Monday, January 14, 2019

The Apprentice: The White House Edition

Trump can add the longest government shutdown to his resume.  He achieved it over the weekend with Congress not in session.  It isn't like the Democrats didn't try to reopen government.  The House passed a temporary spending bill last week that even had a few Republican signatures, but Mitch "The Turtle" McConnell rebuffed the bill in the Senate.  While the base of the party continues to stand behind Trump, his support in Congress is crumbling.  Even Lindsey Graham now says Trump should reopen government.  So, where does this leave Trump?

Given his obstinance we can be sure that Trump will pad his record by a few days just to make sure he leaves this as a lasting legacy.  He brought in border sheriffs wearing ten-gallon hats from to his cabinet meeting Friday to bolster his claim that America needs this wall, but Congress had gone home early, no longer amused by his grandstanding.

He has pulled back his threats to declare a national emergency, given he has no legal standing for such an audacious claim.  Even still, he is eyeing federal relief money earmarked for Puerto Rico, California and other states and territories ravaged by natural disasters these past two years.  Surely, there is $5.7 billion he can find to build his wall.  If nothing else, he can use the other half of  the $12 billion of the federal relief from the Department of Agriculture he ordered for farmers when China and Mexico sought to buy soy beans and corn elsewhere.  Apparently, only $6 billion has been appropriated thus far.

To date the shutdown has cost an estimated $3.6 billion.  That's money the federal government will never get back.  In addition, he has created hardships for countless federal employees, which he brazenly claimed were on his side, then when they revolted, called them all Democrats and criminals.  The childish rants are enough to give anyone pause, but Mitch refuses to respond.  Like a turtle, he has drawn into his shell and decided to wait this one out, as he does all tough problems.

Adding insult to injury, Gofundme shut down the Border Wall campaign, as it fell far short of its billion dollar goal, and is refunding all those who contributed to this doomed project.  No matter, its founder Brian Kolfage has set up a private fundraiser based in Florida to reach his goal.  Trump should have invited the triple amputee to his cabinet meeting to elicit support.

If all this looks familiar it is because Trump approaches the White House the same way he did The Apprentice -- as a reality show.  For him it is all about ratings.  He netted 41 million viewers last week with his Oval Office address.  That's more than watched Netflix's premier of Bird Box, which has become a viral sensation with everyone doing the "bird box challenge," and not to very good effect.  The same problem with Trump trying to use his cornball tactics to force Congress to sign onto his wall.  He's made a fool of himself but refuses to recognize it, so he lashes out once again at "Jeff Bozo" and Pocahontas and whoever else has caught his ire over the last three years.  If one shtick doesn't work, try another.

Vladimir Putin no doubt is enjoying the show, as I imagine is Xi Jinping.  Nothing they love to see more than America making a fool of itself, which it has been doing for the last two years.  For our allies, this must be very painful to watch, as they have long counted on the United States to be a stable force that has its back, but now they have come to accept the very real prospect that the US can no longer be relied upon.  It's not just Trump, but the fact that Congress is utterly powerless to do anything about him.

If Trump was truly worried about national security, he would have approached it long before now.  The only thing that got him going on the wall was the prospect of losing his base after Fox pundits cried foul when he backed away from his pledge.  Trump is a cornered animal, trapped between his rabid conservative base and the rest of the country.  Given a choice, he takes the side of his conservative base, figuring it is better to go down as a martyr than be seen as the weak-kneed president that he is.

It all would be fine if this was a reality show and we could go back to our regularly scheduled programming, but there is no escaping Donald Trump.  Just ask the 800,000+ federal workers who missed their first pay check this past Friday and are now scrambling for funds to pay off their mortgages and other monthly payments, something our dear president knows nothing about.  The longer this shutdown drags on the more it makes America look bad, not just Trump.  

Since Mitch has yet to come out of his shell, Lindsey better devise a way for Trump to retreat with dignity, what little bit he can salvage, so that this country can move forward once again.  Otherwise, it is going to be a very bleak week on Wall St.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Tenacious Mr. T

As our dear president digs an ever deeper hole for himself, he seems determined to drag the Republican Party down with him.  Trump already has Lindsey Antebellum in the hole, urging him to dig deeper, all the way to China if he has to, all because Republicans completely sold the conservative base on the necessity of a border wall that has no practical use whatsoever.

This was made abundantly clear on the Orange King's trip down to Texas, where he was briefed by border officials on the number of ways drug dealers and illegal immigrants have of circumventing the wall -- everything from tunnels to drones.  Unless, there are some pretty deep foundations and some way to shoot down drones this wall will do little to stop drug and human trafficking through the border.

Trump never saw the wall as anything more than a hook to lure supporters into his campaign tent.  I think he was genuinely surprised by how well it worked, and thought nothing more of it until the midterms rolled around and he had to use it again to beat back the Democrats in the Congressional and state elections.  Now, it has come back to haunt him as there is no way to separate himself from his campaign promise.

Steve Doocey, Ann Coulter and other conservative pundits made sure of that when a temporary spending bill appeared on his desk just before Christmas.  Dear Mr. President, they shouted, remember your promise!  So, it was either build a wall or lose face with the only support he has left today, the rabid base of the Republican Party.

As Nancy Pelosi said, this is a manhood thing for him.  Trump doesn't like to lose face and will do whatever it takes to save it.  The only problem is that Nancy holds the upper hand.  Trump made sure of that by telling everyone the trade deal he signed at the end of November with Mexico and Canada will indirectly fund the wall through taxes.  He didn't seem to realize that Congress has to ratify this trade deal and now that the Democrats control the House, Nancy is the one holding the gavel.

Trump never bargained for a Congress defying his orders.  He didn't much care to this point as his orders were for the most part inconsequential.  However, promises are promises and he was forced to use whatever bit of leverage he had at his disposal to make good on the wall.  We have now entered week four of the shutdown he said he was so proud to take the mantle for back in mid-December, but has since bestowed on the Democrats for not acceding to his demands.

You really have to wonder how anyone can support him at this point, but his fanatical base still does, and is putting a lot of pressure on Congressional Republican representatives to stick with their president or face the consequences in 2020.

This is why Lindsey Graham has made a complete flip-flop from supporting the bipartisan Senate bill back in December to urging Trump to declare a national emergency in order to get the wall built.  Of course, declaring such a faux emergency would take the monkey off the back of Congressional GOP leaders, as the President could then tap into the defense budget to fund his wall and they could reopen government.  A win-win situation as far as they are concerned.  But, he would face an almost certain lawsuit from Democratic leaders if he were to use such extraordinary powers, holding up such funding for months.

Basically, the GOP is fucked and they know it.  They are saddled to a President who answers to such a narrow base that anyone outside Trumplandia hasn't got a hope in hell of winning a general election.  Susan Collins is desperately trying to play both sides of the issue so as not to alienate independent voters back in Maine, as are a number of other vulnerable Republican Congresspersons who have to defend their seats in 2020.

Surely Mitch could have sat down with the President long before now and hashed out a strategy for better border security that didn't necessitate a government shutdown.  The Senate majority leader had two years to do so.  Somehow he thought the issue would go away, but Trump generated such a fright over the migrant caravan this past summer that the Magaheads started shouting "Build that Wall" all over again and there was no way to ignore it lest you want to be "Teabagged" or "Cantored" or "Trumped" or whatever they call it now in the primaries.  Mitch is also up for re-election in 2020.

So, we are forced to watch a President literally throw a temper tantrum for the whole world to see and Congress paralyzed to do anything about it.  To her credit, Pelosi put forward a temporary spending bill but this time it was the Senate that stymied it, refusing to go against the President out of fear of their own political hides.  As Ollie would say to Stan, this another fine mess you have gotten me into.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Dancing Queen

In the great tradition of welfare queens, conservative pundits tried to make a Dancing Queen out of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez only to watch it blow up in their faces.  Some conservative blogger managed to dig up a video of young Alexandria dancing on a roof top with some of her Boston University friends, and thought the world would like to know what a flaky new representative we have in Congress.  Only problem was that no one saw any harm in it, and those who did take exception to the video came up with some of the most lurid responses, which only made themselves look like perverts.  Alexandria didn't even need to fire back but she did anyway with a video of herself dancing in front of her new office on Capitol Hill.

A deep hidden fear has emerged in all this loathing of the freshman representative.  It isn't so much that she is an avowed "democratic socialist" (gasp) but that she is bright and funny and good looking.  It wasn't that long ago that the Republican party was pushing forward perky young ladies like Michelle Malkin as their spokespersons, but somehow they ended up with sad-eyed press secretaries like Sarah Huckabee and prune-faced presidential counselors like Kellyanne Conway.  Where are the glamour girls like Alexandria?

The young Bronx native has danced her way into the public heart and mind like no politician in recent years.  She has become the lightning rod for all the Republicans worst fears -- a take over from the Socialist Left.  Alexandria has ruffled a few Democratic feathers as well with her unflinching stances on everything from universal healthcare to a 70% tax rate at a time Democratic leaders would like to tack to the center politically.  Even Whoopie seems to think Alexandria needs to sit down and shut up, admonishing the 29-year-old representative on The View.  Alexandria and other radical new Democrats aren't taking any of this shit.

Just ask Rashida Tlaib, who isn't letting Alexandria hog up all the limelight?  She brazenly called for the impeachment of the motherfucker in the White House, setting the conservative twitterverse on edge.  The gall of this "foreigner" to call our president such an obscene name!  Rashida simply voiced what many Americans feel about Trump.  To her credit, she is expressing no regrets for her blunt statement.

Yep, the 116th US Congress is shaping up to be one of the wildest and woolliest we have seen in a long time.  Outspoken Democratic women now occupy more seats than ever before thanks in large part to all the anger and frustration with our Misogynist-in-Chief.  Nancy Pelosi even seems to have found her groove, questioning Trump's manhood and derisively referring to his border wall as a "beaded curtain."  The next two years should be entertaining if nothing else.

Trump is so locked into his wall that he hasn't had the time to fire off tweets at all these nasty ladies.  He did take exception to Rashid Tlaib's outburst, but when it was pointed out all the nasty things he has had to say about people, he seemed to settle down.

Not the Fox pundits though.  Jeanine Pirro tried to take Rashida to the woodshed and give her a good whooping, but it was an epic fail.  The conservative cackle of pundits really have no answer for these young upstarts, as they are doing exactly what they wish their young conservative representatives would do in Congress, but they are overshadowed by the Bully Boy in the Oval Office.

Like it or not, Trump has unleashed a fearless backlash, mostly women, who have no time for niceties.  It was great seeing Krysten Sinema being sworn in by Mike Pence.  The avowed bisexual put her sexy shoulders forward, looking a bit like Marilyn Monroe, and made the VP and Senate President choke on that fake smile.  Not only did he have to stand there alone with a woman but swear her into the Senate as well.  What's a poor conservative white boy to do?

One can understand how it is all too much for conservatives.  They thought they had tamped down the unruly mob in the 2016 election, only to see it rise up with a vengeance.  Now they will try to turn it into the worst socialist nightmare anyone can imagine and hope the conservative base will step forward in 2020 and restore normalcy to the American political system.

The only problem is that Democrats didn't just take back the House but many state legislatures and governors' mansions too.  This means a rewriting of all those gerrymandered districts that disenfranchised so many Democratic voters across the country, which could result in Congress becoming even more Democratic and diverse in two years.

Looks like the Republican elephant got caught sitting on his haunches, and wasn't ready for a revolt that saw a record number of women assume political office.  Nevada became the first state with more women than men in its assembly.

The GOP seems to have sensed it misjudged this election.  In Arizona, where Sinema edged out Martha McSally, the state governor named McSally to replace Jon Kyl, signaling that Republicans will run more women for office in 2020.  Only 13 Republican women were elected to the House.  The lowest number since 1987.

This still doesn't resolve the problem many Republicans face.  In an openly hostile political climate where the GOP as standing on the wrong side of almost every major issue, women like McSally and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are viewed as female proxies for a misogynistic party that has no sense of what appeals to the majority of women in this #MeToo age.  Not just women of color, which the GOP long gave up on, but all women.

More than ever the GOP is seen as the party of angry white old men unable to accept the ever-changing reality of the world outside their window, or as the surly Mike Huckabee likes to say, Bubbaville.  Glenn Close summed it up beautifully at the Golden Globes, "we have to find personal fulfillment," reacting as much to the new political reality as the massive changes in Hollywood in the wake of the #MeToo movement.  This is no longer a man's world!