Tag: Republican Party (Page 1 of 2)

Republicans investigating political enemies, defending power

In November 2016, I questioned whether Republicans who investigated the Obama administration with passion would do their job as a check on the president.

“Many Republicans are more concerned about excusing Trump’s abuses of power than investigating them,” I wrote.

We’ve seen their performance for one year. How have they done? There are token efforts in the House and a somewhat more critical effort in the Senate to look into the Russian controversies. The Republicans haven’t even lifted a finger to investigate Trump’s conflicts of interest as owner of a vast business network, including a DC hotel where foreign diplomats like to stay.

But there have always been a Trumpist Republicans eager to run interference for their guy. Rep. Devin Nunes met with the White House to coordinate talking points this spring. Now Nunes and other Republicans are using their powers to try to undermine the FBI. Rep. Matt Gaetz called for firing Mueller.

Attacks on Special Prosecutor and Republican Party member Robert Mueller have been picking up in recent weeks. Republicans have just held an investigatory session of FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and asked seemingly tougher questions than they ask of Trump’s allies.

The Trumpist wing of the right-wing media is picking up any and every straw they can find to try to undercut the investigation. The conservative wing of the right-wing media is often downplaying or ignoring revelations.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing harder and harder for Trump to investigate people who aren’t in power, like Hillary Clinton. Department of Justice director Jeff Sessions, after being pushed by Republicans to pick a Special Council to investigate Clinton, has “begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News.”

The idea for many Republicans seems to be to be a check (or even obstructionists) on watchdogs like the FBI and defeated politicians like Clinton and a guarddog on power.

The difference between hypocrisy and evil

When Republican senators Mark Foley and Larry Craig were forced to resign because of sex scandals just over a decade ago, Byron Williams accused them of harboring “the hypocrisy of the hypocrisy.” Articles about the right-wing’s biggest sex hypocrites flood out every time a Donald Trump is exposed as having sexually assaulted someone or a Roy Moore is found to be a child molester.

The primary problem with Foley, Craig, Trump, and Moore, however, isn’t hypocrisy but immorality. Foley abused his power to proposition a page for oral sex. In addition to sexual harassment and abuse of power, Trump and Craig also committed adultery.

Sexual harassment and assault is a crime and an immoral violation of one’s rights no matter what one’s ideological or moral values system one follows. If a sexist man who believed that it was his right to grab women anytime, anywhere committed sexual assault, it would still be immoral despite the fact that that evil man wrongly believed it was his right.

To focus overwhelmingly on the “hypocrisy” aspect could have the unfortunate effect of downgrading immoral acts committed by immoral men. In effect, we are giving a free pass to the worst of the worst.

A common refrain from Trump supporters when Trump is caught lying, speaking like a 5th-grader, or having a temper tantrum at 5 am, is that, “We knew what we were getting with Trump.” Why, we did indeed know that he was guilty of multiple character flaws. He still is. Period.

If Osama bin Laden had been caught and brought in front of a judge, should he get off if he argued, “I have directed terrorist attacks for years. I openly talked about it and threatened it in propaganda statements. You already knew this”? Pathological dishonesty, incompetence, corruption and the like are in and of themselves.

When hypocrisy really matters

The Republicans just passed a tax bill that increases the deficit by $1 trillion and repeals the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance.

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Poland, Trump, and Hungary: This is what illiberal democracy looks like

The election of Trump, the Law and Politics Party winning a majority in Poland in 2015, and Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary; what they all have in common is not merely a right-wing bend, but a contempt for liberal democracy. So goes the narrative, which has been particularly on display since Trump’s speech in Poland, that “illiberal democracy” is threatening the underpinnings of democracy in the Western world and beyond.

Some of the more conservative-minded would say this argument is the resentment of the losers. Trump, Szydlo, and Orbán won their elections fair and square. Why should they be dismissed just because you disagree with them? “If a democracy now needs to be a tool for spreading liberalism, conservatives are by definition, not democratic,” Sumantra Maitra wrote for Quillette.

Here is the thing: the problem isn’t simply with policy preferences but with the normative structures of democracy itself. These governments are taking actions to solidify their own power, not just to advance ideological interests of the people, but to advance the personal and party-based interests of the leaders or the ruling parties in ways that strike at the legal and moral underpinnings of democracy and rule of law.

A few examples will illustrate what exactly is meant by illiberal democracy. In Poland, the ruling party is trying to enact a measure that would give them control over the composition of the judiciary. As reported by Politico Europe:

Poland’s parliament, under the leadership of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed a law dissolving an independent body responsible for the nomination of judges. At the same time, PiS submitted a draft law that would force the entire Supreme Court into retirement and give the country’s justice minister the ability to decide which judges can stay in their current roles.

Currently, Poland’s federal judges are appointed by a professional panel of lawyer. The Law and Justice party attacked the judges as leftists—the party chairman called the judiciary a “stronghold of post-communists”—and it is easy to see how a panel made up of lawyers could be attacked as “elitist” and biased to be more favorable towards political liberalism than the public, due to expected leanings within the field. Perhaps there is a case to be made for having judges appointed by the president, prime minister, parliament, or some combination thereof, as is done in places like the United States and South Korea. Although there are problems with the system in the U.S., which has resulted in the politicization of judicial appointments, there is a case to be made for some level of political accountability in the process.

The problem is that the manner by which Law and Justice is planning to implement this program appears meant to give their party control over the composition of the court

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Trump economics and the crisis of fake conservative populism

Trump is trying to stimulate the economy when the economy is booming.

Noah Rothman writes at Commentary that Trump’s economic proposals are “Keynesianism without a crisis.” The economy is chugging along, growing at 3.2 percent in the third quarter, and unemployment is below 5 percent. The U.S. has outperformed its peer competitors in Europe and North America over the past 4 years, topping France and Germany in GDP growth every year since 2012 and growing faster than Canada and the UK in 2015. This is important to note, because as economic critics point to 3% and 4% growth in the 1970’s and 80’s, they neglect to point out that the entire developed world has been growing slower since then. It’s harder to keep up a high percentage rate of growth on a bigger total.

But an even more important point of dispatch is that conservative critics and “populists” base their view on faulty emotional assumptions and incorrect data. Trump, for instance, said to Time that, the government needs to “prime the pump” “in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.”

In fact, the GDP has grown at 2.4% for each of the past two years. The slowest it grew since 2008 was 1.5% in 2013, still considerably faster than France and Germany. Moreover, quarterly economic GDP growth has never grown slower than 1% for the past three years. Trump is doing what he is so good at: making shit up.

But it’s not just Trump who is the problem. For most of Obama’s term, Republican and conservative “populists” have resorted to counter-factual appeals to the pain of the working class and consumers no matter what the economic conditions.

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B+D editor begins contributing to The Buckley Report

“Congressional Republicans have a mandate for their agenda. Trump doesn’t,” Blatt writes in first article.

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt published his first article at The Buckley Report, a conserverative outlet that launched this year. In it, Blatt analyzes the results of the election on both the presidential and Congressional levels and how it should impact policy if the will of the voters is heeded.

“Running on an agenda of fiscal responsibility, entitlement reform, tax simplification, and reeling in executive overreach, Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans won at least 241 seats and well over 3 million more votes nationally than the Democrats. Meanwhile Donald Trump, running on an agenda of ignoring the entitlement crisis, spending twice as much as Hillary on infrastructure, raising taxes on consumer goods, and wasting billions on a white elephant wall, lost the popular vote by over 2.2 million.” (Read more.)

Although Trump won the most state-by-state electors at the Electoral College, many of his voters didn’t vote for him so much as they voted against Hillary Clinton. The Congressional Republican agenda and Trump’s “nationalist” agenda differ significantly in key areas of economics and immigration policy. Congressional Republicans haven’t been so keen as Trump on building an over $10 billion wall or raising tariffs to 35 percent.

Blatt argues the Republicans in Congress should pursue their own conservative agenda and resist Trump’s excesses. It remains to be seen whether they will do so or whether Trumnp will bend them to his will.

Republicans already failing in holding Trump accountable

Just weeks after Trump took a majority of the electoral votes on Election Day, Trump’s administration is already facing the potential for scandals, conflicts of interest, and corruption, as Trump has met with foreign business people and invited an executive vice-president of the Trump Organization (for which he himself remains president) to a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Who will hold Trump accountable? Republicans held many hearings to investigate the Obama administration. Many Republicans ran on a promise of keeping the next president honest.

Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaign pitch (in an ad) was, “If Donald Trump is the president, I’ll stand up to him. Plain and simple. And if Hillary wins, I’ll hold her accountable every step of the way.”

But will the Republicans actually be willing to hold aggressive hearings on Trump’s business dealings in his first months in office? They would be trying to get conservative bills passed Congress, like repealing Obamacare, and they wouldn’t want to tarnish their party’s president, especially early on. But being early in his administration is no excuse, since he’s already involved in business that creates conflicts of interest.

On November 21 reports emerged from Argentina that Trump asked Argentine President Mauricio Marci for help with an office project he is developing there.

While spokespeople for both parties denied it, the very fact that the president-elect would retain his position as president of a company with transnational interests with his children as executives creates the appearance of impropriety, the classical definition of conflict of interest, and the potential for impropriety. There is no way to verify what Trump discusses with foreign leaders and no reason to believe him. That’s why previous presidents have put their assets into blind trusts.

Trump is also reportedly trying to get Jared Kushner, his son in law and husband of Trump Organization executive vice president Ivanka Trump, who sat in on the meeting with Japan, a White House security clearance and position. Nevermind that would give the Trump Organization yet another avenue to access the White House, it is also potentially illegal under an anti-nepotism law.

But will the Republicans hold Trump accountable?

Time magazine reported:

Republicans, likewise, don’t see any conflicts at all in Trump’s family members managing the national government. “For goodness sake, JFK put his brother over at the Justice Department. It’s not like these things are new and unprecedented,” Rep. Tom Cole said.

Oh, right, the fact that JFK put his brother Robert Kennedy in charge of the Justice Department before a law was passed to bar such nepotism in response to JFK putting his brother in charge of the Justice Department. Would it hurt Tom Cole to read a little history?

Many Republicans are more concerned about excusing Trump’s abuses of power than investigating them.

Republican obstructionism looks to continue through Clinton’s presidency

When the Republicans unconditionally blocked President Barack Obama’s appointment of any Supreme Court justice, leaving the court lacking one justice and resulting in split cases this year, they argued that the next president should be charged with appointing the next justice. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said.

That was before Donald Trump had been nominated and when the Republicans thought they had a good chance of winning the 2016 election. Will Republicans give in to the voice of the American people now that Hillary Clinton is looking like she will almost certainly win the election?

The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but Senator John McCain lent his voice. “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” the Arizona Republican said.

Pragmatic liberals like Mother Jones‘s Kevin Drum should dampen their optimism about how easily President Clinton will be able to work with a Republican congress.

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Defeating Trump won’t save the GOP

There’s a popular fantasy amongst rational Republicans that a good thumping of Donald Trump can cleanse the party of its toxins and set the GOP up for success in the future.

The scammers, entertainers, anti-intellectuals, and alt-right bigots who have “taken over” the party will be ushered out by the undeniable reality that their brand of “nationalist conservative populism” doesn’t work, and honest, principled conservatives will take over. It’s a nice vision. It reminds me of the idea (expressed more on the left) that Romney’s loss in 2012 would break the GOP’s “fever.” The problem is it won’t happen.

In the first place, the cancer of the Trumpist alt-right won’t be easily dislodged from the host. Voters have the freedom to choose, at the end of the day, and those voters who nominated Trump because they agreed with his proposals to build a wall, ban Muslims, and with his core nativism won’t be convinced to suddenly become tolerant just because Jeb Bush and members of the “Illuminati” tell them to. The entertainment faction, led by Sean Hannity, is already building the groundwork for the excuse that it is the “establishment,” not the Trumpists, who are to blame for not voting for Trump. Nevermind that Hannity’s critique is anti-democratic or that Jonah Goldberg has much less influence over the votes of the educated suburban whites who are abandoning Trump than Hannity gives him credit for; the fact that this argument is illogical will not prevent it from influencing the views and actions of a significant proportion of the GOP electorate going forward.

Even if Trumpism could somehow be successfully purged from the Republican Party, the Republicans and the conservative movement would still be far from solving their problems. Recall that the Republican Party faced major problems even before Trump came along. The Republicans had lost 5 of the last 6 presidential popular votes. Mitt Romney’s performance with minorities was abysmal even by GOP standards–so much so that Trump blamed Romney’s rhetoric on illegal immigration being too harsh. When four Republican Senators took Reince Priebus’s post-2012 advice and tried to pass an immigration reform bill, the bill didn’t get a vote in the House, and Marco Rubio was scared into apologizing to the Tea Party.

Shrek once said that ogres are like onions–they have layers. The GOP is a rotten onion. When you tear off one putrid layer you are confronted with another.

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Rural resentment: How Trumpland convinced itself white rural people are victims

Why do poor, uneducated white voters who benefit from government spending on the poor support conservatives who attack social welfare programs? Thomas Frank tried to answer the question in his 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas in 2004, and now, with Donald Trump getting perilously close to winning the Republican nomination, he thinks the rural vote is up for grabs.

Trump’s support is aligned with “deindustrialization and despair, with the zones of economic misery that 30 years of Washington’s free-market consensus have brought the rest of America,” Frank wrote in the Guardian in March.

The fact that Trump’s support comes overwhelmingly from poor rural areas is not a new observation. Kevin Williamson of National Review had already posited a solution in October 2015. Someone living in a dead end town with no future, ought to move somewhere where there are better opportunities. If they don’t want to move, they have to take the bad with the good. It’s a choice, and choices have consequences.

Rural voters, however, hold resentment against urban residents. They don’t want to move, and they want someone else to solve their problems. That much is evident from reading Katherine J. Cramer’s new and important book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Cramer visited each county in Wisconsin and did a sociological study on its residents and found a kind of identity politics emerged in rural areas that blamed their problems on outsiders, urbanites and government neglect. While the subtext of the book is on Wisconsin Governor Walker and his three electoral victories (including once in a recall election), the information in the book applies just as much to Republicans in general and especially Trump.

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Honor politics is still big in the Republican Party

Is Trump a Republican? Many Anti-Trump conservatives have been arguing that he isn’t because of his liberal views on some issues or his huge donations to Democrats.

But in one way Donald Trump is very conservative/Republican. In fact, he’s the “toughest” most Republicany Republican tough guy when it comes to the defense of national honor. (Or, as Trump spells it, “honer.”)

Trump constantly says America “isn’t winning” and that other countries are defeating America. He also says that America is being humiliated by trivial things. For example:
Donald Trump accuses Cuban dictator Raul Castro of ‘disrespecting’ Obama by not meeting president on Havana runway at beginning of historic visit

That might sound like a comically over-the-top thing to get offended about—and indeed Trump is comically over-the-top about everything—but it is only a matter of degrees. Here’s Townhall’s Katie Pavlich, one of the contributors to National Review’s #AgainstTrump issue, taking issue with a statement the close-to-death Fidel Castro wrote in response to Obama’s visit:
Embarrassment: Fidel Castro Publishes Scathing Letter Slamming The United States and Obama

Not only did the retired leader criticize America (including with a reference to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which arguably says more about his inability to let go of the past than it does about U.S. policy in 2016), at the joint press conference, “Castro openly criticized the United States on human rights issues.” The humanity!

One can imagine an Iranian nationalist shouting about how President Bush called his country part of the “axis of evil.”

Of course, Obama made it even worse by admitting that he is sympathetic to the view that social welfare like universal healthcare could be a human right. It brings to mind Obama’s supposed “apology tour,” which was even criticized by 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The idea was that Obama should never admit, in his capacity of president of the United States, that the United States had ever done anything wrong.

The Heritage Foundation, in 2009, helpfully summarized 10 “apologies” that they thought “humiliated a superpower”:

[In France:] So we must be honest with ourselves. In recent years we’ve allowed our Alliance to drift. … [In Egypt:] My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. … [In Spain:] While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. … [In Washington, DC:] Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions.

How dare he say America isn’t perfect! How humiliating!

(Some Republicans also attacked Obama for bowing, as is tradition, to the Japanese emperor, and Trump actually attacked Michelle Obama for not bowing to the traditions of Saudi Arabia and “refus[ing] to wear a scarf.” )

It bears a certain logic with Trump to never apologize. Even after his staffer Corey Lewandowski was accused of grabbing a reporter, even after lied that he had never seen the reporter, and even after he was then charged with battery, he continued to stand behind him and not apologize once or force Corey to apologize. “Trump never backs down,” Slate explained with its front page headline of an article.

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