July 20, 2017: Exhaustion Equality | Teflon President | Tucker Raging

Good Morning. First, we’d like to wish Senator John McCain, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer, a quick recovery. We hope to see him back on the scene soon. It has been another busy week, with health care reform collapsing, Al Gore back in the news and a blockbuster New York Times interview with the president.

1. Exhaustion Equality

Dear Readers, we thought it was just us, Blue State inhabitants, who were suffering from Trump fatigue, but we are increasingly seeing signs the other side’s energy is flagging, too. It is not just that Fox’s ratings and Breitbart’s readership may be ebbing, it’s that other frontline troops on the Right may also be wearying. The conservative blogger Erick Erickson posted this call for help Wednesday on his website, The Resurgent:

It has only been six months since President Trump became President. It feels like an eternity of bickering, never ending fighting, media retracting stories, the Trump team screwing up stories, and the President waging constant battles on Twitter.

I do this for a living and I am exhausted by it. I find myself tuning out of the constant rage on Twitter — more often tweeting and only viewing replies from people I follow. A website that once had the great potential to build community has instead turned good people terrible. Twitter brings out the worst in us all and the constant news cycle only makes it worse.

I find myself taking breaks to take pictures or cook or just go for a walk. I do this for a living. I have a radio show in the evenings. I am on TV. This is my work. And I can’t stand it any more.

2. Health Care and the Teflon Trump

So who is to blame for the latest failure to repeal and replace Obamacare? The Neo-con John Podhoretz, never a Trump fan, pointed his finger at the president for failure to show leadership, This, however, was a surprisingly isolated point of view on the right. Amazingly, blame just won’t stick to Trump. Instead, the Red Media mostly blamed Congress.

Chris Stirewalt of Fox News’s Halftime Report summed it up neatly like this: “There is much debate about who is to blame. The short answer is everyone. But on the question of whether it is Republican lawmakers or the president who are mostly responsible for this debacle, the weight of judgment has to fall ever so slightly on the professionals.”

Townhall’s political editor, Guy Benson, offered a more typically strident assessment:

This is unacceptable; Republican voters shouldn't forget what happened here, especially if and when things get worse -- which I suspect they will. Rather than entering a formal debate on the bill, these Senators joined forces with Chuck Schumer's obstruction. Rather than proposing changes to the bill in a limitless "vote-a-rama," they torpedoed any chance of improvement or passage. Rather than working to at least theoretically enhance the legislative language before determining whether to cast an aye or nay on an imperfect non-repeal package (that at least arguably makes important progress), they ensured that the GOP would not even hold a final vote on a replacement plan they've been promising voters for seven years. This is a debacle and a betrayal.

Rush Limbaugh went one step further, saying that failing to pass Obamacare was a deliberate strategy of the ensconced political class:

We’re in the midst of a silent coup. These people are trying to take this president out. And everybody understands that. So why in that circumstance do you think that the same people trying to destroy Donald Trump are going to help him get rid of Obamacare? Are going to help him reform the tax code? They’re not. They are going to have to be defeated, not worked with. There isn’t any cooperation.

Fox & Friends, the television show designed just for the president, seconded this idea of Trump as victim yesterday morning: One of the hosts, Steve Doocy, opened the discussion on the health bill by saying: "You've got to feel for Donald Trump." He and his co-hosts then spent several minutes degrading the GOP Senators who would not support repealing without replacing.

What We’re Watching:

So the real question is: What will voters make of the failure to replace and repeal? WIll they care? An Axios article disputed the common wisdom that they do. The article argued that polling shows that despite the GOP’s emphasis on the issue, Trump voters don’t care much about health care policy.

“Health care was not the top concern for Trump voters and Republican voters in the 2016 presidential election. It ranked far behind their general concerns about the direction the country is headed in, jobs and the economy, and their feelings about Hillary Clinton. Just 7% of Trump voters and a paltry 5% of Republican voters picked healthcare as the biggest factor in their vote.”

The New York Times says that, beyond health care, Trump may be hurting more than the polls show. The numbers indicate that Trump has retained strong support among his base, but do they measure if his base itself is shrinking?

“People who identify as Republican may stop doing so if they disapprove of Trump, creating a false stability in his partisan approval numbers even as the absolute number of people approving him shrinks. Gallup data supports this idea, showing a four-percentage-point decline in G.O.P. identification since the 2016 election that is mirrored in other polling, though to a lesser extent.”

Also on Our Radar:

With the health care push on life support (although this assessment changes hourly), the G.O.P. seems to be gearing up for a push on tax reform. However, The Washington Times worries that this will just set up another intra-party battle. “Conservative lawmakers are calling for deeper spending cuts and more clarity on the tax plan. They also are at odds with Mr. Trump’s promise not to cut Medicare.”

3. Tucker Goes Gypsy

We know that Fox new hosts are not picked for their restraint. Still, one or another will occasionally have a moment that surprises us. This week, for example, Tucker Carlson led off one of his shows with an attack on a small group of Gypsy immigrants in a Pennsylvania town. Carlson accused them of defecating in the street. According to Media Matters, Carlson’s harangue was part of a larger conservative media assault on immigrants in general, not just Muslims or Hispanics.  

Tucker has also launched a war on Neo-Cons, many of whom are Never-Trumpers and have long been at odds with the Trump/Fox news populist view of the party. But apparently Carlson has upped the viciousness quotient. Here’s an account by Max Boot in Commentary of his appearance on Carlson’s show:

We all make mistakes. My most recent one was agreeing to go on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on July 12 to discuss—I thought—President Trump and U.S. policy toward Russia. Instead, I got the equivalent of a barrel of raw sewage dumped on my head…..

I was, therefore, greatly surprised to read articles about our encounter which made this nasty, grubby, dispiriting spectacle sound not like something out of the World Wrestling Federation but, rather, the reincarnation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Both the liberal writer Peter Beinart in The Atlantic and Curt Mills in the Realpolitiker National Interest lauded Carlson for taking a brave stand against dread “neocons” like me who supposedly dominate Republican foreign-policy.

4. Leaks, Damned Leaks, Who in Trump’s Circle Leaks?

Who in Trump’s inner circle leaks? We thought we’d share this bit of juiciness from Joshua Green’s acclaimed new book “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency.” The setting: It‘s 7:22 p.m on Election Night and CNN’s Jim Acosta has just reported that a senior Trump adviser had told him: “It will take a miracle for us to win.”

Bannon didn’t have to guess at the culprit. He simply assumed it was Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, and how the hell would she know? Conway was a pollster by trade, but she tested messaging, not horse race, and the campaign had her cut off weeks earlier because Trump preferred to see her spinning on TV. ...

He could never fathom why people like Conway worked so hard to win goodwill from reporters (most of whom, he thought, were idiots with no earthly idea what was really going on) or why they cared so much about appearances.

5. Al Gore Watch

After laying low for a decade or more, the former vice president is back in the spotlight with a sequel to his Academy Award winning movie “Inconvenient Truth.” It almost seemed to us that the conservative media welcomed Gore, who has been a familiar and reliable scapegoat over the years. They duly went about attacking him for scaremongering without actually addressing the science. Here is a National Review take on Gore's interview on "Fox News Sunday":

For a fleeting moment while watching the interview, one could reminisce about the era when Democrats didn’t sound off-the-rails hysterical, as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders often do. Gore still has his signature monotone, robotic cadence that can temporarily lull one into believing anything he says. But then he quickly pivots to the same apocalyptic rhetoric that made him a climate cult hero after his failed presidential bid.

Rush, as always, upped the rhetoric ante:

“Al Gore is back. He’s got a sequel to his first book and movie, An Inconvenient “Lie.” And now this is an inconvenient sequel or whatever it is. And folks, it’s insane. Now, I fear I’m beginning to overuse the word. I don’t know what else to use. It’s just chock-full of literal lies. But I don’t know how else to characterize it.”

6. A Few Other Things

Well, if you are looking for depressing summer reading, the Anti-Defamation League has unveiled a data base of the big players in the alt-right and alt-lite movement. It was full of surprises, including the fact that one of the haters makes his home in the leafy journalist-heavy enclave of Montclair, N.J..

Meanwhile, Trump’s interview with The New York Times is getting a lot of attention for two things: the president’s open dissing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and for a veiled threat to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We’ve noted the blue Twittersphere is outraged but we are still waiting for Conservative opinion. As of early this morning, most Right websites seemed simply to give straight accounts of the interview without adding comment. The Drudge Report linked to the Times story itself with the headline “President Throws Sessions Shade.”