Biden Transition Officially Underway

President Trump has finally allowed the GSA to certify the "apparent" winner.

After a long series of embarrassing legal challenges were laughed out of court and state after state officially certified that Joe Biden won the election, President Trump has finally agreed to what should have happened two weeks ago.

CNN (“”):

The General Services Administration has informed President-elect Joe Biden that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, according to a letter from Administrator Emily Murphy sent Monday afternoon and obtained by CNN.

The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.

Murphy said she had not been pressured by the White House to delay the formal transition and did not make a decision “out of fear or favoritism.”

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”

The letter marks Murphy’s formal sign off on Biden’s victory, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment. The move will allow the transition to officially begin, permitting current administration agency officials to coordinate with the incoming Biden team, and providing millions in government funding for the transition.

Obviously, the unofficial transition was already in full stride, with Biden naming a group of steady, experienced hands to a spate of cabinet positions yesterday as the most recent signal that he’s getting ready to assume office. But, without Murphy’s ascertainment, Biden and his team could not access the office space and funds allocated to them for the transition. More importantly, they could not start receiving necessary classified briefings or begin the process of obtaining security clearances (although one presumes most of the higher rank nominees still maintain theirs).

Whether Murphy came to this decision independently because of the state certifications, because of increasing pressure from Congress, or because Trump finally relented is a matter of conjecture. Regardless, it finally happened.

Some have drawn attention to the pettiness of Murphy’s letter addressing Biden as “Mr.” rather than the customary “President-Elect.” Whether this was an oversight or an intentional slight is not clear. But, really, it doesn’t matter at this point: the transition is underway and Murphy will be out of her seat soon enough.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    Trumpers never learn. Within minutes of her whining missive, where she declared that no one in the White House had tried to influence her in any way and that she had made the decision entirely on her own, Trump tweeted that he had instructed her to allow the transition to go forward.

  2. charon says:


    Trump tweeted that he had instructed her to allow the transition to go forward.

    Which may or may not be true, Trump being Trump.

  3. charon says:


    Also, as Michael Cohen described, Trump has a Mafia style way of messaging his desires, so implausible deniability.

  4. CSK says:

    @charon: @charon:
    I doubt very much he anticipated her. He just can’t bear to let anyone else–especially a woman–get the jump on him.

    It’s true about the Mafia style of doing business, though.

  5. MarkedMan says:


    Which may or may not be true, Trump being Trump.

    Sure, but the alternative, that no one in the White House tried to pressure her is beyond ridiculous. The administration who blatantly pressured foreign countries to intervene in our election didn’t reach out to their hand picked stooge?

  6. charon says:


    He just can’t bear to let anyone else–especially a woman–get the jump on him.

    This is true enough, but it is also possible that

    A) Murphy was getting a clue which way the wind blows

    B) Murphy was starting to think an increasingly toxic public image might have cons outweighing whatever benefits her obstruction might get her.

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Optimization paralysis coupled with a quixotic belief that it’s somehow possible for her to keep her position, IMO. The basic substance of her letter was “Please don’t fire me”.

  8. Kylopod says:


    Within minutes of her whining missive, where she declared that no one in the White House had tried to influence her in any way and that she had made the decision entirely on her own, Trump tweeted that he had instructed her to allow the transition to go forward.

    I mentioned this on the open forum yesterday. I seriously doubt the tweet in question was written by him:

    “I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

    The syntax and word choice is way too formal (it twice uses an Oxford comma, something I don’t believe Trump has ever used before). While it does do the random capitals thing, it’s been confirmed that his ghost-tweeters deliberately put in Trumpisms to make people think he wrote them. And the tweet immediately following this one almost seemed to be a response to it, as if he was having a rap battle with himself:

    “What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history? We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & “Dominion”.”

    On second thought, I’m not sure even that one was by him. “Preliminarily”?

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: It’s grammatically correct. Definitely NOT by Trump.

  10. CSK says:

    I agree Trump didn’t write that Tweet. As you say, the grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation are too polished to be his. And yes, the more literate person who sometimes writes his Tweets does deliberately add errors to make the Tweets look authentic.

    On the other hand, “Will never concede to fake ballots & ‘Dominion'” reads exactly like something he’d write. As for “to preliminarily work”—sure, it’s a hard word, but he split an infinitive with it.

  11. CSK says:

    I’ve been musing on the irony of a presidential library dedicated to the legacy of a man who’s famous for not reading–and probably hasn’t gone much beyond the third grade level in his ability to do so.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: Which of the tweets are you referring to? The first one definitely doesn’t sound like him. As mentioned, the writing is extremely formal (and polite). (I said it uses the Oxford comma twice, but I just noticed it actually does it three times! In a row! I somehow missed that the first time I read it.) The grammar is mostly correct, though as mentioned it does do random capitalization.

    The second tweet, on the other hand, sounds more typically Trumpian, especially the last line: “Will never concede to fake ballots & “Dominion”.” (The only thing worse than random capitalization is random quotation marks.) But it still includes that word “preliminarily,” which I doubt Trump could even pronounce let alone spell.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: You realize it will become a pilgrimage site. MAGA heads will come from all over the world to bathe in the healing waters of his fountains, leaving offerings of blood from their raw knees after crawling a few dozen feet. There will be piles of wheelchairs and motorized scooters left behind by the healed, and offerings of gold, incense, gold, myrrh, and more gold. His autobiography will forever be referred to as the BEST Testament (the Old and the New will be forgotten) and if they are brave, wise, and have the money, they might even be allowed to gaze upon his magnificence.

  14. Nightcrawler says:

    I thought this awful woman wouldn’t sign the papers at all, and Biden would have to literally start from zero on January 20. Thank god I was wrong.

    I’m sure the DT administration won’t be completely forthcoming, and Biden won’t be able to hit the ground running, but he also won’t be starting at zero.

  15. Nightcrawler says:

    Every time I hear the word “Dominion,” visions of Deep Space 9 dance through my head.

  16. CSK says:

    Oh, quite. And emblazoned across the top of the main entrance will be the Trump Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: I’m not entirely convinced Trump is sub par at reading and writing. I suspect he desperately needs reading glasses and is too vain to wear them.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: From what I have read, he’s dyslexic. He can read but it’s hard work, and we all know how he feels about hard work.

  19. dmichael says:

    I (for once) agree with James: It doesn’t really matter. All of this speculation is like attempting to discern the motives and actions of the Politburo. However, I have not found out whether Ms. Murphy has any civil service protections that could prevent a prompt dismissal. If she has, then I suggest Biden’s team assign her to a windowless basement office some distance from a bathroom where she can shuffle meaningless paperwork.

  20. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan: @OzarkHillbilly:
    The man has some kind of language problem, that’s for sure. One of the most vivid demonstrations of this is how he’ll latch onto a word and misuse it constantly. The latest is “strongly.” Examples: “We’re looking at this very strongly.” “We’re trying strongly.”
    How do you look at something “strongly”? Closely, sure. But strongly?
    And…remember when his favorite word was “beautiful”? As in, “a beautiful piece of chocolate cake”? Chocolate cake is many things,including delicious, but beautiful?

    ETA: I suppose the explanation for “strongly” may be that he’s trying to convince himself and others that if he does things “strongly,” he himself is therefore strong. But it’s still bloody stupid.

  21. Kathy says:


    According to Michael Lewis in “The Fifth Risk,” one part of the transition is to learn exactly what each agency does. For instance, the Commerce Dept. has very little to do with trade.

    We can assume Biden knows much of this, given his long experience in two branches of government, and will make his cabinet picks accordingly.

    But the other part is finding out what the agencies have bene doing, as well as what condition they are in. Some of this is known, but not all of it. We know State was largely gutted, for example, but what about the rest?

    Add the unusual situation of the trump pandemic, and how little help a Trump government is likely to provide, and we’re looking at a very arduous transition.

  22. charon says:



    He has a reading disability but it’s not dyslexia, it’s something less common.

    He can make the sounds reading off a teleprompter but he does not absorb the meaning as he does.

    There was an examination of his July 4, 2019 speech at this blog way back when, the one with the Revolutionary War airports etc. in that context.


    The man has some kind of language problem, that’s for sure.

    What you are describing is a separate issue, progressively shrinking vocabulary, which I think derives from frontotemporal (senile) dementia.

  23. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: I would not be surprised if he has a learning disability, though I think there’s also some age-related decline; if you look at older interviews he’s considerably more articulate and has a larger vocabulary (while still full of BS, of course). Look in particular at his bizarre misspellings during his presidency: hamberders; smocking gun; achomlishments; covfefe. I’ve known several dyslexics in my life, and even they don’t spell like this. They typically simplify spellings, or invert them (the most stereotypical dyslexia symptom, but it’s an accurate one–I’ve seen it before in people with dyslexia). Trump’s misspellings, on the other hand, look like the product of someone extremely drunk, yet he’s supposedly a teetotaler.

  24. Sleeping Dog says:


    Ms. Murphy, we have no intention of firing you, but we have another position in mind at the GSA field office in Samoa.

    She likely has civil service protection, but not to that job. A windowless basement office, Samoa, either way she’ll leave on her own volition.

  25. Sleeping Dog says:


    I’ve dealt with dyslexia and while I out grew the number-letter reversing, many symptoms still present themselves, but I usually recognize the error as soon as it occurs and correct it.

    What’s interesting about Trump as he doesn’t seem to notice the errors or ignores them.

  26. charon says:


    He can make the sounds reading off a teleprompter but he does not absorb the meaning as he does.

    Note his very flat, expressionless affect when actually reading from a teleprompter – this is because he is just making the sounds, he does not get the meaning any more than the dog in that Far Side cartoon of what a dog hears.

  27. charon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    As I said above, it’s not dyslexia, I forget the name but it’s a different less common known reading disability.

  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, I will demur from most of you. Given that Trump decided to do the “cheater, cheating, cheaters!” thing about the election, I think both Murphy and Biden played it well. Last weekend, several important states ignored him and certified, and we got a big newsworthy rejection of an important court case. Which prompted Rush Limbaugh to wonder why there is no there there.

    So, Monday morning Biden announces a bunch of NatSec picks, and by afternoon Murphy is signing off on transition, because everyone can now see that Trump has nothing.

    I contend that “let him take his best shot” was the best political stance here. Not for Trump’s sake, but for those voters with doubts who also can be reasoned with. And yes, there are some like that.

  29. Kylopod says:


    Note his very flat, expressionless affect when actually reading from a teleprompter

    I’ve noticed that when Trump is at his rallies he’s actually a fairly skillful public speaker. I’m not talking about content–I’m talking about expressiveness, voice modulation and projection, use of pauses, and so on. Yet when he’s reading off a teleprompter, it’s like that all goes out the window and suddenly he sounds like a first-grader at a school play. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bigger disjunction between the same person’s oratorical abilities in different venues.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    Some have drawn attention to the pettiness of Murphy’s letter addressing Biden as “Mr.” rather than the customary “President-Elect.” Whether this was an oversight or an intentional slight is not clear.

    Oversight? Do you think she took five minutes to jot this down on a legal pad and hand it to her secretary? Lawyers, plural, wrote this letter. She held off as long as she could. She got her 15 minutes of fame and probably saved her spot in wingnut welfare.

    Innocent until proven guilty is a good rule for the criminal justice system, or for dealing with your neighbors, not for political analysis. Why are people bending over backwards to give this woman the benefit of the doubt? What Maya Angelou said, “When someone show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  31. Kathy says:

    Remember Trump has his own language where:

    Fake = Negative coverage
    Rigged = Fair
    Fraud = Votes against Trump
    Stolen = They didn’t let me steal it first
    Did well = I scammed the investors.

    And so on.

  32. CSK says:

    @Kylopod: @charon: @charon:
    I think that’s because what’s written on the teleprompter was composed for him by someone else. Part of the flatness is his resentment at having to parrot someone else’s words. He’s happy and animated when he just blurts out whatever crosses his mind. Remember that he has “the best words” and a “very big brain.” He said so himself.

    Speaking gibberish worked very well for Sarah Palin. (Maybe Trump picked up on that.) As her admirers pointed out, she talked like a “real American.” God help us.

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    This story is not getting enough attention:

    The Trump administration formally shut the door on the Open Skies treaty Sunday, exiting the agreement while moving to get rid of the U.S. Air Force planes that have been used to carry out the nearly three-decade-old accord.

    Do we have satellites that can do most of the job? Sure. But satellites are on predictable courses, coming over at predictable intervals. There is no question that by depriving ourselves of this tool we made life easier for Vladimir Putin should he choose further to make moves in the Caucasus or Baltic.

  34. wr says:

    @charon: “As I said above, it’s not dyslexia, I forget the name but it’s a different less common known reading disability.”


  35. just nutha says:

    @charon: Sometimes it’s call a “decoding” defect or disability. It’s the difference between being able to “phonate” in a language (as, for example, opera singers do) and knowing what you are reading. And, of course, understanding is a sliding scale, whereas speaking the correct phonetic units is not.

  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    Another overlooked story:

    The US Air Force, in cooperation with Sandia National Laboratories, has successfully completed a round of flight tests integrating the new B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb onto the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

    It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the US would choose to deliver a nuclear dumb bomb by F-35 – we have options that don’t involve risking a fighter over the target. OTOH it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Israel would choose to deliver a nuclear dumb bomb by F-35.

  37. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: This employment would have to support a tactical battlefield delivery. Fighters have very limited range and require tanker support for long loiter let alone long distance travel. Tankers are virtually defenseless meaning they need to be in secure airspace to be available to give planes gas. This makes a fighter mission to delivery nukes “behind enemy lines” extremely fanciful and lend more to a tactical battlefield scenario. Interesting, but unlikely. More than likely, this was messaging to Russia China to give them extra stuff to think about.

  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    This makes a fighter mission to delivery nukes “behind enemy lines” extremely fanciful and lend more to a tactical battlefield scenario.

    Israel penetrated Iraqi airspace to take out their nuclear power plant with dumb bombs in an era before stealth.

    Penetrating Iranian air space would be necessary if Israel decides to take out Iranian facilities. Iranian defenses are unlikely to be capable of detecting or attacking a stealth plane. Iranian facilities are hardened, which would make an Israeli nuke a possible/likely choice. As for distance, it’s not that far from Saudi airfields.

    So, I disagree. It’s not at all fanciful to believe that Israeli F-35s could take off from Saudi bases and reach Iranian nuclear facilities. Use as a tactical nuke against Russians or Chinese would be far more dangerous because they both have modern air defense.

  39. CSK says:

    @wr: @just nutha:
    To continue with my list of the words on which Trump fixates and then abandons: “Proudly.”

    Again, he used it (and its variants) in the weirdest possible ways. Recall when he promised to come up with an immigration plan that would “make Americans happy and proud“?

    Or, even more bizarrely: “Americans are once again proudly saying ‘Merry Christmas’.”

    Now, there are lots of way to say “Merry Christmas,” but I never thought “proudly” was one of them.

    You’ll have to forgive me for my obsession with Trump’s linguistic barbarisms. I’m a word person.

  40. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: Quick show of hands: when’s the last time any of you described a phone call as “perfect”?

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: “Perfect” as in, “It was a perfect conversation.”

    When I think of a “perfect conversation,” it’s the one I had with that supermodel that got me laid on the first date.

    That’s my fantasy and I’m sticking to it.

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Beat me to it.

  43. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    As a political appointee SES, she has zero civil service protection and can more or less be terminated at will by the incumbent president. Ironically, one of the things you typically see with these folks is them attempting to do what’s called “burrowing in”, in that they’ll seek to transfer to a career position, SES or otherwise, in order to gain MSPB protection. You’ll also see outgoing administrations attempt to solidify the longevity of their policy positions by converting loyalist appointees to career employees for the same reason – as appointees, they can be fired at any time – without cause – by the incoming president. As career employees, they’re a great deal harder to get rid of.

    I expect that she may be left in place for a bit, since GSA isn’t one of the more sexy appointments but its functioning is critical to the government. Once things have calmed down after the inauguration and it has found its legs, she’s almost certain to be shown the door IMO.

  44. CSK says:


    And there’s another “perfect” example of exactly what I mean. What did he mean, though? That it was a perfectly innocent conversation? That both parties used perfect diction? What?

    I can’t think of another public (or private, for that matter) figure over the age of two who uses such peculiar locutions. I suppose that means the man really is an overgrown, obese, and decrepit toddler.

  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Iran is not Iraq. Commonly accepted wisdom is that Iran possesses operational S-400 systems in addition to the S-300 systems that have been confirmed. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they’re pretty much one of the premier surface to air systems in the world. Iraq is also flat and open terrain – it’s easy to attack. Iran is pretty much mountains surrounding a central plain, so it’s a whole different ballgame. That’s completely aside from the lunacy of throwing state of the art fighter technology up against state of the art missile defense systems, for one simple reason – it’s a master class opportunity for the producers of the missile systems to study and expose the vulnerabilities of the fighter. We kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program specifically because they bought and deployed S-400s. Washington doesn’t want those planes anywhere near operational S-400 systems. You let a Russian STA system successfully detect and engage an F-35 – they don’t necessarily have to shoot one down – and Lockheed won’t sell very many of them.

    Not saying the Israelis couldn’t pull it off, but the short answer is that they will piss off the US, they’ll piss off Lockheed, they’ll lose at least some planes and they will lose some pilots.

  46. Kylopod says:


    And there’s another “perfect” example of exactly what I mean. What did he mean, though? That it was a perfectly innocent conversation? That both parties used perfect diction? What?

    Here’s how I read it. Trump seems to have difficulty grasping the concept of matters for which the highest possible threshold is “acceptable.” He always feels the need to describe everything in superlative or grandiose terms, even when that kind of judgment wouldn’t make sense even in theory. You can describe a phone call as perfectly innocent, but all that means is that it’s banal and ordinary: presumably the vast majority of phone calls we make in our lives are perfectly innocent. But Trump’s reflex mechanism whenever he’s criticized is to describe the thing in question as not just okay, not just fulfilling the needed requirements to avoid the criticism that’s been lobbed at it, but the absolute best.

    It’s the same thing he does when he describes himself as the “least racist person you’ve ever met.” To most people, the best you can be is simply “not racist.” The cliche denial is “I don’t have a racist bone in my body”–which is itself pretty unconvincing to anyone who understands the nature of racial bias in our society. But Trump goes several steps farther than that and talks as though there’s some kind of grand prize for nonracism, which isn’t just laughably unconvincing in his case, it also doesn’t make a lick of sense.

  47. Kathy says:


    I’m guessing he meant he put over his quid-pro-quo in a way that none but the very smartest version of himself would ever detect, and that on a good day. trump is the measure of all things, don’t you know.

    Thus if you think you detect something improper, you’re wrong because the call was perfect.

    But all this assumes Trump is capable of thought, evidence of which is sorely lacking.

  48. CSK says:

    Your explanation is the only one I’ve so far encountered that makes any sense.
    But that brings me to another point about Trump’s abuse of the English language. Why does he preface words that don’t need it with the definite article? As when he claims “The blacks love me” or “The women love me.” I haven’t been everywhere in this country, but where I have been I haven’t noticed anyone doing this but Trump.

  49. CSK says:

    I keep making the same mistake everyone does: I look for some rational explanation of his speech and behavior.

  50. Kathy says:


    Take heart. Soon we won’t have The Trump to kick around anymore.

  51. Kylopod says:


    As when he claims “The blacks love me” or “The women love me.” I haven’t been everywhere in this country, but where I have been I haven’t noticed anyone doing this but Trump.

    Really? “The blacks” is ancient old-white-guy phraseology. Not too many people today use that phrase, but it goes back a long way. I heard Ron Paul use that phrase a few years ago. Evan Mecham (Archie Bunker-like governor of Arizona in the ’80s) once said “I’m not against the blacks, and a lot of the good blacks will attest to that.”

    Actually, I was recently watching a Youtube clip of Election Night broadcasts in the 1980s, and one of the anchors (Tom Brokaw I think) used that phrase–though in fairness he paired it together with “the whites,” and in the context he was speaking (an analysis of voter demographics), it didn’t sound so bad. Still, it’s definitely not how any anchor for a mainstream news outlet would speak nowadays.

    (On another tangent, sometimes when I look at older books and articles I’m struck by the outdated language in respectable sources. I was reading a book from the 1990s by noted journalist Elizabeth Drew, and it described Barney Frank as “an avowed homosexual.”)

  52. CSK says:

    I believe you–though again, I have to assert that I’ve never to the best of my recollection heard anyone use the definite article in reference to people of African ancestry; I must travel in the wrong circles :)–but I must emphasize that Trump uses the definite article inappositely in many other circumstances. “The women” is just one of them.

    Well, as Kathy has rightly observed, we won’t, God willing. have Trump to kick around much longer. I suppose I have a deep-seated need to slag off the son-of-a-bitch while he’s still a prominent target. And, as I said previously, words are my business.

  53. JohnSF says:

    Well, the Russians keep proclaiming the S-400 as “a wonderful thing, bay-bee”.
    And maybe it is.
    OTOH the Israelis keep on embarrassing the S-300 defence net in Syria.
    If I was an ayatollah I might be a wee bit nervous about betting the house on the efficacy of the S-400.
    Especially as Turkish use of them is a double-edged sword; if some enterprising agency hasn’t got at least some useful data out of Turkey, I’d be surprised.

    Still, Iran would be a tricky target set for the Israelis to crack.
    Saudi co-operation would be essential, and if your going to be using nukes then US to have the F-35 in harm’s way is surely among the least of your problems.
    I doubt the Saudi’s would put their necks on the line unless it was either an vital pre-emptive strike and/or a full on decapitation. (Question: using some Pakistan’s nuclear/missile arsenal?)

    Either way, without US agreement (and even with it?) both Israel are in a world of pain.
    At the moment I would guess the utility of the possible F-35/nuke threat to Iran for Israel and Saudi is more to poke Washington (and the Europeans?) than anything else.

  54. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: It’s interesting you claim never to have heard this usage beyond Trump, when in the very next post, JohnSF uses the phrase “the Israelis.” I’m not picking on him–the definite article before a national group is still quite common, and it’s not anywhere near as problematic as “the blacks” or “the gays” or “the Muslims.” People talk about “the English” and “the French”–even “the Americans,” though that’s not something you typically hear from Americans themselves. And “the Israelis” and “the Palestinians” are both in widespread use today, especially when discussing the I-P conflict. (“The Arabs,” however, isn’t much used anymore, and for good reason.)

    I admit I can’t remember hearing anyone other than Trump talk about “the women,” but given his clear history of racism along with reports from several sources that he’s used the N-word before, “the blacks” is probably just something he carries over from the old white boys club, that he’s not self-aware enough to realize is offensive.

    For a discussion of this usage from the perspective of the linguists, click here.

  55. CSK says:

    I believe I did specify that it was “the blacks” and “the women” that I found unusually odd.

  56. wr says:

    @Kylopod: “in the very next post, JohnSF uses the phrase “the Israelis.” ”

    Sure, but in that case he is referring to the Israeli state — the government or the defense establishment. If you talk the same way about “the Blacks” or “the gays” you are essentially saying that they are an organized group with an official philosophy…

  57. JohnSF says:

    Interesting point: I’d say the standard UK usage would be “the whatever” when referring to a collective group as a group actor e.g. a nation-state; and just plain “whatever” when referring to a set of individuals.
    If you see what I mean.
    So you wouldn’t usually refer to a geographical group using “the”.
    “The Yorkshiremen” would sound a bit odd, for instance.
    But “the Scots” would sound natural.

    And it would also sound a bit peculiar with internal ethnic-type groups who are not collectively differentiated as such; e.g. a reference to “the Chinese” or “the Irish” would automatically sound like a reference to the Chinese or Irish nation, or the Chinese or Irishas a nation, not to UK citizens of Chinese or Irish ethnic origin.
    I think because maybe the feeling is that you should not separate them out in that way?
    I wonder if anyone has traced the history of such usage?

    Also, perhaps it may be unusual to refer to ones own collective with “the”, being internal to it?
    So I would say “the Americans” (for the collective) or “Americans” (for a set of persons but not the whole) but would tend to say “English” or “British” and not use “the”?

  58. CSK says:

    I think the issue is that most people use locutions such as “the Irish,” “the English,” “the Scots,” as you pointed out, and no one takes offense. Luigi Barzini wrote a book titled The Italians and no one objected. So did John Hooper, and again, no one seemed to mind.

    And the vast majority of people say “women” rather than “the women,” as is Trump’s wont. That’s all. I was commenting on his very unusual use of language. Men might say “women love me,” but only Trump says “the women love me.”

  59. JohnSF says:

    Thing is, Trump always seem to speak English like it’s his second language.

    Back to the “the”; it seems to sort of imply the collective “all the”. ?

  60. sam says:

    Ah, the word ‘the’. See, Russell’s Theory of Descriptions.

  61. CSK says:

    Oh, indeed he does.

    It just occurred to me that perhaps he picked up the definite article habit from his first wife, who referred to him as “The Donald.” I once read a funny story about her: She was racing around Trump headquarters looking for one of her husband’s employees named Dick. People present at the time recall her roaming the hallways yelling “I need the Dick! I need the Dick!”

    She may well have.

  62. Nightcrawler says:


    Yes, that’s why I said he won’t “hit the ground running,” but at least he’ll be able to ascertain the scope of the damage done. He’ll have some idea of what he’s walking into, and that’s the best anyone can expect in this type of situation.

  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Some people who see any particular group as monolithic will use “the” with the noun to show comprehensive–if you will, universal–approval. But it certainly isn’t as common as it was when I was young.

  64. Kathy says:


    The obstruction of the transition aside, I’ve the feeling Biden’s early days will be the equivalent of going into a town hit by a natural disaster. All the pieces may be there, but almost everything is damaged or out of place.

  65. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Ahhhhhhhh no. The middle east is a different place than it was “pre-stealth”. It would also be categorically dangerous to group the Iranians with the Iraqis. The Iranians actually have a professional military–the Iraqis had a regime stabilization force.

    Further–you would not use nukes in an underground nuclear facility strike…for obvious reasons. So this test was not with anything to do with Iran in mind. I have a decent familiarity with both the capabilities of the F-35 and the Russia SA the Iranians have. F-35 is capable–but there would be attrition going against those systems so you couldn’t send 2 lone hero jets and. And as I said before–they don’t have the range.

    Assuming they wouldn’t get basing somewhere close to their targets (and they wouldn’t) Iran would simply shoot down the tankers and overwhelm the strike fighters with numbers. The evasive action and dog fighting alone would run them out of gas. Frankly, it would be a suicide mission.

    We really don’t have good cards to play vs Iran and their nukes short of another Iraqi Freedom style invasion where we can have physical access to the reactors. All the major geo-political leadership are extremely adverse to casualties (which Im glad for btw). Tactical nukes aren’t necessarily new and have always been used to demonstrate we have the ability to whittle down a larger force to get the numbers we need for our technological and training advantage to win the fight.

  66. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Correct on all points. Not that the Iranian have the premium version of the targeting software of these systems (the Russians would have been stupid to sell them their own version) but I suspect both the Russians and the Chinese are aggressively figuring out how to maximize AI with these system to make our investment in Next Gen Fighters a moot point.

    It will be interesting to see how this particular game of cat and mouse plays out over the next 20 years.

  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Indeed. It’s the continuing truth of that game – when somebody builds a better plane, somebody else will build a better missile. The thing that concerns me the most about the region is the thing that has concerned me for quite a while – an increasingly offensively actuated Israel operating with increasing impunity. We tend to function under the belief that we control that relationship, when I’d argue that we haven’t truly controlled it for a good while now. It’s a potentially fatal misjudgement.

  68. Pylon says:

    @CSK: Whatever Trump meant by “perfect” it always struck me as how someone describes an alibi.

    “Don’t worry, Bill, it was a perfect phone call – I never said quid pro quo – just like you said”. Except then he goes and blabs why it was “perfect” in public.

    Reminds me of a criminal lawyer prof who told us about his client who came and said “I’ve been charged with robbery but don’t worry – I wore a mask, not like last time”. Except the guy had forgotten to pull it over his face.

  69. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Kind of a double edged conundrum there. Syria fielded S-300PMU2’s, which, while capable, are antiques in comparison to the S-400, and there have been a multitude of reports suggesting that the Syrians didn’t actively utilize them to begin with. Whether that’s out of a desire to avoid exposing them or conditions imposed by Russia regarding their use – or some combination of both – is up in the air.

    That said, the PMU2 is strictly a medium to high altitude intercept system, with a maximum engagement envelope of 195km and a maximum engagement of 36 targets with 2 projectiles per target (72 projectiles in flight total). It’s also extremely vulnerable to low altitude strikes – which it can’t defend itself against – in the absence of specialized short range systems – which do not share its radars – deployed to protect it.

    The 400 is a little more than a decade newer, has an engagement envelope of 400km with a detection window of 600km, can simultaneously engage up to 80 targets (160 projectiles) and, most crucially, can engage targets as low as 5 meters from the ground. All of its projectiles, as far as I am aware, are hypersonic. It doesn’t need subsidiary systems to protect itself.

    The short version is that the PMU2 isn’t capable of eliminating the planes that the Israelis would send to carryout out low-level strikes to eliminate it. The 400 is, and from all reports it does that quite well. Completely aside from the dynamics of the environment (Israel wouldn’t get forward positioning, Iran is mountains, Iran has a highly capable air force, and the tankers the Israelis would have to deploy to feed them would be BUFF sitting ducks), if Iran has indeed received and deployed 400’s, as seems to be the consensus, it’s a whole different ballgame. Trying to use Syria as a goalpost to ascertain the survivability of long-range bombing attacks against Iran will result in a lot of dead Israeli pilots.

  70. JohnSF says:

    Though I suspect the plan would be to protect the tankers by holding them back over Saudi; top off the tanks there, and same on return, would probably give adequate range for mission from N. Arabia to targets at the distance of Tehran, and enable tankers to withdraw westward while the strikes were underway.
    (In other words, agreed with and shielded by the Saudis)

    But in any event, as before: the primary aspect at the moment is partly deterrence, but mostly diplomacy.
    To warn Iran that Israel does have options for response if they judge the threat imminent.
    To push the US (and Europeans) to press Iran out of fear of Israeli unilateral action.
    (And maybe some vague hopes, which are likely fading now, of getting the US to strike Iran)

    The counter from US will be that a general settlement, including the Palestinians, would make it easier to press Iran.

    And so the dance goes on…