This Is Not Normal, February 13, 2018 – February 19, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is not normal.

  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to continue to hold onto assets that receive rent from government entities (such as the U.S. Postal Service) and large foreign businesses (such as the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and the Bank of India). This is a textbook conflict of interest. A reminder: we made Jimmy Carter give up his peanut farm.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s inaugural committee paid a newly formed company established by one of the First Lady’s close friends 26 million dollars for no one seems to know what.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to take a European vacation with his wife, which was paid for by the government even though half the trip was spent sightseeing.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that yet a third White House official has left the administration because he can’t qualify for a full security clearance. While we’re on the subject, the president’s son-in-law still hasn’t qualified for his security clearance after more than a year as a senior adviser, and he is reportedly still seeing a great deal of top-secret information. Meanwhile, the son-in-law is still making changes to his financial disclosures.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the official White House story about Rob Porter, the former White House aide accused of domestic abuse, was directly contradicted by the FBI director while under oath. The FBI director, by the way, was appointed by the current president.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that a White House official referred to a school shooting in which fourteen students and three teachers were killed as “a distraction or a reprieve.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s son, who is not a member of the administration, is giving a “foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations” while on a private business trip to India.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been charged with meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
  • The presidential Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    1. falsely claim that his infrastructure plan “has received great reviews except for, of course, the Democrats”;
    2. complain yet again that the Democrats are refusing to make a deal on DACA and that DACA recipients had been “totally abandoned” (remember that the only reason DACA is an issue in 2018 is because the president rescinded the DACA executive order);
    3. imply that the “neighbors and classmates” of the Florida school shooter were somehow at fault for failing to report “bad and erratic behavior” (in fact, he had been reported at least twice);
    4. insist again that the Russian meddling in the election had no impact on the results (which is impossible to know) and that his campaign had not colluded with them;
    5. criticize the “Fake News Media” for not reporting that the Russians had started planning for the 2016 election in 2014, before he began his run for president (he actually registered his slogan and made some other preparations for a presidential campaign in 2012);
    6. blame the lack of gun control legislation on the Democrats;
    7. use the school shooting as an excuse to call for the FBI to abandon its investigation into his campaign;
    8. subtweet his own national security adviser for saying that Russia had meddled in the election without adding the president’s belief that Russia colluded with his opponent or referring to “Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems . . . the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!” (we are, alas, back to zero weeks without a “Crooked Hillary” reference);
    9. complain that “Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, thte FBI or Justice called for an investigation!” (this was money that the United States owed to Iran because of a legal claim);
    10. refer to a sitting congressman as “Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control”;
    11. falsely argue that “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election” (he did);
    12. argue that the government should stop investigating Russia’s meddling in the election because Russian wanted discord in the United States (why would the president not want to figure out how to prevent a foreign country from meddling in our elections?);
    13. finish up his meltdown over the Russia indictments by retweeting a bot, because irony is dead;
    14. criticize Oprah Winfrey for her interview of a panel of voters; and
    15. wonder aloud why the former  president did not do more to prevent Russian meddling (which might be a fair question if the current president had taken any steps to prevent such meddling or condemned Russia for meddling in the first place, but he has done neither). Also, I regret to inform you that the president has still not learned how to thread tweets.
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This Is Not Normal, January 30, 2018 – February 5, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is not normal.

  • It is NOT NORMAL for the administration to refuse to impose sanctions on Russia that were implemented in Congressional legislation that passed 517 – 5 in July.
  • Is it NOT NORMAL the the House Intelligence Committee released a one-sided, cherry-picked memo about the FISA surveillance of a 2016 presidential campaign adviser for.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that members of the majority party continue to smear non-political leaders of the CIA and the FBI who have worked under presidents of both major parties for what appear to be purely partisan reasons. It is NOT NORMAL for one representative to argue that four non-political appointees in the Justice Department should be prosecuted for treason. (Among other things, this effectively demonstrates that this particular representative does not understand the legal definition of treason.)
  • It is NOT NORMAL for someone who has described himself as an informal adviser to the Kremlin to play an important role in a presidential campaign.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the Pentagon to worry that giving the president too many options on military intervention in North Korea would cause him to start a war.  It is NOT NORMAL for a member of the National Security Council to note, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, that a “limited strike on the North might help in the midterm elections.”
  • The presidential Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    1. state that his first State of the Union address was the most watched in history (it wasn’t);
    2. attempt to negotiate a DACA deal by yelling at the minority party’s Congressional leaders over social media;
    3. approvingly quote flattering stories about him in conservative press;
    4. claim that the infamous memo “totally vindicates” him (it doesn’t);
    5. randomly insult the National Health Service in the UK, prompting a response from the British prime minister (I assume this was due to a story on Fox and Friends);
    6. refer to a congressman who was critical of the memo and the trashing of the FBI as “Little” and say he was “desperate to run for higher office,” while simultaneously insulting four former leaders of the CIA and the FBI; and
    7. call the author of the memo “a man of tremendous courage and grit” and “a Great American Hero.”

This Is Not Normal, January 9, 2018 – January 15, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is not normal.

  • It is NOT NORMAL for an official on the National Security Council to propose withdrawing U.S. troops from Eastern Europe in order to “reframe our interests within the context of a new relationship with Russia.”
  • It is NOT NORMAL that a man who repeatedly endorsed the birther slander against the previous president, failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes, routinely mistreated the inmates under his care as sheriff, misused public funds, framed someone for attempted murder, and was ultimately convicted of criminal contempt when he refused to stop racial profiling after being ordered to do so by a court is apparently a viable candidate for the Senate in Arizona.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to need to be reminded of his own policy positions during a public meeting with Congress on immigration policy. Further, it is NOT NORMAL that the president’s seeming agreement with a Senator who proposed a different policy was omitted from the White House transcript.
  • It is NOT NORMAL, and should be deeply concerning, for the president to give a rambling and at times incoherent interview to the Wall Street Journal. In particular, it is NOT NORMAL for the president to say that “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” to whom he has not spoken and whom he has dubbed “Little Rocket Man.” It is also NOT NORMAL for the president and his press secretary to vehemently insist that the president was misquoted and continue to do so several hours after the Wall Street Journal posted an audio clip from the interview that clearly demonstrates the accuracy of their transcript. (To be fair, some people have listened to it and think they hear the “d.” I’ve tried and I just don’t hear it. This may be a question of the ear of the beholder.)
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to call African nations “shithole countries,” and how sad it is that we are at the point at which that has to be stated explicitly. (And ordinarily I wouldn’t use profanity on my page, but it’s a direct quote from the president of the United States, so here we are.) It is NOT NORMAL for the president to be so openly racist that he asks why Congress would propose accepting immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than Norway. It is NOT NORMAL that the president said “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” It is NOT NORMAL that the African Union and African ambassadors to the United Nations have had to demand an apology from the president of the United States for his overt racism and xenophobia.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that two Senators from the president’s party claim to “not recall” the president’s language even though others in the room had gone on the record about the conversation. It is particularly NOT NORMAL that these two Senators are reportedly basing this tenuous defense of the president on the premise that he may have said “shithouse” as opposed to “shithole,” which (a) isn’t actually an improvement in any way and (b) is not a word people typically use.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president reportedly paid an adult film star $130,000 so that she would not talk to the press about a sexual encounter.
  • The presidential Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    1. complain about an executive order being overturned by the Ninth Circuit;
    2. dub a Senator “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein”;
    3. charge that it was “possibly illegal” to release the transcript of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (spoiler alert: it wasn’t illegal);
    4. refer to the investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia as a “the single greatest Witch Hunt in American history”;
    5. repeatedly tag a cable news shows that run stories of which he apparently approves;
    6. tout the fact that 66% of Americans are happy with the economy and omit the fact that most Americans credit Obama for it;
    7. criticize the upcoming House vote to extend the FISA Act, even though members of his own administration had gone to Capitol Hill to lobby for it, and then walk back his criticism two hours later after a talk with the Speaker of the House;
    8. repeatedly complain about the Democrats’ immigration policy;
    9. claim that he was cancelling his trip to London because he was upset about the “Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts'” when in fact he is most likely cancelling because of protests and the move of the U.S. embassy was planned by the Bush administration for security reasons;
    10. deny that he said “anything derogatory” about Haiti;
    11. use his Twitter feed to fight with the author of a book about his administration and the staff of the Wall Street Journal; and
    12. begin Martin Luther King Day with a long tweet quoting himself about immigration.

     

To quote Brandon David Wilson on Twitter: “The second we aren’t nonplussed by this, it’s over.”

Presidential Twitter Insanity, January 2, 2018 – January 8, 2018

The presidential Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to (a) call for an aide to his former presidential rival to be jailed; (b) claim that companies are giving their employees bonuses because of the recent tax bill; (c) continue to use epithets such as “Crooked Hillary,” “Sloppy Steve,” and “Rocket Man” to describe foreign and domestic rivals; (d) claim credit for the fact that there were zero deaths in commercial aviation in 2017 (in fact, there have been no deaths in U.S. commercial aviation since 2009); (e) maintain the myth that the New York Times apologized for its coverage of his campaign in 2016 (it did not); (f) compare the size of his nuclear button to Kim Jong Un’s nuclear button (take that as you will); (g) announce, and later postpone, a “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR”; (h) complain that the states refused to hand over confidential voter data because “they know that many people are voting illegally”; (i) take credit for talks between North and South Korea after his nuclear-button-size tweet; (j) tweet multiple times about a book featuring several unflattering direct quotes about him from members of his administration, thus ensuring it higher sales and more attention; (k) claim that collusion with Russia “is proving to be a total hoax” (the investigation has so far yielded two indictments and two guilty pleas); (l) attack a former member of his administration who appears to have cooperated with the aforementioned book; and (m) claim that “my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart” and anointing himself “a very stable genius.”

Source: the Presidential Twitter feed. Scroll to the appropriate dates.

George Papadopoulos and Russian Contacts, December 30, 2017

It is NOT NORMAL that an advisor to the president’s 2016 presidential campaign team was warned in advance that Moscow was prepared to damage the president’s rival’s campaign and did not notify the FBI or the State department. (Keep in mind that several years ago when the Gore campaign was anonymously given a briefing book for the Bush campaign they contacted the FBI immediately.) It is even more NOT NORMAL that the advisor drafted a speech that he told Russian contacts should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

Source: the New York Times.

Russia Sanctions Would Be “Ripped Up,” December 6, 2017

It is NOT NORMAL for the presumptive national security adviser to text a business associate on Inauguration Day to say that their business project could move forward because sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up.” I do not think the Founders anticipated that a presidential administration would be basing the nation’s foreign policy on personal business incentives.

Source: the New York Times.