“Get over it.”
So advised White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney Thursday.
The staggering thing was exactly what he was admonishing folks to get over – get over the quid pro quo that, Mulvaney admitted, President Donald Trump had engaged in with Ukraine, withholding military aid until the Ukrainian president agreed to probe a debunked tale about 2016 election interference. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” he said on live TV. “Get over it.”
After a press briefing whose first bombshell was that President Donald Trump will hold next year’s G7 summit at his own financially troubled property (Trump National in Doral, Florida), almost no one took Mulvaney’s advice. So few opted to get over it, in fact—including Republicans and a reportedly rattled President– that hours later Mulvaney denied ever saying those words. He went from what Paul Begala called the President’s “yes-man” into a “hey, I didn’t really mean it”-man.
A real chief of staff, Begala argued, is someone who doesn’t hesitate to say “no sir” to the commander in chief: “Those words never seem to emerge from Mr. Mulvaney’s mouth,” wrote Begala. “Far from being a public servant, the acting chief of staff revealed himself to be a throne-sniffer of the worst order. If he were any more of a toady, he’d be catching flies with his tongue.” And after significant backlash, Trump reversed course Saturday to say the G7 won’t be held at Doral after all.
Mulvaney’s floundering capped a week of new impeachment-inquiry intrigue, after Fiona Hill, who used to direct Russian and European affairs for the National Security Council, testified that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his possible 2020 rival Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. In Michael D’Antonio’s assessment, “the testimony of Fiona Hill – and the role of national security adviser John Bolton – may eventually become inciting incidents in a narrative that could rival Watergate as a political tragedy caused by a single man’s self-delusion.” Throw in the tough testimony from current and former administration officials facing House questioning (and those who have already testified), Samantha Vinograd pointed out, and “this may be the tip of the iceberg.”
More smart takes:
– Jill Filipovic: Trump family throws stones at Biden from a glass house
– Elie Honig: Your impeachment questions, answered
’A man of dignity and discipline’
The sudden passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings – chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and veteran of the Civil Rights Movement – drew immediate and bipartisan outpourings of respect for a man who served in Congress for over two decades and served his community of Baltimore (and others) for far longer.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson remembered Cummings as “a man of dignity and discipline,” his “beloved brother;” he said “it has been one of the great joys of my life to watch the nation get to know, respect and admire this great patriot, public servant and man of God.”
Both the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy eulogized Cummings in the Washington Post. Pelosi called Cummings “our North Star” and paid tribute to his accomplishments as a legislator and mentor, a “generous leader.” Gowdy recounted moments when Cummings had been critical or disagreed with him, but dismissed all that: “It’s not the hearings or political squabbles I’ll remember. I’ll remember his laugh. I’ll remember the commanding voice that made him the most compelling orator in Congress. I’ll remember his hand coming toward mine to let me know that a piece of advice was headed my way, once I stopped talking.”
Historian Peniel Joseph echoed the thoughts of many when he deemed Cummings’ passing “a major loss to American politics…It is especially poignant for Cummings’ constituents (and the rest of us) to be suddenly faced with the task of mourning a man of his history and stature at a time when both the civil rights activism and public service he embodied seem by many to be under attack.”
Trump may have just pushed Republicans too far
President Trump should be extremely concerned, wrote SE Cupp. He’s at risk of losing his party’s support – and his presidency – after abandoning Kurdish allies by pulling American troops out of Syria. Cupp broke it down this way: “It should tell us something that Republicans, who are usually so protective of this President…have spoken out so vocally and unilaterally against him when it came to Syria.” She warned that “if he decides not to listen, it’s an excuse for Republican lawmakers, who may have secretly been looking for an opportunity, to break ranks, and at the worst possible time for the President – when impeachment is actually on the table.”
This decision was so “incoherent, contradictory and harmful,” observed Frida Ghitis, that it is all the more “imperative that we find out what was behind it.” Ghitis was emphatic: “Under normal circumstances, we might shake our heads at Trump’s decision; call it a horrible mistake and make the best of it. But these are not normal circumstances, and this is not just any poor tactical move. This foreign policy travesty demands answers.” In the National Review, Jim Talent offered a different view. “I don’t see the criticism,” he opined, arguing that the President simply used the options he had in Syria.
After Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announced a ceasefire and agreement with Turkey, David Andelman argued that “with a single stroke,” Trump has re-aligned the Middle East, having “effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad – Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to a longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.”
Another smart take:
– Retired general Wesley Clark: Syria pullback looks like an open door to disaster
A grateful wife’s message to the Kurds
Writing anonymously at her request, the wife of a Special Operations soldier who has served throughout the Middle East addressed a letter directly to Kurdish soldiers. For her, they are not nameless or faceless abstractions. Her husband told her of how the Kurds helped him and other soldiers stay safe during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she wrote. “Thank you for your friendship,” she wrote. “For keeping your word and fighting alongside us, for staying the course year after year. Thank you for keeping my husband safe so he could come back home to me and my children. You have my sincerest prayers today that you too may safely return to yours. Thank you to your families that sacrificed without you, so you could make this partnership happen. I pray we return to your side, that we stand by you, and that this has not all been in vain.”
Nancy Pelosi’s stand
For at least 24 hours this week, all you had to say was “the photo” and many people would know just what you meant. The image of Nancy Pelosi, standing up and staring down the President at a table ringed by white male political leaders, pinged around the internet and the evening news. Trump tweeted it and called her “unhinged;” the House speaker one-upped him by making it her Twitter wallpaper. The image became what Molly Roberts described in the Washington Post as “a Rorschach test for an America cleaved into two. Tell us what you see, and we’ll tell you which world you’re living in.”
“We see you, Nancy Pelosi,” wrote Roxanne Jones – “we cannot look away from that photo, cannot stop sharing it across social media, or, thinking about what it means for us – all the women who have found themselves in a similar position in workplaces across America.” For Jones, the photo also was, for many black and brown women, “a painful reminder of the privilege that white men, and, yes, white women, lord over all of us in the workplace.”
Warren gets the frontrunner treatment
At the fourth Democratic debate, held in Ohio on Tuesday night, there was no doubt who the candidates believe is their new frontrunner: Senator Elizabeth Warren. Writing in CNN Opinion’s live commentary blog, David Axelrod outlined the perils of being out front: the upstarts come at you. Axelrod noted the strong hits Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg had for Warren and concluded that “she will be left to parry attacks like the ones her opponents launched tonight.”
Commentators had much to say about the Democratic faceoff. SE Cupp and Scott Jennings zeroed in on Warren’s non-answer on how to pay for Medicare for All; Tara Setmayer thought Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed “presidential.” Republican Alice Stewart and Democrat Joe Lockhart ranked the winners coming out of the evening – listing Warren and Klobuchar, respectively, at the top. Debate coach Todd Graham graded Bernie Sanders as the debate’s star, with Kamala Harris – and her powerful moment on the subject of abortion – as a close second.
Writing before the debate, Fatima Goss Graves insisted that in this and future debates, moderators must step up to hold candidates to account on issues too often dismissed as “women’s” – like abortion, childcare, equal pay and sexual harassment. Writing for Bloomberg Opinion, Joan C. Williams diagnosed this balkanizing of identity-based issues as a systemic problem for Democratic candidates. Separating race and class when presenting their agendas won’t work, she pointed out: “In the matchup with a Republican racial-fear message, a Democratic colorblind economic message loses.”
More smart takes
– Julian Zelizer: Here is what we really need to be debating
– Aaron David Miller: Trump is re-writing the rulebook on incumbency
Facebook buckles up
Dipayan Ghosh observed that Tuesday’s debate also “featured something we have never witnessed before on a presidential debate stage: 15 full minutes of open back-and-forth about how the government should contend with the increasing power of Silicon Valley.” The moment between Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, fueled in part by a new Facebook policy that the company “would not seek to fact-check or censor politicians,” opening a “frightening new world for political communication — and for national politics…in which leading politicians can openly spread political lies without repercussion.” The debate previewed for Ghosh “what will doubtless be an election-long spat over what form regulations against internet companies should take.”
Mark Zuckerberg was quick to strike back against Facebook’s critics; in a speech at Georgetown and an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, he argued that Facebook “stands for free expression.” In the Guardian, Siva Vaidhyanathan rebuffed Zuckerberg’s claim, contending that Zuckerberg “wants our discussions to be as abstract and idealistic as possible. He wants us not to look too closely at Facebook itself.” Morgan G. Ames, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, debunked as a “myth” the idea of “techies” to be “moral or thought leaders” in the first place.
It’s time for this to stop
The killing of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer in Fort Worth left communities across the country feeling less safe. Sharon Grigsby wrote in the Dallas Morning News that she felt “angry and outraged.” “It’s time for this to stop,” wrote veteran law enforcement officer Cedric L. Alexander. Police departments must start asking themselves key questions or face loss of their very legitimacy. “Who are we hiring?… How are we training our officers?…Who is supervising them?… Without the answers, we cannot begin to restore the legitimacy of law enforcement in our neighborhoods and in our nation.”
A story too many women already know
Last week, after backlash against Elizabeth Warren brought pregnancy discrimination into the national conversation, we asked our readers to weigh in. I wrote about and compiled your amazing stories, which ranged from the 1960s, when it was perfectly legal to, say, ask a female job candidate the date of her last period (just to make sure she couldn’t be pregnant), to the present day, when pregnancy discrimination is technically illegal but rears its head for men and women alike. Readers shared stories of not just working parenthood but miscarriage, adoption and difficult pregnancies. Your responses showed us that for so many Americans – past and present – who are working to bring families into the world and support them, there are no easy answers. As reader Sarah S. wrote to us, “I’m due in January. Things need to change.”
Another smart take:
– Elizabeth Yuko, writing for #NationalPeriodDay: Just say it. I’m menstruating
Don’t miss these
– Kara Alaimo: As a new mom, I found Meghan’s interview gut-wrenching
– Errol Louis: Trump supporters’ video carries stomach-turning message
– Ford Vox and Arthur Caplan: The Surgeon General is shirking his job
– Christopher Douglas: The GM workers’ strike probably isn’t worth it (for CNN Business Perspectives)
’The Righteous Gemstones’ have sharp edges
The HBO show just concluded its first season, and Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons deemed it not only a successful and well-written comedy but also a critique that skewers pro-Trump evangelicals’ real-life hypocrisies. Whether considered alongside the political proclivities of Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed (among others) or taken on its own, Graves-Fitzsimmons declares the show’s first season a “jaundiced satire [that] offers a mirror to the hypocrisies of big-dollar evangelicalism in America today. Many of today’s most prominent leaders would give the Gemstones a run for their money in making a gold-plated joke of evangelicalism.”
Graves-Fitzsimmons, a progressive Christian writer and activist, reflected: “Still, I find hope in seeing more and more Americans recognize the Gemstones of the world as the antithesis of what it means to follow Jesus Christ.”