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Trump’s “fascist” roots lie in the Republican Party.

In a much discussed Washington Post op-ed, Robert Kagan makes the case that Trump is a typical fascist leader, a strongman who riles up the mob and preys on their fears and hatred. Yet the Trump that Kagan describes is a curiously ahistorical menace, a monster born of an immaculate conception. Kagan draws analogies between Trump and all sorts of foreign tyrants, including Mussolini and Hitler, but deliberately ignores how Trumpism is an outgrowth of a racism and xenophobia that is all too American. The Trump phenomenon, we’re told, “has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy.”

Kagan has good reason to want to gloss over the historical roots of Trumpism. Although he will vote for Hillary Clinton this year, Kagan is a neoconservative whose hawkish foreign policy ideas were immensely influential during the presidency of George W. Bush. If we wanted to boil down Trumpism to two historical precedents, they would be the Southern Strategy (which made the Republican Party amenable to Trump’s racism) and Bush’s war on terror (which primed the party to respond to fear-mongering, threat inflation, and bluster). As Matt Duss argued in The Nation, the “inconvenient truth is that Trump has simply refined to its essence the style of discourse that the neocons helped develop.” With his promise of a unilateral foreign policy that would include re-occupying Iraq and bringing back torture, Trump is trying to take Bushism to the next level. 

No wonder Dick Cheney supports Trump. And no surprise that Robert Kagan, who was so instrumental in crafting these policies, ignores the connection between his old ideas and Trumpism. 

March 30, 2017


House Republicans can’t even agree on a meeting. How do they hope to pass a health care bill?

The GOP has been in shambles since the epic failure of Trumpcare last Friday. Donald Trump clearly has no idea what to do next, except to be mad online at the hard-right Freedom Caucus. Now, Paul Ryan and House Republicans are kicking around the idea of resuscitating health care reform.

That is, if they can get different factions to even meet. According to Axios Presented By the Dharma Initiative, talks about health care moving forward have already deteriorated. There was supposed to be a meeting yesterday between the Tuesday Group, the Freedom Caucus, and the Republican Study Committee. It never happened. Actually, whether a meeting was ever on the table is also a subject for them to fight over. As reported by Axios: “A Tuesday Group source denied a meeting between the 3 groups was ever agreed to. But there were discussions between the 3 groups to have a meeting to hash it out, and a Freedom Caucus source believes the group reneged on the deal.”

We know the GOP is not playing 4D-chess. But at this point it looks like they are not even playing Connect Four.

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Donald Trump has no idea what to do next.

Immediately after House Republicans’ pitiful attempt at health care reform failed, the conventional wisdom—pushed by Trump himself—was that the White House was moving on, and fast. Trump talked about using budget reconciliation—a parliamentary maneuver that conveniently requires zero votes from Democrats—for tax reform, which, like Obamacare, has long been a goal of congressional Republicans and the special interests and superrich people who fund them.

But a few days later, it was reported that Trump was considering pushing tax reform and a huge infrastructure package simultaneously—perhaps to lure Democrats into some kind of Grand Bargain. Then it came out that Trump actually didn’t want to give up on health care reform just yet, and that Mike Pence had been dispatched to the Capitol to see if he could strike a deal with House Republicans. All this even though Mitch McConnell made it clear that he wasn’t interested in the Senate taking on Obamacare repeal after it bombed so spectacularly in the lower chamber.

Trump’s tenth week in office, in contrast to the feverish activity of his ninth, seems like a hangover week for everyone. Republicans are icing the bruises they got from repeatedly punching themselves in the face, and Democrats seem to have grown a bit tired of winning, as Trump, ironically, promised they would. On Thursday morning, Axios Presented By Alexander Strategy Group reported that Trump—whose inner circle consists of past business associates, old campaign hands, and his own family—wanted to widen his net. “Friends who talk frequently to Trump,” wrote Mike Allen, “tell us the president will make one big change in response to the health-care fiasco: In the constant check-in phone calls for which he’s famous, he’s going to talk with a wider array of people—and include more Democrats.”

Democratic outreach has been pushed by Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy. Paul Ryan, meanwhile, is using it as a stick to keep Republicans in line: “What I worry about, Norah, is that if we don’t [pass a GOP health care bill], then [Trump will] just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare and that’s not—that’s hardly a conservative thing,” he told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News. “[I]f this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we’ll push the president into working with Democrats, he’s been suggesting that as much.”

Trump muddied the waters further on Thursday with a tweet castigating both his potential allies on the right and left.

Trump’s Democratic outreach might be in earnest or it might be a threat. But, like every other piece of Trump’s agenda, it is up in the air right now because Trump himself has no idea what policy to push or what coalition to form.

March 29, 2017

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Republicans’ sneaky plan to smother future environmental regulations just passed the House.

The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act, which passed on Wednesday by a 228-194 vote, is a pernicious attempt to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from creating rules to protect the environment and public health.

The bill, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, requires the EPA to only use scientific studies for which all data is publicly available and the results are easily reproducible. This is much harder to do than it sounds. Many public health studies use private medical data, while others contain trade secrets and industry data. Moreover, public health studies are impossible to reproduce when, say, they’re based on one-time pollution events or on people who have died since the study was conducted.

David Stevenson, a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, told me last week that the HONEST Act would be instrumental in preventing regulations of carbon dioxide and other pollutions. “Almost everything that has been done in the last 10, 11, 12 years would not pass the standards [under the bill],” he said. “The Clean Power Plan, ozone regulations, particulate matter regulations—everything has been built on science that has not been peer-reviewed, that the data’s not visible, or that there’s only been one person doing the study.”

There isn’t yet a version of the HONEST Act in the Senate, and some of its leading opponents believe the Senate wouldn’t have the votes to pass it as a standalone bill. But they worry it could be slipped into a must-pass appropriations bill.


Are House Republicans really gearing up to get clowned on health care again?

Just five days after one of the most embarrassing self-owns in political history, Bloomberg reports that House Republicans are considering holding a vote on repealing Obamacare in only two weeks. Bloomberg says that “members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who helped derail the bill, have been talking with some Republican moderate holdouts in an effort to identify changes that could bring them on board with the measure.” One member, Oregon Representative Greg Walden, even joked that it was high time for a political resurrection. “We’re approaching the Easter season,” Walden said. “Some things rise from the dead.”

In sacred texts, yes—but the Capitol is about as far from the Holy Land as you can get. While the whispers that health care isn’t quite dead have been growing louder—I wrote about them yesterday—the probability of House Republicans going through with this plan seems to be slim, especially considering that no one has yet to offer any changes to the American Health Care Act, one of the most hated bills ever.

That Republican House members would be risking failure mere weeks after a colossal blow to their credibility makes this even less plausible. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are moving on: “It’s pretty obvious we were not able, in the House, to pass a replacement. Our Democratic friends ought to be pretty happy about that because we have the existing law in place, and I think we’re just going to have to see how that works out,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “We believe it will not work out well, but we’ll see.”

These should not be comforting words to House Republicans who wish to hold a vote. It’s possible that the point is to send a bad bill up to the Senate, where it will die. This would kill two birds—the bill and the ability to claim that the House passed a repeal bill—with one stone.

But that is a 4D chess explanation, which does not fit the blundering political maneuvering that we’ve seen from House Republicans. (If this was the plan, moreover, House Republicans would have passed the AHCA last week.) More likely than not, they are using this as an opportunity to quiet raging donors who are furious that they botched health care reform. “If both the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group can agree on some things, then we’re in good shape,” Representative Morgan Griffiths told Bloomberg. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the status of the bill—it will require hardliners and so-called moderates to come together and, from what we’ve seen over the past month, that’s not going to happen.


Ivanka makes the nepotism official.

This afternoon it was reported in the New York Times that daddy’s dearest daughter will become an official government employee: an unpaid adviser to her father. For all intents and purposes, Ivanka, who has shown up to a lot of meetings with foreign dignitaries, was already doing this job. Only a week ago, she moved into an office in the West Wing, and faced backlash for the questionable ethics of being an unofficial employee. (As Norm Eisen told Politico, “If she can voluntarily subject herself to the rules, she can voluntarily un-subject herself to the rules.”)

Making her role official is an attempt to sidestep this criticism. In a statement, Ivanka said, “I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.” But this is akin to putting a Band-aid on a bullet wound. The Trump family has already ignored a host of ethical guidelines, and the new position doesn’t solve Ivanka’s particular conflict-of-interest problems; while Ivanka put her fashion and jewelry line into a trust, she still owns it.


What will Donald Trump learn about tomorrow?

Trump is really doing well. First he learned about Frederick Douglass, who is being recognized more and more every day. Then he played with a truck and made vroom-vroom sounds. Now he’s learned about Susan B. Anthony:

He is such a good helper! Now these women know all about Susan B. Anthony, who got arrested for trying to vote while female. American women definitely don’t know anything about her.

No word about his behavior at naptime, but if he is very, very good perhaps he will get a gold star. What a big important day for a big important boy! If we turn the Constitution into a chapter book, we may survive this yet.

Lamar Smith (left) with House Speaker Paul Ryan in January. Zach Gibson/ASSOCIATED PRESS

House Republicans held an insane hearing just to attack climate science.

The Trump administration has been nothing if not a master class in gaslighting—the art of manipulating people, often through lies, into questioning their own sanity—and its pupils on Capitol Hill have clearly been taking notes. On Wednesday, the Republicans on the House Science Committee held a three-hour hearing on the merits of climate change science, a cavalcade of falsehoods so relentless and seemingly rational that one might well need psychiatric counseling after having watched it.

There were four witnesses: One scientist from within the scientific mainstream, and three from the climate-denial fringe. This witness makeup, the result of Republicans’ majority power, created an environment where there appeared to be exponentially more doubt about the reality of global warming than actually exists in the scientific community (97 percent of climate scientists say global warming is problematic and caused by humans). The stated intention of the hearing was to bring “integrity” back to the scientific process. “It is important that we have the best available data to make informed decisions,” said Republican Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona. “It is also important that this data is grounded in sound science that is not biased or part of a larger political agenda.”

That sounds perfectly reasonable, but an “honest discussion” of the data is not what happened. It was not honest, for example, when House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith angrily said the Heartland Institute—an organization that openly denies climate science—does not deny climate science. It was not honest when Smith criticized Science magazine—one of the country’s most prestigious science publications—as being a non-objective source of information about science. Nor was it honest that the discussion would be apolitical. Judith Curry, a scientist who doubts mankind’s role in climate change, ended her opening statement thus: “Let’s make scientific debate about climate change great again.”

At one point, a Republican on the committee even tried to pin the label of “climate denier” on Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist the Democrats had called to defend mainstream science. Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk asked Mann if he though it was possible, even in the slightest, that humans are not the main driver of climate change. Mann said that based on the current data, it’s not possible. Loudermilk concluded: “We could say you’re a denier of natural change.”

For being the only witness who accepted the mainstream position on climate change, Mann sure took a beating. Representative Paul Higgins pressed Mann to prove he wasn’t “affiliated or associated” with the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Climate Accountability Institute, two left-leaning climate science advocacy groups. Mann, clearly confused, said he knew people in the groups but didn’t work for them. Texas Congressman Randy Weber then attacked Mann for not being able to “remember” if he’s affiliated with the groups. “It certainly seems to be a convenient lack of memory,” Weber said.

For all their gaslighting, these Republicans never did conceal the true intention of the hearing: to bully the scientific mainstream. Smith even suggested as much last week at Heartland’s annual conference for climate change deniers, where he was met with cheers when he announced his three chosen witnesses. When he mentioned Mann, the crowd loudly booed, and Smith smiled. “This hearing is going to be so much fun,” he said.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Trump administration is defending its coal policy by saying “there’s no such thing as clean energy.”

On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke officially rescinded an Obama-era policy that banned coal leasing on public lands across the country. The day before, in defending President Donald Trump’s decision to do this, Zinke made an interesting argument: that when it comes to coal’s impact on the environment, renewable energy is basically no better.

Zinke made this claim in a radio interview with Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade. Kilmeade noted that although Trump has promised “really clean coal”—or coal mining that’s better for the environment—there’s the argument that clean coal does not actually exist. Zinke shot back: “You look at, is there such a thing as clean coal? Well, there’s no such thing as clean energy.” Here’s the full exchange:

KILMEADE: Remember Joe Biden said when he was running in ‘08, “There’s no such thing as clean coal.” I understand today you are rescinding a ban on coal leasing on federal lands. Are you hurting the environment to help jobs?

ZINKE: We’re not hurting the environment. You look at, is there such a thing as clean coal? Well, there’s no such thing as clean energy. Even wind comes at a cost, when you wanna talk about migratory birds and cutting through. But coal, can we do it better? Absolutely. It is better to export cleaner coal oversees than have China use low-quality, high-sulfur coal.

Clearly every source of energy has an environmental impact. Wind and solar both require tons of land to operate at large scales, raising concerns about habitat loss and land degradation. Geothermal power plants use a lot of water; and biofuels have a whole host of problems. But it’s sort of a no-brainer that renewable energy sources are much cleaner than coal. Fossil fuels do substantially more harm to air and water—not to mention the climate. According to Scientific American, coal burning is responsible for “more than a third of all energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and 80 percent of those from electricity production. It is also one of the largest contributors of air pollution, acid rain, and even toxic environmental mercury.”

As for the migratory bird problem, Zinke may want to look at this chart, which shows how many birds are killed per year by different fuel sources.

U.S. News & World Report

Britpop was bad.

Twenty-three years after Blur’s Parklife, Britpop doesn’t need another takedown, or commemoration, or really anything more said about it. Which makes Pitchfork’s list of the 50 Best Britpop Albums an odd document: Why now? Does anyone in the world need to be reminded of the ultimate mediocrity of Oasis, or the fact that Blur’s best work was actually in the 2000s, or the existence of Suede?

The answer may just be existential. Since being bought by Condé Nast, Pitchfork has continued its stylistic evolution. Its reviews have gotten sharper and less irritating and the site has published some truly outstanding features, but it’s also leaned into more questionable, click-driven content like the completely baffling and extraneous “50 Best Indie Albums of the Pacific Northwest” and the culturally damaging “Here Is the Scandalous Father John Misty Interview You’ve Been Waiting For.” This is, of course, what digital publications do.

Pitchfork knows that its lists—many of which are good!—prime the pump. Could they have waited until the 25th anniversary of Parklife? Probably! But that would mean that Britpop’s waning influence would have been waning for two more years.

Anyway, back to Britpop. Part of the weirdness of the list is that 50 whole albums stretches things way too far. Including The Bends as a Britpop album is a pretty great neg of Radiohead, even if it would have been better if The Bends had been beaten out by either of Oasis’s two not-terrible albums. (The fact that Oasis is perhaps the least charismatic band in rock history is not addressed by Pitchfork. Neither is their strange devotion to parkas—they’re weirdly depicted wearing trenchcoats in the Sgt. Pepper-ish art accopmanying the feature.) Morrissey has not one but two albums in the top 50! While “Tomorrow” sounds like Morrissey doing Britpop, it also sounds like Morrissey, who is not Britpop—this is definitely a category error.

The accompanying playlist does a decent job arguing that Britpop was more than a marketing gimmick for Britain’s fading glory, Union Jack-themed merchandise, and the Glastonbury tourism board, but it still struggles to make the case that Britpop was a genre and not an irritating mix of shoegaze flange and power pop songcraft.

The other problem is that most of the music is bad. I was watching the video for Cornershop’s annoying “Brimful of Asha,” only for Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffanys” to autoplay when the song finished—as if YouTube really wanted to make it clear that “Brimful of Asha” was a bad song. Ash sounds like if the Ramones had frontal lobotomies; you can hear Coldplay being born in the Verve’s depthless self-importance; and a surprising number of these bands sound like the Goo Goo Dolls. If Anton Newcombe, the insane frontman of the mediocre Brian Jonestown Massacre, had founded the band in Surrey instead of San Francisco, he would have released a string of #1 records and live in a giant penthouse apartment in Kensington, instead of doing whatever it is he’s doing now.

There are some highlights. Elastica’s first album rules and so does most of Blur (though Blur doesn’t get really good until after Britpop was buried in a shallow grave). Oasis’s popularity makes sense when put in the context of the mediocrity of mid-90s music. And when Pulp, the British LCD Soundsystem, are good, they are really fucking good.

Sleeper also remains underrated. But that doesn’t change the fact that Britpop sucks.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump Organization is planning to expand its hotel empire, which surely is just a coincidence.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s company is readying a “nationwide expansion,” including a second hotel in Washington, D.C.:

Representatives of the Trump Organization, now run by the president’s adult sons, have inquired in recent months about converting one of several boutique, medium-sized hotels in upscale neighborhoods in and near downtown and reopening it under the company’s new Scion brand.

Unlike the luxurious Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, which Trump and his family own, the more affordable Scion hotels would be owned by other developers who would pay the Trumps’ company for licensing rights and management.

The head of the Trump Organization’s hotel division told the Post that he’s signed “over 30” preliminary agreements for similar licensing deals around the country, suggesting the Trump brand name might not be as commercially toxic as some reports have suggested.

A second D.C. hotel would give Trump even more opportunity to personally profit by doing business in the nation’s capital. The existing Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is raising ethics concerns for providing paying guests—including foreign diplomats—with proximity to the president, who makes routine visits. Though Trump turned over management of the Trump Organization to his adult children, he is still the owner, and thus would profit from the planned Scion expansion.

As this latest news proves, Trump’s rapid ascent in politics has been good for business. “Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview recently that he familiarized himself with other markets—and potential partners—while on the campaign trail for his father,” the Post reported. “The sons have said they are minimizing contact with their father except to provide basic updates on the business.”

Those “basic updates,” however, include quarterly financial reports about the company—so President Trump will know exactly how well his self-enrichment scheme is going.