the GOP and the country, that he is incapable of executing his duties as President, etc. Butmost (not all) lack the moral courage to go public.
(6)  Impeachment? Resignation? Censure?
(7)  Trump’s continued lies: his vineyard in Charlottesville, the General Pershing lie….
(8)  The terrorist attack in Barcelona — and how Trump can call out terrorists when they are Muslim
(9)  Oh those magazine covers

Charlottesville

I did not know it was even going on. I should have been paying attention to social media.  But I woke up on Saturday to news of skirmishes in Charlottesville. White nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, ostensibly choosing that town because of the statute of Robert E. Lee, which was going to be taken down. It had little to do with Robert E. Lee.

The signs were in the making. The Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists had a spontaneous rally on Friday night, complete with tiki torches from Party City. The images invoked Nazi rallies from the 1930s.

As an aside, I would note that many of these racists are being identified, outed and facing the consequences.

A friend of mine suggested this was McCarthyism. It’s not. McCarthyism used the government to destroy people who were communists (and his political enemies). This is citizen action. And I argued that it could not lead to wide-spread firing of people for their political views (on ANY topic), because white supremacy is not simply a position on a single TOPIC; it is an ideology on the relative value of PEOPLE.

Day 2 was the schedule white nationalist protest in Charlottesville at noon. But the trouble started before then. The white nationalists were met by counterprotesters. Taunting led to shoving, which escalated into brawling.  Police allowed much of it to happen, and the planned whitey bigot rally was order cancelled.  Everyone dispersed, and the events of the day, troubling as they were, seemed over.

Then, around 1:45 p.m., a car plowed into another vehicle near a group of counterprotesters, creating a chain reaction that sent people flying. (Initial reports said the car had run directly into the crowd.)

Videos:



Officials identified the driver of the car as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, a city near Toledo. One of Mr. Fields’s former history teachers called him “a very bright kid, but very misguided and disillusioned,” noting that he had written a report that was “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement.”

Nineteen people were hospitalized. One was dead, 32 year old Heather D. Heyer, of Charlottesville.

Then came what may be the most egregious thing of the whole weekend: the opffensivle tepid response from the President. On Saturday afternoon, he condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” but, conspicuously, did not single out white nationalists or neo-Nazis. Pressed on whom Mr. Trump was blaming, an unnamed White House spokesman told reporters on Saturday: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counterprotesters today.”

WaPo editorial board:

HERE IS what President Trump said Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a demonstration of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

Here is what a presidential president would have said:

“The violence Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., is a tragedy and an unacceptable, impermissible assault on American values. It is an assault, specifically, on the ideals we cherish most in a pluralistic democracy — tolerance, peaceable coexistence and diversity.

“The events were triggered by individuals who embrace and extol hatred. Racists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers — these are the extremists who fomented the violence in Charlottesville, and whose views all Americans must condemn and reject.

“To wink at racism or to condone it through silence, or false moral equivalence, or elision, as some do, is no better and no more acceptable than racism itself. Just as we can justly identify radical Islamic terrorism when we see it, and call it out, so can we all see the racists in Charlottesville, and understand that they are anathema in our society, which depends so centrally on mutual respect.

“Under whatever labels and using whatever code words — ‘heritage,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘nationalism’ — the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti-American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today.

“Nor will we accept acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by such elements. If, as appears to be the case, the vehicle that plowed into the counterprotesters on Saturday in Charlottesville did so intentionally, the driver should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American system of justice must and will treat a terrorist who is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything else just as it treats a terrorist who is Muslim — just as it treated those who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“We may all have pressing and legitimate questions about how the violence in Charlottesville unfolded — and whether it could have been prevented. There will be time in coming days to delve further into those matters, and demand answers. In the meantime, I stand ready to provide any and all resources from the federal government to ensure there will be no recurrence of such violence in Virginia or elsewhere. Let us keep the victims of this terrible tragedy in our thoughts and prayers, and keep faith that the values enshrined in our Constitution and laws will prevail against those who would desecrate our democracy.”

The President was wrong, but he’s never been interested in facts. There was not “many sides” there. There was the Nazi side, and the anti-Nazi side, and it is not hard to pick a side, even with the 140 character limit of Twitter.

Let’s examine this more closely:

The right-wing protesters were relatively homogenous — in ideology and appearance — and largely ready for violence. They ranged from old-line racists like the Ku Klux Klan to the ones who wear polo shirts instead of hoods who try to brand themselves “alt-right.” There was no ambiguity about their cause — they demand the nation become whiter, and they are emboldened by a White House administration they believe makes that promise when the president yells “America first.”

The counterprotesters, in contrast, represented a far broader spectrum of the American center and left. There were self-identified “anti-fascists”; Black Lives Matter activists from around the country; religious leaders, including around 100 Christian ministers wearing their clerical collars; furious Charlottesville residents; and garden-variety liberals from as far away as Seattle. A handful of the “anti-fascists” wore Black Bloc garb — black shirt, black pants, black balaclava — to conceal their identities from police, though most did not.

The right-wingers were more prepared for violence. Most white supremacist and Nazi groups arrived armed like a paramilitary force — carrying shields, protective gear, rods, and yes, lots of guns, utilizing Virginia’s loose firearm laws. They used militarized defensive maneuvers, shouting commands at one another to “move forward” or “retreat,” and would form a line of shields or a phalanx — it’s like they watched 300 a few times — to gain ground or shepherd someone through projectiles. It seemed that they had practiced for this. Virginia’s governor said that the right’s weaponry was better than that of the state police. The opposition was largely winging it, preferring to establish bases in other parks with water, coffee, food, first aid, and comfort. Conflict would start much the same as it has at other alt-right rallies: two people, one from each side, screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.

By Sunday, even among the most radical voices on the left, there was incredulity at attempts — from various swaths of the mainstream to pro-Trump media, and of course, the president himself — to compare them to their enemies. This is Trump’s “many sides.”

A no-brainer on which side came to fight and suppress.

Pressure on the President is huge. But so far, he and VP Pence have doubled down. Pence, for example, has issued statements condemning violence from the far-right and far-left — again with the false equivalence.

The fallout? It means white supremacists will feel emboldened by the events of this weekend. This cannot be disputed. They say it, others say it of them, and the evidence is right before our eyes. If you see a conservative online saying this isn’t so, that person is lying. They felt and feel emboldened. It’s simply a fact.

During the campaign, Donald Trump needed to distance himself very publicly from the “alt-right,” a movement which is just a glorified white supremacist movement. This was due in no small part to his ties to Bannon-bart, but also just his own personality cult. His campaign talking points and promises were dog-whistles to these self-identified white nationalists, who have not been mainstream for decades.

However, now they feel like they are mainstream, and yes, to a certain extent, that is on the President. His hesitation to call their movement by name this weekend, something many GOP lawmakers criticized him over, is an utter failure on his part and the part of those attempting to advise and guide him. When David Duke says a rally of racist neo-Nazis is a “fulfillment” of your campaign’s promise, your immediate reaction should be to publicly state that, as a matter of fact, it is not. This is not me or us. He didn’t do that.

Calls for the ouster of Trump adviser Steve Bannon, as well as Stephen Miller and neo-Nazi Alexander Gorka, are approaching fever pitch. The rift on the right is stronger than it has ever been.  The Bannon supporters seem to be pushing hard on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

This, on top of everything, is going to dog Trump (as it should)

Trump’s tweets this morning?

And then the chief executive of Merck said this morning in a tweet that he was resigning from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, saying he was doing so “as CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience” and that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Within an hour after the statement was first issued, Trump tweeted his response. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

UPDATE 1 pm – Under pressure, Trump gave a 5 minute statement – no questions – condemning racism (“Racism is evil”). It’s not enough. He did it under pressure and everyone (including his neo-Nazi fans) know it. Even then, he denounced hate groups “including” white nationalists, implying there were others (BLM)

Oh, it was of course read from a teleprompter. He couldn’t speak from the heart.

Locked And Loaded? Really?

“Locked and loaded”?  This macho shit is insane. I don’t even know what that means.

LATE UPDATE FROM AN AFTERNOON PRESS CONFERENCE:

Look, giving Trump credit which he doesn’t deserve, he COULD be acting that madman. Nixon and Kissinger did that with Vietnam — Kissinger would go to the North Vietnamese and say “Hey, you better back down because I can’t control the President and how knows what the fuck he’ll do” or words to that effect.  So some have speculated that Trump is playing that game.

The problem is… we don’t have a Kissinger.  In fact, we don’t have that much of a diplomatic corps at all. Trump has gutted it, or plans to.

Also, Trump, whether he intends it or not, is drawing a red line in the sand. And he might have to back up his words with action someday — a situation he is not accustomed to.

Past presidents have sent warnings to Kim Jong Un, just not through Twitter. Between them and the UN (which just passed huge sanctions), that has avoided war. I’m not sure Trump is interested in avoiding war.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense accused the United States of stirring regional conflict and suggested that such operations bolstered China’s case for building military facilities across the sea to defend its claimed territory. Vietnam, the Philippines and other governments also claim islands and adjacent waters in the sea.

“We strongly urge the United States to immediately mend its ways and end illegal provocations in the name of so-called freedom of navigation,” Senior Col. Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, said on its website on Friday. “The American military provocation will only induce the Chinese military to further build up various defensive capacities.”

But in an editorial, The Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides: “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

And Homeland Security in Guam sent out this disturbing bulletin to civilians. The advice includes tips such as: “Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you” and “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”

Yikes.

Is there anyone DE-escalating this thing?  Apparently so….

WASHINGTON (AP) — Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the long-time foes, The Associated Press has learned.

It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.

People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.

… but I wish I had more confidence on who they are and where they are getting their marching orders from.

 

Don’t Let Trump Read This

It’s now becoming routine — Trump’s advisers have to walk back his off-the-cuff statements… this time to avert war.

From Jon Chait:

The New York Times has much more detail. Trump improvised his threat without advance consultation with his advisers, none of whom support it. The paper he was holding when he made the statement was about the opioid crisis. Trump “was in a bellicose mood” when he made the statement, due to a Washington Post report that morning about North Korea having miniaturized a nuclear warhead.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis have issued more normal-sounding statements intended to supersede the president’s improvised one. (Mattis’s statement redraws the red line, threatening reprisal in return for North Korean actions, rather than threats.) The message of this cleanup is that Trump’s statements do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. government – a reality most American political elites in both parties already recognize, but which needs to be made clear to other countries that are unaccustomed to treating their head of state like a random Twitter troll.

It is humiliating for the world’s greatest superpower to disregard its president as a weird old man who wanders in front of microphones spouting off unpredictably and without consequence. But at this point, respect for Trump’s capabilities is a horse that’s already fled the barn. New chief of staff John Kelly has supposedly instilled military-style order and message discipline into the administration, but Trump is unteachable. Minimizing the havoc means getting everybody to pretend Trump isn’t really president.

Emphasis mine.

 

Interesting Poll Numbers From North Carolina — Trump Underwater

From PPP:

PPP’s new North Carolina poll finds strong, bipartisan opposition to cuts the General Assembly has made to the budget of the North Carolina Department of Justice. Only 18% of voters support the 10 million dollars in cuts that have been made, to 60% who say they are opposed to them. This opposition is shared by independents (9/68), Democrats (18/65), and Republicans (26/48) alike. Concern about the cuts is fueled by a sense that they will have the effect of making the state less safe- 59% of voters believe that will be the outcome of cuts to funding for the DOJ, while only 12% say they think the cuts will make the state safer.

A plurality of voters- 46%- think the Republicans in the General Assembly made the cuts just because the Attorney General is a Democrat. Only 21% think they did it because it’s good for the state, and 33% aren’t sure one way or another. This is one of several issues driving the popularity of the General Assembly- and the Republicans in it in particular- into the ground. Only 18% of voters approve of the job the General Assembly is doing, to 58% who disapprove. While the Democrats in the body aren’t popular- a 37/46 favorability rating- they come out far better than the Republicans who just 32% of voters see positively, with 55% viewing them in a negative light.

Democrats have an early 46-40 lead on the generic legislative ballot for next year. That includes a double digit lead among independent voters, at 39/29. One thing that’s particularly good news for the party is that enthusiasm is on their side- 57% of Democrats say they’re ‘very excited’ to vote in the election next year, compared to only 47% of Republicans who say that. Among just voters who say they’re ‘very excited’ about turning out in 2018, the generic ballot lead for Democrats more than doubles to 13 points at 52/39.

There continues to be a strong bipartisan consensus in support of nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina. Overall 56% of voters support it, to just 14% who are opposed. Majorities of independents (63/10), Republicans (55/15), and Democrats (53/17) alike are in favor of shifting to that model for drawing district lines.

Roy Cooper:

Roy Cooper is off to a much better start as Governor than his two immediate predecessors. 48% of voters approve of the job he’s doing, to 33% who disapprove. He’s on solid ground with independents at 45/26, and his -32 approval with Republicans at 22/54 is actually well ahead of the curve for a politician across party lines in these heavily polarized times.

Cooper’s numbers look particularly good when compared to what PPP found for Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue in August of their first terms. Cooper’s the only one of the trio who hadn’t become unpopular within 7 months of taking office. His net approval is 27 points better than McCrory’s was at the same time, and 40 points better than Perdue’s was at the same time.

Governor Approval Rating, August of First Year in Office Net Approval
Roy Cooper 48/33 +15
Pat McCrory 39/51 -12
Bev Perdue 27/52 -25

Speaking of McCrory, voters say by a 44/37 spread that they think Cooper has been a better Governor than he was. Voters are closely divided in their feelings both about McCrory, and whether he should run again in 2020. 40% of voters see him favorably, to 41% with an unfavorable opinion of him. 41% of voters think he should run again for Governor in 2020, to 44% who think he should sit it out. Notably, among Republican voters McCrory has a 66/15 favorability rating while Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest’s is just 29/14.

National Issues:

-Donald Trump is unpopular in North Carolina, although his numbers are at least better than they are nationally. 44% of voters approve of the job he’s doing, to 50% who disapprove. Only 37% of voters think Trump has succeeded in his signature promise to ‘Make America Great Again,’ with 52% saying they believe he has failed on that front. 49% of North Carolinians say they wish they could have Barack Obama back as President, to just 45% who are happier with Trump.

One issue that’s not helping his image- or that of Republican Senators- in the state is health care. 47% of North Carolinians now support the Affordable Care Act, to only 38% who opposed to it. Repeal efforts have made it more and more popular. By contrast just 29% of voters say they support the health care repeal bill recently considered in Congress, to 51% who express opposition to that. 55% think the best path forward on health care is to keep the Affordable Care Act and make changes to it as necessary, to just 37% who think the best thing to do is repeal the ACA.

The health care vote could have long term implications for Thom Tillis. He already has weak approval numbers, with just 28% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 45% who disapprove. By a 16 point margin voters say they’re less likely to vote in the future for someone who supported the health care repeal bill in Congress- 46% say being on the record in support of that makes them less likely to vote for someone, to only 30% who say it makes them more likely to vote for someone. That could be a problem for Tillis in 2020, and more short term for some Republican House members up for reelection next year, especially when the anger over health care is combined with the enthusiasm advantage Democrats are currently enjoying.

Full results here

You Say You Want A Revolution?

Well, what do you even MEAN by the word “revolution”?

It’s often said that reformists are former revolutionaries who simply got old, tired and beaten down. Maybe.  But reformists get things done and actually bring about social change.  After all, revolutionaries tend to gripe about the problem (terrible society) and the process to change that problem (revolution), but always fall short on what comes after.  And I refer to all revolutionaries, whether they be Marxists on the left, or the Tea Party on the right. Revolutionaries tend to…. well, gripe.

Which brings me to this piece by Jonathan Matthew Smucker, a piece so good I am reprinting it in its entirety (without permission) although you can find it here. Smucker argues as I do that revolution has become meaningless — an almost dreamlike hope of an apocalyptic event that will magically change society. Please read:

Fire and Fury

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

Trump was reading from a statement when he said this, and nobody is quite sure who wrote it. Probably Trump himself since he sans advisers at his Bedminster Golf Course. Bannon is a non-interventionist, and his wiser military advisers would definitely have urged Trump use softer (and non-public) language and perhaps try to DE-escalate the situation.

UPDATE —

Instead, what we have is one narcissistic lunatic facing off against another, each one making grand pronouncements from which it is difficult to back down.

North Korea returns rhetoric:

The president’s comments came as North Korea earlier in the day escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.

The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited to strident yet vague warnings, such as threatening retaliation “thousands of times over.”

“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”

“Fire and fury” versus “pack of wolves”.  How long before “winter is coming”?

North Korea followed up with a threat against Guam, which has two US military bases:

North Korea said on Wednesday it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles…
A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, said the strike plan will be “put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment” once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea also said it could carry out a pre-emptive operation if the United States showed signs of provocation.

Earlier Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.

Resolution 2371 was a proper response, and a rare Trump victory.  It was unanimously supported in a vote by the UN Security Council several days ago. As a result of its passage, “the regime of Kim Jong Un will be banned from exporting any goods or services. The BBC estimates that the sanctions will reduce North Korean exports from $3 billion to $2 billion annually. That $2 billion will be retained by continued illicit trading with nations such as China”. The sanctions also “ban[s] member countries from importing coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea. They also prohibit member nations from hosting any additional workers from the North above their current levels.”

How serious is this? Well, we are (once again, with Trump) in unknown waters. He is determined to have something in the “win” column, and he is determined to do things different than his predecessors. That does not bode well.

Nor does he seem to understand that consequences of using nuclear weapons, even in a preventative way. The United States, if it acts nuclearly and preventatively, will be a pariah for history, ceding its world leadership position to Russia and China. Which is what Russia and China, and maybe even Bannon, want.  Trump seems rather ho-hum about proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries (“I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us“) and has not ruled using nukes against ISIS. That does not bode well.

Of course, it might be rhetoric used to intimidate our enemies, but in many ways, it becomes a red line that he will be forced to cross or not cross. Keep in mind, North Korea knows that Trump lies — i.e., says things he does not mean. He has a credibility problem. So now Trump’s unfaithfulness to truth is more than just an annoyance to voters; it now plays a factor in a potential nuclear standoff.  THAT does not bode well.

Trump would be better off speaking softly and carrying a big stick.  John McCain believes the situation is serious, but he warns that the president’s rhetoric is not helpful.

McCain is right, the situation is serious, but it’s not Cuban Missile Crisis serious.  First of all, only one intelligence agency thinks that North Korea has miniature nuclear weapon capabilities. Secondly, we really CAN wipe out North Korea if it strikes at all, and Kim Jung Un knows that. I HOPE.  Rex Tillerson tells everyone to take a chill pill. Via AP:

Only hours before Trump’s tweets, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged calm and said Americans should have “no concerns” despite the exchange of threats between the president and North Korea. Aboard his plane as he flew home from Asia, Tillerson insisted the developments didn’t suggest the U.S. was moving closer to a military option to dealing with the crisis.

“Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson said. He added: “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”

In more tranquil terms than Trump, Tillerson sought to explain the thinking behind Trump’s warning. He said the president was trying to send a strong and clear message to North Korea’s leader so that there wouldn’t be “any miscalculation.”

“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un can understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said. “I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime on the U.S. unquestionable ability to defend itself.” He said the U.S. “will defend itself and its allies.”

I’m not sure that is calming.  This is not going away tomorrow, or two months from now.  We have severe sanctions and a good shot at getting China on our side more. Let’s go with that policy and not blow it up (literally) with over-the-top touch talk from a luxury resort.

UPDATE:  Here’s a sobering reminder…

As former Secretary of Defense William Perry told the podcast Radiolab, “the system is set up so only the president has the authority to order a nuclear war. Nobody has the right to countermand that decision.”

Nobody. Not the Defense Secretary. Not the vice president. Not the generals. Not the individual officers tasked with launching the missiles. Donald Trump alone decides whether to set off a nuclear holocaust.

The reason for this is that our nuclear protocols were designed for a very different era, when the threat of an external enemy loomed much larger than the threat of a madman president.

On the other hand, you always gotta laugh…

Will The Attorney General’s Investigation Into Leaks Snare Trump And Fox News?

Here is a tweet from Fox News this morning at 5:30 a.m.:

By the way, that’s some serious shit, but let’s set aside the content and just note that Fox & Friends linked to a Fox News site talking about information that came from “sources”.

And Donald Trump retweeted it:

There’s one problem. The information from Fox News was actually confidential information from intel sources, i.e., the kind of leak that Trump and Sessions said they would go after.

Look at the awkwardness a few hours later when Fox & Friends interview UN Representative Nikki Haley about the North Korea issue, and she tells them it is confidential.

Ah yes…. and now a flashback:

Trump’s Vacation Doesn’t Stop The Tweets (and Leaks)

Nine tweets so far today from Trump — several attacking the “failing” New York Times for an article about 2020 Republicans contenders against Trump, a few trying to reassure everyone that he is actually “working” on his vacation, and this…

… which seems to unintentionally confirm that there was… collusion?  Ah well.

Why did Trump go after Blumenthal? Probably this:

The last tweet was Blumenthal’s response to Trump today, but the first two tweets talk about Trump’s financials.  Trump REALLY REALLY does not want anybody to go in there.

We seem to have stopped the silly game of staff shake-up, and Kelly is in charge. The Attorney General has asserted that he will crack down on leaks by prosecuting journalists, an odd way to go about it.

Of course, as everyone says, there are leaks of two varieties: (1) run-of-the-mill leaks (gossip and palace intrigue about the process, etc.) and (2) leaks of classified information. I doubt Trump distinguishes between the two.

Of course, some leaks of classified information MIGHT be considered whistleblowing, although I don’t think we’ve seen any of that type yet. In any event, Mother Jones has provided a list of wonderful things we wouldn’t know about were it not for the leaks:

Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn lied about his contacts with the then-Russian ambassador. On February 9, the Washington Post reported that US intelligence intercepts showed that, despite denials to his colleagues, Flynn had spoken during the transition period to Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador at the time, about US sanctions on Russia. Flynn had previously told Vice President Mike Pence that there had been no discussion of sanctions, and Pence repeated the claim in nationally televised interviews.

Intelligence and Justice Department officials knew that Flynn had lied, and they warned the White House that Flynn’s lie could be used by the Russian government as blackmail—meaning that Trump’s National Security Adviser was, himself, an apparent national security risk. Flynn stayed on the job for another 18 days before Trump fired him. Trump said he fired Flynn not for the contact with Kislyak, but for lying to Pence about it. Flynn might still be working in the White House if the Washington Post hadn’t received that leaked information.

Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. On May 16, the New York Times reported that in February, after a meeting with several top national security officials, Trump asked Comey to stick behind in the Oval Office. When they were alone, the president allegedly told Comey that he hoped he “could see [his] way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Comey documented the encounter in a contemporaneous memo that was later read to the Times, and Comey then talked about the request in June during testimonybefore the Senate Intelligence Committee. Those memos were the subject of another New York Times story, this one alleging that Trump had asked Comey for “loyalty.” The White House denied Comey’s characterization of the request.

Two days after the Times revealed the existence of the memos, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government.

Trump called Comey “crazy” and “a nut job” in a meeting with top Russian officials and said that firing Comey relieved pressure from the Russia investigation. The day after Trump fired Comey, he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak at the White House. During the meeting, Trump reportedly told the Russians, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job…I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

The official White House account didn’t include this exchange, but on May 19 the New York Times published the comments thanks to an “American official” who read notes of the meeting to a Times reporter. Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the account when asked by the Times for a response.

Jared Kushner reportedly sought to establish a secret line of communication with the Russian government during the transition using Russian-government equipment. On May 26, the Washington Post reported that Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and one of his key White House advisors, discussed with the Russian ambassador the possibility of “setting up a secret and secure communications channel” between the Trump team and the Russian government, “using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to US officials briefed on the intelligence reports.” Kushner later denied the Post’s characterization of his meeting, saying instead that he merely sought to engage the Russians on how to solve problems in Syria.

Donald Trump Jr., hoping to get dirt on Clinton, arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Then President Trump helped craft a misleading description of his son’s meetingOn July 8, the New York Times, using “confidential government records,” reported that Donald Trump Jr. arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer, Kushner, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and several other people. The next day, the Times reported that the meeting was arranged via email with an explicit promise from a Russian associate of the Trump family that dirt on Hillary Clinton originating from the Russian government would be offered.

Under pressure, Trump Jr. released the email chain to the public—confirming the story—and said the meeting was minor and no big deal. Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, denied that the president had anything to do with crafting the response. But then on July 31, the Washington Post, using anonymous sourcesreported that the president was involved in crafting White House’s response to the original story—a response that misleadingly claimed that the meeting was about the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that sanctioned Russian officials thought to be involved in killing a Russian lawyer. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders then acknowledged that the president was involved, proving that the president’s lawyer misled the public about the president’s role in the matter.

Sessions, too, was the subject of leaks. On July 21, citing “current and former US officials,” the Washington Post reported that Sessions had discussed campaign-related matters with the Russian ambassador last year, contrary to what Sessions had said after it was revealed in March that he had met with Russian officials. The day after those revelations came out in March, Sessions recused himself from all Russia-related matters. Trump has since said that he regrets choosing Sessions as his AG and that he would have picked someone else if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. The president hasn’t fired Sessions yet, but the attorney general has extra incentive to crackdown on leaks after unauthorized disclosures put his job in jeopardy.

This last leak cannot be underestimated. Without the leak, Sessions stays as AG, and there is probably no special counsel after Comey is fired.

It’s hard to know if more leaks will come. Reince Priebus, no doubt, was the source of many of them. But I suspect other sources as well. They may have to lay low, or become deeper, like Deep Throat.

 

Breaking: Mueller Empanels DC Grand Jury

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said he wasn’t aware that Mr. Mueller had started using a new grand jury. “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Mr. Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.…The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

As many people know, there already has been a grand jury in Virginia, focusing on Michael Flynn.

Before Mr. Mueller was tapped in May to be special counsel, federal prosecutors had been using at least one other grand jury, located in Alexandria, Va., to assist in their criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser. That probe, which has been taken over by Mr. Mueller’s team, focuses on Mr. Flynn’s work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests.

So what’s the big deal with THIS new one in D.C?:

Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.

A grand jury in Washington is also more convenient for Mr. Mueller and his 16 attorneys—they work just a few blocks from the U.S. federal courthouse where grand juries meet—than one that is 10 traffic-clogged miles away in Virginia.

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

It also suggests that Mueller is ready to move to the next phase of his investigation. It reflects that Mueller believes there’s a certain level of “there” there to justify a GJ investigation. You don’t talk to witnesses until you have a pretty good idea as to what the “truth” is (from wiretaps, etc.). That way, you can catch them in a lie.

Document Dump: Protecting Mueller

This bill — from Sens. Lindsey Graham, Cory Booker, Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal — us actually one of two bipartisan bills designed to protect the special counsel from removal by the President or Attorney General. The other bill — by Sens. Thom Tillis and Chris Coons (both on the Senate Judiciary Committee) — does essentially the same thing: it says the DC Circuit Court panel of 3 judges must approve any removal… and only for cause.

The “Fake News” Is Coming From Inside The (White) House

I have avoided writing about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory being propped up by Fox. It was just too disgusting. But now it has political, rather than journalistic, implications.

Seth Rich was murdered in Washington, D.C. in July 2016 in what police describe as a botched robbery attempt.

But the conspiracy-lovin’ right-wing manipulation machine, sensing intrigue — he was MURDERED! — used his death to make the case that it was not Putin who leaked emails to Wikileaks — it was Seth Rich. Fox News and others (the type who spread the story that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex-slave ring in a D.C. pizza joint) ate it up.

Naturally, this accusation upset the family of Seth Rich. Not only did they have to deal with his unsolved murder, but now he was basically being libeled as a turncoat, with not one shred of evidence.  Eventually, Fox News had to discredit and retract the story (except for Sean Hannity who said he’d just stop talking about it — for now — out of “respect” for the family).

Now there’s a lawsuit filed by a private detective, Rod Wheeler, who was hired to investigate the murder.  Wheeler alleges that Fox News worked with White House officials to push the case to undermine allegations of Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign. Fox News used quotes from Rod Wheeler.  But Wheeler he claims he never said those things. He even has recordings with the Trump supporter, Ed Butkowski who paid him to investigate, where Butowsky acknowledges the quotes are fake. Butowsky is a frequent guest on Fox business programs.

According to the lawsuit, Wheeler and Butkowski met with Sean Spicer during the investigation, Spicer has confirmed this, contradicting what he said last May that he didn’t know anything about the story. Butowsky messaged Wheeler before their meeting with Spicer, “We have the full attention of the White House on this.” Butowsky also claimed in emails to Wheeler that he was keeping the president informed, and that Trump really wanted the story published.

Reflect on that. The President who rails against fake news wanted a fake news story published to deflect the Russian collusion story.

On Tuesday night, Butowsky went on CNN to yell at Chris Cuomo and defend his statements as “jokes.” Again, with the jokes. Like Trump’s speech approving of police brutality — that was a joke too. These people really need to work on their humor.

I’m sure the odds of Fox News colluding with the White House is total bunk and we could get a statement from Sean Hannity assuring us it’s just crazy talk, or “fake news.” Except, Sean is probably too busy having a secret dinner with Trump in the White House. Whatever do they talk about over the meatloaf?

Wheeler’s lawyers would like to depose Trump (fat chance it’ll happen), but Spicer and Butowsky clearly will have to be deposed under oath. Perhaps even Hannity.  Keep an eye on this.

Trump Quietly Signs Russian Sanctions Bill

No big ceremony this time, although it is arguably the most important piece of legislation he has signed in his administration so far. He did issue a statement, calling the bill “seriously flawed”:

Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Signing the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”

Today, I signed into law the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which enacts new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. I favor tough measures to punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang. I also support making clear that America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process, and that we will side with our allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization.

That is why, since taking office, I have enacted tough new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and shored up existing sanctions on Russia.

Since this bill was first introduced, I have expressed my concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.

My Administration has attempted to work with Congress to make this bill better. We have made progress and improved the language to give the Treasury Department greater flexibility in granting routine licenses to American businesses, people, and companies. The improved language also reflects feedback from our European allies – who have been steadfast partners on Russia sanctions – regarding the energy sanctions provided for in the legislation. The new language also ensures our agencies can delay sanctions on the intelligence and defense sectors, because those sanctions could negatively affect American companies and those of our allies.

Still, the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.

Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.

Further, the bill sends a clear message to Iran and North Korea that the American people will not tolerate their dangerous and destabilizing behavior. America will continue to work closely with our friends and allies to check those countries’ malignant activities.

I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.

It is heavily parsed to kiss Russia’s ass.

Meanwhile, everyone is agog at the transcript of Trump’s interview with the Wall Street Journal. It happened on July 25, before the defeat of repeal and replace of Obamacare.  Again, we see that Trump has the attention span of a fly, jumping off subject over and over again, preening himself, lying, and well, being Trump.  As Drum explains:

Politico has gotten hold of a transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. It started out with a question about the Republican health care bill:

MR. BAKER: What have you been doing, Mr. President, sort of behind the scenes?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: A lot. A lot.

Good to know! Then we got Trump’s thoughts on taxes:

I want to achieve growth. We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world, essentially, you know, of the size. But we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. We have – nobody knows what the number is. I mean, it used to be, when we talked during the debate, 2 ½ trillion (dollars), right, when the most elegant person – right? I call him Mr. Elegant. I mean, that was a great debate. We did such a great job. But at that time I was talking $2 ½ trillion. I guess it’s 5 trillion (dollars) now. Whatever it is, it’s a lot more. So we have anywhere from 4 to 5 or even more trillions of dollars sitting offshore.

Who is Mr Elegant? Lester Holt? Then this:

You know, a lot of people say – they say, well, but the United States is large. And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have.

It’s amazing! They have so many people! Then this about trade talks with Britain:

WSJ: Can you tell us more about what’s going on?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, but I can say that we’re going to be very involved with the U.K. I mean, you don’t hear the word Britain anymore. It’s very interesting. It’s like, nope.

Wut? Then this about NAFTA:

WSJ: What are you looking for specifically –

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m looking for fairness.

WSJ: But what does that – can you give an example?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, it means – look, our automobile industry has just left us and gone to Mexico – I mean, a big chunk of it. And it’s very unfair for them to take our companies, build their cars, and then sell the car back into our country with no tax. It’s very unfair. They fire all our people in Michigan and Ohio, and they take it, and they build a car. And now they sell the car back in with no tax. It’s not fair.

This demonstrates Trump’s famous command of detail. In just this one interview, in fact, Trump demonstrated that he knows nothing about (a) health care, (b) taxes, (c) trade in general, and (d) NAFTA in particular. On none of these subjects could he dredge up more than the vaguest generalities. It’s like watching a middle-schooler trying to bluff his way through a book report on a book he hasn’t read.

And for closers, here’s a quick review of Trump’s relationships:

I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders….I have a very good relationship with the prime minister [Theresa May]….I have a very good relationship with the EU people….I was with President Xi, who I have a very good relationship with….I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship.

Everybody loves Donald Trump! Hooray!

To that I would add this:

WSJ: We were in West Virginia yesterday.

TRUMP: Oh, you did? Was that a scene, though? Huh?

WSJ: That was a scene, yes. (Laughter.)

TRUMP: Biggest crowd they’ve ever had. What did you think?

WSJ: I thought it was an interesting speech in the context of the Boy Scouts.

TRUMP: Right.

WSJ: They seemed to get a lot of feedback from former scouts and –

TRUMP: Did they like it?

WSJ: It seemed mixed.

TRUMP: They loved it. [Laughter.] It wasn’t — it was no mix. That was a standing –

WSJ: In the — you got a good — you got a good reaction in –

TRUMP: I mean, you know, he writes mostly negative stuff. But that was a standing ovation –

WSJ: You got a good reaction inside the arena, that’s right.

TRUMP: … from the time I walked out on the stage — because I know. And by the way, I’d be the first to admit mixed. I’m a guy that will tell you mixed. There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.

WSJ: Yeah, there was a lot of supporters in the arena.

TRUMP: And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful. So there was — there was no mix.

No mix. Why not? Because the head of the Boy Scouts called and said otherwise. One problem there:

President Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that after his controversial speech at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in West Virginia, the head of the Boy Scouts called him and told him it was “the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” But the organization told TIME they are unaware of any call from national leadership placed to the White House.

This only happened last week. So again, obviously, Trump is lying.