Six Initial Thoughts on the Gorsuch Nomination

Few wait with baited breath for Aardvark’s initial comments, but what the hell, I’ll share them anyway.

  1. It could have been worse. (See this reaction by Obama’s solicitor general, Neal Katyal.)
  2. Someone who makes a point of not showing undue deference to the executive branch is not a bad guy to have at this point in history.
  3. Accordingly, this time around the better part of wisdom would be for Democrats to participate actively in the hearings, listen to get a sense of his character and views, and then decide whether it’s someone they can support. If fundamental problems arise out of the testimony, vote no. If not, abstain or vote yes.
  4. Progressives need to take a clear stand on the stolen seat issue. 2018 and 2020 are both election years. They should declare in advance that they will refuse to anyone Trump might nominate to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that occurs in those years. Not because they agree with the Republicans’ having deducted one year from Obama’s term of office, but because turnabout is fair play.
  5. If a vacancy does occur in one of those years, the Democrats filibuster, and the Republicans invoke the nuclear option, then so be it. The filibuster is on the way out anyway, and it should be on the way out as long as its going to be abused. Jonathan Chait says let the Republicans kill it, and I tend to agree.
  6. Finally, just for laughs, I hope someone of a scholarly bent will provide a detailed, reasoned catalog of legal issues on which Gorsuch and Garland would probably vote differently. That might make for a reasonably informed discussion. And God forbid that we should have an informed discussion on a matter such as this.

David Brooks and David Frum: A Time to Choose


Essential reading today comes from David Brooks  (The Republican Fausts) and David Frum (How to Build an Autocracy).

To address your existential despair, Aardvark suggests a large bottle of Jack Daniels close by your side. Remember, no matter what time it is in your time zone, the sun is under the yardarm somewhere. My Hungarian readers should feel free to substitute palinka; Aardvark knows form experience that it will also get the job done.

Frum’s essay is an extended think piece for the March issue of the Atlantic (much of which was written, presumably, before the turmoil of the last few days). It is plausible, persuasive, and chilling. I can’t do it justice here, but, in summary, Frum sees a potential future in which many elements of society have gotten what they want from Trump, and are increasingly willing to tolerate a “repressive kleptocracy.” Take Hungary, for example, Frum writes,

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s rule over Hungary does depend on elections. These remain open and more or less free—at least in the sense that ballots are counted accurately. Yet they are not quite fair. Electoral rules favor incumbent power-holders in ways both obvious and subtle. Independent media lose advertising under government pressure; government allies own more and more media outlets each year. The government sustains support even in the face of bad news by artfully generating an endless sequence of controversies that leave culturally conservative Hungarians feeling misunderstood and victimized by liberals, foreigners, and Jews.

The problem, as I see it, is that Frum’s  dystopian prognostication rests on the assumption that the constituencies to whom Trump has made his extravagant promises will actually receive the promised benefits—or can, at the end of the day, be deluded into thinking they have received them.

But that will not happen. The magical health care fix will not occur. The manufacturing jobs will not return. The middle class will not be rescued.

Two thngs to remember.

One. Trump never keeps his promises. If you’re doing the plumbing work for a new Trump hotel, the one thing of which, in an unpredictable world, you may be fairly confident is that you will not actually be paid.

Two. You can food some of the bubbas some of the time, but you can’t fool all the bubbas all the time.

Actually, I’m tempted to add a third: Donald, I served with Viktor Orbán, I knew Viktor Orbán, Viktor Orbán was a friend of mine, and you, Donald, are no Viktor Orbán.

But all seriousness aside, in his column today David Brooks offers four reasons why Republican officeholders will come to rue their Faustian bargain. Brooks’ second point relates to the present discussion:

Second, even if Trump’s ideology were not noxious, his incompetence is a threat to all around him. To say that it is amateur hour at the White House is to slander amateurs. The recent executive orders were drafted and signed without any normal agency review or even semicoherent legal advice, filled with elemental errors that any nursery school student would have caught.

It seems that the Trump administration is less a government than a small clique of bloggers and tweeters who are incommunicado with the people who actually help them get things done. Things will get really hairy when the world’s problems are incoming.

Finally, lest there be any doubt about where this will all end, there are reports today that John Dean—he of the missing moral compass; you younger folk can find him on Widipediapredicts that the “way the Trump presidency is beginning it is safe to say it will end in calamity.”



Vote Early and Vote Often


In case you missed it, this just in:

A man who President Donald Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election, the Associated Press has learned.

Gregg Phillips, whose unsubstantiated claim that the election was marred by 3 million illegal votes was tweeted by the president, was listed on the rolls in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi, according to voting records and election officials in those states. He voted only in Alabama in November, records show.

Stephen Miller, Wunderkind of Clusterfuck


On Monday, January 30, Morning Joe used his initial rant time to

  • identify White House staffer Stephen Miller as the author of the executive order on immigration,
  • assert that Miller failed to consult with attorneys at the Justice Department or elsewhere, and
  • generally damn Miller to hell.

The burden of Joe’s morning rant was that Mr. Miller is young, lacking in experience, wanting in judgment, and badly in need of adult supervision, or better yet, in need of being told not to let the door  hit him where the Good Lord split him as he walks out.

Aardvark seconds that emotion.

But I have uncovered some additional reasons to conclude that, while we may be in good hands with Allstate, we are not in good hands with Mr. Miler.

Firstly, though he was (per Morning Joe) drafting a legal document of vast import, Mr. Miller did not in fact darken the door of any law school and is not a member of the bar.

Secondly, his experience in government comes from being an aide to Michelle Bachman and then to Jeff Sessions.

Thirdly, he is a nutjob, who was raised in a liberal family but experienced politico-religious conversion through his reading of Guns, Crime, and Freedom by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association.

Having done yeoman service for Bachman and Sessions, he was hired by Cory Lewandowski to work for Trump, where his reputation for nuttiness grew to an epic scale.

Oh, and by the way, Morning Joe assured us that he had spoken with some of the adults on the Trump foreign policy team, and that a clusterfuck like the one we witnessed this weekend definitely will not happen again.

Oh, yes it will.




Bullshit Walks but Money Talks; Give to the ACLU

bullhorn_blue_x_largeIn the past, Aardvark has not agreed with every ACLU position, and ultimately stopped giving some while ago. (Hint: aggressive civil liberty for group A can harm group B’s rights and legitimate interests.)

But circumstances alter cases. Now is the time to stand with the ACLU, because they are standing with you. Give early and often. Aardvark and Dr. Aardvark did.


The Good News is that He’s Not Bipolar

This afternoon Bill Richardson, in a surprisingly cogent article, argues that Trump the President is forgetting all the lessons of The Art of the Deal. Among other things, he’s

  • Trying to force foreign leaders to accept humiliation, thus ensuring that they will not, and indeed cannot, enter into the deals he wants
  • Closing doors when no alternative lined up, e.g., the Trans-Pacific Partnership affair,
  • Giving up the leverage he would need to negotiate a deal, and thus putting himself in a place of desperation, and
  • Making mincemeat out of managing expectations.

Richardson adds,

In an alternate universe, Trump the negotiator might very well proclaim Trump the president something of an amateur. “You can’t con people,” he notes, “at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole.

“But,” he adds, “if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

Former Governor and Ambassador Richardson does not address the etiology of these failings. A casual reader might glean that Trump could get back on track just by rereading his famous book.

Or could it be that the White House has gone to his head?

Maureen Dowd gives it to us straight:

It took us years to find out that Richard Nixon was swilling Scotch, eating dog biscuits, talking to the White House portraits and blowing up the Vietnam peace talks in 1968 to help his election bid. It took us years to find out that, despite that deep, reassuring voice, Dick Cheney was a demented megalomaniac.

But with President Trump, it’s all right out there — the tantrums, the delusions, the deceptions, the self-doubts and overcompensation. …

Those who go into the Oval Office with chips on their shoulders and deep wells of insecurity, like Nixon, W. and Donald Trump, are not going to suddenly glow with self-assurance. The White House tends to bring out paranoia and insecurity.

Still, it was stunning how fast it got weird. To Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, the new president conjured the image of “a guy on a pogo stick in the Rose Garden bouncing around with a TV remote control in his hand trying to decide what to respond to in the next 30 seconds on Twitter.” ,,,

I ask the [Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio] if he’s as nervous as everyone else, and he says yes.

Donald’s manic without being depressive,” he muses. “The only thing you can do is keep him distracted for a day and then one more day so that he doesn’t do anything disastrous.”

Just like Obama and May, D’Antonio says, “a lot of people over the years have tried to mollify him and accommodate him day by day. And eventually you get a year behind you. Everybody else wants stability, but he thrives in turmoil.”


Aardvark welcomes new readers in Belgium, India, and Spain, and sends a great big Добро пожаловать снова to his devoted followers in Russia. Still happy, guys, or is Trump beginning to make you a little нервный?

Where This Is All Headed, or, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin


Aardvark has looked into his crystal ball and there he sees confusion visited on his enemies. But Aardvark is not gleeful. He is not even happy. Aardvark is sad, very sad.

Let the record reflect that  at midday on January 29 the spirit of the Lord came down upon Aardvark, and, based on the immigration clusterfuck and the other news of the week, Aardvark prophesied thusly:

  1. A president names about 4,000 officials, of whom 1,212 must be confirmed by the Senate. Many remain unfilled, including, for example, the successors to the senior State Department managers who were fired last week.
  2. The Bannon/Trump plan is to hire people with plausible credentials as figureheads, while filling the positions below them with Trumpkins who will do what Steve Bannon tells them to do.
  3. There remain a large number of Trumpkins in the United States, but lots of the folks that Bannon will want to insert into leadership positions will lack plausible qualifications, or will suffer from other disabilities, such as a long history of racist and misogynist tweets. Some of those that need Senate confirmation won’t get confirmed.
  4. The designated figureheads like Tillerson and Mattis will begin to get the message that they are designated figureheads. They will become restless. They will threaten to resign. Some of them probably will resign. (But the new HUD Secretary will welcome his role as designated figurehead and be relieved to be surrounded by Trumpkins.)
  5. About the time that all of this becomes clear, even to those of the meanest intelligence, other results that inevitably follow from governance by magical thinking will become clear. To take only two examples: appellate courts will enjoin Trump from implementing his immigration policies. And the magical health fix will fail be long, long overdue.
  6. Trump will deny that any of this is happening. As his delusions manifest themselves with even greater clarity, the Reince Priebuses and Sean Spicers that surround him will desert the sinking ship. (But Kellyanne Conway will go down with the ship.)
  7. Bannon and Trump will implement what they think is their ace in the hole strategy: call out the mobs. Trump will schedule a series of rallies around the country. But in a city where 30,000 showed up for him during the campaign, 3,000 will appear this time. Mosf of them will be dressed in Nazi regalia and waving Confederate flags.
  8. Trump will look out over the crowd and “see” the 30,000 people who were there last time. When photographs appear the next day, he will declare that the lying New York Times has photoshopped them. He will believe that to be true.
  9. Trump’s delusional utterances will make him a laughingstock in red states as well as blue states.
  10. Trump and Bannon will begin to issue illegal orders directed at the suppression of their enemies.
  11. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will realize that their wet dream of a billionaire tax cut will never take place under Trump—but could well take place under President Pence.
  12. Learned legal memoranda on the 25th Amendment will circulate throughout Washington
  13. The men in the white coats will gather outside the Oval Office.


Pontius Pilate Address the Press


Already, there are signs that Mr. Trump’s closest aides are struggling to cling to some self-respect by edging away from the president’s fantasies. At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Mr. Spicer defended Mr. Trump’s fraudulent claim that millions of people voted illegally. “He believes what he believes,” Mr. Spicer said. “What does that mean for democracy?” asked a reporter. “It means that I’ve answered your question,” Mr. Spicer replied.

 From Can Donald Trump Handle the Truth?  – this morning’s question from the  New York Times Editorial Board.

Let the Clusterfucks Begin, and Let the Righteous Judges Jude Wisely


Trump’s immigration order created the first, but far from the last, unmitigated clusterfuck of his young presidency. In a stroke of genius, El Caudillo simultaneously

  • Caused grievous harm to a large number of people whose stories will resonate with the public
  • Bigly pissed off the billionaire class
  • Alarmed our allies
  • Gave aid and comfort to our enemies, and, just to add icing to the cake,
  • Violated the Constitution.

This is a signal achievement. Only a world historical figure like Donald Trump could have done it. As He put it so well in his convention speech, “I, alone, can fix it.”

You do not need Aardvark to tell you so, and he will not attempt to amplify. A good explanation of how things stand as of Sunday morning, January 29, may be found at Bloomberg Politics.

I would, however, like to direct your attention to the language of the emergency order issued last night in the Darweesh case by District Judge Donnelly.

The good judge’s decision should be read in context: when considering a pretrial injunction, a trial judge must consider the plaintiffs’ likelihood of proving their case at trial, the injury to plaintiffs if their request isn’t granted, and the injury to defendants if their request is granted.

It’s significant, in my view, that Judge Donnelly minced no words. As the first predicate for her order, she wrote,

The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the U nited States Constitution.

Other legal actions are under way across the country.

The system is under stress, but it is not yet broken.


Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

Deuteronomy 16:18


Politico calls the immigration clusterfuck President Trump’s First Defeat.

The article gets the job done but states, in an accurate but unintentionally misleading way, that Judge Donnelly did not rule on the unconstitutionality of Trump’s actions. She had no occasion to make a definitive ruling, because the case was at a preliminary stage and the poor government lawyers had not had a chance to research and write a brief. What she did say is quoted above: that the plaintiffs have a strong likelihood of obtaining a definitive ruling that the president acted unconstitutionally.

Bannon’s Propaganda Secrets Revealed by European Intelligence Sources


Breaking news from Aardvark!

Highly placed European intelligence sources have gained access – through a mole placed in the White House staff – to Steven Bannon’s guiding propaganda principles. You may read them here.


This just in, from Talking Points Memo:

The White House announced today that the decision not to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in its announcement commemorating Holocaust remembrance day was intentional. According to White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks, the statement made no mentions of Jews out of respect for the non-Jews who died in Nazi labor camps and death camps during World War II. Hicks told CNN: “Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”

Jesus Wept


Hameed Khalid Darweesh et al. v. Donald Trump, President of the United Startes, et al., Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, January 28, 2017.

Read it and you will weep too.

Paul and Mitch Faustus and their Excellent Bargain

Yesterday David Brooks put it well: the Reagan-loving Republicans in Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump, who is no Ronald Reagan, in hopes that he will sign their pet legislation—and that the chaos that always surrounds him will somehow be manageable. (See discussion about 6:30 into the video.)

Aardvark thinks the bargain indeed had a faustian quality, but that it will prove to be far worse than that for Paul and Mitch Faustus. In the story, Faust at least got to seduce the fair Gretchen, and to enjoy some of the wealth that the Devil had promised. But I don’t think that, in the end, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are going to get very much of what they want. But they will still go to hell, anyway, having made a worse than Faustian bargain.

They have forgotten that he who sups with the devil must have a long spoon. And—as I’m sure he would be the first to point out—no one has a longer spoon than Donald Trump.

David and Mark also debated (see video beginning about 5:15) whether Trump’s incessant fabrications arise out of Orwellian manipulation of the truth or are, instead, the fevered product of a man with a five year old mind. David opted for the five year old theory.

This is, of course, a subject on which I have had much to say, by way of crackerbarrel psychology. David did not share his reasoning, but I suspect it’s much the same as mine: most of the time, the lying isn’t done in a clever enough way to reflect some underlying Orwellian manipulation. Most of the time, it’s like the lying done by a five year old who has just eaten the blueberry pie and still has berries all over his face. But I am afraid that ingrained delusional thinking rather than mere arrested development may be the more accurate description.

That said, we know he can be devilishly clever some of the time.


They’re Already Leaving the Stadium in the First Inning

A-League Rd 8 - Melbourne v Adelaide

Astonishingly, Trump’s approval dropped only eight points during his first week in office.

They’re already leaving the stands.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that you are a white racist bigot. And let’s say that you perceive—and, may I say, very accurately perceive—that The Donald both shares your bigotry and is, like you, happy to proclaim it to the world. That’s one of the main reasons why you supported him.

And let’s say that you have no moral objection to lying in the cause of bigotry. After all, you say, the end justifies the means.

Assuming all of this, wouldn’t you want a bigot that is competent? One that is organized enough to advance the cause—not one who blusters so ineffectually and prevaricates so flagrantly that he gives bigotry itself a bad name?

Wouldn’t you want a bigot who is a credit to his race?


Yes, It’s Time to Panic


Dana Milbank quotes Trump’s ghostwriter thusly:

“More than anyone else I have ever met,” Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for “The Art of the Deal,” told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer at the time, “Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Focusing on Trump’s false claim that God did make the sun to shine on his inaugural speech, which it actually rained throughout the American carnage oration.

I rehash this weather history because it’s not subject to debate. This is tantamount to Trump declaring black is white or day is night. It was overcast, and he declared that it was “really sunny.”

This disconnect from reality is my biggest fear about Trump, more than any one policy he has proposed. My worry is the president of the United States is barking mad.

Well, Mr. Milbank, please don’t worry any more, because it’s not a worry, it’s becoming a proven fact.

But if you would like to worry, here is something that should really keep you up at night. What happens when his promises are shown to be unfulfillable, when his non-existent magical Obamacare replacement never materializes and the wall never gets built? What will he do when, around the third inning, his cheering section begins, in ever increasing dribs and drabs, to leave the stadium? What will he do when, by the middle of the fourth inning, they have pretty much all left the ballpark?

You wanna see barking mad, Dana?

I think you will see barking mad.


Voter Fraud = When Black Folks Vote


Depicted above are valiant freedom fighters defending against voter fraud.

A large slice of America believes, sincerely, that black people, or at least most of them are stupid; so, if they are voting in large numbers, that must be because they were led like sheep to the polls. This, in their minds, is voter fraud. Mr. Political Idiot Savant reads their minds, and reflects their views back at them. He shares their anger at this most unjust state of affairs. That is a big reason why they love him, and he loves them back.

From Talking Points Memo:

Trump’s Basis For Voter Fraud Paranoia? ‘Look At What Is Registering’

… “We also need to keep the ballot box safe from illegal voting,” Trump said. “Believe me, you take look at what is registering, folks — they like to say,
Oh, Trump Trump Trump… take a look at what is registering.'”

It is unclear exactly what Trump meant by “what is registering,” but his White House Press Secretary said Wednesday that the investigation will focus on “urban areas.”