Much of this week was taken up by speculation whether President Donald Trump would give in and sign the compromise bill the GOP brokered with Democrats, and face the wrath of Fox News, or veto it and cause a second government shutdown. Trump now thinks he has a perfect plan to have his cake and eat it too: sign the bill, preventing another shutdown, but also declaring a national emergency and building the wall by executive fiat, pleasing his nativist base.
Unfortunately, his plan isn’t off to a great start. Lawsuits are already in the works, his own Justice Department admits the courts will put it on hold, and some of the people who hated the compromise, like Ann Coulter, have dismissed it as a “scam.” And Trump was not the only Republican politician to have a bumpy few days.
Here are five of the craziest right-wing moments this week:
- Drew Ferguson displays book in his office saying black people are better off as slaves.
Notwithstanding the ongoing popularity of the Confederate battle flag in certain circles, it is not common in the modern political era to see politicians display openly pro-slavery content. Enter Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA).
According to the American Federation of Government Employees, union members who visited Ferguson’s offices on Monday noticed he had a lobby display of the 1897 pro-Confederate book, “Gen. Robert Edward Lee: Soldier, Citizen, and Christian Patriot.” The book was open to a passage that read, “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, societally, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race.”
Ferguson claimed that the book had been installed by his staffers without his knowledge, and that when the union members pointed it out, they apologized and removed it. AFGE, however, disputes this version of events, claiming that a staffer “ignored the question and instead pointed [union members] to look at General George Washington’s hair that was also on display.”
- Trump’s former ICE chief says Democrats have made the drug cartels “fat with money.”
Few people have less moral authority on immigration than Thomas Homan, Trump’s former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under his management, ICE agents targeted churches, political activists, and even a battered woman testifying in court. He even gave a speech to an anti-immigrant hate group while in office. But that hasn’t stopped Fox News from putting him on air as an immigration analyst — and on Monday, “Fox & Friends” let him deliver a blatantly partisan screed in the guise of law enforcement expertise.
“These criminal organizations, the cartels, they’re getting fat with money and the Democrats are helping them,” said Homan. “They don’t need a PR campaign. They got the Democrats doing it for them. I mean, when you can’t detain somebody and you can’t, you know, hold somebody to see a judge, why not? I mean, there’s no consequence, no deterrence.”
If Homan wants to talk about making sure judges can process immigration cases, he might want to note that Democrats, under President Obama, created a highly successful family case management program for migrants, and ICE eliminated it on his watch.
- Dan Patrick says without a border fence, we’ll have corpses hanging from bridges and severed heads in pool halls.
But Homan’s rant might not even be the most over-the-top rhetoric about the border this week — that honor might go to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. At Trump’s El Paso rally on Tuesday, Patrick told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, in gruesome detail, how the city would be full of corpses and beheadings if not for a border barrier.
“If this fence were not here, that violence — of decapitating people, of hanging people from bridges, of cutting off their heads and rolling them in pool halls and down the streets — that violence would be here in El Paso,” said Patrick.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says that without a border fence, corpses would be hanging from bridges and decapitated heads would roll in pool halls pic.twitter.com/lw6ShnyfLz
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) February 12, 2019ADVERTISEMENT
While it is true that Ciudad Juárez, El Paso’s sister city across the border, is among the 50 most dangerous cities in the world, El Paso’s crime rate had been decreasing for years before a border fence was constructed, and if anything, crime went up slightly after it was completed. And studies have repeatedly shown that having more immigrants makes a city less dangerous, not more.
- Duncan Hunter complains that our troops aren’t allowed to commit war crimes.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who dogwhistled his way to reelection against a Mexican-Palestinian opponent last year despite being under federal indictment for fraud, told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that he is frustrated that our troops get charged with crimes when they kill people “the wrong way.”
“Mat Golsteyn is under suspicion of premeditated murder, Eddie Gallagher is in jail in San Diego, a Navy SEAL that is in trouble for killing bad guys the wrong way,” said Hunter, himself a Marine veteran. “They want us to kill guys compassionately, and only under the rules of engagement that they say to … There’s supposed to be a thing now, ‘compassionate combat,’ which doesn’t exist. Either you want us to kill the bad guys, or you don’t.”
Fox guest and Marine veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter complains that the U.S. military is allowed to kill “only under the rules of engagement.” pic.twitter.com/MpXwyJtVVv
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) February 13, 2019
Hunter is actually talking about cases in which U.S. troops are accused of going out of their way to kill people who weren’t an imminent danger to them. Maj. Mathew Golsteyn allegedly took a suspected Taliban bombmaker off his base, shot him, and dumped the body in a garbage pit with his fellow soldiers. And Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher allegedly stabbed and mutilated a detained teenager and targeted civilians with a sniper rifle. These are war crimes, and they not only violate human rights, they diminish American standing in the world and invite our enemies to use the same brutal tactics.
- Wyoming state senator says she supports the death penalty because that’s how Jesus died.
On Thursday, the Wyoming state Senate voted down a proposal to abolish the death penalty 18 to 12 — the sixth straight session in which the legislature rejected this proposal, although the margin was closer than usual as some Republicans decided capital punishment is too expensive. By far the most memorable argument in the debate, however, came from the other side, when GOP Sen. Lynn Hutchings argued Wyoming needs to keep the death penalty because that’s how Jesus died.
“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” said Hutchings. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”
Hutchings may be missing the point of the crucifixion story — the whole idea is that because Jesus suffered a barbaric punishment for all of humanity, everyone else can be saved from their sins. This is why several major Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, the American Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Orthodox Church in America, and the United Methodist Church, oppose capital punishment.
This fresh take on Watergate provides new insights into the Trump presidency
As evidence of illegal activity in the recent presidential election mounts, the attorney general appoints a special prosecutor. The president, after denouncing the news media for false reporting, calls a press conference to insist he has done nothing wrong. In court hearings, evidence of campaign dirty tricks and secret pay-offs emerges and a growing chorus of Congressional Democrats call for impeachment proceedings.
While these could be scenes from recent CNN coverage, they actually come from 1973-4, the last years of the Nixon presidency.
Washington journalist John Farrell’s book, Richard Nixon, a Life, provides a fascinating narrative that takes the reader inside the mind of a troubled president who is obsessed with taking down his perceived “enemies.”
What we don’t know about Mexico’s efforts to stop migrants
OK, it’s been only little more than 10 days since Donald Trump told us that Mexico had agreed to move aggressively to stop immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that aim to pass through Mexico for the U.S. border.
How is the plan going?
More importantly, how will the Trump administration and White House measure the change and adjudge it as adequate progress in 45 days. Without such a declaration, the president had warned, he might renew the threat of progressively increased tariffs on Mexican imports.
It’s a little hard to tell—in part because it is too soon, and in part because no one is really compiling the information on a weekly basis to show progress or lack of it. In addition, there are questions of what exactly to measure or what that measure should be. Unlike the announced solutions, the problems themselves are complicated. And the new Mexican National Guard is still being formed.
Here’s why ‘electability’ is a sucker’s bet in the 2020 primaries
Primary candidates fight hard to be seen as the person best positioned to beat an incumbent, but electability is only clear in hindsight. It isn’t quantifiable. Voters may work backwards, concluding that the candidate they personally prefer is also the most likely to win.
It’s a perception often grounded in lazy conventional wisdom. CBS reports that in key 2020 battleground states, “the belief that [Joe Biden]] could fare best against President Trump is currently propelling [him] in the early Democratic nomination race.” That belief is common despite the fact that the former Vice President is well known for being overly handsy and putting his foot in his mouth, has previously run two notably bad presidential campaigns and has been dogged by accusations of plagiarism dating back to law school.