ICYMI, Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States, and GOP presidential frontrunner for 2024, called in to Stuart Varney’s show on Fox Business Monday and….
(Please stop me if you’ve heard this before.)
…reminded us what a thoroughgoing clusterf*ck his mind is.
During the interview, Varney tried in vain to get a coherent answer from Trump about what he would do in Ukraine. “There’s this discussion about whether we should send jets, MiG jets to help the Ukrainian Air Force. Would you send in that kind of help?” Varney prompted the former commander-in-chief.
“Well maybe even more,” Trump answered, “to be honest with you.”
“Like what, Mr. President, like what?” Varney asked as Trump launched into a meandering word salad (and yes, a mixed metaphor seems perfectly appropriate in this context).
Let me just explain that Putin is saying things like, Don’t you dare send anything in. In the meantime he’s killing thousands and thousands of people. So he’s acting like we’re an aggressor if we send in some old 44-year-old plane that probably gets shot at in the sky pretty quickly, and he’s acting like we’re terrible people if we do that. But he’s killing tens of thousands of people, far more than they’re reporting.
Varney tried. Again.
“What do you do now?” the Fox Business host asked. “You said you’d maybe do more than just send in the MiG jets. Alright. What more?”
Trump… (well, you try to suss out a coherent thought here):
Well what I would do, is I would, we would, we have tremendous military capability and what we can do without planes, to be honest with you, without 44-year-old jets, what we can do is enormous, and we should be doing it and we should be helping them to survive and they’re doing an amazing job.
Actually, it got worse.
At one point, Trump suggested that as president he would threaten Russia with nuclear submarines. “You should say: ‘Look, you mention that word one more time and we’re gonna send [submarines] over and we’ll be coasting back and forth, up and down your coast.’”
That, of course, would be both recklessly escalatory and quite unnecessary, since the submarines do not need to be on Russia’s “coast” to pose a threat.
At this point, it’s worth remembering that this is a man who, as a candidate, had no idea what the nuclear triad was (“I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me”); suggested using nukes on hurricanes, and reportedly often asked his aides about the possibility of using nuclear weapons.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough recounted a story an unnamed foreign policy expert told him about Trump and nukes…
"Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can't we use them," Scarborough said.
During a townhall meeting in 2016, Trump also suggested that he might use nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
[Chris] MATTHEWS: Where would we drop — where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?
TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain. Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley took steps to prevent then-President Donald Trump from misusing the country's nuclear arsenal during the last month of his presidency, according to a new book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa obtained by NBC News.
Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain was a nuclear power and asked if Finland was a part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. The president never tired of assailing allied leaders and came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. He said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela.
Exit take: Yes, by all means, let’s give him back the nuclear codes. What could possibly go wrong?
The KBJ hearings
Two points about yesterday’s opening hearing on SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
(1) The confirmation process is no longer about judicial qualifications, because (2) it’s now all about payback and ideology.
This is not exactly breaking news. Conservatives have (not without some justification) stored up decades of resentments about the treatment of nominees ranging from Robert Bork to Brett Kavanaugh. At the same time, judicial politics has become polarized and deeply partisan — and the court itself has become far too important in our ongoing political and culture wars.
As I mentioned yesterday, once upon a time, conservative Antonin Scalia was confirmed by the Senate on a 98-0 vote; RBG was confirmed 96-3. The justice that Judge Jackson will replace, Stephen Breyer was confirmed by a margin of 87-9.
But that kind of bipartisanship now seems lost in the mists of time. Republicans refused to even bring up Merrick Garland’s nomination; and the last three justices were confirmed on near-party line votes: Neil Gorsuch got 54 votes, Kavanaugh received the bare minimum of 50 votes; and Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed with just 52 votes. On each nomination, almost every Democrat voted no.
And that’s our new reality. The hearings will be largely irrelevant, and KBJ will be confirmed on a near-party line vote.
Over at the Wapo, the one-time Trump-curious Henry Olsen argues that “Republicans are right to oppose Ketanji Brown Jackson” because it is “simply a matter of fact that the Supreme Court is a political football.”
He sees the court in strictly red vs. blue partisan colors: “So it’s entirely reasonable for elected officials to move heaven and earth to ensure their allies control the crucial body.”
Because, Olsen argues, justices appointed by Democrats vote in lockstep with liberal ideology, “conservatives ought not support Jackson’s nomination, despite her legal accomplishments.” In fact he goes further, arguing that both parties should adopt a strict policy of obstruction of nominations from the other party.
Indeed, no conceivable appointee by a Democratic president could merit conservative support in the current environment. It’s impossible to imagine a vetting process that would allow a Democratic nominee to break with their party’s reigning judicial philosophy. The same can be said of Republican appointees. As a result, any senator who votes for the opposing party’s nominee would be backing a philosophy they have vowed to oppose.
Olsen ignores the fact that the justices do sometimes break from their brethren and surprise (See Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Kavanaugh, for instance). But at a more basic level, his analysis is a thorough rejection of the idea of an independent judiciary. In place of judges who call balls and strikes, he sees merely partisan “allies.”
Even so, he is accurately describing the political reality of the process and the mindset of the vast majority of senators of both parties. And that is a measure of how badly the high court’s legitimacy has been damaged by the judicial politics of the last few decades.
BONUS: Expect a lot of whataboutism, like this:
One reader broke down this “logic.”
For now, I want to discuss the claim by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) that Judge Jackson is appallingly soft on child-pornography offenders. The allegation appears meritless to the point of demagoguery….
Hawley cites Jackson’s record as a judge and “policymaker.” The latter refers to her service on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises Congress on sentencing issues and promulgates the federal sentencing guidelines — advisory standards that heavily influence but do not control sentencing. (Congress ultimately controls sentencing by setting statutory maximum and minimum penalties, and judges consult the guidelines in each case but are not required to follow them.) What has the senator especially exercised is Jackson’s support for eliminating the existing mandatory-minimum sentences for first-time offenders who receive or distribute child pornography.
Judge Jackson’s views on this matter are not only mainstream; they are correct in my view. Undoubtedly, Jackson — a progressive who worked as a criminal-defense lawyer — is more sympathetic to criminals than I am. If I were a judge, I’m sure I’d impose at least marginally more severe sentences than she has. (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the low end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.)
Meanwhile, in Missouri…
Via the NYT: “Ex-Wife of Eric Greitens, Senate Candidate in Missouri, Accuses Him of Abuse.”
“Prior to our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric knocked me down and confiscated my cellphone, wallet and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home,” wrote Dr. Greitens, who has two young sons with Mr. Greitens and whose divorce from him became final in May 2020.
She added that his “behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then-3-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair.”
Naturally, Greitens — who was forced to resign as governor after a previous sex scandal — ran to Steve Bannon to make his case:
Exit take: This might be a problem.
Useful Idiot Update
1. A New Period of Consequences
In June of 2010, Jamie Fly and I wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard. We called it “A Period of Consequences.” We took the title from a couple of sentences from a Winston Churchill speech:
“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
It is a good phrase and a good way of delineating eras. But what struck me when Jamie suggested the quotation was that the line was not from a speech in late 1938 or 1939, as war in Europe was blooming.
No. The passage is from a speech Churchill gave to the House of Commons on November 12, 1936.
2. Our Nasty, Stupid, Frivolous Cancel Culture Fights (That We’re Lucky Enough to Have)
The incomparable Cathy Young with an encyclopedic look at our latest “cancel culture” debate:
Welcome back to the culture wars, which are still following the usual script. The center-right (and some on the left) sound the alarm about intellectual intolerance and speech suppression by the progressive left. The left responds with a chorus of derision and dismisses these concerns as a moral panic based on a false narrative, not to mention a distraction from the real threats to freedom posed by the right. And in the end, everyone comes away a little more convinced that people on the other side are either terminally dumb or intellectually dishonest.
3. No Certainties in Ukraine Outcome
We have a good idea how Vladimir Putin (along with plenty of Westerners, including yours truly) initially thought the invasion would end—with a Russian blitzkrieg that decapitates Ukraine’s government and installs a puppet regime in Kiev while a fragmented West bickers over how many puny sanctions to impose.
That’s off the table.
Nearly a month in, Kiev is still Ukraine’s sovereign capital, President Volodymyr Zelensky is keeping the lights on and the arms flowing, the invasion has stalled, demoralized Russian soldiers are surrendering, and videos of destroyed Russian armored columns are released almost daily. Many of the most salient images of the war so far is of Ukrainian tractors towing abandoned Russian tanks off the road.
Charlie is not even trying to pretend anymore.
Just when you thought Congress couldn't get any dumber.