Set to 'From Russia with Love' This is for all those out there who cannot wait for the season ending of the gripping dumpster fire of a political shit show that is the current US administration.
By Mark Sumner 
Friday Jun 23, 2017
Donald Trump asks the question frequently, and always with a sneer: If President Barack Obama knew that Vladimir Putin had intervened in the United States’ election with the direct intention of helping Trump, why did Obama wait so long to say anything? The answer detailed in a new story from the Washington Post turns out to be simple: First, Obama was trying to do the right things. Second, Republicans stopped that from happening.

As former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified earlier this week, the Russian activity in the election went beyond just hacking into emails, beyond distributing those emails through Wikileaks, and beyond creating a stream of fake-news stories that were eagerly shared by alt-right websites and social media. Russia took unprecedented “active measures,” attempting to penetrate state databases and alter or delete voter roles.

It was tantamount a secret declaration of war by Russia, and the Obama administration treated it the security and care that it deserved.

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. …

The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.

At that early stage, they couldn’t tell the full extent of the Russian operations. They didn’t know the scale of the attack. They couldn’t tell who in the United States might be cooperating with the Russians. They could only be certain about one thing.

The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Quietly, the intelligence community went to work as resources were dedicated to the issue and other agencies attempted to confirm or deny the information gathered by the CIA. If Obama had revealed the information, and the intelligence turned out to be false, he would certainly have been guilty of interfering with the election himself. Considering the import of the information, it was possible that simply talking about it openly could move the conflict from cyberspace to the battlefield. So Obama proceeded with caution, working to confirm the CIA’s intelligence and searching for ways to respond to Russian action. He needed to build a case that would hold up in front of both Republican leaders in Congress and the public.

It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump.

Donald Trump throws that delay out there as not just a taunt, but proof that he is somehow “innocent.” Because if Trump had even a hint of information, he would have fired it straight out of his Twitter gun. Trump demonstrated this many times during the election and since, as repeated even the most tenuous and ludicrous rumor as if it were accepted fact. 

Obama wasn’t going to do that. It wasn’t a matter of “staying classy.” It was a matter of following the law, protecting the nation, and reaching a result that was more than a revenge tweet. Obama was concerned that going public with the information in the early days invited both criticism and speculation. On the most basic leave, President Obama was simply trying to ensure that his actions didn’t make the situation worse.

But as carefully and thoroughly as the intelligence community assembled a case, there was one point they couldn’t get past.

Obama instructed aides to ... seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.

None of that happened. Some Republican leaders in Congress put off even meeting with intelligence officials, delaying the process by weeks. Meanwhile, Jeh Johnson attempted to designate election infrastructure as “critical,” in order to give them the same protection provided to defense contractors.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

In short: Republicans were—and are—more concerned with hurting Obama than they were in stopping Russia. In a sense, Republicans as a group colluded with Russia, in that they refused to take action to protect the nation against intrusion. And it wasn’t just random state level officials. When Congressional leadership finally met with the intelligence community for a briefing ...

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

The answer to why Barack Obama didn’t speak out more strongly and more early about Russian interference for Trump, is because Republicans blazed the trail Trump is still following: They refused to cooperate, placing party above country.


Post Truth World


 Lingering Questions
By Philip Bump December 21 at 9:59 AM

At the core of the debate about the role of the electoral college is whose needs should be at the center of American politics. In an unexpected monologue Tuesday night, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly made that point clearly, although probably not in the way he intended.

One moment from O'Reilly's argument gained traction on social media after the show aired.

“Summing up,” he said, “left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run.”

The phrase “white establishment” is what has drawn most of the attention, suggesting that O'Reilly's argument for the electoral college is an explicit defense of the political power of white people. Which, in the broader context of the segment, it was.

O'Reilly points out that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's margin of victory in the popular vote was a function of how heavily she won California. He suggests that Democrats want to abolish the electoral college so that candidates would then be forced to campaign in densely populated areas — areas that are more heavily nonwhite.

“Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America today is based on race,” O'Reilly said. “It permeates almost every issue. That white men have set up a system of oppression. ... So-called white privilege bad. Diversity good.”

The irony is that O'Reilly's entire argument is an explicit defense of white privilege. Clinton's margin of victory does vanish if you remove California's votes — but California is home to nearly one out of every eight Americans. (Similarly, Republican Donald Trump's margin of victory in the electoral college vanishes if you flip Texas.) Voters in that state are underrepresented by the electoral college relative to other states, with each electoral college member representing about 258,000 ballots cast. In Wyoming, each elector represents 85,000 voters. That's one argument for the popular vote: that it treats every vote equally, regardless of where it originates.

California plays a special role in the nation's political imagination — a majority-minority state that's home to hippie-dippy San Francisco and Berkeley. O'Reilly's dismissal of its votes is not unique; it has been a common refrain in the wake of the election. Often, race and ethnicity overlap with that argument, with any number of people suggesting that Clinton's big win in the state was a function of ballots cast by hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants (that is, Mexicans). This isn't the case, of course. Trump's rhetoric simply didn't fly in the state. Along with the lefty Bay Area there's the more conservative southern part of the state — and Trump even lost conservative Orange County, making him the first Republican to do so since 1936.

In Tuesday's broadcast, O'Reilly was specifically arguing that places in which fewer people live should have disproportionate political power so that presidential candidates are forced to campaign in those places in order to win. In other words, he's suggesting that the power of the popular vote should be muted to give more power to the minority of Americans who live outside of cities. Eighty percent of the country lives in an urban area and those who live in rural areas are disproportionately white. O'Reilly is suggesting that those rural voters deserve a special privilege — more weighted electoral votes — and he's reinforcing that argument by pointing out that it will benefit whites. Privilege for whites. White privilege.

There is a “white establishment,” of course. Congress is overwhelmingly white — more heavily white than the population as a whole. The Senate is even whiter than the House; nearly as many Kennedys have been elected to the Senate as have black people. Not coincidentally, the Senate also gives disproportionate power to less-populated and often whiter states. (You've heard it before: Wyoming and California get the same number of senators.)

Moreover, there's a direct overlap between race and partisanship, as we noted in July. The Republican Party is a mostly white party; the Democratic Party is more diverse. (The overwhelming majority of the nonwhite members of the House are Democrats.) O'Reilly notes that white men have gravitated to the GOP, which is accurate and which makes the racial split more stark.

Race and party are tightly intertwined. The priorities of the parties reflect their membership, and therefore talking about partisan opposition often overlaps with talking about racial tension. That also means that defenses of the power of Republican voters overlap with defenses of the power of white voters.

Another way to frame O'Reilly's central premise is this: In the face of a diversifying American population, should protections be maintained that continue to support the political dominance of white people? A lot of white people, including O'Reilly, would say yes. A lot of nonwhite people would presumably say no.

On Jan. 20, the power structure of the federal government will be dominated by the Republican Party. The new establishment will be more white, will be acting on behalf of a heavily white party and will be less inclined to answer the preceding question in the negative. Nonwhite voters preferred Clinton and white voters preferred Trump (generally, though not universally).

It's the preference of the latter group that carried the day — and O'Reilly's entire argument is that it deserved to.







Trump's Hair
* Instead of, “Your scarf, it was apricot” the lyric is now, “Your face, it was apricot.”
By Alyssa Rosenberg October 7 at 5:53 PM

Imagine a married man in public life was caught on tape talking about his failed attempt to seduce a married woman. Imagine that man continued by talking about that woman’s “big phony tits,” how his star power meant that he could just walk up to any woman he wanted and kiss her, and how his go-to move was grabbing women by their genitals. After you got over your rolling wave of nausea, imagine that this man was also on the record as saying that a woman, let’s say a rival of his in business, should be held responsible for her own husband’s extramarital sexual behavior. You’d be disgusted, right?

But this is 2016. That man is Donald Trump, and he actually did get filmed saying those things on a bus with then-“Access Hollywood” star Billy Bush in 2005. And given that Trump’s go-to move on the campaign trail this season has been to suggest that his rival for the presidency of the United States, Hillary Clinton, is somehow responsible for her husband Bill’s repeated betrayals, are we now supposed to ask why Melania Trump didn’t do a better job of acting as her husband’s keeper?

Oh, except that Trump is also filmed on that same tape hugging soap opera actress Arianne Zucker and declaring “Melania said this was okay.”

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that certain leading Republicans, including Trump and his close adviser Rudy Giuliani, who declared Hillary Clinton too stupid to be president for the sin of retaining some faith in her husband, were mounting an astonishing display of public contempt for American women. I didn’t need more evidence to be convinced that these men’s attitudes toward women are ugly and hateful. But this tape of Trump, published by my colleague David Fahrenthold, certainly adds a new dimension to this nastiness.

The message is clear, if contradictory. Cool wives give their husbands passes. Bad wives fail to restrain their husbands’ wandering hands and other body parts, but they also immediately acknowledge their husbands are cheating, and … what? I’ve never been clear on this part of the equation. Are the cheated-upon supposed to shut up about it so their husbands can have their fun? Get out of the way without a fight so their husbands can marry someone younger and hotter and in turn be discarded for someone else? Cast some sort of sorcery over the country so their own existences are forgotten, and their cheating husbands can move forward as paragons of virtue?

Like everything else about Trump’s campaign, this tendency to blame women for failing to restrain their husbands, or failing to give their husbands license to do whatever they want, or both simultaneously, somehow, is spectacularly self-interested. Donald Trump wants to live in a world where Hillary Clinton is a moral failure for staying in her marriage, but he can arrogantly describe behavior that most decent people would consider harassment and assault, leave his marriages, repeatedly insult woman and be considered a leader and an exemplar.

Misogyny isn’t just about keeping women down. It’s about creating special zones of reality and morality that allow men to do whatever they want, without consequences to them, and without regard for anyone else.

Women shouldn’t be asked to restrain their husbands in the absence of those men having functioning consciences and the ability to control themselves. But we all have a powerful responsibility to keep Donald Trump as far as possible from the White House.

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.