Tag: Donald Trump (Page 1 of 14)

The triumph of bullshitting: Why Trumpcare probably won’t hurt Trump

What happens when a “populist” conidate becomes president and has to account for the contradictions between his rhetoric and his real platform? What happens when a bill is on his desk and he has to either sign it or veto it and can’t do both? With the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate trying to push through TrumpRyancare in a span of two weeks, we may soon see.

Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie says that for Trump to sign Trumpcare, Medicaid cuts, tax cuts for the rich, and the rest of his typical Republican agenda, he will lay bare the phoniness of his “populism,” alienating him from the “working class” voters who are credited with powering him to victory. I’m not so sure.

Bouie cites recently released studies of cultural-identity politics views and the 2016 election. Of particular interest is Lee Drutman’s study, which plotted voters on quadrants by economic views and social views in order to arrive at four groups: traditional conservatives (conservative on economic and cultural issues), traditional liberals, and, most important, “populists” (liberal on economic issues and conservative on cultural issues). You might associate these groups with particular candidates: Mitt Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan in the traditional conservative camp, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traditional liberals, Gary Johnson a populist, and Donald Trump a “populist.”

As you can see, “populists” are a big group, and Republicans seemed to do win more of them than did Democrats, despite the fact that those voters should agree with the Democratic economic agenda more than with the Republicans.

The data bares out that Trump won the vast majority of “populists”:

Why didn’t Republicans win “populists” in 2012 or 2008? One key point: Even as Romney and Ryan might well be more conservative/right-wing than the general public on cultural issues, they are not as conservative, and importantly, not as vocal in expressing those views, as Trump is.

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Post-election survey finds ethnocentric, identity politics factors in election

Trump supporters don’t terribly like immigrants or Muslims, and white Democrats like African-Americans more than white Americans.

Those are some of the findings of a large-scaled post-election study by John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University. The survey data comes from multiple surveys by YouGov of 45,000 respondents, including 8,000 respondents who were interviewed both in 2011-2012 and 2016. One of the questions asked voters to rate certain ethnic and religious groups on a thermometer scale:

A few things that can be said:
– For all groups surveyed, immigrants and Muslims rated second to last and last, respectively, but the difference was much greater with Republicans and Trump primary voters.
– Trump voters ranked white people more favorably than any other group ranked them and ranked minorities (excluding Jews) lower than every other group.
– While Trump voters ranked Jews slightly lower than did Republicans as a whole, their rating of Jews is lined up pretty evenly with the rating of Jews by Democrats, white Democrats, and the population at large–around 75.
– Democrats ranked blacks, Hispanics, and Jews noticeably higher than they ranked whites. Even white Democrats ranked blacks and Jews slightly higher than they ranked whites. The gap in the ratings of whites by Democrats as a whole is thus due partially, but not entirely, to the fact that there were many more blacks and Hispanics represented in the survey sample of “Democrats” (as opposed to “white Democrats”).

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Yes, Reagan Republicans, neoconservatives and #NeverTrump-ers are conservative

Is Donald Trump a conservative? Are neoconservatives conservatives? Was Ronald Reagan a conservative? This argument has been dividing the Republican Party for years. When Trump entered the primary for the Republican nomination in 2015, it was pointed out that he had a track record of supporting Democratic/liberal policies like abortion rights and healthcare for all. Even while he flip-flopped on many of those issues, he continued to push an economic and social worldview that was out of line with some of the leading players in the Republican Party–a kind of “economic nationalism,” as Steve Bannon described it.

Among the #NeverTrump coalition, Reaganite neoconservatives have strongly represented, including Bret Stevens and Noah Rothman, who come under critique in Ben Sixsmith’s first piece for Bombs + Dollars. For him the question becomes, “Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?” I’ll take this to mean, Are small government, pro-free trade, conservatives who support an strong role for America in the world still conservative?, because those are the specific positions under critique. In short, are Reaganesque neoconservatives conservative?

My answer is yes, and here’s why:

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How left-wing smears about racism come back to bite them

One of the most often heard complaints about politically correct liberals is that they try to smear everyone with whom they disagree as bigots. “Racist,” “sexist,” “transphobe,” “transmisogynistic”… The terms are thrown around so often that many people stop listening.

Often people disagree about what constitutes bigotry. But just as often people disagree about the context and what was actually said. While I was listening to the podcast Undisclosed, I was treated to an example of how casually self-righteous liberals can fabricate racially-charged accusations, perhaps without even being conscious of it.

Undisclosed operates in seasons that usually take on cases of someone whom the team of three lawyers, Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and Susan Simpson, thinks was wrongly convicted of a crime. They present the story and the evidence, as they see it, and argue why the convict wasn’t guilty. For the past few months, however, the story they are presenting is different: They are arguing why they think the Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray are guilty.

It’s a bit of an interesting turn for the attorneys, who usually argue someone’s innocence, to take a hard stance against people who were charged with crimes on shaky grounds. Maybe it shows the group is focused on the politics of identity–race and power structures–rather than defending the civil rights of anyone accused of a crime. Or maybe they are just continuing their mission of defending the public against heavy-handed tactics of the corrupt police and justice system that, in their view, mistreated and killed an innocent man. Either way, they ought not make up lies about subjects involved.

On episode 14, when talking about the protests that turned into riots, the host stated, “The nation saw the mayor unable to communicate to her own city, awkwardly trying to say that she respects civil liberties but then referring to protesters as ‘thugs’.”

“Referring to protesters as ‘thugs’…” Does anyone remember when Baltimore Mayor Stefanie Rawlings-Blake, a liberal Democrat and an African-American woman, said that? I seem to recall exactly the quote they were thinking of, and she didn’t at all refer to “protesters” as “thugs.”

Just to make sure I was remembering right, I looked it up:

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Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?

It is and always has been patently obvious that Donald J. Trump is not a conservative. He is no more a man of ideas than he is a man of manners, and his instincts tend towards decadence, impulsivity and egoism instead of restraint, prudence and selflessness.

Nonetheless, people who emphasise that Trump is no conservative often remind me of Christ’s warning about motes and beams. There is no one set of ideas and attitudes that could call “conservative”. It is obvious that conservatism comes in different forms, not least as different people have different institutions to conserve. But anti-Trump conservatives are often hard to place in the traditions of American or European conservatism. Indeed, it can be difficult to know what such commentators are trying to conserve.

Take Noah Rothman of Commentary magazine. Mr Rothman argues that President Trump ignores “some of the most fundamental ideas of conservatism”. Such as?

…the benefits of free-market health care, skepticism toward centrally planned infrastructure projects, the moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force, the centrality of strong family and community bonds, the necessity of failure, the importance of immigrants to the American project, and an incremental approach to political change.

We shall generously assume that Mr Rothman means American conservatism, for Edmund Burke, arguably the father of modern conservatism as a coherent phenomenon, could hardly have believed in the “moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force” when America barely existed.

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Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about on NATO

Trump’s May 30 statement via Twitter on Germany pretty much sums of his ignorance about NATO and military spending:

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change”

Put aside the fact that, while visiting Brussels, he attacked Germany car companies for selling many cars in the U.S., even though many are produced in the U.S., or the fact that trade provides Americans with products at more affordable prices and is generally good for the economy.

Forget that America has a population 4 times that of Germany, and a larger GDP per capita, and thus would be expected to purchase more products from Germany than Germans purchase from the U.S. (Four people with more money can afford more than one person.)

What is notable about this tweet is that Trump doesn’t seem to know how NATO funding works.

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What’s more important to you? Your country or your ideology?

With the entire EU/Germany versus Trump thing happening, which was sort of predicted by Peter Hitchens, focus is on what historical patterns might emerge in the West.

As Financial Times, the most Pro-EU broadsheet pointed out, the patterns are not comforting.

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With Germany quietly re-arming herself, Conservative Poland railing against Liberal Germany created Atlantic rift, and France openly balancing against Russia, European Great power peace is looking precarious.

But there’s something else at stake. 

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These past two weeks of Trump scandals were entirely predictable

The Republicans played with fire, and now they’re gonna get burnt

The past two weeks have brought developments in the ongoing saga of America’s executive office dysfunction that have shattered even previous high water marks of unbridled incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power. On May 9, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on transparent pretexts. A couple of days later, Trump admitted his pretexts were false. Later he made a threat to Comey, who is invited to testify before Congress, about having supposed “tapes” of his conversations, and the White House still won’t say if it is recording conversations, even as it faces a subpoena from Congressional investigators. Now, in the past few hours, it has come to light that Comey produced a memo stating Trump had told him to end the investigation into Michael Flynn.

If Trump’s attempts to derail the Russia investigation weren’t enough, Trump met with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov literally the next day after firing Comey. Apparently without the White House’s permission, the Russian government photographer shared photos of the two men yukking it up in front of Trump with the Russian media that would go viral around the world—even as Trump didn’t allow any American photographers to capture images of the meeting. Didn’t Trump already learn from Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions the perils of meeting with Kislyak?

But the optics disaster was only foreshadowing what the public would soon find out happened during the meeting.

On May 16, it was reported by the Washington Post that “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” The information revealed was reportedly enough to let Russia figure out the source of intelligence shared by an ally (a very strong ally that Trump made much of claiming to support). Trump’s irresponsible mouth puts Israeli spies in ISIS-controlled territory at risk. It may threaten U.S. intelligence-sharing with Israel.

The saddest thing is, this was all completely predictable.

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Fox News pundits have got to be feeling embarrassed now

No less than 2 days after Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Fox News’s leading prime time hosts, and some guests repeating White House spin on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump stepped in to scuttle their (and his own) narrative.

On May 10, the day after Comey was fired, Joe Concha joined Tucker Carlson to bemoan the media’s coverage of Comey being fired in the midst of an investigation Trump desperately wants to go away. Concha repeated Trump’s claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein recommended Comey be fired.

“You have a Deputy Attorney General, just appointed two weeks ago, 94-6 vote, so he’s not seen as a partisan, recommending that Comey be gone,” Concha said.

That echoes statements from the Trump administration attributing the firing to Rosenstein’s purported recommendation that Comey be fired. The letter signed by Trump says, “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The statement from the White House press office says, “President Trump acted based on the clear
recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

On May 11, however, Trump admitted that he himself made the decision to fire Comey. In an interview with NBC News, Trump said,

He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time do it!

He also said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey:

And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

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Hugh Hewitt on James Comey then and now

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt defended Donald Trump’s act of firing FBI Director James Comey, who is presiding over an investigation of Trump’s campaign and administration officials for possible collusion with Russia’s interference in the election, on the grounds that Comey shouldn’t have held a press conference announcing the results of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s email server. The press conference, in which Comey condemned Clinton, was viewed by many, including Hewitt, as damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Here’s what Hewitt wrote in his syndicated column defending Trump:

Last summer an old D.C. hand took me to one of those Beltway places of lore for lunch and a cigar and talked candidly about how shocked he was at then-FBI director James Comey’s decision to publicly discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation and to walk the public through a hundred details of the case and then conclude she should not be prosecuted. Agree or disagree with that decision, he said, it’s not what the FBI does. Ever. Agents present facts to prosecutors. They may nudge or even push in one direction or the other, but they don’t decide. My interlocutor, a former assistant U.S. attorney and then-senior official in numerous positions and companies, was not so much outraged by Comey’s actions at the time as puzzled, perhaps even shocked.

Curiously, in an MSNBC segment with Brian Williams on the day of Comey’s press conference, Hewitt said of Comey’s decision to announce publicly:
“I think he may have made a political decision in the best interest of the FBI.”

One wonders how it could have been in the best interest of the FBI if it had harmed trust in the FBI or in the FBI’s director, as Hewitt and other conservatives now argue. Hewitt was either wrong then or he’s wrong now.

In the Brian Williams segment, Hewitt was never asked directly about whether he thought it was the right decision to announce. He did, however, make many gleeful statements about how much he felt the announcement hurt Clinton.

“Look, she wasn’t indicted today, but she was convicted. Director Comey convicted her of lying repeatedly about not receiving or sending classified markings. She was convicted of being vulnerable to hostile agents. Her aides are convicted of actually having been penetrated by hostile agents. So I think you’re going to see Donald Trump and his surrogates in the Republican Party play the Comey press conference again and again and again. It was damning.”

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