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babylonsister's Journal
babylonsister's Journal
January 31, 2020

Get a Grip, Bernie Bed-Wetters: His Message and Media Machine Could Be Potent Against Trump

Just a messenger here.

Democrats 2020
Get a Grip, Bernie Bed-Wetters: His Message and Media Machine Could Be Potent Against Trump
Socialist Schmocialist. Sanders has a set of political assets—celebrity, fundraising power, committed foot soldiers, media sophistication, relentless consistency—possessed by no one else in the race.
By Peter Hamby
January 31, 2020

The Bernie bed-wetting has reached full-blown rubber sheet mode. With Bernie Sanders hanging on to a slim polling lead in Iowa and an even bigger one in New Hampshire, panicked Democrats are sounding the alarm that Bernie Sanders could surf a wave of unstoppable momentum all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Nominating Sanders to run against Donald Trump would be an “Act of Insanity,” according to New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. “Dems Tormented Over How to Stop Bernie,” read a recent Politico headline, which quoted Rahm Emanuel, the high priest of boardroom centrism, proclaiming with authority that Sanders will repel swing voters. (Gotta print a Rahm quote!) The New York Times cited Bonnie Campbell, a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and now Joe Biden, talking about Sanders as if he was infected with the coronavirus. “I can tell you, I hear from friends and colleagues who say: ‘Oh, my God, what are we going to do if Bernie wins?’” Campbell said, sounding haunted.

The concerns are understandable. Nominating a socialist as a major party nominee for president would mark an extraordinary break from tradition and over 100 years of faith in the idea that the United States is fundamentally not a socialist country. Several of Sanders’s signature policies, like decriminalizing border crossings and replacing private insurance with a government-run Medicare-for-All system, are deeply unpopular. Those ideas have been litigated in a Democratic primary but have never been subject to sustained attacks in a general election. The Trump campaign will gleefully rope the socialist tag around Bernie’s neck in Florida, terrifying every Fox News–viewing retiree and micro-targeting every Cuban and Venezualan with Facebook ads reminding them of broken regimes back home. Khaki-wearing PTA members in northern Virginia and suburban Denver might recoil in horror at the idea of Sanders rattling the markets and their 401(k)s, putting states recently thought to be safely blue back in play. It shouldn’t be forgotten, either, that Sanders is 78 and suffered a heart attack in October, the subject of an anti-Sanders television ad currently running in Iowa.

Everything about Sanders—his ideas, his stubborn dogma, his sometimes-kooky supporters, his contempt for greenroom culture and the party circuit—is completely foreign to the intellectual and cultural fabric of Washington. In that universe, the claim that Sanders is unelectable is more or less gospel. The same Democrats who were assured of Hillary Clinton’s victory are now starting to worry about a Goldwater or McGovern-style Electoral College wipeout with Sanders atop the ticket. If they were so inclined, the bed-wetters could easily Google a year of polls showing Sanders beating Trump in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. A Texas Lyceum poll just this week showed Sanders performing better against Trump in Texas than any Democrat, losing by just three points. That’s on top of a raft of polls showing Sanders beating Trump back those precious Upper Midwest states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These polls aren’t totally hypothetical, either: Sanders boasts near universal Name ID. Most voters know who Sanders is and what he stands for—and they’re still choosing him, whether they actually like him or just because his name isn’t Donald Trump. The president and his advisers are starting to notice, according to recent stories in the New York Times and Daily Beast. Both outlets reported in recent weeks that some Trump advisers are worried about Sanders’s strengths—his populist appeal, perceived authenticity, and his durable popularity with the same white non-college voters who voted for Trump. “I think he’s tough in places where people are making $12 an hour,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale recently told CBS News, who said the media is underestimating his appeal. Trump himself has started asking his team about Sanders’s polling performance in key battleground states, specifically Pennsylvania, the Daily Beast reported.

Democrats fretting about the prospect of nominating Sanders should consider, for a moment, how the few years in American politics have exposed the frailty of conventional wisdom and incremental thinking. They might also consider Xanax. But they should consider, too, listening to Parscale, who has access to troves of data much richer than any Democratic campaign right now. He and others in the Trump orbit apparently see what Sanders supporters have seen for a long time: that Sanders is a uniquely powerful politician, with strengths no other Democrat brings to the table. Yes, he has vulnerabilities, but so will any nominee. Still, if Sanders winning the Democratic nomination gives you a particularly bad case of night sweats, it might be useful to put aside your priors for a moment and think about him another way. Instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question: What if Sanders is actually the MOST electable Democrat? In the age of Trump, hyper-partisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump this year. Here, in fact, are five good reasons why he might just be the one. At the very least, bed-wetters, maybe they’re just five good doses of positive thinking that will help you sleep better until the Iowa caucuses on Monday.


But unlike Biden and any Democrat in the race, Sanders is also a cultural figure who, like him or not, transcends politics. Sanders is flecked across our culture anywhere you look. There are hand-painted murals of Sanders in almost every city in this country. Superfans hawk DIY Bernie merch across the internet. Sanders has more endorsements from celebrities and musicians than any Democrat in the field. The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and Bon Iver are performing concerts for Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire. The same Democrats who celebrated these kinds of cultural totems when Obama ran for president—remember Shepard Fairey? Obama Girl?—seem to scoff at them when Sanders is the heralded one. As odd and simplistic as it sounds, for many millions of people, Bernie is cool. Unless the Biden campaign figures out a way to recapture the aviator-wearing virality that helped define his vice presidency, Sanders is currently the only Democrat famous and clickable enough to compete with Trump among voters who have only a passing interest in politics. Which is most Americans.


January 31, 2020

The Senate Can Stop Pretending Now


Letter from Trump’s Washington
The Senate Can Stop Pretending Now
Lamar Alexander and the end of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
By Susan B. Glasser
January 31, 2020


In the end, it’s no small irony that Trump was saved from embarrassing public testimony against him by one of the last representatives of the Republican establishment that so recently scorned him—and for which the President himself has nothing but scorn. Alexander declined to endorse Trump in 2016, and had previously bucked the President on trade, health care, and his much vaunted border wall. But as Alexander retires, later this year, after decades of service once characterized by bipartisanship, his most decisive final act will have been to do Trump an enormous favor. Alexander’s mentor in politics, Senator Howard Baker, is remembered as the Republican leader who pursued the facts about Richard Nixon during Watergate and demanded answers to the key question of what Nixon knew and when he knew it. Lamar Alexander will not have such an honor. He will go down in history as the Republican senator whose choice at a pivotal moment confirmed the complete and final capitulation of the G.O.P. to the crass New York interloper in the White House.

Alexander’s late-night statement was no real surprise. The “closest friend” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—as McConnell made sure to point out to the Times, earlier this week—Alexander ended up where most Senate Republicans were always expected to end up. He criticized Trump but refused to vote to remove him from office. After making that decision, Alexander went a step further and said that there was no real need to hear any of the evidence that Trump has so far successfully ordered his Administration not to provide. Even the last-minute revelation, on Sunday night, in the Times, of Bolton’s unpublished manuscript, could not sway Alexander; he knew enough.

Right up until that oh-so-predictable end, though, Alexander played it coy. Perhaps he was loving his final moment in the spotlight. Perhaps he really was undecided. As Thursday’s proceedings began, virtually all of the other senators had declared their positions, and only four Republicans appeared to be genuinely considering voting for witnesses. Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins were likely to vote yes, which left Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander. Even if Murkowski, who pronounced herself Bolton-“curious” earlier in the week, would vote yes, Democrats needed both Murkowski and Alexander to get to fifty-one; three Republican yeses would only yield a 50–50 tie. And, as night fell on the capital, pretty much no one believed that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the trial, would be willing to cast the deciding vote.


“It’s over,” one Democratic senator said to another, according to a reporter in the gallery. And, indeed, it was. The question offered a preview of the Alexander statement to follow. A few minutes later, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave a truncated closing statement that suggested that he, too, knew what was about to happen. “They are afraid of the witnesses,” Nadler said. “They know Mr. Bolton and others will only strengthen the case.” On that note, the trial adjourned at 10:41 p.m. Nineteen minutes later, Alexander’s office tweeted out his statement. Murkowski did not join in, at least not yet. “I am going to reflect on what I’ve heard, reread my notes, and decide whether I need to hear more,” she told reporters; her office said she would announce her decision on Friday morning. Her colleague Susan Collins, meanwhile, announced that she would vote yes for the witnesses. Mitt Romney followed suit first thing Friday morning. But how much did it matter?

All fifteen previous impeachment trials in the U.S. Senate, including the two previous Presidential-impeachment trials, had witnesses. But Lamar Alexander has spoken. Donald Trump’s stonewalling will succeed where Nixon’s failed. Perhaps Alexander has done us all a favor: the trial that wasn’t really a trial will be over, and we will no longer have to listen to it. The Senate can stop pretending.
January 31, 2020

David Corn: With Trump's Impeachment Trial, Republicans Have Convicted Themselves

35 mins ago
With Trump’s Impeachment Trial, Republicans Have Convicted Themselves
The president’s defenders waged a war on reality.
David Corn

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump was always going to be a fight over reality—and whether reality matters.

There was no true doubt that Trump had committed the wrongdoing that led the House to impeach him. It was clear he had pressured the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky by withholding a much-coveted White House meeting and $391 million in vital military assistance to compel Zelensky to launch investigations aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden and yielding information to boost the nutty and unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had hacked the 2016 US election. There was compelling testimony from officials who were witnesses to this extortion scheme. There were documents, including the White House’s quasi-transcript that showed Trump pushing the Ukrainian leader for the “favor” of initiating these probes. And once the scandal broke, Trump even publicly exclaimed he wanted the Ukrainian government—and the Chinese government—to investigate Biden. His chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, declared at a press conference that Trump withheld the aid in part to push Ukraine to investigate the baseless Russia-Didn’t-Do-It theory.

Yet Trump and his defenders have denied there was any untoward scheme. They have denied facts. They have denied reality. During the impeachment hearings in the House, Republican legislators insisted that Trump blocked the aid because he was concerned about burden-sharing and about corruption in Ukraine. And they endeavored mightily to distract from Trump’s misconduct by shouting about the Steele dossier, the whistleblower who triggered the Ukraine scandal, Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company, and the baseless notion that Kyiv intervened in the 2016 election. Anything but Trump’s attempt to cut a dirty deal with Ukraine. There was no evidence to support any of their alternative realties—no witnesses, no documents that showed Trump had leaned on the Ukrainians to deal with actual corruption within their ranks or that he had taken any steps to address the issue of burden-sharing.

It was all bunk.
Even after Gordon Sondland—the hotelier who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and was rewarded with the ambassadorship to the European Union—testified that there had indeed been a “quid pro quo,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s loudest and most reality-defying champions, shouted at a reporter (me): “No quid pro quo! No quid pro quo!” It was an unambiguous sign: Trumpers would never recognize any facts or evidence that showed Dear Leader had done anything wrong.


This has been disturbing and unsettling to witness. The founders placed impeachment in the Constitution because they feared that one day a corrupt scoundrel might reach the presidency. But they did not envision that an entire political party might be his accomplice and defender.


January 31, 2020

Lisa Murkowski Can't Fix Democracy, but She Can Fix a Trial


Lisa Murkowski Can’t Fix Democracy, but She Can Fix a Trial
By Jeremy Stahl
Jan 31, 20203:01 PM
Lisa Murkowski says she will vote for an unfair trial.

On Friday, as House managers began making their formal arguments urging the Senate to call new witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Sen. Lisa Murkowski confirmed that the debate couldn’t make a difference. In a statement, she declared that she was voting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to close the trial with no witnesses or document production, giving Republicans the 51 votes they needed to shut it down.

The night before, Sen. Lamar Alexander had issued a statement nudging the door shut on witnesses and documents, arguing that they were unnecessary because Trump had already been proved guilty, and that he would nonetheless refuse to remove him. Murkowski managed to outdo even that breathtaking display of cynicism.

Murkowski explained that she would join her party in rejecting new evidence because the impeachment process was too unfair and too divided along party lines.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate,” she wrote. “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”

This is the trick that Republicans in both chambers of Congress—with the exceptions of Rep. Justin Amash, who switched parties after offering his support for impeachment, and perhaps Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who still appeared poised to vote for witnesses—played throughout the impeachment proceedings: We can’t vote for impeachment because it’s partisan, and it’s partisan because we’re not voting for impeachment.

Partisanship is whatever partisans say it is. The same procedures that Republicans now deem unfair have been used in past presidential investigations, such as the Benghazi probe, with Republicans behind them. The Trump administration complained about the House interrogating executive branch witnesses without their department counsel present—a rule created and implemented by Republicans when they were in charge of the House and its intelligence committee.

What carried Murkowski beyond the standard Republican impeachment cynicism, though, was her willingness to acknowledge the purely political motives behind her vote. If Murkowski were to have supported calling witnesses, it would have produced a 50-50 Senate tie, forcing Chief Justice John Roberts to decide whether to break it or not. The self-styled umpire of American justice would have had to choose whether to personally side with the president, joining a one-party vote against what opinion polls say are the preferences of large numbers of the American people, or to oppose him. Murkowski said she would vote against witnesses in part because she didn’t want Roberts placed in this bind.

“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice,” Murkowski said. “I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.”

Rather than a standoff between two branches of government, then, to be resolved by the third, the impeachment trial was a standoff between the two parties. There was nothing Roberts could do to bring it in line with constitutional order, and so Murkowski would not make him try.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country,” Murkowski concluded.

That was one point on which her Democratic colleagues were likely to agree.
January 31, 2020

New Bolton revelation: 'The kind of bombshell Mitch McConnell has been afraid of all along'


New Bolton revelation: 'The kind of bombshell Mitch McConnell has been afraid of all along'
Kerry Eleveld
Daily Kos Staff
Friday January 31, 2020 · 1:02 PM EST

Former national security adviser John Bolton’s new revelation about White House counsel Pat Cipollone being in on Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy as early as May 2019 is dropping like a bomb on Washington. "This is the kind of bombshell that Mitch McConnell has been afraid of all along," reporter Kasie Hunt said on MSNBC.

Indeed, a day that seemed almost certainly headed toward a no-witness vote and fast acquittal just in time for Donald Trump’s victory laps on Fox News and at next week’s State of the Union address now holds a slew of question marks. Hill reporters are now musing that the Senate trial could go into next week, “maybe even mid-week,” tweeted Politico’s John Bresnahan. Trump’s already in damage control, tweeting out fantasies like a drunken sailor on hallucinogens. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski still hasn’t announced her vote on witnesses, which is bad news for McConnell because she hasn’t owed the GOP caucus anything since 2010, when she won reelection as a write-in candidate. Murkowski’s now a “no” on witnesses.

As Americans, we should still be rooting for witnesses. The citizenry deserves to hear from Bolton in his own words, among others.

But as Democrats, we can also feast on the political peril this represents for Republicans, who have now admitted that Trump did everything House managers said he did and that they just don’t care. As commentators on MSNBC absorbed the new Bolton bombshell, they almost unanimously declared it an electoral disaster in the making for Senate Republicans, especially given where public opinion has been on witnesses all along.

"This makes that vote against witnesses political suicide,” former GOP operative Nicolle Wallace observed, adding, “I hope they take it."

Even former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill was bullish on the prospects for Democrats. “If these Republicans shut this trial down and say, No more,” she said, “it is a great gift to the Democrats in November.”

As Sen. Kamala Harris noted before the news dropped, "There can be no true exoneration if there's not been a fair trial. Period." Now more than ever, Senate Republicans are also on trial. At least some of them seem to know it.
January 31, 2020

Investigators Interview IRS Whistleblower Who Said Trump or Pence Audit Was Interfered With


Investigators Interview IRS Whistleblower Who Said Trump or Pence Audit Was Interfered With: Report
Jamie Ross
Published Jan. 31, 2020 8:39AM ET

Senate investigators have reportedly interviewed a whistleblower at the Internal Revenue Service who has said the audit of the president or the vice president was the subject of improper political interference. The Washington Post reports that the whistleblower’s complaint alleges that at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department may have tried to tamper with an IRS audit of Donald Trump or Mike Pence. The interview is reported to have happened in recent weeks, and the whistleblower gave transcribed remarks to the offices of Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), who are the chairman and highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. The complaint was first disclosed in an August court filing by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, as part of his lawsuit against the Trump administration to force the release of the president’s tax returns.
January 31, 2020

Farm Bankruptcies Hit 8-Year High


Farm Bankruptcies Hit 8-Year High
January 31, 2020 at 8:23 am EST By Taegan Goddard

“U.S. farm bankruptcy rates jumped 20% in 2019 – to an eight-year high – as financial woes in the U.S. agricultural economy continued in spite of massive federal bail-out funding,” Reuters reports.

In Des Moines rally, Trump touts trade deals, says Iowa farms 'are going to hell' if not reelected
January 31, 2020

The Rude Pundit: No, Republicans, You're Fucking Lying About Biden and the Ukrainian Prosecutor


The Rude Pundit
Proudly lowering the level of political discourse
No, Republicans, You're Fucking Lying About Biden and the Ukrainian Prosecutor


You know who else didn't give damn about Hunter Biden or Burisma? The fuckin' Congress. Yeah, in the Congressional Record for the 114th and 115th Congress (which covers 2015-2018), neither "Burisma" nor "Hunter Biden" are brought up. Not once. And Republicans were running the joint the entire time. Both houses. Why the fuck didn't they care? Why the fuck didn't Trump's Justice Department care starting in 2017?

You know what Republicans talked about in 2018? How fuckin' much they wanted the United States to continue to help Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Here's what Iliena Ros-Lentinin of Florida said on December 18: "We must demonstrate by our words and actions that we remain fully committed to assisting the people of Ukraine to defend their country." Indeed, before any of this shit, support for Ukraine was bipartisan and no one fucking talked about holding up money because of corruption once Shokin, the guy who didn't fight corruption, was gone.

The defense of Donald Trump in his impeachment trial has been a lesson in how emphatically you can lie and not pay any goddamn price. Every time one of the lawyers on Trump's team opens their filthy whore mouths, they lie. Every time they try to justify Trump's actions. they lie. And every time they mention Joe and Hunter Biden, they lie so extravagantly and so excessively that a righteous God would pop their heads like bloody zits. That'd be some motherfuckin' fact-checking.

You can say that it's shitty that the children of political leaders are given sweet jobs. But you sure as hell better say that about every child of every politician who gets that deal. Or about the children of a certain president who get trademarks and access to people that they never would have been able to get without Dad in the White House.

It's fucking amazing how degraded and devolved Republicans continue to be. They have decided to shitcan any law, all ethics, and any fact that threatens the power of their idiot king. They've decided that democracy is for pussies. And rules are for suckers. And go fuck yourself if you dare call them on it. Now, let's get this dictatorship in gear before 2020 fucks it up.

(By the way, you know that George W. Bush appointed Hunter Biden to the board of Amtrak? He wasn't a fucking locomotive engineer either. That's how this shit goes. Oh, and he was approved unanimously by a Republican Senate in 2006. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the current cocks who were there in '06 didn't fucking care that Biden didn't know how a train works.)
January 31, 2020

White House National Security Council to reduce staffing by a third

White House National Security Council to reduce staffing by a third
By Bryce Klehm
January 30, 2020 / 1:32 PM / CBS News

By February, the White House National Security Council (NSC), which is the executive branch office forum for national security, military and foreign policy issues, will be reduced to its lowest staffing levels in nearly twenty years.

President Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien recently told NPR, "We'll probably have about 60 to 70 staffers who've gone back to their home agencies." That will effectively downsize the NSC by nearly a third from the staffing levels when O'Brien took the helm in September, bringing the total to just over 100 people.

The council is composed of employees on rotation from various national security agencies such as the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Department. Since its establishment in 1947, the NSC has helped presidents coordinate White House policy and responses to the nation's most pressing international issues, ranging from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 9/11 terror attacks and issues of war.

O'Brien is Mr. Trump's fourth national security adviser, succeeding John Bolton. This administration has had no shortage of foreign policy challenges: the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran, the decisions to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, the navigation of the trade dispute with China, and determining troop levels in Afghanistan.

Despite these challenges, the staff reductions are intentional. When O'Brien was taking over the NSC, he penned a Washington Post op-ed in which he committed to reduce the NSC by 174 policy positions, arguing that the council's objective is to "coordinate policy rather than run it." He said that the agency had "ballooned" under President Obama, when George W. Bush had half as many on staff, even with the prosecution of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the executive council has also been in the spotlight recently because of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Current and former staffers, such as Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill, the former top adviser on Russia and European affairs, have offered testimony that was critical of the president. Vindman, who still works at the National Security Council, even drew the ire of the White House Twitter account.



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