• How Long Can the Mooch Last?

    Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA

    Oh man. It turns out I missed something hilarious yesterday.

    As you probably know, Politico published a piece a few days ago that included financial disclosures made by Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s shiny new communications director. Mooch immediately went ballistic on Twitter, apparently blaming the leak on chief-of-staff Reince Priebus. Reporters soon got confirmation that Mooch was on the outs with Priebus, but a few hours later Mooch deleted the tweet and claimed that he and Priebus were best pals.

    That’s not the hilarious part, of course. The hilarious part is the reason that Mooch suddenly went quiet:

    There was a reason Scaramucci didn’t respond further: There had been no leak. The Politico reporter, Lorraine Woellert, obtained Scaramucci’s disclosures by making a routine request to the Ex-Im bank for the form 278e that Scaramucci completed before working there. Woellert tweeted: “Mr @Scaramucci’s Form 278e is publicly available from ExIm. Just ask.”

    The form had been filed on June 23, and became publicly available on July 23. So Woellert asked for it and got it.

    This is what happens when you instantly go ballistic over every perceived slight. At best you look like a hothead. At worst you look like a dolt. And as long as we’re on the subject, I think Rich Lowry is right about Scaramucci:

    His current communications gig probably has a limited shelf life for at least two reasons: 1) When you are in front of the cameras every day, even if you are very adept (Anthony is), you are going to get dinged up, especially when you are constantly defending Trump’s various statements; 2) The more time Scaramucci has in front of the camera and as his profile grows, it is more likely that Trump gets sick of seeing him and becomes jealous of the attention he’s getting.

    Scaramucci is essentially taking on a press secretary’s job, since he’ll be on camera a lot. That’s a tough gig no matter what. With Trump, it’s an impossible gig, because the only way to defend the guy is to debase yourself constantly. Eventually you just get worn down. And as Lowry says, on the off chance that you can survive despite this, Trump will get jealous of you and figure out a way to fire you.

    Once again, we’re left with one of life’s imponderables: why would anyone work for Donald Trump? It is a mystery.

  • Donald Trump’s Revenge Is Coming Soon

    So what did I miss yesterday? In the Senate, I guess Obamacare “clean repeal” went down in flames, where it joins “repeal-and-replace.” So what’s left? Republicans can try to amend BCRA enough to win more votes, but considering how many votes they need to pass it, that seems like a lost cause. So now it’s on to “skinny repeal,” aka “let’s punt this off to another committee and see what they come up with.” But any committee that includes House members is only going to push to make the Senate bill even worse, and what are the odds that this will earn more Senate votes?

    Never say never, but it looks like Obamacare repeal is dead. This means that President Trump will almost certainly begin Operation Sabotage, designed to wreck Obamacare while trying to blame it all on Democrats. Politically this seems unlikely to work, but it will certainly make life worse for millions of poor and working-class Americans. But that’s Donald for you. He has to take revenge on someone, and if he can’t take it out on Democrats, he’ll take it out on the ordinary people that Democrats care about.

    And speaking of taking revenge, I see that Trump decided to ban transgender people from the military. This seems to have come out of nowhere. The military wasn’t pushing for it, and was taken by surprise when they read Trump’s tweets announcing the new policy.¹ I don’t think that social conservatives had this on their radar either. So whose idea was it? And what’s the point? Is it to build a bit of credibility with social conservatives, who are starting to get pretty peeved with Trump’s treatment of right-wing darling Jeff Sessions? Is it to stick a finger in the eye of those bad Democrats who are holding up Trumpcare? Is it some Bannon-esque move with a motivation too obscure for us to figure out?

    I don’t know. All I know is that it looks like Trump is close to losing a big battle, and his instinct when that happens is to lash out. We should all assume that he’s going to do his best over the next few weeks to piss off liberals one way or another. Sadly, since he doesn’t have much leverage over actual members of Congress, that may well mean taking out his anger on vulnerable populations that liberals care about.

    ¹Yes, he informed the Pentagon of this new policy via Twitter.

    UPDATE: I see that the reason for Trump’s transgender policy is more prosaic than I thought:

    House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico. But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

    They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

    So the transgender ban (a) helps him with defense hawks, (b) helps get his priorities funded, and (c) reverses a policy Obama put in place. Simple.

  • 6 PM Photo

    All done. After an evening full of deep-fried meatballs, funnel cakes, and G Force, this is what the world looks like on the way out. See you next year!

  • 2 PM Photo

    How about a funnel cake for dessert? What’s a county fair without funnel cakes?

  • 1 PM Photo

    Among other things, I thought the fair would be a good place for some people pictures. But despite the outward show of color and light, at ground level it was surprisingly dim unless you were right next to one of the food stands. So this is it. This is literally the only picture of a person I took that was in focus and close to properly exposed. It was taken in an indoor pavilion, the shrewdly-named “Parade of Products.”

  • Noon Photo

    After a dinner of deep-fried peanut butter meatballs, how about a nice ride on the tilt-a-whirl?

  • 11 AM Photo

    Prof M wanted food on a stick. How about a corn dog? Too ordinary. A sausage dog? Too much like a corn dog. Chicken on a stick? That’s just a kabob. Octopus on a stick? Blah. Ravioli on a stick? Meh.

    But credit where it’s due: when I pointed out the deep-fried peanut butter meatballs on a stick, he dove in. But it was a failed mission. He ate one of the meatballs, and tossed the other two. Apparently they were as bad as they sound.

    This is Nick at the peanut-butter meatball stand, aka Chicken Charlie’s. Prof M is in the background negotiating his purchase.

  • 10 AM Photo

    Mmmm, a grill full of nice, smoky, jumbo turkey legs. You can almost smell the fair already, can’t you?

  • 9 AM Photo

    It’s Saturday night, so the fair was nice and crowded. This is what the central midway looked like when we entered the fairgrounds.

  • 8 AM Photo

    I’m off all day today. Please make sure nothing too terrible happens in my absence.

    However, I won’t leave you blogless. My friend Professor Marc is in town, and on Saturday night we headed out to the Orange County Fair. I went to take pictures. He went to find food on a stick. As it turns out, I didn’t get any really good photos—how’s that for salesmanship?—but I got a bunch of OK ones. And thanks to the miracle of computer technology, I can schedule these to show up every hour on the hour while I’m gone.

    First off, here’s the whole fair, taken from the top of the R50XL, “quite possibly the largest traveling observation wheel in the Western Hemisphere.” Come back in an hour for another exciting picture!

  • Trumpcare Is Voted Down

    With debate over health care now proceeding, it’s time to vote on actual health care bills. A few moments ago the Senate voted against BCRA, their primary repeal-and-replace bill. This is the one they’ve been working busily on for the past couple of months. It wasn’t close: the bill went down 43-57 or thereabouts.

    Next up, I suppose, is a bunch of amendments and then a revote? I’m not sure. Or maybe they’ll go straight to voting on the 2015 repeal-only bill.

    Eventually they’ll get to the placeholder “skinny repeal” bill and just punt the whole thing to a conference committee. They’ll probably get 50 votes for that. Senators are always in favor of punting.

    UPDATE: This was just a “procedural” vote. Everything in the Senate is a procedural vote. This means that BCRA might get modified and then get another vote. But chances of passage are dim. It lost by a mighty big margin tonight.

  • Senate Votes to Proceed With Something or Other

    While I was out to lunch, I guess the Senate voted to proceed with debate on the Republican health care bill. They still don’t know which bill they’re going to debate, but they’re going to debate anyway. Welcome to the world’s greatest deliberative body.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    The local tomato crop is coming in, so today I present “Rhapsody in Red and Green.” I am willing to sell it to MOMA for $5 million, and I think that’s quite a bargain.

  • Quote of the Day: “I’m Worried”

    The best kind of mic is a hot mic. Senators Susan Collins and Jack Reed confided in a hot mic yesterday, and the Washington Post has the transcript:

    “I swear, [the Office of Management and Budget] just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out,” Collins says. “With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”

    “Yes,” Reed replies. “I think — I think he’s crazy,” apparently referring to the president. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.”

    “I’m worried,” Collins replies.

    Collins later claimed that she was “worried” about the budget, not Trump’s sanity. Sure, whatever. But it’s certainly true that she was also worried about the budget:

    “You know, this thing — if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed.”

    “I know,” Collins replies….“I don’t think he knows there is a [Budget Control Act] or anything,” Collins says, referring to a 2011 law that defines the budget process.

    “He was down at the Ford commissioning,” Reed says, referring to President Trump’s weekend event launching a new aircraft carrier, “saying, ‘I want them to pass my budget.’ Okay, so we give him $54 billion and then we take it away across the board which would cause chaos.”

    “Right,” Collins replies.

    “It’s just — and he hasn’t — not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling,” Reed says.

    “Good point,” Collins replies.

    “You’ve got [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin saying it’s got to be clean,” Reed continues. “We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”

    There are already crazy people in the House, so I’m not sure why Reed thinks September is going to be any different than July. Also crazy people in the White House. And on House of Cards. There are just crazy people everywhere.

  • Can Mitch McConnell Teach a Horse to Sing?

    Chris Kleponis/CNP via ZUMA

    Which health care bill will the Senate vote on today? Apparently the answer is “all of them.” According to reporters on Capitol Hill, there might be three votes today:

    • A vote on the 2015 “repeal only” bill. It’s expected to fail, as well it should since it’s insane.
    • The full BCRA magilla, complete with Cruz Amendment. However, that can’t pass under reconciliation, so it will need 60 votes. Obviously it’s expected to fail.
    • A “skinny repeal” bill with just a few minor provisions. It’s not a serious piece of legislation, just a placeholder to allow negotiations with the House to begin.

    In other words, give up and punt the whole thing to a House-Senate negotiating team. Maybe they can come up with something that the Senate couldn’t figure out on its own.

    That’s not likely. But you know the story: I might die, the king might die, or the horse could learn to sing.¹ You never know what might happen when you buy yourself some time, even in a hopeless cause.

    ¹You’ve never heard this story? Seriously? Fine, here it is: A thief was on trial before the King and sentenced to death. The thief asked the King to spare his life. “You don’t know it, but I am the greatest teacher in your land. If you spare my life, I promise to teach your horse to sing.” The King smirked but accepted the offer. You have a year, and if the horse cannot sing, you will be killed.

    Daily, after that, the thief spent his entire day singing hymns to the horse. His friends laughed as they saw him and asked what he hoped to accomplish. “Many things can happen in a year,” the thief told them. “The King may die, the horse may die, I may even die. Or … maybe the horse will learn to sing.”

  • Trump’s Twitter War Against Jeff Sessions Continues

    The president’s Twitter war against his own attorney general is now going into its fifth day:

    Sarah Sanders, our shiny new press secretary, says we should look forward to more of this:

    Look, I know that he is certainly frustrated and disappointed in the attorney general for recusing himself, but as we’ve said, I think that’s a decision that if the president wants to make, he certainly will. And, he’s continuing to move forward and focus on other things, but that frustration certainly hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it will.

    Come on, Donald, you’re not a waffler like that Obama guy. You’re a man of action. So order Jeff Sessions to start investigating this stuff. Or just fire the guy. The American people want Rudy Giuliani as attorney general and it’s up to you to give them what they want.

  • Here’s What Donald Trump Told the Boy Scouts

    Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via ZUMA

    By now you’ve heard about President Trump’s address to the Boy Scout Jamboree yesterday. But to really get a feel for it, you need to read a few excerpts. He treated it like a campaign rally, full stop. After all, some of these kids will be old enough to vote in 2020, amirite?

    So here it is. Your president addressing a bunch of boy scouts.


    Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. — you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. We’re going to put that aside


    Secretary Tom Price is also here. Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our Secretary of Health and Human Services. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us, folks.

    AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!

    THE PRESIDENT: By the way, you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, Tom, you’re fired. I’ll get somebody.

    He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it.


    THE PRESIDENT: I’m waving to people back there so small I can’t even see them. Man, this is a lot of people. Turn those cameras back there, please. That is so incredible. By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero?

    The fake media will say: President Trump — and you know what this is — President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.

    That’s some — that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news. Thank you. And I’m honored by that, by the way, all of you people they can’t even see you. So thank you. I hope you can hear.


    AUDIENCE: We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!

    THE PRESIDENT: By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?

    AUDIENCE: No!


    I have to tell you our economy is doing great. Our stock market has picked up — since the election November 8th. Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date. Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8th, where they said — these dishonest people — where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump? They forgot about the forgotten people. By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out. But I told them, far too late. It’s far too late.

    But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say?

    And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania.

    We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270. I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won — one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in.


    THE PRESIDENT: And I’ll tell you what, we are, indeed, making America great again. What’s going on is incredible.

    We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America. We’re doing things that nobody ever thought was possible.


    And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying, merry Christmas again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying, merry Christmas again, folks.


    But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say?…We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. We won and won….And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told —

    AUDIENCE: Booo!

    THE PRESIDENT: She was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute, the car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move?


    THE PRESIDENT: And I’ll tell you what, we are, indeed, making America great again. What’s going on is incredible.

    We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America. We’re doing things that nobody ever thought was possible.