A Return to the Treason Conversation

At a minimum, Trump is betraying his oath of office. That is one hell of a minimum.

As befits my vocation, I can be a bit stubborn (see, e.g., a gazillion and counting posts about republics and democracies).  But, as also befit my vocation I can change my mind.  I find myself in the process of reevaluating my position on the usage of “treason” in the context of President Trump’s ongoing treatment of the allegations of Russian hacking.

So, even if I if am still somewhat reticent about calling these actions treasonous, it is hard to say what a better word is. As a friend put it last night it all at least reeks of “the spirit of treason.”

At a minimum, Dan Drezner is right to note the following:

Based on the actions of the Trump administration this week, reasonable people can disagree over whether treason is being committed. Let me repeat that: Reasonable people can disagree over whether treason is being committed by this White House.

I do not want to be writing those words. Much as I may have disagreed with previous administrations in my lifetime, I never doubted that the people in those administrations were trying to advance the national interest the best way they thought possible. After this past week, can that case be made with Trump and his national security team?

At some point, Trump will no longer be president. It will be tempting for whomever succeeds him to turn the page on history, declare bygones and move forward. Not me. The behavior of the Trump administration this week has been suspect. It demands a reckoning. A former CIA chief of Russian operations tweeted, “From a counterintelligence perspective, something is going on behind the scenes. Before Helsinki I was less sure; post Helsinki, I feel sick.”

I feel sick typing these words. But the words and actions of this president, his administration, and his loyalists sickens me even more.

I will echo the sentiment that Trump’s consideration of arranging a meeting between Ambassador McFaul and the Russian government gave me a bit of pit in my stomach because that is kind of request that should be met with a simple no.

Let me also underscore, as our own conservation here indicated:  reasonable people can, indeed, disagree over whether the president is committing treason. That is a remarkable, frightening, and disheartening fact.  Put another way:  there currently exists, whether one agrees with it or not, a plausible argument that the president is committing treason, if anything in pursuit of his own self-interest.  While probably all presidents have, at one time or another, been accused of treason by an intemperate critic, I cannot think of one who could credibly have been accused of the act.  Nixon’s actions, for example, had nothing to do with a foreign power’s attacks on the US.

As my previous post should make clear, and I hope my writings in general demonstrate, accuracy in language is important to me and I even have a tendency to understatement, as has been pointed out to me over the years in the comment section of this blog.  As such, the decision to deploy inflammatory language is one I take cautiously.

At the moment, I would easily character Trump’s overall approach to the Russian hacking allegations to be a betrayal of his oath of office:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Such a betrayal should be an impeachable offense.

There is copious, direct evidence that actors in the Russian government sought to influence electoral outcomes in the United States.  There is copious, direct evidence that actors in the Russian government attacked computer systems belonging to a major US political party.  There is copious, direct evidence that actors in the Russian government have sought to damage US democracy by increasing polarization and citizen in-fighting.  There is copious, direct evidence of attempts by actors linked to the Russian government to infiltrate any influence major interest groups in the United States.

The president has done precious little to deal with this very serious evidence. It is his job to do something about such evidence.

The explanations of his actions fall, I think, into these possibilities:

  1. He has a clever plan for bringing better relations with Russia that will lead to world prosperity and the pay off is so huge that requires him to put on an act.
  2. Along the same lines as #2, Trump actually has a grand vision of the world built on economic nationalism, and he sees Russia as part of that plan and hence is downplaying the evidence.  But, rest assured, there is a coherent explanation based on policy preferences.
  3. The evidence is all crap and he knows it.  He just isn’t doing a good job of explaining this special knowledge to the rest of us.
  4. He really doesn’t believe the evidence before him, which suggests serious mental deficiency or intellectual incapacity.  Skepticism is one thing, but denial of strong evidence in the face of significant corroborative information is another. (Given his lack of interest in actual information, an alternative version of this is that he is refusing to even address the evidence in any substantive way).
  5. He is too lazy to engage in this complicated issue.
  6. He has an unhealthy respect for autocrats that leads him to behave this way.
  7. He is so easily manipulated by people like Putin that he continues to allow it to happen. As I tweeted yesterday: “If @realDonaldTrump can be manipulated by Russia right in front of our eyes in the context of an investigation and intense scrutiny, what are the odds he was manipulated in private during the campaign?”  Seriously, the man is being played, live on TV in front of a global audience.  Are we to believe worse hasn’t happened behind closed doors?
  8. He is so insecure about his 2016 victory that he cannot bear any possible scenario in which it is called into question even an iota.  Any suggestion that Russian hacking helped him cannot be allowed to be believed.  All that matters are his ratings (e.g., electoral votes and crowd size). He is so petty that he would betray his oath.
  9. He is actively downplaying the investigation because he knows his campaign got played during the campaign and he is now using his office to actively obstruct justice.
  10. He is actively conspiring with the Russians, maybe because he owes them money and/or because they have other kompromat.
  11. He was a Manchurian candidate.

Now, I actually think that 1, 2, 3, and 11 are all absurd possibilities. (And 1, 2, and 3, if they were real, would at least take this conversation into the realm of policy disagreement, but does anyone credibly think any of those three options are serious possibilities? If so, hard evidence please).

Number 4-11, are all betrayals of his oath.  Number 4 is also grounds for a 25th Amendment removal from office.

The likelihood is that we are dealing with some combination of 5-9. My best bet at the moment is really is 8 plus 9.  10 would not shock me. 5 is his general governing style, and 6 is just the way he rolls (see, also, North Korea, the Philippines, and Turkey).

One thing is for certain:  he is not taking seriously an attack on the United States.  That is a betrayal of his oath, plain and simple. This would be easier to see and explain if the attack has been physical.  But the truth is that attacks that we have experienced, and are likely to continue to experience have had, and will continue to have, far more devastating effects on our polity than any terrorist attack since 9/11.

So, back to treason:  in common parlance, what is the word we use for a betrayer?  We tend to say “traitor.”

As such, I take the point.

I remain cautious about the term, as I keep mentally returning to the legal definition, its history as a term used my monarchs and authoritarians to squelch dissent, and the fact that over-use of dramatic words dulls their significance. I also would reiterate points I made in the comments of my previous post:  the language of treason leads to the language of war.  That linguistic escalation has its own consequences that are not insignificant (see, e.g, the post-9/11 world and how overwrought language leads to terrible policy decisions.  Indeed, our fear of terrorists is part of what has given the current immigration debacle).

But in terms of a basic, direct description of the failure of the President of the United States to take seriously an attack on this country coupled with the clear appearance that he is obstructing the investigation, I am not sure what other singular word is appropriate (as many commenters noted in the discussion of my previous post).  Even if his motives are purely personal we are in the realm of serious betrayal.

So, again, I take the point.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. If treason is too strong a word due to the legal implications, then perhaps we should just start calling him a Benedict Arnold.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    My position from early days has been that brother Occam’s razor strongly suggested Trump was owned by Putin. No other explanation fits the facts nearly so well. Trump is a traitor.

    Does that mean he sat down one day and said, I’m gonna change sides? No, of course not, that would suggest a capacity for reflection that does not exist in this ridiculous stick-figure of a man. No, he just needed money. The banks had all cut him off and the mountain of bullshit that is the ‘Trump empire’ was going to come tumbling down. Russians had money, Trump took the money, and was too fcking stoopid to realize that a loan from a gangster is not the same as a loan from a bank.

    Of course there’s a pee tape. Probably quite a few tapes of Trump doing and saying all sorts of things. For Russian security forces it would be malpractice not to surveille someone like Trump. So of course they have tapes. And Trump knows it. It is impossible for a rational observer to miss the language of subservience in everything Trump does with Putin.

    My analysis on this has not changed. Putin owns Trump. Trump, by complying with Putin and covering-up his exposure, is a traitor, no different from Benedict Arnold, the Rosenbergs, Robert Hansson or Aldritch Ames.

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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Trump’s defenders repeat that everybody meddles in elections. Which is true. But there’s a quid pro quo for propping up minority right-wing governments. Trump is just a patsy who serves a clique of reactionary idiots and a foreign government.

    If there’s an actual spy, it’s Manafort. There’s no reason for a man that corrupt to volunteer to come out of the shadows, and yet he did. He would be free had he not joined the Trump campaign. He’s no idiot. He had to have been forced into this arrangement.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Manafort has the same problem Trump has: they’ve both prospered by laundering money for gangsters. Let’s not forget that Trump actually copped to money laundering at his failed casino and paid a hefty fine.

    Trump took Manafort because the Russians wanted him to take Manafort, Manafort was their guy, he’d served them well in supporting the corrupt Ukrainian regime. They figured electing Trump was in Manafort’s wheelhouse and short of an actual Russian intelligence agent running the Trump campaign, Manafort was the next best choice.

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  5. Ratufa says:

    I think his fundamental problem is that he is an extreme narcissist. He certainly has all the traits:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism#Traits_and_signs

    and Putin, who spent 16 years as a KBG foreign intelligence officer, has him totally sussed out.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    Now, I actually think that 1, 2, 3, and 11 are all absurd possibilities.

    1 and 2 actually strike me as plausible. I’d word it differently:

    1) He has a plan for bringing better relations with Russia that he thinks will lead to world prosperity, but it’s a dumb plan and it will lead to disaster instead.

    Or

    2) Trump actually has a “grand vision” of the world, a dumb one of course, and he sees Russia as a partner in that plan, but Russia is more interested in exploiting his good will than partnering up on Trump’s “grand vision.”

    I mean, he is lazy. He does respect autocrats and authoritarians. He is manipulable, and insecure, and he knows what he did.

    But let’s not pretend he’s going day to day just reacting to world events. Maybe that’s how it appears if you’re looking too closely at his tweets, but there is a plan at work here. It’s not being explained –very “corporate America” of him, actually– but there is strategy here. That’s what makes him so dangerous.

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  7. @James Pearce: I would like to see evidence beyond speculation.

    I think that the only plan the man has is self-aggrandizement.

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  8. @James Pearce: I would note, too, that #1 or #2 are only real options if the rest of the list is to be dismissed. Is that your position?

    Like I said in the post: if we are only talking 1 and 2, we have problems, but they are in the policy realm. But that assume that we are only talking 1 or 2.

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  9. Mister Bluster says:

    @Modulo Myself:..Trump’s defenders repeat that everybody meddles in elections.

    Someone tried that on me the other day.
    I could only respond that the Russians should rig our elections so that Vladimir Putin is voted in as President of the United States. Then Trump would be free to spend all his time screwing porn stars.

  10. @Modulo Myself:

    Trump’s defenders repeat that everybody meddles in elections.

    The US also engages in troop deployment aboard and is regularly raining drones down on foreign lands. Without getting into the morality of that, it is not hard to say that if the reciprocal was being done to us the responses would not be so nonchalant.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Russia has a GDP smaller than Italy. Russia is our 30th largest trading partner. Russia is weak. Yes, they have a big, powerful army, but they also have borders with China, Europe and the ‘Stans, while our neighbors are Canada and Mexico. Their navy is bottled up, ours rules the oceans. Also, their economy is in shambles, they are about as corrupt as Nigeria, and they live or die by the price of natural gas and oil.

    So, exactly why is Russia Trump’s Number One Priority? Why? What nirvana is supposed to come from closer friendship between the Americans (19 trillion GDP) and Russia (8% of our GDP)? Putin has nothing he can realistically offer. Nothing. Putin cannot bring peace to Syria, he cannot get Kim to disarm, and he clearly is not interested in ensuring the security of our allies, so what the hell does Trump think he stands to gain?

    I have the answer: Trump thinks he’s going to build Trump Tower Moscow. The only notion of profit Trump has is personal. Trump is owned by Putin and allowed himself to be thus owned out of greed and insecurity and the only ‘pay-off’ Trump can even imagine comes in the form of more Russian cash for him. Everything Trump does is about himself. He never even hesitated at committing treason because in Trump’s head he is the only thing that matters, and how could it be wrong if it makes him richer?

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Putin owns Trump.

    In order to do what you do, Michael, you need imagination and empathy.

    Let’s assume a moment that Putin does own Trump. How do you think Trump feels about it? Do you think he ever bristles when he gets orders from Moscow Centre?

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  13. @James Pearce: What is the point of your question?

    One suspects he doesn’t like it. Given his behavior that just gives credence to Michael’s hypothesis that Putin has substantial leverage.

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  14. Plus, trump seems to truly respect strongmen. A feature I tend not to like in my presidents.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I say “treason” you say “betraying his oath of office”, we both say “traitorous PoS”.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    I know exactly how Trump ‘feels.’ He’s scared, insecure and resentful.

    But in a case where a malignant narcissist has only himself to blame, do you think he blames himself? Of course not. He finds scapegoats to blame. In this he’s no different than some dude who decided to stick with coal mining and when he finds life has gone poorly because of his decision, he blames a scapegoat: POC, teh gays, whatever, but never himself.

    For that matter he’s no different from a narcissistic young sociopath who found himself oppressed by The Man just because he’d stolen a bunch of money. I think you think I am analyzing Trump from a position of moral superiority. No. I understand Trump because I understand myself, I understand the amoral fixation on your own self-interest, I understand the misplaced spite, the absurd sense of persecution, the whole fcking psychopathic world view.

    I even understand the suckers, Pearce, because I’ve used and manipulated those same sorts of people, the credulous, the weak, the willing, the lazy. I bullshitted my way through life for 22 years, always afraid of exposure, but relying on the willingness of people to be deceived.

    I evolved. Trump did not. Trump is just me minus 50 IQ points and plus a rich father. Trump skated by on daddy’s money, I am morally sure cheated his way through college, and has surfed a wave of bullshit ever since. Unlike me, he was never forced to confront reality. And, I had the great good fortune to meet the right woman at the right time.

    I grew up and became a better man, yet even so, I would be horrified and appalled at the idea that I should be POTUS. We want something better than Michael Reynolds circa 1979 running the country. The presidency is not meant for malignant narcissists, even reformed ones.

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  17. charon says:

    Interesting take at the New Yorker:

    Adam Davidson

    excerpt:

    Alena Ledeneva, a professor of politics at University College London and an expert on Russia’s political and business practices, describes kompromat as being more than a single powerful figure weaponizing damning evidence to blackmail a target. She explained that to make sense of kompromat it is essential to understand the weakness of formal legal institutions in Russia and other former Soviet states. Ledeneva argued that wealth and power are distributed through networks of political figures and businesspeople who follow unspoken rules, in an informal hierarchy that she calls sistema, or system. Sistema has a few clear rules—do not defy Putin being the most obvious one—and a toolkit for controlling potentially errant members. It is primarily a system of ambiguity. Each person in sistema wonders where he stands and monitors the relative positions of friends and rivals.

    Gleb Pavlovsky, one of the leading political thinkers in Russia, is known to be an adviser to Putin and well connected to the power structure. In a 2016 article in Foreign Affairs, he endorsed Ledeneva’s sistema framework. Many observers imagine Putin to be some all-powerful genius, Pavlovsky wrote, but he “has never managed to build a bureaucratically successful authoritarian state. Instead, he has merely crafted his own version of sistema, a complex practice of decision-making and power management that has long defined Russian politics and society and that will outlast Putin himself. Putin has mastered sistema, but he has not replaced it with ‘Putinism’ or a ‘Putin system.’ Someday, Putin will go. But sistema will stay.”

    Ledeneva told me that each actor in sistema faces near-constant uncertainty about his status, aware that others could well destroy him. Each actor also knows how to use kompromat to destroy rivals but fears that using such material might provoke an explosive response. While each person in sistema feels near-constant uncertainty, the over-all sistema is remarkably robust. Kompromat is most powerful when it isn’t used, and when its targets aren’t quite clear about how much destructive information there is out there. If everyone sees potential land mines everywhere, it dramatically increases the price for anybody stepping out of line.

    The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, naïve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime. This placed him, unawares, squarely within sistema, where he remained, conducting business with other members of a handful of overlapping Central Asian networks. Had he never sought the Presidency, he may never have had to come to terms with these decisions. But now he is much like everyone else in sistema. He fears there is kompromat out there—maybe a lot of it—but he doesn’t know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.

    my emphasis added

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  18. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would like to see evidence beyond speculation.

    Do you still monitor his tweets? If you skip over the garbage ones, it’s there:

    I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems…but they can ALL be solved!

    It doesn’t need to be a “grand vision” to be a vision.

    I would note, too, that #1 or #2 are only real options if the rest of the list is to be dismissed.

    Not necessarily. The thing about the Dunning-Kruger effect is that you’re not actually super smart. He could be lazy and pliable and insecure, and still come up with a dumb “vision” for the world.

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  19. @James Pearce: Consider me unimpressed by the evidence provided.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @charon:

    The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, naïve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime.

    Yep:

    The parent of Trump Taj Mahal, one of Atlantic City, New Jersey’s struggling casinos, has settled U.S. government charges that it violated federal laws designed to thwart money laundering, court filings show.

    Trump Taj Mahal agreed to the assessment of a $10 million civil penalty by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, according to a proposed consent order filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

    The penalty will take the form of a general unsecured claim in Trump Taj Mahal’s bankruptcy.

    In exchange, Trump Taj Mahal admitted to have willfully violated reporting and record-keeping requirements under the federal Bank Secrecy Act from 2010 to 2012.

    These violations included many that had been previously revealed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as far back as 2003.

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  21. charon says:

    It’s not just Trump, and it’s not just fear of the GOP base. A lot of GOP politicians have been influenced and supported by Russia, getting access through organizations like the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast and other conservative Christian bodies.

    It was Russian meddling that nixed Trump’s first choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney, and Russian meddling that got K.T.McFarland installed as Deputy National Security Advisor.

    Read the charging affidavit for Marina Butina, it’s a fascinating read, like a plotline from the TV show “The Americans.”

    BTW, I think the Marina Butina story will hurt the GOP badly, it has enough sex and pizazz to get the attention of people who do not usually follow politics closely, or who are normally sealed within the Conservative media bubble.

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  22. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @Steven L. Taylor:

    There’s a much more powerful case to be made than Trump is a traitor. It’s that the GOP’s causes (power, racism, guns, patriarchy, tax cuts) are repellant to anyone who doesn’t run an autocratic country and the base doesn’t care. They’re like Guatemalan landowners who let the CIA run death squads to torture and kill rebellious peasants. The Democrats should be taking about McConnell and the horror shows of all of the Koch-funded states like Kansas. They should be saying that the end result of selling yourself to climate change denialists and gun nuts and Jesus freaks is in just as happily selling yourself to Putin. This is what happens when you live in a factory of right-wing bullshit: you end up with Trump being blackmailed by a dictator and a base of patriotic idiots giving Nazi salutes. It’s not about the treason. It’s about never standing up for oneself and doing what’s right, ever.

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  23. TM01 says:

    Obama knew this “attack” was going on and did nothing. Didn’t even tell candidate Trump. Told us all in fact that the election can’t be hacked because it’s so decentralized. What did Obama do while this attack was ongoing?

    Nothing?

    Because heaven forbid he endanger Hillary’s sure thing, I suppose.

    Is there a word for that?

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  24. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What is the point of your question?

    One suspects he doesn’t like it.

    If I were being blackmailed by a foreign power and I didn’t like it, I would seek to escape, or to sabotage or undermine. If you elect me POTUS, with United States Marines at my beck and call, that would be the end of any kind of ownership. I would be free.

    Putin would get a letter. “It’s over. I’m never coming back. Do your worst.”

    But Trump, who is waaaay more alpha than me, is just going to roll over?
    @Michael Reynolds:

    I know exactly how Trump ‘feels.’ He’s scared, insecure and resentful.

    I meant how he feels about being in Putin’s pocket. See above.

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  25. @James Pearce:

    Putin would get a letter. “It’s over. I’m never coming back. Do your worst.”

    But Trump, who is waaaay more alpha than me, is just going to roll over?

    Are we watching the same guy?

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  26. al Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    Because heaven forbid he endanger Hillary’s sure thing, I suppose.
    Is there a word for that?

    furchtbar

  27. @TM01:

    Because heaven forbid he endanger Hillary’s sure thing, I suppose.

    Is there a word for that?

    The funny is that it would have helped Hillary, so your premise has serious flaws.

    Beyond that, even trying to give your questions some credence, the worst you could say about Obama is that he was mistaken, or even negligent. No where in the realm of treasonous.

    In my opinion, he was overly cautious.

  28. Gustopher says:

    All but #5. People don’t have one or two motivations.

    Even #4. I am positive that there is some piece of evidence that leads to a wrong conclusion, and that he is furious about it, but that it ends up being along the lines of “we didn’t rape and kill the boy, we killed and raped the boy — only a monster would rape a live boy!” (Probably a different distinction, but who knows at this point) He’s angry as can be because he is being accused of something that he didn’t do.

    And yes, he a traitor.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Are we watching the same guy?

    I think so…The president who calls people names and expects his cabinet to praise him at meetings?

    Trump may be a fake tough guy, but I don’t think he’s a real wilting flower.

  30. Gustopher says:

    While probably all presidents have, at one time or another, been accused of treason by an intemperate critic, I cannot think of one who could credibly have been accused of the act. Nixon’s actions, for example, had nothing to do with a foreign power’s attacks on the US.

    Didn’t Nixon attempt to sabotage Vietnam peace talks before the 1968 election?

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: @James Pearce:

    but there is a plan at work here.

    Pearce! Imagine my shock that you who are so anti-Trump (as you tell us all the time) and so liberal (as you also frequently tell us) have come to the conclusion that we should just ignore all the suspicious activity because it’s just a delusion and instead focus on a solid debate over the wisdom of Trump’s master plan. Otherwise, we are wasting our time/playing into his hands?

    BTW, what about Hillary?

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  32. wr says:

    @James Pearce: ” I would be free.”

    Sure you would. Then Putin would release all the tapes of you agreeing to do whatever his handlers told him to do — from laundering money to possibly choosing a secretary of state — and then Trump would be free to live out his life in a jail cell.

    See, the thing about blackmail is that they have information that can really hurt you if it’s released. Being president doesn’t inoculate you from that — it may even be the reverse.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    @TM01:

    Obama knew this “attack” was going on and did nothing. Didn’t even tell candidate Trump. Told us all in fact that the election can’t be hacked because it’s so decentralized. What did Obama do while this attack was ongoing?

    This is why it is such a shame that we have no functioning congress — there should be an open congressional investigation that gets to these questions, and all the questions that follow from them (for instance, what did the Trump campaign do).

    But, with the Republican Party putting party before country at all times, we don’t get that.

    (We have partial answers to a lot of this — McConnell refused to make a bipartisan statement with Obama about the Russian interference and said that he would make it into a partisan issue… because McConnell puts party before country)

    TM01 asks good questions that really need a full public accounting, but he doesn’t do so in good faith — he isn’t trying to get an answer, he is trying to score a point. And his party does the same.

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  34. @wr:

    See, the thing about blackmail is that they have information that can really hurt you if it’s released. Being president doesn’t inoculate you from that — it may even be the reverse.

    Yup.

    The right information could lead to impeachment, even with a Republican congress.

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Russia is our 30th largest trading partner. Russia is weak.

    Personally, I don’t think this gets enough attention. Putin and his cronies have wrecked Russia. When I started to get involved with China there was still a “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) group in my company but people were already seeing the disaster Russia had become. Russia could have been a tremendous economic force. It had well educated, innovative people who had managed to achieve amazing things despite a terrible system. With that system removed they could have become a commercial giant. Instead they ended up with Putin and his cronies who took over the oil business and trashed everything else. It became impossible to build a non-retail, non-food service business in Russia, unless you were a Putin crony. As someone once explained to me, the core problem with doing business in Russia is that everyone has the power to demand a bribe, but no one has the power to actually deliver after taking that bribe.

  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    I meant how he feels about being in Putin’s pocket. See above.

    Yes, and that is the question I answered: Trump feels scared and resentful, desperate and ill-used. He feels the way any malignant narcissist feels when he realizes the con is going bad. It is very scary knowing the law is after you. It must be worse still knowing that a ruthless foe has the power to roll over on you. He’s scared and he should be.

  37. gVOR08 says:

    Very good piece, Dr. Taylor.

    @James Pearce:

    Do you think he ever bristles when he gets orders from Moscow Centre?

    It wouldn’t be anything so crude and direct as “orders”. If they could control him that directly they’d order him to be more circumspect and more careful of his cover.

    The piece @charon: quotes is very good. They call it “influence”, not “control”. It wouldn’t be “orders”, more like friends or associates, over years, explaining how much opportunity there is in Russia if only Russia wasn’t so misunderstood, shame that Obama put all those horrible sanctions on Russia when Ukraine was always part of Russia. You should go to Moscow again, remember that great party in the Presidential Suite? (With some detail only Trump and the hookers should know.) They want your great yuuge and beautiful Trump Tower in Moscow. But the U. S. government puts up so many pointless obstacles that Obama was too stupid to remove. In fact, if they could lose the deadweight of NATO and Europe, Russia and the U. S., under the right leadership, could lead the world into the light.

    Then in Helsinki Putin says similar things (working off the same script written in “Moscow Centre”).

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    because McConnell puts party before country

    To be strictly accurate, I think McConnell puts McConnell way above Party, and except for his funders, the country isn’t a consideration.

    If there is ever a complete and honest history of this period, I think Mitch McConnell will be a bigger villain than Trump. It’s McConnell who blocked almost all progress through the Obama years (and will again if Ds take the House), corrupted the Supreme Court, and pushed through the deficit busting tax cut. On top of blocking action on Russian interference. And we’re not going to convict Trump on a bill of impeachment unless it becomes unstoppable or McConnell decides it’s in his best interests.

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  39. MBunge says:

    No, reasonable people cannot disagree that the President committed treason because the President did not commit treason. And you might consider that the President is fulfilling his oath by defending the Constitution from people like you, those who are seeking to undermine, delegitimize, and even overthrow the legally elected President of the United States. And yes, when you start bandying around the 25th amendment, you are talking about overthrowing the democratically elected government and you shouldn’t fool yourselves otherwise.

    Of course, asking you to stop fooling yourselves is asking an awful lot these days.

    I could go into details but others have already done that eleswhere and since you obviously ignore them, why bother? You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think and you’re all neck deep in the river already.

    So, all I can do is point out the obvious. As long as Donald Trump’s approval rating remains in the low to mid 40s or better, any attempt to remove him from office other than electorally will result in people getting killed. I shouldn’t have to state that but emotionally disturbed people talk themselves into a lot of stupid things because they can’t think beyond their pain. Oh, and if you’re thinking of prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office, you might want to consider what just happened to James Gunn before setting that fire.

    Mike

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  40. wr says:

    @MBunge: Thanks, Mike! Love the new tough guy persona. Good look on you. And thanks for reminding us, just as Pearce seems determined to turn into a Jenos-level troll, what a real troll looks like.

    But I guess the real thanks are for warning us all against forming that underground revolutionary cell and conspiring to overthrow the government. If it weren’t for your great wisdom and thoughtfulness we might have all gotten in serious trouble!

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  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    Is this what you expected when you joined the cult, Mike? That 18 months in you’d be insisting your man-god wasn’t a traitor and threatening violence if he were removed for that treason? Look at the position you’ve gotten yourself into. You’re threatening violence against other Americans in defense of a traitor. MAGA!

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  42. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    The right information could lead to impeachment, even with a Republican congress.

    But so could treason.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    He’s scared and he should be.

    He invited Putin for another summit and smears everyone who . I’d describe him as emboldened, not scared.

    You know who’s scared? Mark Duplass.

    @gVOR08:

    If they could control him that directly they’d order him to be more circumspect and more careful of his cover.

    Yes, but isn’t it a much simpler explanation that Trump doesn’t need to be told to be Russia-friendly because he actually wants to do it?

    Anyone read this piece by Andrew Sullivan? I find it much more plausible than all the conspiracy theories.

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  43. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge:

    Oh, and if you’re thinking of prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office, you might want to consider what just happened to James Gunn before setting that fire.

    Ooooh, scary.

    I sure hope the prosecutors haven’t made jokes about pedophilia on Twitter. It’s something that career prosecutors tend to do though, so we will have to do a cursory check.

  44. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Anyone read this piece by Andrew Sullivan?”

    Would that be the same Andrew Sullivan who was able to look into my soul and declare me a traitor because I wasn’t stupid enough to think that invading Iraq was a good idea back when he was the war’s cheerleader? Thanks, but I’ll look for psychological insight elsewhere….

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  45. Mikey says:

    @MBunge:

    And you might consider that the President is fulfilling his oath by defending the Constitution

    I couldn’t read past that. It just got too damn stupid.

    How much are the Russians paying you for this crap, Bungle? Because they’re not getting their rubles’ worth. You really suck at this.

  46. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “I’d describe him as emboldened, not scared.”

    Hey guys — Remember when Bungles finally transitioned from “I deeply regret the idea of a Trump presidency, but whatever any liberal does is the real reason for his popularity, so please stop” to his coming out as a rabid Trump cultie? Anyone starting to get the same vibe from Pearce?

    Come on, Pearce, do it, you’ll feel so much better. Just one step out of the closet and you’re free. And remember, you can always say the liberals made you support Trump.

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  47. @MBunge: I am going to leave your comment up, despite my recent invitation (so to speak) for you to stay off my threads.

    people like you

    The next time you use that phrase, you need to have a definition or I will just delete it. This has become repetitious trolling. And I have asked very politely for an explanation multiple time.

    even overthrow

    You are delusional. Nothing in this post speaks about overthrowing anyone.

    when you start bandying around the 25th amendment, you are talking about overthrowing the democratically elected government and you shouldn’t fool yourselves otherwise.

    God help me. One, since the 25th amendment is the constitution and is part of the legal order, your claim is nonsensical. Two, I mentioned it in the context of an option that I essentially dismissed.

    all I can do is point out the obvious. As long as Donald Trump’s approval rating remains in the low to mid 40s or better

    At least you are finally using accurate numbers.

    Nowhere in this piece did I suggest removal, save the passing reference to the 25th. If you are going to troll, could at least troll what I write (which, granted, is harder than making crap up).

    Oh, and if you’re thinking of prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office, you might want to consider what just happened to James Gunn before setting that fire.

    That makes zero sense.

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  48. James Pearce says:

    Reply to 3 people, throw in a link, get stuck in the mod queue.

    @MBunge:

    any attempt to remove him from office other than electorally will result in people getting killed.

    I highly doubt we’re going to go to war over Trump. I hope those criminals killing people live long enough to regret it in prison.

    I agree, however, that liberals need to stop thinking about impeachment, treason, Mueller, and start thinking about how they’re going to serve this country. If, that is, that’s something they’re interested in doing.

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  49. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @MBunge: Your mask of detached superiority is slipping. You might want to powder up before going on.

  50. @James Pearce:

    I agree, however, that liberals need to stop thinking about impeachment, treason, Mueller, and start thinking about how they’re going to serve this country

    And there’s the crux. While impeachment is not something I worry about (although think possible once Mueller reports), the notion that what happend in Helsinki (and at the G7 and the NATO meeting, etc–all of which are of a piece) don’t matter and Russian interference with the election doesn’t matter (not to mention that what he says on Twitter doesn’t matter), I am starting to join the commentariat in wondering what you think does matter?

    While I certainly would like to see a sense of service to the country, your statement feels more like empty platitude than anything else. Why can’t we all just get along?

  51. James Pearce says:

    @wr: I knew you’d be the one who would go, “Hmph. I don’t read Andrew Sullivan…”

    Then don’t.

  52. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I have never said Helsinki doesn’t matter. I have consistently said it reveals Trump to be a bad president and should, in a perfect world, make him very very vulnerable, especially with his base.

    And yet they love it. They have now found something they, Oliver Stone, and Bashar Assad can agree on: Russia rulez.

    How and why did that happen? Racism? Misogyny?

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  53. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    I agree, however, that liberals need to stop thinking about impeachment, treason, Mueller, and start thinking about how they’re going to serve this country. If, that is, that’s something they’re interested in doing.

    When the popular vote loser President does not serve his country — or feels that embracing Russian interference with our democracy is serving our country — and gets cover from his party which controls both houses of Congress, and which is the beneficiary of Russian interference… how do liberals serve their country?

    Don’t say what not to do, say what to do. What do you, Mr. James Pearce of no government position, do? And what do you want your elected leaders to do?

    About all a private citizen can do is go to protests, mock the Trump supporters, perpetually point out that this isn’t normal, and question the legitimacy of the Trump administration and his supporters. Vote for Democrats and ride it out.

    It’s either that or take up arms against the government — but I have faith that our institutions will, in general, work, and that something akin to normalcy will be restored in time.

    Do you have a more positive suggestion? Something in that middle ground?

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  54. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge:

    people like you

    Aw, shucks, thanks. I know people like me, but it’s still good to hear it sometimes.

  55. Ratufaq says:

    I’m not convinced by the “Putin is explicitly blackmailing Trump” theory, in large part because it is a needlessly complicated and risky way to manipulate Trump. Trump is easy person for Putin to manipulate because Trump admires Putin for being exactly the type of strongman he aspires to be, and Trump has a inflated ego — the phrase “you can’t knock a mark” is true because people who have been conned will never admit to it because their egos won’t let them.

    So, why go through the risks of blackmail when you can have Trump believe that acting out of own volition?

  56. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    any attempt to remove him from office other than electorally will result in people getting killed.

    Oh STFU keyboard warrior. Your party is the one that tried this decades ago, impeaching a President to remove him from power and you DEFINITELY would have been OK with doing it to Hillary if she won. Would you have been spouting this crap then or if a liberal had implied violence would occur because of impeachment, would you have consider them sane, patriotic and prophetic?

    You SEVERELY underestimate the American public if you think they’ll tolerate a bunch of nuts start shooting because they’re unhappy with the political process the Founders put in place. FOX News makes you think you and yours are some great sleeping giant but the truth is the number of people who will actually show up to your little fantasy is minuscule at best. Not to mention the police and military are definitely not going to side with maniacs shooting up cities.

    This is not Red Dawn. Your FPS and militia games are not real. 4-chan and Brietbart are not reality. Anyone stupid enough to think that is probably already on a watchlist someone and won’t get very far. And last but not least, if Trump openly supports any of that insurrectionist BS against a sitting Congress, he’s DEFINITELY adding treason to his list of crimes. It’s not going to go the way you think, Bunge – not all all.

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  57. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    About all a private citizen can do is go to protests, mock the Trump supporters, perpetually point out that this isn’t normal, and question the legitimacy of the Trump administration and his supporters. Vote for Democrats and ride it out.

    Almost none of that is helpful, though. Protest every weekend and you’ll just be crowd-controlled. Mock the Trump supporters and they’ll still be Trump supporters, only mocked now and maybe a little pissed about it. And we can’t really complain it’s not “normal” because one of the reasons they voted for Trump is that he’s not “normal.”

    This is a point I keep trying to make. It behooves us liberals to try and understand what the conservatives appreciate about Trump, not only so that we can understand what is happening to our country, but so we can understand our place in it. They don’t like him because he’s racist. They don’t like him because he’s misogynist. They don’t like all the fumbling and the bumbling. But they like him, God help us, they like him. (One of the things they like best is that he makes liberals behave in very offputting ways.)

    So you ask me what you should do? Take a vacation to Montana or Kansas and don’t treat it like an anthropological expedition. Don’t chew out the the guy in a MAGA hat; ask him about his kids. Reach out and be excellent to each other. Turn your skin into a raincoat and outrage into rain. Let it roll right off. You know, be decent people.

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  58. @James Pearce: Dude, I live in Alabama. I don’t have to go on a vacation to meet Trump supporters. Even working at a university I eat lunch with them on a weekly basis.

    And I do agree that mocking people is mostly not productive.

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  59. KM says:

    @James Pearce :

    This is a point I keep trying to make. It behooves us liberals to try and understand what the conservatives appreciate about Trump, not only so that we can understand what is happening to our country, but so we can understand our place in it. They don’t like him because he’s racist. They don’t like him because he’s misogynist. They don’t like all the fumbling and the bumbling. But they like him, God help us, they like him. (One of the things they like best is that he makes liberals behave in very offputting ways.)

    And the point you keep vehemently ignoring is that a not insignificant number of them DO like him for the reasons you listed. They have vocally stated that and written about it. They’re happy someone who (at the very least seems to) thinks and act like them is now in control.

    This is a case of laying down with dogs and getting fleas. It’s really, really, REALLY obvious Trump has supporters who are pro-racist, pro-misogyny, pro-fumbling, pro-asskissing Putin, etc and a ton of other supporters who are saying absolutely nothing about their “not liking”. They’re not criticizing – in fact, they go out of their way to make sure to butter him up if they have to say something negative. They’re really nowhere to be found, seemingly quiet and content to just…. not like and let bad stuff happen. They’re OK with being passive in their displeasure and that speaks for itself.

    A wise man once said evil flourishes when good men do nothing. You are telling us that we shouldn’t be holding said men accountable but should instead respect their feelings while they sit on the sidelines, keeping their heads down. I’m positive there are plenty of decent people who vote Trump because of respectable reasons…. but don’t tell me they’re still respectable if they can’t be bothered to speak up when the President does something they don’t approve of.

    You get judged by the company you keep, James. If they don’t like that, then it’s on them to do something about who they choose to associate with.

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  60. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @James Pearce:

    This is a point I keep trying to make. It behooves us liberals to…

    Full stop. You are NOT a liberal.

    Protest and Free speech is patriotic. Don’t you tell me that I should take this crap quietly, comrade.

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  61. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    So you ask me what you should do? Take a vacation to Montana or Kansas and don’t treat it like an anthropological expedition. Don’t chew out the the guy in a MAGA hat; ask him about his kids. Reach out and be excellent to each other. Turn your skin into a raincoat and outrage into rain. Let it roll right off. You know, be decent people.

    Trump supporters with MAGA hats are not the problem for Democrats(And frankly, from what I see in articles and news packages with Trump supporters in the South and the Mideast they don’t have a deep grasp of issues, to be charitable).

    In a multiparty Democracy Trump would be the typical politician that has strong base of supporters but that does not manage to win elections to the Executive because of his rejection numbers(I saw this happening a dozen of times in Brazil). If there were three or four strong parties in the United States and a runoff Trump might had went to the runoff and lost to whoever went to the runoff with him.

    He never had positive approval ratings.

    Democrats need to improve their share of the White Vote and they need a strong economic message, even for minorities and single women. But people with MAGA hats are not a problem for them.

  62. Tom M says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Honestly. That is not fair. I see Mr. Pearce as honestly trying to offer a different opinion. Don’t denigrate it. Try to look at it clearly. I’m in Dr Taylor’s camp, and yours.
    And yes, while I rarely comment – I read this blog everyday. So I know the players and the lay of the land.
    Try to think about his comments – please – it’s important that different opinions or POVs exist on this board.
    It’s one of the few that actually talk through issues. Don’t chase people out.
    (Though to be honest, the usual trolls do suck). As a group you’ve all done a remarkable job at not letting trolls derail conversations. I just feel that Mr. Pearce’s don’t reach the level of trolling. They maybe contrary but seem to be coming from a place of trying to get a point across – one that many on the board want to blow by.

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  63. An Interested Party says:

    They maybe contrary but seem to be coming from a place of trying to get a point across – one that many on the board want to blow by.

    It’s quite easy to blow by points like…

    This is a point I keep trying to make. It behooves us liberals to try and understand what the conservatives appreciate about Trump, not only so that we can understand what is happening to our country, but so we can understand our place in it. They don’t like him because he’s racist. They don’t like him because he’s misogynist. They don’t like all the fumbling and the bumbling. But they like him, God help us, they like him. (One of the things they like best is that he makes liberals behave in very offputting ways.)

    To argue that a significant portion of Trump supporters don’t like him because he’s a racist and a misogynist is simply ridiculous…look at all the racists and misogynists that have crawled out from under their slimy rocks…they do so because in so many ways, Trump makes it safe and easy for them to do so…how can their views be so wrong if they are shared by the president of the United States…

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    Reach out and be excellent to each other.

    Wow. After all this time, it turns out that the secret strategy that liberals need to adopt was revealed to you by Bill and Ted?

    Suppose for a moment that we have all taken your advice. (More of us have than you are willing to admit; I keep looking for a liberal bubble but haven’t been able to find one.) What next? How does anything get better? What’s the mechanism that leads to productive change in current Trump supporters’ views? Hint: pretending that there’s nothing wrong with their current views won’t do it. Not even in the long run. Not even if they think you’re a reasonably decent person, for a liberal.

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  65. James Pearce says:

    Replies to Steven, KM, Andre, LC, Tom, AIP, and Dave, respectively:

    Dude, I live in Alabama. I don’t have to go on a vacation to meet Trump supporters.

    Ha! Point taken. You really have lunch every week with racist, sexist traitors though?

    (Of course you don’t. That’s a stereotype.)

    You are telling us that we shouldn’t be holding said men accountable but should instead respect their feelings while they sit on the sidelines, keeping their heads down.

    No, I’m saying calm down. Remember that you have other things you care about besides “Get Trump.” Flint still doesn’t have clean water. We should do what we’re good at.

    We are not good at out-sniping Trump.

    Democrats need to improve their share of the White Vote and they need a strong economic message, even for minorities and single women. But people with MAGA hats are not a problem for them.

    You’re right about Dems needing a strong economic message –not a pandering one– but people with MAGA hats are not able to move in public without some keening liberal verbally attacking them. I find that a bad thing, not because I have sympathy for the MAGA-hatted, but because that’s not who liberals are supposed to be.

    You are NOT a liberal.

    Were you involved in the “you are/I am” conversation?

    As for protest, I think mass demonstrations in the public square have lost their sting. That’s why I’m against them, not because I don’t believe in protest or free speech. If those protests can be considered a “political technology,” they’re an out-moded one. I see a world where a preference for mass demonstrations over political mobilization (they are NOT the same thing) leads to the rise of authoritarians, and the authoritarians win.

    I see Mr. Pearce as honestly trying to offer a different opinion

    Thanks, Tom. I respect the discourse on this blog, and our hosts, enough to delete, or if not regret, any conscious “trolling.”

    It’s quite easy to blow by points like

    Too easy, maybe?

    Also, what came first? Trump, or the online social justice movement? White dudes in their 20s were never under any rock.

    After all this time, it turns out that the secret strategy that liberals need to adopt was revealed to you by Bill and Ted?

    Bill S Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan, actually, but yes. Despite coming from a silly comedy movie and being used here for humorous effect, “Be excellent to each other” is a decent counter-argument to making our culture even more toxic by relying on mockery and delegitimization.

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  66. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Then don’t.”

    I don’t. What’s your point?

  67. Bruce Henry says:

    The “people who wear MAGA hats” and other Trump supporters I come across where I live in NC are often, in their daily lives, seemingly nice folks. They tithe, volunteer to serve the community in their churches, raise their children to be polite, smile at strangers and hold the door for them at the store, yada yada.

    But politically, they are brainwashed by years of talk radio, FOX “News”, and the echo chambers of their after-Sunday-School potlucks. They spout nonsense conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton without so much as a second thought. They want to say and do racist, homophobic, and misogynistic things and ALSO want to be outraged when those things they are saying and doing are pointed out to them as racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. “How DARE you call me a racist when I say I have no problem with brown children being torn from their mothers’ arms?!? They’re illegal!!” “How DARE you say I’m transphobic when I call for statewide pecker-checker laws? It’s about the (my, white) children!” “How DARE you say Trump is a misogynist? Twenty years ago Bill Clinton got a blowjob!”

    These people, in NC, are represented by a supermajority in the legislature which has enacted one of the most restrictive so-called “Voter ID” laws in the country. It has stripped power from the elected Democratic governor in order to make NC a one-party state. It is currently trying to gerrymander the state court districts. (It will succeed at this.) It passed, and then fake-repealed, SB-2. It panders to the rebel-flag lovers and insults minority voters.

    As an older white male, I am often assumed to be a Trump supporter. I can’t tell you how often one of these folks will try to strike up a conversation at the gym or the grocery store or the workplace about those uppity ungrateful black NFL players or those welfare-cheatin’ blacks using EBT cards or those sneaky dangerous Mexicans stealing “our jobs” and “abusing the system.” Meanwhile they are making excuses for, and/or telling me to relax about, Trump’s buffoonery and borderline treasonous behavior.

    How am I supposed to — and why should I want to — “be excellent” to these people?

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  68. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    He invited Putin for another summit and smears everyone who . I’d describe him as emboldened, not scared.

    Of course you would because you need to maintain your record of being consistently wrong. Genius: fear and bold action are not only not exclusive of each other, they tend to go together. Right? Cornered rat syndrome?

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  69. tm01 says:

    A few questions:
    If Putin owns Trump, what has Putin actually gotten? Concrete, specific examples please.
    Can reasonable people disagree as to whether JCPOA was treasonous? Iran is our enemy after all.
    On defending the Constitution: Obama changed laws on his own and violated court orders. Treason? At the very least, can the reasonable among us agree those were impeachable offenses? Upon which Congress should indeed have acted.

    And now we have confirmation last night that, per the unredacted bits, the Obama administration used the word of one foreigner, who was working for a political campaign, to wire tap a member of the other political campaign.

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  70. charon says:

    @James Pearce: @Michael Reynolds:

    Trump’s reason for inviting Putin to Washington is that he imagines this will benefit his reputation and stature. Other presidents have gained stature from summits, so he thinks that he, being the greatest president ever, will naturally gain stature also.

    Trump is too naive and clueless to realize that his hero Putin used the Helsinki meeting to mock him and “count coup.” Putin will enjoy himself in Washington mocking Trump some more.

  71. @tm01:

    If Putin owns Trump, what has Putin actually gotten? Concrete, specific examples please.

    Setting aside whether Putin “owns” Trump, Putin is reaping huge benefits in terms of creating serious tensions between other NATO countries and the US. He has the president of the United States more or less endorsing the take-over of Crimea. He is gaining huge domestic advantages at home, showing Russians that he is making Russia a major global player again after the humiliation of losing the Cold War. His seeming closeness to Trump also creates doubt and tension in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuanian–all NATO members who, like Crimea, have a lot of Russian speakers and who fear Russia incursions into their territory–note that a key Russia claim to Crimea is that it was mostly Russian-speakers, and Trump has parroted that argument).

    Putin is getting increased connections between some members of the US right and Russian interests, which will help Russia get favorable treatment in the US Congress.

    Putin is now dealing with a sympathetic president who is also naive/ignorant of world affairs. Whatever else one can say about HRC, that would not have been the case.

    Putin is able to point to the discord on the US and tell his people that “democracy” is a mess everywhere, even the United States, do internal reformers should stop complaining.

    That is just a partial list.

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  72. @tm01:

    Can reasonable people disagree as to whether JCPOA was treasonous?

    No, they can’t. Making deals with an adversarial nation is not treason.

    The reason there is a debate about Trump is that he is ignoring attacks on the US because he appears afraid that revelations about such attacks will harm him personally. He appears to be acting against the interests of the United States for personal gain.

    One can criticize the JCPOA on policy ground all one likes, but to pretend like there is some compatibility to Trump-Russia is impossible to make on logical grounds.

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  73. @tm01:

    And now we have confirmation last night that, per the unredacted bits, the Obama administration used the word of one foreigner, who was working for a political campaign, to wire tap a member of the other political campaign.

    What we appear to have is serious evidence that a former Trump campaign adviser was a Russian agent.

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  74. Michael Reynolds says:

    @tm01:
    What has Putin actually gotten?

    1) NATO undercut – Trump’s obsessive contempt for NATO has seriously weakened the prime anti-Russian defensive pact.

    2) The cancellation of war games with SK which reduces American and SK military readiness.

    3) Endless delays on sanctions. So compulsively did Trump try to take down the sanctions that the supine Republicans in Congress actually passed legislation to sustain sanctions over the objections of the Trumpaloons.

    4) A free hand in Syria. Which is a free hand for Hezbollah as well.

    5) Withdrawals from trade pacts, all of which Russia was excluded from. Advantage Russia.

    6) Attacks on democratic leaders, praise for thugs. Putin is a thug and Trump is normalizing him, spreading pro-Putin propaganda to people like you.

    7) Called for Russia to be admitted to the G-7, an action that accepts Russian aggression and weakens western cohesion.

    8) By refusing to resist Putin’s election rigging, Trump has undercut the validity of American elections and American democracy. Advantage autocrats like Putin.

    9) Trump has validated Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.

    10) Trump has repeatedly drawn moral equivalencies between the US and Russia. This destroyes American soft power, advantage Putin.

    11) Repeatedly attacked American intelligence, the CIA, FBI. Not only does this directly aid the KGB/GRU/FSB it means the American people cannot trust any intel. These attacks weaken the ability of CIA and FBI to protect us.

    I could go on. And on. But I have to get some work done, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because you’re a cultie and reality is irrelevant to your faith.

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  75. Mikey says:

    @tm01:

    And now we have confirmation last night that, per the unredacted bits, the Obama administration used the word of one foreigner, who was working for a political campaign, to wire tap a member of the other political campaign.

    Unsurprisingly, you’re parroting the spoon-fed Trumpist idiocies. The FISA application and primary orders released yesterday evening do not only NOT indicate that, they indicate the complete opposite. Carter Page was an agent of a foreign power while he was a member of the Trump campaign. Of that, there can be no reasonable dispute at this point. The FBI was entirely correct to conduct surveillance.

  76. Mulika Pesa says:

    BO: The brilliant final undisputed leader of the free world #LLOFW

  77. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: And Devin Nunes is a straight-up liar. Can’t forget that.

  78. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    he’s no different than some dude who decided to stick with coal mining and when he finds life has gone poorly because of his decision…

    OT, but I find myself getting a little fatigued at the whole notion of most people not being successful exclusively because they’ve made poor choices. Yeah, I know that you’ve made poor choices and been able to recover from it. I’ve made poor choices and been able to recover from mine, too. You were really lucky. You got to marry a nice woman, and were able to fall into a lucrative career that suits your work ethic, interests, and imagination. Congratulations!

    Now, you’re a big altfic fan. Let’s look at another world. Suppose Katherine hadn’t married you because she was not able to set aside the whole on the run from the law thing. Suppose instead you had knocked up some girl just out of high school. Suppose that instead of having worked at a lot of dead end jobs in a lot of cities, you’d ended up not being able to get to any of those cities because ya can’t travel easily with a kid. Suppose that you’d taken a job in the industry that offered the best opportunity for a middle class life in the town that you grew up in (your dad wasn’t noncom military in this version and you didn’t move a lot) and that industry stagnated (as did the wholesale produce industry that I worked in 30 years ago where guys make roughly $3/hr more than I did–provided they can stay hired for 5 years). Suppose your “wealth” such as it is tied up in an underwater house and that you’re now wondering whose gonna feed the kids and the wife while you go back to school to learn practical nursing (which pays $5/hr less than what the stagnating industry does when you can get work).

    Now imagine some 1%er telling you that “if you’d made better choices, you’d be me instead of you” (because that’s what they’re hearing when you and Hillary talk). Do you really wonder why they stop listening to you?

    I fell into a really good job because of who my dad was. Yeah, I kept it because I was good at it, but I know a lot of other guys who never got the chance to make what I was making at 18. I was lucky, financially and economically, because I didn’t have the fortune (???) to meet a “good woman” (or any other kind as far as that goes [13 years working graveyard]) when the company I worked for was sold, I had the money to go back to school. Because I had always lived frugally (even when I was making what a friend of mine made as a first-year associate at a large law firm), the fact that my career choice didn’t work out well (I made all of the “big” money I made teaching in Korea) didn’t have a big negative impact (that and not worrying about how to feed the kids I didn’t have). I got really lucky. And because I’m lucky, I’ve been lucky enough to know that “you shoulda made better choices” doesn’t resonate well. YMMV.

    What I’d really like you and others to do is stop talking about “those people” as if you’re some sort of a conservative or something

  79. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    I don’t. What’s your point?

    Point: The only person who can close your mind is you.

    @Bruce Henry:

    How am I supposed to — and why should I want to — “be excellent” to these people?

    How: Don’t be a jerk. Why: For peace and prosperity, if nothing else. You’ve heard their grievances. What makes you think they’re not asking the same question?

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I could go on. And on. But I have to get some work done, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because you’re a cultie and reality is irrelevant to your faith.

    No, it matters a lot. The right does not want to sell out to Russia and they will be very disappointed if Trump does that. Outlining 11 arguable reasons cogently and clearly is going to be more effective than shouting “Traitor!” Perhaps not immediately, but in the long run.

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  80. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: “If you skip over the garbage ones, it’s there:”

    When someone asks you for your evidence, they’re expecting you to show your work, not tell them to go look for themselves.

  81. @James Pearce:

    The right does not want to sell out to Russia and they will be very disappointed if Trump does that.

    I am not so sure about that. Russia is doing a great job of trying to convince certain portions of the right that they have an affinity on guns, God, gays, and white nationalism.

    This is serious and the MAGA hat guys (at least some of them) are buying it. Frankling Graham has been talking up Russia and Putin on gays since 2013/2014 at least.

  82. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Interesting. So, first, I have actually written my first adult mystery (A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS) and am at work on a second, and the premise is: what would I have become had I met Katherine but not had the sense to cling to her. I assume I’d have advanced in my burglaries and moved into being a con man. In 150 books I’ve never written anything remotely autobiographical, so this is my altfic autobio, if you will.

    I think you are misunderstanding me. I absolutely cop to being exceedingly impatient with people. And I have to cop to using deliberately provocative language, obviously. But you’re wrong if you think I have no compassion for people who’ve made stupid choices. I am all too aware of my own stupid choices. I have a list and it’s not short.

    People make stupid choices, that’s the reality. Becoming addicted to meth, for example, is stupid. Failing to adapt to changing circumstances is stupid. Rejecting facts is stupid. Voting for Trump was stupid and contemptuous both of our fellow Americans and our institutions. These were bad decisions, dangerous decisions. Stupid is the nicest way to describe it.

    I grew up largely in the South where my teachers still talked about the War Between the States and pretended it was all about tariffs. They got away with that because decent, compassionate people bent over backward to offer southerners a face-saving way to re-cast their own stupidity. There is a direct line between white America’s compassion toward white southerners (Gone With the Wind) and Fox News and Donald Trump. The south committed treason in service to a despicable ideology, and we somehow let that become crinoline dresses and fiddle dee dee.

    Contrast that with the treatment Germany got for their Big Stupid. We rubbed their noses in it. We forced German civilians to tour the death camps and to bury the dead. We have never let them forget it. There’s a German comic named Henning Wehn who does a lot of British panel/comedy shows, he’s a lovely, funny guy, obviously not a Nazi, but he can’t get through a 30 minute show without taking at least a glancing blow over events that occurred 73 years ago, almost 30 years before Wehn was born. As a result of universal, unstinting criticism, Germany today is a bastion of freedom and a bulwark against fascism.

    Contrast the treatment we gave Nazis and the treatment we gave the Slave Power.

    The best defense against future voter failures is not, IMO, to offer them an easy Sun-Tzu withdrawal, but to insist on the truth. The South has done it again, and they did it again because we let them get away with the first time and rewrite history to justify horrors.

    The truth is that 46% of voters elected a racist, misogynist, spite-fueled conman and traitor. That vote has done terrible damage to the United States. Not Civil War level, obviously, but damage nevertheless. These voters need to grow up. These voters need to join the 21st Century. To call this moral and intellectual failure by voters ‘stupid’ is a kindness, because it wasn’t just stupid, it was nasty, cruel, unpatriotic and destructive.

    There’s no cleaning this mess up with rhetorical adjustments. The country fcked up and the country needs to face the fact that it fcked up if the country is ever to stop fcking up.

  83. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Russia is doing a great job of trying to convince certain portions of the right that they have an affinity on guns, God, gays, and white nationalism.

    Maria Butina’s activities are a good example of this, it seems the Christian Right and NRA have been comprehensively compromised. (Perhaps some GOP politicians as well, no?)

    There are a lot of similar rightist nationalist movements in Europe, and Russia is pretty engaged with those also,

  84. Liberal Capitalist says:

    That’s it. James is our own Neville Chamberlain.

    Or more likely, a Rodney King, with even less philosophical depth.

  85. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Take a vacation to Montana or Kansas and don’t treat it like an anthropological expedition. Don’t chew out the the guy in a MAGA hat; ask him about his kids. Reach out and be excellent to each other. Turn your skin into a raincoat and outrage into rain. Let it roll right off. You know, be decent people.

    Dude, I don’t have to go to some exotic locale like Kansas, I can just talk to my family.

    @James Pearce:

    Ha! Point taken. You really have lunch every week with racist, sexist traitors though?

    (Of course you don’t. That’s a stereotype.)

    No, no, that pretty much sums them up. At least the ones who actually wear the MAGA hats.

    They’ve been left behind economically — their wages haven’t risen in years, they are working more, they have more responsibilities and they are fighting to tread water. Meanwhile, women and minorities aren’t being discriminated against as much, and are the only people who seem to be getting ahead.

    They are scared and angry and looking for someone or something to blame. And they found brown people and women, because they have always been bigots, and they are angry that they cannot just say it aloud without consequences. They can’t call their coworkers the n-word because of that c-word in HR.

    What do they love about Trump? He can say it aloud, and never has to face consequences. People think he’s a racist, but he’s still President, and he’s still rich, and no liberal social justice warriors can take that away from him.

    So, we clearly need to impeach Trump. For spite.

  86. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “The only person who can close your mind is you.”

    Perhaps my life is different than yours. Because I have a job — well, several jobs — that requires a great deal of time and commitment, I can’t simply read every hack who types a word. I have to choose who is worth the free time that I have. So I don’t read Sullivan or Greenwald or Alex Jones or any of the myriad opinionists who have demonstrated that whatever they think they have to say is not worth listening to. If at some point they do actually nose up a truffle, I’m willing to live with the risk of missing it to give me the time to read those who generally have something worthwhile to say.

    If you’ve arranged your life so that you have nothing more pressing to do than read Andrew Sullivan, good for you, I guess. That explains why you can’t be bothered with a shirt.

  87. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We all make stupid choices. One of the great purposes of social welfare is to make sure that a stupid choice is not a death sentence. And yet for some reason, many of those who are most vulnerable fight to eliminate that safety net, to make sure that every bad choice (by someone else) is punished. I will never understand this.

  88. Mikey says:

    @wr:

    I will never understand this.

    “The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.”

    –Davis X. Machina

  89. An Interested Party says:

    @Mikey: For all of the advancements made by our species, there are some things with some people that have never advanced and probably never will…

  90. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    You’re right about Dems needing a strong economic message –not a pandering one– but people with MAGA hats are not able to move in public without some keening liberal verbally attacking them. I find that a bad thing, not because I have sympathy for the MAGA-hatted, but because that’s not who liberals are supposed to be.

    I don’t think that’s productive and I have personal relationships with supporters of really awful politicians. But I don’t think that MAGA-hats people are the problem for US Democrats, they have larger problems among their base and independents.

  91. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not so sure about that. Russia is doing a great job of trying to convince certain portions of the right that they have an affinity on guns, God, gays, and white nationalism.

    But LARGE portions of the right have affinity with Putin on several issues, including gays, immigration, white nationalism, guns and religion.

  92. TM01 says:

    Things not in America’s best interests and which violate a President’s oath to defend the Constitution of the United States:
    Entering into the JCPOA. In itself and in thinking that the word of one man is legally binding to the entire nation.
    The Paris climate accords. Why should we pay for other nations, like Germany and France, to continue to not live up to their emission requirements as we continue to reduce ours?
    The failure to enforce the Red Line in Syria.
    Doing nothing but telling Putin to knock it off regarding election interference.
    Cancelling a missile defense system for Eastern Europe to satisfy Russia.
    “The 80s called. They want their foreign policy back.”
    Being openly hostile to Netanyahu and treating him like trash.
    Backing a Muslim brotherhood candidate in Egypt.
    Not speaking up at the start of the Arab Spring in Iran.
    Offering greater flexibility to a foreign nation after the next election.
    Undermining support for our Intelligence agencies (see Iraq and WMDs).
    Pulling out of Iraq, leaving a vacuum for ISIS to fill.
    Disregarding ISIS and calling them a JV team.

    Reasonable people can disagree as to whether or not treason was committed.

    Basically, you’ve brought us to a point where disagreements over foreign policy are now Treason.

    So let’s try and execute a sitting President because of politics. #Reasonable

  93. TM01 says:

    @Mikey:

    Carter Page was an agent of a foreign power while he was a member of the Trump campaign. Of that, there can be no reasonable dispute at this point.

    True. That Mueller indictment of Carter Page really hurts.

  94. Mikey says:

    @TM01: You have no idea how this works at all. Go sit in the corner and color. Just try not to eat the crayons this time, ‘kay?

  95. @TM01: You are about to stay in moderation because you are not substantively engaging. For example: you asked a questions in a previous posts and Michael Reynolds and I both answered. You ignored those substantive answers and now you are making lists. If you are not going to provide the common courtesy of responding to those who in good faith respond to you, why are you commenting?

    Beyond that, you are listing policies you didn’t like or, in some case, pieces of rhetoric.

    I will repeat what I said when you asked about the JCPOA: The reason there is a debate about Trump is that he is ignoring attacks on the US because he appears afraid that revelations about such attacks will harm him personally. He appears to be acting against the interests of the United States for personal gain.

    There is plenty the president has done that I think is wrong on policy grounds (the trade war, for example). As monumentally stupid as I think that is, I have in no way suggested he is violating his oath in that action. Indeed, I think he is threatening the very basis of the global economic and security order out of pure ignorance and venality. In so doing, as problematic as it is, I do not think he is violating his oath.

    But when, for seemingly personal reasons, he ignores attacks on the US, and actively undermines public trust in an investigation into those attacks, he is clearly undermining the oath he took.

    If you aren’t going to address reasonable responses to your own questions, then I am free to assume you really aren’t interested in dialog, but rather in disrupting it.

  96. @TM01: I suspect if there was this much evidence of a Russia agent in the HRC campaign, you would not be dismissive.

    I, however, would be pretty unhappy about it and would expect the federal government to figure out what the hell a foreign government might have been trying to do mucking about in a US presidential election, regardless of party.

  97. The whole reason Hillary’s e-mails were an issue was because of the concern that foreign governments might have been able to access them due to lack of security. But somehow ongoing evidence of multiple actors directly linking the Trump campaign and the Russian government is just no big deal.

    And, of course, Russian hacking and social media manipulation.

    But, nothing to see here?

  98. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The most telling thing about this whole affair is that Trump and his supporters’ reaction to the strong possibility a Russian agent was running around in the Trump campaign isn’t “holy crap, we might have had a spy in the campaign, we have to get to the bottom of this,” but instead a whole raft of deflections and outright denials.

    These are not the responses of the innocent.

  99. @Mikey: It certainly isn’t the response of a group of people who care about national security.

  100. TM01 says:

    Michael Reynolds and I both answered.

    Michael Reynolds is an insulting Nazi. I don’t respond to Nazis anymore. I find my day is much more pleasant that way.

    But back to things like this:
    There is copious, direct evidence that actors in the Russian government sought to influence electoral outcomes in the United States.
    OK. But numerous countries seek to influence our elections. Mexico among others. You think all the illegals here doens’t affect redistricting? And now the push to let people here illegally vote? WTF. But we’ve been assured that the election can’t actually be hacked tho. So we’re good there.

    …that actors in the Russian government attacked computer systems belonging to a major US political party.
    Both parties were attacked. Only one successfully.
    But I was more concerned with an email server for some reason.

    .. that actors in the Russian government have sought to damage US democracy by increasing polarization and citizen in-fighting.
    This laughable. The Left doesn’t need help in polarizing the country. Every Republican is a Nazi who wants to put black people back in chains. I don’t think that came from the Russians.

    … of attempts by actors linked to the Russian government to infiltrate any influence major interest groups in the United States.
    Russians have “infiltrated” political groups like the NRA and environmental groups. Because a pipeline is better than frakking. In a free and open society, I’m not really sure how you stop this one. I think you’re approaching a fine line there if you try to stop that. How do you do that? Get all conversations of every member and advisor to a politically active group? And if you’re just supportive of China, for example, in principle? Then what?

    You see a President who completely capitulated to Putin in public, and therefore, without any evidence, conclude that he did the same in private. I do not assume that. Others see Trump restraining his ego in public, likely to gain something positive down he road. Let’s see what Russia does over the next few months before we determine how “flexible” Trump was with Putin.

    It is his job to do something about such evidence.
    Indeed. But what you apparently want is for Trump to damn near physically attack Putin. Would that stop him or make him do more next time? Do you seriously think this was the first time Russians attempted to interfere in our elections? (See that bit about Russia funding anti-frakking groups above.) Remember that this election interference was no big deal and that the election couldn’t be hacked. Until Hillary lost.

    as far as his interest about the election tho…can you provide a good scenario where a president comes out and says, “guess what? someone hacked the election, and now our entire electoral process is open to doubt”? I don’t think there’s anything personal about defending the integrity of the election process and saying Russia, or any foreign power, actually affected the outcome. There’s your constitutional crisis. Let’s question every election.

  101. @TM01: Ok, so the basic answer is: you don’t take any of this seriously and your questions weren’t asked with any intellectual integrity (i.e., you did not take your own questions seriously as questions).

    I appreciate the fact that you at least responded, but it would seems a real interchange is not your goal.

    Still a few things:

    numerous countries seek to influence our elections. Mexico among others. You think all the illegals here doens’t affect redistricting? And now the push to let people here illegally vote?

    a) Whether numerous countries do, or do not, try to influence elections is irrelevant to the question of if it is a good thing or not, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether or not we should want it done to us. We fire drones at other countries, if other countries fire drones at us would you be okay with that?

    b) The Mexican government is not sending people to the US to influence elections. That is simply not supportable by evidence.

    c) What “push to let people here illegally vote”? You are now in the realm of conspiracy theories.

    Also:

    what you apparently want is for Trump to damn near physically attack Putin.

    This makes no sense.

    Both parties were attacked. Only one successfully.

    Let’s not even get into who was attacked more. An American political party was attacked. That should matter.

    can you provide a good scenario where a president comes out and says, “guess what? someone hacked the election, and now our entire electoral process is open to doubt”?

    I can provide a scenario in which a President seeks to thoroughly investigate these actions and then seeks to protect the country from further attacks.

    Also:

    Michael Reynolds is an insulting Nazi. I don’t respond to Nazis anymore. I find my day is much more pleasant that way.

    This laughable. The Left doesn’t need help in polarizing the country. Every Republican is a Nazi who wants to put black people back in chains.

    So, are you saying you are on the Left and Reynolds is a Republican?

    Or, could it be that you aren’t very serious?

  102. @TM01: In short: do better than talking points.

  103. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The whole reason Hillary’s e-mails were an issue was because of the concern that foreign governments might have been able to access them due to lack of security

    The biggest issue was avoiding FOIA laws. To me, no public official should use private communications for any official matters precisely because of that.

  104. @Andre Kenji de Sousa: I am not even sure that that was true (that the server would have short-circuited FOIA laws).

    Beyond that, FOIA was certainly not the issue in the campaign.

  105. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    More and more reading the Trump supporting posts here, I am convinced that all they have are talking points that even they don’t believe (which is why they repeat so many lies despite countless corrections). I have reached the point where I cannot help but have passages from Arendt rattle around in my head when I read their posts.

    In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

    — Hannah Arendt, *The Origins of Totalitarianism*

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  106. @mattbernius: Sad, frightening, accurate.

  107. For example, in the above, TM01 both acknowledges that there were attacks on the US while dismissing it all as something everyone does, and does this in the context of supporting Trump for not doing anything about the attacks.

  108. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:
  109. @Andre Kenji de Sousa: I just don’t see that FOIA was anywhere near the main issue.

  110. tm01 says:

    Here’s an interesting bit from Chris Cuomo yestready:

    on why Trump may turn to Russia for help with Iran: “He would not only justify his suppleness with Putin, in the interest of working together, but he would have created his own proof that he did the right thing with Putin in the first place”

    There’s an idea that no one here is even capable of considering.

    Play nice in front of the cameras; get cooperation from Russia.

    You can certainly debate the approach, but screaming treason is just stupid.

    We’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of it.

  111. @tm01: The best you’ve got then, is that the Trump might get something good out of Russia because of his behavior, but we really don’t know what it is, so we will just have to wait and see?

    Really, I am not even sure of anything that Trump has asked of Russia, are you?

  112. Inigo Montoya says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Been waiting to be behind a computer so I can add what I think is perhaps the most important reason to your list:

    12) Increasing oil prices.