Thursday, July 20, 2017

Trump's Crazy Republicans Have An Arya Stark List Now


Drawing on an historical perspective, author and activist Danny Goldberg bemoaned the left's circular firing squad for Nation readers yesterday. He wrote that "With excruciating predictability, mainstreamers blame young people for low turnout and for being seduced by the Libertarian or Green parties, as if finger-wagging at youth has ever been effective. Such lectures are like a rock band blaming the audience for not giving them an encore instead of improving the show. A certain number of low-information young voters struggling with college debt, stressed out by diminished job opportunities, and terrified of global warming were not motivated by charts showing statistical economic growth during the Obama years or by Tim Kaine’s harmonica playing. It is equally absurd when some on the left refuse to admit that the United States and the world would be in a lot better shape today if imperfect Hillary Clinton had won."
Democratic Party mainstreamers should stop claiming that they and they alone are pragmatic. (Or as a smug New York Times headline put it, “The Base Wants It All. The Party Wants to Win.”) That argument has long been highly debatable, but after 2016 it is delusional. They have controlled most of the candidate selection and most of the campaigns that have resulted in the weakest presence of Democrats in elective office since the age of silent movies.
But you know who's having even worse circular firing squad problems? The political right. Trump is encouraging television ad campaigns and primaries against Republican incumbents he doesn't like for one reason or another. One of his PACs already started running ads in Las Vegas and Reno against Dean Heller (R-NV) and he and his staffers have been meeting with perspective extremists who want to run against Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN). And the groups that feed the right-wing base its opinions are turning their big guns on Ryan, McConnell and Republicans in Congress.
“It’s shocking the amount of pushback he’s getting from his own party,” said Carl Higbie, a former spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC. “It’s time to primary some of these longstanding congressional leaders that can’t get the job done.”

Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt trained his ire on Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), arguably the most endangered GOP Senate incumbent in 2018, for opposing the repeal and replace bill.

Hewitt questioned Heller’s intelligence, saying on his Tuesday show that he’s not the “sharpest knife in the drawer” and accusing him of not grasping the damage he was doing to the Republican Party.

Hewitt even compared the list of Republican defectors from the bill to a fictional list kept by Arya Stark, a character on HBO’s Game of Thrones, of people who have been marked for revenge after wronging her family.

“We know the list to blame. It's like #AryaStark list. And it just keeps getting longer,” Hewitt tweeted.

Hewitt said that, along with Heller, Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) belong on that list for opposing the bill.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler fumed, ticking through the names of senators who he said abandoned conservative voters by opposing a subsequent measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act and put off replacement.

“[Alaska Sen. Lisa] Murkowski, [West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito and Collins. People are furious. And not one ounce of it is directed at Trump,” Meckler said.

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), which funded ads in the past against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans, vowed to back primary challenges against Republicans who did not back the repeal efforts.

“Republicans have promised to repeal ObamaCare for years, and now with President Trump in the White House there is no excuse for them to break their promise,” said SCF chairman Ken Cuccinelli.

The outrage illustrated the intraparty divisions that have opened up in the Republican Party over healthcare and could imperil other parts of Trump’s agenda.

...The Drudge Report placed the blame right on Ryan and McConnell, with the heavily trafficked site's banner all day Tuesday showing a photo of Ryan and McConnell over the headline "MOST UNPRODUCTIVE CONGRESS IN 164 YEARS."
Meanwhile, back to the Democrats for a moment. Last yesterday, the GOP passed, 248-179, a heinous fracking-related bill, H.R. 2910, that will allow natural gas companies to seize private property and conduct surveys of private land without consent of the landowner. Only one Republican voted against it, but 11 from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- almost all of them Blue Dogs-- voted for it. The culprits were mostly the usual suspects who always vote with the Republicans and with the corporate special interests that pay for votes-- like Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX). Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), who voted against this bill, told her constituents that "Billion-dollar natural gas companies have no right to infringe on Americans’ private property-- end of story. This attack on the pipeline approval process would not only allow expanded use of eminent domain, but also deny communities the opportunity to participate in the public input process. Instead, it gives corporations free rein to cause irreparable harm to the environment."

One of the worst of the oil industry whores among Democrats is Gene Green, who represents a Houston shipping channel area district with severe environmental and pollution problems. Hector Morales is a young activist and school teacher challenging Green for the seat he has used for too long to serve the interests of Big Oil against the interests of his own constituents. He's one of the few progressives challenging an entrenched incumbent conservaDem anywhere in the country-- the toughest job in politics (please contribute to his campaign here). This morning, when we asked him about Green's vote with the Republicans, he told us that "This should not come as a surprise as Gene Green is one of the founding members of the Congressional Oil & Gas Caucus along with Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, to name a few. Green was also one of the scarce Democrats that voted in favor of the Keystone Pipeline with the abhorrent excuse the pipeline. Perhaps the Congressman should look no further than the Manchester neighborhood deep in the heart of the 29th Congressional District where all the refineries are located. After all, the low-income, heavily Latino community has high rates of childhood leukemia, asthma, and bronchitis-- an observation that has been backed up by data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Texas which found “unacceptable” levels of cancer-causing pollutants in Manchester’s air. Gene Green is nothing more than a corporate shill who has gotten away with representing the oil and gas companies while claiming to look after the well being of the community he has sworn to protect. But with $260,000 worth of campaign contributions in this quarter alone from special interests, what more could you expect?"

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Running For Office? Here's Some Free Advice


A month or so ago, Andy Millard-- a candidate last year against NC crackpot Patrick McHenry-- told me how he wants to share what he learned in his run with other candidates. He's organizing the Democratic Candidates Conference to help with training, networking, resources and support that are often painfully difficult to come by (unless they're one of the select DCCC recruits). As you probably know, I'm always complaining about how the DCCC and the lame consultants who come out of the DCCC instruct their worthless zombie-robot candidates to avoid putting contentious issues on their websites. In an advice to candidates guest post, Andy goes further:

7 Online Mistakes Democratic Campaigns Must Avoid
-by Andy Millard

Dr. Kyle Horton’s website includes everything a candidate site needs to be effective

You can learn a lot about a candidate from their presence on the web-- and what you learn isn’t always good.

Motivated Democrats all over the country are stepping up to challenge GOP incumbents. Part of our mission here at the Democratic Candidates Conference is to uncover new candidates and help them to get off on the right foot. So we’ve been scouring the internet getting to know the early crop of candidates.

Sometimes you run across a candidate with an impressive internet presence that immediately makes you sit up and take notice.

Kyle Horton, challenging David Rouzer in North Carolina’s 7th congressional district, is one such candidate. She has a terrific website where you can get to know the candidate and her story. There’s a clear statement of why she’s running and where she stands on issues. Her Facebook and Twitter pages are consistent with the website and are updated frequently with fresh and relevant content. In fact the streams from both social media sites appear right on the campaign website.

Clearly this is a a candidate to be reckoned with. She has obviously put a lot of thought, time and effort into her candidacy. She means business.

Unfortunately, Kyle Horton is the exception rather than the rule. More often we see some variation a one-page website featuring a heroic photo of the candidate, a huge DONATE button, and an invitation join the candidate’s “movement.” And that’s it. Essentially, the message to the visitor is, “I’m a person you don’t know who’s running for office and you should love me.”

This is not a knock on those candidates. If you’re a Democrat up against a Republican, you’re our kind of people. We’re all in this together and we want you to be successful. So now is the time-- now, while your campaign is in its infancy, when prospective supporters are getting to know you primarily through your online presence-- right now is the time for you to look for problems and fix them.

Here are eight of the most glaring issues we have found. Some are easier to deal with than others. But they are all non-negotiable. If any of them applies to you, don’t expect to be taken seriously as a candidate until they’re addressed:

1- No campaign URL or official email address

I’m sorry, but is not an official campaign email address. Go to and spend fifteen bucks on your own URL. Use it for your website, for your email address, and eventually for the addresses of your staff.

2- No campaign website

Believe it or not, we occasionally run across candidates whose only online presence is through Facebook. You should not pretend to call yourself a candidate until you have a campaign website.

3- No contact info on website

Virtually every candidate website features prominent buttons for making donations and signing up to volunteer, but precious few make it easy for visitors to comment, email or call. In our research of Democratic congressional campaigns, we have found fewer than 1 in 4 offer both an email address and phone number. In fact an amazing 28% of sites offered neither an email address nor phone number.

Campaigns are about communication. What does it say to your prospective constituents when you want them to give you money but don’t want them to talk to you? (And in case you’re wondering, an impersonal “contact” form is better than nothing, but it’s a poor substitute for a phone number and email address.)

4- Missing social streams

In 21st Century politics, every campaign must have an active Facebook page and Twitter account. LinkedIn and Instagram, if well executed, will boost your credibility. But you’ve got to have Facebook and Twitter.

5- Broken links on website

If a visitor clicks a link on your site and gets an error message or is sent to a dead end, you the candidate look bad. Check every link on your website and make sure they work.

6- Not mentioning the district you’re running for

I estimate that in 2018 there will be 300 or more Democratic candidates for U.S. House of Representatives alone, and that’s not counting incumbents. Don’t leave your visitors wondering what seat you’re seeking. Tell them clearly on your website and social pages.

7- No favicon (or worse, one belonging to someone else)

This is a little thing, but little things are important. A favicon is a tiny icon that appears on the tab of your web browser. It identifies the site you’re on. When I ran for congress, my favicon was a simple red “A” for my first name. Every website provider allows you to upload a favicon; it’s easy and free.

Here’s why it’s important: If you don’t upload your own favicon, your website host (Wordpress, Weebly, NationBuilder, etc.) will use theirs in its place, which makes you look like an amateur.

8- No website footer

Every professional campaign website should have a footer at the bottom of each page. It should include: phone number, an email address, mailing address, and “Paid for by [name of campaign committee].” (A good footer to emulate is at If you don’t use your own footer, your website host is likely to use their own, and it will say “Powered by Wordpress” or “Powered by Weebly,” etc., which means you’re using your precious web real estate to advertise for them.

Marty Walters, one of several Democrats running in California’s 1st Congressional district, includes an information-packed footer on every page of her website

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Even More Orange County Republicans Calling Themselves "Ex"-Republicans To Run For Congress


Gil Cisneros-- Does this look like an "ex"-Republican to you?

A trusted political operative told me today about an encounter he had with a scumbag multimillionaire "ex"-Republican who the DCCC is trying to impose on a district filled with progressive Democrats. The "ex"-Republican is running as a Democrat and pretending to take progressive-- or progressivish-- policy positions. He tried hiring my friend and told him that "once [the primary] is over I'll shake off all that blue shit and pivot." They're usually better at hiding their intentions until after the DCCC sneaks them into Congress. Tuesday we saw the DCCC admit that they are recruiting Blue Dogs and Wednesday we looked at how that endangers progressive agenda items like, for example, single payer, and how it's usually only Blue Dogs and New Dems who vote for corporate-sponsored, bribery-triggering GOP legislation like the bill this week to allow more air pollution-- 4 Democrats-- all Blue Dogs of course-- joined all but 11 Republicans to pass this deadly, toxic bill. You want more Blue Dogs in Congress? The DCCC leadership sure does!

Let me say something about "ex"-Republicans. I love it when a Republican sees the light based on policy concerns and gives up the GOP and joins the Democratic Party. I know plenty of good people who have done that. But we have to be very careful about elevating them to positions of party leadership and power by quickly moving them ahead of real Democrats to favor them getting party nominations, especially for Congress. I've watched dozens and dozens of them through the years and with only one or two exceptions, they all gravitate to Republicans and vote with Republicans on crucial issues, just the way Charlie Crist ("ex"-Republican Blue Dog-FL) and Tom O'Halleran ("ex"-Republican Blue Dog-AZ) and doing today.

How are they even Democrats? ProgressivePunch rates them each "F" and their crucial vote scores are, respectively, 41.94 and 28.12. On crucial issues they vote more with Ryan and McCarthy than with Pelosi. Why are they even considered Democrats? Is enough to just vote to further the career goals of Pelosi and Hoyer? Is that the standard for which someone can claim to be a Democrat? One of the places where the DCCC is recruiting "ex"-Republicans and trying to pass them off as Democrats is Orange County. Yesterday Orange County Register reporter Martin Wisckol exposed the whole charade. The headline seemed non-controversial enough: Republicans-turned-Democrats challenging O.C. GOP Congress members. "The parade of Orange County Democrats running for Congress," he wrote, "is expected to grow to 19 today, July 19, with two former Republicans joining the pack seeking to take out GOP incumbents. Brian Forde, a former technology adivsor in Barack Obama’s White House, planned to announce today that he will challenge Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach, bringing the field of Democrats in that race to six. Navy vet, lottery winner and philanthropist Gil Cisneros on Monday launched his challenge of Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, who now has four Democratic opponents." DWT first exposed Cisneros (the lottery winner the DCCC wants to sell the nomination to) as an "ex"-Republican. Forde has been making Republican-sounding noises so it was an easy guess before the OC Register spelled it out.

Forde, who is 37, blames his parents for his adherence to the Republican Party. He told Wisckol he "had adopted his parents’ party affiliation as a Republican until re-registering as a Democrat"... wait for it last year, age 36, "a change he said was overdue because of changes in the GOP and his own political evolution." Like many Orange County Republicans, he voted for Hillary last year. He didn't mention if he had voted for Mimi Walters or not.

Cisneros, who is the perfect mascot for Pelosi's DCCC, had a standard GOP line for why he switched, which doesn't mention anything about his own political ambitions.
A longtime Republican who re-registered as a Democrat in 2015 after three years as an independent, Cisneros said it’s not his views that have changed but those of the GOP.

“What a Republican was in the ’80s is kind of what a Democrat is today,” he said, pointing to President Ronald Reagan’s support of amnesty for undocumented immigrants and of the gun control measure known as the Brady Bill.
Goal Thermometer He hasn't even been elected to anything yet and he's already responding to every tough question with a lie. So, in that way at least, he's still a Trump Republican-- not just hoping to buy the nomination, but claiming, falsely, that he had planned to move to CA-39 all along. He had no intention of moving out of his $10 million beachside mansion until he was called out for being a district-shopper and buckled to the pressure. Besides, a big lottery winner ($266 million) can afford numerous homes. These two are just the latest "ex"-Republicans to jump in in Orange County. But if you tap the Act Blue thermometer on the right you'll come to a list of candidates that incliudes no "ex"-Republicans, no Blue Dogs, no New Dems and no one from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- and we've already endorsed 2 Orange County candidates, Sam Jammal (CA-39), Ed Royce's progressive opponent, and Doug Applegate (CA-49), Darrell Issa's progressive opponent. We are in the middle of our long vetting process for the other districts, but CA-45 has two outstanding progressives so far, Katie Porter and Kia Hamadanchy, so it'll be hard to endorse just one candidate.

UPDATE: Do "Ex"-Republicans Always Lie About Everything?

Cisneros has been busy lying to the press. People are wondering who at the DCCC encourages this kind of behavior. Señor Trumpanzee, apparently, doesn't have an exclusive on bullshit.

The L.A. Times article reported that Cisneros switched from the Republicans way back in 2008. But, unluckily for the lottery winner, the O.C. Register looked up his registration and notes he left the GOP in 2012 as an independent before becoming a Democrat in... 2015.  He also is quoted as saying he supported Bernie in the primary-- pure bullshit from someone desperate the pretend to be a progressive. A quick look at the FEC reports show he maxed out to Hillary Clinton in March of 2016 and gave ZERO to Bernie. This guy is pathetic. The DCCC should be ashamed.

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Telling the Climate Truth — The Pros and the Cons


Cover image from the New York Magazine feature story, "The Uninhabitable Earth."

by Gaius Publius

We need new Cassandras to warn us of new disasters, even though they'll never be believed.
Richard Clarke (paraphrased)

We aren’t doomed — we are choosing to be doomed by failing to respond adequately to the emergency.
—Margaret Klein Salamon

The recent, major New York Magazine article on the coming "uninhabitable earth" stirred quite a response, both positive and negative. The positive response was, in general, "Finally, someone telling the truth." The negative response was, in general, "But it contains these errors," and "Does it really help to scare people this much?"

The errors are secondary to the article's main point, but the question about climate communication strategy is both long-standing in the climate activism community and important.

If we tell this much truth, are we scaring people into inaction? Or does telling this much truth motivate people more effectively than the message that "we've got until 2050 to get fully in gear" currently does? (Is it even moral not to tell this much truth?)

My own thoughts below (click to go directly to them). First, here's one person's unique perspective on this question. The following is from Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and also the founder of the climate action group The Climate Mobilization (TCM), which advocates for starting a "World War II-scale" emergency mobilization to convert from fossil fuels, and starting it now.

The following is Ms. Klein Salamon's recent letter to her mailing list, also published here. Please read it through as she considers this critical issue — Does telling the climate truth hurt or help? I've highlighted a few key ideas and reformatted the piece just slightly.

As you read, please keep the terms affect tolerance and affect phobia in mind. She'll clarify the definitions. I'll offer closing comments at the end.


Last week, David Wallace-Wells published a cover story in New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, a devastated economy, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.

The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece — though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening:
“Importantly, fear does not motivate, and appealing to it is often counter-productive as it tends to distance people from the problem, leading them to disengage, doubt and even dismiss it.” –Michael Mann, writing with Susan Joy Hassol and Tom Toles.
Eric Holthaus tweeted about the consequences of the piece:
A widely-read piece like this that is not suitably grounded in fact may provoke unnecessary panic and anxiety among readers.

And that has real-world consequences. My twitter feed has been filled w people who, after reading DWW's piece, have felt deep anxiety.

There are people who say they are now considering not having kids, partly bc of this. People are losing sleep, reevaluating their lives.
While I think both Mann and Holthaus are brilliant scientists who identified some factual problems in the article, I strongly disagree with their statements about the role of emotions — namely, fear — in climate communications and politics. I am also skeptical of whether climate scientists should be treated as national arbiters of psychological or political questions, in general. I would like to offer my thoughts as a clinical psychologist, and as the founder and director of The Climate Mobilization.

Affect tolerance — the ability to tolerate a wide range of feelings in oneself and others — is a critical psychological skill. On the other hand, affect phobia — the fear of certain feelings in oneself or others — is a major psychological problem, as it causes people to rely heavily on psychological defenses.

Much of the climate movement seems to suffer from affect phobia, which is probably not surprising given that scientific culture aspires to be purely rational, free of emotional influence. Further, the feelings involved in processing the climate crisis—fear, grief, anger, guilt, and helplessness — can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean we should try to avoid “making” people feel such things! Experiencing them is a normal, healthy, necessary part of coming to terms with the climate crisis.

I agree with David Roberts that it is OK, indeed imperative, to tell the whole, frightening story. As I argue in The Transformative Power of Climate Truth, it's the job of those of us trying to protect humanity and restore a safe climate to tell the truth about the climate crisis and help people process and channel their own feelings — not to preemptively try to manage and constrain those feelings.

Holthaus writes of people feeling deep anxiety, losing sleep, re-considering their lives due to the article… but this is actually a good thing. Those people are coming out of the trance of denial and starting to confront the reality of our existential emergency. I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it — it’s to protect them from the climate crisis!

I know many of you have been losing sleep and reconsidering your lives in light of the climate crisis for years. We at The Climate Mobilization sure have. TCM exists to make it possible for people to turn that fear into intense dedication and focused action towards a restoring a safe climate.

In my paper, Leading the Public into Emergency Mode—a New Strategy for the Climate Movement, I argue that intense, but not paralyzing, fear combined with maximum hope can actually lead people and groups into a state of peak performance. We can rise to the challenge of our time and dedicate ourselves to become heroic messengers and change-makers.

I do agree with the critique, made by Alex Steffen among others, that dire discussions of the climate crisis should be accompanied with a discussion of solutions. But these solutions have to be up to the task of saving civilization and the natural world. As we know, the only solution that offers effective protection is a maximal intensity effort, grounded in justice, that brings the United States to carbon negative in 10 years or less and begins to remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere. That's the magic combination for motivating people: telling the truth about the scale of the crisis and the solution.

In Los Angeles, our ally City Councilmember Paul Koretz is advocating a WWII-scale mobilization of Los Angeles to make it carbon neutral by 2025. He understands and talks about the horrific dangers of the climate crisis and is calling for heroic action to counter them. Local activists and community groups are inspired by his challenge.

Columnist Joe Romm noted that we aren’t doomed — we are choosing to be doomed by failing to respond adequately to the emergency, which would of course entail initiating a WWII-scale response to the climate emergency. Our Victory Plan lays out what policies would look like that, if implemented, would actually protect billions of people and millions of species from decimation. They include:

1) An immediate ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure and a scheduled shut down of all fossil fuels in 10 years;

2) Massive government investment in renewables;

3) Overhauling our agricultural system to make it a huge carbon sink;

4) Fair-shares rationing to reduce demand;

5) A federally-financed job guarantee to eliminate unemployment;

6) A 100% marginal tax on income above $500,000.

Gradualist half measures, such as a gradually phased-in carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, that seem “politically realistic” but have no hope of actually restoring a safe climate, are not adequate to channel people’s fear into productive action.

We know what is physically and morally necessary. It’s our job — as members of the climate emergency movement — to make that politically possible. This will not be easy, emotionally or otherwise. It will take heroic levels of dedication from ordinary people. We hope you join us.

Margaret Klein Salamon, PhD
Founder and Director, The Climate Mobilization

Gaius again. I largely concur with Ms. Klein Salamon, that "gradualist half measures" which have no hope of achieving the real and only goal — "restoring a safe climate" — won't channel voter and citizen fear into productive action. They will instead, in my view, encourage those voters, those citizens, to continue to pass the climate buck to the next half-generation, unaware that this generation — today's voters and citizens, their own selves — will go over the first part of the climate cliff first.

About her action plan, note points five and six — a jobs guarantee program (MMT theorists have been calling for this for a while) and a 100% tax on all income over $500,000. Like it or not, none of the climate and environment goals can be met without great economic change as well. That may sound like too much of an ask, but remember the World War II analogy. FDR turned the U.S. into a rationed, command economy, a step absolutely necessary to deal with war demands.

Note also that the FDR tax rates to deal with the Depression were massively high by modern (post-Reagan) standards, were increased again during World War II, and stayed high through the Eisenhower administration and into the Kennedy administration.

Source; click to enlarge.)

If something is necessary for success, it must be made part of the plan. In this case, the alternative — and people need to be told this — is accelerating devolution of our species to hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Take your pick — but recall that World War II America chose the effective solution.

The View from the Oh It's You Senator Lounge

Why must we do this now? Because the climate crisis is starting now. Mass migration, in part due to climate change, is starting now. Deaths by weather extremes are increasing as we watch them. The three hottest years on record are the three immediately behind us. We're so close to +2 degrees warming already, we can almost taste it.

So what's in the way? The answer is simple — we have ceded control of climate policy to the greedy and pathological, to climate sexagenarians and octogenarians like Charles and David Koch, who, through the politicians they control (looking at you, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump), are marching to their own graves in triumph, leaving a wrack behind.

Does David Koch care about the world he will see from the grave? Or does he merely wish to enter it having won every battle he fought?

This is clearly pathological behavior on his part. It's therefore up to us to stand up for ourselves — or so it seems to this humble Cassandra — because few of our so-called "leaders," servants to pathological masters, cares about us, "the littles," from their comfortable chairs in the Oh It's You Senator lounge.

An Easter Island Solution

Klein Salamon is right; an emergency mobilization is needed. But to get there, we have to gain control of the Titanic, to put our own hands on the wheel. Or, to put it differently, we must depose the village chief and enact our own "Easter Island solution." As I described it earlier:
You're a villager on Easter Island. People are cutting down trees right and left, and many are getting worried. At some point, the number of worried villagers reaches critical mass, and they go as a group to the island chief and say, "Look, we have to stop cutting trees, like now."

The chief, who's also CEO of a wood products company, checks his bottom line and orders the cutting to continue.

Do the villagers walk away? Or do they depose the chief?

There's always a choice ...
You can't change what you don't control — that way madness lies. And this madness, or its best friend, fatal resignation, has a world historical conclusion. Do we seize control of the ship and turn to safer waters? Or let the disaster happen to us all because the hands of the soon-to-die greedy were allowed at the wheel instead?

Do we depose the chief and save the island, or fail to act while action is still possible? Me, I say best depose the chief. After all, these won't be the first chiefs deposed in the arc of history — just the most dangerous.

Mes petits sous,


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Is Orange County Congressman And Trumpist Dana Rohrabacher An Actual Paid Kremlin Operative? Or Is He Doing This All For Free?


In the wee hours Wednesday, Nico Hines broke an explosive story at the Daily Beast about Orange County crackpot Dana Rohrabacher. The title sounds unbelievable and unplausible-- unless you've followed Dana Rohrabacher's political career: GOP Lawmaker Got Direction From Moscow, Took It Back to D.C..

A low-level Reagan staffer, Rohrabacher first won what was then a deep red district in 1988. By 1989 people in his district and on Capitol Hill had already started realizing that he had a screw loose. He skipped freshman orientation so he could go to Afghanistan and play dress-up with the Taliban. He's gotten crazier and crazier over the years-- and his district isn't quite so red as it used to be. In fact, the DCCC is targeting it because Hillary narrowly beat Trump there last year-- 47.9% to 46.2%. We'll come back to that in a moment. First though, this is what Hines reported about Rohrabacher's latest foray into foreign affairs:
Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill.

The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him-- as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened and agreed to allow a hearing on Russia at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness, according to multiple congressional aides.

An email reviewed by the Daily Beast shows that before that June 14 hearing, Rohrabacher’s staff received pro-Kremlin briefings against Browder, once Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and his tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky from a lawyer who was working with Veselnitskaya.

Although House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) had prohibited Rohrabacher from showing the Russian propaganda film in Congress, Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office still actively promoted a screening of the movie that was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2016. Veselnitskaya was one of those handling the movie’s worldwide promotion.

Invitations to attend the movie screening were sent from the subcommittee office by Catharine O’Neill, a Republican intern on Rohrabacher’s committee. Her email promised that the movie would convince viewers that Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison cell, was no hero.

The invite, reviewed by the Daily Beast, claimed that the film “explodes the common view that Mr. Magnitsky was a whistleblower” and lavishes praise on the “rebel director” Andrei Nekrasov.

...Rohrabacher’s office was given the film by the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, which is run by Yuri Chaika, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin who is accused of widespread corruption, and Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who has been sanctioned by the United States as part of the Magnitsky Act.

That same Prosecutor General’s office also was listed as being behind the “very high level and sensitive information” that was offered to Donald Trump Jr. in an email prior to his now infamous meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower on June 9-- just days before the congressional hearing. Veselnitskaya attended that meeting with Trump Jr. She also happens to have worked as a prosecutor in the Moscow region and is a close personal friend of Chaika.

The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of a document that was passed to Rohrabacher in Moscow in April 2016. The document, marked “confidential,” was given to Rohrabacher and Behrends. It lays out an alternate reality in which the U.S.-- and the rest of the world-- has been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.

The document, which was handed over by an official from the Prosecutor General’s office to Rohrabacher along with means of viewing the Russian propaganda movie, suggested that U.S. “political situation may change the current climate” and claimed that it was the ideal moment to foment a challenge to the Western narrative on Putin’s kleptocracy. A subcommittee hearing that would re-examine the sanctions placed on Russia, the paper claimed, would be appreciated in Moscow.

“Changing attitudes to the Magnitsky story in the Congress… could have a very favorable response from the Russian side,” the document said.

What the U.S. would get in exchange for holding a subcommittee hearing was not laid out in detail. But the document promised to help iron out “key controversial issues and disagreements with the United States.”

...When Rohrabacher returned to the United States, he delayed the passage of the Global Magnitsky Act by holding it up in committee and tabled an amendment to remove Magnitsky’s name from its title, citing several of the claims found in the Russian document.

Next, Rohrabacher and Behrends, with the help of Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet army veteran and lobbyist who was also present at the June 9 Trump Tower meeting, put together a subcommittee event with witnesses including Veselnitskaya and Nekrasov, the director of the movie.

When Royce, the chair of the foreign relations committee, got wind of the hearing, he nixed Rohrabacher’s plan and offered instead to hold a full committee hearing on Russia relations. House aides conceded that he did so, in part, to avoid Rohrabacher staging an event that could have embarrassed the Republican Party-- and Congress.

During Royce’s hearing, Rohrabacher approvingly compared Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin. The congressman also submitted, for the congressional record, testimony that claimed Russia had not been behind the radioactive poisoning of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London.

Rohrabacher, Behrends, Akhmetshin, Veselnitskaya, and Matlock had dinner together later that night at the Capitol Hill Club, a private members’ establishment for Republicans. The evening was organized by Lanny Wiles, a veteran GOP operative.

The following day, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape telling Republican colleagues: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” When some of the lawmakers laughed, he replied: “Swear to God.”

...Four years prior to the hearing, Rohrabacher was taken into a quiet room in Congress and warned by FBI agents that Russian intelligence operatives were trying to recruit him as an asset.

If he took the warning seriously, it certainly didn’t stop him from spending time with figures linked closely to the Russian state apparatus.

Earlier this year, Rohrabacher, who says he once arm-wrestled Putin, met Akhmetshin in Berlin. The congressman acknowledged to CNN that he suspected the former member of a Soviet counterintelligence unit might have links to the current Russian security service.

“I would certainly not rule that out,” Rohrabacher said. “[He has] an ulterior motive.”

That meeting in Germany apparently came about through sheer happenstance.

The same cannot be said of Rohrabacher’s congressional delegation trip to Moscow in the spring of 2016.

The itinerary for that three-day trip, reviewed by the Daily Beast, shows that Rohrabacher and Behrends attended a side meeting-- without the other members of the delegation-- with one of Putin’s closest confidants, Vladimir Yakunin.

A former head of the Russian Railways who has been sanctioned by the U.S., Yakunin has routinely accompanied Putin on domestic and international trips over the years. He owns a dacha near the president in an exclusive enclave on the shore of Lake Komsomolskoye.

Rohrabacher said at the time that he had agreed to the meeting at the request of Sergey Kislyak. “The Russian ambassador asked me if I would meet with him in Moscow,” he told BuzzFeed.

Kislyak has since gained notoriety in the U.S. after a series of Trump campaign associates failed to disclose their conversations with a man who has been described as “a top spy and recruiter of spies.”

There were no other meetings with Russian officials scheduled for Rohrabacher and Behrends alone. But after a delegation meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of Russia’s foreign affairs committee, at the Duma the two of them were asked to stay behind.

Once the other members of the delegation had left the room, Viktor Grin, a top Chaika deputy in the Prosecutor General’s office and one of the 44 Russians enduring a travel ban and asset freezes under U.S. sanctions, appeared with the document outlining Russia’s position on the Magnitsky sanctions. Rohrabacher and Behrends were also given access to the anti-Magnitsky movie.

...When the Royce hearing did roll around, on June 14, one of the members of Congress on the committee was appalled by the litany of Kremlin lines being repeated by Rohrabacher and his friend Ambassador Matlock.

“I thought I’d just heard a presentation from RT,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told the Daily Beast, referring to the Kremlin-funded English-language TV network.

Connolly said the rest of the committee had come to believe that evidence from a Russian source should be treated with considerable skepticism, as the country’s operatives are experts at disinformation and falsification of evidence.

He was alarmed to discover that Behrends had been taking briefings direct from Russia’s anti-Magnitsky operation.

“If that is corroborated, it is deeply disturbing,” Connolly said. “We are United States congressmen. Our job is to protect the interests of our country and our allies. It is not to collude with, excuse, dismiss, or, even worse, collaborate with a foreign adversary and its minions.”
The southern tip of Ted Lieu's district-- a beautiful piece of Southern California coastline Trump has taken over for one of his horrific golf course resorts for the very wealthy-- is just a few miles from the northern tip of Rohrabacher's district. When Congressmen Lieu and Ruben Gallego took to the floor of the House last week to read Don, Jr.'s e-mails about his meetings with Kremlin spies, Rohrabacher kept interrupting and making a monkey out of himself before the chair told him to pipe down and behave like an adult. On August 1 Ted will be visiting CA-48 to answer residents' questions about healthcare, since-- predictably-- Rohrabacher refuses to hold public meetings with his own constituents.

The district is unlikely to flip in one cycle but if the anti-Trump wave is big enough... anything could happen. Or, in a sane world with a strategic, competent DCCC, they would be working on a 2-cycle flip for 2020. So far there are at least 7 Democratic candidates vying for the opportunity to take on Rohrabacher: Anthony Zarkades, Boyd Roberts, Laura Oatman, Michael Kotick, Omar Siddiqui, Harley Rouda and the DCCC recruit, Hans Keirstead. The two candidates who seem to be getting the most traction so far are Rouda and Keirstead. Yesterday, Harley told us that "At the very least, Dana Rohrabacher was woefully derelict in doing due diligence on who he was talking to. At most, it’s something far more serious. After Dana Rohrabacher was warned by the FBI that Russian intelligence was recruiting him, he should have been on high alert for well-connected Putin allies bearing gifts. Regardless of Dana’s motives, my question is this: How does any of Dana’s pro-Putin funny business help the hardworking people of the 48th district?"

And Keirstead told us that he's "profoundly concerned with Congressman Rohrabacher's continued relationship with suspected Russian intelligence officials. He has made it a priority to entertain the Kremlin's whims and shown that he can be influenced by the Russian government. Now, it's clear that he has attempted to act on that influence. The people of Orange County deserve a representative who is standing up for them-- not one who is focused on defending Russia's interests."

The hat is part of his disguise

UPDATE: Rohrabacher Panics

This morning, The Atlantic is reporting that Rohrabacher's top Russia aide, Paul Behrends, was fired from the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that Rohrabacher chairs.
“Paul Behrends no longer works at the committee,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesperson said on Wednesday evening.

Behrends accompanied Rohrabacher on a 2016 trip to Moscow in which Rohrabacher said he received anti-Magnitsky Act materials from prosecutors. The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 bill that imposes sanctions on Russian officials associated with the 2009 death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had been investigating tax fraud. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney and lobbyist who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower last year, reportedly brought up the Magintsky Act during the meeting.

Rohrabacher’s meeting in Moscow was an object of concern for embassy officials, who had warned the delegation about FSB presence in Moscow-- warnings Rohrabacher brushed off.

“Paul Behrends has done a terrific job for me and the committee,” Rohrabacher said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have not heard anything to the contrary. I am looking forward to discussing this with the committee leadership. I am sure we will work this out."

Behrends is a controversial figure on the Hill, where he is seen by some who have worked with or around him as egging on Rohrabacher’s pro-Russia instincts.

Behrends worked for Rohrabacher in the 1990s before becoming a lobbyist. He rejoined Rohrabacher’s office in 2014.

One of the sources with knowledge of the events suggested that Behrends was fired from the committee under pressure from House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce.

There has been tension between Royce and Rohrabacher over Rohrabacher’s activities, and Royce scuttled Rohrabacher’s plan last year to screen an anti-Magnitsky film in Congress. Royce also nixed Rohrabacher’s plan to visit Moscow again earlier this year.

Another Hill source said there was talk of a “shakeup” on the subcommittee chaired by Rohrabacher.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dueling Polls?


PPP's findings on a 2020 contest between Bernie and Trumpanzee were very clear. Bernie would beat him-- and beat him very, very big-- 52% to 39%. I tried to remember off the top of my head the last time there had been a 13 point spread between 2 presidential candidates. Obama beat Romney with a 4 point spread and bear McCain with a 7 pointer. In 2000, George W Bush-- like Trump-- lost the popular vote and in 2004 he won by 2 points. To get into a double digit win you have to go all the way back to Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection when he beat Walter Mondale by about 18 points. But Bernie beating Trump by a big margin seems like a no brainer. Bernie is the most popular political figure in America and Trump is historically unpopular-- the most disliked president at the 6 month point if his term in 70 years.

But for some reason pollsters are now asking about Hillary Clinton again. They asked their respondents who they thought Russia wanted to win the 2016 election, Trumpanzee or Clinton. 24% said the Russians wanted Clinton to win. Reallyy-- 24%. They're allowed to vote and have children-- and home school those children-- and have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Then they wanted to know if people believed the meeting that Fredo admitted he had with a pack of Kremlin spies really took place. Look at this:

Should those people be voting in our elections? But even with those people with their determined ignorance as voters, when PPP asked a fantasy question about Trump vs Obama and Trump vs Hillary, this is what happened:

Hillary actually beat Trump last year 65,853,516 (48.2%) to 62,984,825 (46.1%)-- slightly over 2 points. In 2020 Hillary would beat he by a far greater margin-- 7 points according to this poll. But not according to a Bloomberg poll, also released yesterday. Bloomberg practically congratulated Trump, claiming even with his shockingly low approval numbers he "can at least find solace in this: Hillary Clinton is doing worse."
Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival is viewed favorably by just 39 percent of Americans in the latest Bloomberg National Poll, two points lower than the president. It’s the second-lowest score for Clinton since the poll started tracking her in September 2009.

The former secretary of state has always been a polarizing figure, but this survey shows she’s even lost popularity among those who voted for her in November.

More than a fifth of Clinton voters say they have an unfavorable view of her. By comparison, just 8 percent of likely Clinton voters felt that way in the final Bloomberg poll before the election, and just 6 percent of Trump’s voters now say they view him unfavorably.

“There’s growing discontent with Hillary Clinton even as she has largely stayed out of the spotlight,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. "It’s not a pox on the Democratic house because numbers for other Democrats are good."

...[T]heir comments often reflected the ongoing angst among Democrats about how best to position themselves against Trump and Republicans in 2018 and beyond. Many said they wished Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had won the Democratic nomination, or that they never liked Clinton and only voted for her because she was the lesser of two bad choices.

“She did not feel authentic or genuine to me,” said Chris Leininger, 29, an insurance agent from Fountain Valley, California. “She was hard to like.”

Leininger, an independent voter who leans Democratic, said she found Sanders much more likable and with a better story to tell voters.

“But I don’t blame her for Trump,” she said. “There were a lot of factors that fed into Trump becoming a president and she was just one of them.”

As was the case throughout the campaign, Clinton suffers from gender and racial gaps. Just 35 percent of men hold a favorable view of her, compared to 43 percent of women. And just 32 percent of whites like her, while 51 percent of non-whites do.

Clinton’s lowest reading ever in the Bloomberg poll-- one percentage point lower than her current popularity-- was recorded in September 2015, as she battled with Sanders before the first primary ballots were cast and as the scandal surrounding her use of a private email server escalated.

“I felt like there was a smugness and that she was just a politician who was called a Democrat, but could have been a Republican,” said poll participant Robert Taylor, 46, a second-grade teacher from suburban Chicago who voted for Clinton, but would have preferred Sanders as the Democratic nominee.

Even before the election, Taylor said he felt negatively about Clinton, but he doesn’t blame her for Trump being president.

“I could vote for a competent leader or I could vote for a jackass,” he said of his choices. “I think my negativity about her would be there whether Trump was elected or not."

Ray Cowart, 75, the retired owner of a small software company from Elk Park, North Carolina, said he voted for Clinton even though he didn’t like her because “she was the better of two bad options.”

Asked who he would rather have a beer with if neither one of them was president, Cowart said he’d rather stay home. “I wouldn’t go, even if I was thirsty,” he said.
So maybe the two polls aren't at actually at odds. Maybe the Bloomberg poll doesn't contradict the PPP poll at all and that Hillary is incredibly disliked but more people now understand that she is indeed the lesser evil and would get over their prejudices and vote for her to save the country from Trump. You think?

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Does Anyone Ever Win When They Make A Deal With The Devil?


I got stuck in some kind of a traffic jam in the Valley yesterday. The freeway just stopped. It wasn't moving slowly; it wasn't moving at all. And it was humid and around 90 degrees and I hate A/C. The one redeeming part of this little adventure was that Terry Gross had Joshua Green as her guest on Fresh Air and I could concentrate on that. Green's book, Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, And The Storming Of The Presidency had just come out and you can probably imagine what Gross and he talked about. But you don't have to. NPR posted the transcript online. "[L]ife in Trump's inner circle is a constant roller coaster," he told her. "You're either going up or you're going down. Earlier, Bannon fell out of favor when Trump decided that he was getting too much attention. And Jared Kushner kind of rose in his place. But now with the Russia scandal that's embroiled so many members of the Trump family and inner circle, Bannon, almost by default, is kind of back in good standing.

And, in fact, Trump sent him back from Saudi Arabia on the foreign trip that he took in May to go and set up the outside legal organization that was meant to hive off the Russia scandal and try and keep Trump himself as separated from that as possible." Gross asked him to describe Bannon's nationalist vision.
GREEN: So Bannon's nationalism is something, I think, that grew out of both his Catholic upbringing, his blue-collar background but especially the financial crisis, the rise of the Tea Party. That is when he went from being a Goldman Sachs banker, a Hollywood guy to really moving over into the political sphere. He was one of Sarah Palin's early champions.

When I met him in 2011, he was already espousing this kind of populist-nationalist politics that was different from anything you were hearing back then on the left or the right. It was not quite a third way, but it was a different sort of Republicanism than we in Washington were accustomed to hearing about.

GROSS: During the campaign, Donald Trump hammered Hillary Clinton for having connections to Goldman Sachs. Bannon used to work for Goldman Sachs. He specialized in mergers and acquisitions. He started doing that in their Hollywood office, then started his own boutique bank dealing with TV and movies. And then he took over an internet gaming company.

And you write about how that gaming company helped shape his vision of how to create a base of support for his vision. He saw people there, disaffected young men, who he wanted to mobilize for his cause. Would you describe this untapped group that he came across-- politically untapped group that he came across through internet gaming?

GREEN: Yeah, this is a fascinating story about what is the rise of what's known today as the alt-right. And Bannon, who has a fascinating and varied career after Goldman Sachs, wound up as the CEO of a video game company in Hong Kong that didn't actually produce video games. But what it did was to try and formalize a process called gold farming.

And what that is is, literally, they would hire people to play video games and win gold and prizes in the game that they would then turn around and sell to people in the real world so they could be more powerful, more successful in these what were called massive multiplayer online games, like "World Of Warcraft."

This was a serious business. It had backing from Goldman Sachs. And right out of the gate, it made a lot of money. But what happened next was interesting. The players in the actual games, who tended to be young males, bridled at the idea that people were essentially cheating, that they were buying these weapons and things to get ahead in the game. And the players themselves tended to congregate on these message boards that were devoted to MMO games, to the massive multiplayer games.

And they organized themselves, and they basically went after the videogame companies and said, you know, you need to stop this. You need to push out these gold farmers. And they had enough power that they basically ruined Bannon's business. But the lesson he took away from that was that these rootless white males who spend all their time online actually had what he told me was, quote, "monster power," to go out there and affect change and that they operated at a kind of sub rosa level that most people didn't see.

So when he moved over to Breitbart News a couple of years later, one of his goals, he told me, was to try and attract these people and radicalize them in a political sense, which is basically what wound up happening.

GROSS: So did Bannon see Breitbart News as his connection to those disaffected white men that he'd discovered through the gaming industry and that he wanted to mobilize?

GREEN: In a word, yes. He thought when he took over Breitbart News that one of the things they wanted to do was kind of grow this audience and really become a kind of locus for the populist nationalism, that's what Bannon calls it, that he thought was so important and needed to be injected into the American political debate.

And one of the ways he did that was by hiring a very controversial figure named Milo Yiannopoulos, a British provocateur who Bannon hired as his tech editor. And as he explains to me in the book, essentially, he thought that Milo could be the bridge between these rootless, disaffected white gamers and the Breitbart world of populist politics that he was trying to build up. Milo came into Breitbart News and began to publish the kind of screaming offensive headlines that have gotten so much attention over the last year or two.

He was part of this gamergate scandal that attacked females in the gaming industry and did all sorts of things to attract this crowd from the world of gaming and message boards like Reddit and 4chan over into the Breitbart universe where a lot of them became enamored with Trump, I think some of them in an ironic, nonpolitical way.

But this sort of gave rise to what we know of as the alt-right, this very active, aggressive group of online people who attacked journalists, who attacked other politicians, who attacked Trump's adversaries during the campaign and have kind of become a fixture of our digital political life ever since.

GROSS: So how did Steve Bannon first get connected to Donald Trump? You said they were introduced through David Bossie?

GREEN: They were introduced by David Bossie, who as some listeners may know, is a longtime Republican operative whose specialty really is taking on the Clintons. Bossie first came on the scenes as an investigator for Dan Burton, the chairman of the Government Oversight Committee in the '90s, who was the main figure trying to take down Bill Clinton at the time.

Bossie was fired from his job for doctoring tapes that were meant to incriminate Bill and Hillary Clinton. But he wound up becoming the head of a group called Citizens United, which is probably most famous today for having sued the FEC and won the Citizens United Supreme Court case that was built around a movie that Bossie and Citizens United had produced, an anti-Hillary Clinton movie that was supposed to run on the eve of the 2008 election.

So Trump met Bossie through Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul. And they were at a fundraiser. He brought the two of them together. Trump was thinking about getting more seriously involved in politics, started turning to Bossie for advice. And one day in 2010, Bossie asked his friend Steve Bannon to come along. And that's how they all met.

...GROSS: So one of the key things behind Steve Bannon becoming Donald Trump's chief strategist during the campaign was the Mercer family-- Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, who were big funders on the right.

You call them the kind of alt-Koch brothers. So they'd already been funding Breitbart News. So they already knew Steve Bannon through Breitbart. What was Rebekah Mercer's role in getting Trump to hire Bannon as his chief campaign strategist?

GREEN: Well, I think Rebekah Mercer, who is Robert Mercer's daughter, is really the more politically active of the two. But Mercer himself is a fascinating guy, a self-made hedge fund billionaire, famous recluse, very conservative. And the Mercers are essentially the merchant bankers for Bannon and a lot of his political organizations, not only Breitbart News but also the Government Accountability Institute, which is the outfit that produced the Clinton Cash book.

They fund Cambridge Analytica, which is a data analysis firm that helped Trump get elected. And they were also big donors to Trump, both directly and in terms of funding various super PAC efforts that were meant to help his candidacy, including the Stop Crooked Hillary PAC that Bannon and Bossie briefly worked on before they joined the campaign.

Rebekah Mercer is, you know, very aggressive, very involved in politics and has clear ideas about what she wants to do. And so I describe a scene in the book in early August where she flies out to visit Trump at a fundraiser in East Hampton and essentially says, you need to make a change now in your campaign or you're going to lose badly.

And Trump says, well, what do you think I should do? And she says, I think you ought to hire Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. I know them. They'll do it. And within a couple of days, that's exactly what happened.

GROSS: So she basically tells Trump, you have to fire Paul Manafort. But it's Jared Kushner who actually tells Manafort that Manafort has to resign. Donald Trump is known as Mr. You're-fired. Like, that's his catchphrase. But he's not the one who tells Manafort he's fired. He gets Jared Kushner to do it.

GREEN: I think he had long since lost faith in Paul Manafort as a campaign manager. When Manafort came in, it was after the tumultuous reign of Corey Lewandowski, Trump's first campaign manager. And what Manafort was trying to do was to essentially sand the rough edges off Trump and make him a little more palatable to the Republican donor class because it was clear, you know, now he's the nominee, we need to kind of put our best foot forward.

And Trump is going to need to raise a lot of money from rich conservatives who are very skeptical of him and what he stands for. But that never really clicked. Manafort never clicked with Trump. Trump would tell his advisers that he thought Manafort was low-energy. And we all know that's the mark of death when Trump calls you low-energy.

But it was a New York Times story that really did Manafort in. And they reported in mid-August that Manafort's name appeared on a Ukrainian ledger as having been the recipient of cash payments from a pro-Russia political party, which caused a real firestorm, which upset Trump. He decided that Manafort needed to go.

And as the story was told to me, Kushner at breakfast said very politely to Manafort, listen, you know, you're really coming under a lot of heat. I don't think this is good for the campaign and we'd like to have your resignation. And Manafort protested and said, well, look, I don't - you know, I'll look guilty if I resign.

I don't want to do this. And Kushner looks at him and says, well, listen, we're sending out a press release in about 30 seconds that says you resigned from the campaign. And that was that. Manafort was out and Bannon was really the guy in charge for the homestretch of the campaign.

GROSS: So when Bannon took over the Trump campaign, was he still affiliated with Breitbart? And was he using Breitbart News to campaign for Trump?

GREEN: Formally, Bannon separated from Breitbart News when he joined the Trump campaign. But Breitbart, in a lot of ways, had really been the locus of pro-Trump Republican energy all through the primaries, both before and after Steve Bannon took over the campaign. One of the themes I get at in the book is the division in conservative media. We forget now because Fox lavishes so much positive attention on Donald Trump.

But in the beginning, Fox was not uniformly pro-Trump. There was Sean Hannity, who has always been a Trump fan. But there were also people like Megyn Kelly, who held Trump to account, who were very skeptical. And if you remember the first Republican debate, Kelly went after Trump. It caused a huge ruckus.

And it really caused a split in the Republican Party between people who were pro-Trump and people who were pro-Fox. And Breitbart, led by Bannon, really went to war with Fox News over the issue of, you know, why are you attacking Donald Trump? This is the guy that represents our base. This is who our voters want.

And there was a very ugly scene between Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon where they're swearing at each other about whether Breitbart is being too negative to Megyn Kelly and so on. But eventually, Trump and Bannon seem to have won that side of the fight. And by the end of the campaign, you really do see the conservative media with a few never-Trumpers, but most of the media is more or less united behind Trump.

GROSS: It's interesting. You point out that Steve Bannon thought of Fox News as just being old-- that old people watched it, whereas Breitbart was like the young white men who were paying attention to that. So he saw Fox News for a while as just being like out of date.

GREEN: Bannon used to say that Fox News is the establishment wing of the conservative media. And establishment and Steve Bannon's mind is the great pejorative. He saw Fox viewers as, you know, an older, graying, doddering group of people who didn't really matter and that the readers of Breitbart were younger and more aggressive and more populist and represented a rising generation of conservative voters. And so he was never very interested in TV. He-- Bannon thought that everything, you know, was going to happen on the Internet, online, that that was the future of politics and that that was the way to affect the Republican primary and really get Trump elected.

GROSS: Jeff Sessions, who is now president Trump's attorney general, was the first senator to endorse candidate Donald Trump. And according to your book, it was Steve Bannon who was behind getting Sessions to endorse Trump. How did he do it?

GREEN: Well, Bannon and Sessions had been allied for a long time. Sessions was one of the rare right-wing populists elected to Congress whose views more or less over overlap with Steve Bannon's and Breitbart's. And, you know, we forget just what a pariah Donald Trump was at the outset of the Republican primaries. I mean, he was kind of considered, you know, a punchline, an offensive figure. No one in polite Republican company would endorse him. They were-- most of them were afraid to attack him, but nobody really wanted to endorse him. And I think Bannon understood how important it was to get just that one first endorsement in hopes that that would break a dam and that he could really bring in some institutional support for Trump. And so he talked to Sessions, who he had previously tried to talk into running for president three years earlier, simply to advance his ideas of trade and opposition to immigration. Sessions didn't want to do it, but Bannon basically talked him into coming out and endorsing Trump and said, look, this is the way to advance the issues we care about. This is the guy who will elevate them to the top of the list of issues that Republicans have to talk about. And even if Donald Trump doesn't win, this will advance our cause. And ultimately, Sessions was persuaded.

GROSS: And Bannon also thought it was really important to mobilize the South. And Sessions from the South. Why was he seeing the future being in the South?

GREEN: This is one fascinating aspect to me of Bannon's politics. For the last 20 or 30 years, it's been a belief among Republican strategists that the party's biggest problem is that it is captive to this Southern mindset. Christopher Caldwell wrote a wonderful series of articles in The Atlantic in the mid-'90s that was called "The Southern Captivity Of The GOP." And Caldwell's thesis, which I agreed with, was basically that the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a regional party that only represents the interests of white people in the South-- conservative white people in the South. And then in order to survive, it needs to broaden its appeal to other generations, to other demographics. It's the same idea that was at the heart of the 2013 GOP autopsy that the Republican National Committee came out with. But Bannon's belief was just the opposite, that the South was the motherland of American populism, that that was really what we needed, that the establishments in both parties had become captured by a Wall Street globalist elite that cared more about tax cuts for its high-end donors and free trade than it did about representing the interests of working people. And that turned out to be a very powerful message that was really the key, I think, to Trump's ability to defeat all the people that he did in the Republican primary because he was really the only person who espoused that kind of Southern populism.

...GROSS: Now, you describe how Steve Bannon brought on board a group that epitomized what Hillary Clinton in 1998 described as the vast right-wing conspiracy, the vast right-wing conspiracy that had mobilized against the Clintons when he was president. So let's talk about the people you're talking about there as actually epitomizing that vast right-wing conspiracy. We've talked about David Bossie, the person who is behind Citizens United. Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George Conway, what are their connections to early anti-Hillary work and anti-Bill Clinton work?

GREEN: Early on, Conway-- Kellyanne Conway was one of three women that were kind of known colloquially in Washington as the pundettes (ph). They were all blonde conservative outspoken anti-Clinton pundits who rose to fame during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. There was Kellyanne Conway. There was Laura Ingraham, who's now a conservative radio host. And there's Ann Coulter, who needs no introduction, was also a big Trump supporter. And what was so interesting to me about the fact that Bannon and this group wound up in charge of Trump's campaign come mid-August was that they had really spent the previous 20, 25 years as professional anti-Clinton operatives, which believe it or not is a distinct professional category within Republican politics.

There's no real analog on the left. You can't make a living anymore as an anti-Obama operative or as an anti-George W. Bush operative, but there's always an appetite among conservative donors, among conservative activists for anti-Clinton stuff. And so you literally had people who had spent 20, 25 years thinking and plotting about how to stop Hillary Clinton suddenly in charge of a half-billion-dollar presidential campaign led by a candidate who is more than willing to carry out those attacks.

GROSS: And I just want to mention that Kellyanne Conway's husband George worked on the Paula Jones lawsuit against Clinton and helped prepare the brief on her behalf before the Supreme Court. So he was very much involved in the anti-Bill Clinton effort. And continuing with the anti-Clinton theme here, Robert Mercer, the father of Rebekah Mercer-- and they're both very big funders on the right-- during the Clinton presidency-- I think it was then-- he had this theory or supported the theory that Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas had been involved in a CIA-backed drug-running scheme based out of an Arkansas airport.

GREEN: This was-- yes, this was a conspiracy theory that had some prominence on the far-right fringes. You don't encounter a lot of conservative donors, especially not successful businessmen, who are willing to believe things quite that extreme even if they intensely dislike the Clintons. But I think that gives a flavor of Mercer's animus and paranoia about the Clintons and helps explain why he was so determined to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

GROSS: So you write that Steve Bannon's plan to stop Hillary Clinton-- once Bannon joined the Trump campaign-- the plan was built on four organizations funded by the Mercer family, organizations that they had a stake in in some way. One of them was Breitbart News. We've talked about that. One of them was the Government Accountability Institute. Would you describe what that is?

GREEN: Sure the Government Accountability Institute is formerly a nonprofit research organization. But what it did in this case was it became a research center to conduct a kind of forensic examination of the Clinton's finances especially as they pertain to the Clinton Foundation. And the research that this organization did became the best-selling book that was written by GAI's president, a guy named Peter Schweizer.

That book, Clinton Cash, came out just as Clinton was preparing to announce her presidential run and really did a lot to tarnish her image right out of the gate. All the stories about the Clinton Foundation kind of became interspersed with Clinton's email story and besmirched her in a way that I don't think she ever fully recovered from. And that was Bannon's goal from the outset.

GROSS: And it's interesting, like, although Steve Bannon had been the head of Breitbart News, which is famous for fake news, with the Government Accountability Institute, he wanted that Schweizer book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story Of How And Why Foreign Governments And Businesses Helped Make Bill And Hillary Rich, Bannon wanted that book to be fact-based in the hopes that the mainstream press would pick up on it and would publish facts from there and that that would work against Hillary. And that's in fact what happened.

GREEN: That's exactly right. In fact, that's what drew my interest in Bannon originally. He had what I thought was a very shrewd analysis of why conservatives in the 1990s had failed to stop Bill Clinton. And Bannon's analysis was that conservatives had become so wrapped up in their own rumors and silly scandals-- what today we would call fake news-- that they didn't realize that they had kind of lost the general public and did not have credibility. And so they went ahead and impeached Bill Clinton. And then they looked up and nobody really went along with them. It didn't hurt Clinton politically. It didn't hurt the Democrats politically.

And Bannon's analysis of that failure went as follows. He decided that in order to really stop the Clintons, you had to rely on facts and not rumors. And so what he wanted to do was to go in and dig into all the foreign contributors who'd given money to the Clinton Foundation. He wanted to try and get the speeches-- the private speeches I should call them - that Hillary Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs and others and really fan this idea that there was just something nefarious or disreputable going on at the heart of this.

And the idea was, look, investigative reporters are legitimately interested in this stuff. So if we can marshal a bunch of facts-- not rumors, but facts-- hand them over to reporters at places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Bloomberg News, then I am confident that they will look into these stories themselves, and they will drive this narrative that I think is going to be harmful to the Clintons. And as you say, that's exactly what happened.

GROSS: So another company funded by the Mercer family that was very helpful in the Trump campaign was Cambridge Analytica. They're a data company. But what do they do? And they do-- do they do anything different from other data companies?

GREEN: Well, they do, and it's a little controversial. They do what's called psychographic modeling. They claim that they have deeper insight into voters' psyches than your run-of-the-mill political data firm. There's a lot of debate about whether or not they actually do. But the Mercers, and Robert Mercer in particular, who made his fortune as a hedge fund guy by obsessing and understanding data and patterns and algorithms better than anyone else, decided that the Republican Party wasn't doing a good enough job of leveraging, taking advantage of political data. So he was going to go buy a data firm and do a better job of it himself.

One of the things you saw happening is if Rebekah Mercer supported a political candidate or organization, there would be a lot of pressure sometimes from Steve Bannon to also hire Cambridge Analytica as a data vendor. And a lot of Republican-- mainstream Republican outlets felt very threatened by this. You have this company kind of elbowing their way in that controls this data that the party doesn't. But Cambridge Analytica has been a big part of the Trump story. And, in fact, they had their own data scientists embedded at the Trump campaign. They had very advanced models about who Trump was appealing to and who they needed to reach. It wasn't clear at the time that they really knew what they were doing, I think but in hindsight, it's clear that they did.

GROSS: So in terms of Cambridge Analytica's connection to Steve Bannon, Bannon had an ownership stake in the company and a seat on the board. What do you think Cambridge Analytica did to help Trump win?

GREEN: They went and spent a lot of time and money figuring out who Trump voters really are and how they differ from ordinary Republican voters. They're more rural. They're more populist. They care about different issues than your standard Republican does. And so the Trump campaign was able to go and find those voters in places like the Florida Panhandle and turn them out in numbers that nobody-- no mainstream political analyst expected. They figured out, you know, who these people are. And a lot of us-- and I include myself in this category-- thought Trump's promises in the closing weeks of the campaign that there was going to be this Brexit effect, that these hidden voters were going to come out of the woodwork was just absurd. And in the event, that's pretty much what happened.

GROSS: So do you think that the Hillary campaign and Cambridge Analytica were looking at swing voters in a totally different way?

GREEN: I do. Although what's so interesting to me is that they were really looking at the same group of voters. And the Cambridge-- or the Trump data scientists gave these voters a nickname that's wonderful. They call them double haters. And these were people who said that they didn't like Hillary Clinton and they didn't like Donald Trump. But their voting history suggested that they were going to turn up on Election Day and they were going to vote for one or the other. And so there was a real tug of war behind the scenes between Clinton's campaign and between Trump's campaign to try and win these voters over.

And what happened at the end of the race is that they broke to Trump. And one big debate which I cover in some detail is whether or not James Comey's announcement that he was reopening Hillary Clinton's email investigation tilted the race. What's clear from the data that I have-- I have some of the internal polling and some of the memos that were written in the Trump campaign around this time. It's clear that the Comey revelation had a deep, deep effect on these double haters and got them to come out not to support Trump but to essentially vote against Hillary, which in the end was the same thing.

...GROSS: Do you see Steve Bannon as a true believer?

GREEN: Absolutely. You know, early on when I first met him, I thought he was a typical Washington grifter who was kind of glomming on to the Tea Party-Palin thing as a way to make money. And it became clear pretty early on that, no, Bannon really believes this stuff to a degree that's almost scary. And he will keep fighting for this idea of an anti-immigrant nationalism come hell or high water.

GROSS: And what about President Trump? What drives him? Do you think he's a true believer?

GREEN: No, I don't. I think that Trump is driven mainly by opportunism, by a desire to pursue whatever is going to get Donald Trump positive coverage on cable news now. And during the campaign when nationalism-- when Bannon's nationalism seemed to work for him, that was what he would espouse. But when that stopped working for him in February after he became president, he was happy to bring in people who nationalists abhor, people like Gary Cohn from Goldman Sachs. He was willing to listen to Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, who are the furthest you can get from nationalists. So I don't know that Trump really has any policy beliefs at all.

GROSS: I would love to know-- and I'm guessing you can't really answer this-- what Steve Bannon really thinks of Donald Trump.

GREEN: I can't imagine that Bannon really thinks all that much of Donald Trump. I mean the, you know, tragic, Shakespearean irony of the Donald Trump-Steve Bannon relationship is that Bannon finally did find a vessel for his ideas who'd get elected president, who had the kind of personal force to overcome all the other candidates, all the impediments, against all odds kind of got in there and now doesn't have the focus, the wherewithal, the self-control to even do the basic things that a president needs to do.

Bannon is a pretty self-aware guy and a pretty shrewd analyst. I'm sure he understands that no other president-- not Marco Rubio, not Jeb Bush, nobody-- would ever let anyone like Steve Bannon within 100 miles of his campaign or his White House. This is his one shot to institute his nationalist ideas. And the guy sitting in the White House doesn't seem capable of doing anything other than watching cable news and raging about it. And I think that would have to be very frustrating for a guy like Bannon who really does care about these ideas.
Conservative columnist Bret Stephens reviewed Green's book for the NY Times Tuesday. "If there’s a lesson to draw from Devil’s Bargain, Joshua Green’s deeply reported and compulsively readable account of Bannon’s fateful political partnership with Trump, it is not to underestimate the honey badger. 'If I didn’t come along, the Republican Party had zero chance of winning the presidency,' Trump told Green, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, in May 2016, and he was probably right. Only someone with his and Bannon’s transgressive instincts, along with their seeming incapacity for moral and intellectual embarrassment, could have defeated the well-oiled if soulless machine that was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign."
[W]hatever the pair lacked in conventional political experience, they made up for with other gifts. Both understood showmanship: slogans, narrative, put-downs and especially conflict. They knew the value of rage and outrage alike-- the first as fuel for a movement; the second as the indispensable foil for that movement.

They also grasped that much that was supposed to matter in politics no longer did-- detailed policy papers, for instance, or personal decorum. Trump, Green writes, “figured out that the norms forbidding such behavior were not inviolable rules that carried a harsh penalty but rather sentiments of a nobler, bygone era, gossamer-thin and needlessly adhered to by politicians who lacked his willingness to defy them.”

That’s why Trump’s birtherism-- the support he gave to the lie that Barack Obama was born abroad-- never disqualified his candidacy, even as it helped him “forge a powerful connection with party activists.” It’s a tactic he would repeat straight through the end of the campaign, when he took to denouncing “international banks” in terms that shaded into anti-Semitism.

“Darkness is good,” was Bannon’s advice for dealing with criticism from groups such as the Anti-Defamation League. “Don’t let up.” At another moment, when the campaign feared House Speaker Paul Ryan would try to steal the G.O.P. nomination from Trump, Bannon threatened to rally Breitbart’s army. “Pepe’s gonna stomp their ass,” he said-- “Pepe the Frog” being the alt-right’s white-supremacist cartoon mascot on Twitter.

...Bannon seemed to intuit that this digital world could be recreated for his political purposes, by designing an apocalyptic narrative of righteous warriors waging an end-of-days battle by all necessary means against assorted enemies: jihadists, progressives, Acela-corridor Republicans, the Clintons. Republican political operatives had spent the Obama years wondering about the “missing” white voters who had failed to show up for John McCain and Mitt Romney. Turns out, they (or others like them) were online, and Bannon-- whose own fantasies were suggested by a portrait he had of himself in his office, dressed as Napoleon-- was proposing to supply this army with the necessary ammunition.

Much of it would come from the bile factory at Breitbart News. Another part would be supplied by the Government Accountability Institute, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based nonprofit that mined the “deep Web” and dug up the dirt on the Clinton Foundation for Peter Schweizer’s 2015 blockbuster “Clinton Cash.” There was also a data-analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of a British company “that advised foreign governments and militaries on influencing elections and public opinion using the tools of psychological warfare."

What all of this added up to was a kind of alt-G.O.P.-- agile and indifferent to norms and boundaries-- that could supply the Trump campaign with everything it needed to win. Bannon has described himself as a “Leninist” for wanting to “destroy the state.” Whether he will achieve that is doubtful, but he seems to share Lenin’s genius for building a secret party with radical designs, ready to pounce at the historically opportune time.

Now it has succeeded. To what end? As an electoral gambit, the honey badger approach was a good bet: Trump is president not in spite of the wretched things he said about Mexicans, women, John McCain, Megyn Kelly and so on, but because he said them. He sold his shamelessness as fearlessness and his charlatanism as charisma, and people believed. Lord save us when Democrats alight on a similar candidate.

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