Republican Fausts Can’t Get Gretchen’s Garter




Brian Beutler of the New Republic enlarges on a point that has not escaped the eagle eye of Aardvark and his readers: Republican leaders made a Faustian bargain with the Devil so that they could seduce the fair Gretchen, and now they can’t find their Viagra.

In The Republicans Are Off to a Pitiful Start, Beutler writes,

By this time in 2009, Obama had expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover more children in families living near poverty, and had signed legislation making it easier for women suffering from pay discrimination to file lawsuits. By February 17, he had signed an $800 billion economic rescue bill, and his congressional caucuses were aligned in principle behind the health care reform architecture that ultimately became Obamacare. He had filled nearly every cabinet vacancy, with people who were qualified to run their respective departments, and none of his executive orders had triggered global crisis or destroyed the country’s credibility. …

Trump has thus far signed one bill: to exempt his secretary of defense from the law prohibiting commissioned officers from running the Pentagon unless they’ve been retired for seven or more years. As you’d expect of any Republican White House, his aides are drawing up plans to deregulate polluters and financial practices—doing the kinds of things that have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying “there is a high level of satisfaction with the new administration.”

This is another way of saying Republicans on the Hill are getting some things they want.

But they are also getting to cast votes on the worst, most unqualified, and corrupt cabinet in modern history. They are getting to answer for Trump’s broadsides against the judiciary, and to clean up his disastrous ad hoc haranguing of American allies. They are getting to pretend McConnell’s decision to discipline Senator Elizabeth Warren for quoting Coretta Scott King’s criticism of Jeff Sessions—in the middle of black history month—was a stroke of genius. (Corralling nearly every Republican senator to vote for that censure was apparently part of that master plan.) They are getting to make excuses for Trump’s undisguised efforts to enrich himself and his family. And they’re getting to do all this as members of the most important national institution to fully corrupt itself on Trump’s behalf. (Democrats, judges, consumer brands, civil society organizations, and government bureaucrats, have all conducted themselves with enough basic integrity to preserve a glimmer of hope that Trump can’t just shamble Kool-Aid man-style through the entire social fabric.) …

Republicans made a Faustian bargain with the president, and they’re in the process of getting stiffed. It’s just unclear why they thought Trump would treat them any differently than anyone else he’s partnered with.

What Is Our Actual Position on Illegal Immigration?


Not talking about Muslim bans and immigration orders here. Talking about illegal immigration as a general matter.

I don’t know how many people read Josh Barro at Business Insider. But if you don’t read him, please start doing so, because he always has useful things to say.

Yesterday’s column was Democrats are lost on immigration — and they’d better rethink their ideas to beat Trump. Not exactly an enticing headline for progressives, but Barro raises some important points.

Sometimes, you need to hear some things that you would rather not hear.

Quickly moving past the chaos surrounding the executive order on immigration, Barro argues,

Eventually, Trump will get to more comfortable political ground: the question of whether immigration to the US is in the interest of American citizens. He has a theory of why restrictive policies are good for Americans, one that was the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign.

Democrats are much less clear about what they see as the purpose of immigration and how they believe their policies would serve the interests of existing American citizens. Often, their arguments for immigration focus on the opportunities it affords to potential immigrants — that is, people who cannot vote.

Is our position that borders should be open to any and all immigrants? If so, that’s not a politically winning position, nor is it a practical position.

But if we agree that there are to be some limitations, there must be some rules. And there must be some consequences for those who don’t obey the rules.

But what policies—and whose interests—should immigration law promote? “Trump has been clear: His view is that immigration policy, like all policy, should be made foremost on the basis of the interests of American citizens,” Barro writes. Democrats have good arguments about the inaccuracy of Trump’s claims about immigrants. But what is their own policy, and whose interests does that policy promote, Barro wants to know.

There are broad appeals to the economic and cultural benefits of immigration.

But the economic case is undermined by the arbitrary nature of the way the consensus reform position would admit immigrants: guest-worker programs at both the high and the low ends of the skill spectrum, as well as millions of admissions allocated to existing unauthorized immigrants primarily on the basis of when they arrived in the US rather than their ability to contribute economically.

As for the cultural case, the desirability of “taco trucks on every corner” is a matter of opinion.

Immigration policy really is a matter of globalism versus nationalism.

I think the true reason that immigration advocates fail to make strong national-interest arguments for immigration is that the pro-immigration impulse is not really about the national interest.

Potential immigrants are human beings with moral worth. Especially in the case of refugees, they have been disadvantaged by the place of their birth. The human condition is improved by their admission to the US. This — a global, humanistic concern — is a driving factor behind support for immigration.

Plus, elites in government, media, and business tend to be in positions where they stand to derive disproportionate benefits from immigration to the US and bear relatively few costs related to it. Thus immigration is a relatively easy area to favor policy altruism.

But what if about half the electorate disagrees? What’s in it for them?

Progressives need to rethink their arguments—and, somehow, to synthesize nationalism and globalism. And, they must seriously address the enforcement of immigration laws.

For the last 20 years or more, the federal government has pursued a policy of benign neglect. Trump presents this as a problem of “weak borders,” but the main issue is a failure of interior enforcement — particularly a failure to aggressively enforce laws against working in the US without authorization.

Members of Congress in both parties have bent to the will of employers who do not want to have to prove their employees are authorized to work. …

A lender should not foreclose on every homeowner in default, but you cannot have mortgage lending without the option of foreclosure. Similarly, you do not have an immigration policy if you cannot deport non-citizens for violating immigration law.

This neglect is a major reason for the failure of comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration reform is supposed to be a trade: amnesty for unauthorized immigrants and high future levels of legal immigration, in exchange for stringent enforcement of immigration laws in the future.

But why would anyone believe that Democrats or pre-Trump Republicans would follow through on a promise to enforce immigration law effectively? Even Trump has not (yet) made workplace enforcement a priority.

This, Unfortunately, Is not Funny


Thanks to Martin Longman for pointing out that Trump began his intelligence briefing at 10:30 this morning, but sent out his Nordstrom tweet at 10:51. Guess the info in the intelligence briefing must not have been interesting.

Paul Waldman predicts,

Before you know it, he’ll sign an executive order declaring anyone who doesn’t own a copy of “The Art of the Deal” an enemy of the state. It’ll be like Mao’s Little Red Book, only for sleazebags.

And from The Borowitz Report,

Trump Accuses Media of Not Reporting Voices He Hears in Head

TAMPA (The Borowitz Report)—In a blistering attack on the media, President Trump said on Monday that the press has consistently refused to report the voices he hears in his head every day.

Trump praised the “really terrific information” he gets from the voices, which often speak to him when he is roaming the White House in his bathrobe in the middle of the night.

“They tell me that I won by the most votes ever and had the biggest Inauguration crowd ever,” Trump said. “These are fantastic voices and they’re doing a great job.” …

Trump said that because the voices in his head “keep saying that I’m the best President ever,” he does not expect the media to quote them anytime soon.

“If you want to find out what the voices in my head are saying, don’t even bother reading the newspaper,” he said. “Follow me on Twitter.”

No Ninth Circuit Decision Today on Immigration

In The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies, Amy Davidson of the New Yorker does a good job of walking us throught the oral argument last night. I hope you tuned in.

Temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are intended for circumstances where justice cannot wait for the courts to proceed in an orderly fashion to try the case and allow time for appeal.

Here, El Presidente has articulated a claimed pressing need for action, namely, that inadequate vetting procedures are letting in dangerous people.

To support this claim, you would need to point to some specific dangerous people who have passed through the filter. Failing that, you would at least articulate a coherent account of what vetting procedures are now being followed and why those procedures are (or plausibly might be) inadequate. Failing that, you would want to come up with some facts that can be made to look as if they support the claimed emergency.Failing even that, you would want to find someone whom you could present as an “expert” and have her opine that the procedures are inadequate.

Counsel for the government had nothing. He and his team couldn’t even make something up. It shows a striking failure of imagination.

We now learn there will be no decision today. Three thoughts.

  1. I previously remarked that the statutes and legal precedents under debate were not created on the assumption that the president would be a delusional, bigoted jerk.

    Courts have some legitimate leeway in reading the case law. With (at least) an extra day for consideration, the honorable court will have the opportunity to read even more presidential tweets that prove he is a bigoted, delusional jerk. This may provide invaluable help in interpreting the precedents supporting broad presidential leeway in foreign affairs and immigration.

  2. Given the increasingly loud presidential denunciations of their forthcoming decision, I expect the three judges are trying to agree on a common analysis. This may involve some compromise.
  3. The members of the panel are located respectively in Honolulu, Phoenix, and San Jose. Even in the internet age, it’s a little awkward to agree on a common text when they are in different places.

Trump Wins Pullet Surprise

Dana Milbank regales us with news of the deranged spelling in Trump’s deranged tweets:

Shoker! Rediculous chocker Trump attaks and dishoners English with ever-dummer textingspellings.

During the transition, Trump thundered on Twitter in a tweet that was so unpresidential it might be Freudian: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.”

But what was really unprecedented was Trump’s tweet on Hillary Clinton that included three misspellings in the space of 140 characters: “Hillary Clinton should not be given national security briefings in that she is a lose cannon with extraordinarily bad judgement & insticts.”

My insticts say Trump should enable auto-correct.

Maybe so, but before Trump seconds that emotion, he may wish to consider this, from the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise

Jerrold H. Zar
Northern Illinois University

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker’s
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word’s fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.


Aardvark Grovels Before Trump

The Washington Post, which is not to be trusted, reports,

First lady Melania Trump settled her defamation lawsuit against a Maryland blogger, who agreed to apologize to the Trump family and pay her a “substantial sum,” her attorneys said Tuesday.

“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her,” the blogger, Webster Tarpley, said in the statement provided by Trump’s attorneys.

Today, Aardvark is releasing the following statement:

motherWednesday, February 8—Inspired by Webster Tarpley’s manly example, Arius Aardvark hereby apologizes to President Donald J. Trump, who most definitely received the majority of the votes cast for president, and grovels at the Great Man’s feet, deeply regretting his false and defamatory claim that President Trump was born in Belarus.

It is well known that he  was born in Germany. Conclusive photographic evidence follows.mother


The Ayatollah’s Amicus Curiae Brief to the Ninth Circuit


From an official Iranian web site, not from The Onion, not from Aardvark:

We thank Trump for exposing the reality of the U.S.: Ayatollah Khamenei

His Eminence stated: “We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights.”

Signed, Love & Kisses,

The Ayatollah

Alea Jacta Est, or, Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse


The government lost its motion in the Ninth Circuit for an immediate stay of so-called Judge Robart’s order. Instead, the appellate court ordered a highly expedited briefing schedule. This evening we learn that oral argument, by telephone, will take place on Tuesday at 6:00 PM World Time.

So-called President Trump’s lawyers filed their opening brief. The states replied, as required, in the wee hours yesterday. As I noted in an earlier post, the states characterized so-called President Trump’s position this way: “invoking national security prohibits meaningful judicial review and that courts cannot examine the Executive’e motives.”

Now the government has filed its reply to the reply brief. Did the government object to that way of summarizing its position? Did the government assert that the states were setting up a straw man? Did they say that the states were trying to mislead the court?

No, sir, they did not.

So now everyone agrees that the government’s legal position is that “invoking national security prohibits meaningful judicial review and that courts cannot examine the Executive’e motives.”

We also learn this evening that so-called President Trump learns all the latest in conspiratology from InfoWars.

Let’s say that tomorrow InfoWars learns of a zombie apocalypse in Bolivia and passes that information on to the president–who cites the zombie apocalypse as a national security risk justifying the exclusion of all Bolivians.

Because sometimes, you know, it’s really hard to tell if you’re dealing with a zombie.

Can the courts look into the rational basis for the president’s order?

No, siree, they cannot do that, according the government’s legal team.

The Midnight Brief


Our system of law and government is not based on the assumption that the president is likely to be a bigoted, delusional jerk. So, in Washington v. Trump the government has some strong arguments.

Because of the nature of his responsibilities, a president has, and must have, wide latitude in protecting the security of the United States. Moreover, as a general matter, courts are ill equipped to second guess national security decisions by the president.

Let’s add that a specific statute gives the president the right to deny admission to any class of aliens based on a finding that entry of such aliens would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.

For icing on the cake, add in that a respectable body of case law says or implies that a court should uphold such an order if it has a “rational basis”—that is to say, if it is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose.

All these things are true, whether progressives like them or not.

But, as Washington’s midnight brief makes clear, the government’s legal team has a big problem. The nub of the matter is this, as Aardvark sees it. Because Trump’s executive order was a big overreach, the government legal team must do a big overreach to try to defend it. The government’s position, as the state of Washington summarizes it, is that “invoking national security prohibits meaningful judicial review and that courts cannot examine the Executive’e motives.”

The government lawyers have to take that extreme position, because admitting evidence of Trump’s campaign statements and motives would be highly detrimental to their case.

Let us see whether, when it files its responsive brief later today, the government claims that the state has mischaracterized it position.

Aardvark’s view? Despite the many points in the government’s favor, its assertion immunity from judicial review serves up a large turd that the appellate court may be reluctant to swallow.

Myriad additional legal issues are raised by the case. Here is one biggie. Another statute says, and I quote, “no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of race, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.”

To get around that one, the government lawyers have to do some legal footwork that would make Fred Astaire green with envy.

And one more. Lots of cases say that people outside the United States can’t assert under the United States Constitution. (I paraphrase, but that’s the gist of it.) “No standing!” shout the government lawyers.

Well, hey, wingers, remember that big immigration case that a bunch of republican state attorneys general brought against Obama’s immigration policies? The one where their standing argument was really, really weak, but they won anyway?

Hoist, meet petard.

This Headline is Not from The Onion

Kremlin says it wants apology from Fox News over Putin comments

The Kremlin said on Monday it wanted an apology from Fox News over what it said were “unacceptable” comments one of the channel’s presenters made about Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly described Putin as “a killer” in the interview with Trump as he tried to press the U.S. president to explain more fully why he respected his Russian counterpart. O’Reilly did not say who he thought Putin had killed.

“We consider such words from the Fox TV company to be unacceptable and insulting, and honestly speaking, we would prefer to get an apology from such a respected TV company,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.


Waiting for the Midnight Brief

As we await developments in Washington v. Trump, I watched the video of the oral argument before so-called Judge Robart on January 27. It lasts a little more than an hour. Though it deals with a variety of arcane legal issues, I highly commend it.

This, ladies and germs, is how to conduct a civilized debate. This is how to do justice. This is how to address grave matters of state and grave matters of conscience.

As I said, there is quite a lot of legal complexity. I won’t attempt to summarize all the issues, let alone do them justice. Nor should I be understood to downplay the importance of that which I do not summarize.

That said, it is of the first importance that the government cited no actual threats that would be forestalled by the order. It cited no arrests of terrorists from the seven countries mentioned in the order. Instead, the government took the position that it has no legal obligation to show that the order is rationally based. Instead, said the government, its only obligation is to show that the order is “facially legitimate”—i.e., that it purports to be based on facts that warrant the action taken, whether or not the stated facts are actual facts.

As counsel for the state of Washington observed, that means that a stated national security rationale trumps any judicial review of an executive order.

Can anyone think of a more perfect legal underpinning for a fascist state?

Finally, confronted with an apparent conflict between two provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act with respect to whether discrimination on the basis of national origin is or is not permitted, learned counsel for the government contended that such discrimination must surely be OK, for otherwise the president wouldn’t even be permitted to bar entry by persons from countries with which we are at war.

She seemed to think that was an exceptionally strong argument. She said it twice.

Her position, of course, would allow the president to bar Holocaust victims on the ground that they are German nationals.

What Trump Could Learn from Machiavelli About Lying

In this post we further explore the proper application of the Rational Fascist Test, or, WWMD. We find that Trump could learn quite a lot from Machiavelli.machiavelli

First of all, be shrewd and cunning.

Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.

Second, do not tell lies where the truth can readily be verified.

Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.”

Machiavelli’s instructions to diplomat Raffaello Girlami

Third, you don’t have to have good qualities, but it is essential that you appear to have good qualities.

It is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have mentioned, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.

So ask yourself:

  1. When Trump tells falsehoods, does he employ shrewdness and cunning?
  2. Does he frequently proclaim as fact things that may be objectively shown to be false?
  3. Does he conceal his bad qualities, or does he flaunt them?

You know the answers. He flunks the test.

Thanks go to The Municipal Machiavelli. Also recommended for The Donald: Scientific American’s 18 Attributes of Highly Effective Liars.


The Rational Fascist Test, or, WWMD?


Aardvark senses that the commentariat is slowly giving up its struggle to find “the method in Trump’s madness.” That’s like sending out a posse to round up all the unicorns in Texas.

Meanwhile, there is a brouhaha about Trump’s Superbowl interview comments on Putin. To go straight to the source—the Faux News Network:

In a special preview, Trump revealed his plans for dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin

O’Reilly asked Trump whether he “respects” the former KGB agent:

“I do respect him, but I respect a lot of people,” Trump said, “That doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him.”

Trump said he would appreciate any assistance from Russia in the fight against ISIS terrorists, adding that he would rather get along with the former Cold War-era foe than otherwise.

“But, [Putin] is a killer,” O’Reilly said.

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

In response, leading Republican invertebrates denounced the comments as a denigration of American exceptionalism.

“He’s a thug,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Putin on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. No, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”

Well, there is that, But putting the sacredness of American exceptionalism to one side, here is what Aardvark thinks. He thinks that Trump is delusional, and that he is remarkably candid about his delusions.

I believe that Trump would love nothing better than to kill some journalists and political opponents. Whether he will try to do it, I cannot say. I certainly hope not. But I think that in his delusional mind, Trump sincerely believes has moral justification to assassinate some people who, in his way of thinking, need killing.

Now I am neither a mind reader nor a clinical psychologist. Lacking those skills, I substitute the application of the Rational Fascist Test, or, What Would Mussolini Do? (You may, if you wish, substitute Machiavelli for Mussolini.)

Would a rational fascist be so candid about his hopes and intentions? No, he would not. In the present circumstances, the rational fascist would be much more subtle about his plans.

Or at least that is what I think. As we proceed day by day, let us continue to apply the Rational Fascist Test to try to learn whether there is a method in the madness, or just madness.


Justice Has Triumphed. Recommend Urgent Appeal.


It’s Sunday morning, February 5. In the wee hours of last night, two members of a three judge Ninth Circuit panel, having had the opportunity to read a lengthy government brief,  (1) temporarily denied the government’s emergency motion to overturn so-called Judge Robart’s injunction, and (2) ordered the plaintiff states to reply by midnight tonight, Pacific time, with the government to reply to the reply by 3:00 PM on Monday, also Pacific time.

For those of you who might be confused by time zones, that’s 3:00 AM Monday and 6:00 PM Monday, World Time.

I expect we will see a decision on Monday evening or some time Tuesday. I make no prediction about which side will win.

The government’s opening brief was plainly written by the varsity team and is well crafted. It takes the same approach Aardvark would take, were he tasked with the detestible obligation to justify Trump. Rather than trying to defend the actual necessity for the executive order, the brief hops up and down about separation of powers, judicial second guessing of national security determinations, and wide legal authority to bar any “class of aliens” that the President deems, in his unfettered discretion, to pose a threat to national security.

Abstract arguments of that nature beg to be tested by hypothetical questions.

So, Mr. Government Counsel, the President can bar all Muslims if he deems all Muslims to be a threat, is that your position?

So, Mr. Government Counsel, the President could bar all black immigrants if he somehow determines that black folks are a threat, is that your position?

Though they are unlikely to take counsel from Aardvark, he is confident that the same kinds of thoughts will occur to the panel. Again, I make no prediction about the outcome.

The panel, by the way, consists of three judges appointed, respectively, by so-called Presidents, Carter, Bush Junior, and Obama. Mr. Bush Junior appointee did not sign his name to last night’s order. It is not known whether that’s because he disagreed with it, or, perhaps, because, like Aardvark, last night he was enjoying a visit with his good friend Jack Daniels and was in no shape to read legal briefs.

Please Observer a Moment of Silence to Honor the Victims of the Bowling Green Massacre

Aardvark welcomes his new Aussie readers. G’day, mates. Because you live in a rational country, you will benefit from the following explanation. On Thursday Kellyanne Conway, Minster of Truth for the new administration, bereated the lamestream media for their failure to report the Bowling Green Massacre.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” she said. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Please join your American brethren in a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre, which never occurred.