THE DAILY INTELLIGENCER: AMERICA’S “TOADY IN WAITING”

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/12/mike-pence-first-toady.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily Intelligencer – December 6, 2017&utm_term=Subscription List – Daily Intelligencer (1 Year)

Ed Kilgore reports for The Daily Intelligencer in NY Maggie:

“Most reactions to McKay Coppins’s vast new profile of Vice-President Mike Pence have focused on an October 2016 incident wherein the then-candidate for veep offered to replace Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in the wake of the Access Hollywood revelations, which for a moment looked likely to bring the mogul down.

But the far more enduring picture Coppins paints is very different: Mike Pence as a man who decided early on in his relationship with Trump that no one could look in the mirror at night and see a browner nose.

In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless. When Trump comes under fire for describing white nationalists as “very fine people,” Pence is there to assure the world that he is actually a man of great decency. When Trump needs someone to fly across the country to an NFL game so he can walk out in protest of national-anthem kneelers, Pence heads for Air Force Two.

This willingness to serve as First Toady was evident in Pence’s initial interview — on a Trump golf course — as a potential running mate:

Pence had called Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, whom he’d known for years, and asked for her advice on how to handle the meeting. Conway had told him to talk about “stuff outside of politics,” and suggested he show his eagerness to learn from the billionaire. “I knew they would enjoy each other’s company,” Conway told me, adding, “Mike Pence is someone whose faith allows him to subvert his ego to the greater good.”

True to form, Pence spent much of their time on the course kissing Trump’s ring. You’re going to be the next president of the United States, he said. It would be the honor of a lifetime to serve you. Afterward, he made a point of gushing to the press about Trump’s golf game. “He beat me like a drum,” Pence confessed, to Trump’s delight.

This set the pattern for Pence, notwithstanding anything he might have contemplated during the brief but intense hours after the Access Hollywoodrevelations.

What makes Coppins’s take on Pence especially valuable is his understanding that sucking up to Trump was entirely in keeping with the Hoosier governor’s sense that God was working through the unlikely medium of the heathenish demagogue to lift up Pence and his godly agenda to the heights of power. Just as it has been forgotten that the Access Hollywood tapes nearly brought Trump down, it has rarely been understood outside Indiana that Pence was down and possibly out when Trump reached out to him to join his ticket.

The very fact that he is standing behind a lectern bearing the vice-presidential seal is, one could argue, a loaves-and-fishes-level miracle. Just a year earlier, he was an embattled small-state governor with underwater approval ratings, dismal reelection prospects, and a national reputation in tatters.

Pence’s apparent demise, moreover, came after his careful plans to position himself to run for president in 2016 went awry via his clumsy handling of a signature “religious liberty” bill and a fatal underestimation of the resulting backlash from the business community.

All of a sudden, he was lifted from this slough of despond and placed a heartbeat away from total power thanks to his ability to, as Kellyanne Conway put it, “subvert his ego” in the presence of his deliverer, whose own ego has no limits. He clearly has not forgotten this lesson of an ambition fed by self-abasement rather than self-promotion. And according to Coppins, he even has a theological justification for blind loyalty to Trump:

Marc Short, a longtime adviser to Pence and a fellow Christian, told me that the vice president believes strongly in a scriptural concept evangelicals call “servant leadership.” The idea is rooted in the Gospels, where Jesus models humility by washing his disciples’ feet and teaches, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

Usually the idea is to be the “slave” of one’s followers and of the less fortunate, not the slave of the billionaire POTUS, but Pence has the “humility” part down pat.

Pence’s presumed reward in this redemption story could, of course, extend beyond the power he exercises as one of the more influential vice-presidents in history, and as Trump’s designated mediator with the Christian right and with those Republican elected officials who aren’t themselves in the great man’s retinue. He would be the obvious successor to Trump in 2024, when he will still be a relatively youthful 65 — whether or not Trump wins a second term in 2020. And in the meantime, as in the panic-stricken hours after the Access Hollywood tapes were released, Republicans will look to Pence as a reassuring and unifying figure whenever Trump’s presidency is endangered, whether it’s by the Mueller investigation or his own erratic conduct.

Pence has indeed come a long way since he was airlifted out of what was probably a losing gubernatorial race to the role of worshipful sidekick to Donald Trump. And he’s earned his actual and potential power via a habit of slavish loyalty that he may consider godly, but others find infernally corrupt if effective.”

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I’ve called Pence a sycophant. But, sycophant, toady, you get the picture: spineless, and when you get beyond the disgustingly un-Christian and un-Jesus brand of intolerant religious zealotry that Pence passes off for Christianity (thus giving Christians a “bad name”) you get a guy that no thoughtful American should want for President.  Doesn’t, of course, mean that he won’t be President; just that he shouldn’t be.

Now, there is a school of thought around “The Swamp” that “Mikey the Toady” is “going down” along with The Trumpster in “Russiagate,” leaving us with the “Weaselly  Badger” Paul Ryan as President. Before you get too excited about that prospect, however, best to read the following article to understand that in addition to being a spineless coward who isn’t as smart as he and his backers think he is, Ryan is a “Joint Venture” (50-50 ownership for you non-corporate types) of the National Rifle Association and the Koch Brothers. Yeah, I know that this is a “fake news” satirical piece by none other than the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz. Sadly, however, it contains more accuracy than a standard White House press briefing by Sarah Huckabee Sanders (a disturbingly low standard to be sure — where oh where is “Spicey” when we need him?). In the end, he could turn out to be just as damaging to America and the world as Trump and Pence.

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/koch-brothers-and-nra-reach-timeshare-agreement-over-ownership-of-paul-ryan

“WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a unique accord, the billionaire Koch brothers and the National Rifle Association have reached a timeshare agreement over the ownership of House Speaker Paul Ryan, representatives of both parties have confirmed.

Speaking on behalf of the Kochs, Charles Koch said that he contacted the N.R.A.’s executive director, Wayne LaPierre, with the timeshare proposal “so that we could all get the maximum enjoyment out of owning Paul.”

The arrangement is intended to minimize conflicts between the Kochs and the gun group that have arisen in the past when both co-owners have wanted to use Ryan at the same time, Koch said.

“I said to Wayne, ‘This is craziness,’ ” he said. “ ‘Let’s work something out where you get Paul half the year, and we’ll take him the other half.’ ”

Under the timeshare deal, the Kochs will have the exclusive use of Ryan during the months when tax cuts and environmental deregulation are put to a vote, while the N.R.A. will have him for the months when gun legislation is to be defeated.

Additionally, each co-owner is responsible for insuring that Ryan is well maintained and in good condition when the other’s period of using him commences.

Koch indicated that, if the timeshare agreement is a success, the two parties are likely to work out a similar deal for their longtime joint ownership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

So, what’s a self-respecting country to do? The answer is actually pretty obvious. Stop putting Republicans in elective office. No, that won’t cure all the country’s ills; indeed, just repairing the damage already done by this Administration could take decades.

But, at least we’ll have some folks in office who are working for the common good and trying to solve the nation’s and the world’s problems (yes, amazingly, they are interrelated) rather than actively making them worse every day. And, that would be a start!

PWS

121-08-17

OPTIMISTS’ CORNER: Five Reasons Why DACA Legislation Could Pass!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/5-reasons-why-a-dreamer-bill-could-really-happen.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Intelligencer%20-%20September%208%2C%202017&utm_term=Subscription%20List%20-%20Daily%20Intelligencer%20%281%20Year%29

Jonathan Chait writes in The Intellingencer as reprinted in New York Maggie:

“Not just a dream? Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
“If they pass a straight-up Dream amnesty,” says Mark Krikorian, an anti-immigration activist, “they will go into the elections having failed to repeal Obamacare but having passed amnesty.” When you put it like that, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? And indeed it would seem bizarre for Donald Trump’s sole legislative achievement to be the negation of his central campaign theme. But in recent days, the implausible has become suddenly plausible.

1. Trump doesn’t really care about restrictionism. The president has many prejudices but almost no actual policy commitments. He rode anti-immigrant sentiment to the presidency, but his use of the theme was largely instrumental. Trump has alternated his nativist lurches with professions of sympathy for the Dreamers. “I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” Trump said recently. “And I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right. And really, we have no choice.”

2. He’s in a bipartisanship groove. The president cares more about positive feedback and good press than anything else. His bipartisan deal to lift the debt ceiling for three months might have been substantively contentless, but he liked the response from the media. As a creature of impulse, he will probably want to tap the bar for another pleasure hit.

 

3. The cult of personality protects him. Previous efforts to protect the Dreamers have all fallen prey to conservative revolts. But the Trump imprimatur has unique power to give Republicans political cover. A glimpse of the strange dynamic came into view when Trump cut his debt-ceiling agreement with Democrats over the objections of the GOP leadership, and enraged conservatives took out their anger on … Paul Ryan.

Trump catered to his base by tapping into primal ethno-nationalist resentment. Having proven his tribal loyalty, he is perfectly positioned, should he choose, to bring along his base. A large segment of the party-messaging apparatus seems prepared to follow along. “Nobody wants to kick a bunch of kids out of the country, right?” Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday. “I don’t care if they’re budding little Al Capones. People just don’t want to do it … There needs to be a price, and it would be a great thing, couple this, say, with building the wall. I mean, you do all-in on border enforcement.”

4. The bill will materialize. There is almost certainly a majority in both chambers for a Dreamer bill. The trick is getting the bill to the floor. When Ryan ran for the Speakership, in 2015, he promised he would not bring immigration legislation to the floor unless it commanded a majority of his own party.

What might do the trick, however, is attaching DACA — Deferred Action of Child Arrivals — to an unrelated bill. There will be at least two measures to increase the debt ceiling. Those bills, crucially, will rely heavily on Democratic votes, since a large portion of the Republican base refuses to vote to increase the debt ceiling. This essentially circumvents the informal requirement that the GOP only brings up bills that most Republicans support, opening the door for passing something mostly with Democratic votes.

“There’s no way,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas says of a DACA vote. “We will take that up. I’m confident. But there’s no way that it will stand alone.” But it’s not standing alone any more.

5. Ambiguity is their friend. The ability of both sides to claim a deal does different things is the classic lubricant of any political negotiation. In this case, the grounds for ambiguity are obvious. Trump has made the symbolism of the wall a political fetish, and Democrats oppose it on similar grounds. The way around this standoff is to tie DACA to border-security measures that Trump can call a “wall” and Democrats can call “not a wall.”

After all, Democrats have previously supported border-security measures like increased drone surveillance and added fencing. What is the conceptual distinction between a fence and a wall? Not much.

The safest bet, of course, is that nothing happens, because that is almost always the safest bet in modern Washington. But the window of possibility has opened quickly. All of a sudden, helping the Dreamers is not just a dream.”

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Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  It would be nice.

One potential problem is that Trump doesn’t appear to have any immigration expertise in his Administration that’s not part of the restrictionist White Nationlist cabal. He’d probably have to get down to the career level at USCIS to find someone to work on the legal details of a Dreamer bill.

Clearly, White Nationalist restrictionists like Sessions and Miller would have to be screened out of any bipartisan process. And, Chief of Staff Kelly showed little or no appreciation for promoting constructive legal immigration programs during his short DHS tenure. Indeed, he appearss to have overridden sound internal advice and counsel and suppressed evidence in supporting the Sessions-Bannon-Trump disingenuous “Travel Bans.” That’s the trouble with a politically biased Administration that neither appreciates nor has the ability to work with experts in the career civil service.

PWS

09-09-17