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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Political Notebook for 13 April 2019

The circus is now open! Actually, it never, ever closes.

To everything there is a treason…

The current occupant of the White House loves throwing around loaded phrases to attack his political opponents (or anyone he doesn’t like at the particular moment he hate-Tweets about them). This week, he favourite word was treason. Dana Millbank’s piece in the The Washington Post, “
For Trump, the name of the season is treason”, explains the story of the current occupant’s misuse of the word. It’s an ugly tale, not the least because of how puerile and utterly ignorant it is: The guy has absolutely NO idea what the Constitution says about treason (or anything else, of course), or why it’s so tightly and specifically defined and restricted—or, does he? Is this part of his plan to end democracy?

Maybe so. As ThinkProgress put it: “Trump’s accusations of ‘treason’ are a hallmark of fascism”, because it absolutely is. Author Zack Ford lays out the case for what treason really is—including how the Left uses the word incorrectly, too—and then sums up why the current occupant’s use of the word is fascistic:

The contradiction speaks to the way Trump tries to frame his positions as the only positions that actually serve the interests of the country. As slogans like “Make America Great Again” and “America First!” indicate, he’s attempting to co-op patriotism, such that any opposition to Trump is by extension anti-American. Thus, asking for cooperation means exactly the same thing as asking for obedience, and being rebuffed is the same as betrayal.
Writing for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf details why “A President Falsely Charging ‘Treason’ Is What the Founders Feared”, because:
The Framers were guarding against the possibility that Americans would one day elect a man so morally weak and corrupt that he would falsely accuse political enemies of treason. In 2016, Americans narrowly elected a man who is that degraded.
So, is this part of a strategy to bend the US Constitution to his will? There are worrying trends—aside from the current occupant’s Twitter Tantrums and off-the-cuff idiocy.

A couple days ago, the current occupant’s sycophantic lackey Attorney General told Congress he thought the FBI had “spied” on the Republican candidates campaign—echoing the current occupant’s own conspiracy theory that his frothing fans, including Fox “News”, parrot every chance they get, despite it being totally untrue, of course. A couple days later, the current occupant doubled-down on his conspiracy theory, using Barr’s own testimony as support for his loony assertions.

What all of this could lead to is explained by Dana Millbank in his Post column:
Because Trump knows the seriousness of the charge, he therefore must be interpreting treason the way King Henry VIII did, in the lèse-majesté sense: Treason is anything that offends the dignity of the sovereign. Disagreement with Trump is an offense against the state, just as Henry executed unfaithful wives for treason.

This means the following people have committed capital crimes: All journalists and late-night hosts. Anyone who leaks. All Democratic members of Congress and people who worked in Democratic administrations. Anyone who ran against Trump. Anyone who criticizes Trump on social media. Anyone who voted against Trump.

This means 65,853,514 Hillary Clinton voters will have to be imprisoned or executed. The U.S. criminal-justice system can’t handle much more than the 2.3 million people it already holds. This unfortunately argues for mass execution — unless exile is a possibility? Imagine the size of that caravan heading south toward Mexico. [link in the original]
Is this what will happen? Of course not. Well, that’s what we’re supposed to say, right? But given the contempt this regime has for the US Constitution and the rule of law, can we be sure of anything anymore? The fact is, warning about where this loose and dangerous rhetoric can lead is the only thing that can prevent it from actually doing so.

We see bad people

The current occupant has a long history of hiring people who show staunch loyalty to him. They may not be very smart, they may be corrupt, they may be incompetent, or any combination of those things, but as long as they publicly display their loyalty, they’re in. We saw that when a spokeswoman for his “re-election” campaign
declared that Congress had no right to see the current occupant’s tax returns: “Ironically, the only person whose tax returns they’ve asked for — the only president — is Trump. So it’s a sham reasoning.” She’s either lying to people who don’t know any better, or else she’s pitiably ignorant: Every modern US President except for the current occupant has released their tax returns. Every. Single. One. Mind you, she said that on Fox Republican Propaganda Channel, so it’s unlikely viewers or the performers would know she was lying or, at best, “deeply misinformed”.

Speaking of one of the current occupant’s contemptible appointees, it appears that, according to ABC News, “Herman Cain expected to withdraw from Fed Reserve Board of Governors consideration”. So, that’s a bit of good news among so much unrelenting bad news.

Mayor Pete’s wild ride

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend Indiana, has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, so much so that “Pete Buttigieg has gone from totally unknown to polling third in Iowa and New Hampshire”. Still, he’s pretty far behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and he’s not actually that far ahead of Elizabeth Warrant or Kamala Harris. But, it’s noteworthy when he still has little name recognition among Democrats.

The media has been talking about a “feud” because Mayor Pete said, “"Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” In fact, Mayor Pete has been criticising Pence for a long time.

The fury of the rightwing response was predictable. Mrs. Mike Pence declared that people “shouldn’t be attacked for what your religious beliefs are,” though he never “attacked” her husband’s religious beliefs—he himself is religious.

Her husband responded a few days later, whining that “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith,” because That Must Not Be Beyond Criticism, so he sayeth. Mike added, “he'd do well to reflect on the importance of respecting the freedom of religion of every American," ignoring that Mayor Pete IS religious—except he didn’t. He dismissively said, "all of us have our own religious convictions. Pete has his convictions, I have mine."

That last quote is the very heart of this: Mike has a brutally anti-LGBT+ record and while he can cry his fake tears about his religious beliefs being “attacked”, and he can lie that he doesn’t condone discrimination, his record proves that’s a flat out, deliberate lie. When he was Governor of Indiana, he backed and signed into law what was at the time the most vicious and brutally anti-LGBT+ law in any US state—so disgusting that the state faced a massive national boycott movement leading the legislature to soften the bill a little bit. When he was in Congress, he backed diverting federal tax money to be spent on “curing” gay people with “reparative therapy” psychological torture. He is a truly awful person, and it’s his record, not his religion, that makes him one. The mainstream media is letting Mr. Pence and his wife get away with lying that this about “religious freedom” when, in fact it’s that Mike is a bigot.

Mayor Pete pointed out the way that Mike could end this: ““If he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind, that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are.” That will never, ever, happen, of course.

Still, it’s not just the Rightwing that’s going after Mayor Pete: The Left—what one acquaintance recently called those who are “Leftier than thou”—are attacking him, too, often on highly dubious grounds. Such as: “Is Pete Buttigieg Just Another White Male Candidate, or Does His Gayness Count as Diversity?”, on Slate last month—or, it was called that until wiser heads prevailed and the headline was toned down to, “In a Diverse Candidate Field, How Is Pete Buttigieg’s Sexuality Factoring Into His Appeal?” The piece rightly decries “oppression Olympics”, in which people from historically marginalised minorities are judged by how oppressed they have been. But then the author—who describes herself as “a queer woman”—fully embraces the “oppression Olympics” to declare that Mayor Pete “ can be more accurately lumped in with his white male peers than with anyone else.”

Queerty summed up the appropriately negative reaction: “Writer questions if Pete Buttigieg is ‘gay enough’ to be the first gay president. Cue the outrage.”. My favourite was that of Five Thirty-eight’s Nate Silver, who said in a Tweet:
Just want to get this out of the way so I only have to say it once:

It's a big deal that an openly gay man is a serious contender for a major party's presidential nomination, and if you're liberal who wants to equivocate about that too much, you can pretty much fuck right off.
Exactly, Nate, exactly. I have absolutely no idea who I’ll vote for when the Illinois Democratic Primary rolls around next year—it’s way too far away!—but cheap shots and bullshit attacks on Democratic candidates by other Democrats is utterly unacceptable. We will have policy disagreements, we will have different priorities, we will disagree on who can best deliver on those things, and all of that is part of a robust selection process. But arguing that a candidate is unacceptable because he’s “not the right kind of gay” or isn’t as oppressed as he should have been is as repulsive as declaring a candidate “isn’t female enough” or “isn’t black enough” or—you get the idea. My advice to Democrats of all stripes: Stick to policies or shut up. And that’s the last time I intend to dignify this sort of thing with a mention.

There are FAR more important things to talk about.

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