Tonight’s News

meat puppet

Washington Post, Mueller complained that Barr’s letter did not capture ‘context’ of Trump probe

One of many valid ways of looking at this evening’s developments is see the opportunity for a fun parlor game: trying to figure out what in the world Bill Barr is doing.

Barr has been acting as Trump’s meat puppet. He has repeatedly lied his ass off in public. And he has either lied under oath to Congress, or gone within about one millimeter of committing perjury in his congressional testimony. What he may have done in private, we don’t know at this point.

One theoretical explanation is that Barr does not know what he is doing and does not grasp the consequences of what he is doing. Despite the news tonight, I believe that explanation is highly implausible. It might apply to fifth-raters like Sarah Sanders or Kellyanne Conway. But Barr’s experience and accomplishments prove he knows how to think ahead three steps in the chess game. Hell, he can probably think ahead twenty-four steps in the chess game.

A second theoretical explanation is that, blinded by the glory of a second gig as Attorney General of the United States, and covetous of the money and career advancement that might come from high government service, Barr has simply sold out. This is unpersuasive. Barr has all the money he will ever need, his resume needs no burnishing, and he risks going down in the history books with the likes of Aaron Burr and John Mitchell. Seeking money and prestige as an explanation for Barr’s bizarre conduct just does not cut the mustard.

A third theoretical explanation is that he has just swallowed the Kook-Aid and joined the Cult of Trump. I regard this as slightly less unlikely than the first or second explanations, but it’s certainly not consistent with his background and associations.

The fourth possibility is that he sought the post of Attorney General so that he could achieve some as-yet-publicly-unidentified goal. That, to keep his position as Attorney General, he has to appear to the world, and appear to Donald Trump, to be Trump’s shameless meat puppet. And that that is exactly the role he is playing—pretty much to the point of parody—in order to keep his job and thus to have some chance to achieve whatever it is he returned to Washington to achieve.

Barr is not stupid. He understands that, to keep your job under Trump, you have to kiss Trump’s ass effusively and you have to kiss your own reputation goodbye. And he has made a clear choice to do just that.

He does not grit his teeth and kiss the ring, like General Mattis and others. Oh, no. He goes into full-throated prevarication and shameless neglect of duties.

I’ll go even a little further. Barr’s act is so comically bad at actually doing anything to protect Trump that it may go beyond parody. It may approach sabotage.

For Every Wrong There is a Remedy

rending garments

The fashionable thing to do this week is to pull one’s hair and rend one’s garments over Trump’s stonewalling of Congress—and to predict that he will “win” by “running out the clock” on efforts at congressional oversight.

The technical legal issues raised by this behavior are complicated—truly a thing of beauty. See, for example, Constitutional Hardball and Congress’s Oversight Authority. As for me, my crystal ball is cloudy, my name is not Nostradamus, and I surely have no intent to spend a few months researching the legal issues and to tell Nancy Pelosi exactly how to play this. But I do want to share this insight, born of experience:

A person is not immune from legal accountability merely because he has violated the law in a particularly brazen, audacious, and creative way—so creative that no one before has ever violated the law in quite the same way.

And so, buttressed by a reassuring phone call from Pollyanna, I want to predict that determined politicians on the progressive side, assisted by some astute lawyering, will find a way to make sure the Trumpster’s stonewalling puts him into a world of hurt.

“For every wrong there is a remedy” is a legal maxim.

It’s not literally true for every single moral wrong, without any exception.

But it applies far more often than you might think.

Ignoring the Polls?

WP poll

In a message addressed to my pseudonym, one of my best friends, alluding to this article—Biden holds a slight advantage over nearest 2020 rival, but Democrats are far from making a decision—asks an implied question: “I assume this is a time to ignore polls.”

For what it’s worth, the shot version of my answer is no.

The slightly longer version would be, polls provide relevant information, and it’s never a good idea just to ignore relevant information.

So what can we say?

We see a list of 11 people, only eight of whom are actually running for the Democratic nomination for President. Of the eight actual candidates, two of them, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, each have about 1 percent support.

There are 20 candidates in the race. The collective support accruing to the bottom twelve is now four percent, thus averaging one third of one percent each.

Of the 20 candidates, five achieve support at or above three percent.

O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke is holding his three percent, but seems not to be going anywhere. All hat, no cattle.

Warren

She has managed to climb from two percent support to be tied for fourth place, with four percent. I like her style on stage and I like her ideas. But what kind of person who isn’t an Indian tells the bar association that they are an Indian? It’s just weird. And even if we are prepared to forgive and forget this trivial oddity,, I think we’re scared shitless that the Pocahontas label will stick.

Harris

She is tied for fourth, but has declined dramatically. Not lookin’ good.

Bittigieg

Out of nowheresville, into third place. Very impressive. Needs to tell us more about how he thinks he is going to win.

Sanders

Growing support, and a strong second place, but may well have a ceiling among Democratic primary voters. I thought he would have defeated Trump in 2016. I think he would defeat Trump in 2020.

Biden

“Front runner” at a whopping 13 percent.

Why Does it Currently Seem to be a Contest among Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg?

I think it’s because Democrats sense that these are the three folks best suited by personality, stage presence, and intestinal fortitude to stand up to Trump’s bullshit.

What Would it Take for Someone Else to Break Out?

See answer to the immediately preceding question.

Deplorable Baskets

Hillary Rodham Clinton

So, I was watching the talking heads a couple of days ago, and one of them (sorry, I didn’t get the name) said something like this: Bernie Sanders’ theory is that lots of people voted for a racist, misogynist prick because they want fundamental economic change; Joe Biden’s theory is that they voted for a racist, misogynist prick because they feel forgotten; but my theory, said the talking head, is that they just wanted to vote for a racist, misogynist prick.

Despite the vulgarity, the comment does raise a compelling question: are there any persuadable left, and, if there are, what would it take to persuade them? Particularly when you see results like this: if it’s Trump versus Biden, 34 percent would pick Trump—no big surprise, the only surprise is that the number isn’t a little larger; 42 percent would choose Biden; and 19 percent are undecided.

Nineteen percent undecided?

Who the hell are these people, and what are they thinking?

Well, if the Democratic nominee wants to win the race, then she or he had damn well better be about figuring out who the hell these people are and how to persuade them.

With that thought in mind, let us revisit Hillary’s infamous comments about the basket of deplorables, which I quote in full:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Well, she got a piece of it right. Yes, there are different kinds of Trump supporters. And a goodly number of them find him attractive precisely because he’s a racist, misogynist prick. Only it’s not half—it’s about three quarters of them, comprising about one third of the whole electorate.

As to her other basket, my understanding is that pretty much all the subsequent political science research has shown she’s wrong. There are surely economically downtrodden folks among the Trump supporters, but as a whole Trump supporters tend to do about as well economically as anyone else.

Based on my conversations here at Happy Acres, and based on what I have otherwise been able to learn or reason out, the other portion of Trump supporters may be less than thrilled with the more outré features of the Trump shit show, but they are pragmatic Fetus People, Tax Cut People, Deregulation People, and Anti-Brown-and -Black-People People. *

If that is the case, then I really don’t see what Joe Biden, or anyone else, could say to win them over.

That said, why did the Morning Consult/Political poll, conducted April 19-21 among 1,992 registered voters, find that 19 percent were undecided as between Trump and Biden?

Kind of suggests a follow-up question, doesn’t it?

* By the way, I would have a hard time deciding which basket is more “deplorable” than the other. Is it worse to be a natcherl born racist, or to be one who exploits natcherl born racists? Fortunately, I feel no need to arrive at a definitive opinion on this question?

Not Fascism Exactly, But a Herrenvolk Democracy

Passing

When I want to go somewhere, I look at a map—these days, of course, it’s a map on my iPhone. I may learn that my destination is close at hand and easy to reach. Or, I may discover bad news: the place I want to go is far away, and there is a big obstacle in the way, like a nine-car crash on the interstate. This is bad news. But the right response is not to denounce the map and the mapmaker. The proper response is not to imagine that the destination is close by, and there are no obstacles—and to set out on my journey based on those pleasingly false assumptions. No, the thing you have to do is, first, understand the obstacle, and second, figure out how to avoid it and still reach your destination.

It is in that spirit that I suggest you approach Adam Serwer, White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it:

America has always grappled with, in the words of the immigration historian John Higham, two “rival principles of national unity.” According to one, the U.S. is the champion of the poor and the dispossessed, a nation that draws its strength from its pluralism. According to the other, America’s greatness is the result of its white and Christian origins, the erosion of which spells doom for the national experiment.

People of both political persuasions like to tell a too-simple story about the course of this battle: World War II showed Americans the evil of racism, which was vanquished in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act brought nonwhites into the American polity for good. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 forever banished the racial definition of American identity embodied in the 1924 immigration bill, forged by Johnson and Reed in their crusade to save Nordic Americans from “race suicide.”

The truth is that the rivalry never ended, and Grantism, despite its swift wartime eclipse, did not become extinct. The Nazis, initially puzzled by U.S. hostility, underestimated the American commitment to democracy. As the Columbia historian Ira Katznelson writes in Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time(2013), the South remained hawkish toward Nazi Germany because white supremacists in the U.S. didn’t want to live under a fascist government. What they wanted was a herrenvolk democracy, in which white people were free and full citizens but nonwhites were not.

Fiat Iustitia ne Pereat Mundus

fiat iustitia

In Blow to Old Boys’ Club, Female Broker Wins the Right to Expose Co-Worker Who Shit in Her Mug: A judge has ruled Cantor Fitzgerald cannot enforce an arbitration agreement involving Lee Stowell, whose co-workers allegedly used her Bernie Sanders mug as atoilet.

In Other Law-Related News …

Matt Ford, The Court of Supremely Bad Faith: This term, the conservative justices are dreaming up alternate realities to justify their preordained conclusions:

A growing number of Democrats have embraced court-packing as a solution to the conservative grip on the Supreme Court. Last month, I argued that it would be an irreversible blow to the American tradition of judicial independence. It risks turning the nation’s highest court into something resembling Britain’s House of Lords, a chamber of lifetime appointees whose membership is decided solely by the whims of each new government. Packing the courts is typically the kind of behavior that the State Department condemns when it happens in illiberal democracies and would-be dictatorships.

But those points presumed that the Supreme Court wasn’t already headed that way. If the court’s conservative justices uphold the citizenship question despite all the evidence against it, Democrats could reasonably conclude that the justices are more concerned about maximizing the Republican Party’s electoral prospects than applying the law to the facts at hand. In those circumstances, packing the court wouldn’t be what transforms the court into a purely political force. It would merely finish the job.

**

Greetings to (I believe) my first reader in Lithuania.

Camels Passing Through the Eye of a Needle

eye of a needle

Caitlin Flanagan, They Had It Coming: The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Not just informative about the corruption of the elites: a truly epic essay.

David Atkins, Stop Listening to Rich Overconfident Men

A capital suggestion.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Confucius, for one, would have understood the nub of the situation we are in: unless we can find a way to inculcate a greater sense of morality into our elites, we are doomed.

We may be doomed.

Obviously, I need a visit from my daughter, Pollyanna Aardvark. But she’s tied up this morning, down at the soup kitchen.