The embarrassing futility of ‘principled Republicans’ who attack Trump

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President Trump has repeatedly criticized former Arizona Senator John McCain, seven months after McCain’s passing.

Every now and then, the craven indecency of Donald Trump pushes some members of the Republican Party to stand up and say that this time, the president has gone too far. These are supposedly the GOP’s respectable men of stature. They may agree with virtually all of Trump’s policies, but they can’t abide his dirty language or disrespect of sacred cows. Whenever one of these so-called “principled Republicans” chides Trump in public, though, Trump just mops the floor with them.

The latest example is Trump’s ongoing feud with former Arizona Senator John McCain, a man who’s been dead for seven months. In interviews, tweets, and at rallies this week, Trump has frequently criticized the late senator, saying, “I never liked him much… I really probably never will.” Trump said McCain’s vote to protect Obamacare was “horrible,” accused McCain of spreading fake news with the Steele dossier, and complained that McCain never thanked Trump for the spectacular funeral Trump – apparently falsely – claims he granted him.

In response, Trump has taken some of his harshest criticism to date from fellow Republicans. Former Trump Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called the attacks “stupid” and “socially unnatural.” Longtime McCain ally Senator Lindsey Graham spoke out. Senator Mitt Romney tweeted, “I can’t understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain.”  Establishment Democrats, too, have almost unanimously defended McCain’s honor and called on Republicans to stand up to Trump’s undignified remarks.

If the attempts from high-level Republicans to be part of the “resistance” against Trump are intended to convince movement Republicans to place their support elsewhere, they are ineffective. Among Republicans, support for Trump is at 90 percent. The Republican base might well hate anti-Trump Republicans even more than establishment liberals do. This is another big part of the problem. Every time a “principled Republican” criticizes Trump, establishment media treats it as major news and makes themselves look just as silly in the process.

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Trump famously teased Mitt Romney with an administration position, inviting Romney to dinner and taking this awkward photo.

In January, just days before being sworn in as a senator, Mitt Romney published an editorial in the Washington Post in which he wrote, “As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.” Trump’s leading propaganda rag on the internet, Breitbart, simply responded with a column titled, “Mitt Romney is an idiot.”

Politicians like Romney have next to no sway with Trump’s base, which now makes up the majority of the Republican Party. No one on the left should want Romney on their side, either, nor should they be rushing to defend John McCain, a reliably pro-war senator who once gleefully sang about bombing Iran. Such unsavory alliances with establishment Republicans win over nobody and create further division between establishment liberals and the progressive left – a schism that already helped Trump win one election.

Even the left’s enthusiastic support of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is problematic. Before he started his legitimate investigation into Trump, Mueller served as the head of the FBI under President George W. Bush, a position in which he rounded up, detained, and allegedly abused Muslims. Bush himself has undergone a public rehabilitation in the Trump era, embraced by liberals like Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres. The deeper liberals settle down with these fanatically far-right Republicans, the less value they will be to any truly leftist cause.

When establishment Republicans attack Trump, they are speaking to a small audience of fellow establishment politicians and media figures. Anyone still supporting Trump through the myriad scandals of corruption, adultery and bigotry won’t change their minds because of a stuffy Mitt Romney op-ed. If Trump’s base is savvy enough not to be won over by the more pleasant demeanor of “principled Republicans,” it’s a constant source of embarrassment to see that establishment liberals so frequently are.

Trump rode to victory in the Republican primary, and to a significant extent in the general election, by obliterating the politics of politeness. He is at his best when he fights dirty and keeps his opponents on the defensive. No amount of vulgarity, scandal, or criticism, even from revered party elders like McCain, can turn his political cult. The left could learn a few things from Trump’s political playbook and be unashamed, unapologetic, and bold, rather than pine for a return to the phony, sanctimonious politics of establishment Washington.

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Howard Schultz and the billionaire establishment’s preference for Trump over leftist Democrats

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Howard Schultz, 65, oversaw the expansion of Starbucks into a global brand and now feels qualified to run the United States.

Whether or not Howard Schultz, the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks, runs for president in 2020 hinges largely on what direction the Democratic Party goes. Schultz, who has no political experience, is concerned that the party has become too left-wing, pushed by prominent congresspeople like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In order to save the country from a choice between socialism and Donald Trump, Schultz may be compelled to run as a “centrist independent.”

In a media blitz late last month, Schultz slammed Trump, calling the president “despicable” and accusing him of doing “almost everything possible to discredit the dignity, the civility, the values, the respectfulness of the Oval Office with no degree of any sense of responsibility to the American people.” Schultz’s remarks were notably lacking in specifics. While his most sanctimonious denunciations were of Trump’s demeanor and vulgarity, his strongest policy critiques were directed at Democrats, particularly Ocasio-Cortez. Continue reading

A view of the restraint of President Trump

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President Trump has held firm to his position of unilaterally holding the federal government hostage for his border wall, much to the delight of his base.

The presidency of tabloid star, game show host, and brand entrepreneur Donald J. Trump has been a rowdy one. Currently, the federal government of the United States is, like so many of Trump’s former ventures, shut down. As Trump threatens to declare a national emergency and circumvent Congress in order to build his promised southern border wall, commentators are speculating just how far Trump will go to undermine American institutions and empower himself.

Throughout his many decades of public life, Trump has been openly petty, vulgar, racist, conspiratorial, and narcissistic. The presidency hasn’t matured him an iota. As president, he’s continued to lie, flirt with dictators, enrich himself and his family, and show no compunction about stripping away benefits and even disaster relief from vulnerable people. Given how brazenly he’s gotten away with it all, though, it’s almost a marvel that he hasn’t gone even further. Continue reading

The real reason Trump wants a border wall

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Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office for the first time as president on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, telling Americans there is a national security crisis on our southern border that only his wall – or fence, or barrier – can protect us from. The US federal government has been shut down for three weeks as Trump refuses to reopen it without funding for his project. Democrats have largely held firm, issuing a rebuke of Trump’s arguments and refusing to give him what he wants.

In his address, the president described the southern border as a warzone under constant attack by enemies of America. Trump connected America’s heroin epidemic with border crossings and ran down a short, cherry-picked list of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants to imply that none of them can be trusted. He blamed illegal immigration for job loss and stagnating wages. Continue reading

Positives of the Trump presidency

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President Trump’s unabashed, unapologetic awfulness could have a few inadvertent positive consequences for American politics.

Every day brings new revelations about the extent of President Donald Trump’s crookedness, the corruption of his administration, and the damage he’s doing to our political system, foreign relations and the environment. The deluge of negative coverage has caused Trump and his supporters to accuse the media of a conspiracy against the president, but the truth is far simpler than that: Trump truly is that awful. In fact, in most ways, he’s even worse than the mainstream media portrays.

Still, it’s worth entertaining some potential positives that could emerge out of Trump’s presidency. None of them justify his presidency but, mostly indirectly and by accident, there are ways in which Trump’s complete lack of convention could lead to a positive jolt to the system. Most of these fall under one of three categories: blundering into a decent foreign policy move, breaking our staid expectations of what a politician should be, and accidental admission of the truth. Continue reading

Stan Lee, major architect of American pop culture, dies at 95

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“Most people retire so they can go do what they want. I’m already doing what I want. I like to write. I like to work with creative people. If I retired, I’d be giving up my fun.” – Stan Lee

Stan Lee was 95 years old, pushing 96, when he passed away on November 12. His wife of nearly 70 years, Joan, died last year. After her death, reports emerged about Lee’s own health issues and troubled personal life, including elder abuse and shady estate finagling. The writing was on the wall: the living legend’s time was coming.

Everyone whose life he touched – and they must number in the hundreds of millions – is affected. By now, the story is well-known. Lee, the editor of Timely Comics – later Atlas, and eventually Marvel – was frustrated with his industry and contemplating a career change. On his way out the door, and with two of the most imaginative artistic storytellers in the field, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, in his employ, Lee transformed a company known primarily for cheap genre comics into the leading innovator in superhero literature. Continue reading

With Saudi defense, Trump’s love of tyrants reaches dismal new low

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Trump stands with the infamous orb in Saudi Arabia on his first trip overseas as president in 2017.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive, corrupt, and militaristic countries on earth. It is also a major ally of the United States, and current US President Donald Trump is a particularly big fan. Now that the Saudi government is believed to have murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, likely on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pressure is mounting on Trump to stand up for journalists and free speech. Instead, he’s standing up for Saudi Arabia. Continue reading

Brett Kavanaugh’s personal record is bad – but so is his judicial record

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, for Friday, September 28 at 9 a.m. Republicans are anxious to hold the vote on Kavanaugh because each day seems to bring new allegations and scrutiny against the 53-year-old, whose appointment would be for life. Over the last two weeks, three women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Kavanaugh in high school and college. Continue reading

A compendium of Donald Trump’s criminality

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Left to right: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, plead guilty to eight counts; Trump; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, who was convicted of eight more charges.

Within minutes of one another, two former high-level associates of President Donald Trump were found guilty of felonies last week. Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign throughout the pivotal summer of 2016, was convicted on eight charges, including tax fraud and bank fraud. Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight charges, including tax evasion and making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate – the hush money paid to one of Trump’s mistresses.

Five of Trump’s former close associates have already been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort and Cohen join Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser; George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign; and campaign aid Rick Gates. Dozens of others have also been indicted. The president has thus far managed to stay just beyond reach, but the indictments and convictions underscore Trump’s lifelong adjacency to criminal activity. Continue reading

Donald Trump’s pipeline to Putin

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.

After his submissive appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month, President Donald Trump faced some of the most severe and unanimous criticism of his chaotic political career. Members of Trump’s own party called the president “treasonous” and “disgraceful” while commentators speculated that Putin must have serious kompromat on Trump to make him behave so obsequiously. As the media and the FBI connect the dots of Putin and Trump’s relationship, their most obvious common interest in oil goes largely undiscussed. Continue reading