Saturday, January 05, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Wants to Dismantle Discrimination Protections

Pandering to his racist (and hate motivated base) and, I suspect indulging his own bigotry, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, wants to dismantle civil rights and thereby (i) strengthen the license of Christofascists to discriminate and (ii) make it more difficult for targets of discrimination to seek recourse.  It is all  part of Trump's effort to "Make America White Again," the real meaning of Trump's MAGA slogan.  Meanwhile, the Trump/Pence regime has been actively working to undermine LGBT discrimination protections and have argued that its perfectly legal for employers to fire LGBT employees due to their sexual orientation. A piece in Think Progress looks at this insidious agenda.  Here are highlights:
The Trump administration is looking to either eliminate or severely restrict regulations designed to protect people from discrimination in a number of categories, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The Department of Justice is asking federal agencies to assess ways to scale back regulations that allow for “disparate impact” legal challenges to discrimination.
Disparate impact refers to discrimination that occurs against a group even when there is no clear evidence of an intent to discriminate. . . . . Disparate impact litigation would be a vehicle for challenging that policy as racial discriminatory, even if there’s no evidence that the employer put the policy in place in an attempt to give white candidates an advantage.
The approach is not new; in fact, it’s been a practice dating back a half-century to when civil rights laws were first put on the books. And litigation based on showing a disparate impact has been used to combat discrimination in just about every way, including employment, housing, education, and credit.
The administration has already demonstrated a willingness to gut this important tool for combating discrimination.  Last month, the Federal Commission on School Safety recommended rolling back disparate impact policies in education. These policies sought to minimize the amount of punitive discipline for minor infractions, because such discipline was disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities — fueling the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.” The commission claimed without a clear explanation that allowing such discipline would somehow protect students from gun violence.
Tom Silverstein, associate counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, explained to ThinkProgress that where the Supreme Court has not resolved the issue, the administration will try to prohibit bringing disparate impact claims at all. Where the Supreme Court has said such claims are viable, the administration could place many limitations on them that make it far harder for them to succeed.
New regulations could heighten the standard for showing a causal relationship between a company’s policy and its disparate impact, or they could burden plaintiffs with having to prove that a less discriminatory policy would still serve the company’s interests. These would shift the advantage more to the company discriminating and make it harder to bring successful claims against them.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development already has indicated that it is seeking to undo its disparate impact rule, which would make it easier for insurance companies to implement policies that discriminate against minorities.
Sasha Samberg-Champion, a civil rights lawyer at Relman, Dane & Colfax, told ThinkProgress that the proposed changes are “harmful” because they will make it far harder to prove discrimination is taking place. An insurance company, for example, might be relying on a certain automated algorithm that ends up making it harder for people of color to obtain coverage, but it might not be possible to trace that algorithm back to specific individuals or any intent to discriminate.
“There may be some bad intent going on as well,” he said, “but it’s virtually unknowable when you begin investigating and begin litigation. You know there’s a bad practice that has a severe disparate impact on minority populations, and you know it’s irrational and has no justification. But you don’t know why unless they’re stupid enough to announce that they’re bigots.”
The administration’s restrictions could lead to a situation where plaintiffs basically have to find some clear evidence that a company was trying to discriminate, not just show that they happened to be discriminating. “If you make it a requirement that you prove intent, you’re making it impossible to bring litigation for practical purposes, even if in the real world there is bad intent,” he said.
“This is a major attack on civil rights enforcement,” said Joe Rich, who recently retired from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Ellen DeGeneres Doesn't Speak for the LGBT Community

Perhaps I am more sensitive because I have had anti-gay expletives directed at me and been fired for being gay.  Or perhaps I reject absolution for insincere apologies/contrition - something the Catholic Church granted to countless predator priests.  The bottom line is, I do not believe Kevin Hart should be forgiven for his past anti-gay statements and I believe the only thing he is sorry about is that he lost the gig hosting the Oscars in February.  Thus, Ellen DeGeneres doesn't speak for me or, I suspect many others in the LGBT community when she granted Hart absolution.  Indeed, the blow back DeGeneres is receiving is well deserved.  No one anointed her to speak for the rest of us and, if Hart is invited back to host the Oscars, I may well choose to NOT watch the show. A piece in the Washington Post properly takes DeGeneres to task.  Here are excerpts:
Who died and made Ellen DeGeneres the gay pope?
In December, comedian Kevin Hart’s appointment to host the 2019 Academy Awards drew renewed attention to his hateful and damaging comments about gay people. The academy asked Hart to apologize: he refused and bowed out just days after the initial announcement. Many LGBTQ people cheered the withdrawal as the right move.
But now, in an interview that aired Friday on her daytime talk show, DeGeneres has absolved Hart of his ugly history. DeGeneres, who is gay, shared during the interview that she’d even interceded to ask the Oscars organizers to reconsider Hart as host.
Et tu, Ellen? As strange as this spectacle may seem, it’s actually in keeping with DeGeneres’s brand of nice. It’s a value she has sought to spread through the world, long signing off her show by telling her audience, “Be kind to one another.” Kindness means giving second chances, and giving second chances apparently means allowing Hart, who in 2011 tweeted that if his son played with a dollhouse he would “break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay,’ ” to host the most prestigious event in American cinema — one that’s also known as the Gay Super Bowl for its celebration of fashion and drama. On the set of DeGeneres’s show, anyone who thinks otherwise is simply a hater.
But that loud Internet crowd, which appears much larger than DeGeneres has allowed for, has it right. Niceness doesn’t require people to be pushovers. And kindness doesn’t mean forgiving people who’ve done bad things without being sure they understand what happened and are committed to making things right. DeGeneres’s unilateral dispensation to Hart on behalf of the LGBTQ community (and her kneecapping of Hart’s critics) truncates that process. That’s bad for all the LGBT people she claims to represent. And it’s bad for Hart, who gets to skip over the part of the process where he becomes a better, more empathetic person.
Hart made a halfhearted apology when he announced he was stepping down as host. But he hasn’t made any clear amends to LGBTQ people, and he certainly doesn’t seem to have atoned for his words. How can he, so long as he views the criticism of his past words as “slander on my name”?
More important, even if Hart had more fully repented, his sins are not DeGeneres’s to forgive.
Hart’s remarks were directed to queer people of color, who are generally much more vulnerable than their white counterparts. A 2017 poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard showed that LGBTQ people of color are twice as likely to have experienced discrimination in hiring and police interactions as white LGBTQ people, and that they are six times as likely to not call the police in a threatening situation so as to avoid reprisal.
Really, no single person is qualified to offer the forgiveness of all of queer America. But a white cisgender woman who is widely beloved and obscenely wealthy to boot is particularly ill-suited to try to muster such papal authority. For DeGeneres to think herself licensed to dispense this pass to Hart suggests that the only real indulgence here is her own.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Seeks to Manufacturer a "Burning of the Reichstag" Crisis

Hitler used the Reichstag fire in 1933 to seize almost unlimited power.

On the night of February 27, 1933, flames erupted from the Reichstag building in Berlin. It took fire engines hours to quell the fire, which destroyed the debating chamber and the Reichstag’s gilded cupola.  An unemployed Dutch construction worker named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested and accused of arson. More recent research indicates it was actually multiple Nazis who started the fire.  Nonetheless, on February 28, President Hindenburg, incited by Hitler, invoked Article 48 and the cabinet drew up the “Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State.” The act abolished freedom of speech, assembly, privacy and the press; legalized phone tapping and interception of correspondence; and suspended the autonomy of federated states, like Bavaria. This opened the door for Hitler and his party to establish their dictatorship.  

Fast forward 86 years and we see Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer on this blog, threatening to declare a "national emergency" and claiming to hold the power to build his southern border wall to thrill his racist, knuckle dragging base and seize the private lands where the wall would be constructed.  Never mind that the alleged border crisis has been manufactured by Trump's own policies, including separating children from the parents and disregarding international law requirements for asylum seekers. In my opinion, the man is pure evil and amoral and every patriotic American should be demanding his removal from office (ditto for his foul acolyte, Mike Pence who feigns piety while trashing Christian principles).  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the growing danger Trump poses to the nation and the need for members of Congress to put the nation and rule of law ahead of party and say "no" to his attempted power grab.  Here are excerpts: 
President Trump on Friday offered his most robust public case for the border wall since the partial government shutdown began two weeks ago, expounding for an hour at the White House about the need for a barrier to keep out terrorists and dissuade migrants while asserting he has the legal authority to build it without congressional consent.
In a forceful but meandering performance that included numerous false or questionable assertions, Trump announced he was considering declaring a “national emergency” to move forward on construction through executive power; argued his administration would use eminent domain to obtain private land along the U.S.-Mexico border; and suggested a steel wall could provide manufacturing jobs to U.S. companies.
Yet legal experts said Trump’s emergency powers under federal law are limited and expressed doubt that such an avenue would solve a mounting political dilemma for a president who, two years into his term, has elevated the fight over the wall into a defining moment for his presidency.
“I can do it if I want — absolutely,” Trump said of his ability to invoke emergency powers to build the wall. “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving it a shot.”
With Democrats beginning to declare their candidacies for the White House in 2020 and some prominent Republicans ramping up criticism of him, Trump is determined to hold out in the shutdown fight, aides said.
“It’s resonating with our base for sure,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally. “This is not really about immigration now. The people who elected Trump believe the wall is a foundation of border security. It’s a statement about sovereignty. When they’re told by the people they hate that this makes no sense, it makes them more determined to get the wall.”
But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, accused Trump of considering an “unwise, weak and irresponsible legal gimmick” that would divert “substantial resources” from the military to build a wall.
“By abusing this authority, President Trump would be saying that he does not actually believe all money he requests for our country’s defense is needed for legitimate national security purposes,” Smith said. “That would raise major questions about his credibility when he requests his next defense budget from Congress.”
He [Trump] repeated false claims that a renegotiated U.S. trade deal with Mexico and Canada would provide new revenue to reimburse taxpayers — even though that deal still requires congressional approval to go into effect and any new revenue would benefit private companies.
[Trump] The president told aides he was winning the shutdown politics. But one aide described him as “incredibly sensitive to negative press . . . He’ll be willing to hold out as long as he’s not getting crushed.”
Trump employed foreboding language to warn of terrorists and immigrants intent on exploiting the U.S. immigration system — even though the Department of Homeland Security has not disclosed any evidence that terrorists have been apprehended at the southern border.
Trump aimed to create a sense that his administration was moving forward, declaring that it has built “a lot of miles of wall already” — even though DHS officials said recently they have replaced dozens of miles of aging structures but have not built any new barriers since Trump took office.

Lie after lie after lie by Trump with Lindsey Graham, the Palmetto Queen, seemingly positioning himself to be the Hermann Goering of the Trump/Pence regime.  The only honest statement was Graham admitting that hatred motivates Trump's base.  

Friday, January 04, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Why Is Trump Spouting Russian Propaganda?

Anyone who isn't a dedicated Fox News or Breitbart follower knows that Donald Trump lies.  Indeed, most of what comes out of his mouth is untrue.  Yet something disturbing is now happening - and has been happening for a while now.  Trump is repeating Russian propaganda lies and stating falsehoods in the realm of foreign policy and history as true facts.  Disturbingly, one has to wonder where Trump is getting these falsehoods from since it certainly is not from U.S. foreign policy or national security advisers. If it's not from American advisers, where is it coming from?  One name seems to answer the question: Vladimir Putin. These lies are part of Putin's effort to rehabilitate myths about the former Soviet Union, a dictatorship/empire that Putin longs to restore, picturing himself, I suspect as Russia's new Tsar.  A piece in The Atlantic by a former Republican stalwart looks at this disturbing phenomenon and draws conclusions similar to my own.  Here are excerpts:

It was only one moment in a 90-minute stream of madness.
President Donald Trump convened a Cabinet meeting, at which he invited all its members to praise him for his stance on the border wall and the government shutdown.
There’s always a lively competition to see which member of the Cabinet can grovel most abjectly. The newcomer Matthew Whitaker may be only the acting attorney general, but despite—or perhaps because of—that tentative status, he delivered one of the strongest entries, saluting the president for sacrificing his Christmas and New Year’s holiday for the public good, and contrasting that to members of Congress who had left Washington during the Trump-created crisis.
But that was not the crazy part.
The crazy part came during the president’s monologue defending his decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan, about half the force in that country.
“Russia used to be the Soviet Union,” he said.
Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia … the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.
To appreciate the shock value of Trump’s words, it’s necessary to dust off some Cold War history. Those of us who grew up in the last phases of the Cold War used to know it all by heart, but I admit I had to do a little Googling to refresh my faded memories. Through the 1970s, Afghanistan had been governed by a president who was friendly to the Soviet Union, but it was not reliably under Soviet control. That president, Mohammad Daoud Khan, became convinced that the local Communists were plotting against him. He struck first, assassinating one Communist leader in April 1978, and arresting others.
Instead of preventing the plot, this coup-from-above triggered it. In April 1978, the Communists—enabled by their strong presence in Afghanistan’s Soviet-trained military—seized power.
The new regime launched an ambitious modernizing agenda: women’s rights, land reform, secularization. That project went about as well as expected. While the Communists appealed to a small, educated elite in Kabul, they offended the ultraconservative countryside. Violent guerrilla resistance gathered. The guerrillas called themselves “mujahideen,” holy warriors. The Kabul government dismissed them as “bandit elements” and “terrorists.”
By the end of 1979, the Kabul-based Communist government was teetering, nearing collapse. The Soviet authorities in Moscow blamed the incompetence, corruption, and internecine violence of their local allies. In December 1979, they overthrew and killed the then-Communist leader, installed somebody more compliant, and deployed 85,000 troops to enforce their rule over the countryside. The Soviets had expected a brief, decisive intervention like those in Prague in 1968 or Budapest in 1956. Instead, the war turned into a grinding Vietnam-in-reverse. The Soviets withdrew, defeated, in 1989.
Here’s why Trump’s lopsided view of this story is so telling. Inflicting that defeat on the U.S.S.R. was a major bipartisan [American] foreign-policy priority of the 1980s. The policy was designed by Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and executed by the Reagan administration.
It’s amazing enough that any U.S. president would retrospectively endorse the Soviet invasion. What’s even more amazing is that he would do so using the very same falsehoods originally invoked by the Soviets themselves: “terrorists” and “bandit elements.”
It has been an important ideological project of the Putin regime to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Putin does not care so much about Afghanistan, but he cares a lot about the image of the U.S.S.R. In 2005, Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as (depending on your preferred translation) “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” or “a major geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”—but clearly a thing very much to be regretted.
The war in Afghanistan helped bring about that collapse, not because it bankrupted the Soviet regime—that was an effect of the break in the price of oil after 1985—but because it forced a reckoning between the Soviet regime and Soviet society. As casualties mounted, as soldiers returned home addicted to heroin, Soviet citizens began demanding the right to speak the truth, not only about the war in Afghanistan, but about all Soviet reality. As of mid-morning on January 3, the day after the president’s repetition of Soviet-Putinist propaganda in the Cabinet room, there has been no attempt by the White House to tidy things up: no presidential tweet, no corrective statement. The president’s usual defenders—Sean Hannity, Fox & Friends, the anti-anti-Trump Twitter chorus—have likewise ignored the whole matter. . . . There’s apparently nothing they can think of to say in exoneration or excuse.
Putin-style glorification of the Soviet regime is entering the mind of the president, inspiring his words and—who knows—perhaps shaping his actions. How that propaganda is reaching him—by which channels, via which persons—seems an important if not urgent question. But maybe what happened yesterday does not raise questions. Maybe it inadvertently reveals answers.

American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Myth

As I have noted before, the myth of American exceptionalism is something that annoys me to no end and which continually prevents the United States from engaging in much needed soul searching about both its own history and what motivates foreign policy even today.  As lengthy a piece in New York Magazine notes, Donald Trump is revealing the self-centered ugliness of much of America's approach to other nations and his opponents need to not be blinded to the fact that self-interest and financial motivations have generally always been behind even America's altruistic policies. The Marshall Plan which helped rebuild Europe after WWII also ushered in a golden age of American manufacturing throough its reestablishment of markets for American companies.  As we go forward and the so-called Resistance tries to counter Trump's blatant selfish - and short sighted policies - and support the ideals of liberal democracies, they need to not be blinded to the reality of America's motivations, both past and present.  I don't say this to bash the United States but simply argue for recognizing reality.  Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump has done more to elevate the left’s critique of U.S. foreign policy than any politician in modern memory.
. . . . . [Trump] as a presidential candidate,. . . . .told Republican primary audiences that George W. Bush had lied the United States into Iraq; that said war had done a “tremendous disservice to humanity”; and that America could have saved countless lives by investing $5 trillion in domestic infrastructure instead. As commander-in-chief, Trump has suggested that there is no moral distinction between the U.S. and other great powers; that American foreign policy in the Middle East is largely dictated by the interests of arms manufacturers; and that the U.S. judges foreign regimes by their utility to American economic interests, not their commitment to human rights.
But if Trump’s descriptions of geopolitics echo Noam Chomsky, his prescriptions owe more to Attila the Hun. The president does see the invasion of Iraq as a criminal waste — but only because the U.S. failed to expropriate the region’s oil fields. He does imply that, in the eyes of the American state, Raytheon’s profits count more than journalists’ lives —but he sees that as a good thing. And when Trump suggests our country isn’t “so innocent,” he isn’t imploring neoconservatives to hold America to higher moral standards, but rather, to hold foreign autocrats to lower ones.
In other words, the Trump presidency can be read as an object lesson in the virtues of hypocrisy. Having a global hegemon that preaches human rights — while propping up dictators and incinerating schoolchildren — is bad. But having one that does those things while preaching nihilism is worse; not least because even a nominal commitment to liberal values can function as a constraint against their violation. Trump’s distaste for the whole “shining city on a hill” shtick has, among other things, enabled the Pentagon to tolerate higher levels of civilian casualties in the Middle East, the Israeli government to accelerate settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, and the Saudi crown prince to take a bonesaw to international law.
It’s understandable, then, that many liberal intellectuals are eager to revive the national myths that Trump has busted. . . . . that compulsion is unfortunate; because it will be difficult for liberals to realize their vision for America’s exceptional future, if they refuse to grapple with its unexceptional past.
In the current issue of The Atlantic, former Hillary Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan presents one of the more compelling cases for making America exceptional again. Against Dick Cheney’s arrogant, unilateralist approach to world leadership — and Trump’s nihilistic disavowal of America’s international obligations — Sullivan offers a call for restoring the U.S. to its former role as a benevolent hegemon, one whose global supremacy is legitimated by its demonstrable commitment to spreading peace, democracy, and shared prosperity.
Crucially, Sullivan recognizes that this restoration is contingent on sweeping reform. He acknowledges that, in recent decades, U.S. foreign policy has often betrayed both its putative ideals and the concrete material interests of ordinary Americans — thereby inviting the cynicism of young idealists, and the xenophobic resentment of aging nationalists. Further, policymakers have habitually overreached militarily, while grossly underinvesting in cybersecurity, diplomacy, foreign aid, and other forms of soft power.
To rectify these errors, Sullivan argues that America should strive to build (and/or fortify) multilateral institutions of global governance; shape its geopolitical strategy around the interests of working people (by, among other things, cracking down on tax havens and international corruption); shift resources away from military pork and toward diplomacy, development, and technology; and exercise more humility when contemplating foreign intervention.
And yet, while Sullivan’s prescriptions for U.S. foreign policy are broadly consistent with those of progressive darlings like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, his description of American grand strategy, pre-Trump, is as delusional as that of the median neoconservative.
Sullivan argues that the case for American leadership rests on the existence of American exceptionalism, which he defines as “the idea that the United States has a set of characteristics that gives it a unique capacity and responsibility to help make the world a better place.”
[T]he notion that the world’s wealthiest nation has an obligation to concern itself with the well-being of global humanity is self-evident. But whether America has proven itself uniquely qualified for this task is less clear.
Sullivan is no arrogant Chenyite; he acknowledges that the “story” of American exceptionalism is “incomplete.” There have always been “the mistakes, the complexities, the imperfections — things like covert regime change across Latin America, support for brutal dictators, the invasion of Iraq, and the tragedies (despite the best of intentions) of Somalia and Libya.”
In lieu of an explanation for how a great power uniquely committed to republican values came to organize so many authoritarian coups against republics, Sullivan offers a single quote from Reinhold Niebuhr: “Hypocrisy and pretension are the inevitable concomitants of the engagement between morals and politics.”
This is a means of evasion, not an argument. And it is utterly insufficient for countering the copious evidence disputing Sullivan’s narrative. For one thing, if Trump introduced zero-sum thinking into American grand strategy in 2016, how does one account for George Kennan’s authorship of the following quote, in a State Department “policy planning” document, circa 1948?
[W]e have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming . . . .
The history of American foreign policy over the past seven. decades has been more consistent with Kennan’s summation of national purpose than Sullivan’s. More specifically, U.S. foreign policy has more consistently reflected the economic interests of American capital than it has the ideals of republicanism . . . . American exceptionalism is rooted in the improbable notion that the United States is uniquely unbeholden to the logic of power. [O]ur nation’s foreign policies are shaped, above all, by the material interests of those who enjoy the most power over our government. And let’s further stipulate that all American corporations, combined, invest more time and money into trying to influence public policy — and enjoy more intimate access to D.C. policy-makers — than do human-rights activists.
From these (highly plausible) premises, one would expect the U.S. to pursue a foreign policy that prioritizes the interests of corporate America over the promotion of democracy or human rights. Or, put differently: One would conclude that, in its glory days as “leader of the free world,” America’s primary beef with Communism wasn’t that it threatened the civil liberties of Eastern Europeans (or Southeast Asians, or Cubans), but rather, that it threatened the prerogatives of American capitalists.
It is much easier to reconcile the historical record with this theory, than with the opposite one.
Given the choice between supporting democratic governments that threaten the interests of major American corporations and investors — and authoritarian governments that don’t — the U.S. has almost invariably opted for the latter.
Acknowledging this reality does not require one to deny America’s various contributions to global well-being. It doesn’t even (necessarily) refute the notion that America has been a more benevolent hegemon than previous imperial powers. Our nation’s many crimes do not erase the past decades of peace in Europe, or poverty reduction in Asia. That American foreign policy is principally driven by corporate interests is not inconsistent with the idea that it has produced some positive-sum outcomes.
But the fact that American exceptionalism is a myth does have important implications for anyone who wishes to bend reality in its direction. Put simply, if one wishes to reform an institution, it’s best not to begin by wildly misconstruing how it works.
Sullivan’s call for reorienting U.S. foreign policy around the interests of working Americans is constructive. But his failure to recognize America’s unexceptional characteristics jeopardizes that project.
The exceptionalist narrative is most dangerous for the way it implies that assertions of American power on the world stage should be presumed well-intentioned, until proven otherwise. If the consensus view among liberal elites circa 2003 had been that American foreign policy is typically shaped by the mercenary interests of corporations (not least, arms manufacturers), they would likely have treated George W. Bush’s plans for Iraq with less credulity. Instead, in that instance (and many others), liberals championed a just, humanitarian intervention — only to find, to their shock and awe, that those prosecuting the war did not, in fact, have the purest of hearts.
[T]myth of American exceptionalism functions as rationale for the U.S. to subordinate international law to its own enlightened judgment.
Finally, the myth of American exceptionalism might do more to strengthen Trumpism than to undermine it. No small portion of our country’s xenophobia is informed by ubiquitous ignorance of our national sins. If one shares Sullivan’s faith in the beneficence of American global leadership, then it’s easy to conclude that Americans owe little to people in other countries. . . . . American exceptionalism suggests that the entire world owes a debt to the United States. Trumpism suggests the same — and then demands the world pay up.
Donald Trump has rebranded U.S. foreign policy in his image. Which is to say, he has put the ugliest possible face on American empire. For liberals, there is a strong temptation to call this hideous visage a mask; to insist that “this isn’t who we are.”
But it would be more accurate to say that this is who we’ve too often been. This hateful sociopath, immune to all human sentiments save fear and greed, devoid of all principles save a will to power, incapable of seeing the world from anyone’s perspective but his own — this is who we were to the peasants of Vietnam, and to the people of Jacobo Árbenz’s Guatemala, Salvador Allende’s Chile, Mohammad Mosaddegh’s Iran, João Goulart’s Brazil, and so many other fragile republics yearning to breathe free.
Trump’s great gift to the American people is that he has made our government’s ugliest features easier to see — and thus, to change. But if we respond by burying Uncle Sam’s deformities beneath the concealer of American exceptionalism, the change we make won’t even be skin deep.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, January 03, 2019

More Thursday Male Beauty

Romney Directs Broadside at Trump;,Condemns Trump's Amoral Behavior

While it is far too late in the process and should have been even more searing - two and a half or three years ago would have been far better - in advance of his being sworn in as a member of the U.S. Senate Mitt Romney directed a broadside at Donald Trump's failures and tied them to Trump's amorality.  He did so in an op-ed in the Washington Post.  Here's a sampling:
It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. . . . his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that [Trump] the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. . . . presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.

Needless to say, the op-ed provoked a Hitleresque temper tantrum on the party of Der  Trumpenführer, who along with his boot-licking sycophants now see Romney as a potential rival for 2020.  Articles in The Daily Beast and Politico both look at the new dynamic and paranoia gripping the foul occupant of the White House.  First, this from The Daily Beast:
Mitt Romney isn’t even sworn in as a U.S. senator yet, and he’s already triggered the heck out of President Stompy-Foot, the Toddler in Chief. Within hours of Romney’s searing op-ed in The Washington Post, Trump’s itchy Twitter finger got the best of him . . . .
Trump has always reserved his most bitter ire, vicious personal attacks, and gratuitous smears for Republicans, particularly those who dare to question his execrable judgment, daily outrages against conservatism, or hand size. Just as Trump insults and belittles our allies while offering Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and the rest of the Lil Dictators Club things like foot massages and sweet love notes, he attacks Republicans with a spleen rarely displayed toward Democrats.
Romney’s editorial is in many ways a bookend to his 2016 speech condemning Trump. . . . . That call to arms went sadly unheeded, and every prediction he made concerning Trump’s disastrous reign of misrule is playing out.
The alleged party of fiscal discipline bought a couple of trillion in debt for a tax bill benefiting a handful of hedge funds, billionaires, and corporations. . . . . Trump has demonstrated his comfort with failure and bankruptcy over and over again as a master rooking the greater-fools in a long cycle of borrow-and-bust business flops. He assumes he’ll be out of office when the bills come due.
Romney, in his speech, also highlighted Trump’s “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics,” all of which have become staples of a performative presidency that is always more about heat than light. Every one of Romney’s predictions and calls about Trump from 2016 rang true then, and are proven out today.
And here’s the thing: Most Republicans knew Romney was right then and they sure as hell know he’s right today . . . . . Mitt Romney, the Enemy of the State, is a role I imagine he never thought he’d play in American political life, but the impact of his words is causing a full-fledged meltdown in the Trump-supporting media apparatus on the right.
Behind Trump’s bluster and swagger, and the 10-toothed roar of his arena faithful, the GOP just had its collective head kicked in during the 2018 campaign. The loss of 40 House seats, the trade-war disaster, a volatile stock market, a teetering economy, the reality of Mueller’s growing case against the Maximum Leader, and Trump’s foreign-policy recklessness have left Republican elected officials disheartened and shell-shocked.
Mitt Romney’s editorial is making the rounds for speaking the words that much of the GOP lacks the courage to put their names behind.  Many of the voices rising to condemn him are secretly whispering, “Mitt, it was great. I agree with you, but I have to defend him, you know. I’ve got to worry about a primary…”
The piece in Politico offers this:
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel connected with President Donald Trump by phone on Tuesday evening with some alarming news: Mitt Romney, her uncle, was about to publish an op-ed savaging him.
The next morning, as Romney’s op-ed took hold of the news cycle, McDaniel, Trump’s handpicked party chairwoman, sent out an even more strongly worded tweet scolding her uncle
In the op-ed, Romney argues that Trump "has not risen to the mantle of the office," blew up a delicate détente between the two men. And it immediately fueled suspicions among [Trump's] the president’s top aides that the incoming senator is up to something — maybe even keeping the door open to a 2020 primary challenge.
At a time when talk of a 2020 GOP primary has simmered, Trump aides said Romney, on the eve of his swearing in to the Senate, was seeking to define himself as the new leader of the Never Trump movement. . . . . And former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon argued that Romney had launched a “direct challenge to Trump for leadership.”
He [Romney] was well aware that the op-ed would ignite a media firestorm and that it would be seen as a key moment in his early Senate career, something he would be asked about repeatedly in the halls of the Capitol.
But as the new year neared, Romney found himself increasingly frustrated with [Trump] the president, the person close to Romney said.
Trump aides worry that a primary challenge would become an unwelcome distraction for the president’s reelection campaign and potentially turn the 2020 GOP convention into a circus. They note that no Republican president has won reelection after a contested primary and point to George H.W. Bush’s bruising 1992 primary against Pat Buchanan as evidence of the damage an incumbent can suffer.
Let's hope that Trump has a primary challenge - assuming he isn't removed from office before then - and that the GOP convention is a circus of epic proportions.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Evangelical Mega-Donors Are Rethinking Who Deserves Their Money

Mega Donors Howard and Roberta Ahmanson.

As regular readers know, I generally view evangelical Christianity - at least in its present form - to be a cancer on American society and, indeed the world.  Hate, exclusion and division are  its principal hallmarks combined with a shocking level of hypocrisy.  The results of this reality are many, including the flight of 40% of Millennials from organized religion as a whole, a growing exodus of young evangelicals from their churches, and per a piece in The Atlantic wealthy evangelicals who are beginning to shift their donations away from "Christian" organizations obsessed with abandoning the Gospel message while waging a culture war in the quest for political power and self-enrichment (e.g., think Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham, and Jerry Falwell, Jr.).  Whether or not these shifts will save Christianity from the death spiral evangelicals have set it on.  Here are highlights from The Atlantic on the shifting largess of wealthy evangelicals:
In 2005, Time magazine crowned Howard and Roberta Ahmanson the most powerful evangelical financiers in America. As an heir to the assets of Home Savings and Loan, a mortgage and insurance empire, Howard Ahmanson became an influential philanthropist, backing projects in Bible translation, art, and—perhaps most notably—politics. The Ahmansons poured millions of dollars into ballot initiatives and Republican campaigns in California; in 2008, they gave more than $1 million to support Proposition 8, which successfully banned same-sex marriage in the state. The couple back the Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes intelligent design, and the Claremont Institute, which promotes limited government.
This history makes Howard Ahmanson’s recent transformation all the more remarkable: One of the most stalwart backers of religious-right causes has become disenchanted with the GOP and many of its associated institutions.
“The Republican Party is a white-ethnic party. And I don’t want to be identified with that,” Ahmanson told me recently. He dislikes that white evangelicals are largely supportive of Donald Trump—“Whatever this is, it’s not the Gospel,” he said—and has stopped giving to groups such as the Family Research Council, . . . . “God is using this time, and Donald Trump, to purge the church,” he told me. “Are you about Christ and the Gospel first, or is your church just a Sunday extension of your political team?”
To say the least, Howard Ahmanson is not representative of American Christian philanthropists of any generation. His religious journey has been distinctive, and he has eclectic taste in causes. Moreover, several of the influential evangelicals who were Ahmanson’s peers on Time’s 2005 power-player list have redoubled their pursuit of national political influence: Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of the late Billy Graham, spent his summer on a political speaking tour across California, and Jay Sekulow, who runs the American Center for Law and Justice, is one of Trump’s lawyers. Evangelical influence reaches all the way to the White House: Vice President Mike Pence has been a fixture at Christian-right events over the past two years, and political operatives such as Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed are enjoying greater influence under Trump than they’ve had in years.
Yet the question Ahmanson posed—about the right way for Christians to live out their faith in public, and how to put money behind that vision—is something that a number of people in evangelical philanthropy circles seem to be asking. In large part, Trump’s presidency is not the context for this question. Evangelicalism, writ large, is going through intense cultural and structural shifts that are also shaping how wealthy Christians use their money. The rise of the so-called religious right “was driven by a lot of anxiety, and a sense of urgency: If we don’t act, the country will be taken away from us,” he explained. While a lot of money poured into this movement, from both wealthy backers and grassroots supporters, “it was always a smaller proportion of evangelical charitable dollars than you might think,” Crouch said.
In the late 1980s and into the ’90s, a new organization, the Gathering, was established to help guide wealthy individuals and families who wanted to give to Christian causes—the vast majority of them in nonpolitical ways.
One of the clearest shifts among Christian mega-donors is demographic. Gen Xers and early Millennials are just starting to take the reins of legacy family foundations or come into their giving potential, and their sensibilities differ from their parents’. “For a long time, especially with Baby Boomers, there was so much wealth created so quickly,” Bruce said. “People just started giving where it was comfortable, which was usually local, with causes … they become familiar with … through their local church or network.” By contrast, her generation wants giving away money to be part of who they are, she said: The causes they support, whether it’s developing health clinics in Africa or mentoring kids in Houston, are central to their sense of identity. This overlaps with another trend in the evangelical-donor class: Over time, it may become more diverse.
Kwan described a community of second- and third-generation Asian American Christians in Silicon Valley who “aren’t necessarily beholden to the culture wars of the past,” he said. The causes that have come to be associated with evangelicalism—issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and religious liberty—don’t necessarily resonate outside a specific, white-evangelical milieu.All of these trends have shaped the way Christian dollars are spent. In a 2018 study, Giving USA and Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found a sharp decrease in religious giving over the past four decades, declining from well over half of all giving in the late ’70s through the early ’90s to roughly a third as recently as 2017. This does not necessarily mean evangelicals are giving away less money, said David King, the director of the university’s Lake Institute on Faith and Giving.
Instead, they may be donating to organizations and causes that aren’t explicitly associated with church and parachurch organizations.“If you look at the current perception of the American church now, compared to historic witness of the church, there is a gap,” said Joshua Crossman, one of the board members of the Pinetops Foundation, a relatively small, new family foundation. He pointed to data from the Pew Research Center showing a sharp decline in the percentage of Americans who believe houses of worship contribute a “great deal” to solving social problems. In 2016, only 38 percent of religiously unaffiliated people said that was the case. “It would behoove all Christians to think about that gap and to figure out what we can do to best be a witness for Christ in our communities,” he said.
While Trump has rocked evangelical politics, this era of American evangelical history had already taken shape before he came on the scene: “The church may be moving toward a time of the church in exile rather than the church as the dominant cultural institution,” as Kwan put it.
In previous years, evangelicals responded to a sense of declining cultural power with anxiety—that is what yielded the age of “ferment” that Crouch described. But at least among this subset of next-generation evangelical mega-donors, there doesn’t seem to be much of a desire to fight the culture. Their hope, instead, is that they will be known by their fruits.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Will the Virginia GOP Kill Marijuana Decriminalization Again in 2019?

More and more states are reforming their marijuana laws to allow medical marijuana, decriminalizing simple possession and/or reducing penalties.  Virginia has lagged behind this changing reality largely thanks to Virginia Republicans.  Why the resistance?  Actually, it is quite simple.  For years Virginia Republicans have sought to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible be it under the smoke screen of preventing non-existent voter fraud, using Virginia's draconian drug laws to saddle minority voters with felony convictions that deprive them of the right to vote, or other disingenuous lies and ruses. As note, a significant part of this GOP agenda has been the disproportionate arrest of blacks for marijuana possession.   Among the worse offenders in this unconscionable agenda has been the City of Norfolk where blacks were far more likely to suffer arrest and conviction than whites.  Now, the City of Norfolk has changed its position and is calling for the decriminalization of simple possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.  Polls indicate that a majority of Virginians want decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.  However, the goal of the Virginia GOP ceased to be furthering the wishes of a majority of the population many years ago.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at what may transpire in the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly.  Here are highlights:
When it comes to marijuana, Virginia has lagged behind many states where the drug has been decriminalized or legalized for recreational use.
With lawmakers approving an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program in 2018, supporters of decriminalization are hoping that momentum will continue in 2019. But Virginia Republicans don't appear willing to support decriminalization. 
As the General Assembly gears up for a new legislative session starting Jan. 9, Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin has submitted a bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession — defined as ½ ounce or less — and provide a maximum civil penalty of $50 for a first violation. The current law carries a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a maximum $500 fine for a first offense.
"Will Virginia eventually decriminalize personal possession of marijuana? Yes. Will it be in 2019? That's very unlikely," said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana has been introduced in Virginia for years, but has always died in committee. Pedini said the House and Senate Courts of Justice committees are made up largely of Republicans — some with law enforcement backgrounds — making it difficult to build support for decriminalization or legalization.
Ebbin, however, said a criminal charge for marijuana possession can have lasting ramifications, including negative impacts on job opportunities and child custody cases. He said he hopes his bill can at least gain some support, if it is not passed outright.
"The lobby for marijuana reform is getting larger and larger, particularly for Virginia families with members who have been impacted by our current marijuana penalties," Ebbin said.
We have other states that have decriminalized and the sky has not fallen," he said.  Public opinion polls show the majority of Virginians support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and making it punishable by fines rather than jail.
One city in Virginia has also given its seal of approval. The Norfolk City Council endorsed decriminalization in its 2019 legislative agenda.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says 23 states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, while 33 states have passed laws allowing medical cannabis programs.
In Virginia, five companies are expected to open the state's first medical cannabis dispensaries in 2019. 
Legislation passed in 2018 allows in-state production and sales of cannabis oils to patients with certificates from their doctors. The initial legislation passed in 2016 called for cannabis oils to be available only for people with intractable epilepsy.
It is now 2019 and all responsible Virginian need to begin working now to (i) get progressive legislation passed during the coming legislative session, and (ii) send Republicans into a permanent minority status in both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates in November, 2019.

The Rats Abandoning the U.S.S. Trump Accept No Responsibility

I have always believed that decent and moral people do not knowingly "get in bed" so to speak with immoral people.  Sooner or later the immorality begins to rub off on you and you become perhaps forever tainted by your decision to dismiss immorality, hate and bigotry.  This is a lesson one can witness watching the rats leaving the rudderless Trump/Pence regime who now plead that they should not be blamed for the misogyny that flows in torrents from the White House virtually daily.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the shameless hypocrisy of those resigning from or being forced out of Trump regime positions.  Do not cry for any of these individuals who knew up front that they were making a pact with evil. Here are column excerpts:
One by one they leap — or are pushed — from the foundering USS Trump, each offering a variation of the same plea: Don’t blame me.
Comes now retired Gen. John Kelly, the second of President Trump’s chiefs of staff to be discarded. Days before departing, he paused for a two-hour telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. It was an extended exercise in self-absolution.
Don’t blame him for Trump’s border-wall obsession. . . . . Don’t blame Kelly for Trump’s fabricated “crisis” at the southern border. . . . Don’t blame him for Trump’s claims that Hispanic immigrants spread violence and drugs.
And don’t blame him for the travel ban or the family separation policies, either. Rather, he, argued, he should be judged for what Trump didn’t do: . . . . Right. And if we judge success by things that didn’t happen, we should also credit Kelly for avoiding a zombie apocalypse.
Kelly served his country honorably for decades. But there’s nothing courageous in announcing, on the way out the door, that he didn’t agree with many awful things Trump did on his watch. There was, once, a good argument that qualified people, by taking administration jobs, could temper Trump’s worst instincts. But it turned out Trump was not to be tempered.
Those who disagreed with the madness had an obligation to resign, or at least to speak out — not to wash their hands of responsibility after the fact.
Don’t blame Rex Tillerson. The ousted secretary of state recently told Bob Schieffer of CBS News he reined in Trump by saying “you can’t do it that way. It violates the law. It violates a treaty.”
Don’t blame Jim Mattis. The former defense secretary waited until resigning to publicly state his disagreements with Trump over NATO, “malign actors” such as Russia and “treating allies with respect.”
Don’t blame Reince Priebus. Trump’s first chief of staff spoke up about Trump’s chaos after he was ousted, telling author Chris Whipple: “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50.”
Also, don’t blame Omarosa Manigault Newman (she knew Trump was a racist but took a job in his White House anyway) or Michael Cohen (at his sentencing, the president’s former personal lawyer said his “blind loyalty” to Trump led him to “cover up his dirty deeds”) or Stephen K. Bannon (after he departed the White House, the former top strategist suggested Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort had engaged in “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” behavior) . . . . The self-absolution extends into the diaspora of Trump apologists. Departing House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) gave a farewell speech denouncing the use of social media to “play on anger” and “on people’s fears.” Departing Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a Trump cheerleader, gave a farewell speech lamenting the loss of “comity, compromise and mutual respect.” Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), in defeat, denounced Trump for operating with “no real relationships, just convenient transactions.”
Better late than never? Perhaps. Those taking parting shots are certainly more honorable than those who, with non-disparagement agreements, get paid to defend Trump on the airwaves. The post-employment critics also compare favorably with Mick Mulvaney, who called Trump a “terrible human being” before becoming Trump’s budget director and now acting chief of staff.
But the after-the-fact criticism seems self-serving — a way for Trump enablers to rebuild their reputations and find new jobs. Tucker Carlson, an unstinting Trump booster, used the anonymity of a German-language weekly to put on the record that he questions Trump’s competence, knowledge, self-aggrandizement and personnel choices.
Even Carlson, though, is braver than the anonymous Trump official who wrote the New York Times op-ed about efforts to sabotage Trump from within. How long before the author emerges to claim credit — and perhaps a book contract? Proposed title: Don’t blame me.

New Year's Day Male Beauty

Why GOP Insiders Fear Beto and Biden Over Warren and Sanders

Yesterday Elizabeth Warren announced her intention to run for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2020 to the delight of her extreme supporters - and Donald Trump and GOP insiders who see her as the candidate most likely to set the stage for a Trump victory in 2020.  Right behind her in terms of who the GOP insiders view as most easily defeated is Bernie Sanders who isn't even a Democrat. Sadly, neither Warren nor Sanders supporters can see beyond their own ideology to realize that what plays in liberal circles in New England doesn't translate across the country the way they think it does.  Indeed, in Virginia's 2017 gubernatorial contest, efforts by Warren and Sanders to put their perceived minion at the head of the Democrat ticket likely would have handed victory to the GOP.  A piece in Vanity Fair reviews why the GOP insiders fear O'Rourke or Biden far more than Warren and Sanders who burned many bridges in Virginia.  Here are highlights;

[A]s I like to caution Republicans, you never know what might happen in 2020 if the Democratic Party nominates a presidential candidate who is likable, trustworthy, and . . . not under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Perhaps that is why, as Republicans sift through the wreckage of another Trump meltdown, the demolition of their House majority in the midterm elections two months prior, the ouster of James Mattis, and a holiday shutdown over the border wall, party operatives were spending the most wonderful time of the year trying to figure out what it’s going to take to avoid an even worse fate. For as much as some Republicans would like to see the president return to Trump Tower, they’re not willing to give up the presidency. And so, as the 2020 primary season begins, they are beginning to make a list of Democratic candidates that they think Trump can credibly beat. Without naming names, I asked several senior Republican insiders which Democrat, or Democrats, at the top of the opposition ticket would most reassure them about 2020. Without exception, Elizabeth Warren, the 69-year-old progressive senator from Massachusetts, topped every wish list. . . . . Close behind were Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, technically, is not a member of the Democratic Party. There’s a theme here. For all of Trump’s faults—and Republicans who make a living trying to win elections tend to be honest about most of them, albeit privately—the United States is still a center-right country, at least according to the data the G.O.P. trusts . . . . . A lightweight Democratic contender too enthralled with, or captive to, leftist dogma is an opponent that even a politically pockmarked Trump can exploit. Republicans are happy to run against any progressive who tries to compete with Trump on Trump’s terms. Exchanging barbs on social media platforms; name-calling; questioning his capacity mentally, physically, and the like. As much as the Democratic base might be clamoring for a standard bearer to force-feed the president a dose of his own medicine, there is no beating the genuine article at the game he perfected. Trump is too quick and too shameless, and that approach offers little change to voters who want to turn the page from the chaos and anxiety that has characterized the current era. “A Democrat is not going to defeat Trump by being more brash, blustering, and strident. They will win over voters they need to retake the ‘blue wall’ states by connecting with those voters on substance but presenting an alternative to his leadership style,” a Republican consultant told me in an e-mail. Indeed, if there’s a key aspect to the fear Beto O’Rourke inspires in some Republicans, it’s the outgoing Texas congressman’s combination of sunny disposition and 21st-century social media agility. Sure, he’s unabashedly progressive, but to borrow a phrase from Vice President Mike Pence: He’s not angry about it. Nor, as it happens, does O’Rourke look down upon so-called heretics, or, if you prefer, “deplorables.”
Ignore the Beto mockery prevalent in Republican circles during O’Rourke’s near upset of Senator Ted Cruz this past November. Party insiders were taking notes, and taking the 46-year-old from El Paso far more seriously than suggested by the apparent delight they took in lampooning everything about a figure who has drawn comparisons to a onetime up-and-coming Democrat named of Barack Obama.
“A Democrat who can carry Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or North Carolina is problematic,” a Republican insider from a critical swing state said. “Someone like Beto, who can campaign on the fly, raise money, and excite young voters, could put those and other states in play.” The midterms marked a turning point in the Republican Party’s confidence in [Trump] the president. . . . . November 6 provoked a brutal reassessment. Republicans saw their coalition crack, and many senior strategists blame [Trump] the president. As a few well-placed strategists told me for reporting I did for the Washington Examiner, after-action polling and analysis made it clear that Trump drove away soft Republicans, college-educated Republicans, female Republicans, moderate Republicans, basically every category of Republican not firmly ensconced in Trump’s base, plus crucial independents, handing House Democrats a larger victory than most had predicted, and with it, the majority. The right Democratic presidential nominee could capitalize on that. And who is that? As often as Warren and her like-styled cohorts were mentioned as easy Trump foils, former Vice President Joe Biden was cited as among the few Democrats who many Republicans believe might dispatch the incumbent with relative ease. Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaffe-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster. “He wreaks calmness and normalcy, which I feel like people crave over the chaos of the Trump administration,” a Republican strategist headquartered in the Southwest said. “One of the main disasters to avoid is to think 2016 is like 2020,” the Republican strategist based in the Southwest explained. “Trump got lucky and people held their nose against Clinton. That’s not likely to happen this time.” The problem for Republicans, lamented a seasoned G.O.P. hand in Washington, is that despite the challenges the Democrats face heading into the next election—a crowded and divisive primary and a restless base not necessarily uninterested in nominating calm, competent, and normal—“is that the Trump apologists won’t put the blame where it belongs and are burying their heads in the sand.” [S]ome dismiss Senator Kamala Harris of California as another radical progressive who isn’t ready for Prime Time, even if she’s right out of central casting for Democratic presidential contenders. Others see in her a shrewd operator who could realistically win the nomination and put Trump on defense the same way House Democrats put House Republicans in a bind in the midterm elections. It’s much the same for Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former mayor of New York City. Here’s a politician with a large enough personal fortune to outspend Trump and the Republican National Committee put together, and the wiliness to overcome his shortcomings. But some Republicans are unimpressed, . . .
 Then there are those Republican power brokers who, amid fretting about what might happen down ticket in 2020, neither fear the formidable Democrats nor welcome the weaklings. “Fear is an interesting word because I fucking hate Trump so much,” a Republican consigliere said. “I certainly wouldn’t be sorry to see him lose.”