Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
In the conservative media, a few brave souls are making wan attempts to spin away the fact that a MAGA-obsessed loser mainlining right-wing hate-media in a van down by the river sent over a dozen bombs to the most frequent targets of presidential derp. At Red State, someone drew the short straw and had to write that it was the media and Democrats that pushed Cesar Altieri Sayoc over the edge. There’s some harrumphing over at Breitbart about how unfair it is that the media are portraying all Trump supporters as serial bombers, or something. But for the most part, they’re unusually silent today.
For most of us, it’s easy to draw a direct line between Trump’s seemingly endless invective against his perceived enemies and those pipe bombs. In a piece titled “Of Course Donald Trump Inspired Cesar Sayoc’s Alleged Terrorism,” Rick Wilson, the entertainingly sharp-tongued #NeverTrump conservative, wrote that “introspection isn’t exactly one of this president’s strong suits, and the discovery that the MAGA Bomber was one of the millions of creatures he created, inspired, and motivated to wage war against those he describes as Enemies of the People will never trouble the placid waters of his stunningly shallow intellect.”
Obviously, Trump’s rhetoric led to Sayoc snapping, but not necessarily in the way people think. Research into political violence by Nathan Kalmoe, a professor of political communication at the University of Louisiana, found that most people who engage in it have a history of aggressive, anti-social behavior, which was certainly true of Sayoc.
In an interview last year, Kalmoe told me that, regardless of whether one falls on the right, the left or somewhere in between, there’s “an important distinction to make between people who have more conventional views, versus people who have much more extreme views.” He thinks that, regardless of a person's ideology, those who are at least within spitting distance of the mainstream “have a greater commitment to nonviolent approaches to politics and are socialized into nonviolent norms of how participation is supposed to work.”
In that sense, it’s not Trump constantly railing about his enemies that’s uniquely dangerous. It’s his consistent delegitimization of our political system. Before all the facts came out, it was easy to predict that Cesar Altieri Sayoc embraced at least elements of the QAnon madness that's become popular among Trump supporters and is a direct extension of Trump’s own Deep State nonsense. It’s Trump's persistent promotion of conspiracy theories about rampant voter fraud and the media making stuff up to damage him and Democrats welcoming Islamic terrorists into the country and a cabal of international jewry “globalists” trying to keep America down that can lead people like Sayoc to conclude that normal politics is a sucker’s game. What's the point of trying when shadowy, all-powerful forces are dead set on destroying this movement?
The editors of The National Review were right when they argued that “harsh, overheated rhetoric is endemic to our political system, and it should not be confused with incitement to violence.” Honestly, you’ll probably find some harsh, overheated rhetoric in this very column most weeks. What isn't endemic to our political system is a president relentlessly attacking that system--and the institutions that support it--nearly every day. That’s unique to Trump. And if you’re a bit unstable, and believe his claptrap, then you might just conclude that organizing and advocacy and voting are pointless, and maybe you just need to take matters into your own hands.
Keep in mind that wasn’t the first guy to lose his marbles over this stuff…
It's not like we didn't have a guy shoot up a pizza joint to save the children from Hillary's pedophile ring, and a… https://t.co/d6kFo8SYws— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@Joshua Holland 🔥) 1540570334.0
And the scary thing is that he may not be the last.
Speaking of Trump’s ubiquitous nonsense, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker reported for The Washington Post that across the federal government, agencies have repeatedly been sent “scrambling to reverse-engineer policies to meet Trump’s sudden public promises — or to search for evidence buttressing his conspiracy theories and falsehoods.”
The Pentagon leaped into action to both hold a military parade and launch a “Space Force” on the president’s whims. The Commerce Department moved to create a plan for auto tariffs after Trump angrily threatened to impose them. And just this week, Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House all rushed to try to back up Trump’s unsupported claim that “unknown Middle Easterners” were part of a migrant caravan in Central America — only to have the president admit late Tuesday that there was no proof at all.
“Virtually no one on the planet has the kind of power that a president of the United States has to scramble bureaucracies in the service of whim,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “Whatever Donald Trump wakes up and thinks about, or whatever comes to mind in the middle of a speech, actually has the reality in that it is actionable in some odd sense.”
What the story doesn’t contemplate is how much it costs taxpayers to soothe the Manbaby-in-Chief’s tantrums.
“The Senate is in recess and nobody is around,” wrote HuffpPo’s Jennifer Bendery this week, “which means Republicans think it’s the perfect time to hold confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s controversial nominees to lifetime courts seats.”
Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) held a couple of hearings this week with zero Democrats in attendance. Grassley didn’t even show up himself. Bendery puts this one in context: “Not only are Republicans breaking from precedent by holding hearings while the Senate is in recess before an election, but their brazenly partisan move only intensifies the already toxic environment on Capitol Hill that couldn’t get much worse after this month’s ugly Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight.”
Bros before… Lady Justice?
Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports for The Guardian that “Brett Kavanaugh, the new supreme court justice, counts the Trump administration’s solicitor general, who will be arguing cases before the high court on behalf of the president, as a close professional friend, according to emails that offer new insights into an all-male dinner club that Kavanaugh used to attend.
“Other attendees included a lawyer who is now a top strategic adviser to Rupert Murdoch; the author of the George W Bush-era ‘torture memos’ that were used to justify illegal interrogation techniques; and two lawyers who now frequently appear before the supreme court on behalf of corporate clients.”
They were almost certainly cheap tippers, and you just know they harassed their women servers.
We shouldn’t overlook one of the most remarkable up-is-down moments this week…
Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican.— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1540385110.0
He farted that tweet out on Wednesday. At HuffPo, Jonathan Cohn explained how the Trump regime launched a “new attack on [the] ACA’s pre-existing protections” on Monday.
Trump’s third consecutive acting DEA chief is having a rough week. Kaiser Health News, citing a paywalled report in The WSJ, reported that “Uttam Dhillon had urged several candidates for Drug Enforcement Administration chief to withdraw from consideration, citing concerns about their background checks. Then, he accepted the job himself. Mr. Dhillon’s rise to the top of the world’s largest drug-fighting agency—after being closely involved in the selection process—has riled police groups that had pushed the White House to choose a DEA administrator with a law-enforcement background.”
Meanwhile, Lenny Bernstein reported for WaPo that “the Food and Drug Administration is poised to approve a new form of a powerful opioid for use in hospitals and emergency rooms despite opposition from the head of the committee that reviewed the drug.”
It’s not like we have any issues with opioids in this country.
“Raeford Brown, a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the University of Kentucky who heads the FDA’s Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee, sent his views in a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other agency officials. He also made his opposition public, a rare step for an FDA advisory committee chairman.”
Gottlieb, the FDA boss, is a former fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where he wrote pieces decrying the Affordable Care Act and testified before Congress that regulation threatened to kill off pharmaceutical innovation. Before signing on with Trump, he was a partner specializing in the health care sector with a venture capital firm.
According to The Hill, “the Republican National Committee (RNC) has spent more than $1.5 million at President Trump’s properties during the 2018 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.”
Donald Trump had no choice but to blow $10,000 in charity money on a giant painting of himself — because no one else wanted it, his lawyers claimed in court Thursday.
Trump picked up the infamous painting — now at the center of a lawsuit brought by the state attorney general who alleges suspect spending by the charity — during a 2014 auction benefiting The Unicorn Foundation at his Mar-a-Lago country club in Florida.
“So Mr. Trump donates $10,000 to start the bidding, and then when the bidding goes on and no one else bids, they’re stuck with the painting,” his attorney Alan Futerfas told Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Saliann Scarpulla as he asked for the case to be dismissed.
This week, we’ll leave you with some good news out of Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is furiously trying to steal an election: “A federal court on Wednesday blocked Georgia from throwing out absentee ballots and applications because of signature mismatches, a decision heralded by voting rights proponents 13 days before midterm elections,” reported USA Today this week.