Sunday, October 22, 2017

This Evening's Word: Kakistocracy... Trump Gives Understanding It A New Sense Of Urgency



Last week, ABC News' Avery Miller did a brief report on Republican commentator Charlie Sykes' assertions about how the Trump circus is turning America into a kakistocracy. Sykes was long Wisconsin's top right-wing talk show host-- who never tired of pushing the odious agendas of Scott Walker, Reince Preibus and Paul Ryan. And then Señor Trumpanzee waddled onto the national stage with his ever-growing and ever more grotesque menagerie of freaks and thieves. And Sykes was suddenly a #NeverTrump lamppost in the encroaching darkness. He has a new book out, How the Right Lost Its Mind, which seeks to explain "how conservative have strayed from their core values. He points a finger at the Trump campaign’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and what he describes as 'revenge of crazy town.'"
Sykes says, “Steve Bannon is so much a part of this Trump story. Here’s a guy who flirted with the ‘alt-right.’ Don’t pass this point-- he was in the White House. He had the ear of the president of the United States. Here’s basically one of the gods of dysfunction, and he was sitting in the White House.”

Now that Bannon has left the White House and returned to the right-wing website Breitbart News, the “worst people in the world” are becoming the faces of the GOP, Sykes says. “It doesn’t look like a strategy to me as much as an unfocused, vindictive rage. It doesn’t even appear to be ideological principled as much as it seems to be ‘Let’s burn it all down. Let’s tear it all down, and let’s see what happens.’”

...“Look at this from Donald Trump’s point of view. Part of the fact of Trump’s success is that he empowered the fringes. This is his base, and I think Trump was rattled a lot by what happened in Alabama because he cannot afford to let someone get to the more populist right than him. You see this back-and-forth, this tug of wanting to get things done but recognizing that these folks from crazy town are the ones that got you the nomination and got you elected. I think he’s going to ping-pong between the two of them.”

...“If I am a Democrat, I am delighted to see Steve Bannon burning down, trying to destroy incumbent Republicans and replace them with rather eccentric folks out there.”

Sykes says he “cringes” when he talks about Ryan, one of his former favorite radio guests, mentioning his “really profound disappointment.”

“I have known him for many years and really did see him as the intellectual leader of the conservative movement and very much the alternative path the conservatives and Republicans could have taken. He had no illusions about who and what Donald Trump was, but he’s made a Faustian bargain.” Sykes says Ryan is “all in” on Trump.

In his book, Sykes describes what he believes is the damage Trump has done to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

“The reality of Donald Trump is that, even though for the moment he will occasionally adopt conservative values, Donald Trump is not a deeply principled, deep-thinking individual. He is not a lifelong movement conservative. He will throw them under the bus whenever it becomes convenient. And much of his base will go along with him.”
A couple of weeks ago, Norm Ornstein, writing for The Atlantic had gone considerably further pointing out that there’s a case to be made that the United States is governed by the least scrupulous of its citizens. That's the definition of Kakistocracy, "literally, government by the worst and most unscrupulous people among us."

His point is that America is experiencing kakistocracy and it as come into sharp focus this month as a parade of unscrupulous Trump Cabinet members and White House staffers have been "caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer dollars to charter jets, at times to go small distances where cheap commercial transportation was readily available, at times to conveniently visit home areas or have lunch with family members. While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after his serial abuse, others-- including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, remain in place."
Awful as the grifterish mentality and behavior may be, worse is the other part of kakistocracy-- inept, corrupt, and disruptive governance. Impulsive, stream-of-consciousness communications from the president by tweet are one thing. Examples like a budget that aims to knock out our weather satellites and cut our ability to respond to a pandemic, along with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) removing from its website information about the disastrous conditions in Puerto Rico while pumping up the good news, are another.

The misguided and reckless travel bans instituted at the beginning of the administration were a harbinger of indifference to norms and practices of government previously embraced by both parties. The moves undertaken now by Trump and his aides to sabotage Obamacare, after the embarrassing failures to enact a bill to repeal and replace it, are sadistic and outrageous. They include cutting off the funding to notify people about the period for enrollment on the health exchanges, and shortening the time to enroll, along with most recently ordering the head of Medicare and Medicaid Services to deny a critical waiver to Iowa which will result in many losing insurance and skyrocketing premiums for others.

More troublesome still is the danger to world stability reflected in the embarrassing contretemps-triangle involving Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis, and Trump. Within the last week, Trump undercut Tillerson via tweet, taking diplomatic talks with North Korea off the table while his secretary of state was in China (after undercutting our vital ally South Korea by attempting to blow up our joint free-trade agreement). Then NBC reported that Tillerson had privately called the president a “moron.” Mattis then told the Senate that America should continue to certify the Iran-nuclear deal, as it is in our national-security interest-- after which the president threatened to decertify the deal, undercutting the credibility of his defense secretary...

Donald Trump campaigned by promising to run government like a business. Unfortunately, that business is Trump University. There are 602 key policy positions in the executive requiring Senate confirmation. Almost nine months into the Trump presidency, only 142-- less than a quarter-- have been filled, and nearly half, 289, have not even had a nominee chosen. The record here is starkly worse than under the previous four presidents, from George H. W. Bush through Obama. At the State Department, we have a secretary and two deputy secretaries in place-- but only two of the nearly 30 critical undersecretaries or assistant secretaries, with none even nominated for the vast majority of the positions. A slew of key ambassadorships remain vacant, including sensitive spots like South Korea, Congo, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Venezuela-- none of which even have a nominee! Rumors have circulated that Tillerson has proposed many experienced Bush hands for some of these posts, which have been blocked by a White House personnel office that screens for early support for Trump, and vetoes those who offered any criticism during the campaign-- which eliminates the vast majority of those with any experience in foreign affairs. [And any sense or integrity.]

...The kakistocracy applies as well to Congress. I have already outlined some of the failures of the confirmation process for Cabinet officers and the abysmal lack of oversight of kleptocratic behavior. Add to those the eleventh hour backdoor effort in the House in January to eviscerate its independent Office of Congressional Ethics and the outrageous attempts by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, unchecked by Speaker Paul Ryan, to collude with the Trump White House to mislead about allegations of its own ties to Russian officials during and after the 2016 campaign. Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation-- but has continued to try to use his office to influence the process.

Then there is the ineptitude of the policy process in Congress. Despite Speaker Ryan’s boast that this could be the most productive presidency and Congress in our lifetime, the record of Congress in its first nine months is abysmal. Not one of the big goals set by the president or majority congressional leaders-- health repeal and replace, infrastructure, a wall on the border with Mexico, major tax reform-- has been achieved. While the number of bills enacted is about average for new presidents, the number of significant bills is extremely low, especially compared to George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Except for a series of narrow measures to roll back Obama regulations and a bill to increase sanctions on Russia, most of the enactments are minor.

Moreover, Republican leaders, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have blown up most of the remaining norms about how laws are developed, debated, and enacted. The process used to attempt the single most significant congressional promise, repealing and replacing Obamacare, was an embarrassing jumble of ineptitude, casuistry, irregularity, and abnormality. After eight years of promises to offer an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Congress only slapped together careless and unworkable plans after they took the White House and both houses of Congress. In the Senate, the plan was crafted behind closed doors by a small group of older, white male senators without the involvement of experts from the two relevant committees, Health and Finance, and with no input from the most savvy health experts, conservative or otherwise, or any of the stakeholders in the health-policy world. The plan, and its even more embarrassing alternative crafted by Senators Cassidy and Graham after the first one flamed out, were opposed by every major health organization and provider group, and were ripped by Senator John McCain for violating every principle of deliberation and debate. The sponsors lied repeatedly to their colleagues and to journalists and others about what the bills did and did not do, and made ham-handed efforts to throw money or exemptions at individual senators in Maine and Alaska to induce their votes.

The failure to pass any health measure, or to send Trump any significant bills he can use to have lavish Rose Garden victory ceremonies to show how much he is winning, has led to another round of presidential insults aimed at his own party leaders McConnell and Ryan, and at apostates like John McCain and Jeff Flake. The latest is a round of ridiculous and counterproductive attacks by Trump on Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker, who responded with his own broadsides at an unstable president lacking adult supervision. Many observers are now writing and talking about a Republican civil war, with the latest battle being the Senate primary in Alabama that led to the nomination of radical Roy Moore.
Voters want the Democrats to take back the House next year-- by a large margin

So will the voters clean house-- especially The House-- in just over 12 months? Every indicator I look at says yes-- actually, says YES! Trump and his kakistocratic cabinet may be around for a bit longer but if you were to wager that major Republican power players like Paul Ryan (WI), Darrell Issa (CA), Ed Royce (CA), Pete Sessions (TX), Fred Upton (MI), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Lamar Smith (TX) and possibly even Devin Nunes (CA), will be missing from the festivities when Congress reconvenes in January 2019, you'll probably be whole. And the country will be a little less kakistocratic... at least in the legislative branch.

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At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kakistocracy is nothing new. We started playing that tune in 1980 and haven't changed since. We elected Obama in 2008 in an attempt to reverse the trend, but he was a plant. And we re-elected him anyway.

We have noxious potted plants like gomert and the kings in congress; like sessions and devos in the cabinet; and now like the orange-utan and his family in the wh.

But the real power behind all of them are CEOs and billionaires who are indifferent to openly hostile to the 99.9%. And THAT has been true since 1980.


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