Political Animal Blog

The Camera Never Denies

Good on Mark Phillips of CBS News for his series this past week on the impact that human-caused climate change is having on our world. After years of US broadcast and cable entities downplaying and dismissing the importance of this issue, it was quite impressive to see Phillips and CBS report on the climate crisis with the extensive focus this problem deserves.

Of course, CBS could have produced this series this time last year, prior to Donald the Denier’s ascension to the White House and the subsequent selection of climate-contemptuous Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. However, had CBS done so, the first-grade dropouts who insist that Trump was right when he labeled climate change nothing more than chicanery from the Chinese would have assailed CBS for alleged liberal bias, as right-wing media entities and the fossil-fuel industry long taught them to; presumably, they’re too embarrassed by the failure of the fool they elected to go after CBS and Phillips as aggressively as they otherwise would.

If US broadcast and cable media entities go back to their old ways in the wake of Phillips’s outstanding work, that should be taken as a sign that those entities are still, to a certain extent, intimidated by Trump. There’s no reason why the consequences of Trump’s energy policies shouldn’t receive prominent coverage on a consistent basis; the threat those energy policies will pose to future generations is, without question, the most significant story of our time.

Speaking of time, it’s hard to believe that next week marks the 10th anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth winning two Oscars for Best Documentary and Best Original Song. We’ve forgotten that the film made such an impact on American political culture that less than a year after its release, even Republicans such as then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford were writing the following:

[C]onservatives must respond to climate change with innovation, not regulation. This means encouraging private research and implementation of more eco-friendly construction, more energy-efficient workplaces and more sustainable ways of going about life — all of which cuts costs and protects God’s creation…

I am a conservative conservationist who worries that sea levels and government intervention may end up rising together. My earnest hope going forward is that we can find conservative solutions to the climate change problem — ecologically responsible solutions based on free-market principles that both improve our quality of life and safeguard our freedoms.

For if conservatives cannot reframe, reclaim and respond to climate change with our principles intact, government will undoubtedly provide a solution, no matter how taxing it may be.

Of course, right-wing hacks decided that the more effective strategy was just to scream “Hoax!” over and over until a critical mass of voters bought into the idea that real science was actually fake science. As my former radio colleague Betsy Rosenberg recently observed, on the very rare occasions when Fox-obsessed voters watch a documentary about the climate crisis, their minds do change. However, one can’t help wondering: If broadcast and cable media entities did a better job of documenting the threat humanity faces from the fossil fuel industry, would more Americans, regardless of their politics, change their minds about where they should place the climate crisis on their list of concerns when they head to the ballot box?

The Key to Resisting Trump: Democratic Unity

I’m confident that the winner of next week’s vote to become the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee will immediately agree to welcome whatever contribution the second-place finisher wishes to offer in terms of ideas and solutions for strengthening the party. It will be the only way to ensure that the party does not break down into the sort of internal conflict Donald Trump and his minions need in order to maintain their ill-gotten power.

Yes, it’s sad that this contest has been viewed as some sort of “progressive vs. establishment” conflict when the two front-runners for the seat, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, both have steel-strong progressive credentials. However, the energy and enthusiasm that both men’s supporters provide will be crucial to resisting Trump.

As the Baltimore Sun noted in its report on a DNC candidates’ forum in Maryland last weekend:

The candidates said the anti-Trump energy presents an opportunity for the next Democratic leader, assuming that that person can unite the party. Perez and Ellison — both considered liberal Democrats — hold widely different views on how to accomplish that.

Some view Perez as more of an insider, given his work at the Labor and Justice departments under Obama.

Perez, a Takoma Park resident and former Maryland state official, recently won the backing of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Ellison is supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who captured the support of young voters by running to the left of Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Frankly, it will take the efforts of both Democratic “insiders” and “outsiders” to defeat Trump; the challenge of stopping his savagery is too great for the party to be divided between those “insiders” and “outsiders.” To the extent that Democratic “centrists” are backing Perez, those “centrists” are just as horrified by the extremism emanating from the White House as the party’s progressive faction.

The winner of the DNC race will embrace his defeated opponent, and that opponent’s ideas, as a sign that he recognizes the need for Democrats to remain united against a common enemy. Trump will not know how to respond to a political force as organized, as determined and as focused as a unified Democratic Party. (He doesn’t seem to know how to respond to much, as we have learned over the past four weeks.)

As Ellison observed at the Maryland forum, unifying against Trump by definition means unifying against his far-right nominee to the United States Supreme Court:

Ellison said Democrats should filibuster [Neil] Gorsuch’s confirmation after Republicans refused to consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat.

“We have to oppose Gorsuch at every millimeter, and the reason why is Republicans stole a Democratic seat,” he said. “We cannot capitulate to that kind of bullying. They’re the ones who broke the rules.”

The next head of the DNC must oppose Gorsuch–and Trump–at every millimeter, throwing the proverbial sand in the gears of the President’s machine, tearing away at Trump and his contemptible Cabinet like a feral dog on a human limb. If so, the party will recapture lost ground and demonstrate to the rest of the world that determination can defeat derangement. Trump’s Electoral College victory represented America’s embarrassment. The resistance to his agenda–led by a unified Democratic Party–could represent America’s redemption.

NOTE: Ellison, Perez and the other candidates for the chairmanship of the DNC will debate this Wednesday at 10:00pm Eastern on CNN.

What Would You Say to an Embarrassed Trump Voter?

Oh, I can’t believe it
And people are strange
Our president’s crazy
Did you hear what he said?

–Talking Heads, “Making Flippy Floppy,” 1983

Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had! Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!

–Denzel Washington, “Malcolm X,” 1992

They’re embarrassed now.

They have to be.

If they’re capable of embarrassment, that is.

You know them. You know them. You went to high school or college with them. Perhaps they are lifelong friends. You could have dated them 20 years ago, and you still keep in touch with them today.

They voted for Donald Trump. They told you last fall. They did so because they just couldn’t bear to vote for Hillary Clinton. They told you that to vote for Clinton was to vote for political correctness, radical feminism, transgender bathrooms, abortion on demand, racial quotas, inner-city gangbangers on welfare, neutered law enforcement, illegal aliens from Mexico and Guatemala taking all the good jobs, liberal judges, Black Lives Matter, Lena Denham and those Hollywood elitists, secular humanism and every other bogeyman Rush Limbaugh and Fox News told them to fear.

Now, they know–some of them, anyway–that Trump is nothing more than raw sewage flooding the Oval Office. They know–some of them, anyway–that it was a sin to bring on board Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. They know–some of them, anyway–that Kellyanne Conway isn’t qualified to do anything besides star as Joan Crawford in a remake of Mommie Dearest, and that Sean Spicer–the miniature intellect with a name like an ‘80s male porn star–is so close in terms of behavior to the Melissa McCarthy parody that one can barely tell the difference.

Let’s say they call you or e-mail you today, telling you how embarrassed they are. What would you say to them?

Would you tell them to reconsider their hatred for the Democratic Party, and for progressive politics in general?

Would you tell them that voting for Trump wasn’t going to make people of color magically go away, that people with a different shade of skin have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as they do, that they believe in America just as much as they do?

Would you tell them that Democrats and progressives are not the demons they have been indoctrinated to regard them as? Would you tell them that there is nothing wrong with wanting the civil rights of everyone in this country to be protected, regardless of where they were born, what language they speak, what they look like or who they love? Would you tell them that there is nothing wrong with wanting a woman to make a dollar for every dollar a man earns? Would you tell them that equity in employment is not, and has never been, “reverse discrimination”?

Would you tell them that the agenda of Trump’s opponent would have led to a better quality of life for the average American? Would you tell them that Trump’s opponent would not have disarmed cops–or private citizens, for that matter? Would you tell them that Trump’s opponent would have been vigilant in the defense of this country from “radical Islam,” without wantonly violating human rights?

Would you tell them that the incompetence Trump has demonstrated shows weakness, not strength, to the rest of the world? Would you tell them that even folks who grudgingly respected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush see this man as dimwitted and dishonorable?

Would you tell them to consider, just for a moment, the idea that Democrats and progressives are not their enemies, and that their actual enemy may well be the man who posed as their friend? Would you tell them to consider the possibility that Donald Trump is the destroyer disguised as savior, that he will abandon them, their hopes, their dreams, to save his own skin?

Would you tell them that you’re not angry at them, but that you just want them to think things through before they cast their vote the next time around? Would you ask them to consider the national and international implications of their vote the next time around?

Or would you not be able to resist the urge to yell at them: “You damn fool!”

Quick Takes: Strange Bedfellows in the Trump Era

* Over the last few weeks it has been interesting to find myself agreeing with conservative pundits like Jennifer Rubin and Kathleen Parker. It happened again today with David Brooks.

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Trump’s White House staff is at war with itself. His poll ratings are falling at unprecedented speed. His policy agenda is stalled. F.B.I. investigations are just beginning. This does not feel like a sustainable operation.

On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

* I need to revise and extend my remarks from earlier today in order to add one more example of how Trump is fulfilling his need for constant admiration. Apparently Trump arranged a meeting and photo op with a few Congressional Republicans.

“He wants the real, unfiltered, what’s going on,” Collins said, “not necessarily watching CNN, MSNBC or even Fox. There were 11 of us from 11 different parts of the country able to share with him the responses we’re getting when we’re at the supermarket, when we’re at Home Depot.”

Yes, Trump wants real, unfiltered news about how a bunch of white (mostly male) Republicans love him.

* A recurring theme: when you embrace incompetence, you can simply make shit up.

As the White House staff tries to put together a budget for President Donald Trump, they face a fundamental problem. Trump has promised to cut taxes, increase spending on the military and infrastructure, and avoid cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The only way to do that without producing an exploding budget deficit is to assume a big increase in economic growth.

And Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal reports that Trump is planning to do just that — by making things up.

Deep into his story about Trump budget hijinks, Timiraos reveals that “what’s unusual about the administration’s forecasts isn’t just their relative optimism but also the process by which they were derived.” Specifically, what’s unusual about them is that they weren’t derived by any process at all. Instead of letting economists build a forecast, Trump’s budget was put together with “transition officials telling the CEA staff the growth targets that their budget would produce and asking them to backfill other estimates off those figures.”

* For the next story, all you need is a headline and a picture: “Christie says Trump made him order the meatloaf at meal together.”

* Those who assume that the competition for a new DNC chair is a battle royale between bitter enemies just got their bubble burst.

* Finally, here’s a GREAT video from the people who organized the Women’s March.