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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home in Chicago with his wife, Patti, shortly before heading to prison.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home in Chicago with his wife, Patti, shortly before heading to prison. (M. Spencer Green / Associated Press)

Pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, as President Trump did Thursday, is one thing. D’Souza, a conservative author and commentator, pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions. Many conservatives believe he was overpunished because of his politics. Probably a bad idea to pardon him, but whatever.

Pardoning Martha Stewart, as Trump then told reporters he was thinking of doing, would be a troublesome decision too. She was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a stock sale that some people believed constituted insider trading. Trump has a long-time personal relationship with her. (See below for her video with Donald and Melania making meatball sandwiches.) She long ago served her time, so pardoning her now would be mostly symbolic.

Those are two highly questionable choices, though they hardly rise to the level of some of Trump’s outrages.

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(Google screengrab)

Conservatives are on the warpath for Samantha Bee’s head after the comedian called Ivanka Trump a “feckless …” on her cable TV show "Full Frontal” last night, using a vulgar reference to the female anatomy that my editors won’t let me repeat here. Bee’s slur, for which she apologized Thursday, was prompted by Trump’s ostensive refusal to stand up to her father’s heartless immigration policies.

We all know what the missing word in Bee’s invective means. It’s obviously crass. Coming from the mouth of a man, it would clearly be considered sexist. A woman calling another woman the same term isn’t great. It coarsens the culture and gives men cover to use a term we shouldn’t.

Just so we’re all clear on that first word though, take a look at the dictionary definition above. As you can clearly see, “feckless” does not mean “white devil.” It is not an animal of any kind. It is not a pejorative way to attack someone’s religion. It means a person lacking strength of character.

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 Dinesh D'Souza, left, accompanied by his lawyer, leaves federal court in New York in 2014.
Dinesh D'Souza, left, accompanied by his lawyer, leaves federal court in New York in 2014. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Any number of critical things can be – and have been – said about President Trump’s outrageous pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator who pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions:

The pardon is another example of Trump’s whimsical approach to the exercise of an important presidential power — also evidenced by his comment Thursday that he’s considering clemency for Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

  1. It’s another example of Trump’s obsession with undoing actions undertaken during the Obama administration.
  2. It reflects Trump’s sense of solidarity with right-wing culture warriors. D’Souza, you may recall, once tweeted out a picture of Obama holding a selfie stick with the caption: “YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO... Watch this vulgar man shows his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment.”
  3. It’s another signal to Trump associates charged by or in the sights of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Trump might come to their rescue.

But I was struck when I heard about the pardon by another possibility. I checked to see if D’Souza’s case had been the subject of sympathetic coverage by Fox News, which (to judge by Trump’s tweets) seems to be the president’s primary source of information.

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Coils are stored for delivery at the production site of German steel technology group Salzgitter AG in Salzgitter on March 17, 2015.
Coils are stored for delivery at the production site of German steel technology group Salzgitter AG in Salzgitter on March 17, 2015. (Tobias Schwartz/AFP/Getty Images)

Macroeconomic Advisers, a research firm focused on the U.S. economy, reported Wednesday that the U.S. trade deficit in goods was “much narrower than expected,” implying “substantially more” U.S. exports in the second quarter. So it revised its projection for economic growth sharply upward, to a robust 3.6% increase in GDP.

Achieving and sustaining that kind of growth is a key goal for President Trump. So naturally, on Thursday the Trump administration took a dramatic step to disrupt U.S. exports and pour ice water on the economy.

That would be imposing 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum imports from every major (and minor) metals-producing country around the world except Argentina, Australia and, in the case of steel, South Korea, effective Friday. The move turns a threat and negotiating ploy into an action, which will bring real consequences in the form of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. And it won’t be on U.S. steel and aluminum — it will be on Harley Davidson motorcycles, California almonds, Levi’s and Jack Daniel’s.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the FBI had acted properly in the Russia investigation.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the FBI had acted properly in the Russia investigation. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Trump continues to claim that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia is a “witch hunt.”

But lately the president has varied his Twitter tirades by pressing a new conspiracy theory that he has dubbed Spygate.

That’s the idea that the FBI planted a spy in his 2016 campaign on the orders of the Obama administration. As he tweeted on May 23: “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”

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Rocky Mountain News employees as they learned in 2009 that the newspaper would close.
Rocky Mountain News employees as they learned in 2009 that the newspaper would close. (Judy Dehaas / Associated Press)

It’s nice to be needed.

A new working paper by three Midwestern economists finds a correlation between the closure of local newspapers and increased long-term borrowing costs for local governments.

The authors, Paul Gao at the University of Notre Dame and Chang Lee and Dermot Murphy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, speculate that government spending increases when there are no journalists, or radically fewer of them, peering over local officials’ shoulders.

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(Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press)

“I think that nonconformity is part of the American DNA. And in today’s culture, the nonconformists are conservatives.”

That quote comes from White House senior advisor Stephen Miller — one of President Trump’s key confidants — in a McKay Coppins profile in the Atlantic. I highly suggest popping over there now if you haven’t read it yet. It’s beyond instructive.

Miller, a 32-year-old right-wing activist from liberal Santa Monica, is portrayed as a vessel of rage and mockery with few definitive beliefs — other than a vague desire to punish “criminals” and to keep immigrants out of the country.

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Christian Bales celebrated graduation day with a bullhorn.
Christian Bales celebrated graduation day with a bullhorn. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Last week I attended the banquet of the speech and debate society of my old high school in Pittsburgh, where my friend and freshman-year debate partner Jack Kennedy was honored for his service to the society,  as competitor and later coach.

The next night Jack and his wife Kasey hosted our gang of Baby Boomer debate nerds – the men graduates of Central Catholic High School, the women alumnae of the Catholic girls’ schools we competed against – and the reminiscences flowed.

One topic was the Central yearbook I co-edited, which was notorious for its irreverent humor.  For example, a photo of a Christian Brother who covered his bulletin board with devotional portraits of popes was captioned: “Brother Gregorian pauses near his papal pinups.”  

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The cast of ABC’s “Roseanne” in happier days, before the network canceled the series.
The cast of ABC’s “Roseanne” in happier days, before the network canceled the series. (Robert Trachtenberg/ABC via Getty Images)

A week after its season finale, “Roseanne” went out with a bang. And oddly enough, Republicans ought to be thankful.

As my colleague Carla Hall noted, ABC canceled the show Tuesday after star Roseanne Barr tweeted that a former top advisor to President Obama was the love child of talking apes and the Muslim Brotherhood. That was beyond the pale, even for a show whose debut attracted 18 million viewers.

The revival of a hit show from the 1990s, “Roseanne” had been seen in some quarters as a triumph for President Trump and his followers. A personal friend of Trump’s, Barr played the matriarch of a blue-collar Midwestern family who not just supported Trump, but channeled some of his rougher edges. In fact, after the show’s blockbuster premier, Trump himself tweeted, “[I]t was about us!”

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Actress Roseanne Barr attends the Disney ABC Television TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena in January 2018.
Actress Roseanne Barr attends the Disney ABC Television TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena in January 2018. (Valerie Macon)

Of course ABC had to cancel the reboot of the “Roseanne” show (ridiculously popular as it was). What star Roseanne Barr tweeted about Valerie Jarrett, a longtime aide to former President Obama, was repugnantly racist and disgusting. It’s mind-boggling that anyone with a mainstream media platform (as opposed to some dank corner of the Darknet) would be spewing this offensive stuff. Oh, wait — I forgot President Trump.

OK, his Twitter oeuvre may walk right up to the edge of old-school animalistic racism and not go over it, as Barr did. She tweeted, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” referring to Jarrett, who is black and not Muslim.

Intimating that black people look like apes or monkeys has been part of racist imagery since the 19th century.  That it still persists today is disturbing. Just as disturbing, we live in a world where there are few consequences for public figures saying anything vicious, racist, sexist or xenophobic. At least Barr feigned an apology. Trump never does.