“Modern science says: ‘The sun is the past, the earth is the present, the moon is the future.’ From an incandescent mass we have originated, and into a frozen mass we shall turn. Merciless is the law of nature, and rapidly and irresistibly we are drawn to our doom.”—Nikola Tesla
Under normal circumstances, in a normal time, on a normal planet, this would be an article about the cataclysmic self-inflicted demise of the Republican Party as a functioning political entity in the United States of America … and if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs. These are not normal circumstances, this is not a normal time and gadzooks, this is not a normal planet.
Consider the facts in hand: The Republicans nominated and then elected a farcical caricature of a buffoon, a vulgarian oaf, a serial liar of Brobdingnagian proportions, a confessed misogynist and serial assaulter of women, a fact-free ignoramus too ego-blinded to recognize how much he doesn’t know, to the highest office in the land. To the surprise of virtually no one, he has bollixed up the job so comprehensively that his approval rating currently hovers somewhere below pig offal, and in five short months he has become the most despised world leader since Caligula.
For a moment let’s leave aside the deliberate deconstruction of the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. Set aside his recent assault on clean water and press freedom. Forget for the time being his incomprehensible disdain for climate science, even as he has walls built to protect his golf courses from the encroaching ocean. Temporarily ignore the distinct possibility that he sold our democracy down the Volga River because he owes money to a bunch of Russian oligarchs. Let’s talk Twitter, and “What It All Means” in the main.
Plenty of critics have rightly slagged the mainstream press for focusing too much on Trump’s tweets, but there is a Rorschach test aspect to his use of the medium that, on occasion, blows the lid off the reality that is the bowl of rancid pub cheese currently disgracing the White House. Thursday morning provided one such opportunity.
For reasons passing understanding, Trump decided to take to Twitter before 9:00 am DC time — presumably when he should have been getting a security report, reading briefing papers and generally preparing for the challenges inherent in maybe the hardest job in the world — to launch a barrage of insults at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” He called Scarborough “psycho” and Brzezinski “crazy,” even though the pair hauled a fair amount of water for him both during and after the election. Worse, he went on to say that Brzezinski wasn’t allowed into Mar-a-Lago because she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
Full stop. Wait, what? The president of the United States apparently has a real obsession with bleeding female television personalities. Why would he do this? What is the goal? Mr. Trump seems to believe in that old adage about no press being bad press, a thoroughly disproven idea that his doppelgänger, Richard Nixon, learned about the hard way.
This Mika/Joe tweet thing with Trump took a dark turn this morning. Brzezinski and Scarborough revealed on their show that the National Enquirer (owned by a Trump loyalist) was harassing Brzezinski’s daughters and friends, and staking out her house. Scarborough said he got calls from White House officials saying the Enquirer was going to run a hatchet job story on Brzezinski and him, but if he called Trump and apologized for his coverage, Trump would have the story spiked.
Scarborough correctly called it “blackmail” this morning, and Brzezinski stated flatly that the alleged Enquirer story didn’t exist, and dared them to run it. After this was broadcast, Trump tweeted that Scarborough had called him and asked him to kill the story, and Trump refused. Scarborough tweeted back saying, essentially, you’re a liar, that didn’t happen, and I have the phone records.
This indeed sounds like blackmail — blackmail directed from the highest office in the administration. The fact that Trump tweeted about Scarborough asking for the story to be killed and his refusal to do so is an open assertion that the story exists and that he had the power to stop it. This is actually a pretty big damn deal.
Twitter, for its part, ate Trump’s breakfast and lunch in less time than it takes to fart in an elevator:
“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”—GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham
“Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”—GOP Sen. Ben Sasse
“Seriously dude, SHUT UP.”—Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro
Such high dudgeon from the moral brigade of the GOP over Trump’s ghoulish lack of judgment is nice fodder for the TV people, but never forget the core truth of all this, summarized to lethal effect by Albert Burneko of The Concourse: “Imagine fretting over what does or does not empower women while your own party conspires to strip prenatal care from mothers. Imagine wringing your hands over civility while plotting to bankrupt and ruin the families of sick children so that a few billionaires can bleed just a little more cash out of the society they’re destroying.”
On the other side of the city, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is sitting in his office with an ice pack on his head because the Capitol dome fell on him this week. He put his status and leadership on the line to pass a health care reconciliation bill so thoroughly twisted that, according to Quinnipiac, it is supported by only 16 percent of the populace, with only 6 percent of Republicans strongly supporting it.
You have to get up bright and early to achieve numbers so astonishingly low, even in these strange days. If you read the thing, though, it should come as no surprise: The bill is so utterly repulsive, McConnell should have named it “The Soylent Green Is People Reconciliation Act of 2017.” For those who don’t get the reference, it’s from a movie about eating people. The shoe fits.
In doing this, particularly in the sneaky secretive manner he chose, McConnell has blown his own caucus to shreds and tatters. Hard-line Republicans like Rand Paul revolted because the proposed bill looks too much like the Affordable Care Act, while more moderate senators like Dean Heller of Nevada balked because of the massive attack on Medicaid the bill represents. In other words, McConnell managed to piss off pretty much everyone, and no one seemed eager to charge to the bill’s defense. In fact, a whole slew of fence-sitting Republican senators came out against it in a true profile in courage after McConnell yanked it from consideration on Tuesday.
The forecast has not improved. The last nose count had between 15 and 20 GOP senators defecting. There was chatter for a time that McConnell would try to stuff some new cobbled-together version of the bill through the Congressional Budget Office’s mail slot today for yet another scoring, but with GOP senators fleeing DC en masse for the July 4 recess, the prospect seems exceptionally dim. I’m not sure why he’s so anxious; the other two scores were torpedoes below the waterline for the GOP’s concept of “health care reform.” The idea that a new one will be made of sunbeams and flowers all of a sudden is quite the stretch.
Republicans and the White House can once again try to undermine the integrity of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) work, but that argument remains a tough sell. The director of the CBO is a man named Keith Hall. He was George W. Bush’s Chief Economist for the Council of Economic Advisers before Bush tapped him to run the Budget Office. Painting him as some lily-livered liberal partisan is what they call “a hard dollar.”
So, yeah … how? How does this groaning calamity of a political party continue to thrive? These people control the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court, along with state legislatures and governors’ offices from sea to shining sea, yet they can’t seem to legislate themselves out of a wet paper sack. If the GOP were an animal in the wild, it would have been devoured by chickadees long ago. The fact that it still exists at all is the best parlor trick since “Lazarus, come forth.”
Oh, right. Citizens United. Brutally racist voter suppression across a variety of vital states, combined with outright election theft in a number of instances. Partisan gerrymandering. Decades of right-wing domination of the media. A Democratic Party “opposition” beholden to most of the same corporate interests as the Republicans. A system so deeply mired in wildly discredited economic mythologies that it refuses to recognize its own imminent collapse. A population so thoroughly disgusted and dispirited by it all that only half of them bother to show up at the polls on a good day.
I get it.
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