Home / Politics / Abbreviated pundit round-up: Comey sets his own narrative; GOP pretends on Dodd-Frank repeal

Abbreviated pundit round-up: Comey sets his own narrative; GOP pretends on Dodd-Frank repeal

E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes—Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why:

It’s not surprising that Trump’s warmest words have been reserved for autocrats. They run things the way he likes to run things. No obnoxious media. No annoying political opposition. No independent judiciary. No need to show any concern about the people who work for you. Despots can make them disappear. It’s no accident that “You’re fired” is the phrase that made Trump famous.

In Trump world, everything is a deal, everything is transactional, everything is about personal loyalty — to him. What can I give you to make you do what I want? What can I threaten you with to force you to do what I want? Will you be with me no matter what?

In constitutional democracies, rules and norms get in the way of this sort of thing. Other institutions in government have autonomy and derive their authority from being at least partly independent of politics. The boss does not have absolute power.

This is how we should understand Comey’s extraordinary prepared testimony released on Wednesday in advance of his Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Chauncey DeVega at Salon writes—Most of Trump’s voters were middle-class or rich. Can we stop with all the bogus anthropology about Trumplandia?

Many in the mainstream news media said that fears about Donald Trump as a potential fascist or authoritarian were paranoid and exaggerated, perhaps evidence of some type of derangement.” They believed that America was a democracy with strong and enduring political institutions that would prevent such a poisonous plant from taking hold and blossoming. Donald Trump’s personal behavior and public policies have proved them wrong. He is a plutocratic authoritarian.

And of course there was the narrative that Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries and eventual victory over the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, were fueled by “economic anxiety” on the part of the “white working class.”

This is a zombie idea that needs to die. As I have repeatedly shown in a series of essays and interviews for Salon, public opinion and other research clearly indicates that it was a combination of white racial resentment, old-fashioned racism and sexism as opposed to some vague type of “economic insecurity” that motivated Trump’s voters.

Ross Barkan at The Guardian disagrees with a New York Times editorial lamenting that Donald Trump has created a “leadership vacuum” with his purge of 46 U.S. attorneys in March and failure to appoint a single one in the nearly three months since then. He writes—Trump isn’t filling key vacancies in the criminal justice system. That’s good:

Never mind that Trump’s attorney general (for now, at least), Jeff Sessions, has ordered prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges against suspects in all cases, a direct rebuke of the Obama administration’s focus on reducing punishments for low-level, nonviolent offenders.

Never mind the retrograde, terrifying nature of a justice department under Trump’s thumb. The Times thinks what Americans really need are more political appointees, courtesy of Trump.

Through his own inaction or incompetence, Trump is inadvertently preserving the independence of federal prosecutors’ offices and removing a large degree of politics from the criminal justice system. He is doing good by doing nothing.

After Saudi Arabia and three of its allies cut diplomatic relations with Qatar Monday, the guy squatting in the Oval Office again showed how presidential he is with tweets giving himself credit for instigating the move, which includes an economic blockade of the tiny, oil- and gas-rich nation the Saudis accuse of supporting Islamic extremists and refusing to challenge Iran. Mohamad Bazzi at The Guardian writes—Saudi Arabia stroked Trump’s ego. Now he is doing their bidding with Qatar:

Instead of offering to play peacemaker, as two of his top national security aides had done hours after the crisis erupted, Trump unequivocally sided with Saudi Arabia and its main ally, the United Arab Emirates.

Clearly, Saudi leaders are playing Trump, exploiting the grandiose reception they gave him last month after he decided to make the kingdom the first stop on his maiden foreign trip as president. By the end of his two-day visit, Trump had become Saudi Arabia’s cheerleader and he aligned US foreign policy with the kingdom’s vision of the Middle East. […]

The Saudis read Trump accurately from the time he took office – they understood that he craved flattery and respect. Arab leaders, especially the oil-rich monarchs, are used to flattery since they live with it every day. So the Saudis decided to give Trump an extravagant welcome, the kind of deference he would never get at home.


Paul Glastris at The Washington Monthly writes—Three Ideas to Check Trump and Revive the Democratic Party How to (actually!) make America great again:

Not gonna lie: I enjoy watching Donald Trump fail. I await each new revelation about his Russian ties with gleeful anticipation. I smile every time another judge blocks his Muslim ban. I delight in his ongoing struggle to get the gum of Obamacare out of his hair. I am gratified by his budget negotiator’s inability to get a dime for his border wall. To me, these are not guilty pleasures, but righteous ones. Trump’s failures are a kind of justice, a confirmation that the political universe still operates according to rules I can understand and appreciate, like a beautiful sunset. Presumably I am not the only one who feels this way.

But as with any form of gratification, if taken too far, this one can lead us astray. The danger is that we on the left will bet our political future on Trump imploding rather than confront the weaknesses in our own political vision—weaknesses that allowed not only Trump to win but Republicans to control the House, the Senate, and thirty-two state legislatures.

Right now, Democrats see a real possibility of taking back the House in 2018. The most likely pickups are districts in metro areas that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or that Trump won by a hair. The most straightforward way to win these seats is to pump up the Democratic base of professionals, single women, Millennials, minorities, and immigrants. But that is precisely the strategy that Clinton’s campaign followed, with disastrous results.

The alternative is for the party to start contesting the geographic areas where increasingly, over several election cycles, they’ve been getting crushed: exurbs, smaller towns, and rural areas. Unless they can do this, and soon, Democrats are fated—because of well-known biases in our electoral system that favor sparsely populated states and regions—to be a permanent minority party that also happens to represent the majority. […]

Sophia A. McClennen at Salon writes—We mourn Manchester, but not Kabul: How biased coverage of terrorist attacks drives us apart:

On May 22, a suicide bombing was carried out in Manchester, England, killing 23 adults and children and injuring 116. On May 29, twin bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, targeted families at an ice cream shop and seniors in line to collect their pensions. Those attacks left 22 dead and almost 100 injured. On May 31, a suicide bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter in Kabul, Afghanistan killing at least 90 and wounding approximately 400.

Each of these stories was covered in the Western mainstream media. But the way they were covered was radically different.

In the Manchester story, there was a deeply human face to the coverage. Audiences became familiar with individual girls who lost their lives and they connected with the mothers who were searching for information about their loved ones.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Baghdad ice cream shop bombing also targeted children, the coverage of that story did not include any of the personal-interest features seen in the story of what happened in Manchester.

Much the same was true in the coverage of the Kabul bombing. A New York Times piece did mention the difficulties loved ones were having in tracking down information on those who were caught in the blast. But that piece also included strangely cold language: “In different corners of the city, workers and relatives dug graves for the ones who, with life having become a game of chance, just were not lucky.”

Imagine a reporter referring to those being buried in Manchester with the same sort of detached language.


Robin Marty at Care2 writes—President Trump Thinks He has the Power to Block Anything He Chooses:

When President Donald Trump entered the White House he promised to change politics and pledged to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interest groups influencing the government. Instead, he’s made the “swamp” even deeper than ever, and has been flexing his executive powers in ways never seen before.

So what is President Trump using his new powers to block now? Pretty much anything he wants.

Despite the President’s “no lobbyists” promise, his administration is chocked full of the same people allegedly “regulating” industries who are still profiting from them. How much? It’s hard to say, especially considering the President has exempted many of his aides from being forced to disclose potential ethics violations. Those waivers have finally been posted online after repeated pushing from the Office of Government Ethics, and now we are starting to see how much his close staff is still working with their previous clients, even now that they are influential administrative officials.

James West at The New Republic writes—America Has a New Climate Commander-in-Chief:

Chinese President Xi Jinping met this week with a powerful American leader who believes climate change is real and wants to open the economic floodgates for U.S.-China cooperation on green tech. 

I’m not kidding.

While reporters struggled to find out if President Donald Trump has any knowledge of climate science in the wake of abandoning the Paris climate deal, California Governor (and prominent Trump critic) Jerry Brown was posing for photos with Chinese leaders—and pandas—in a full-frontal offensive to position his state not only as a leader on climate action, but as a quasi-nation-state looking to fill the void in reliable American leadership created by Trump.

He signed climate pacts with regional officials in Chinese provinces Jiangsu and Sichuan, met a slew of Chinese government ministers, and inked a major agreement with the central government to boost direct China-California cooperation on renewable energy, zero-emission vehicles, and low-carbon cities. Brown appeared with energy ministers from 24 countries and the European Union at this week’s Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing, and his delegation is scheduled to meet 75 Chinese companies interested in working with California. […]

“The key to Paris was President Xi and President Obama meeting together,” Brown said in Chengdu earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now, “it’s up to President Xi to advance the ball. We want to stand behind him and make that possible.”


Emily Atkin at The New Republic writes—Congress’ Bipartisan Climate Club Doesn’t Agree on Much:

[A] handful of congressional Republicans have dared to cross to Satan’s side as members of the House of Representatives’ Climate Solutions Caucus, which in its second year has 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. In joining, all have publicly declared that they’re concerned about human-caused global warming and want to be part of the solution. “This is the first time we’ve seen anything like this in Congress,” said Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat who co-founded the caucus in 2016 with his Republican colleague Carlos Curbelo. “I think it’s a pretty big deal.”

Bipartisanship on the climate front is sorely needed. According to a ThinkProgress analysis, there are 180 climate-science deniers in Congress—more than 59 percent of the House GOP caucus, and 73 percent of Senate Republicans. With the GOP in control of Congress, federal action on climate change is impossible without a significant minority of Republicans.

But as the past week revealed, there are limits to how far even climate-friendly Republicans will go on the issue. Nearly all of the 20 GOP members of the caucus refused to take President Donald Trump to task for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

Sarah Kliff at Vox writes—They’re on Obamacare, they voted for Trump, and they’re already disappointed But they’re still voting Republican:

CORBIN, Kentucky — There have been no marches against the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare here. No raucous town halls. There was only one protest rally anywhere in the region. Photographs captured a solitary woman holding a sign.

In an area that stands to lose a lot of health coverage under the GOP’s American Health Care Act, the silence does not equal endorsement. It is a sign, instead, of disappointment setting in among a group of conservative voters who only months ago were bubbling with hope for Donald Trump’s health care plan.

The souring on the Republican bill in a deep-red area of the country reflects the AHCA’s profound unpopularity nationwide. But the lack of protest also shows the strength of partisanship in the United States, which could prove a protective shield for Republican legislators in the 2018 midterms.

In southeastern Kentucky, the Obamacare enrollees I interviewed were disappointed — but they also weren’t mad that their Congress member, Hal Rogers, voted to pass it. They talked about all the other good things he had done for the area in his decades of service. They gave him the benefit of the doubt, expecting that he must have cast his vote to improve the economy or solve a budget issue.

David Dayen at The Nation writes—Republicans Can’t Really Repeal Dodd-Frank But they will pretend to try anyway:

House Republicans will go into work tomorrow and pass a bill designed to strip away virtually everything of value in the last round of President Obama’s 2010 financial reforms. And then everyone will get on with their lives, because the bill has no chance whatsoever of becoming law.

House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling, aficionado of industry-paid junkets, knows this. House Speaker Paul Ryan knows this. Not a soul in Congress believes that the CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) Act, the House’s Dodd-Frank overhaul, will see the light of day. But they’re passing it anyway. […]

This is ultimately why congressional Republicans have full legislative control in Washington but no legislative accomplishments. It’s highly unusual for a dominant political party to do nothing with that power. But Republicans in Congress are more interested in making speeches than in making laws. And that cedes the playing field for governing almost entirely to Donald Trump.

Neil Gabler at Moyers & Company writes—The Trump Doctrine: Up-Yours-Ism!

Republicans have no interest in bending on principle. The House has spent half a year making the same kinds of messaging votes they did when they knew Barack Obama would veto the finished product. There’s probably a bill out there that would reduce Dodd-Frank rules for community banks (although there’s plenty of tailoring in bank supervision already) that could pass Congress; in fact, here is that bill. But Republicans don’t want to make the choice of getting that done without freeing the big banks as well. So they pass the CHOICE Act, and it falls into the ether, and they can say to their lobbyist pals that they tried.

This is ultimately why congressional Republicans have full legislative control in Washington but no legislative accomplishments. It’s highly unusual for a dominant political party to do nothing with that power. But Republicans in Congress are more interested in making speeches than in making laws. And that cedes the playing field for governing almost entirely to Donald Trump.

Ashana Bigard at The Progressive writes—Confederate Statues Are Down in New Orleans, but Structural Racism Still Stands Tall in Our Schools

Many New Orleanians celebrated at the removal of confederate monuments around the city in recent weeks. But on the same day that Robert E. Lee’s bronzed image came down from Lee Circle, two black boys (like hundreds of boys throughout the city and state of Louisiana) were not allowed to graduate for arbitrary, punitive, and potentially illegal reasons.

The monuments may be gone, but structural racism continues to create barriers for students of color in New Orleans schools. […]

Take a closer look at discipline practices in schools such as [New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts] and schools all over the city of New Orleans you will see racism in action. Teachers, administrators, and staff who are looked up to as professionals and experts are white. The curriculum is imposed by white experts on black children, without input from black families or community members.

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