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.
At the end of October, after weeks of caterwauling by Republicans about Democrats unfairly following procedural rules enacted by the GOP when they were in the majority and demanding that the majority formalize their impeachment process, Nancy Pelosi held a vote to do just that. Of course, no Republicans supported the resolution. That was par for the course, yet The Atlantic’s Russell Berman declared that the party-line vote was a “win” for Donald Trump. The resolution, he wrote, “should have been the easiest for Republicans to go along with.”
After three years of Republicans’ displaying a cultish fealty to Marshal Tweeto regardless of what he says or does or how much damage to the US his erratic governance results in, it seems that many political reporters have decided that the measure of success for the Dems’ efforts to impeach Trump is whether it wins over some of his unwinnable supporters. It’s hard to imagine setting the bar higher for Democrats.
And it requires digging a trench and setting the bar for Republicans deep below ground.
For the past two weeks, Democrats have called a half-dozen witnesses from within the Trump regime to corroborate what we already knew about Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme. Senior foreign service officers like Fiona Hill and William Taylor came across as knowledgeable, cool and above the partisan fray, while Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who have offered no substantive defense of Trump’s actions, brayed and whined and spewed silly conspiracy theories.
One poll released this week found 70 percent of respondents saying that what Trump had done is “wrong.” In another, a smaller majority concluded that he had “abused his powers as president.” According to FiveThirtyEight’s average, more Americans continue to favor impeachment than oppose it.
The regime also has a perfect losing record so far in the courts. Trump’s personal attorney is under criminal investigation for his role in the scandal. Three of his associates have been arrested and charged with a variety of crimes. By all accounts, Trump is not taking any of this well. And Republicans say privately that they’re worried about getting wiped out next year. It’s hard to conclude this was a good week for the Grand Old Party by any standard other than Democrats’ inability to win over the unwinnable.
But in The New Yorker, Susan Glaser argues that Trump’s “political hand is now even stronger as Republicans, presented with incontrovertible facts, have chosen not to accept them—and to become even more vociferous in Trump’s defense.” That’s consistent with the GOP’s response to everything else over past three years, so it’s hard to see how his hand has somehow become stronger. At Salon, Daley Gruen concludes that the right’s dishonest talking-points are “working” because New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt appears to have fallen for them. Rather than call out Schmidt’s credulity–which seems like a job requirement at The Times these days–Gruen raises the alarm that “crucial mediating voices appear to be buying” House Republicans’ bullshit. And at Buzzfeed, Ryan Broderick has a perfectly fine piece stating the obvious: the antics of Rep. Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and others may be laughable to everyone outside the Fox News bubble, but they play well on Tucker Carlson and in your angry uncle’s Facebook feed. Broderick’s says there are two different impeachments going on, “and Republicans are winning theirs.”
These pieces aren’t factually inaccurate. The problem is that conservatives have invested billions of dollars over a couple of decades to build an alternative information infrastructure that is supposed to be impenetrable to reality. It’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do, and it’s ludicrous to frame the resulting disconnect as a failure on the part of Democrats.
The other problem is that this kind of punditry filters down to the public and shapes their impressions of what’s happening. A CBS poll released this week found negative views of Democrats’ “handling of impeachment” as well as Trump’s. Those numbers might look different if the blame for Republicans’ consistent refusal to hold this president* accountable were laid at the feet of Republicans. Those articles above could have said that there are two different impeachments going on and Democrats are winning theirs, or that the GOP’s incessant whining about the process isn’t working beyond the base.
Trump and his apologists are having a terrible time managing this scandal and there’s no need to grade them on such a steep curve, but that’s what we’ve been seeing from the beginning.
And with that, let’s dig into this week’s under-the-radar outrages…
Last month, Mar-a-Lago cancelled an event that a far-right, anti-Islam hate group had been planning on holding at the resort after the story broke publicly. The right naturally freaked out, characterizing this small act of PR-driven decency as an example of conservatives being censored.
Now, a month later, Mar-a-Lago is happy to welcome a different far-right, anti-Islam hate group, according to the WaPo.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for fat-cat donors to be rewarded with ambassadorships to pleasant countries. It is, however, highly unusual–and blatantly corrupt–for Trump’s re-election campaign to hit up a nominee waiting to be confirmed for such a post for a half-million-dollar donation–and for that nominee to say he’ll fork over the money if the regime pushes him through.
That is what happened with billionaire Doug Manchester, who was vying for a get a cushy ambassadorship in the Bahamas when this went down, according to CBS.
Someone is being paid a handsome salary of $90,700 to put out those spreads of Big Macs and fries when victorious sportsball teams visit the White House…
Rudy Giuliani’s 31-year-old son has been working in the White House since March 2017.
A former senior White House official plainly called it “a nepotism job.”
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) November 18, 2019
When last we heard of Rudy’s failson, he was suing Duke for kicking him off of the golf team after multiple incidents of misconduct. Only the best people.
It is very difficult to feel sympathy for Amazon and yet, if the internet giant’s allegations are correct and it is being deprived government contracts as a form of punishment against Jeff Bezos for reporting in The Washington Post, then that would be some seriously troubling fascist banana-republic shit. At NYMag, Jonathan Chait explains why you don’t have to love Amazon to be outraged by this apparent abuse of power.
In “a stunning move” that “outraged” Trump, “the Navy announced it was considering kicking Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher out of the SEALs Wednesday even though President Donald Trump had recently reversed his demotion.” Gallagher was accused of “randomly shooting at unarmed civilians and boasting about it to [his] superiors,” killing an unarmed girl and an elderly man in Iraq and stabbing an unresponsive ISIS prisoner, a teenager, in the throat. According to NBC, the armed services have been struggling to impose discipline on their special forces teams after several years of shocking scandals, and Trump’s moves are undermining those efforts.
After Trump tried to jack up the price South Korea pays to maintain US forces on its northern border, and US officials walked out of negotiations over the issue with the South Korean government, Seoul signed a defense agreement with China this week. BJ Lee, an expert on the Korean Peninsula, writes in The Washington Post about why Trump’s attempts to bully a loyal ally is a betrayal.
And the regime quietly reversed 70 years of US policy be declaring that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is legal. That creates yet another split between the US and our Western allies. CNN has more details.
Sen. Joni Ernst was the latest Republican to block the long-anticipated Violence Against Women Act. Ernst has her own version, which differs from that pat in the House in that it doesn’t close what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole.” In a nutshell, federal law bars those who have been convicted on domestic violence charges from purchasing guns, but only if the abuser was married to or cohabitated or had kids with the victim. If you’re violent stalker was just someone you dated, he or she can continue to purchase firearms under Ernst’s NRA-approved bill.