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.

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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

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Reporters’ Russia Remorse Rings Hollow

by Alex Knepper

Although I am glad to finally see the topic receive the acknowledgement it deserved two months ago, I must confess that I find media hyperventilating over the not-news that Russia meddled in our presidential election to be a bit perplexing. Little new information has come to light: it was clear in the fall that Putin was working to disrupt our electoral process — to weaken a likely President Clinton, and to exploit the crisis of faith in our institutions. Both candidates thought the specter of Russian interference was important enough to at least mention — although — alas — predictably, one of them thought it was actually a wonderful thing that Putin’s lackeys could be willing to hack into the private communications of Clinton associates. So it is no great shock that Russia is likely behind the WikiLeaks e-mail leaks.

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It is clear that some would like to take advantage of these non-revelations to promote the belief that Trump’s victory was somehow illegitimate. In my mind there is little doubt that Clinton received a raw deal during the general election, with the e-mail leaks being among the most unfair obstacles she faced.  But our Constitution stipulates when elections are held and how they are conducted, and Trump won — fair and square. Nobody — not the FBI or CIA, not the president, not the press, not the people — can guarantee that the timing of events and fortune will always be simply fair to the nominees. Clinton is embarrassing herself by endorsing the imprudent and unprecedented idea of delivering intelligence briefings to presidential electors regarding Russia in advance of the official presidential vote. Her frustration is palpable. But if the so-called mainstream press is feeling a bit of remorse, they should blame themselves twice for every time they blame Putin: if reporters had treated the WikiLeaks saga as intolerable criminal foreign meddling in the first place rather than as an opportunity to engage in scurrilous gossip about the woman they thought would be the next president, we might not be having the kind of conversation we are having right now.