Tag Archives: reagan

Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

Mother Jones

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Since leaving office, Barack Obama has made a few veiled criticisms of Donald Trump. Conservatives are pretty unhappy about this. It’s tradition for ex-presidents to maintain a dignified silence about their successors, after all.

This is mostly true, but when did it become a tradition? It certainly hasn’t been one forever. Herbert Hoover was a constant presence on the radio blasting FDR during the Depression, and Harry Truman remained a gadfly after he left office.

Eisenhower changed things up. After beating Hitler and serving two terms as president, he decided to adopt the elder statesman role. Then Kennedy died before leaving office, LBJ slunk back to Texas a broken man, and Nixon resigned in disgrace. By hook or by crook, the “tradition” of ex-presidential silence was two decades old by the time Reagan became president. It’s mostly held ever since.

Is there a good reason for this? The pretense seems kind of precious to me. Why treat sitting presidents like china dolls who can’t take some heat from their predecessors? Ex-presidents are among the greatest politicians alive, and usually the effective leaders of their party, at least for a while. They typically command a throng of admirers. The most natural thing in the world would be for them to maintain a robust political presence if they want to. Why shouldn’t they?

Ditto for losing presidential candidates. This is usually less of an issue, since most people don’t really want to listen to losers. But not always. Hillary Clinton should never run for office again—and she’s said she won’t—but why shouldn’t she stay loudly involved in politics if she can help lead the loyal opposition until Democrats coalesce around a new party leader?

Does anyone know the answer about this tradition? Is it really just an Eisenhower thing that somehow congealed into conventional wisdom? Do other countries have anything similar?

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

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The Dead Pool – 9 April 2017

Mother Jones

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K.T. McFarland has always been one of President Trump’s odder choices for a senior position on his national security team. She last served in the government during the Reagan administration, and for the past 30 years has done precisely nothing that would make her qualified for even a junior position. Except for one thing: she spent several years as a Fox News commentator, where she regularly savaged Barack Obama and became pals with Eric Trump and Don Jr. Presumably Trump thought that was great experience. Steve Bannon signed on because he doesn’t care about anything except whether someone agrees with him, and former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is such a loony tune that there’s no telling why he accepted her as his #2.

But then Flynn got fired, and Trump’s first choice to replace him turned down the job when he was told that McFarland had to stay. H.R. McMaster, however, plays a longer game, and took the NSA job even though McFarland came with it. He slowly sidelined her, and now she’s being reassigned to the exciting post of ambassador to Singapore. McMaster has been on the job for six weeks, and in that time he’s gotten Steve Bannon off the National Security Council; exiled McFarland to Singapore; and masterminded the bombing of Syria, which got Trump a ton of fawning coverage. Not bad for a guy who a few years ago was having trouble even getting the Army to promote him to general.

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The Dead Pool – 9 April 2017

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Is Trump’s Popularity Sinking? Here’s the Poll to Look At.

Mother Jones

This Gallup poll has been making the rounds today:

I’ve deleted the rest of this post. It was a comparison of job approval ratings of Republican presidents among Republicans. But I screwed it up. There’s actually nothing interesting to report on that score. Trump’s job approval ratings are about the same as Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr.

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Is Trump’s Popularity Sinking? Here’s the Poll to Look At.

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My Job Just Got a Lot Easier

Mother Jones

Donald Trump held a remarkable press conference today—about which more later—but first I have to thank him. Here’s an exchange with NBC’s Peter Alexander:

ALEXANDER: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, 304, 306 electoral votes. But President Obama had 365….

TRUMP: Well, I’m talking about Republicans.

ALEXANDER: George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust you?

TRUMP: Well no, I was given that information. I don’t know, I was just given—we had a very, very big margin.

ALEXANDER: I guess my question is why Americans should trust you when you use information…

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given—I actually, I’ve seen that information around.

This is great! I mean, I write for a magazine, and let’s face it: fact checking is a pain. I know my fellow writers will back me up here. I suppose it’s good for readers, who want accurate information, but it’s a huge time sink for us content creators. Next time, my conversation will go like this:

FACT CHECKER: You say in your article that hippos are the largest mammals. Are you sure?

ME: I don’t know, I was given that information. They’re really big.

FACT CHECKER: And mice are the smallest?

ME: I’ve seen that information around.

This is going to make my job a lot easier. Thanks, Mr. President!

Continued:

My Job Just Got a Lot Easier

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

Mother Jones

Over at National Review, Jay Nordlinger comments on racism:

The 2016 election cycle made me much wiser, in addition to sadder….All my life, I had heard about racists, anti-Semites, and other such types on the right. Maybe I was sheltered, but I almost never encountered any of them. I thought they were essentially bogeymen, conjured by the lyin’ Left. The people I met were good Reagan conservatives — the salt of the earth.

Then came 2016, in partnership with the social media. The rock was overturned. In a way, I wish the rock had stayed put.

I hope National Review decides to take this institutionally more seriously, instead of commenting on race only when someone is outraged about some perceived excess of the social justice warriors on the left.

Throughout American history, there have been periodic opportunities to make real headway against racism if only both parties had provided a united front. But that’s never happened. One party or the other has always found the votes of white racists too alluring to ignore.

As the number of white racists declines, it should be easier to reject them, but instead just the opposite has happened. In our 50-50 nation, even a smallish bloc is far too large to actively repudiate. Trump may be the last gasp of white racial anxiety in America, or he might represent the start of a global white nationalist movement. I hope for the former and fear for the latter. Either way, it would be nice if both parties recognized the danger.

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

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Trump: I Won the Popular Vote. I Did, I Did, I Did….

Mother Jones

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A few days ago I mentioned that the Trump campaign1 was pretty dedicated to sending Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win down the memory hole. To accomplish this, they began a gaslighting offensive to persuade the nation that Donald Trump was one of the biggest winners ever in presidential history. Kellyanne Conway kicked things off by telling Fox News, “This election was not close. It was not a squeaker.” Two days later, Trump himself defended his loss of the popular vote: “If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.”

Then Corey Lewandowski upped the ante, claiming that Trump “won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984.” I guess this was a little too raw even for Trumpland, so Reince Priebus beavered away and finally found something to justify Lewandowski’s toadying: “Donald J. Trump won over 2,600 counties nationwide, the most since President Reagan in 1984.” But that still wasn’t enough. The whole popular vote thing is apparently a serious burr in Trump’s saddle, and he wasn’t happy with all this shilly-shallying. So today he decided to go for broke and insist that he just won, period:

So there you have it. It’s twisting Trump’s guts that more people voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for him. And this whole recount thing in Wisconsin seems to have driven him bananas. The result is a tweet alleging that the Clinton campaign orchestrated millions of illegal votes in 2016.2 This message went out to all 16 million of his followers, who will surely pass it along to another 16 million or so—and then the media will pass it along to yet millions more.

This is an obvious lie, and it will probably take a few hours for Trump’s TV shills to figure out how to defend it. That’s how it worked with the “thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11” thing. In that case, his spear carriers eventually dug up a few internet factoids that provided them with a way to claim that Trump was right, and away they went. I’m sure the same thing will happen this time. I can’t wait to see how many will join in and exactly what dreck they’ll dredge up to justify it.

Alternatively, they could just admit that the Republican president-elect is an epically insecure liar who will say anything when his fragile ego is bruised. That’s not a very appealing alternative, is it?

1As near as I can tell, Trump is still running a campaign.

2Trump says he would have won if not for these votes, so they must have all been for Hillary. And if they were all for Hillary, then Democrats must have been the ones who did the vote rigging. Right?

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Trump: I Won the Popular Vote. I Did, I Did, I Did….

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The Apotheosis of Donald Trump Is Proceeding Apace

Mother Jones

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Corey Lewandowski was once Donald Trump’s campaign manager, then went to work for CNN as a Trump booster, and is now back in the Trump camp. So how did Trump make his big comeback?

With eleven days to go, something amazing happened,” Mr Lewandowski said in a speech at the Oxford Union debating society on Wednesday evening. “The FBI’s director James Comey came out on a Friday and he said they may be reopening the investigation into Crooked Hillary’s emails.”

Yep, that was pretty amazing. I’m glad we all agree that this was a pivotal moment. So what happened next?

“In those last last eleven days Mr Trump was exceptionally disciplined. He used a teleprompter, and he did less media. The team used social media like no campaign in history….And then, Donald Trump won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Huh. The largest majority since 1984? Really? Let’s take a look:

There have been eight presidential elections since 1984. In popular vote margin, Trump is 8th out of 8. In the Electoral College vote, he’s 6th out of 8. This obviously wasn’t just a careless mistake on Lewandowski’s part.

The Trump team seems to be hellbent on propagating the myth that Trump won a world historical victory last week. Is this just to soothe Trump’s bottomless ego? Or is this part of a deliberate campaign to get his followers amped up into believing that Trump is a world historical figure? Is “Trump won big” the new “Iraq was behind 9/11”? You might recall that that one didn’t turn out so well.

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The Apotheosis of Donald Trump Is Proceeding Apace

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Obama Is the Guy Who Made America Work Again

Mother Jones

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The theme of the convention tonight was supposed to be “Make America Work Again.” But Donald Trump has a famously short attention span, and apparently that’s spilled over into the scheduling of the entire convention. As near as I can tell, not a single person talked about jobs and the economy except maybe soap opera star Kimberlin Brown, who grows avocadoes and spent several minutes railing against Obamacare.

However, I didn’t watch every minute of the convention, so maybe I missed one of the early C-list speakers talking about jobs. On the off chance that this happened, I have two charts for you. First, here’s a re-up of one of my favorites, showing that Republicans did everything they possibly could to keep America from recovering while Obama was president:

As you can see from the various red and orange lines, Republicans were eager to increase spending for Reagan, Bush Jr., and Bush Sr.—at least until he lost the election and Clinton took over. Then they cut back. For Obama, they depressed public spending from the start. That’s the blue line. Today, more than six years after the official end of the recession, public spending is more than 20 points lower than the trendline for Reagan and Bush.

Nonetheless, check out Obama’s record on job growth:

Even with two big tax cuts and a housing bubble, Bush Jr. managed to create only 10.9 million jobs. Obama, even with the headwind of Republican obstruction, has created 13.1 million jobs so far.

You can decide for yourself how much credit presidents deserve for the strength of the economy on their watch. But one thing is sure: Obama started with the worst recession since World War II, and six years later he’s created over 13 million jobs; the unemployment rate is under 5 percent; inflation is low; and the economy is growing faster than nearly any other rich country. Imagine what he could have done if Republicans hadn’t stood in his way the entire time.

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Obama Is the Guy Who Made America Work Again

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Jeb Bush Has Announced the Perfect Republican Economic Plan

Mother Jones

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Rand Paul says his secret to success is that his tax cut plan will supercharge economic growth. Jeb Bush says his secret to success is that merely by being president he will supercharge economic growth.

I guess I have to give this round to Paul. He at least tried to come up with some math salad to justify his belief that a Rand Paul presidency will bring about economic nirvana. Bush simply declared ex cathedra that he’d make the economy grow at an astonishing 4 percent per year. Why? “It’s a nice round number. It’s double the growth that we are growing at. It’s not just an aspiration. It’s doable.”

Um, OK. He gets points for copping to a sort of amiable idiocy, I suppose. But in case you’re interested, here’s economic growth since the Reagan administration:

Reagan managed 4 percent growth four times in eight years. George H. W. Bush managed it zero times. Bill Clinton did it five times in eight years. George W. Bush did it zero times. Barack Obama has (so far) done it zero times. And no president in history has averaged 4 percent growth over the course of his presidency. No one.1

If you want all the gory details, Matt Yglesias has much more here about just how unlikely this kind of growth is. But politically speaking, the details aren’t what’s interesting. What’s interesting is that Bush’s comment is an unusually clear peek behind the curtain, one that demonstrates how unseriously Republicans take the economy. It’s all just cotton candy for the gullible. Cut taxes on the rich and this will—somehow—supercharge the economy. Slash regulations and this will—somehow—unleash business activity and supercharge the economy. Now Bush has decided to dispense with even the mumbo jumbo explanations. He’s distilled the GOP economic message down to its essence: Elect me president and—merely because I’m a Republican and I say so—I’ll supercharge the economy.

And there’s more. If you assume the economy is going to skyrocket, there’s no need to address niggling concerns about spending or budget deficits. There will be money for everything! And when it doesn’t happen? Oops. Sorry. Next time we’ll get serious for sure. Honest.

1OK, OK, it’s true that FDR did it. How? By starting at the bottom of the worst depression in history and ending with the biggest wartime boom in history. This basically makes the case for just how unlikely this is to ever happen again.

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Jeb Bush Has Announced the Perfect Republican Economic Plan

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RIP Mario Cuomo

Mother Jones

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Former three-term governor of New York Mario Cuomo died Thursday, the same day his son Andrew was inaugurated to a second term of his own as governor of the Empire State.

Here is Mario Cuomo’s famous speech criticizing Ronald Reagan from the 1984 Democratic Convention.

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RIP Mario Cuomo

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