Trump Deals Himself a Shutdown Win

For the first time in my lifetime, Republicans have actually won a government shutdown fight.  Granted, it was a Democratic shut down, but still, the media tried to present it as the Republicans fault.  However pesky facts eventually ruined the narrative.

So how did the “stable genius” pull it off?  I’ve written before about the four theories of Trump’s operating system:

  1. Trump is Insane
  2. Trump is Mr Magoo
  3. Trump is putting on a show
  4. Trump is a 4D Chess master

In the post Fire and Fury era, the media take on Trump’s behavior is that he’s a doddering old man with dementia, who constantly needed his staff to tell him what his position is.  Meanwhile Trump is agreeing with every Democratic suggestion, nodding his head, and driving Anne Coulter to pull out every bit of her long blond hair.

The thing is, I’ve seen this show before.

Candidate Trump in August of 2016 had a televised Town Hall with Sean Hannity in which he seemed to backtrack on every single immigration campaign promise he had made, appearing to soften on amnesty and basically toss away the entire raison d’etre of his campaign.  Supporters or at least supporters who were with Trump because of immigration were aghast.  What was he thinking?

A week later, Trump announced a trip to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.  While in Mexico Trump played nice with the Mexican President and pulled off the statesman act.  Then he jetted off to Phoenix to deliver an immigration speech in which he double downed on every hardline immigration proposal he had proposed. His supporters?  Cheering and back on board!  The MSM?  Stunned, confused, and angry after declaring that Trump was growing on immigration, and predicting the speech would reveal a new, softened pro amnesty Trump.  Instead they got the opposite and they just couldn’t process.  This is a cycle that has repeated itself multiple times since then and will no doubt continue.

So let’s break down what Trump did.

First, he performed preparation of the battlefield by doing a public softening of his immigration proposals.  This made it easier to go to Mexico and pull off the statesman act without creating a confrontation with the Mexican President.  This clearly has elements of a 4D Chess master.

Second, he swung back and fired up the base by standing firm on the immigration principles that had rocketed him to win the Republican primary in the first place.  His supporters, after descending into the depths of despair, suddenly rebounded.  This was the wrestling show aspect to the Trump show, or maybe it’s more like a Trump Opera; a Trumpera.  That the media looked like idiots after their confident predictions was icing on the cake.

This basic structure has been repeated over and over.  Overall, it’s theory three; Trump is pulling off a professional wrestling work, with a storyline that includes massive swings of emotion by the audience, fear and betrayal, and then a swing of reproachment and then glorious victory.

It’s basically the plotline of The Fate of the Furious.

And this is what Trump pulled off dealing DACA, and Chuck Schumer, off the table and into a total surrender.  And as long as the media and the Democrats can’t view Trump as anything more than an emotional, childlike idiot with dementia, it should keep working.

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Who Watches the Intelligence “Experts?”

The other day my wife had me check out an interview she was watching on Hannity since she wanted my feedback.  The interview was with William Binney, a former NSA official who worked for the agency over 30 years.  You figure, a guy like that, with that kind of background, should have some sort of credibility right?

Maybe not.

Just a few observations, other than the obvious one that Hannity really should shut up for a second and let his guests speak.  At 6:20 Binney, in response to a question by Hannity, “so every phone conversation I’ve had in my life you believe has been taped?” Binney responds, “Without warrants, yes that’s right.”

Color me skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that a lifetime of Sean Hannity phone calls has been recorded and are sitting in storage out in Utah, or anywhere.  Maybe I’m naive, but that seems implausible to me.  I just can’t imagine that the technology and storage capacity was there, starting in the 1970’s to record and store every single phone call of a teenage Sean Hannity.  Now? Possibly, but going back decades?  Or maybe Binney didn’t really mean Hannity’s entire life and misunderstood the question.  Or maybe, since he has 30 plus years with the NSA I should shut up since he should know what he’s talking about.

But then at 6:28 he blows any credibility I might have given him when he references the story of former military linguists Adrienne Kinne and David Faulk, “whistleblowers” who made the claim that the US Intelligence Community was deliberately targeting US military and civilians working in Iraq.  This blew up into a big national story for a few days in 2008. And although it’s mostly forgotten now, every so often it’s trotted out in the media as an example of the US Intelligence Community spying on innocent civilians as a routine fact of life and this incident just happened to have been outed by brave whistleblowers speaking truth to power.

I happen to have some peripheral knowledge of that incident and know that the media narrative of it is false.  So why should I trust Binney if he’s bringing that issue up?  More to the point, Binney was out of government by then, so what particular insider knowledge would he have of that incident?

This of course, is just one example of a problem I’m seeing with National Security and Intelligence experts, who go on cable news and, depending on the network, take totally opposite positions on an issue from other National Security and Intelligence experts. It’s by no means unusual for commentators to disagree on cable TV.  I mean, that’s the business model right?  But unlike other commentators and so called experts, commentators on Intelligence issues are trading on their exclusive access to the Intelligence Community and their access to classified information.  But rather than being honest brokers of that kind of access and expertise, they seem to be doing the same thing other cable news talking heads do: exploit their credibility to please the host of whatever show they’re on, in order to get more bookings.

Another “National Security Expert” guest of Hannity’s is LTC Tony Shaffer. Shaffer seems to be more of a wild card than Binney.  He’s claimed that President Obama watched the attack on the consulate at Benghazi from the situation room.  Explosive news if true, but how would Shaffer had known?  It sounds like something he just blurted out.  But Shaffer’s most recent wild eyed claim was that retired NSA and other IC types did the actual hacking of the DNC and gave the information to Wikileaks. Another earth shaking claim if true, but where’s the evidence?  What’s even the basis of the claim?

Another one who plays that game is Malcom Nance, a former Naval Cryptologic Technician and Arabic linguist.  He is also billed as an all-around National Security expert.  He actually has an impressive resume, but when you want to be called to be on panels on MSNBC or the BBC, you have to pick a side, which lead to this tweet a few months ago after the Wikileaks release of John Podesta’s emails:

Now there were no “obvious forgeries” in the Podesta emails.  Even months later, all the information we have on them is that they are authentic. But if a “National Security Expert” tells you they’re “obvious forgeries,” why wouldn’t the average person just accept that? But calling them forgeries, backed up by Nance’s resume, makes good copy; particularly on MSNBC.  That was the kind of national security expertise they want on that network.

Like Nance, John Schindler got his start in the Navy as a Cryptologic Warfare Officer and was a professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College until yada yada yada, and now he runs a National Security blog The XX Committee. Schindler isn’t a cable news whore, but he uses social media in much the same way.

Now…is this just an old friend who is a crusty old liberal and hates Trump, or is this an indication of some cabal in the Intelligence Community that has the goods on Trump and is just waiting for their moment to strike?  Clearly Schindler wants us to think the latter, but who knows?

My point is, I’m not sure that we can take these Intelligence and Security experts at face value.  They all seem to have agendas, whether commercial or personal, and because of the nature of their expertise, they are more or less unchallenged.  They are usually the only ones on a cable news panel that have held a security clearance so it makes them hard to challenge.  And frankly, that even goes for me too.  I dismissed Binney because of his take on the Kinne and Faulk story but I’m not willing to share anything about my issues with it.  So why trust me?

Don’t trust me, but you’re better off not trusting any of these “experts” until you can discern their real motives and agendas. And even then…

Jeb Bush is Certifiable III: The Wrath of Iraq

Its mind boggling to me that the single most obvious question that potential candidate Jeb Bush would be asked caught him completely unaware.  First with Megyn Kelly on Fox:

In an interview set to air Monday, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked presumptive presidential candidate Jeb Bush if he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq in 2003 “knowing what we know now.”

“I would have,” the Republican answered. “And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence that they got.”

OK, maybe he misheard the question; it’s Monday right?

Monday meme

 

 

 

 

 

So on Tuesday, Jeb goes on Hannity to clear things up.

“I interpreted the question wrong I guess…Knowing what we know now, you know, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war and the lack of focus on security. And my brother’s admitted this, and we have to learn from this.”

Blah blah blah, but as to knowing what we know now?

I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical”

So mistakes were made, and apparently by that mysterious entity known as the third person, and a refusal to answer.

Now many times it’s fair to say that hypothetical questions shouldn’t be answered, however the Iraq War wasn’t hypothetical, it was real, and an answer to that question is an excellent proxy to all sorts of foreign policy views.

Particularly if your last name is Bush.

On Wednesday, Bush got ambushed by a college student and was able, finally to give a half way decent answer to a question about Iraq, however it’s somewhat damning with faint praise to say he handled a question by a 19 year old idiot. But when he was asked questions by grownups According to the Washington Post, Jeb double downed on Tuesdays mistakes-were-made-hypothetical’s answer:

He was later asked about comments aired by Fox News on Monday that he would have ordered the Iraq invasion even knowing how the war unfolded and that intelligence used to justify the war was faulty. On Tuesday, Bush clarified his comments, saying he had misunderstood the question.

But a man in Reno asked Bush, “You said I think it was yesterday that I don’t want to answer hypotheticals. Don’t you think running for president is hypothetical when you say, if I run for president dot-dot-dot?”

“Rewriting history is hypothetical,” Bush replied.

He said that he had misinterpreted the question from Fox’s Megyn Kelly to mean “Knowing what you knew then, what would you do?”

“And I answered it honestly and I answered it the way I answer it all the time, which is that there were mistakes made, but based on the information we had, it was the right decision,” he said.

“What we ought to be focused on is what are the lessons learned?” he added. “There are two lessons. One is, if you’re going to go to war, make sure that you have the best intelligence possible and the intelligence broke down. That’s clear, clearly one of the mistakes of this. And secondly, if you’re going to do this have a strategy of security and a strategy and have a strategy to get out. And both of those things didn’t work the way they did, although I give my brother credit. Once the mess was created, he solved that mess with the surge and created when he left a much more stable Iraq that now, that was squandered in some ways when President Obama did not keep any small amount of troop level.”

Bush also dismissed “hypothetical” questions about the origins of the Iraq war as a “disservice” to U.S. troops who died or were injured in the war, and to their families.

By Thursday, Jeb was in Arizona and finally seemed to suspect that he might actually be asked about Iraq, and he had better come up with an answer.

If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions: Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.

And on Friday:

Friday

As I’ve argued here and here, Jeb Bush is mentally unprepared to be President.  All he cares about are illegal immigrants and when he’s not talking about that, it’s as if he’s never thought of the issue before, even when the issue is the most predictable question any potential candidate has ever gotten.

 

 

 

Tea Party Defeats Itself

Just like with the Fiscal Cliff, the House drove us right to the brink until the Senate grabbed hold of the steering wheel, with the news that the Senate has put together a deal to end the government shut down, at least for a while.

As I predicted two months ago, there was no plan, nor any strategy for using the budget CR to defund Obamacare. Everything that happened, from the media spin, to plummeting poll numbers, to final defeat was all perfectly predictable.  There was never any reason that President Obama would negotiate.  He was never going to negotiate on defunding Obamacare. In fact, it’s obvious that he would have been perfectly willing to let us go right through the debt ceiling.  In fact, that could have worked to his advantage.  Any economic upheaval that would have been brought about by stopping the government’s ability to borrow more money could be blamed on the Republicans.  The 2016 campaign slogans write themselves.  Republicans broke the economy, Obama came in and fixed it, and Republicans broke it again.  Are you voting for the breakers or the fixers?

The only thing not predictable was how poorly the Obama administration bungled their handling of the shut down.  Between Harry Reid’s War on Cancer Kids to the administration’s fake and unnecessary closing of the nation’s monuments and other static displays that are normally opened 24/7 without being manned anyway, including the World War II Memorial; which lead to the unpleasant sight of Park Police strong arming elderly national heroes. How badly have you bungled when you pick a fight with cancer kids and World War II veterans in the same week?

Even the administration’s high fiving themselves on the fact that they were “winning” didn’t make them look too smug, since they were in fact winningConsidering that a government shutdown could only help the administration, there was really no way for them to lose, and that’s what irritates me the most; the Tea Party picked a fight in which there was no option that would have allowed them to win.

Although Ted Cruz is given most of the credit/blame for this debacle, I think a good portion of that has to go to talk radio.  Senators Cruz and Lee have appeared on Hannity multiple times talking up their “Don’t Fund it” strategy, but they never exactly explained how the strategy was going to actually achieve its goal of defunding Obamacare.  At no time did Hannity or Rush, who also was in favor of charging this windmill, question how this was supposed to succeed.  That’s a question I’ve been asking for two months and the reason I never got an answer is because there never was an answer.  Meanwhile talk radio egged it on.  On September 25th Hannity had Rand Paul on as a guest, who explained to Hannity that there was no mathematical way there would be votes to defund Obamacare.  Hannity seemed stunned and surprised that Rand couldn’t insure this strategy would work.  As recently as October 3rd, Rush was insisting that the Democrats were imploding on the issue.

The only thing that imploded was the Republican chances of winning the Senate in 2014.

The Sean Hannity Show, brought to you by Ashley Madison

I had cut on the Sean Hannity Show this afternoon, and caught the show midway through a discussion between Hannity and his producer, Lynda about the pros and cons of Ashley Madison, the cheating website.  “Again?”  I thought.  It seemed like more than once I had heard Hannity either talking about the website or arguing with the Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman, about the website.  Was Hannity going through a mid-life crisis?  After berating Anthony Weiner for a half hour, was Hannity now one red corvette away from having his own affair?

hannity 7

hannity 7 (Photo credit: JPatch.net)

The discussion between Hannity and his producer waged on for what I thought was an uncommonly long while.  Air time is valuable and with Zimmerman-IRS-Immigration going on this week, I would expect the time would be allotted to those tidbits rather than Lynda the producer taking a pro Ashley Madison position and Hannity of course taking the disapproving Catholic, finger wagging position.  Considering how much the very concept of a website to facilitate cheating on your spouse apparently offended Hannity, why would he give so much free air time to promote a business he morally opposed?

Promotion…

Knowing how careful radio hosts are about spending airtime to promote businesses that are not sponsors, I got a little bit suspicious.  Could Ashley Madison, the red warning sign of the decline of Western Civilization, and promoter of the disintegration of the American Family, be a paid advertiser of the Sean Hannity radio show?

I did a little snooping on Hannity’s website.  No banner ads from Ashley Madison with cute adverts like, “get your cheat on.” were visible.  However I did see that the Ashley Madison CEO had been on the Hannity show quite a few times:  Today, July 24, 2013, May 17, 2013, June 15, 2011, and May 12, 2010, at least from the archaic search function on the site, so I suspect it’s probably more than that.

The website addicting info.org carried an article that addressed Ashley Madison’s attempt to buy advertising time on The Rush Limbaugh Show.  The author of the article, Wendy Gittleson, did make the point that it’s not a natural fit to sell infidelity to the family values set:

In my opinion, only an act of desperation would tempt Limbaugh’s show to take the offer. Ironic as it might be, he speaks for those who fancy themselves the “family values” party. The largest segment of his demographic is 65+. I don’t know how well Grandpa and particularly Grandma will take to his biggest sponsor being a website geared toward adulterers. Ashley Madison does advertise on Sean Hannity and Howard Stern.

OK, Howard Stern I get.  If ever there was a natural fit, it would be between Ashley Madison and the Howard Stern Show, but Sean Hannity?

Doing an on-air plug is not only the best sort of radio advertising; it’s generally the most expensive,  since the radio show host, who presumably you trust since you are listening to their show, is telling you how great  the product or service is.  But in this case, the host is telling you how terrible the service is.  But he’s telling you over and over.

I’m no expert on the radio business, but I’ve never heard of selling negative plugs, just to get your name out.  If this works, and perhaps only Ashley Madison knows for sure and they’re notoriously discrete, that could be an opportunity for political talk radio.  “Wait, I hate you, and you want to pay me to talk about how much I hate you?  Where do I sign?”

Still, it has an air of dishonesty to it.  Hannity’s finger waging of disproval doesn’t seem as nearly as disapproving if he’s collecting a big fat check for it.

This post brought you to you by the Sean Hannity Show.  Hannity, for all your conservative needs (j/k).

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Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Immigration

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Senator Ted Cruz said last week, “I don’t trust Republicans.”

I agree.  Although Cruz was talking about budget negotiations, to me it applies to the issue of immigration more than any other issue.  That’s because so many Republicans are not only prepared to vote for amnesty, they are actively campaigning for it, even though it is not only damaging public policy, but damaging to those same Republican’s political futures.

At least with the Democrats, I perfectly understand their motivations for wanting amnesty, and frankly, from their perspective they seem totally logical to me.  It’s bad public policy for the nation, but its great political policy.  For the Democrats, out of a possible 11 million new voters 10 to 15 years from now, 9 million will vote for Democrats.  That’s enough to turn the rest of the Southwest, including Texas, deep blue.  Without Texas, the Republicans are no longer viable as a national party.

And from a policy perspective, that adds 11 million more citizens in which ¾ of them don’t even have a high school diploma and virtually none of them have the high tech skills required for the 21st century workplace.  That means most of them will live and die below the mean income level, and will be major consumers of social programs.  That’s voting gold for the Democrats.  The Democratic Party was never stronger as when FDR saw “one third of a nation, ill housed, ill clad, ill nourished.”  Importing millions to fill that gap helps create the very conditions of income inequality and widespread poverty that is the fertile ground for Democratic power.

But what do the Republicans get out of it?

That is the real head scratcher.  Of course there are some aspects of big business that do use unskilled and semi skilled labor that really like the downward push on working class wage rates that increased numbers of unskilled workers provide.  Certainly the Wall Street Journal Opinion page is filled with pro illegal immigration editorials.  But for most businesses interested in immigration, the demand isn’t for millions of unskilled workers but for hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, which current immigration law limits to a mere trickle.

Politically, it seems to make even less sense.  There isn’t any evidence that pro illegal immigration positions help Republican candidates.  A recent CIS study showed that Latinos in pro-immigration Republican Districts were no more likely to vote for Republicans than Latinos living in anti-illegal immigration Republican Districts.  Certainly it didn’t help Senator John McCain in his 2008 Presidential bid.  And of course, what is the political advantage of ensuring that your political party remains a minority party for the foreseeable future?

And yet…  Republicans, including conservatives, are falling all over each other to support the Gang of 8 bill.  Fox talker Sean Hannity even hosted a one hour special for Marco Rubio last Friday that did little more than pimp the bill with friendly “questions” and a generally pro bill agenda.  Hard as I try, I can’t see a rational reason to support this.  Bad public policy, bad political strategy… what am I missing?

My suspicion is that I’m not missing much, and that the real problem with Republicans is that they think they can buy Latino votes with the bribery that has proven so successful for the Democratic Party for decades. But the Democrats can’t be outbid.  There is no line that Republicans can draw that Democrats won’t cross to buy more votes.  Republicans were just as delusional in 1986 when they accepted a “one time’ amnesty with the promise that this would be the last one and that Latinos would now love Republicans.

Instead we lost California permanently.  Well, if Republicans regard Texas as an embarrassment they can’t wait to be rid of, they are well on their way.  The Democrats won’t be embarrassed by Texas at all once they own it.

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Why Is Rubio in the Gang of 8?

Contrary to popular opinion, both in the national press and in the Republican Party, the conservative movement is split on the amnesty issue.  Just cast your mind all the way back to…last year.  During the Republican Primary battles, all of the conservative candidates were in favor of some version of amnesty.  The single hold out?  Mitt Romney, the “moderate.”

English: Former Speaker of the Florida House a...

English: Former Speaker of the Florida House at CPAC in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it’s a confusing battle space that has anti tax activist Grover Norquist on the same side as liberal Senator Chuck Schumer, and moderate, establishment Republican columnist David Frum on the anti amnesty side while traditional conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer is pro amnesty.  On the talk radio side the views are more what you would expect, Rush Limbaugh  and Mark Levin are reliably anti-amnesty, however Sean Hannity switched sides after the election and now supports amnesty (although he is still cagey about it).  Otherwise, things are more what you would expect from a conservative split on immigration.  The neo-cons are pro amnesty (think William Kristol) and the paleo-cons are anti (think Pat Buchanan).

So where does that leave Tea Party darling Marco Rubio?  Square in the middle.

Rubio is a real conservative.  I’ve listened to enough politicians talk to know when they are the real deal and when they are just using the conservative movement to advance their own careers  *cough* Newt Gingrich* cough.

Rubio has long been a supporter of some variation of the Dream Act, which are a series of proposals to legalize illegal aliens brought over as children.  Given that as children they didn’t really have a choice about crossing the border illegally; it’s fairly easy to make the moral case to anti-amnesty conservatives for creating some mechanism for them to stay, after border security.  But it was a shock when he joined in with a group of liberal Senators and pro-amnesty Republicans, the Gang of 8, to craft a comprehensive immigration bill.

First, it was a shock that after the disaster of Obamacare, any Republican Senator would try to make common cause on a bill that intends to be “comprehensive.”  For conservatives, comprehensive is code word for cramming as much crap as possible into a massive bill and hope no one notices what’s in it.  The purpose of comprehensive bills is to slide revolting items through the process that would never pass on their own.  Of course, in the case of the immigration bill, the sole purpose is to get amnesty through.  Everything else in the bill is a sweetener to buy votes for amnesty, even though there are plenty of real, needed issues that need to be worked on.  Instead, nothing is more important than amnesty.  Steve Jobs found this out while trying to convince President Obama to loosen up on the H1-B Visa program.  From the Wall Street Journal:

According to Mr. Isaacson, Jobs “stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned an engineering degree in the U.S. should be given a visa to stay in the country.” The president reportedly replied that this would have to await broader immigration reform, which he said he was unable to accomplish.

“Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis,” Mr. Isaacson writes. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done,” Jobs said. “It infuriates me.”

A simple bill to allow graduates of US schools to get a Visa would enjoy large bipartisan support and would pass easily.   So therefore we can’t allow it until we make sure we drag 11 million other people along with them!

So now Rubio is stuck riding this tiger all the way to completion.  Meanwhile, his reputation will be marred by every little crazy line item that is stuck in the bill, such as the one creating a biometric data base of all US adults.  So why would he join in with the Gang of 8?  How could this benefit him?

Just a couple of ideas and I don’t know if any of them are close to the mark:

+             He knows it won’t pass and just wants to build up some “moderate cred” for 2016.

+             He’s inexperienced and doesn’t realize  that Schumer and his gang are taking him for a ride.

+             He’s extremely experienced (a former Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature) and he’s playing the Gang of 8 by trying to “cooperate” up to the point that he can exploit the weaknesses of the bill and then blame the Senate Democrats and the Obama administration for sabotaging the bill with poison pills to keep the bill from passing and keep it as a political issue.

I’m sure there are probably many more possible reasons, but I don’t see any way for this to end well for Rubio’s political future other than at some point he disowns the bill.  If he doesn’t and ends up voting for whatever monstrosity slithers out of the Senate, than Rubio’s reputation will be damaged.  To conservatives, he will be a traitor, and to liberals he’ll be a gullible fool.

Which pill will he choose?  The red or the blue one?

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