What just happened to the British pound?

Boris Johnson, that’s what. The mayor of London this weekend came out against Britain’s continued membership in the European Union, becoming the most prominent member of the Conservative Party to buck Prime Minister David Cameron in his efforts to keep Britain in. (Cameron is reportedly “absolutely furious” about Johnson’s rebellion.) The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since the bad old days of the financial crisis, over concerns that the country’s leadership has splintered in the face of a so-called “Brexit.”

As the Times helpfully suggests, the debate basically boils down to whether Britain is a stifled global power that has been constrained by its obligations to Europe, or whether it is, in fact, a small island nation that only stands to gain from the economic and military advantages that come from being part of a larger union. While Johnson might deny that Britain is but a husk of its former world-straddling self, his motivations are probably less world-historical than personal: There is much speculation that he sided with the Out campaign because it would put him in a position to lead the Tories should Britain vote Out in a national referendum on June 23.

April 25, 2017

Pool

The Trump “100 Days” website is a hilariously typical own goal.

Two contradictory things are simultaneously true about Trump’s first 100 days. The consequences of Trump’s first 100 days, as my colleague Jeet Heer wrote on Tuesday, will be profound and destructive. He has already done lasting damage to the country and its standing in the world. But at the same time, Trump has also accomplished rather little, blundering from issue to issue in search of points to put on the board. 

Trump has claimed that 100 days is an arbitrary barometer, declaring it a “ridiculous standard” and “not very meaningful.” But, while there is a certain amount of truth in this, Trump’s own words and actions betray that he cares a whole lot about the 100-day marker. In fact, the administration has been on a mad dash for the last two weeks to try to find something to get done. 

First, it returned to health care for (roughly) the 87th time since the American Health Care Act crashed and burned a month ago. It didn’t work. Then it tried to blow up budget negotiations by demanding that Congress allocate funds to pay for The Wall. That hasn’t worked either. With four days left until the 100th day, the administration has only three plays left: lie, obfuscate, and exaggerate. 

The Trump White House unveiled its “100 Days” site on Tuesday, which asserts, “In his first 100 days, President Donald J. Trump has taken bold action to restore prosperity, keep Americans safe and secure, and hold government accountable.” The problem, however, is that the website is thin on details that back these arguments up. Some of the claims—like 500,000 new jobs—arguably are not the result of Trump’s policies, but Obama’s. There’s a lot of talk about executive actions, but only a handful of these have actually done anything. The site boasts about Trump’s military action in Syria, but it has become increasingly clear that the strike was not part of a larger strategy for ending the civil war. 

One of the accomplishments in the “Keeping Americans Safe & Strengthening Security Abroad” section is “advocated increasing military spending by $54 billion,” which is not an accomplishment at all. Only one item in the “Making Government Accountable to the People” section is about government accountability—the five-year ban on administration officials engaging in lobbying. The rest—most notably Trump’s only real accomplishment, the successful nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court—are a grab bag of seemingly random actions. 

Even more damning is another site: The Donald J. Trump Contract With The American Voter, a list of 100-day promises that the Trump campaign unveiled on October 22, 2016. To be fair, this was a desperate push from a campaign that was all but screwed. The Access Hollywood tape had effectively submarined Trump’s candidacy and James Comey wouldn’t emerge to save his skin for another six days. But that doesn’t change the fact that Trump has fulfilled very few of the promises on this  “contract” with the American people—and doesn’t seem close to fulfilling them in his first year, either. In fact, he’s zero for ten on the list of legislative promises. 

Corey Stewart doesn’t get that you can be a Southerner without being racist.

Minnesota is a fine and noble state. It’s home to Lutherans and snow and Al Franken. Minnesotans should be proud of themselves! And most of them probably are, save one unfortunate exception: Corey Stewart. Stewart now lives in Virginia, where he does many questionable things. He briefly chaired Donald Trump’s state campaign and is now running for the Republican nomination for governor. Since he launched his campaign, he has called Republican challenger Ed Gillespie a “cuckservative,” given an AR-15 away for Christmas, and staged a rally to defend Charlottesville’s enormous statue of Robert E. Lee.

For a Northerner, Corey cares a lot about the Confederacy, and is very angry that the good people of New Orleans recently decided to remove their Confederate monuments:

“Hero” is doing a lot of work here. Mainly, it is obscuring the fact that Robert E. Lee was a traitor who fought for the right to own human beings.

What a beautiful image! I could look at it forever. If that makes me ISIS I guess I’ll have to live with that.

A lot of things are worse than this! Slavery was worse. Trying to secede from the union over slavery: also worse. Also, Corey, you are from Duluth, Minnesota. Minnesota is many things but it is not the South.

It is easy to move to the South and adopt certain cultural markers, like sweet tea or even ahistorical notions about Southern hospitality, without being racist. In choosing the latter, Stewart reveals just how he really feels about his adopted state.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Donald Trump is coming for your public lands.

The president is expected to issue an executive order Wednesday asking the Department of Interior to review at least 50 national monuments created since 1996. According to E&E News, the review will suggest legislative changes or modifications” to public lands protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows presidents to restrict activities on large swaths of land and water in order to protect its “historical or scientific value.”

The most likely monument to be reversed is the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, a 1.35 million-acre mesa of Native American cultural and archaeological sites which President Barack Obama designated just before leaving office. But the order could also “open to the door to revoking designations for millions of acres of land and waters that have been protected under the Antiquities Act,” wrote Jenny Rowland, the research manager at the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project. Citing Trump’s enthusiasm for fossil fuel exploration on public lands, Rowland added, “Every indication is that the administration’s ‘review’ will conclude that there is too much protected public land in the country.”

Of course, like many of Trump’s executive actions on the environment, undoing these protections won’t be as simple as signing a piece of paper. “Any move by Trump to abolish a national monument designation could spark a serious legal battle,” the Washington Post reported this week, as legal scholars have argued that while presidents have the power to create monuments, they lack the power to dismantle them.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty

Donald Trump is a terrible, terrible negotiator.

The two parties were on their way to keeping the government open for business when Trump burst onto the scene like a racist Kool-Aid Man, demanding that the passage of a continuing resolution contain funding for The Wall on the Mexican border. If the resolution fails to pass by 12:01 A.M. on Saturday, April 29, the government will shut down. This would also be Trump’s 100th day in office, a coincidence that is not lost on him or his administration. While the Trump administration has tried to claim that, actually, they are not mad at all that they have gotten nothing done legislatively, they are very mad indeed. This is why Trump has thrown a bunch of grenades into congressional budget negotiations, demanding money for a Wall that is an absolute non-starter for Democrats and even some Republicans.

This is an absurd strategy for a lot of reasons. First, Trump promised that Mexico was going to pay for The Wall. This is not the kind of promise that politicians usually make, because for The Wall to be built it will require at least part of the promise to be broken (i.e. Mexico paying for The Wall). Second, the absolute worst thing that could happen for Trump’s first 100 days would be the government shutting down on its 100th day. That would not only further damage Trump’s already dismal favorability ratings, but it would create a ripe metaphor that would explain the previous 99 days, solidifying an impression of incompetence and confusion.

Both President Clinton and President Obama didn’t take nearly as much damage as Congress did during previous shutdowns. But then again, their party at the time did not control both Congress and the White House. In fact, Trump would probably bear more blame than Congress for a government shutdown. This suggests that his demand for The Wall was another one of Trump’s famous bluffs. He wanted to see if he could get concessions from Congress, but ultimately was not committed to follow through on his threats.

So it should be no surprise that, with four days to go until a shutdown, Trump signaled a retreat. On Monday evening, The Washington Post reported that Trump had “softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall.” Trump has promised to fight another day, telling conservative journalists on Monday that he would seek to start construction on The Wall by September.

But one thing is clear: Trump could not have screwed this up more badly. He spent a week of valuable time threatening to derail a rarity in contemporary Washington: a fairly reasonable negotiation between the two parties. And he didn’t get anything out of it. If anything he showed once again that he’s all bluster—that he’ll make a lot of noise but, when push comes to shove, ultimately back down.

April 24, 2017

Saul Loeb/Getty

The White House Hunger Games aren’t over yet.

While meeting with representatives of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, Donald Trump took a break from hammering the U.N.—“I also want to say to you that I have long felt that the United Nations is an underperformer, but has tremendous potential”—to joke that the United States’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, could be fired at any moment.

“I want to thank Ambassador Nikki Haley for her outstanding leadership and for acting as my personal envoy on the Security Council. She is doing a good job. Now, does everybody like Nikki?” Trump joked. “Otherwise she could be easily replaced, right? No, we won’t do that. I promise you we won’t do that. She’s doing a fantastic job.”

The Trump administration has gotten a lot quieter of late, with fewer embarrassing leaks and anonymous backbiting in the press. That may be because what little attention White House officials have is focused on ensuring that they clown themselves while negotiating (with themselves, more or less) to increase the debt ceiling. Or it may be because Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon are finally playing nice after repeatedly stabbing one another in the back.

But jokes like this show that the Trump White House is never going to change its stripes because Trump’s entire management style is based around creating infighting and instability. Even when things are going well—Haley is one of the few members of the administration who hasn’t completely embarrassed themselves—Trump has to elbow his way in to remind people (even as a joke!) that he’s in charge and that, as a result, everything could change in an instant. Don’t let a couple of relatively quiet weeks fool you.

Jim Watson/Getty Images

Donald Trump is using taxpayer dollars to enrich himself while asking Congress to fund his government.

Multiple State Department websites were found promoting President Trump’s private club at Mar-a-Lago Monday, and not in particularly subtle ways.

As ethics lawyer and Trump watchdog Norm Eisen notes, this appears to violate the same federal conflict-of-interest rules Kellyanne Conway broke when she promoted Ivanka Trump’s fashion line from the White House briefing room, though this is far more intentional.

This kind of thing is becoming routine in Trump’s administration, in part because he’s fostering a culture of corruption in the government, and in part because Republicans in Congress have decided to let him get away with it. They could put a stop to the routine self-enrichment fairly easily, or force him to divest his assets and set up a blind trust, but they have chosen instead to do nothing.

The timing of this particular outrage is interesting, though, because it comes as the Trump administration is negotiating a temporary spending bill with Congress, to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week. That legislation will require Democratic votes and that gives Democrats an opportunity to make issue of the fact that Trump wants to use these appropriations to advertise his commercial property. Whether they will take a stand here of not remains to be seen, but there’s an obvious logic to making Republicans explain why Democrats (or anyone!) should vote for this spending if Republicans intend to turn a blind eye when it flows directly into Trump’s pockets.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The Democratic Party can’t cuss its way back to political relevance.

Warning its audience, “This post contains profanity and language readers might find offensive,” CNN reported Monday on the Democratic national chairman’s newfound cussing habit. At a rally in Las Vegas over the weekend, with children standing behind him, he said President Donald Trump “doesn’t give a shit about health care.” That followed a rally in Portland, Maine, one week ago, where Perez declared “Republican leaders and President Trump don’t give a shit about the people they were trying to hurt.” The chairman used the s-word to describe GOP budget proposals that day, and last month he said, simply, “Republicans don’t give a shit about people.” All of this appears to be part of an intentional branding strategy by the Democrats:

A $30 shirt for sale on the Democratic National Committee’s website.Democrats.org

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa defended Perez’s language to CNN by saying, “Tom is angry, and he’s angry because Donald Trump continues to stick it to the American people.”

This is ridiculous. Even if most voters get past the spectacle of a major party chair cursing in front of kids, they’re going to see all this swearing for what it is: an act of desperation. Maybe Perez thinks he’s showing toughness against Trump, who’s prone to foul language. Or maybe he’s doing a bad imitation of his recent roadshow buddy Bernie Sanders, who certainly shouts a lot but doesn’t typically disparage Republicans in such broad, boorish terms. Either way, Perez is trying too hard to be the cool dad, and it’s embarrassing to the party.

Justin Sullivan/Getty

Trump’s Wall won’t stop the flood of drugs into the United States.

Donald Trump’s 100th day in office will be on Saturday and Trump is approaching that marker in two contradictory ways. He and his surrogates are trying to get ahead of the main narrative—that Trump has accomplished very little—by arguing that it’s an arbitrary standard that doesn’t really say anything about a president’s administration. Appearing on Meet The Press on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff/guy who hasn’t been fired yet Reince Priebus made the case that presidents don’t actually do anything during their first 100 days. “Barack Obama had a pre-baked stimulus package that started in October of the election year which was passed in February. It was pre-baked,” Priebus pleaded. “George Bush didn’t get any major legislation until June; Clinton, August 10th; Bush 41, a year and a half later; Reagan, August 13th; Carter, 658 days after he took the office; Nixon, one year; Johnson 225 days. Here’s the deal. The president signed over 28 bills already. Health care may happen next week. It may not.”

Trump himself made this case in a tweet:

The administration, however, is also contemplating using the threat of a government shutdown to secure a legislative victory, pledging to link the funding for a border wall to raising the debt ceiling. This is, as my colleague Brian Beutler wrote today, not the shrewdest strategy in the world. But Trump is nevertheless pressing the case.

The case that Trump is making—that The Wall is essential to ending the heroin epidemic—is fundamentally wrong. “A wall alone cannot stop the flow of drugs into the United States,” Christopher Wilson, the deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, told Vox last week, after Trump made a similar claim. “If we’re talking about a broader increase in border security, there could be some—probably minor—implications for the overall numbers of drugs being trafficked. But history shows us that border enforcement has been much more effective at changing the when and where of drugs being brought into the United States rather than the overall amount of drugs being brought into the United States.”

Traffickers simply change their means of smuggling drugs into the country when new obstacles present themselves. And perhaps most importantly, the best way to slow the heroin crisis would be to slow the opioid crisis, which would require reform of the drug industry.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Did black lives matter at D.C.’s March for Science?

Reverend Lennox Yearwood, a prominent environmental justice activist and president of Hip Hop Caucus, says he was “assaulted, roughed up, and detained” by a Hispanic D.C. police officer while attempting to cross the street near the National Mall on Saturday. In a Huffington Post column recounting the incident, Yearwood said he was slammed against a food truck and accused of being “on drugs,” before being briefly detained and then released without arrest.

The police officer then told everyone to get out of the crosswalk. By then I was about half way across the street. I paused in the middle of the street and then decided it was easier to proceed to the other side of the street, in effect getting out of the crosswalk.

The officer then ran up to me, grabbed me forcefully by my jacket and swung me around, slamming me up against a food truck. I yelled, “What are you doing? Stop grabbing me”. He told me to stop resisting, to which I responded that I wasn’t. I dropped my umbrella, and put my hands up. I told him I was there for the Science March. He said he had to detain me because I “could be on drugs”. YES, he really said that.

Reached by phone Sunday night, Yearwood said he was physically fine, but mostly hurt by the inaction from the hundreds of fellow Science Marchers who saw what happened. “The crowd didn’t really do anything,” he said. “I saw how quickly they were to accept there was a person of color being detained.” (The Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately return my request for comment.)

Yearwood said the apathy was ironic given the march’s focus on diversity and the infighting among march organizers about how explicit that focus should have been. STEM fields have long struggled with diversity, and Yearwood sees his brief detention as representative of that problem. “Until I unzipped my rain coat and the officer saw my [clergy] collar and March for Science VIP badge, he probably felt that I wasn’t a part of this march,” Yearwood said. “And that was very hurtful. For some reason, I didn’t fit in to him.”

Yearwood is concern that such incidents will discourage people of color from attending large marches for science and the environment. “It is not hyperbole to say, if this can happen to me, than imagine what it feels like for a young person of color who might be coming to a march like this for the first time,” Yearwood wrote.

Eric Feferberg/Getty Images

Centrism didn’t save France.

Every country in the Western world must face down their Trumpian demons, and France appears to have survived the great test. Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist, is set to face off against the far right’s Marine Le Pen in a run-off scheduled for May 7. Although Macron and Le Pen were separated by only a couple of percentage points, Macron is a shoo-in according to pollsters, as politicians across the spectrum, with the notable exception so far of the far left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, throw their lot in with Macron. Though Le Pen was able to ride a nativist-populist wave to bring her National Front to unprecedented heights—which in itself will likely have profound effects on French politics—in the end her party was deemed, by voters on both the right and the left, to be too backward and too racist to lead the country.

But imagine what would have happened if Le Pen were a little less racist and backward, and if her party were not still associated with the more overt neo-Nazism of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. Her attacks on the European Union—a two-headed beast of open borders and a globalized economy—clearly had widespread resonance. Her campaign was taking place against a backdrop of 10 percent unemployment; imagine, if you possibly can, what insane hell would have been unleashed on American politics if the economy remained at or near its Great Recession high for nearly 10 years. This is the product of years of failed policies by France’s two mainstream parties, both of which proved unwilling or unable to challenge the ruinous austerity agenda emanating from Europe’s true power center in Berlin. In fact, one of the reasons for Mélenchon’s surprise success was that he was able to win back traditionally liberal voters who had gravitated toward Le Pen’s anti-EU positions.

Macron—ironically or tragically, depending where you sit—is essentially promising more of the same. His moderate platform strikes a balance of appealing to middle- and working-class voters voters (more stimulus, no hike in the retirement age), to Berlin’s budget obsessives (fewer government workers, cuts in public spending), and big business (a cut in the corporate tax rate). “He is not offering a rupture, he wants to keep reforming while maintaining fiscal discipline,” one Socialist official told the Financial Times. “It’s the Socialist Party freed from the left of its left.”

It is to Macron’s great benefit that France’s electorate is split on various axes. There is the much-publicized populist vs. globalist split, and here Macron falls on the side that is floundering in the U.S. and Britain. But there is also the insider vs. outsider split, and this appears to be the main source of Macron’s strength. He does not represent one of France’s two loathed mainstream parties, and he is not a racist like Marine Le Pen. But centrism in France has already failed on a policy level—what remains to be seen is how popular it will remain as a sheer political posture.