The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Trump Is Considering [Insert Idea Here]

Trump Is Considering [Insert Idea Here]

It is time for all of us to be a little more skeptical every time we see the headline, “President Trump Considering X.”

In just the past two weeks or so, we’ve seen…

Trump Is Considering Breaking Up Big Banks

Trump says he’d consider increasing the gas tax

Trump considering breakup of appeals court that opposed him

White House considering order to withdraw from NAFTA

Trump administration still considering how to make it easier to sue the media, Priebus says

Trump considering laptop ban on some European flights

Trump Is Willing to Consider a Sudden Strike on North Korea

Trump says he could meet with North Korea’s leader

Mulvaney: Trump Willing To Sign Government Spending Bill Without Wall Funding

We get it. Trump is willing to consider a lot of things, particularly when the topic comes up in an interview with a reporter. If asked, “are you considering X?” Trump’s instinctive reaction is, “X is a very serious issue, and we’re looking very seriously at that.” There are few ideas to which he’s willing to say, “no, and we’re just not going to do that.” Lord knows, he’s unwilling to say, “I haven’t thought about this issue that much, and would have to look at that proposal more closely before giving a more definitive answer.”

His staffers, like Reince Priebus and Mick Mulvaney, are reticent to rule any option out.

The result is a White House where nobody exactly knows what the philosophy is, what sorts of ideas and policies fit that philosophy and what ones don’t, and what issues and tasks take priority. The president’s perspective on an issue could be very different if the last person he spoke to was Jared Kushner or if it was Stephen Bannon.

The lesson is that what the president does is a lot more important than what the president says.

DNC: Hey, Everybody Knew We Were Rigging the Primaries for Hillary!

Beautiful: Lawyers for the Democratic National Committee are arguing in court that they cannot be sued for fraud, because everyone knew that the DNC was not neutral in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders primary. This is the kind of legal argument that might win the lawsuit but will essentially set the DNC’s credibility with the grassroots on fire.

Shortly into the hearing, DNC attorneys claim Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter—stipulating that the DNC chair and their staff must ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries—is “a discretionary rule that it didn’t need to adopt to begin with.” Based on this assumption, DNC attorneys assert that the court cannot interpret, claim, or rule on anything associated with whether the DNC remains neutral in their presidential primaries.

The attorneys representing the DNC have previously argued that Sanders supporters knew the primaries were rigged, therefore annulling any potential accountability the DNC may have. In the latest hearing, they doubled down on this argument: “The Court would have to find that people who fervently supported Bernie Sanders and who purportedly didn’t know that this favoritism was going on would have not given to Mr. Sanders, to Senator Sanders, if they had known that there was this purported favoritism.”

Jared Beck, the attorney representing Sanders supporters in the class action lawsuit, retorted that the DNC Charter is not akin to political rhetoric a politician would use during a campaign, but rather an inherent and important part of democracy in America. The entire argument of the DNC in this lawsuit is to conflate the promises of a political candidate with those of an election arbiter bound to neutrality by the DNC Charter, and to claim that fraudulent inducement cannot ever be proven as the DNC attorneys allege, “I think there’s an impossible showing of causation.”

“Don’t blame us, you guys knew we were rigging the presidential primary from the start!”

Bernie Sanders and his supporters might be socialist loons, but even socialist loons can be unfairly cheated.

Why Is Everyone So Certain about This Weekend’s French Election?

Everyone I know who’s following the French election — smart people, who study and understand French politics way better than I do — tell me there’s no way that Marine Le Pen can win Sunday’s second and decisive round of voting. I’m told that the French are smart strategic voters. I’m told that her second-place finish was a protest vote, or letting off steam; I’m reminded that her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, made it to the second round in 2002 and won less than 18 percent of the vote.

But I keep hearing variations the same arguments I heard before the U.K. Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election. “A Le Pen victory is unthinkable!” “There’s no way France would turn away from its future like this!” “To elect Le Pen is to turn our backs on modernity!” “The French have no choice but to vote for Emmanuel Macron!”

Well, maybe. But we saw how the British and American voters responded when the political, cultural, and media elites declared there was only one socially acceptable option in a big, consequential election. People hate being told that they don’t have a choice.

The French are not happy with the status quo. Incumbent president François Hollande was so unpopular he chose to not run for reelection; the nominee of his party, the Socialists, got less than 7 percent in a five-way race. Emmanuel Macron is technically an outsider and a new figure in French politics, a sort of center-left technocrat, but… he’s formerly a member of the Socialist party, an investment banker (with Rothschild & Cie Banque — think that name will stir the conspiracy theorists?) and served in a senior role on Hollande’s staff from 2012 to 2014.

A longtime political figure, generally supportive of globalization and welcomed by “the Davos crowd” with close ties to the incumbent administration and the country’s financial elites, running during a time of great dissatisfaction with the status quo? While the national media declares the main opponent racist, xenophobic, and a relic of the country’s ugly past?

Does anybody else feel like we just saw this movie?

Oh, hey, look, the French unions are divided and the Left is feeling unenthusiastic about their candidate. But Americans wouldn’t know anything about that!

The anti-Le Pen demonstrations have taken longer to materialise and they have been smaller and more fragmented. Politicians have not instantly and easily united against Marine Le Pen; instead, there has been hesitation and infighting.

Even on May Day, when “No to Le Pen” marches took place in major French cities, trade unions that had firmly united against Marine Le Pen’s father in 2002 were divided. Some felt the independent centrist frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, was too economically liberal to support, placing him in the same pariah bracket as the anti-immigration Marine Le Pen.

Commentators on the left complained of a mood of lethargy and resignation, saying Marine Le Pen’s party no longer provoked massive anti-racism demonstrations and was simply being accepted as a permanent feature of the French political landscape.

None of this is really a defense of Le Pen; she’s awful, particularly from the perspective of American interests. She wants to take France out of NATO and create a “privileged partnership” with Russia. She wants to drastically limit legal immigration to France. She wants to subject non-French employees working in France to a special new tax. The U.S. currently exports $31 billion in goods and services to France; Le Pen is protectionist and would throw up trade barriers. She has no interest in shrinking the size of the government or its power in France.

This isn’t to say I think Le Pen is going to win. But I’m struck by how many people are declaring a certain outcome is “unthinkable.” If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that political decisions that seem “unthinkable” to a country’s elites seem pretty darn thinkable to those in the working class and squeezed middle class. At the very least, we probably should be prepared for Le Pen’s share of the vote to surpass the current low expectations.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it, yesterday I looked at the objections on the left to the NRA’s gun-safety program for kids, Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. “When the opposing side finds a six-foot-tall eagle mascot a menace, every child attending a gun show a potential mass shooter, and every safety presentation a nefarious trick to undo years of parenting, it’s very hard to have a conversation, much less ever reach agreement.”

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