Political Animal

Quick Takes: “The Worm in the Turd”

* Erick Erickson has never had any love lost for Donald Trump. But take a look at this little tidbit he got from a “senior Republican Congressman.”

You could hear the frustration in his voice. “He [Trump] just can’t shut up…. And we go home and everybody blames us for what’s going on. I don’t think the people on TV understand that most people still hate us more than him, but he’s making it even harder. We may be the turd in the field, but he’s the worm in the turd.”

I’ll let you pause to ponder that expression for a minute.

Here’s the big thing though. With all the frustration the congressman says there are no grounds to impeach the President. The consensus, even among senior Democrats, is that impeachment cannot be done just because the President is an idiot or a sympathizer of white supremacists. There must be a crime and right now there is no sign. “I hate to say it, but some of us would really like Mueller to find something we can use,” he said. I asked if he was one of those and all he said was “maybe.”

And this is from a guy who publicly tries to defend the President.

On that last bit about Mueller, just sayin

* Corporate CEO’s, military brass, and some Republicans have all made statements condemning what Trump said during his press conference about the events in Charlottesville. Now some big names in the non-profit world are stepping up to the plate to join them.

The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen on Friday joined a growing exodus of organizations canceling plans to hold fundraising events at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, deepening the financial impact to President Trump’s private business amid furor over his comments on Charlottesville.

The major exits now mean seven of the club’s biggest event customers have abandoned it in a matter of hours, likely costing the Trump business hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue or more.

* Some people are making the ridiculous argument that the removal of confederate monuments erases history. Let’s get clear about something:

* Kelsey Snell says that Republicans are getting worried.

President Trump’s increasing alienation from fellow Republicans and the business community is further imperiling the party’s top priority for the remainder of the year: cutting taxes and simplifying the byzantine tax code.

* What Congressional Republicans seem to be forgetting is that before they get to cutting taxes, they have a bigger fish to fry. I believe that the folks at Goldman Sachs are being overly optimistic about it.

“Presidential approval continues to decline, and is the lowest for any first-term president in his first year in office,” economist Alec Phillips wrote in a note to clients Friday. “Low approval ratings raise legislative risks. In the near term, we believe there is a 50% chance of a brief government shutdown, as the president seeks to solidify support among his base by embracing more controversial positions.”

And let’s not even talk about the fact that they’re also going to have to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling. There’s no telling what the Republican brand is going to look like after all that is over—and how that will affect their plan for tax cuts.

* Finally, let’s close this insane week with a little beauty from Lizz Wright. She has managed to add some soul to an oldie-but-goodie that carries just the message we need right now.

The Corporate World Takes on White Nationalists and Culture Warriors

Members of yet another one of Trump’s business advisory groups have resigned following the president’s remarks about the events in Charlottesville last weekend.

Members of a Department of Commerce committee called the Digital Economy Board of Advisors have turned in their resignations after President Trump’s defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville…

Formed in 2016 under the Obama administration under Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the committee’s aim is to “provide recommendations on ways to advance economic growth and opportunity in the digital age.”

That adds up to four business advisory groups that have resigned en masse, along with a presidential arts and humanities panel. It is becoming increasingly clear that a major break is happening between this president and the corporate world because, as I wrote earlier, he crossed a line. While a sense of morality might be at play in these decisions, it is also the case that associating their brand with Trump’s toxicity is not something corporate leaders are willing to tolerate.

This move brings into focus a growing fissure within the Republican Party. Historically, corporate leaders have been one of the key members of the Republican coalition—along with military hawks and white evangelicals. But some of the cultural issues that define the attachment of evangelicals to the party are the very ones that are driving the corporate world away.

Until recently those tensions were more visible at the state level. For example, when Mike Pence was still the governor of Indiana, he experienced a powerful backlash from the corporate world after he signed a religious liberty law, which allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Similarly, the corporate world played a huge role in getting the North Carolina legislature to scale back their so-called “bathroom bill.”

Just this week, the Texas legislature ended its special session without passing a bill similar to the one that caused such a stir in North Carolina. You’d think that such a bill would be a slam-dunk in Texas. Here’s why it wasn’t:

More than 50 Houston business leaders, including heads of Texas’s top oil companies, signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday opposing controversial legislation that would restrict bathroom usage in government buildings and public schools based on the sex stated on birth certificates…

The business leaders join CEOs from 14 Dallas businesses, including AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Texas Instruments, who sent the governor a similar letter in July stating the legislation “would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs.”

Our current president is now getting the same kind of treatment from corporate CEOs over his racist remarks that Republican governors and state legislators have been getting over other so-called “cultural issues.” But that exacerbates a collision with what we’ve called “nostalgia voters,” or the “confederate insurgency” that has been ignited to defend against the very racial/sexual/religious changes that threaten their world view.

As we speak, that collision is resulting in Steve Bannon being ejected from the White House by the “grown ups” in Trump’s administration, who are concerned about how this is all unfolding. In other words, when it comes to the remaining power centers in the White House, the Generals and the Wall Streeters just got rid of the leader of the White Nationalists.

But apparently Bannon isn’t planning to go quietly. Rumors are that he is headed back to Breitbart.

Steve Bannon’s next moves will be all about the billionaire Mercer family. I’m told Bannon, who visited New York this week, met with Bob Mercer and together they will be a well-funded force on the outside…

A source familiar with Breitbart’s operations told me they would go “thermonuclear” against “globalists that Bannon and his friends believe are ruining the Trump administration, and by extension, America.

The Washington Post says that the decision to fire Bannon came from Chief of Staff John Kelly. Meanwhile, the president remains focused on the one thing that is important to him.

The president, meanwhile, had been upset about Bannon’s participation in a book by a Bloomberg News reporter Joshua Green, “Devil’s Bargain” — particularly the shared photo billing on the cover between Trump and his chief strategist.

Based on what we know about Trump, he longs for validation from corporate CEOs and military leaders. On the other hand, every fiber of his being resonates with the culture of grievance and resentment that fuels Bannon’s white nationalism. For someone with zero impulse control, even the CEOs and generals aren’t going to be able to keep a lid on that for very long.

The Line That Trump Crossed

As I pointed out yesterday, Steve Bannon’s game plan is to incite racism and then accuse liberals of being consumed with “identity politics” when they push back. He followed up his remarks about that to Robert Kuttner with an email to the Washington Post, in which he said this:

“This past election, the Democrats used every personal attack, including charges of racism, against President Trump. He then won a landslide victory on a straightforward platform of economic nationalism,” Bannon wrote. “As long as the Democrats fail to understand this, they will continue to lose. But leftist elites do not value history, so why would they learn from history?”

We’ll leave aside the lie that Trump won in a landslide and simply recognize that there was no “straightforward platform of economic nationalism” to his boss’s campaign. It was riddled with racism and ethnocentricity.

Obviously Bannon thinks that if the country is embroiled in racial conflict, Trump wins. As he told Joshua Green, “we polled the race stuff and it didn’t matter.” In other words, the fact that Trump’s campaign was riddled with racism didn’t matter to his voters. As a matter of fact, for many, it was the reason they voted for him.

But here’s what Bannon fails to recognize. During the press conference on Tuesday, the president walked back his condemnation of Nazis and white supremacists by reverting to his “both sides” argument and suggesting that there were a lot of “good people” in their ranks. In doing so, he crossed the line from socially acceptable racism to socially unacceptable racism, as this chart from Jonathan Odell demonstrates.

The state of race relations in this country right now is that white privilege blinds a lot of people to the racism embedded in the kinds of things that fall into the socially acceptable range of that graph. Combined with political polarization, conservatives often justify those things as not being racist or anti-semitic.

A great example was when, especially towards the end of the 2016 campaign, there were ads and Trump speeches where the rhetoric was all about the “global elites” that control the world’s finances. As many pointed out, that was a wink and a nod to anti-semites, but a lot of people heard it as a form of political populism. When Trump equivocated about people who march with swastika flags, shout Nazi slogans like “blood and soil,” and use Nazi symbols to advertise their gathering, he crossed a line into embracing socially unacceptable anti-semitism.

Similarly, Trump can talk about African-American communities being full of thugs, lie repeatedly about crime rates and encourage police officers to get rough, but when he aligned himself with former KKK grand wizard David Duke, he crossed a line.

It is Trump’s embrace of overt white supremacy that led military generals, corporate CEO’s and some Republican politicians to condemn his remarks. Even among those who have been willing to engage in covert racism to advance their agenda, that was a bridge too far.

Right now all of this has led to a conflict over the ubiquity of confederate statues in many places around the country—especially in southern states. That takes the conversation below the line again into an area where the racism involved has become covert due to the historical revisionism launched during Reconstruction. That is territory where Trump will be more successful in his attempts to inflame his base.

I don’t offer that as a way to suggest that anyone should back down from continuing that struggle, but simply as an awareness of the field on which it will play out. There is a reason why, after years of Trump’s racism, things exploded following the events in Charlottesville. He crossed a line. It is now up to us to expand the arena of what is socially unacceptable and prove to Steve Bannon that racism does matter.

Stop Giving Ivanka Trump a Pass

Donald Trump has been in the White House almost seven months now and a pattern has emerged. Following his press conference this week in which he supported those responsible for the mayhem in Charlottesville last weekend, the New York Times reported this:

Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, urged him to take a more moderate stance, according to two people familiar with the situation.

As Steph Kight documents in “Oops, dad did it again!” we’ve heard that story before. It is what we were told when Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate accord, when he tweeted about a transgender military ban, when he scuttled a meeting with the Mexican President that Kushner had arranged, and when he signed the Muslim travel ban. Somehow the press always gets notified anonymously that Ivanka and Jared fought the good fight…but were unsuccessful. That led James Fallows to propose this today:

I won’t pretend to be able to divine what goes on behind closed doors with the Trump family. But personally, Ivanka Trump has never made sense to me. I’ve always had the feeling that she is a packaged product, with the human being behind the packaging rarely—if ever—seen in public. In many ways that makes her the polar opposite of her father, who has no capacity for self-control. Ivanka, on the other hand, is so controlled that we never get a glimpse of any kind of authenticity. I don’t usually give much credence to gossipy reporting like this, but it rings very true.

…friends and acquaintances who knew Ivanka Trump before her move into politics said they are not surprised that she has remained publicly in lockstep with her father. “I know her well enough to know her relationship with her father, which is that she will never, ever, go against the grain,” said one former fashion-world friend who has socialized with Ivanka for years but has not spoken to her since she moved to Washington.

Another close friend of the family, who has known Ivanka Trump her entire life, said: “She wanted to be the apple of her father’s eye. There’s no question, she worked hard to be the perfect image her father wanted.”

Frankly, it makes my skin crawl to imagine working hard to be the perfect image Donald Trump wanted in a daughter. If Ivanka were 14-years-old and struggling with that effort, I’d have a ton of sympathy for her. But she’s a grown woman who is raising a family while occupying her own office in the White House. Apparently she is at least partially aware of the havoc her father is wrecking on this country because she “told allies that she wants to be held accountable solely on those issues she is actively working on.” In other words, “don’t come at me with that crazy shit dad is doing!”

Someone needs to be honest with Ivanka and tell her that’s not how this thing works. She can’t simultaneously distance herself from Trump’s lunacy and take credit when and if something positive happens. That’s the kind of thing a privileged white debutant expects, not a White House advisor. People in the latter category serve at the pleasure of the president and their job is to defend what he says/does or get the heck out of dodge.

I agree with Fallows. Ivanka (and Jared) shouldn’t get any more passes for pretending to be the reasonable ones behind the scenes. They either go on record with their own thoughts/opinions, or are assumed to be complicit with what their boss does.