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Jim Watson/Getty Images
(Credit: Salon/Flora Thevoux)
(In this brand-new, hastily conceived premise, Salon will use the otherwise unlimited space of the site to profile a person in the news who has until recently lived largely under the radar. And by under the radar, we mean above gratuitous satire.)
FULL NAME: Devin Gerard Nunes Icantcommentonthatnow
OCCUPATION: U.S. Representative, California, 22nd District. (Formerly represented California’s 21st District from 2003-2013, but moved to 22nd because of more Wi-Fi hotspots.) In 2016, Nunes ran unopposed, yet received more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions. Strangely, 80 percent of the donations were spent on debate prep.
HERITAGE: Portuguese descent, Portuguese-American dissent. Nunes’ ancestry can be traced back to the 15th century, where five distant cousins were crew members on Columbus’ ill-fated fifth ship, the Santa Scurvy.
EARLY LIFE: Nunes’ family has operated a farm in Tulare County, California, for three generations. When Devin was 11, instead of telling his father, he called a local radio station to claim he had found incidental evidence of flies on cows. The next day, he apologized to his father and said he had called in to the radio station to win Huey Lewis tickets. The day after that, he revised his statement, now claiming he called in for Huey Long tickets. The day after that, he answered questions before geography class and admitted there were no flies in the direct vicinity of the cows, that he was trying to get on the good side of a pig and that everything he had said might be untrue because his mind had been corrupted by the EPA. Or the ERA. Whatever is the one that is against disposable diapers. Despite overwhelming demand among his classmates, he refused to step down as lunchroom monitor.
SPOUSE: Elizabeth Tamariz. She runs a business out of their home breeding lapdogs.
HONORS: In 2013, Nunes was named a Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry. This award took the sting out of being nominated but not winning the 2008 Vasco Da Gama Prize for Good Natural Sense of Direction.
ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD: In 2014, in the middle of the California drought, Nunes declared, “Global warming is nonsense. There’s plenty of water.” Two days later, to prove his point, in front of eight constituents, Nunes fashioned a divining rod out of two selfie sticks, staggered 500 feet into an AM-PM MiniMart and emerged with a one-liter bottle of Dasani.
The following year, Nunes coined the term “man-made drought,” claiming environmental regulations had created water restrictions in his home state. “Man-made drought” finished as the second runner-up in Webster’s “Least Convincing New Phrase of 2015” to “Ponzi Clinic.”
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: On April 24, 2012, Nunes met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón as part of the U.S.-Mexican Friendship Caucus. Nunes served on the U.S.-Mexican Friendship Caucus until it was disbanded on June 15, 2015, at noon, when workers in the lobby of Trump Tower turned on the down escalator.
FAILED LEGISLATION: In 2004, as an eager freshman congressman, Nunes was unable to find a co-sponsor for a bill that, if passed, would have made it a felony for anyone to view internet porn outside of a SCIF room.
CHAIRMAN: Nunes was named chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in January 2015, nine months after incumbent Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he would not seek an eighth term in Congress. Rogers eventually became a national security correspondent for CNN. I’ll take irony for $2,000, Alex.
EARLIER WORK ON HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Nunes extensively investigated the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and found no evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton, other than wearing white after Labor Day.
PRESIDENT TRUMP ON NUNES: “He’s a good guy. I like good guys. Let me tell you the type of guys I don’t like. Bad guys. I don’t like bad guys, and what’s more, I don’t care for them. And I should point this out. I called it. I said he was a good guy. I can’t remember where I was, only that it was a huge crowd, I turned to whoever was up my ass and I said, ‘Jared, that guy? He’s a good guy.’ Here’s the thing that’s sad. Nobody reported it. Which is a problem. And I’ll tell you why it’s a problem. Because it’s the type of thing you should report on. When the president calls something. You know that ‘SNL’ midget that just lost on ‘Dancing With the Stars?’ I called it. Nothing. Where is the three-part, you know, three-part investigation exposé on that? See, this is the type of thing we’re dealing with. And, excuse me, one more thing. I never said ‘midget.’”
LAST THING HE RECUSED HIMSELF FROM: The final hour of the film “Loving.”
HOW HE LIKES TO UNWIND: The last 14 years, Nunes and his family have had a summer timeshare in the pocket of the Koch brothers. And starting next month, once a week, he’ll throw on a blazer, hop the fence during a shift change and conduct the White House tour.
Bill Scheft was a staff writer for David Letterman from 1991-2015. His fourth novel, “Shrink Thyself,” was published in 2014.
“I blame myself—it was my fault, and I take full responsibility for it,” Donald Trump never said, not once in his entire life.
Here’s what else the president didn’t say about the rout and ruin of repeal and replace: “I was clueless about health care policy. Instead of reading my briefing books or even my own bill, I played golf. I bullshitted my way through every meeting and phone call. And when it was explained to me that this dumpster fire of a bill would break my promise that everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they are now, which was a huge applause line by the way, I threw my own voters under the bus.”
In the wake of his Waterloo, instead of manning up, Trump blamed Democrats for not voting to strip health insurance from 24 million people, not voting to cut Medicaid by $880 billion in order to cut taxes by $883 billion and not voting to obliterate the signature legislative accomplishment of the Barack Obama years.
“Look,” he complained with crocodile bafflement to the New York Times, “we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero.” Yet Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had not asked a single Democrat what it would take to get them to support a health care bill. “The good news,” Trump said, seeing the sunny side of the catastrophe he predicts is coming, is that the Democrats “now own Obamacare.” Don’t blame me—it’ll be their fault when it explodes, not mine.
Trump blamed Republicans, too. The morning of Friday, March 24, when the bill was still in play, he tweeted that if the Freedom Caucus stops his plan, they would be allowing Planned Parenthood to continue. That afternoon, amid the wreckage, Trump told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa he was just an innocent bystander. “There are years of problems, great hatred and distrust” in the Republican Party, “and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”
White House aides, bravely speaking without attribution, blamed Ryan for snookering the rookie-in-chief into tackling Obamacare before tax reform. Trump himself told Costa, “I don’t blame Paul.” He repeated it: “I don’t blame Paul.” Then again: “I don’t blame Paul at all.”
The laddie doth protest too much, methinks. By tweet time Saturday morning, clairvoyantly touting Jeanine Pirro’s Saturday night Fox News show, Trump had found a surrogate to stick the knife in Ryan without his fingerprints on it. “This is not on President Trump,” Pirro said, avowing that “no one expected a businessman,” a “complete outsider,” to understand “the complicated ins and outs of Washington.” No, it’s on Ryan, she said. Ryan must step down.
Blame precedes politics. In Western civilization’s genesis story, Adam blamed Eve for tempting him, and he blamed God for Eve. But America’s genesis story contains a noble, if apocryphal, counter-narrative: When George Washington’s father asked him who chopped down the cherry tree, the future father of his country didn’t blame someone else—he copped to it. That’s the legacy Harry Truman claimed when he put “The buck stops here” sign on his Oval Office desk.
But Trump is the consummate blame artist, a buck-passer on a sociopathic scale. He kicked off his campaign by blaming Mexico for sending us rapists and stealing our jobs. He blamed Hillary Clinton for founding the birther movement. He blamed President Obama for founding ISIS. He blamed Obama’s Labor Department for publishing a “phony” unemployment rate. He blamed 3 million illegal voters for his losing the popular vote to Clinton. He blamed the botched raid in Yemen on U.S. generals. When U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled against his Muslim travel ban, he blamed Robart for future terrorism: “If something happens, blame him and the court system.” He blamed “fake news” for treating Michael Flynn, “a wonderful man” he had fired as his national security adviser, “very, very unfairly.” He blamed Obama for wiretapping Trump Tower. He made his spokesman blame British intelligence for carrying that out. When GCHQ called that a crock, Trump played artful dodger: “All we did was quote … a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”
Obamacare is imperfect but fixable. But Trump wants to bomb it, not improve it. He wants to light the fuse and then blame Democrats for exploding it. Trump could shore up the insurance exchanges that cover 10 million Americans by marketing them when enrollment opens again in November—but I bet he won’t. He could instruct government lawyers to appeal a lawsuit halting federal subsidies for co-payments and deductibles of low-income enrollees that House Republicans won last year—but I bet he won’t. On the other hand, he has the power to narrow the essential benefits Obamacare requires insurers to provide by, say, limiting prescription drug coverage and lowering the number of visits allowed for mental health treatment or physical therapy—and I bet he will.
Will Trump get away with it? He’s spent a lifetime banging his highchair and blaming the dog for his mess. No wonder he calls the free press fake news; no wonder he calls citizen activists paid protesters. You call someone who gets away with blaming others “unaccountable.” You know what the antonym of that is? Impeachable.
This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.
Members of President Donald Trump’s administration will release their personal financial disclosures on Friday afternoon, a public disclosure that is mandated by law.
And so, White House press secretary Sean Spicer took the opportunity at Friday’s press briefing to urge the American people to thank the many millionaires and billionaires in the administration for undergoing this “public scrutiny.” Their disclosures, he insisted, will show they have “set aside a lot” to serve the public.
“One of the really interesting things that people are going to see today, and I think it’s something that should be celebrated, is that the president has brought a lot of people into this administration, into this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country, and have given up a lot to come into government,” Spicer told reporters.
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 31, 2017
Americans, he continued, should thank the very rich members of Trump’s administration — one of the richest and least qualified in modern history — because they’ve sacrificed lots of wealth to enter public service.
“You’ll see that people are often told that they have to sell an asset or get rid of something to come serve in the government,” Spicer said. “But there’s a lot of people that have done a lot to come into this administration to give back.”
During the briefing, Spicer also dodged a question about whether the president will release his latest tax returns, due on April 18.
One reporter pointed out that there’s no way Trump’s newest returns could possibly be under audit yet — Trump’s current reasoning for not releasing his returns — and asked whether that means Trump will release his 2016 tax documents.
“I don’t know,” Spicer said, joking that he’s more concerned with filing his own taxes at the moment.
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Former White House photographer Pete Souza has spent the last eight years of his life photographing President Obama and his family inside the White House. Now that we’re in the Trump era, one peek at Souza’s Instagram account shows just how much he loathes Donald Trump. Usually, Souza trolls Trump with photos of his much more classy and capable predecessor. The photos are a rare look inside the life of President Obama’s historic presidency, and they are definitely a soothing balm on our raw nerves during the chaos that is the Donald Trump presidency. Without further ado, here are just a few photos and videos of some of President Obama’s most memorable moments.
There was that time he spontaneously broke into song at a rally in front of a mesmerized crowd:
And of course there was the time he joked with a woman whose boyfriend embarrassed her in the voting booth, and it went viral and made her day:
This is Souza trolling Trump’s disastrous first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
And of course who can forget his running through the White House with First Dog Bo?
And of course, he’s just awesome with kids:
And last, but certainly not least, there’s the amazing love he shares with the best First Lady we’ve ever had, Michelle Obama:
There’s so much goodness in this account, it was difficult to pic just a few. Thank you, Pete Souza, for sharing these moments in time from the Obama years. For those of us who love this man and miss him so much, it is truly a treasured digital space.
NOTE: What a stark difference between 44 and 45…(ks)
This week, we finally got President Trump’s long-promised executive order dismantling President Obama’s restrictions on carbon pollution — part of his broader assault on Obama’s environmental legacy. Which makes this a good time to have another look at public opinion on climate change.
As I have written before (see here and here), there is a deep and abiding partisan divide in opinion on global warming. That divide has held steady for decades now, through shifting weather, political administrations, and cultural moods.
It is not strange that this partisan divide on climate should exist. America is deeply dividedalong partisan lines, and that is reflected in public opinion on almost every issue, political or otherwise.
What is strange is how much trouble climate hawks, scientists, and environmentalists have had accepting what is right in front of their faces. Millions of words have been written over the years attempting to plumb the socio-psychological depths of climate denialism — endless polls, studies, surveys, focus groups, A-B tests, and analyses seeking an explanation for the alleged mystery of how millions of people could reject well-established scientific conclusions.
But it is no mystery. Republicans deny climate change because they are Republicans and that’s what Republicans do.
The analysts at Rhodium Group have found a nice visual way to illustrate the point. They started with data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which runs a big survey on climate change opinion every year (here’s 2016).
Yale surveys more than 18,000 adults and then runs various kinds of statistical regressions (more on methodology here) to derive county-level data on climate opinion. They then generate opinion maps on various climate-related topics. (I covered 2015’s here.)
Anyway, here’s the map of belief that humans are causing climate change:
Now here is a county-level map of 2016 presidential election voting results:
Notice any similarities? Yeah. They are very close to identical.
Rhodium puts a number on it: “86% of the variation across counties in respondent’s belief that ‘global warming is mostly caused by human activity’ is explained by voting preference.”
Another way of saying this: For practical purposes, most of what you need to know about people’s beliefs on climate change you can glean from their partisan affiliation. To a first approximation, most Democrats accept anthropogenic climate change, and most Republicans don’t.
That’s is a somewhat boring and frustrating conclusion, but it points to the only real path out of this mess.
Research shows that most people do not have particularly firm or coherent opinions on political issues. They don’t really think in terms of “issues” at all, not the way journalists and other politicos do. For the most part, they don’t read or watch political media. They are busy with lives and jobs and families and don’t have time to study policy disputes and form their own independent opinions.
Especially when it comes to something like climate change, which for most people is largely an abstraction, they are content to adopt the beliefs and tropes of their tribes, to go along with what their peers and trusted authorities say. This is true of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Republicans will accept that climate change is an urgent problem that warrants a policy response when leaders in conservative politics and media begin treating it that way. That is the only thing that can or will change the partisan divide on climate.
If you want to know what will bring conservative leaders and politicians around, the right level of analysis is not cognitive or psychological but political — it’s about money and power.
That is the simple and long since obvious truth behind the alleged mystery of climate denial.
It’s worth noting that environmental policies and solutions have not been completely caught up in the climate opinion maelstrom.
Yale also surveyed opinion on carbon controls on power plants (like the Clean Power Plan) and renewable portfolio standards (which require utilities to sell a certain amount of clean energy).
The results still distinctly show the effects of partisanship. “Voter preference in the 2016 Presidential election,” Rhodium writes, “explains 83% of the cross-county variation in both instances.”
But notice something else about these numbers: They are much higher. Carbon pollution standards are supported by an average of 69 percent of Americans. Renewable energy standards are supported by 66 percent. (This compares with 53 percent who accept human-caused climate change.)
The partisan divide shapes public opinion on solutions — clean air and clean energy — just like it does on climate change. But it has not dragged them down as far. They remain broadly popular, uniting Democrats and splitting Republicans. It is odd that ambitious young Democrats don’t make better use of them.
attribution: All The President’s Men
Ten weeks into the @realDonaldTrumpadministration, the truth is finally beginning to catch up with the White House—and the truth is, these are not very bright guys (plus Ivanka), and things got out of hand.
Contrary to the repeatedassertions of PressSecretarySean Spicer, everybody who’s looked into Trump’sconnections to Russia has notconcluded that there wasn’t anycollusion; in fact, the FBI’sinvestigation into the matter appears to expanding.
This week alone, we’ve learned that Trump’stop adviser/son-in-law, Jared Kushner, held a previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a sanctioned Russian bankconnected to the Kremlin; former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn (aka General Misha) has “a story to tell” in exchange for immunity; and, the source behind HouseIntelligenceCommittee chairman Devin Nunes‘ allegation that the Trump transition team had been surveilled by the Obama administration—which Trump latched onto to claim vindication—was none other than the White House itself.
The famous Watergate–era phrase, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” might come to mind, but in this case, both are lookingpretty bad—and the White Housebrain trust seems intent on making things worse for themselves.
Meet the Press: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Roundtable: Greta Van Susteren (MSNBC), Eugene Robinson (Washington Post), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report) & Robert Draper (New York Times Magazine).
Face The Nation: US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX); Sen. Angus King (I-ME); Author Jon Meacham; Roundtable: Susan Page (USA Today), David Ignatius(Washington Post), Peter Baker (New York Times) & Michael Graham(National Review).
This Week: US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov; Roundtable: Anne Gearan(Washington Post), Former National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter & Jonathan Karl (ABC News).
Fox News Sunday: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Roundtable: Radio Host Laura Ingraham, Julie Pace (Associated Press), Former National Security Council Member Gillian Turner & Gerald F. Seib (Wall Street Journal).
State of the Union: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH); Roundtable: Former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D), Rep. Jason Lewis(R-MN), Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress) & Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI).
60 Minutes will feature: an interview with Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, who was charged for killing an unarmed black man (preview); and, an interview with Peter Marino, a tastemaker for the rich and famous (preview).
Late night shows:
Monday: Comedian Chelsea Handler; Actor Jake Johnson; Singer Craig Finn; Drummer Jonathan Mover.
Tuesday: Actor/Rapper Ice T; Actress Freida Pinto; Actor Julio Torres; Drummer Jonathan Mover.
Wednesday: Actress Rashida Jones; Actor Andrew Rannells; Lawyer Alan Dershowitz; Drummer Jonathan Mover.
Thursday: Actor Chris Evans; Actor Mandy Patinkin; Singer-Songwriter Michelle Branch; Drummer Jonathan Mover.
Friday: Guests TBA.
Monday: Abortion Provider Dr. Willie Parker; Tuesday: Comedian Chelsea Handler; Wednesday: Actress Michelle Rodriguez; Thursday: Your Moment of Them – The Best of Jordan Klepper.
Rex Tillerson is reportedly exhibiting some diva-like behavior at the State Department.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below.
On many days, he blocks out several hours on his schedule as “reading time,” when he is cloistered in his office poring over the memos he prefers ahead of in-person meetings.
Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.
Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin (sort of) apologized for his ethical lapse.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin conceded he risked an ethics violation when he recently urged parents to send their kids to The Lego Batman Movie, on which he served as an executive producer.
But Mnuchin, in a letter to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics made public on Friday to NBC News, stopped short of issuing a full apology, and argued instead his quip delivered at a forum organized by new-media startup Axios did not amount to a movie recommendation.
“I want to assure you that I was aware of the rule against using public office to promote a particular product, as I specifically acknowledged in the interview, and in responding to the question posted by the interviewer, it was not my intention to make a product endorsement,” Mnuchin wrote Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the government’s ethics office.
Admitting first that he could run afoul of federal ethics laws, Mnuchin raised eyebrows when he answered, “I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to Lego Batman.”
This week, we were treated to a horrifying little factoid about Vice President Mike Pence, courtesy of The Washington Post.
Pence, an evangelical Christian, apparently refuses to eat meals alone with any woman besides his wife, Karen. He also won’t attend an event where alcohol is served without his wife, an adult woman he reportedly calls “Mother” as a term of endearment, at his side.
This raises a lot of questions, particularly about what self-respecting woman in their right mind tried to parlay a round of happy hour appetizers at an Indiana Chili’s into a torrid affair with the curdled glass of skim milk that is Mike Pence.