May 26, 2017

A Weekday Trifecta 5/26/17

A trifecta is generally described as a type of bet where, in order to win, the bettor must pick the top three finishers in the correct order. Here are my three picks for the day.

Donald Trump's big foreign adventure. We heard for years from Republicans and pundits that President Obama was an embarrassment as he travelled around the world on his 'apology tours.' For example, there's this list from the Heritage Foundation, the bastion of conservative thinking, back in 2009, in the early days of the Obama administration. Note the attention-grabbing headline: Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower. 

Fast forward to president Trump's first trip abroad. He may not be apologizing (and, frankly, one could argue that Obama didn't, either) but it sure looks like he's mastered the humiliation part - got that down pat, based on these clips. Heck, even the Trump News Network turned on him on; perhaps an apology or two might be in order?

(The Sun, a News UK Company)

(Uproxx.com)
(Financial Times)
Now, don't get me wrong -- I certainly understand how creative editing and catchy headlines don't always tell the full story -- but I would think that even a reasonable person of the Republican persuasion could see that perhaps a little better behavior, or perhaps a little more careful language, or perhaps a little more appreciation for traditions between allies, might be helpful here on the #MAGA tour.

Donald Trump and the travel ban. It was not a good day for the Trump Travel Ban:
In a stinging rebuke to president Donald Trump, a US appeals court refused on Thursday to reinstate his travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority nations, calling it discriminatory and setting the state for a showdown in the Supreme Court. 
The decision, written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, described Trump's executive order in forceful terms, saying it uses "vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.
In its 10-3 ruling, the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said those challenging the ban, including refugee groups and individuals, were likely to succeed on their claim that the order violates the US constitution's bar against favoring one religion over another. 
Those were similar findings to what the 9th Circuit said about the initial ban, which was rewritten to pass muster in the courts, or so we were told.  Importantly, we were told about how awful the 9th circuit judges are, with their horrible overturn rate of 80% or something. Here's what Trump said:
There are many people that want to break up the 9th circuit. It's outrageous... Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that's like, semi-automatic.
The 4th circuit on the other hand, has an overturn rate of 43%. So they must be way more better, right?  And way more trustworthy, and their decisions way more believable and easy to abide?

Yeah, not so much. Trump, when the first Executive Order was struck down sneered that he would see them at the Supreme Court. With this decision, it was Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III who noted, in a statement,
...that the government, which says the temporary travel ban is needed to guard against terrorist attacks, would seek a review of the case at the Supreme Court. 
"These clearly are very dangerous times and we need every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorist from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence," said Michael Short, a White House spokesman. 
I maintain that part of these dangerous times stems from the current administration's constant attacks on everyone and everything that doesn't agree with him, and on its refusal to look at things through a broad lens, rather than the very narrow one defined by bumper stickers and baseball hat slogans.

There's got to be a way to vet people - all people - coming into America from other countries, right? I mean, we ask our own sweet American old ladies and sweet little American children to bare their soles, and their bodies, to get on a plane to fly across the state or across the country to visit each other, don't we?

If we treat all Americans that way because of a few bad actors (including the ones from a country with whom we just made another several-hundred-billion-dollar arms deal), we should be able to come up with a plan that will protect us from everyone, and treat everyone the same, regardless of their religion.

That's the American way, whether or not our myopic president understands that.

Donald Trump and the FBI director. Poor Donald.  The whole mess with the FBI is just not getting better.
  • First, he assails James Comey for not recommending charges against Hillary Clinton last July, 
  • then he hails Comey as a hero when he reopened his investigation of her just days before the presidential election, 
  • then he blows a kiss from across the room and awkwardly hugs Comey in January, 
  • then he asks him to lay off the Russia investigation, to no avail 
  • then he decides to fire him, 
  • then he gets people to come up with deep and thoughtful reasons for firing him, 
  • which he does, in a self-congratulatory and probably lie-filled memo delivered to Comey's office when Comey was across the country meeting with FBI staff who saw it on the news - as Comey was speaking to them. 
  • Then he immediately tells us he had the entire White House and Justice Department apparatus tell lie after lie about why Comey was fired, because 
  • Trump admitted he was going to fire him no matter what, and the memo? Yeah, that had nothing to do with it. 
You would think, at some point along that journey, he would listen to people, but no -- no reason to do that. He tries to pull politicians to be the new FBI director - Texas Senator Bob Cornyn, and South Carolina Trey Benghazi! Gowdy, who both said no, and maybe a couple of others, when everyone - everyone -- was telling him to get an experienced FBI person, not a politician.

On his short list, as a leading candidate until late this week? Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who was a Dem when he was Al Gore's running mate, became an Independent after losing a primary, and who eventually supported John McCain's failed presidential bid. He's also a lawyer in the same firm as Trump's new attorney for the Russia investigations.

Even before Trump hired the guy from Lieberman's firm, Democrats were not excited about their former colleague being tapped to fill Comey's shoes, because they wanted the appointment to be non-political, and they wanted an experienced law enforcement person.  Lieberman, to his credit, noted in an interview after withdrawing from consideration
With everything swirling in Washington, you can't have a director of the FBI coming from the same law firm as the president's private lawyer.
He also noted, referring to the lack of support from Senate Dems
I was disappointed but you know, I guess when I step back from it I wasn't surprised because everything is so partisan in Washington. There's still a group, probably in the far left of the Democratic Party who still doesn't forgive me.
And that, to me, was a page out of the Trump handbook. Whenever you can deflect away from the right reason for doing something by turning it into a personal attack, I guess it's a good day.