The Plot Thickens

plot thickens

The Postulated Plot

I have previously argued these interrelated points. First, William P. Barr did not come to Washington to fall on his sword for Donald Trump—or to occupy the same jail cell where Nixon’s attorney general severed 19 months.

I have also argued that, in the current situation, and given his economic and professional circumstances, William P. Barr likewise did not come to Washington to serve for a second time as attorney general, out of a mere abstract interest in doing good and serving justice.

I have argued that William P. Barr is a man with a plan; that that plan is, most probably, to get Donald Trump out of office with a Spiro Agnew style immunity agreement; and that this postulated plot was most probably organized at Barr’s law firm, Kirkland & Ellis.

The Postulated Plot Progresses

Today’s news is that William P. Barr has persuaded The Donald to nominate, as his deputy, to succeed Rod Rosenstein, one Jeffry Rosen, who is currently the Deputy Secretary of Transportation—serving, by the way, under the Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, wife of Mitch McConnell.

And what was Mr. Rosen doing prior to his service in the Transportation Department?

Mr. Rosen was senior partner at, you guessed it, Kirkland & Ellis.

The boys and girls at Kirland have a tendency to be too clever by half. But, even so, they are damn fine lawyers. And not about to have a prolonged stay in the hoosegaw for obstructing justice.

Watch this channel for further developments. I think The Donald is being thoroughly snookered and that his goose is about to be well and truly cooked.


More Good News from Pollyanna Aardvark

Hayley Mills Pollyanna

Of my virtual daughter, a reader observes, “She’s a lovely girl. Be sure she marries a Republican, somebody who can keep her in designer furniture, clothing, carpets and, of course, pedigree dogs. And designer book collections.”

This morning’s message from Pollyanna concerns new polling about the Wall and The National Emergency.

Folks identifying as white evangelicals think there is a real national emergency, approve of Trump’s declaration, and say what he did makes it more likely to vote for him. Or, at least 60 to 70 percent of them take that view, depending on exactly what question they are responding to.

Which, may I remind you, means that at least 30 percent of self-identified white evangelicals don’t buy into Trump’s border wall bullshit. That’s qualifiedly good news for progressives. And, by the way, it implies that a strong minority of evangelicals are actually Christians.

But the really good news is that if we look at all non-college-educated pale faces, a plurality don’t think there’s a border emergency at all, and they disapprove of the national emergency declaration by a ten percent margin.

Over all, Mericans disapprove of the national emergency declaration by 61 to 36 percent.

That’s good news. But the really good news is that uneducated white people who are not evangelical Christians are rejecting Trump’s nonsense.

For more information, check out

Poll: 6-In-10 Disapprove of Trump’s Declaration of A National Emergency

The foundation of Trump’s coalition is cracking

The public sees through Trump’s national emergency lies. A new poll confirms it.

A Concluding Observation about Republican Senators from States Outside the South

Lindsey Graham is acting like an asshole because he is deathly afraid of his South Carolina base. The new polling allows us to reverse engineer the political thinking behind this kind of assholery. Ditto for McConnell in Kentucky.

But if McConnell and Graham persuade all their Republican brethren and sistern to follow their lead, then a bunch of them are jumping straight off a cliff, because lots of their base are not evangelicals.

As Pollyanna remarked last night over our dinner of caviar and filet mignon, if these folks are determined to jump off a cliff, then it really couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.


Good day to readers in Thailand. Let the record reflect that I have the greatest admiration for your king, and would never, ever publish anything violative of Section 112 of the your Criminal Code.

A Message from My Daughter, Pollyanna Aardvark

Hayley Mills Pollyanna

Yeah, I know lots of y’all are deeply pessimistic, and God knows you have a right to be. But I have to say that, on  the available evidence, Paul Waldman has it right: President Trump is dragging Republicans down with him. Waldman writes,

Trump’s aides have decided that this is the issue that will guarantee the president’s reelection:

President Trump and his political team plan to make his years-long quest for a border wall one of the driving themes of his reelection effort — attempting to turn his failure to build such a project into a combative sales pitch that pits him against the political establishment on immigration.

In other words, Trump will try to repeat the extraordinary success he achieved last fall, when he did everything in his power to make the midterm election about supposedly terrifying caravans of asylum seekers and the need for walls to keep them away. The result, you may recall, was an enormous victory for Democrats. …

Multiple Republicans there have gone on record about the declaration, saying “I would have my doubts” (Sen. Ron Johnson) or “I’m not enthusiastic about it” (Sen. Pat Toomey) or “I have some concerns” (Sen. Roy Blunt), or even “I wish he wouldn’t have done it” (Sen. Chuck Grassley). They think that presidential power has expanded too far, and they worry about setting a precedent that the next Democratic president will use in ways they abhor. But are they actually going to vote with Democrats against Trump? …

Trump may be quite happy to have [a bill disapproving his emergency declaration] pass and then veto it, so he can say he’s bravely standing up to the “establishment.” He’ll be running a scorched-earth, maximally divisive campaign in 2020, counting on fear and hatred to once again carry him to victory. If he thinks it’s to his benefit to turn on his own party to do it, and attack Republicans in Congress as a bunch of lily-livered wimps whose loathing of immigrants is insufficiently pure, that’s what he’ll do.

And as we reach November 2020, we could see a repeat of 2018, with Trump insisting that political victory will be his if only he tells a few more lurid stories of immigrant crime and holds a few more rallies so that his rabid supporters can chant “Build that wall!” (or “Finish that wall!” or “Paint that wall!” or whatever he decides the latest slogan should be), despite all evidence pointing toward defeat. Should that happen, Republicans whose own necks are on the line will wonder whether they might have done anything to prevent being taken down with him. But by then it will be too late. In fact, it probably already is.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

First, for the record, let me reiterate the view that by November, 2020, Trump may be wearing an orange jumpsuit. If that’s right, then when we speak of Trump’s reelection campaign, we are writing about a hypothetical, contrary to fact. But, to put that thought aside …

Republican politicians’ self-interest—indeed, their hope of political salvation—lies in getting Trump off the stage quickly, one way or the other.

If logic suggests that a thing must be happening—like a Republican conspiracy against Trump—then, very probably, that thing is in fact happening.

Stay tuned.

Sunny Side Up

Here’s some reading sure to match your mood this evening, whatever mood you are in. If you are keeping on the sunny side, read the first two. If you are feeling in a dark and troubled mood, skip down.

There’s a Bright and Sunny Side of Life

The Limp Caudillo: How Trump’s incompetent power grabs are actually weaking the imperial presidency

Ross Douthat expatiates on how Trump’s stupidity weakens his hand.

Voting Rights Roundup: How the Electoral College could give way to a national popular vote by 2024

If the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact achieves its objectives, in the national election five years from now, every vote might count, and count equally. What a concept.

There’s a Dark and Troubled Side, Too

The One Trait That Predicts Trump Fever

Politico publishes a long excerpt from a book that will be published this week, ALIENATED AMERICA: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.

The one trait turns out to be institutional collapse within a given community or region—i.e., institutions like marriage, civic engagement, and the church.

Apparently, when your wife done left you, when you don’t have a religious community to remind you each week how people are supposed to behave, when you don’t belong to any organizations, and when you don’t have any friends, you get pissed off with the world, and you see Trump as a very appealing character.

Who knew?

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Let us grant the general point that like calls out to like. And the specific point that jerkish followers will gravitate toward a leader who is a jerk.

But jerks are not necessarily incompetent. I have known many jerks who had could easily find their ass with both hands. Trump is not one of these.

One of these days, all of these racist loners whose wives done left them may wake up and realize that they need to find a much more competent jerk to support.

That National Popular Vote Interstate Compact cannot come soon enough. We really need to deep six the Electoral College and, instead, count the votes of the progressives in Arkansas and Georgia. Not to mention all those folks in California.

Sheep, Goats, and Jonathan Turley

sheep and goat

Further to yesterday’s post on the legality of the declaration of a fake emergency, a friend has called my attention to this article by Professor Jonathan Turley: Why Trump will win the wall fight. If the topic is of interest to you, I commend the post to your attention, and offer a few additional observations.

Ad Hominem Remarks

Let me begin with four ad hominem observations about the good professor himself. First of all, he knows a damn sight more about this stuff than I do, so that, on the face of things, he is much better qualified than I to offer a legal opinion.

Running counter to my first point, I note Turley’s accurate claim that he represented the Republican House of Representatives in U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, and his grossly misleading claim that “we won the case.” They did win it in the district court, but it was settled while it was on appeal, and the district court’s injunction was dissolved.

Thirdly, Professor Turley holds a number of idiosyncratic legal positions, as explained in considerable detail in his Wikipedia article. He is something like Alan Dershowitz—someone who professes to be socially liberal but often argues from a right wing or libertarian perspective. Only not as crazy as Dershowitz.

Of course, idiosyncratic legal positions are not necessarily erroneous legal positions.

Finally, Turley conveys his views, both orally and in writing, with great self-assurance—and, may I say, much greater self-assurance than is necessarily justified by his often debatable positions.

Legal Remarks

I’m not going to summarize every argument Turley makes—you need to read his post for yourself if you want to know his views—let alone respond to all of them. But here’s a 30,000 foot high observation.

Addressing the fake emergency argument, Turley points to lots of declared presidential emergencies, and notes that there is no case law limiting the President’s right to declare any old thing an emergency, whether it is an emergency or not. So far so good, for the pro-Trump argument.

But my understanding is that the statutory definition of “emergency” hasn’t been litigated at all, or at least not in any definitive or dispositive way.

Think of it this way: if prior presidents have claimed that the legal meaning of the word “sheep” includes “goats,” and if no court has ever called found the occasion to rule on this claim, does that imply that the Supreme Court—when presented for the first time with a forcefully argued case—will agree with a current presidential assertion that the legal meaning of “sheep” should be deemed to include “all farm animals”?

I don’t think so.

Turley’s post strikes me as a shorthand summary of a legal brief for Trump. (Maybe Turley is angling to represent The Donald in this matter.) It does not strike me as a fully considered, balanced effort to predict how the Supreme Court will actually resolve the matter.