Oh goody:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked the White House to lift Obama-era restrictions on U.S. military support for Persian Gulf states engaged in a protracted civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to senior Trump administration officials.

....Approval of the request would mark a significant policy shift. U.S. military activity in Yemen until now has been confined mainly to counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda’s affiliate there....It would also be a clear signal of the administration’s intention to move more aggressively against Iran. The Trump White House, in far stronger terms than its predecessor, has echoed Saudi and Emirati charges that Iran is training, arming and directing the Shiite Houthis in a proxy war to increase its regional clout against the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies.

The Yemen civil war is one of the dirtiest little wars around. It's yet another proxy Sunni-Shia conflict, and it's not helped by the fact that the Saudi Arabians are fairly incompetent at prosecuting it. We're not going to be willing to endlessly fund an incompetent war, so if we get more heavily involved there's no telling where it ends. I hope somebody is asking James Mattis exactly what he thinks the long-term game plan is here.

Dinnertime Photo

I'm sure you're all waiting eagerly for the results of the Irvine Reaching for the Cure Half Marathon today. Sadly, MoJo's stringer, who happens to live right on the course, fell down on the job. The first-place man ran by him while he was dicking around doing something else, and the first place woman was hopelessly out of focus.

The good news is that we got a fine photo of the second-place woman. Here is Arizona Cardinals fan Natasha Gunaratne, who took second place—and first in the 25-29 age category—with a time of 1:31:00:

The sad thing about this tweet is that it really would be news if Donald Trump was at the White House working this weekend:

But no: Trump played golf at his club in Virginia this weekend, so it's not clear what Fox was up to here. Perhaps they meant to say that by 5:26 pm on Sunday, Trump was back in the White House.

Normally, I'd suggest that everyone cool it with the golf snark. We've now had four consecutive presidents who have taken endless grief every time they hit the links, and it's pretty stupid. Let 'em golf if they want to. But there are two differences with Trump. First, the guy really does play a ton of golf. You'd think the first few months of a new presidency would be a busy time, but Trump has played 12 rounds of golf, mostly at Mar-a-Lago, in only ten weekends. That's more than he played before he was president. Second, like an embarrassed drunk, he's now trying to hide his golf addiction. This weekend marked the second in a row in which his press office tried to pretend that Trump was "meeting with people" at the club, only to have Trump's golfing exposed, as they must have known it would be, by someone with a cell phone tweeting out pictures. Why do they bother with such flimsy and easily exposed lies?

And while we're on the subject of Trump, I'd like to note that he's hit the quadfecta I predicted on Thursday. He has now blamed all four of the following for the failure of Trumpcare:

  • Paul Ryan, for insisting on doing health care before tax reform and then being unable to shepherd the bill through the House.
  • The Freedom Caucus, for voting against his bill.
  • Democrats, for...being the opposition party, I guess.
  • Obama, for deliberately designing Obamacare to fail in 2017.

Apparently Reince Priebus is also taking some heat from within the White House, because he's pals with Ryan and was supposed to know about all this congressional hoo ha. But it's not clear if Trump himself blames Priebus for anything.

This story from the Sunday Times leaves me in a quandary:

Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill — thought to be for more than £300bn — for money her country “owed” NATO for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed.

The bill — handed over during private talks in Washington — was described as “outrageous” by one German minister. “The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

What to think? On the one hand, reporting on items like this from the British press is notoriously unreliable. On the other hand, it's moronic beyond belief, which makes it perfectly plausible that Trump might have done this. Hmmm.

On Friday—that's 24 hours ago for those of you with short memories—President Trump insisted that he had no hard feelings toward Paul Ryan. Ryan had worked hard on the health care bill, and it was just bad luck that it failed. In fact, it was really the fault of the Democrats, who hadn't provided a single vote. Not one!

However, experienced Trump watchers noticed a brief aside: he mentioned that there were a few things he would have done differently—but he wasn't going to talk about that. This is Trump code for "I'm not to blame and I won't be able to bottle up my whining for long. I definitely will talk about these things eventually."

So how long would Trump be able to hold his tongue? A few days? A whole week? Nope. About 18 hours, it turned out:

And here's what Jeanine Pirro said a few hours after that on her Fox News program:

What a guy. Within 24 hours Trump is sticking a shiv in Paul Ryan's back without even a pretense of keeping it private. He doesn't have the guts to tell Ryan to his face, so instead he uses a TV show to pass along the message.

The real message, of course, is that no one should ever work with Trump. He'll throw you under the bus at the first hint that he needs someone to take the blame for something that went awry. And maybe Ryan should take him up on this. When John Boehner retired and Kevin McCarthy flamed out, Republicans were literally left with no plausible candidates for Speaker who were acceptable to all factions of the party. Ryan was the only one who came close, so if he quits the GOP is in for some real chaos. That's just what they need as they try to get a budget in place and start work on a hugely complex tax cut for the rich.

A US airstrike in Mosul last week appears to have killed upwards of 200 civilians. The New York Times reports:

American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed. They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.

....Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State....Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened: Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians.

....Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes. Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration.

This may simply be an appalling incident not related to any change in policy. Even with the best preparation, sometimes horrible things happen when you're at war. Still, in the past two months we've had a botched raid in Yemen; two attacks in Syria with heavy civilian casualties; and now an airstrike in Mosul that left hundreds of civilians dead. It's fair to wonder if a guy whose idea of military strategy is to "bomb the shit out of ISIS" has also decided that he doesn't much care about civilian casualties while he's doing it.

Here's a fascinating chart from the Wall Street Journal:

Even the Journal's own description says "holdouts from two wings of the party" sank the Republican health care bill. But that's not what their own chart shows. Ideologically, there was neither a "coverage caucus" nor a "conservative" caucus. The holdouts spanned the entire spectrum of the party in a pretty even way.

I can't think of any insightful point to make about this, but it's worth mentioning anyway. The conventional narrative of the bill being caught between two extreme ends of the party looks like it's not really correct.

By the way, here's how the Journal's article begins:

With the collapse of Republicans’ health plan in the House on Friday, the Trump administration is set to ramp up its efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act in one of the few ways it has left—by making changes to the law through waivers and rule changes.

Obamacare won't implode on its own, but it might after Trump does everything he can to sabotage it.

Here is the last paragraph of David Brooks' blow-by-blow evisceration of every single thing related to the Republican health care debacle:

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

Remember the Mayberry Machiavellis? In the Bush White House they were "staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption." This is now the entire Republican Party leadership. Keep in mind that they never wanted to propose an Obamacare replacement in the first place. They figured they could just promise one for later. So deliciously Machiavellian! But it turned out that even the rubes who usually take their cues from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity saw through their repeal-and-delay ploy. So they had to come up with a plan. Any plan.

And they did. Within a few days they whipped up a health care bill. No one cared very much what was in it. Sean Spicer's initial selling point—seriously—was the fact that it was much shorter than Obamacare. A few days later the CBO gave it possibly the most devastating score of any bill in history: 24 million people would lose coverage. But that was just substance, not important stuff like politics, so Republicans shrugged. When Tucker Carlson told Donald Trump about the millions who would be kicked off their plans, Trump muttered "I know" and swiftly moved on.

Then the horsetrading began. Not over details here and there, but over the very foundations of the bill. Old people would see their premiums treble or quadruple, which nobody considered a problem until AARP pointed out that old people vote. So Paul Ryan tossed in $75 billion and told the Senate to figure out what to do with the money. Cutting nearly a trillion dollars in Medicaid funding wasn't enough for some? Fine, let states add work requirements. The ultras don't like essential health benefits? Out they go.

By the time they were finished, a Rube Goldberg bill that was as brutal as anything we've ever seen had almost literally become tatters. Nobody cared what was in it. Nobody cared if it would work. Nobody cared if it would actually cover anyone.

And even at that, something like 90 percent of the Republican House caucus was apparently willing to shrug and vote for it. Promise made, promise kept. Who cares what's in it?

The silver lining here is that apparently there really is a limit to the power of Mayberry Machiavellianism. Merely repeating that the bill was "great" over and over wasn't enough. The hustle was just too raw. Even the white working class, the famous demographic that delivered the White House to Donald Trump, disapproved of the bill 48-22 percent.

So now we move on to tax cuts for the rich. Will the hustle work this time? Or has health care finally made even the Fox News crowd skeptical that Republicans have the best interests of the working class at heart?

The American Action Network PAC aired a bunch of ads on basketball games tonight congratulating Republican members of Congress for voting to repeal Obamacare. Here's my artist's conception of Obama's response.

Pete Souza/The White House via ZUMA

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton (R–TX) earns quote-of-the-day honors for this explanation of why, after Republicans had unanimously voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly over the past six years, they couldn't get it done this time:

Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game. We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.

LOLOLOLOLOL. And Trump himself comes in a close second:

I’m a team player....It’s very hard when you need almost 100 percent of the votes and we have no votes, zero, from the Democrats. It’s unheard of.

Unheard of! LOLOLOLOLOL.

If you want to know why Trumpcare failed so disastrously, here's a big part of the answer:

The process toward passing Obamacare began on March 5, 2009, when President Obama convened a "health summit" with various players in the health care industry. It finished 383 days later, on March 23, 2010, when he signed it into law.

Trumpcare began life on February 16, 2017, when Paul Ryan released an outline of what a Republican bill would look like. It was abandoned 36 days later, on March 24, 2017.

And this doesn't even count the fact that Democrats had been seriously debating and designing health care policy for decades before Obamacare was born. Republicans had never gone much beyond the debating point stage. But policy matters: detailed, messy, real-life policy that makes compromises in order to produce something that works and has the support of all the stakeholders. The problem is that Trump isn't used to that kind of thing. Ezra Klein points out today that, in fact, Trump isn't a very good dealmaker. That's true, and it's something I've written about frequently. But he also says this:

In Trump’s past jobs, he could simply move on from failed deals and find new partners, and new markets, and new sectors. But that’s not how the presidency works, and it’s not clear he realizes that.

"Take it or leave it" works only if you really are willing to leave it. Trump often is, because he can always turn around and do a different deal with someone else. But there's only one Congress. If Trump gets bored after a whole month of negotiations and gives up, there's no other Congress he can turn to. That's why Trumpcare is dead.