The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":


Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”


The Commentariat -- September 9, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Kevin Liptak & Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Even opposition from within his own national security team, including Vice President Mike Pence, could not deter Trump from pressing forward with his plan to host Taliban leaders at [Camp David].... Trump eventually scrapped the event after a Taliban car bomb killed a US soldier and 11 others last week. But that decision came after heated debate within the administration over the venue for the summit -- an outgrowth of larger, more substantial disagreements over the wisdom of negotiating with the Taliban at all. The talks have pitted Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton against the nation's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo...."

Lies of the Grifter

I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland. Mike's family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

How to tell Trump is lying: he says he knows nothing about either grift. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

** Jim Sciutto of CNN: "In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that ... Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy. The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.... The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president." The CIA considered the 'exfiltration' of the asset prior to Trump's blabbing, but did not remove him/her until "wide concern [grew] in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration." It appears Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, approved the operation. "White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, 'CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.'" Mrs. McC: Right. CNN is the problem.

Kayla Epstein, et al., of the Washington Post: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency's response to President Trump's Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Also on Monday, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA leadership over its handling of President Trump's Dorian tweets and statements[.] In an email to NOAA staff that was obtained by The Washington Post, the official, Craig McLean, called the agency's response 'political' and a 'danger to public health and safety.'" The Hill's summary of the WashPo report is here. ~~~

     ... Update: The full text of McLean's email is here, via TPM. Thanks to Keith H. for the link. ~~~

~~~ Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "House Democrats are launching a broad investigation into whether President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others sought to exert pressure on the Ukrainian government to help Trump get reelected in 2020 by targeting a possible political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Three House committees -- Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs -- sent joint letters to the White House and State Department demanding documents related to whether Trump and Giuliani sought to pressure Ukraine to target Biden, a 2020 Democratic White House hopeful. 'A growing public record indicates that, for nearly two years, the President and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity,' the committee's chairmen wrote in a statement." ~~~

~~~ ** Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump "is slowly learning how to control the [bureaucratic] machine that has stymied him. is slowly learning how to control the machine that has stymied him." Chait links Trump's "persuading" NOAA to issue a statement covering for his "Alabama hurricane" flub, the DOJ's "preposterous" antitrust investigation into automakers negotiating to meet California's emission standards, his extortion of Ukraine to pressure the country into "investigating" Joe Biden; and Republicans "boasting of the quid pro quo arrangement" they have with Trump & his businesses. "A corrupt miasma has slowly enveloped Washington.... The norm of bureaucratic professionalism and fairness is a pillar of the political legitimacy and economic strength of the American system, the thing that separates countries like the U.S. from countries like Russia. The decay of that culture is difficult to quantify, but the signs are everywhere. Trump's stench is slowly seeping into every corner of government."

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "A federal judge in California on Monday reinstated a ban on a Trump administration policy that would restrict migrants' ability to apply for asylum at the southern border. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had issued a nationwide injunction in July blocking the rule, which would make most asylum-seekers who pass through another country before reaching the U.S. ineligible for asylum, with exceptions for victims of trafficking and migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through. The rule would primarily effect Central American immigrants crossing through Mexico. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tigar's initial ruling but narrowed the injunction to only border states within its jurisdiction -- California and Arizona -- before sending the question back to Tigar. Tigar said Monday that the injunction should apply nationwide because the asylum rule represents a case where 'such breadth is necessary to remedy a plaintiffs harm.'"

U.K. Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "John Bercow has said he will step down as the Speaker of the House of Commons after a decade in the job in which he has handed more power to backbench MPs, including moves that allowed parliament to block a no-deal Brexit. Bercow said he would leave his role by 31 October at the latest, but he could stand down sooner if MPs vote for an early election."


Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "House Democrats return to Washington this week poised to significantly broaden their nascent impeachment inquiry into President Trump beyond the findings of the Russia investigation, but they will confront a fast-dwindling political clock. Undeterred by lackluster public support for impeachment, Democratic lawmakers and aides have sketched out a robust four-month itinerary of hearings and court arguments that they hope will provide the evidence they need to credibly portray Mr. Trump as corrupt and abusing his power. Beyond the president's efforts to impede the special counsel's investigation, Democrats also plan to scrutinize his role in hush payments to two women who said they had affairs with him and reports that he dangled pardons to officials willing to break the law to implement his immigration policies. Democrats also demanded documents last week related to whether his resort properties illegally profited from government business." ...

... Jonathan Alter of the Daily Beast argues for impeachment & trial. digby largely reproduces Alter's column, which is firewalled in the Beast. Alter: "... the trial in the well of the Senate would be presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts, who ... would run it like a quasi-trial, with evidence, witnesses (who would likely appear in person) and summations. Nadler and others from the House Judiciary Committee would serve as prosecutors. Trump would have private lawyers defending him. The senators would be the jury.... With the exception of Reps. John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert, no Republicans tried to claim Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. Instead, they changed the subject to Fusion GPS, the Steele dossier, and other counter-charges irrelevant to what would be at issue in a Senate trial.... [Trump's] trial lawyers would have the unenviable task of shooting down at least eight clear examples of obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller Report, plus explain why Trump did not abuse and disgrace his office and obstruct Congress (other likely articles of impeachment). They would have to explain why it was perfectly okay for Trump to feather his own nest by directing his people to stay at Trump hotels, after promising he would not tend to his businesses in the White House." Read on. ...

... digby: "And consider that Trump won't be able to resist screeching 'witch hunt!' every single day, remin[d]ing everyone in the country that he is running as president who was impeached and protected from conviction by his accomplices in the Senate. Is it risky? Sure, anything can happen. But I have never understood this notion that Trump will gain power from being impeached. It's ridiculous. I realize that a lot of the media have simply assumed that since [President Bill] Clinton was acquitted and remained popular that it's a losing strategy. But this isn't about a couple of furtive blow jobs.... The sheer volume of impeachable offenses is enormous."

Nahal Toosi, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump's boasts about his dealmaking skills may have helped him win in 2016. But after this weekend's events, he has little to back up those claims on the world stage heading into 2020. Trump announced Saturday on Twitter that he was canceling ongoing U.S. peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including scrapping a secret meeting with the Islamist militia's leaders and the Afghan president at the Camp David presidential retreat outside of Washington. The decision has imperiled what was, in the scope of Trump's presidency, a relatively successful diplomatic effort so far to bring an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan. It also adds to a growing list of Trump's negotiating shortfalls -- from Iran to North Korea to China -- that gives ammunition to Democrats seeking to unseat him. The fact that the meeting could have happened the same week as the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks especially outraged Trump critics." ~~~

... My blood is boiling over this. And I'm left wondering: what was the plan here? How was the Taliban going to get to U.S. soil? Was the U.SW aircraft going to ferry them over? would the U.S. military going to give them a ride? What was the purpose of this, so President Trump could announce some kind of fake peace plan the day of 9/11 without any preconditions, without a day of cease-fire? -- CNN Republican analyst Amanda Carpenter, Sunday ~~~

~~~ Mujib Mashal of the New York Times: "Even as President Trump blamed a recent Taliban attack for his decision to call off nearly yearlong negotiations with the insurgents, officials suggested on Sunday it had more to do with the Taliban's resistance to the American terms for a peace deal, and a rushed plan for a Camp David summit meeting. Talks that once seemed on the verge of a breakthrough had hit a wall over how the deal should be finalized and announced, they said." ~~~

~~~ ** Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment. The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in. And even after it fell apart, Mr. Trump took it upon himself to disclose the secret machinations in a string of Saturday night Twitter messages that surprised not only many national security officials across the government but even some of the few who were part of the deliberations." ~~~

~~~ Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Plans for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, in keeping with President Trump's pledge to end the war there, were thrown into confusion Sunday, following Trump's decision to call off a secret meeting he planned with Afghan and Taliban leaders to secure a peace deal. Competing versions of what led to the cancellation of the meeting and, at least temporarily, any further U.S.-Taliban negotiations, exposed internal administration tensions that have flared as a deal seemed near in recent weeks. Those tensions have pitted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said a week ago that agreement 'in principle' had been reached after 10 months of talks with the militants, and Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who opposed the talks." ~~~

~~~ Michael Safi of the Guardian: Trump's "revelation of the planned talks and their abrupt cancellation leave a question mark over the future of peace talks intended to bring American involvement in Afghanistan to an end, an early and regularly recited Trump campaign pledge. The Taliban warned on Sunday that the cancellation meant more American lives would be lost, while the United States promised to keep up military pressure on the militants. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, criticized Trump for calling off the dialogue and said US forces have been pounding Afghanistan with attacks at the same time.... Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger, a ... Republican, wrote on Twitter: 'Never should leaders of a terrorist organisation that hasn't renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop.'" ~~~

~~~ Mr. Waffle. Michelle Cottle of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump is a chronic waffler. As such, the American public would do well to stay vigilant about what his administration is up to -- and not be shy about applying pressure. It has long been clear that Mr. Trump is not the decisive, resolute leader he imagines himself to be. His presidency is littered with plans and pronouncements that were walked back or abandoned.... On occasion, Mr. Trump will move to reverse his reversals -- or at least find a creative work around.... There are issues on which the president feels compelled to hold his ground.... When it comes to protecting his fragile ego [-- as in SharpieGate --] Mr. Trump can be quite firm in his convictions. The rest is subject to influence." ~~~

~~~ Chas Danner of New York: "The Camp David meeting -- according to Afghan, Taliban, and Western officials -- was actually a failed gamble by the Trump administration. The summit, which the Trump team proposed late last month, was an attempt rush a conclusion to the negotiations by flying Taliban and Afghan leaders to the U.S. so that the parties could iron out the remaining details and conclude with a big peace-deal announcement and photo op.... It's entirely possible the Trump administration, unable to close the peace deal, planned to wing it and hope the summit led to a big, popular finish. That would be the strategy most consistent with President Trump's track record of impulsive, spectacle-over-substance foreign-policy decisions.... Last week's deadly suicide bombing was not some final straw for Trump, as he and Pompeo have claimed, but rather a politically palatable excuse to save face after the administration's plan for a peacemaking grand finale fell apart."

Bryan Bender & Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "The U.S. Air Force has ordered a world-wide review of how it chooses overnight accommodations on long flights following revelations that air crews had occasionally stayed at ... Donald Trump's Scotland resort while refueling at a small commercial airport nearby.... The review, ordered by Acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, covers the active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.... The Air Force on Sunday insisted, however, that the use of the Prestwick airport -- which it said dates back to 2015 -- along with the Trump hotel appears to have adhered to proper procedures.... The Air Force's use of the Prestwick airport has ... steadily grown. Indeed, the use of the facility has nearly tripled -- and overnights in the area increased more than five-fold, the Air Force acknowledged Sunday. From 2015 to 2019, they said, Air Mobility Command aircraft stopped at the civil airport 936 times. Of those, crews stayed overnight in the area 659 times. The frequency of the stops and overnight stays has increased steadily each year, from 95 stops and 40 overnights in 2015; 145 and 75 in 2016; 180 and 116 in 2017; 257 and 208 in 2018; and 259 stops and 220 overnights through August 2019." ...

     ... Power of the Press. Mrs. McCrabbie: So when the House made official inquiries in June as to why military personnel were staying at Trump Turnberry, the Pentagon didn't bother to write back with even a lame excuse. But when Politico published its report Friday & major newspapers followed up, the Turnberry Grift became an urgent issue.

How Trump's Border-Wall Diversion Is Helping Putin. Sam Brodey of the Daily Beast: "The Trump administration's move to divert billions of dollars intended for military construction projects in order to finance a border wall with Mexico sparked outrage last week, with cuts to things like funding Army base elementary schools on U.S. soil dominating the discussion and prompting sharp criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. But what went relatively unnoticed was the equally large pot of Pentagon cash that will be diverted away from construction projects at U.S. military facilities overseas.... National security experts believe it could be a gut punch to U.S. diplomatic and security interests in a part of the world that has been a particular sore spot for the president: Europe. The Trump administration is set to move $771 million worth of funding away from projects earmarked to the European Deterrence Initiative, a program created by the Obama administration that was designed to reassure anxious European allies that the U.S. would back them up in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea.... Deferred cash from the program accounts for two out of every five dollars that the administration is diverting to the wall from overseas -- raising more questions about Trump's inconsistent posture on the threat posed by Russia, along with his willingness to support NATO, which he has characterized as a financial burden on the U.S."

~~~ Kat Tenbarge of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign manager ... says [the Trump family will become 'a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party.' Brad Parscale made the predication Saturday at a Republican Party convention in Indian Wells, California, where members of the party gathered to discuss strategy for the GOP to make strides in the overwhelmingly blue state." ~~~

~~~ Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Mr. Parscale declined to comment to The New York Times. But a campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and without official authorization to discuss the speech, said that Mr. Parscale was referring less to possible candidacies in the future and more to activities such as political speeches and fund-raising." ~~~

~~~ ** McKay Coppins of the Atlantic: The Trump dynasty began with a brothel in the Yukon, owned & run by Donald's grandfather Friedrich. "Friedrich's widow, Elizabeth, assigns each of her children a job in their fledgling real-estate business. But it's Fred, the middle child who has a knack for building, both houses and empires, and he takes charge shortly after high school.... infamy attends each new triumph. By the 1950s, he has built thousands of houses and apartments, and become the kind of landlord Woody Guthrie writes songs about.... [When Fred eldest son fails to met muster, Fred eventually chooses Donald as his successor.] The [Manhattan] market on the island is crowded and hostile, but Fred and Donald work closely to plot their invasion. Together, they cook books, fleece investors, and fool one regulator after another. Some of the scion's schemes pay off.... And while the president writes his chapter in history, the next generation waits in the wings, jockeying for position, feuding over status, knowing only one of them can be the heir.... Like a fun-house-mirror version of the Kennedys, they reel across the national stage swapping the language of duty and sacrifice for that of grievance and quid pro quo. Ask not what your country can do for you, they seem to say; ask what your country can do for the Trumps."

Conservative Peter Wehner of the Atlantic: "Donald Trump's disordered personality -- his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving -- has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating. It manifests itself in Trump's impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW."

Danny Sjursen in TruthDig: "The fallacy that [former Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis and other generals were the voice of reason in the Trump White House, the so-called 'adults in the room,' has precluded any serious critique of their actual strategy and advice.... The wildly unpopular, if not forbidden-to-be-uttered, truth is that Mattis, while an admittedly decorated Marine and a military strategist, was an abject failure. Despite being hailed as a 'warrior monk,' he was and remains a conventional interventionist figure -- prisoner to the tired old militarist ideas of the necessity for U.S. military forward deployment, counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and the perpetual need to balance or 'contain' Russia and China." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. Mrs. McC: Sjursen doesn't mention it, but I've always sorta figured Trump hired Mattis because President Obama fired him.

Presidential Race 2020

Matt Stevens of the New York Times: "Tom Steyer, the billionaire and former hedge fund investor turned impeachment activist, became the 11th Democratic presidential candidate to qualify for the October debates on Sunday after a new poll showed him with 2 percent support in Nevada.... With 11 candidates now qualified for the October event, the D.N.C. may split that debate across two nights, as it did for the first two sets of debates in June and July. The committee has not yet indicated whether it will do so."

Caitlin Byrd of the [Charleston, S.C.] Post & Courier: "Facing monumentally longshot odds, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced Sunday he will challenge fellow Republican ... Donald Trump for the White House, launching a campaign centered on Washington spending but also on where the party is headed.The announcement came during a nationally televised in-studio appearance on 'Fox News Sunday'...."

Congressional Race 2019. Steven Shepard of Politico: "The last, lingering piece of the 2018 election is about to preview the fundamental dynamic shaping the fight for the White House in 2020. Tuesday's do-over election for a congressional seat marred by allegations of fraud last year, taking place in a Republican-leaning slice of North Carolina, exemplifies the key push-pull of politics in the Trump era: Cities and suburbs racing away from the GOP and toward Democrats -- and rural and exurban voters roaring back in the other direction, propelled by ... Donald Trump's appeal. The battle to maximize those trends will shape the 2020 campaign between Trump and his Democratic opponent in virtually every important swing state.... The president will hold a rally for Republican nominee Dan Bishop on Monday night in Fayetteville, seeking to boost GOP turnout on one end of the district and outdo Charlotte and its immediate suburbs on the opposite end, where Democrats in Mecklenburg County are in ascendance."

~~~ Senate Race 2020. Mrs. McCrabbie: In case you thought Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) -- who is up for re-election in 2020 -- spent last week back home appearing in photo ops where he pretended to be helping residents sandbag their homes against the impending hurricane, or tried to look concerned & empathetic while surveying storm-damaged properties, or in some other craven acts of retail politics that we think of as inevitable during election season, you would be wrong. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) appeared in a photo with Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch parliamentary leader with anti-Islam and anti-immigrant views, while both attended a European security conference in Italy. Graham and Wilders, leader of the Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, were seen smiling together Saturday night at the Ambrosetti Forum on Italy's Lake Como." Mrs. McC: No doubt the weather was fine, the accommodations superb & the cuisine divine at beautiful Lago di Como.

Brandon Ambrosino, a Liberty U. graduate, in Politico Magazine: "In interviews ... [of] ore than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of [Jerry] Falwell[, Jr.] over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell's decision to hire his son Trey's company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell's advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell's awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends. 'We're not a school; we're a real estate hedge fund,' said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty's finances. 'We're not educating; we're buying real estate every year and taking students' money to do it.'"

Way Beyond the Beltway

Hong Kong. Eileen Ng of the AP: "Thousands of students formed human chains outside schools across Hong Kong on Monday to show solidarity after violent weekend clashes between police and activists pushing for democratic reforms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. The silent protest came as the Hong Kong government condemned the 'illegal behavior of radical protesters' and warned the U.S. to stay out of its affairs. Thousands of demonstrators held a peaceful march Sunday to the U.S. Consulate to seek Washington's support, but violence erupted hours later in a business and retail district as protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic, prompting police to fire tear gas. Hong Kong's government agreed last week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked a summer of protests, but demonstrators want other demands to be met, including direct elections of city leaders and an independent inquiry into police actions. Protesters in their Sunday march appealed to ... Donald Trump to 'stand with Hong Kong' and ensure Congress passes a bill that would impose economic sanctions and penalties on Hong Kong and mainland China officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city."

News Ledes

NBC News: "Rescue teams made contact on Monday with four crew members still inside the Golden Ray, the cargo ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The crew members on the ship were trapped in the engine room of the massive vessel that overturned and caught fire on the St. Simons Sound off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, on Sunday. On Sunday, South Korea's foreign ministry said that the Hyundai Glovis cargo ship Golden Ray, which was transporting automobiles, had begun listing and then capsized in the early morning hours Sunday." ~~~

~~~ NPR Update: "The U.S. Coast Guard says it has rescued the fourth and final crew member from an overturned car carrier vessel in waters off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., after reporting earlier in the day that all but one had been pulled to safety.... Rescue crews had been working since Sunday to locate the missing crew members after the Golden Ray became disabled and eventually overturned in St. Simons Sound, about 80 miles south of Savannah, Ga."

A Hurricane by Any Other Name. Japan Times: "A powerful typhoon landed near Tokyo early Monday morning, killing at least three people and injuring about 40 as well as affecting hundreds of thousands of rush-hour commuters in the metropolitan area at the start of the week. East Japan Railway Co., also known as JR East, had suspended all lines in the greater Tokyo area as Typhoon Faxai made landfall near the city of Chiba, shortly before 5 a.m., as one of the strongest typhoons on record in the Kanto region.... Some 934,900 households in seven prefectures including Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka were believed to have been temporarily without power during the course of the storm, and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said power would be unlikely to return Monday in some areas, including south of Chiba prefecture where typhoon damage is extensive."

Reader Comments (17)

The peremptorily abandoned peace plan with the Taliban is yet more evidence that Trump is far from the world class dealmaker he pretends to be.

Someone who claims to be a great negotiator but can only close the deal (or fuck the other side) when he holds all the best cards is nothing close to a dealmaker, he’s an opportunistic bully. Part of the problem with this latest failure seems like it could be that Trump’s chief negotiator, Zalmay Kalilzad, has little expert support from a skeletal State Dept. whose most talented personnel have either desires or been booted for not demonstrating sufficient loyalty to the Dear Leader.

Those claiming that it was a bad deal and that Trump was right to pull the plug should point the first finger at Mr. Art of the Deal who tried to arrange a big Camp David meeting to bolster his ego long before the details were ironed out. And rather than quietly informing the Taliban and Afghan parties that more work would be required, including a clear show of good faith by the Taliban, thus saving the hard work that already been done, Fatty opted for the big show off move of declaring the peace plan off the table because HE, the Great Donald, was not happy.

And what does this do? What it does is demonstrates to any group likely to try to make a deal with Trump that he’s an untrustworthy douchebag who will throw the whole thing down a hole if he thinks it will make him look good and to hell with whatever original goals were in mind.

He’s the kind of cheap chiseling card player who, if it looks like he’s got a questionable hand, will turn the table over rather than risk exposing himself as a weak player who can only win when he has the best cards and the upper hand on everyone else. The best players know how to make the most of middling cards. That’s not Trump. He’s a braggart and a cheater, not a serous player.

And everyone knows it.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Of all the ink that's been spilled over "why Trump is getting worse" stories, I've never read this reason: his age. While I don't discount at all the contributing factors writers have mentioned -- stress, the absence of "adults in the room," sycophants egging him on, etc. -- I also know that some people have a tendency to make more ridiculous excuses for their bad or anti-social behavior as they get older. Instead of just saying, "I don't want to go to such-and-such," they'll "explain" with a straight face they can't go because their parakeet might get lonely or they'll lie & lay the blame on somebody else for something they clearly did themselves: "The nurse didn't want me to take my meds." The elderly can make children's "the dog ate my homework" excuses seem downright plausible by comparison.

Of course, most elderly people don't have high-ranking subordinates to try to clean up their false claims. Rather, family members just roll their eyes with each phony excuse & try to get the old guy to do whatever it is he's supposed to do.

Trump of course isn't getting any younger & he's getting way more comfortable with making more & more outlandish excuses. A real president and his advisors probably would not have invited the Taliban reps to stop by his retreat near the anniversary of 9/11, especially for the signing of a deal that was never a sure thing. And if a stupid plan fell through, a real president would not have revealed it. If you think Trump's reason for disinviting the Taliban to Camp David was the murder of an American soldier, let me remind you that the soldier was Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz of Morovis, Puerto Rico . Trump was willing to let thousands of Puerto Ricans die while he lobbed paper towels at the more fortunate (and he continues to complain about how much it costs to make Puerto Rico whole again), so I'd be happily surprised if he really cared about the death of Sgt. Barreto.

Instead, Trump is just an old guy with such a craving to make himself seem informed that he'll use a Sharpie to "prove" it, & to make himself seem relevant & powerful that he will reveal previously-secret mistakes, then blame others for making them. And yeah, he's going to get worse.

September 9, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

I have listened to two and one half interviews with James Mattis who, like everyone who wants to hawk their books, tend to be on every program possible. Judy tried, Andrea tried even harder, and I doubt whether Margaret Hoover succeeded in getting the Mad Dog to give us just a widdle weenie bit of sass about what it was like working with–-well, let's say–-FOR–-Trump. So I was pleased to come across this piece from retired Major Danny Sjursen who says this:

"The wildly unpopular, if not forbidden-to-be-uttered, truth is that Mattis, while as admittedly decorated Marine and a military strategist. was an abject failure."

One man's take but one to take and ponder. Given the blunders Fatty has made lately re: his foray into parts unknown when he should have been present in parts that ARE known one wonders who in hell can we trust to guide us through these shark infested waters?

In the latest New Yorker Anthony Lane reviews the film, "Dr. Kline", by director Joseph Losey who was a master of interiors and a connoisseur of dread. Here's how Lane ends his review:

" By now it matters not a jot, in the bureaucracy of terror, which Klein is which, for the round up of the Jews is under way, and the trains are waiting.
One of the final of children being forcibly torn from their parents by officers of the law. HOW BLESSED WE ARE TO LIVE IN A DECENT AND DEMOCRATIC AGE WHERE SUCH THINGS COULD NOT POSSIBLE OCCUR." {Emphasis mine]

Always loved Lane for his cheeky reviews.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

How long before we're hearing administration officials getting all upset by the "invasion" of refugees from the Bahamas? After all they've just been through they are prime candidates to be "public charges".

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee


I don't get the tweets about the Taliban meeting that never happened either.

Thought it likely from the beginning that A) nothing would come of the Taliban negotiations-- other than more headlines with nothing behind them, which is usually sufficient for this guy-- or B) that we would just agree to leave Afghanistan to its own-- mostly the Taliban's-- devices with no more than a minimal face-saving gesture of some kind in hand, an arrangment--call it a deal--that might hold togetheer long enough to look like an accomplishment in the fall of 2020.

So why the tweets now? The communications about the attempts make some sense. Those about its collapse, not so much.

The only explanation I can come up with again involves the Pretender's fragile ego. He needs to portray himself, first and most importantly to himself, as tough at all costs, even in the midst of another failure. And as the failures mount that need will grow.

Could it be that much of what the Pretender tweets he is really tweeting to himself?

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes


Waffles again, Mr. President?

"Men have knowledge of the present
As for the future, the gods know it,
alone and fully enlightened." Constantine Cavafy

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Since Grumpy Puss has no sense of time or history, maybe he had no idea what he was "proposing" in bringing the Taliban here, and then, all of a sudden, someone reminded him of 9/11, thereby ruining his diplomatic coup that he felt was on a par with those links forged by other presidents... I am equally sure that he could not be less concerned with the death of a Puerto Rican service member. This was just like everything else he does: half-baked, nonhumaitarian, dangerous, stupid, tone-deaf, sudden, not well-thought-out but self-pitying, self-serving and self-aggrandizing. I don't think he has a thought in his head that is worth the analysis. And don't you get sick of his throwing out dumb stuff in a tweet, and the staff scurrying around to make it LOOK like it is policy?? The NOAA thing was the living end, the skunk in the woodpile-- now even weather is subject to his approval-- These people working "for" and "with" him are as nuts as he is. NONE can be trusted to be truthful. Yes, Marie, he may be aging rapidly and ungracefully, but the raw matter that is him is so toxic, how can you tell??

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Netanyahu's miscalculation about Iran will cost him dearly says Juan Cole: His push for Trump to breach the 2015 treaty with Iran has backfired bigly. Bibi and the Baby continue to operate like they have real purchase; they are both being outdone by others like China who has now lots of skin in the game.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Let it not go without saying the farcical job of the billowing, babbling, and blustering huckster Mike Pompeo in all this hijinks.

Yeah, crazy stupid to bring the Taliban to the US to celebrate 9/11, but you who also thought it'd be a grand idea: Mike Pompeo. According to his teevee apology tour, he even took the time to think about "history" and what that meeting would've meant.

I'm reminded of a (at the time) good article @Marie posted light years ago with a writer both decrying the white, male, elitist cocoon that has brought America so many inequalities and injustices, but also praised that elitism because it also produced Robert Mueller types who would "stand up for what's right" and "protect the Constitution against attacks".

It sounded plausible at the time, and gave us a faint, fleeting moment of comfort until we were once again, post-Mueller, nakedly exposed to the wretches of reality that sometimes leaders cower, sometimes systems fail, sometime the bad guy just goes on flogging his victims in plain sight and no one positioned to stop it stands up.

We're there.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

For RC readers, here is the text of the email from NOAA Acting Chief Scientist Craig McLean:

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard

Sorry, my first try didn't work. This should take readers to the full email from the NOAA chief scientist, via TPM:

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard

More topsy-turvy:

Government employees who dare to tell the truth about the Pretender, Comey and now employees of the National Weather Service, investigated so they can be found guilty of ethical violations?

Reminds me of my three year old grandson, who for three months or so repeatedly asked when he saw a face on the TV, is he "bad guy?" because he knew there was good and bad but since he was only three, he couldn't tell the difference.

He got over it. The Pretend administration hasn't.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

...humanitarian...sorry for the typo...

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

@Ken Winkes: Although the language of the WashPo's report is confusing, I gather what's happening here is that the chief scientist at NOAA is investigating its political leaders for backing Trump's false claim.

September 9, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Thanks Bea,

Sometimes old men (this one anyway) need clearly written headlines.

Can't say I don't know why I so easily slipped down the wrong path. No excuse, but the last three years of training might have something to do with it.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Why can't Agent Orange get a diplomatic breakthrough?

Let's see...

North Korea "denuclearization" talks that sideline Japan & South Korea.

Israel/Palestine talks so insulting to the Palestinians, they don't even bother to show up.

China "trade deal" 1-on-1, even though the whole Western alliance could've lent a hand.

And my favorite....An Afghan "peace plan" that doesn't involve the Afghan government! What in the royal fuck? How could the Afghan leaders even show their face in signing such a deal? It shows such breathtaking arrogance on the US part, and complete humiliation for the Afghan government.

He's spent three years tearing down America's credibility in the world. What I don't understand if how the GOP thinks they'll ever have the same relationship with the world now that they've shown themselves to be absolute, feckless cowards. They can't be trusted, period. Do they somehow not see this? Can't believe it? Won't accept it?

Sure, Europe will take our money and placate many whims, but only the Democratic party can be counted on to not sell out allies abroad for a few domestic wins nominating judges and funneling the rich more money.

Republicans now & in the future will hold higher office with an invisible scarlet letter carved into their skin right underneath their GOP pins on their borrowed suits.

September 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

@safari: Yeah, and I think the scarlet letter with be "T" for "traitor."

September 9, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie
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