Today in the March of Folly

march of folly

Secretaries of State and Defense Spread Fake News, Endorse Witch Hunt

Tillerson and Mattis Blast Russia for Aggression and Election Meddling

witch hunt tweet

Trumped Priorities

Thanks to Mitzie for sending this along from Stand Up Americaß: “Trump has spent $16.5 million on trips to Mar-a-Lago. For that amount, Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year and after school programs could feed 114,583 children for a year.”

Trump White House to Disband Circular Firing Squad


From White House ponders reorganization after health care debacle, posted on Politico this evening:

Among the top concerns: The circular firing squad continually playing out in the press pitting top aides against one another — a dynamic that one senior adviser described as increasingly unsustainable.

“It will have to either stop or there will have to be decisions made,” this person said, hinting that more serious changes would be made if the incessant shooting doesn’t e

Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. It’s Bound to be Huuuuuge!

Putin’s Dupe

By now, y’all have probably already seen this, from yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee. If not, please watch, beginning about 4:40 into the video. The questioner is Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma–who seems to have asked the question with full knowledge of what the gist of the answer would be.

And Apart From That, How Did You Like the Play, Mrs. Lincoln?


This morning Michael Gerson, speech writer for Bush 43, writes in Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in a free fall:

[Trump’s] new strategy is to go on the attack: “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” By targeting individual congressmen, as Trump has now done, he runs the risk of looking pathetic if they remain unintimidated. And will he really carry this campaign beyond his Twitter feed? Have rallies in their districts? Criticize them on conservative talk radio? Raise money for their more moderate opponents? If he takes this route, then the GOP civil war will reach a new stage of bitterness, with legislative progress postponed until a core faction of the party is tweeted into submission or defeated.

Some Republicans choose to comfort themselves by repeating the mantra: “Gorsuch, Gorsuch, Gorsuch.” But that does nothing to change Trump’s stunningly high disapproval ratings. Or the stunning rebuke by the FBI director concerning his claim of being wiretapped by President Barack Obama. Or the stunning rejection of his central campaign promise by elements of his own party. Or his stunning ignorance of the basics of policy and leadership.

And all this has come in the course of the president’s political honeymoon. What, for goodness’ sake, will the marriage be like?

It is now dawning on Republicans what they have done to themselves. They thought they could somehow get away with Trump. That he could be contained. That the adults could provide guidance. That the economy might come to the rescue. That the damage could be limited.

Instead, they are seeing a downward spiral of incompetence and public contempt — a collapse that is yet to reach a floor. A presidency is failing. A party unable to govern is becoming unfit to govern.

And what, in the short term, can be done about it? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Oh, well, you could always try impeachment, notes Aardvark.


This morning Aardvark welcomes his Turkish readers. Hoşgeldiniz, okuyucular.

Nah, Hardly Anything Happened Today

Leading up to his meeting next week with China’s President Xi Jinping, Trump has begun to soften up his forthcoming visitor with a series of vicious tweets.

Aardvark is confident that royally pissing off one quarter of the human race will work out really well for the Trumpster, and for the rest of us.

In other news, the President’s former chief security adviser has graciously agreed to chat with the FBI—on condition that he receives immunity from prosecution.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?

Nothing Much Happened Today


Today is March 31. Nothing much happened.

Witnesses before the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee testified that Russia was successful in its 2016 disinformation campaign because Trump kept on endorsing and retweeting the lies the Ruskies cooked up.

A propos of which, Morning Joe observed that hammer and sickle flags now fly on country club flagpoles all across the country.

Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee has just gone out for popcorn for the next four years.

President Twitter, in another pathetic attempt to bully the unbullyable, viciously attacked right wing House Republicans—without whose support the House Republican leadership cannot pass diddlysquat.

And in North Carolina the valiant opponents of excessive governmental intrusion into our lives continued their protracted and bitter debate over where we should all piss and crap.

Nothing much happened today.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Jack?

How Loooooowww Can It Go?, Part the Second

From the Associated Press, Poll: Americans dislike GOP’s, Trump’s plan on health care

Sixty-two percent of Americans turned thumbs down on Trump’s handling of health care during the initial weeks of his presidency, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday.  …

An overwhelming 8 in 10 opposed the Republican proposal to let insurers boost premiums on older people. Seven in 10 disapproved of premium surcharges for people whose coverage lapses.

By wide margins, people also disliked proposed cuts in Medicaid, which helps lower-earning people cover medical costs, a halt in federal payments to Planned Parenthood and a transformation of the Obama law’s subsidies – based on income and premium costs – into aid linked to age.

“His campaign promise was great health care for everyone, for all Americans at great prices,” said Raymond Brown, 64, a Republican and retired truck driver from Rio Grande, New Jersey. “He isn’t fulfilling his campaign promise.”

Note from Aardvark: looks like my man Raymond is one of those fans leaving the stadium. The AP article continues,

The results underscore that annulling Obama’s statute is not an issue to be trifled with. More people support than oppose that law by 45 percent to 38 percent, a slightly narrower margin than in January. And a slender majority say covering all Americans is a federal responsibility – a view embraced by Democrats but not Republicans, who instead focus on access and lower premiums. …

Nearly all Democrats and most independents disapproved of Trump’s performance on health care, but so did around 1 in 3 Republicans.

In addition, Republicans had mixed views on the collapsed House GOP bill. Clear majorities of them opposed boosting premiums for older people and those who’ve had gaps in coverage. They were more likely to oppose than support cutting Medicaid and were divided over linking subsidies to age more than income.

Happy Brexit Day

Britain has served notice of divorce from the European Union. Please join Aardvark in raising a wee glass in honor of his Scottish ancestors–bold hearts and nodding plumes/wave o’er their bloody tombs–in honor of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and in anticipation of Scotland’s rejoining the European Union.

And now, please rise for Scotland the Brave.

Plus He’s Pig Ignorant and Crazy


“Trump is Carter, only angrier, dimmer, less popular, much more out of his depth, and lacking in moral authority,” writes Josh Barro in a post titled Trump realizes he shouldn’t have written Democrats off — but he’s already screwed himself. Barro explains,

President Donald Trump seems to be realizing, belatedly, that writing Democrats off put him at the mercy of Republicans in Congress. If he can’t get nearly all Republicans to agree on something, he can’t have it.

Despite being an alleged dealmaking expert, he put himself in quite a weak negotiating position, which is sad!

So Trump is talking up his desire to deal with Democrats on healthcare and infrastructure, giving him an additional possible counterparty if Freedom Caucus Republicans won’t play ball.

But I don’t think Trump has realized how much he’d have to give up, policy-wise, to make Democrats willing to work with him. Democratic voters hate Trump. If Democrats are going to cut deals with him, they’re going to have to be confident they can go home and show their voters they got the best of the negotiation.

And he definitely hasn’t realized that being a jerk makes it harder to get both Republicans and Democrats to do what he wants. …

Now, Republicans in Congress are annoyed with the president, sniping at each other, and no longer so afraid of what can happen when Trump tweets. They’ve defied him once and survived — why not do it again? Democrats smell blood in the water, and are much more inclined to deny Trump assistance and enjoy his failures than to work constructively with him.

Trump didn’t just fail disastrously to make a deal on healthcare. He put himself in a position where his counterparties distrust and disrespect him even more than they used to, jeopardizing his ability to make deals in the future, too.

In the Washington Post this morning Matt O’Brien joins the chorus:

Democrats have no incentive to help Trump pass popular legislation when his unpopularity helps them. Why turn him into the winning winner he ran as, who alone possesses the ability to break through the gridlock of Washington, when they can keep him as the losing loser he’s governed as, who can’t even get a bill through one chamber of Congress his party controls? They won’t, at least not on terms that are remotely acceptable to Republicans.

That’s what happens when everyone knows you can’t afford to walk away from the negotiating table, say, because you have a 36 percent approval rating. Nobody will be afraid of your threats, everybody will call your bluff, and you will cave to whatever they want. That would at least get some deal done if you were only giving in to one set of demands, but when you’re trying to give in to two or three mutually exclusive ones, you won’t even get that.

You’ll get nothing.

For what it’s worth, Aardvark concurs. Paul Ryan controls the agenda in the House and Mitch McConnell controls the agenda in the Senate. To get Ryan, McConnell, most Republicans, and a good number of Democrats to agree on anything would be a miracle. It would take presidential leadership of an extraordinarily high order. Incompetence, ignorance, and invective will not do the trick. This dog won’t hunt.

At this point, March 29, we may take all of the above as a given. What we don’t know is how Trump will lash out to make up for his inevitable legislative debacles.

Make Your Voice Heard—with Resistbot!


This from our intrepid and growing body of progressives here at Happy Acres.

The Resistance Now: robots join the movement.

A robot joined the fight to defend Obamacare – which remains in place indefinitely following a stunning defeat for Donald Trump this afternoon.

Resistbot launched earlier this month but picked up traction this week as protesters sought creative ways to pressure politicians on the healthcare vote.

Created by startup entrepreneur Eric Ries, it turns text messages into faxes which are then sent to members of Congress. And it’s free – Resistbot is supported by donations.

“Resistbot was born out of my personal frustrations with trying to contact my members of Congress,” Ries said.

“My reps’ phone lines are always jammed, and there’s only someone there during the day […] So I designed Resistbot to solve this problem for me. It makes it insanely easy to generate a fax to each of my representatives every day.”

How does it Work?

Text  resist  to 50409.

Resistbot turns your text messages into daily letters to Congress— in the simplest and easiest way possible. We are working hard behind the scenes to make sure they are delivered and that your representatives take them seriously.

You can donate if you choose, but there is no cost.

So who says we older folks aren’t tech savvy?

Trump Henchman Protests: EPA not Killing the Environment Fast Enough!

coal pollution

I am sure that you, gentle reader, have probably already digested Robert Draper’s comprehensive account in the New York Times Magazine of last week’s legislative debacle—and of multiple clusterfucks yet to come. (And what about that black and white photo of Trump, huh?)

To complete your reading pleasure, please permit your Uncle Aardvark to direct your wandering eye to this evening’s takedown in Politico: White House blame game intensified as Trump agenda stalls. Truly, the court of the Borgias had nothing on the court of our naturist emperor Trump.

I particularly loved this part. You remember how Trump’s team put a few henchmen into each important cabinet and agency to ensure loyalty? Well, it turns out the minion installed at EPA, one David Schnare, has now crawled out from under the rock he was assigned to watch—and is accusing Trump’s odious EPA head of being too much of an environmentalist.

Revitalizing the beleaguered coal industry and loosening restrictions on emissions was a cornerstone of Trump’s pitch to blue collar voters. Yet, two months into his presidency, Trump loyalists are accusing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt of moving too slowly to push the president’s priorities.

Earlier this month, David Schnare, a Trump appointee who worked on the transition team, abruptly quit. According to two people familiar with the matter, among Schnare’s complaints was that Pruitt had yet to overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding, which empowers the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a public health threat.

Schnare’s departure was described as stormy, and those who’ve spoken with him say his anger at Pruitt runs deep.

“The backstory to my resignation is extremely complex,” he told E&E News, an energy industry trade publication. “I will be writing about it myself. It is a story not about me, but about a much more interesting set of events involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the president.”

Other Trump loyalists at EPA complain they’ve been shut out of meetings with higher-ups and are convinced that Pruitt is pursuing his own agenda instead of the president’s. Some suspect that he is trying to position himself for an eventual Senate campaign. (EPA spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.)

Oh, So That’s the Reason

fantasy football

Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power. [Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, responded,] “Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Fuck You, Democrats. And Please Work with Me on Health Care. Pretty Please with Sugar on Top


In his Oval Office remarks on the evening of March 24—the day Trumpcare bit the dust—master logician Donald Trump blamed his party’s failure to govern on … the Democrats!

Moving on from that elevated beginning, Trump went on predict the implosion of Obamacare and let us in on how much delight he will take in blaming said allegedly forthcoming implosion on—take three guesses—the Democrats!

These developments, he confidently predicted, will force the evil, cowardly Democrats to crawl into the Oval Office, praise his fine new suit of clothes, lick his feet, and beg to be allowed to cooperate in fixing the imploding Obamacare legislative project.

It was an odious invitation. If anyone is inclined to accept it, they will need to bear in mind that he who would sup with the devil should bring a long spoon.

Should Democrats give it a whirl anyway? And how do they answer the underlying questions: Is Obamacare “imploding” or isn’t it? (Much of the discussion of that question has a superficially partisan ‘tis/t’ain’t/’tis/t’ain’t quality about it; where does the truth really lie?) Insofar as there are real problems with Obamacare, not just partisan bullshit, how would reasonable people go about fixing the problems? And is there an icecube’s chance in hell that at least some Republicans could be persuaded to work with Democrats to find real solutions? (This would require, among other things, that Paul Ryan invite the “Freedom Caucus” to kiss is ass. After this evening, Ryan might welcome the opportunity to make such a declaration.)

I intend to inform myself better on these matters and, in future posts, to share the gist of what I think I have learned. My working hypotheses are that

  • Yes, the mandate was relatively weak to begin with; the Trump Administration has taken steps to make it even weaker; and that’s a problem.
  • Some people who buy insurance on the exchanges really do pay too much in premiums and, having made their unduly high payments, suffer from high deductible which they have trouble paying, if they become sick, because they paid too much for insurance to begin with. It’s a problem that could be addressed by increasing subsidies, taking steps to hold down payments to providers, and doing everything possible to make sure that insurance markets have enough competitors to make them “workably competitive,” as the microeconomists would say.

I tend to think the Democrats should make, and should be seen to be making, a good faith attempt to work with whoever is willing to work with them on these problems.


Pass the Popcorn, Please. And Where’s the Bourbon?


As we wait for the big vote, or not, this morning David Brooks writes,

I opposed Obamacare. I like health savings accounts, tax credits and competitive health care markets to drive down costs. But these free-market reforms have to be funded in a way to serve the least among us, not the most. This House Republican plan would increase suffering, morbidity and death among the middle class and poor in order to provide tax cuts to the rich.

It would cut Medicaid benefits by $880 billion between now and 2026. It would boost the after-tax income for those making more than $1 million a year by 14 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. This bill takes the most vicious progressive stereotypes about conservatives and validates them.

It’s no wonder that according to the latest Quinnipiac poll this bill has just a 17 percent approval rating. It’s no wonder that this bill is already massively more unpopular that Hillarycare and Obamacare, two bills that ended up gutting congressional majorities.

If we’re going to have the rough edges of a populist revolt, you’d think that at least somebody would be interested in listening to the people. But with this bill the Republican leadership sets an all-time new land speed record for forgetting where you came from.

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

Get Out the Popcorn, Progressives

cat with popcorn

It’s around 8AM, World Time, on March 24.

The political party that claims to espouse “original intent” as a judicial philosophy continues to try to govern in a way our founding fathers did not intend: by effectively turning the 435-member House of Representatives into a body where only the votes of the 237 Republicans count.

In consequence, to pass legislation, the Republican leadership must obtain the votes of 91 percent of the Republicans.* If more than 22 of them defect, and a bill has no Democratic support, then it will fail.

The Washington Post reports that 32 Republicans have said they will vote no on the Republican health care bill, while an additional 22 say they lean toward a no vote.

Last night’s vote was cancelled, but Trump is said to have demanded a final vote today, failing which he will “move on” and will no longer support the Ryan health care plan.

There are several possibilities, each disastrous for Trump and the Republicans:

  1. The House votes and passes the bill. That would send the whole mess to the Senate, where the Republicans would need support from 96 percent of their members to pass anything.
  2. The House votes and fails to pass the bill, and that’s the end of the matter.
  3. The House votes and fails to pass the bill, but, contrary to Trump’s expressed wishes, Republicans keep at “health care reform.”
  4. The House Republican leadership stalls again, but keeps on trying to corral Republican votes in violation of Trump’s expressed wishes.
  5. The House Republican leadership stalls again, and puts health care on the back burner.

If I were king of the world, I would choose option 2. But if I were thinking in purely political terms, I would relish option one.

Passage of this universally despised bill would give progressives an actual target to shoot at.

Imagine the stories about people losing their coverage. Image the ads.

Image the outrage, as the least sentient among our voting population finally figure out what is happening to them.

* Currently, five seats are vacant in the House of Representatives, so the total number of sitting members is 430. The 50 percent plus one needed to pass legislation is 216 votes. Of the 420 sitting members, 237 are Republicans. Thus, assuming no Democratic support for a piece of legislation, the votes of 216 Republicans, or about 91 percent of the congresspersons from that party, are required for passage.

The Long Night of the Republicans’ “Souls”

dark night

It is almost midnight on Thursday, March 23, also known as the “long night of the [Republicans’] souls.”

Aardvark’s crystal ball is cloudy. We all wait in suspense for the vote on Friday. Poisonally, I don’t think it’s going to happen, any more than it happened tonight. But we shall see.

Meanwhile, 26 percent of the electorate have no idea in hell about what’s going on. Dog bites man.

But for the more sentient among us, the story is told by this evening’s press release from the Quinnipiac University Poll, which reads in part,

American voters disapprove 56 – 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided, of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Support among Republicans is a lackluster 41 – 24 percent.

If their U.S. Senator or member of Congress votes to replace Obamacare with the Republican health care plan, 46 percent of voters say they will be less likely to vote for that person, while 19 percent say they will be more likely and 29 percent say this vote won’t matter, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Disapproval of the Republican plan is 56 – 22 percent among men, 56 – 13 percent among women, 54 – 20 percent among white voters, 64 – 10 percent among non-white voters, 80 – 3 percent among Democrats, 58 – 14 percent among independent voters and by margins of 2-1 or more in every age group.

One out of every seven Americans, 14 percent, think they will lose their health insurance under the Republican plan. That 14 percent includes 27 percent of voters in families with household income below $30,000, 18 percent of working class families and 14 percent of middle class families.

Fewer Americans would be covered under the GOP plan than are covered under Obamacare, 61 percent of voters find, while 8 percent say more would be covered and 18 percent say the number would be about the same.

So much winning!