Mike Pence Is Useless

by Cinzia Croce

I was never a fan of Vice President Mike Pence. I thought his addition to the presidential ticket brought nothing to the table, and I and feared that his hardcore social conservatism would derail the Trump campaign. Thankfully, my fears never materialized. Social issues remained marginalized, and for most of the campaign Pence was invisible. The one time the he was under the spotlight — the vice-presidential debate — Pence passed his test with flying colors. I was so impressed with his performance that I offered a mea culpa and declared that I was thrilled to have been wrong. Looking back, it wasn’t so much that Pence shined but more that Tim Kaine dimmed in his lousy attempt to play the attack dog. Nevertheless, now that I have had six months to evaluate Pence’s contributions to the Trump administration, I can confidently say that my initial assessment of him was right on target: he is a dead weight.

Mike Pence

The Pence pick was hailed by conservatives primarily for two reasons: first, he would appease the GOP establishment and help unify the party behind Trump; second, as a former member of the GOP congressional leadership, he would be able help Trump get his agenda through Congress. He has spectacularly failed on both counts. The GOP establishment has never united behind Trump. During the campaign, they made repeated attempts to push him out of the race — most notably, by overreacting to the Billy Bush tape — and, since the inauguration, have tried to damage the president politically by aggressively pursuing the Russia-collusion investigation and vehemently defending special counsel Robert Mueller. As far as helping the president get his agenda through Congress, the administration has not been able to score one major legislative victory in six months. Pence has made several trips to the Hill and has nothing to show for it. His latest humiliation was his unsuccessful last-ditch effort to convince John McCain to support the so-called Obamacare “skinny repeal”. Only legislation in which there is clear common ground between Trump and the GOP establishment — e.g. reducing regulation, judicial appointments and improving healthcare delivery to veterans — is getting through Congress. Funding the president’s signature issue, the wall, has been postponed until the fall, and Republican senators are already making noise that they may never support building it. Continue reading


Sorry, Cinzia, But the Rot Comes From the Top

by Alex Knepper

Cinzia’s latest stream of columns are bold and full of confidence, despite a series of recent high-profile defeats for the president. They are best interpreted, however, as typical of the desperate blame-shifting occurring among Trump’s core supporters as his presidency falls into disarray.

She has convinced herself that the blame for the humiliating Obamacare repeal fiasco rests at the feet of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and that they must go — as if any Republican on the planet is capable of uniting the Cruz-Paul-Lee faction of the GOP with the Collins-Murkowski one. The simple fact is that the Republican Party, despite its recent electoral successes, is still very much confused about its direction and very much internally divided — and its Senate majority, while real and useful, is simply too narrow to pass truly controversial legislation. One would think that Cinzia would look to our president — the man who styles himself as the master of ‘the deal’ — the man who united the national party in last year’s election — the man who launched his campaign with a rousing speech in which declared that we needed a president “who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.'” But the man who ‘wrote’ ‘Art of the Deal’ was nowhere to be found when he should have been leading the way. He was a follower, not a leader — but Cinzia prefers to blame Reince Preibus for advising Trump to dance with the ones who brought him — Republicans, who also elected the Republican Congress — rather than blaming Trump for taking on a job for which he was obviously not prepared.

Cinzia blames the media for focusing on gossipy leaks, which Trump incompetently cannot stop — even as she spent months in 2016 justifying the constant press coverage of illegal WikiLeaks hacks on the basis that what’s really important is not the leaking itself, but the information contained in the leaks; that, since Clinton is an important public figure, the people deserve to know about what’s in them and that therefore her campaign and supporters had no right to complain. The point here is not that Clinton was treated unfairly — the point is that Cinzia has one set of rules for Trump and another, completely different set of rules for everyone else. She relies on ad hoc logic to defend Trump because he cannot possibly be seen in a positive light if he is judged by ordinary standards.


Instead of focusing on leaks and legal troubles, Cinzia would rather the media cover Trump’s supposed accomplishments. Of course, Trump cut his teeth in the campaign season by going to war with the media, so it’s sad and ironic that she would blame the press for not trying to prop him up in his hour of need. But more importantly, he really has not accomplished much of anything. To my mind, the only substantive policy shift so far has been his backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: a win for China, which can now make a legitimate claim to forthcoming economic supremacy in that zone of the East. Backing out of the non-binding Paris Accord was all noise since it had no enforcement mechanism to begin with. The piecemeal chipping away at regulations are more about quantity than quality, and it is telling that Trump loyalists never offer any specifics. The ban on transgendered people in the military is completely made-up (the Pentagon does not consider a tweet a policy order). The vaunted ‘travel ban’ was so thin as to be practically non-existent. There has been policy change regarding NATO or NAFTA. We continue to be hostile toward Russia, Obamacare stands. Rates of illegal immigration were declining long before Trump took office. It is absurd to give the young Trump Administration credit for positive economic news (the president gets too much credit or blame for the state of the economy generally, besides). His management style is perceived more as that befitting his reality-TV past than as ‘modern-day presidential.’ His approval rating is in the toilet. He appointed a quality conservative justice in Neil Gorsuch — but that is no different than what Jeb Bush or John Kasich would have done, so there’s nothing Trump-specific to report in that instance. Continue reading

Laura Ingraham for Communications Director

by Cinzia Croce

Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure as Director of Communications at the White House was brief but impactful — he was able to push out Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus in just a matter of days. He showed a lot of gusto — albeit heavy-handed gusto — in his approach, and it’s hard to see how his free-wheeling style would fit with the military discipline of the new Chief of Staff, General John Kelly. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated that the infamous interview Scaramucci gave the New Yorker was the reason for his departure, but it is more likely that his personal issues played a larger role. His wife has filed for divorce, and it promises to be a nasty episode, certain to generate lots of scandalous headlines –- another distraction the Trump administration does not need. Scaramucci fought very hard to get his ten days in the White House and I believe he will make a comeback after he settles his personal life.

One person sure to be thrilled at Scaramucci leaving the White House is Laura Ingraham. For months her name had been floated for Director of Communications, and when it was announced that Scaramucci had gotten the job, she wasted no time to voice her strong disapproval. She began an unrelenting attack on him while filling in as host on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News Channel. She continued to blast him the next morning on her radio show and then on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, took the weekend off, and resumed her criticism on Monday. She seemed more upset about Scaramucci than the GOP failure to repeal Obamacare. Her reaction was so disproportionate that one has to wonder whether it was a case of sour grapes — but now she has another chance and her name is being floated again.

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Why Won’t People Stop Lying About Hillary and the DNC?

by Alex Knepper

It’s the lie that won’t die: the Democratic National Committee ‘coronated’ Hillary Clinton, so that St. Bernie Sanders, the disruptive outsider with a heart of gold and a record of purity, couldn’t crash their insider party.

Damon Linker of The Week, who is obviously very pleased that his content-cow Clinton hasn’t yet retreated from the public spotlight, makes the latest case (emphasis mine):

Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who ran an atrocious campaign and should never have been anointed as the presumptive nominee by the Democratic National Committee in the first place. If Clinton wanted to run for president while under investigation by the FBI, that was her business. But why on Earth would the DNC and the party’s “superdelegates” decide so far in advance that a candidate running with that kind of baggage should be considered the inevitable victor? Aside from the obstacles it placed in the way of her one serious challenger (Bernie Sanders), it helped to discourage many others (including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) from jumping into the race. Why bother when you know the party is standing against you?

That decision on the part of the DNC had fateful consequences…

This is an utterly bizarre rewrite of history — one which has gained currency because it is unfathomable to people like Linker that anyone could actually like the Worst Woman In the History of the Planet, or actually think she would have made a good president. In their minds, St. Bernie was so obviously a superior candidate — and superior person — that only manipulation from on-high could explain her nomination, and that her voters must have been brainwashed, or the victims of Donna Brazile-engineered propaganda — or maybe voting with their vaginas or something. It would be too much to suggest that any of this can be interpreted as white men and college kids lashing out at the fact that women and non-whites had the decisive role in determining the outcome of the primary. But it certainly is an astounding case of bad memory.

It is easy enough to forget now, after the more-competitive-than-expected primary season, but Hillary entered 2015 with a 30-50-point lead in the polls. The reason that every other Democrat with a marquee name declined to run against her is not because the Democratic National Committee was coronating her, but because she was crushing the competition democratically. The field wasn’t cleared for her. She cleared the field herself — because she came in a very close 2nd place in the 2008 contest against President Barack Obama and went on to serve under him for four years, during which time she routinely registered approval ratings in the 50s and 60s. It would not be too much to say that Hillary Clinton, detached as she was from the major political battles of the day, was the most popular politician in the country during most of Obama’s second term.

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At Last, Trump Finds His Groove

by Cinzia Croce

After six long months, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine for the Trump Administration. Just a couple of weeks ago — in what seemed the darkest hour — the president’s opponents were celebrating finding the “smoking gun”: the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. But as soon as it was revealed that one of the attendees had worked for the U.S. government during the Obama administration, all the headlines about the meeting magically disappeared.  Without missing a beat, the president’s critics were back to being horrified at the chaos enveloping the White House.

Incoming Director of Communications, Anthony Scaramucci, wasted no time publicly identifying the source of the administration’s problems. During an interview on CNN, he said: “There are people inside the administration who think it is their job to save America from this president.”  Reince, most certainly, is among the people Scaramucci was referring to. I believe that his task was to fill the White House with GOP establishment loyalists and keep Trump in check while Mueller worked to put pressure on the president to resign by going after his family and business empire. I also believe that the persistent leaking was not due to “turf battles” but rather a carefully orchestrated plan to create an atmosphere of chaos, incompetence, and turmoil around the White House, hoping that the GOP base would give up on Trump and say “We tried the outsider, but now it’s time to go back to experienced hands.” It didn’t work. The GOP establishment is on his way out and soon the White House will be ‘running like a fine-tuned machine’.

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Donald Trump Is Right About Jeff Sessions

by Cinzia Croce

Supporters of Attorney General Jeff Sessions are in quite the predicament. They can’t dispute that President Donald Trump has solid grounds for feeling frustrated and disappointed. They can’t criticize the president for saying that if he had known there was a chance Sessions was going to recuse himself, he would have chosen else someone as Attorney General. They can’t deny that the key reason Bob Mueller is roaming around DC — armed with unlimited subpoena power and financial resources — looking for some crime, any crime — is a direct result of Sessions’ fateful decisions to recuse himself and appoint Rod Rosenstein as his number two. Since they can’t counter the validity of the president’s grievances, all that is left is to portray Sessions as a victim and Trump as a disloyal friend.


Eager to defend their idol, some Sessions fans have even gone so far as to suggest that Trump would never have reached the White House if it weren’t for the Attorney General — and that therefore Trump owes Sessions a special degree of loyalty. This assertion is not based in reality.  By the time Sessions announced his endorsement, Trump he had already won three out of the four early contests. In Iowa he came in second, which is a remarkable achievement for a candidate with no ground game and who refused to spend a year traveling to all 99 counties. In South Carolina, Trump won so decisively that he racked up all 50 delegates. Continue reading

Is Trump More Embarrassing or Dangerous?

by Alex Knepper

I fell in love with presidential politics during the 2004 race and have been writing about it ever since. I love the presidency. I love presidential campaigns. I think the president is always a vital player in corralling his party behind a coherent, purposeful agenda.

Since the inauguration, I been caught in a lull as a political writer, largely because, as I suggested in previous articles, President Donald Trump makes me less angry than depressed. Unlike all but a couple of past presidents, Trump is anything but a vital player, and is incapable of becoming one. He is worse than useless; he entered office as a lame duck and still has nothing to brag about but his victory over Hillary Clinton, whom Republicans quite obviously miss very much. Trump has spent the entirety of the last six months wielding his unique reverse-Hand-of-Midas ability to turn everything into shit — which he then proceeds to fling at everyone. It’s “damn good for CBS“! But I didn’t get into politics to cover it like a paparazzo.

Trump Embarrassing

A president who maxes out at a 45% approval rating and is stuck mostly in the 38-42% range is incapable of wielding leverage. He is neither feared nor loved. Leaders of Trump’s own party casually dismiss his proposals, and he has so alienated the other party that he cannot possibly form viable non-traditional coalitions, despite running last year, in a sense, against both parties. For the last half-year it has been almost like America doesn’t have a president. At best, Trump can hope to become a bill-signing machine for the Congressional GOP. But with nearly every plank of the Republican agenda stalled despite the party controlling nearly every conceivable part of government — the presidency, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, governorships, state legislatures — there is in a sense little to write about. Each time I try to write something about an event like Trump’s classless, clownish speech to the Boy Scouts, I am stopped by the sentiment I expressed at the end of last year that I refuse to spend the next four years in perpetual anger and irritation. The healthiest way I can react to Trump’s hijinx is to ignore them. Continue reading