February 23rd, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

The House Republican leaders are still in denial about the fundamental character of their party's leader, a con artist for whom lying and denying is a lifelong and thoroughly documented practice. -- David Cay Johnston

When I was five, I almost drowned after stepping into the deep end of a lake. I can still recall the terror, my small arms flailing toward the sunlight above the water, my legs kicking in all directions to find ground. A month into the Trump Presidency, that image haunts me as an apt metaphor for both the Trump Administration’s foreign policy and the gasping-for-breath fear among many old hands watching it play out. -- Robin Wright 2/17/17

“China’s decision to award President Trump with a new trademark allowing him to profit from the use of his name is a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling. If this isn’t a violation of the Emoluments Clause, I don’t know what is. The fact that this decision comes just days after a conversation between President Trump and President Xi Jinping where President Trump reaffirmed the U.S. policy of ‘One China’ is even more disturbing as it gives the obvious impression of a quid pro quo,” -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Trump at his conference: “To be honest, I inherited a mess.”
Stephen Colbert: “No. You inherited a fortune. We elected a mess.” ----The Late Show

Lügenpresse. This derisive term, which translates to “lying press,” was famously employed by the Third Reich in Nazi propaganda targeting Jews, communists, and the foreign press who dared report on Hitler’s mania and monstrous atrocities.

“This story is bigger than Mike Flynn. Who told Mike to go do this? I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.’”--Intelligence official

The most powerful person in the world is a pathological liar who has convinced a great swath of this nation that we, the press, are the crazy, pathological liars; that we are the enemies not just of the American people but we are enemies of the truth. -- Linda Stasi in the NY Daily News

Trump has set himself an agenda. He must rid America of the evil he describes and which is visible only to him and his followers. He must, in other words, rein in the news media, limit their scope and influence -- a task that will become more and more urgent as he fails in his presidency. The fault for that, after all, cannot be his. He will go from florid-faced fool to brooding menace. It is an old pattern. Only the scapegoat is new.” -- Richard Cohen in RCP 2/20, 2017

In the case of the immigration orders, there is the large and lurking idea that immigrants in general are dangerous, even murderous threats—stealing jobs, stealing lives, the explanation for all that is wrong—and that if that danger is not manifest today, it will be tomorrow. When Trump sets “priorities,” he does so like a bully, trying to find who is weakest and least protected. The question is whether the neighbors of the undocumented will stand up for them, or look away.” -- Amy Davidson: in The New Yorker

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Donald Trump’s streak of falsehoods now stands at 33 days
2. The DAILY GRILL
3. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
4. Trump Approval Slides to Another New Low
5. Popular Domestic Programs Face Budget Ax
6. ICE detains woman seeking domestic abuse protection at Texas courthouse
7. Andy Borowitz: Americans Overwhelmingly Say Lives Have Improved Since Kellyanne Conway Went Away
8. The Republican Congress cannot be trusted to investigate the Russia scandal
9. With Coverage in Peril and Obama Gone, Health Law’s Critics Go Quiet
10. Suddenly Free Trade Is Very Popular
11. Ryan Struggles to Sell Tax Reform to His Own Party
12. Mark Fiore cartoon QVC-ocracy
13. Trump’s Lavish Lifestyle Is a Drain on Taxpayers — and a Gift to Democrats
14. From the Late Shows

OPINION

1. George Packer: Holding Trump Accountable
2. Karen Tumulty When governing beckons, Trump keeps campaigning
3. E.J. Dionne Jr.: Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve
4. Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Thinks He’s Good at Being President
5. Christian Lorentzen: The Rhetoric of Evasion: What Trump’s White House Has Done to the Language of Lying
7. David Brooks: What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like
8. Joseph E. Stiglitz: Trump’s Most Chilling Economic Lie
9. Indira A.R. Lakshmanan: Is something rotten in the White House?
10. George Packer: Holding Trump Accountable
11. Graydon Carter: Trump’s White House: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight
12. Leonard Pitts Jr.: President Trump legitimizes ignorance
13. USA Editorial: Chaos crowns Trump's first month: Our view
14. Paul Waldman: Why President Trump's new immigration plan will backfire horribly

FYI

1. Donald Trump’s streak of falsehoods now stands at 33 days

Donald Trump has been president for all or part of 33 days. He has averaged four falsehoods or misleading statements a day(!) in that time. There hasn't been a single day of Trump's presidency in which he has said nothing false or misleading.

The data, which comes from a terrific new project from The Post's Fact Checker <https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims/?tid=a_inl> that seeks to document Trump's statements in the first 100 days of his presidency, is stunning.
On Trump's first day in office, he made seven (or more!) misleading claims. That was one of four days in which he has made seven-plus false or misleading claims; that's roughly 12 percent of all the days he has spent in the White House. In fact, there are more days (18) when Trump has made four or more misleading/false claims than days (15) when he has made one or two. -- Chris Cillizza 2/21/17 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/21/donald-trumps-unbroken-streak-of-falsehoods-now-stands-at-33-days/?utm_term=.e4c0d0d8099f

 

1. The DAILY GRILL

"You look at what's happening. We've got to keep our country safe. ... You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they're having problems like they never thought possible."-- Trump speaking at a political rally in Florida.

VERSUS

"Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound." -- Former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt @carlbildt

Last year there were app 50% more murders only in Orlando/Orange in Florida, where Trump spoke the other day, than in all of Sweden. Bad. -- Carl Bildt @carlbildt

Literally the biggest incident of Sweden last night was a horse called Biscuit being rescued from a well. -- Grapey @Grapeykins

"What happened in Sweden Friday night? Did they catch the Bowling Green Massacre perpetrators?" -- Chelsea Clinton @ChelseaClinton

 

When Donald Trump gave a speech last Friday at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, South Carolina – unveiling Boeing’s new 787 “Dreamliner” – he congratulated Boeing for building the plane “right here” in South Carolina. -- Robert Reich

VERSUS

"Start with Boeing’s Dreamliner itself. It’s not “made in the U.S.A..” It’s assembled in the United States. But most of it parts come from overseas. Those foreign parts total almost a third of the cost of the entire plane." -- Robert Reich

 

“We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble.” — Donald Trump, commenting on the stock market during a presidential debate.

VERSUS

“Stock market hits new high with longest winning streak in decades. Great level of confidence and optimism – even before tax plan rollout!” — Trump on Twitter 2/16/17

FROM TRUMP'S 2/16 PRESS CONFERENCE:

"We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes," Trump said. "I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan." -- Donald Trump

VERSUS

This is incorrect. Trump received a smaller share of the Electoral College votes (56.88 percent)  than former presidents George H. W. Bush (79.18 percent), Bill Clinton (68.77 percent in 1992, and 70.45 percent in 1996) and Barack Obama (67.84 percent in 2008 and 61.71 percent in 2012). -- Politifact

 

"The 9th Circuit "has been overturned at a record number. I have heard 80 percent. I find that hard to believe, that is just a number I heard, that they are overturned 80 percent of the time." -- Donald Trump

VERSUS

The Supreme Court generally reverses more cases than it affirms, 70 percent on average, because the cases that it chooses to take on are often disputed among the lower courts, complex and problematic. -- Politifact

 

We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things. -- Trump

VERSUS

The reference is to Russia’s nuclear power agency buying a controlling interest in a Toronto-based company. That company has mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity (not produced uranium). Clinton was secretary of state at the time, but she didn’t have the power to approve or reject the deal. The State Department was only one of nine federal agencies that signed off on the deal, and only Obama had the power to veto it. -- Politifact

 

"You (the media) have a lower approval rate than Congress, I think that's right, I don't know." -- Donald Trump

VERSUS

Trump had a point that the media has a trust issue, but he was incorrect to rank them lower than Congress. This claim is Mostly False. -- Politifact

 

"The press should be ashamed of themselves" for running stories based on leaks. -- Donald Trump

VERSUS

So Trump was praised the release of private information during the campaign but criticized it after he became president. On our Flip-O-Meter, we rated Trump’s change in position about leaks a Full Flop. -- Politifact

 

"I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago." -- Donald Trump

VERSUS

Just a couple years ago, Trump touted his close relationship with Putin. "I do have a relationship (with him), and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today," he said in a 2013 MSNBC interview, for example. We rated this reversal a Full Flop. -- Politifact

2. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Fox Host Gushes: Trump "Is The Fox News President. Everything That He Says, We've Said" http://mediamatters.org/video/2017/02/16/fox-host-gushes-trump-fox-news-president-everything-he-says-weve-said/215380

CNN's Jeffrey Lord Defends Trump Lie By Bashing CNN. Alex Jones: “Trump Is Already In The Top Three Presidents Of All Time” http://mediamatters.org/video/2017/02/16/alex-jones-trump-already-top-three-presidents-all-time/215372

President Trump Rambles Through His Proto-Fascist And Scripted Attack On Press http://mediamatters.org/video/2017/02/16/president-trump-rambles-through-his-proto-fascist-and-scripted-attack-press/215371

Anti-Semites Praise Trump For Berating Jewish Reporter And Refusing To Condemn Anti-Semitism In Press Conference http://mediamatters.org/blog/2017/02/17/anti-semites-praise-trump-berating-jewish-reporter-and-refusing-condemn-anti-semitism-press/215389

Rush Limbaugh On Fox News Sunday: Obama Got His Agenda Passed In His First Year Because He Is Black http://mediamatters.org/video/2017/02/19/rush-limbaugh-fox-news-sunday-obama-got-his-agenda-passed-his-first-year-because-he-black/215396

4. Trump Approval Slides to Another New Low

The Gallup daily tracking poll now shows President Trump’s approval rate at 38% to 56%.

According to Gallup, Trump’s approval rate is now 21 percentage points below the historical average rating for elected presidents in mid-February. http://www.gallup.com/poll/201617/gallup-daily-trump-job-approval.aspx

5. Popular Domestic Programs Face Budget Ax

“The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/us/politics/trump-program-eliminations-white-house-budget-office.html

6. ICE detains woman seeking domestic abuse protection at Texas courthouse

A hearing in El Paso County in Texas went from ordinary to “unprecedented” last week when half a dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her.

The woman, a citizen of Mexico who was living in El Paso had been driven to the courthouse by a victim’s advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse where she had been living.

She left under arrest. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/16/this-is-really-unprecedented-ice-detains-woman-seeking-domestic-abuse-protection-at-texas-courthouse/

7. Andy Borowitz: Americans Overwhelmingly Say Lives Have Improved Since Kellyanne Conway Went Away

According to a new poll, Americans have been sleeping more, eating better, and enjoying a markedly greater sense of well-being following Conway’s sudden departure.

Conway’s disappearance, however, has not been an unalloyed boon, because in some patients it has stirred “severe anxiety” that she might someday return “without warning,” Dr. Logsdon said.

“For patients who are worried about Kellyanne Conway coming back, I prescribe mindfulness,” Logsdon said. “Regard every day without Kellyanne Conway as a gift. Savor it. Cherish it.” Read more at http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

8. The Republican Congress cannot be trusted to investigate the Russia scandal

“You can talk all you want about Russia,” said President Trump at his press conference Thursday, “which was all a fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and the press plays right into it.”

In other words: nothing to see here, no investigation necessary. A few minutes later, he made the point again: “Russia is fake news.”

But do Republicans in Congress agree? After insisting for months that there was really nothing to see in the web of connections between Trump and the government of Russia, they have come around and are finally demanding an investigation.

Unfortunately, they’re not going to investigate the scandal itself, they’re going to investigate how the scandal came to light, I suppose because, as the president says, that’s the real scandal. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/02/16/the-republican-congress-cannot-be-trusted-to-investigate-the-russia-scandal/

9. With Coverage in Peril and Obama Gone, Health Law’s Critics Go Quiet

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

Polling indicates that more Republicans want to make fixes to the law rather than do away with it. President Trump, who remains popular on the right, has mused about a replacement plan that is even more expansive than the original. The conservative news media are focused more on Mr. Trump’s near-daily skirmishes with Democrats and reporters, among others, than on policy issues like health care. And the congressional debate, as well as the paid advertisements on both sides, is centered on the substance of the law rather than its namesake, draining some of its toxicity on the right.

With Mr. Trump and Republican lawmakers facing less pressure from the right than the left, conservative groups worry that the party will not ultimately have the stomach to repeal the law, which Republicans have been running against since 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/affordable-care-act-critics.html

10. Suddenly Free Trade Is Very Popular

A new Gallup poll finds a record-high 72% of Americans see foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth.

This is up sharply from 58% last year, after much debate about trade during the presidential election cycle. http://www.gallup.com/poll/204044/record-high-foreign-trade-opportunity.aspx?g_source=WWWV7HP&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles

11. Ryan Struggles to Sell Tax Reform to His Own Party

“Paul Ryan showed up to Senate Republicans’ weekly lunch on Tuesday hoping to salvage a controversial pillar of his tax reform plan that would change how imports and exports are taxed. The next day, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) took to the Senate floor to slam Ryan’s so-called “border adjustment tax,” saying “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”

The sequence was an ominous sign for a linchpin of Ryan’s tax plan — and perhaps for the prospects of tax reform happening at all. The border adjustment tax would generate more than a trillion dollars over a decade; there’s no obvious way to replace that money, which is needed to help pay for a steep cut in corporate and income taxes.” 2/17/17 http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/paul-ryan-tax-reform-republicans-235117213. Mark Fiore cartoon: QVC-ocracy

12. Mark Fiore cartoon: QVC-ocracy

https://vimeo.com/204300557

13. Trump’s Lavish Lifestyle Is a Drain on Taxpayers — and a Gift to Democrats

Among Trump voters’ most misguided — but, also, most understandable — rationales was that a billionaire would have little temptation to put his own interests above those of the American people. For many Trump backers, the second most beautiful phrase in the English language (after “Lock her up”) was “He can’t be bought.”

The idea that the wealthy are uniquely unsusceptible to bilking taxpayers is one as intuitive as it is baseless. And Trump took full advantage of this flawed folk wisdom: Throughout his campaign, the mogul reiterated the myth that his bid was self-financed — and, thus, that special interests would have no sway over his White House.

But while billionaires can afford to turn down a government paycheck, they can also afford to develop a lifestyle that involves flying from one luxury property to another on a whim. And for billionaire presidents, that habit is even more affordable — because American taxpayers foot the bill.

Thus, in his first month in office, Trump has cost taxpayers over $15 million. Per the Washington Post: By Eric Levitz
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trumps-lavish-lifestyle-is-a-perfect-issue-for-democrats.html

14. From the Late Shows

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Donald Trump Wows At First Solo Stress Conference: https://youtu.be/G8BXFfZCWEA

The Daily Show: President Trump's Bats**t Press Conference: https://youtu.be/CSx-N9ayCvU

Late Night with Seth Meyers : Trump Administration in Turmoil Amid New Russia Allegations: A Closer Look: https://youtu.be/lUa_xD2jugc

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: The Great Unchecked Legislative F*ckfest of 2017: https://youtu.be/EI9A9RIt4zU

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: Paul Ryan: Portrait in Courage: https://youtu.be/oAEJsE-TUvQ

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Trump vs. Truth: https://youtu.be/xecEV4dSAXE

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sweden and Undercovered Stories: https://youtu.be/QS3tGIy9jqU

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Trump Attacks the Press, Gets Mocked by Sweden: A Closer Look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5iBZ-8wkdQ

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Never Fjorget What Happened In Sweden: https://youtu.be/QbN4QGhrkxg

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Joe Scarborough Says The GOP Will Be Judged For The Next Fifty Years: https://youtu.be/fcCj191tKOg

OPINION

1. George Packer: Holding Trump Accountable

After a month in office, Donald Trump has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. The disability isn’t laziness or inattention. It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself. Last week, at a White House press conference, the President behaved like the unhinged leader of an unstable and barely democratic republic. He rambled for nearly an hour and a half, on script and off; he flung insults at reporters; he announced that he was having fun; and he congratulated himself so many times and in such preposterous terms (“this Administration is running like a fine-tuned machine”) that the White House press corps could only stare in amazement. The gaudy gold drapery of the East Room contributed to the impression that at any moment Trump might declare himself President for Life, and a flunky would appear from behind the curtain to pin the Medal of National Greatness on his suit jacket, while, backstage, officials and generals discussed his overthrow. Trump experienced such a deep need to get back on top by lashing out that he apparently overrode the objections of his advisers, felt much better afterward, then prepared to go to Florida to sustain his high at the first rally of his reëlection campaign.

An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/holding-trump-accountable

2. Karen Tumulty When governing beckons, Trump keeps campaigning

As he seeks to steer his young administration through what is shaping up to be a test of his capacity to govern, he seems unable to put 2016 behind him.

Urgency is mounting about Russia’s brazenness in breaching U.S. security, and new questions are being raised about Trump aides’ dealings with Moscow during the campaign and transition.

But to the president, it’s still all about the election.

With mixed signals coming from the administration, there has been scant progress on key parts of the Republicans’ agenda — most notably, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act that Trump promised would be underway in the early weeks of his presidency.

And Trump’s most dramatic initiative to date, his order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries as well as refugees from entering the United States, was clumsily executed and has been blocked at least temporarily by the court system.

Yet the president’s touchstones, his points of reference for nearly every question of substance, are the triumphs and lingering grievances of his campaign.

“This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to coverup the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign,” he tweeted Wednesday morning.. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/when-governing-beckons-trump-keeps-campaigning/2017/02/16/376deb8e-f3b4-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html

3. E.J. Dionne Jr.: Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve

In this dark moment, we can celebrate the vitality of the institutions of a free society that are pushing back against a president offering the country a remarkable combination of authoritarian inclinations and ineptitude. The courts, civil servants, citizens — collectively and individually — and, yes, an unfettered media have all checked Trump and forced inconvenient facts into the sunlight.

It will be said that Trump was elected and thus deserves some benefit of the doubt. Isn’t it rash to declare him unfit after so little time?

The answer is no, because the Trump we are seeing now is fully consistent with the vindictive, self-involved and scattered man we saw during the 17 months of his campaign. In one of the primary debates, Jeb Bush said of Trump: “He’s a chaos candidate and he’d be a chaos president.” Rarely has a politician been so prophetic.

And this is why nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump than for him. His obligation was to earn the trust of the 60 percent of Americans who told exit pollsters on Election Day that they viewed him unfavorably. Instead, he has ratified their fears, and then some.

As a country, we now need to face the truth, however awkward and difficult it might be. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/admit-it-trump-is-unfit-to-serve/2017/02/15/467d0bbe-f3be-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html

4. Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Thinks He’s Good at Being President

Donald Trump’s disorienting, surreal press conference contained one moment of pristine clarity, when the president predicted, “Tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’” This prediction, while quite correct, raises the question of why Trump thought it was a good idea to hold a media event whose principal effect would be to produce headlines depicting him as rambling and unhinged. Reports from the administration have supplied the answer, which is quite simple: His boasts spring from a place of utter, self-delusional conviction.

Trump, as many have noted, is the world’s highest-profile case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the phenomenon by which incompetent people are unable to gauge their own competence. Of course, Trump is not bereft of talent. He mastered the technique of using the media to raise his profile, flooding the news with arresting quotes and tidbits and scandal, turning the ordinary heir to a real-estate portfolio into America’s most famous rich person — a branding triumph that he leveraged into a lucrative licensing operation, some outright swindles, and, most crucially, a television show in which he played a brilliant executive.

All the evidence suggests Trump truly believes he is the character he plays on television. And now that he is surrounded by courtiers and the trappings of power, and constantly flattered by powerful people who are secretly terrified of his incompetence, he is convinced of it more deeply than he ever has been before. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/donald-trump-thinks-hes-good-at-being-president.html

5. Christian Lorentzen: The Rhetoric of Evasion: What Trump’s White House Has Done to the Language of Lying

It would be exciting to be able to trace a lineage for the language of the Trump administration from the modernists through deconstruction’s destabilizing of the text, but the truth is, Conway & Co. engage so much in the simple act of lying that there are simpler models at hand, like Jonathan Swift’s “The Art of Political Lying” or Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man. As the administration grinds into its second month, Trump’s flacks have made increasing use of a variation of Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to”: “I can’t speak to that.” Or, as I like to translate it, “I haven’t prepared any lies to respond to that question.” The irony of Flynn’s termination is that he was fired for lying while working in a house full of liars. Among Swift’s requirements of a good political liar are that “he ought to have but a short memory,” that he be ready and willing to swear to “both sides of a contradiction,” and that he never consider “whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it.” The listener, faced with such a liar, is best served by abandoning any effort at verification or interpretation or sorting the true from the false: “[T]he only remedy is to suppose that you have heard some inarticulate sounds, without any meaning at all.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t work on Twitter.

Of course, some statements are plainly untrue without quite being lies. For these we have Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s 2005 treatise On Bullshit and its great forebear, Max Black’s “The Prevalence of Humbug.” This is how Black defined humbug: “deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.” The administration set an early standard for humbug with Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference in the midst of the Woman’s March, on January 21. “This is what makes our country so beautiful is that on one day you can inaugurate a president, on the next day people can occupy the same space to protest something,” Spicer said. “But [the president] is also cognizant to the fact that a lot of these people were there to protest an issue of concern to them and not against anything.” This is pure bullshit, in that by virtue of the fungibility of “a lot” it falls short of being a lie because it’s nonfalsifiable. It’s simply in pure violation of common sense. Of course all the protesters were against something: the president. Perhaps there were “a lot” of other people there, too, T-shirt hawkers, Christian preachers who turn up wherever there’s a crowd, or Nazis waiting to get punched — I mean, white nationalists waiting to get punched. (What’s the difference again?) Spicer’s pretentious initial patriotic avowal and the twisted syntax of “cognizant to the fact” are tells that he probably doesn’t believe what he’s saying: He hates the protesters and he knows there were hundreds of thousands of them and that he was at that instant becoming a national laughingstock. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/how-kellyanne-conway-and-sean-spicer-get-away-with-lying.html

6. Eugene Robinson: Trump's 'Fine-Tuned Machine' Is Going Haywire

President Trump is flailing like a man who fears he's about to go under, and he hasn't even been in office a full month. His instinct is to flee to the warmth and comfort of his political base -- but he will learn that while presidents can run, they can't hide.

Trump's administration faces two acute, interlocking crises: serious questions about his campaign's contacts with official and unofficial representatives of the Russian government, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe made concerted efforts to help Trump win the election; and appalling levels of dysfunction in the White House that make self-inflicted wounds the rule rather than the exception.

The president's response has been to rant on Twitter and schedule a campaign-style rally Saturday in Florida -- all of which may boost Trump's morale but will do nothing to make his problems go away.

It is unclear whether Trump is trying to fool the nation or fool himself. Witness one of the angry tweets he sent out Thursday morning: "The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story -- RUSSIA. Fake news!"

Trump claimed Thursday that his administration is running like "a fine-tuned machine." A test-crash simulator, perhaps?
I guess things could be worse. Don't ask me how. 2/17/17 http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/02/17/trumps_fine-tuned_machine_is_going_haywire_133114.html


7. David Brooks: What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

The first conclusion is obvious. This administration is more like a medieval monarchy than a modern nation-state. It’s more “The Madness of King George” than “The Missiles of October.” The key currency is not power, it’s flattery.
The corollary is that Trump is ripe to be played. Give the boy a lollipop and he won’t notice if you steal his lunch. The Japanese gave Trump a new jobs announcement he could take to the Midwest, and in return they got presidential attention and coddling that other governments would have died for.
If you want to roll the Trump administration, you’ve got to get in line. The Israelis got a possible one-state solution. The Chinese got Trump to flip-flop on the “One China” policy. The Europeans got him to do a 180 on undoing the Iran nuclear deal.

Vladimir Putin was born for a moment such as this. He is always pushing the envelope. After gifting Team Trump with a little campaign help, the Russian state media has suddenly turned on Trump and Russian planes are buzzing U.S. ships. The bear is going to grab what it can.
We’re about to enter a moment in which U.S. economic and military might is strong but U.S. political might is weak. Imagine the Roman Empire governed by Monaco.

That’s scary. The only saving thought is this: The human imagination is vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to encompass the infinitely multitudinous ways Donald Trump can find to get himself disgraced. 2/17/17 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/opinion/what-a-failed-trump-administration-looks-like.html

8. Joseph E. Stiglitz: Trump’s Most Chilling Economic Lie

Donald Trump has threatened to upend the post-World War II geopolitical order. What he finds most vexing about that order is the rise of China. Today, China is the largest trading economy in the world. In terms of purchasing-power parity, it actually became the largest economy in the world in September 2015. Like it or not, there is simply nothing that Trump can do to change these facts. What he can do is make America’s economic position worse—possibly far worse.

President Trump sees the world in transactional and zero-sum terms—if something is good for China, it must be bad for the U.S. By contrast, economists see the world in much more nuanced ways: if globalization is well-managed, it can be a positive-sum game, where both the U.S. and China gain; if it is badly managed, it can be negative-sum. So, too, for a retreat from globalization: the erection of barriers to trade and the movement of people and ideas more likely than not will be one in which the U.S. almost surely will lose. And depending on how China manages things, it is possible, even likely, for China to gain.

Behind Trump’s promise to “make America great again” lie many fallacies. The most important fallacy is that America’s place in the world can be restored to the one it occupied after World War II, when Europe was still recovering from vast devastation and most developing countries were still European colonies. It can’t be. Indeed, the U.S. will not even be able to maintain the place it held in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iron Curtain, in 1990. We inhabit a multi-polar world, and there is nothing that Trump can do about it. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/donald-trump-china-economics-trade

9. Indira A.R. Lakshmanan: Is something rotten in the White House?

WHEN DONALD TRUMP promised to drain the swamp, we didn’t realize it would start with his inner circle. Trump confidante Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is out after being exposed for being less than truthful with the vice president and the FBI about dodgy discussions he had with the Russian ambassador the day President Obama sanctioned Moscow for interfering in the election. Flynn’s 24-day tenure as national security adviser was the shortest in history — half the average life span of a female mosquito. But don’t assume the swamp is drained.

There are new reports of repeated contacts during the campaign between Russian intelligence agents and Trump aides. We don’t know where this story ends, but we do know the central question: Is something rotten in the White House?

We also know, given the pattern of deceptions from the White House, what the next step should be, irrespective of partisan loyalties and agendas: Congress must take up its constitutional duty and investigate any interests or actions that might undermine our democracy.

Orwellian is a charitable word for Trump’s effort to ignore, bury, deny, and finally divert attention from Gen. Flynn’s actions by claiming the “real story” is “leaks.” Trump tweeted angrily Wednesday that The New York Times and Washington Post got information “illegally.” Keep in mind the public, and as far as we know, the vice president, learned about Flynn’s calls from those newspapers, not the president. This is where Congress comes in.

We don’t know yet where this story ends, but it’s the duty of Congress to find out how high the swamp rises. Do your job. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/02/15/something-rotten-white-house/cQe5866sEqGmR55RzOGzPI/story.html

10. George Packer: Holding Trump Accountable

After a month in office, Donald Trump has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. The disability isn’t laziness or inattention. It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself. Last week, at a White House press conference, the President behaved like the unhinged leader of an unstable and barely democratic republic. He rambled for nearly an hour and a half, on script and off; he flung insults at reporters; he announced that he was having fun; and he congratulated himself so many times and in such preposterous terms (“this Administration is running like a fine-tuned machine”) that the White House press corps could only stare in amazement. The gaudy gold drapery of the East Room contributed to the impression that at any moment Trump might declare himself President for Life, and a flunky would appear from behind the curtain to pin the Medal of National Greatness on his suit jacket, while, backstage, officials and generals discussed his overthrow. Trump experienced such a deep need to get back on top by lashing out that he apparently overrode the objections of his advisers, felt much better afterward, then prepared to go to Florida to sustain his high at the first rally of his reëlection campaign.

An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/holding-trump-accountable

11. Graydon Carter: Trump’s White House: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Trump fatigue has set in, and set in hard. Even the Republicans, who have ridden this stalking horse into office, holding their noses in the hope that they can manipulate him into furthering their agenda, are now mulling their options. Perhaps we’re all wrong, though. Perhaps the president is playing a game of chess and the rest of us are simply moving checker pieces around. Perhaps he intended his Muslim ban to create such havoc and misfortune that we would be looking the other way as he went about the business of dismantling the assets of proper governance. Perhaps he has just taken the crazy-driver approach to new extremes: when there is an erratic, swerving driver up ahead on the highway, you tend to pull back and give him the road. At a certain point, though, you wait for your moment and pass him, relaxing only when you can see him in your rearview mirror. Or perhaps he’s just trying to figure out which chess piece is which, and he really is a crazy driver.

The America I see is not the grim dystopia that our new president described during his campaign and in his inaugural speech. It’s not perfect. Democracies seldom are. But with this man’s agenda now under way, it may well become the barren plain he has imagined. Since the inauguration, it seems that the world has suddenly become a room filled with gas. And in our leader we have an ignorant strongman about to light a $20 cigar with a match. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/graydon-carter-on-trumps-white-house

12. Leonard Pitts Jr.: President Trump legitimizes ignorance

“I love the poorly educated!” — Donald Trump

“Think! It ain’t illegal yet.” — Funkadelic

It’s time we talked about the most consequential political divide in this country.

That divide is not between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it is between the ignorant and the informed, between those who have information and can extrapolate from it and those who do not and cannot. There is an education gap between left and right, and it poses a grave threat to our national future.

Now ignorance has reached the highest levels of American governance. Did The Great Trumpkin really sign an executive order without knowing what was in it? Did he really reportedly have to ask what Vladimir Putin was talking about when the Russian president brought up an arms-control treaty in a phone call? Is his Twitter feed really a blizzard of embarrassing misspellings? Was there really a misspelling in his official inauguration poster? Did his Education Department — repeat: his Education Department — really misspell “W.E.B. Du Bois” and then, misspell its apology? Did he really praise Frederick Douglass, stone cold dead since 1895, as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more?”

Sigh. Yes, all of it.

As he has already legitimized coarseness, misogyny and bigotry, the so-called president now legitimizes ignorance. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/17/pitts-president-trump-legitimizes-ignorance/

13. USA Editorial: Chaos crowns Trump's first month: Our view

Has it only been one month? With all that has transpired since Jan. 20, when President Trump took office, it seems like far longer.

In this short span, the new president has stumbled from one self-inflicted mess to another. The slapdash travel ban he instituted one week into his presidency has been exposed as both arbitrary and harmful to America’s national security interests. And the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, amid reports of numerous contacts between Trump aides and Russian intelligence agents, has reignited concerns about the sanctity of last year’s election.

Other troubling developments include: a Cabinet nominee who withdrew before the Republican-controlled Senate could reject him; strained relations with Australia and Mexico, two reliable allies; a flawed military raid in Yemen; a torrent of leaks driven by high-level infighting; blatant conflicts of interest involving the first family; and a top general openly talking of the “unbelievable turmoil” in government.

In the midst of all this, the president insists with a straight face that his administration is "running like a fine-tuned machine" and focuses mostly on what he has always focused on: himself. He has obsessed about inaugural crowd sizes and barely existent voter fraud, picked infantile fights with critics, attempted to undermine the judiciary and the news media, and even disparaged a department store that discontinued his daughter’s line of fashion.

None of this is surprising to people who expected President Trump to be the same as candidate Trump. But many of those who believed that he'd pivot to a more presidential demeanor if elected have to be dismayed by the spectacle. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/02/19/president-trump-election-first-month-editorials-debates/98044784/

14. Paul Waldman: Why President Trump's new immigration plan will backfire horribly

The first stages of the fulfillment of Trump's campaign promises to supposedly keep Americans safe by driving out foreigners, putting up walls, and keeping Muslim Americans under greater surveillance. During that campaign, whenever there was a terrorist incident in Europe, Trump would essentially say, "See!?! See!?!", believing that the attack proved he was right, and the only question was how high our walls should be.
But here are some better questions to ask: Why are jihadi terrorist attacks in the United States so rare? After all, fewer than 100 Americans have been killed here by jihadi terrorists since September 11, or an average of just six per year. Why have so few American Muslims gone to join ISIS? Countries in Europe have provided many more recruits to the terrorist group. Why are American Muslims as a group so much more patriotic and less alienated from their homes than many Muslims in Western European countries?

The answers lie in exactly those things the Trump administration is trying to undo.

So yes, we have something to learn from the immigrant experience in Europe. But it's not that immigrants are dangerous and must be kept out. It's that America, for all our missteps, is on a fundamental level doing immigration right, by being an open and welcoming society. But if Donald Trump has his way, we won't be that for long. http://theweek.com/articles/681458/why-president-trumps-new-immigration-plan-backfire-horribly

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