Monthly Archives: January 2019

Breaking News: Massive Cave-in at White House

Here’s how it went down.

When Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, first learned that Trump was caving on the government shutdown and the fight over “wall funding,” he misunderstood and thought that one of Melania’s escape tunnels had collapsed. He soon learned the truth. Trump was backing down! This was mightily puzzling to McConnell who, despite leading one-half of the co-equal branch of government known as Congress, was in reality a vassal to his liege lord Trump and was being left out in the cold. What could possibly be going on?

McConnell ran to the White House to get instructions from the master negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Trump was, however, confused by his fight with the Democrats over funding for his promised “border wall” (or, as he now says, “whatever you want to call it”). Trump had repeatedly rejected border security funding proposals that did not include the “wall,” preferring to shut down the U.S. government and thereby show how tough a negotiator he is. Trump’s negotiating principle was: “give me what I want or I will hurt you … or someone else you care about.” You know, like a mob boss. Trump apparently believed that it would be effective to simply continue demanding the one thing the Democrats, in solid control of the House of Representatives, weren’t prepared to give, complaining all the while that the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate. McConnell was at a loss how to help his lord and master out of this jam.

Many theories exist about how to negotiate effectively. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books have been devoted to the subject. The one tactic that virtually all negotiation authorities seem to agree on is that taking an extreme position at the outset and refusing to budge in order to get the other side to yield by simply repeating the position is the least effective approach to making a deal. Credible books on the subject devote considerable space to explaining how to deal with the “my way or the highway” negotiators because, despite their dismal record of results, there still are many “negotiators” who try the tactic.

Trump is a great example of this. By dint of his past position atop a real estate empire financed with other people’s money, he is accustomed to demanding and getting others to yield, lest he walk away or file a lawsuit (a favorite tactic). Surrounded by people eager to please, it appears no one told him that trying to negotiate by taking hostages and threatening to hurt them and continue hurting them is unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome. Even if someone told him, it’s unlikely he would have listened. Trump has made it clear many times that he already knows everything he needs to know about everything.

So, Trump shut down the government, loudly proclaiming that the shutdown was “on him” and no one else. Somehow, he thought that forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to either work for no pay (we’ll get back to you sometime later with your money) or stop working altogether without pay was going to force the Democrats led by the newly ensconced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to yield and give him the wall money he wanted. Maybe he thought, “she’s a woman and cares about people, so she’ll crack. I don’t care about anyone but myself so I can outlast her.” Maybe he just thought she was a weak person, since he thinks most people, especially women, are weak compared to him. Maybe he just had too many hamberders and couldn’t think straight. We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that the hostages in Trump’s power play tended to blame him and the Republicans for their inability to do their jobs and pay their bills. Members of Trump’s cabinet, in their usual fashion, tried to prove their loyalty and come to his aid, by pointing out that federal workers without incomes could simply borrow from a bank or credit union. Another characterized the work of federal workers forced to labor without pay until an unknown future time as “volunteering.” The wife of one of Trump’s wealthy sons pointed out that while, yes, there was a “bit of pain” involved in being without an income, it was for a greater cause and thus everyone should be happy to sacrifice. And on and on and on. They gave new meaning to the phrase “tone deaf.” Future historians trying to explain this time will be stymied by the utter absurdity of the theater created by these buffoons, all appointed by or otherwise owned by Trump.

As the casualties piled up, and the airplanes began to stack up as air traffic control faltered due to inadequate staffing, Trump finally caved. He accepted a short term funding and reopening of the government with negotiations then to begin regarding border security. The same deal he would have had back in December and on multiple occasions since then.

In classic Trump fashion, of course, the cave in was accompanied by a meandering blathering incoherent speech about border security and, finally, a repeat of the same old threat: “give me what I demand or I will declare a national emergency, shut down the government again and build the wall with money I will steal from other parts of the federal budget.” Indeed, in a tweet following his Rose Garden speech, Trump flatly denied he had made a concession at all. He reframed his collapse as a decision to help the

“millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The “understanding” Trump refers to is only an illusion within his own mind, not something that involves third parties.

To remove any lingering doubts about that, the putative White House Press Secretary, who now has nothing to do but repeat Trump’s messages, tweeted:

In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing. [emphasis added]

That must make sense to Sanders but for the life of me I don’t know what the hell she is saying. Someone I know well replied to her on Twitter with

Really? Trump caved to give Democrats another chance of yield to his demands? That’s your story?

So, apparently, if we’re to believe Trump this time, it’s still “my way or the highway” and this whole three-week suspension of the shutdown is only to help out the Democrats. Or the federal workers. Or somebody.

On that note, the “negotiations” will resume. Now, no one knows whether the courts will sustain a declaration of national emergency in these circumstances. Trump’s record in court is pretty bad, but this is largely uncharted territory. The data on border crossings do not appear to remotely support the idea that there is a national emergency but it remains to be seen whether the courts will simply defer to the “president’s authority” on this.

Of course, one must also wonder why, if Trump has the power to arbitrarily declare a national emergency, he would also have to shut down the government again. One may also wonder why, if he is so determined to build his wall, he doesn’t just use the powers he claims to already have and proceed to steal the money from some other budget item. But logic has never defined this presidency, so maybe that’s just a silly question. Or, just maybe, his legal advisors have warned him that he is on thin ice in claiming absolute power to build the wall on his own order. Again, we’ll likely never know what thought process, if any, actually underlies these twisted mental gymnastics. One thing we can reasonably be sure of – it’s not to help out the Democrats and it’s not about protecting federal workers, about whom Donald Trump gives not one … damn.

The other point to be made here was, I think, very well made in a Facebook post attributed to Dan Rather by the site, Truth Matters. Summarized, the argument is that to bring the issue of border security and the “wall” forward properly, Trump should have arranged for legislation to be introduced, after which hearings would be held, expert testimony collected and, ultimately, votes taken on the elements of a proper modern border security regime. In legislative terms, this would be called “regular order.” But, no, Trump thinks he is a dictator who can simply demand what he wants and everyone will yield as they did when he was in private life running his real estate companies.

The resistance led by Pelosi shows that at least one half of the Congress, under Democratic leadership, understands its proper constitutional role as balance against the executive. Trump thinks he’s going to win because he needs to satisfy his political base and he is blind to the reality that even some of that group of slavishly devoted followers were hurt by and disapprove of the government shutdown Trump directed and that he continues to threaten.

So, the negotiations will resume with Trump’s threat on the table: “do it my way or I will simply go around you.” This is not a formula for success and there is no reason for Democrats in the House to yield to this type of threat from the president. It is not in fact the Democrats who don’t want to negotiate – it is Trump who still insists “you will do it may way or else.”

I am not prescient and will not try to predict how this is going to come out, but it’s hard to be optimistic when one party takes the position of a 5-year old who won’t eat dinner unless he’s guaranteed two desserts.

When last seen, Mitch McConnell was seen standing in the cold in front of the White House holding a note addressed to the president. It read “My liege, what, oh what, do you want me to do now?”

Note: some of the above is satire but it’s impossible to know which part. It could all be true.

 

 

Experimental Blog Post re The Sound of Apple Carts Being Knocked Over

WARNING: Before getting into the substance, and because I am so ____ bewildered and more than a little ____ off, I have written this post with blanks so you, in the privacy of wherever you read these things, can fill in the blanks with whatever words you’re comfortable with. Such words may be namby pamby or they may be harshly vulgar. That’s up to you. No one will know but you. If so inclined, let me know what you think of this form of blog post as a way of communally but also privately sharing your feelings, at least with yourself. If that makes sense. I’m not sure it does. But whatever you do, when you come to one of the blanks do not think of vulgar words; think instead of something else that’s just as good. Really. Try.

Did you ever wonder what an apple cart sounds like when it’s knocked over? No? I thought not. Most people in the modern world never come in contact with an apple cart, let alone one that has been knocked over within earshot. But apple carts are being knocked over left and right (well, mostly left) in Washington with the arrival of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a popular Democratic incumbent (actually the voters did it, but that’s a detail), and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez is also known as AOC. How cool is that? One week on the job in Washington and she’s her own acronym.  Donald Trumpski thinks she’s a new govt agency and can’t understand why he didn’t get to appoint her and can’t fire her.

Rep. Tlaib shocked the formerly Free World by using a profanity in a statement to a group of supporters, a profanity that, in the world of profanities, seems entirely suited to its target, the traitor-in-chief, Donald Trumpski. But you would have thought Tlaib had actually assaulted someone on the floor of Congress. The _____ Republicans were apoplectic. It’s one thing for Trumpski to say he could shoot someone and not lose votes, but for a woman, a freshman, a Muslim for _____ sake, to call Trumpski a “bad word, why this could be the end of civilization itself.  A “sad” day for the Republic, they said. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t stand such coarseness. Oh my, I think I have the vapors, I may pass out.

The _____ Democrats too were quick to pounce on the use of profanity in politics. What have things come to? Not constructive, they said. Not moving in the right direction. ____ it. More on this in a moment.

So, what was the first reaction from the “establishment” on the left? Here are some examples:

  • Shut up!
  • Toe the party line
  • Mind your manners
  • Submit to the “rules” of decorum that we wrote in anticipation that one day someone like you might be elected
  • Stop calling attention to yourself, _____
  • Wait your turn – we’ll let you know, ______
  • Stay in your lane
  • Speak only when spoken to
  • Ask permission before proposing a policy your elders might not like
  • Above all – shut up: Congress is where good ideas go to die

And, on the right? Well, I’ll be ______, you’d have thought Mitch McConnell had voted for national health insurance. The right was both mightily offended and simultaneously gleeful that new targets for their misogyny and racism had arrived. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, unhappy with his new role of powerlessness, was quick to demand that Speaker Pelosi “reprimand” Tlaib. Pelosi rightly responded that she was not in the censorship business. _________. If hypocrite McCarthy wants to reprimand someone, he should start with the leader of his own party. When he brings Trumpski to heel, he can think about imposing his personal standards of propriety on others. What a _____ moron.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Republicans are having hysterical hypocritical meltdowns over a freshman Congressperson using a vulgarity in relation to the supposed President who has built his entire persona around “telling it like it is,” including the use of a multitude of vulgarities, all available on video even as he, with his usual practice of lying about almost everything, denies that he said what he said. Instead of ganging up on the Democratic newcomers, the _______ Democrats should be making videos of all of the lying and hypocrisy on the right, including their claims that they want to protect health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, then post the videos on every right-wing social media site every day until the next election.

AOC blew Republican minds when a video was released of her dancing in college. Imagine that! Dancing in college. _______! She responded … with more dancing. There was a profound lesson in that move that the Republicans, as usual, failed to grasp. Later, she spelled it out more clearly on Twitter:

“None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with YOU. You’re locked up in here with ME.”

BOOM!! EMT squads were dispatched to Capitol Hill to resuscitate Republicans who suddenly found themselves unable to breathe. There were no reported fatalities but ashen-faced Republicans retreated to a secret meeting to discuss their next attacks on the freshmen Democrats who threaten the entire world order of old white men by having ideas and the willingness to express them.

It’s doubly interesting and profoundly disturbing, I think, that the media have played a facilitating role in the shock and dismay at Tlaib’s alleged darkening of political discourse in the Nation’s capitol. A front-page article in the New York Times on January 5, entitled “Cry to Impeach Upsets Agenda for Democrats,” described Tlaib’s remarks as an “expletive-laden impeachment promise” that was going to “upend the bonhomie of a new Congress.”

Bonhomie? Really? In _____ Congress? Give me a ____ break. One remark by a freshman congressperson upsets the entire Democratic agenda? That must have been some ___ agenda. Where does the MSM get this tripe?

The Washington Post joined the chorus with a front-page article the same day, entitled “House freshman’s cursing revives impeachment talk.” CBS News referred to the statement as “harsh.” https://cbsn.ws/2D374GL

There is so much here, I almost don’t know where to begin, but I will plunge ahead. I understand that media writers have little time to produce their stories against deadlines and the ever-present concept of “breaking news” that they employ to get our attention. But I still expect some respect for the English language by them and/or their editors. I was particularly struck by the use of “expletive-laden” in the Times piece. The click-bait title of a Jan. 4 piece by the Washington Post refers to the speech as “profanity-laced.” https://wapo.st/2M4nwtq

Google reports that “laden” means “heavily loaded or weighed down.”  Tlaib used the “bad word” once at the end of her remarks. I suppose one can argue that the word is so powerful in some way that even a single use infects everything adjacent that then becomes “laden,” but frankly, I think the Times andd the Post simply chose to make more of the statement than it could carry by itself. The so-called mainstream media had best be careful lest their already tenuous hold on the popular mind is completely severed. If they want to criticize, do some homework and use English. Leave the click-bait _____ to Twitter and Facebook.

The other thought is this: does anyone really believe that words like that used by Tlaib are not thrown about by politicians in the Capitol all the time when they don’t think anyone’s listening but their fellow inmates? Really? ____ that ____. And can it possibly be true that the Democratic establishment is not aware that many many many people have been openly talking about impeaching Trumpski for two years??? The talk started the minute he was elected.

The final thought about this particular dustup is that the Democrats who are running around giving quotes to the press critical of Tlaib are feeding the beast that threatens to defeat them and our democracy. The CBS News article cited above reports that a huge majority of Americans support impeaching Trumpski. If Democrats from the Old Guard think impeachment right now is a bad idea, fine, say so, but why join the ______ Republican feeding frenzy in attacking Tlaib for using a “nasty” about Trumpski. Why is it that the Old Guard doesn’t understand by now that things have changed?

The reality of national politics is that people like AOC and Tlaib are not intimidated by the mere presence of the Old Guard. They, and the Americans who elected them, are fed up with the Old Guard that opened the door to the election of a traitor and incompetent like Donald Trump and they are fed up with the _____ Republicans who are failing to do their job to rein in a president who is out of control and blatantly unqualified for his job. Democrats had best take heed or more apple carts will be knocked over and they won’t know what the ___ hit them.