Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Like a lot of the media, I struggle with how to avoid normalizing Trump’s behavior. He’s been behaving this way consistently for three years, so on that time scale whatever he’s doing today is normal; it’s what we’ve come to expect from him. And yet, I think it’s important never to lose sight of just how abnormal Trump’s behavior is: Presidents do not act this way, and we hope they will never act this way again after he leaves office.

His recent behavior regarding Iran — not just the Soleimani assassination itself, but the way he and his administration have presented it — has been extremely unpresidential: self-aggrandizing, partisan, and disrespectful to Congress, to our allies, to the previous administration, and to any American who was not part of the 46% who voted for him. But after three years of similar behavior, how can I express the abnormality of it all?

This week I decided to take a history tour to remind us all what “presidential” has meant until now. I went back to FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor, and looked at the subsequent history of presidents talking to the nation about major military moves: JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis speech, Eisenhower announcing the Korean armistice, George W. Bush telling us that our Air Force had started bombing Afghanistan, Barack Obama announcing that Osama bin Laden was dead, and several others. (I found examples from every modern president but Ford.) Those speeches all demonstrate a particular tone that defines “presidential” and exemplify an attitude that we have come to expect from our leaders.

Until now. Trump is such an abrupt departure from the established pattern that the differences stand out immediately. (LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin speech, for example, was just a few months before the 1964 election, but Johnson is this non-partisan: “Just a few minutes ago, I was able to reach Senator Goldwater, and I am glad to say that he has expressed his support of the statement that I am making to you tonight.” Imagine Trump reaching out for support to some Democratic leader, and mentioning that fact to the public.) When we call him “unpresidential”, it’s not just an insult; it’s an objective observation.

Anyway, that post — currently titled “Remember Normal Presidents?” — should be out around 11 EST. The weekly summary, which will cover the more immediate Iran news, impeachment, tomorrow’s Democratic debate, and a number of other things before closing with some amazing wool-based animation, should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Never a dull moment. I had thought the turn of the New Year would provide a good opportunity to reset the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, which I’ve been trying not to obsess over. (Whoever the Democrats nominate, I will vote for him or her against Trump, whom I regard as a threat to the survival of American democracy. I also expect that a Democratic administration, whoever heads it, will run into the limits of Congress. So, unlike many of this blog’s commenters, I don’t expect life under a Biden administration to be all that different from life under a Sanders administration or an any-other-Democrat administration. But any of them would be a huge relief after Trump.)

Or maybe there’d be new developments in the impeachment story, which I’ve also been trying (less successfully) to avoid obsessing over. (And new revelations have added a few bricks to the case against Trump.)

But no. Suddenly the prospect of war with Iran is front and center, and it’s hard to think about anything else. The story tends to fragment; as soon as you pick up one piece, you realize there’s another piece you need to consider: What’s going on between the US and Iran? Or between the US and Iraq? Or the administration and Congress? Or the administration and the law? Or within the administration itself? Maybe we should be worrying about what Iranian cultural sites might be on Trump’s list of 52 targets, or maybe we should question whether such a list even exists anywhere but in Trump’s imagination. Maybe the life-and-death reality of the situation is just a sideshow, and the real motive is to boost Trump’s 2020 campaign. Or not.

Anyway, this week’s featured post “Is it War Yet?” (which should be out soon) will try to sort all that out, to the extent that such a project is possible given the overall confusion and possible dishonesty.

The weekly summary will say a little about the state of the 2020 presidential race and impeachment, as well as the Australian wildfires and a few other things, before closing with the cutest mixed drink I’ve seen in a long time. That should be out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week between Christmas and New Years has been comparatively quiet for the Trump era. Sure, the President tweeted out the name of the suspected whistleblower in apparent violation of the law, but “President Breaks Law” has become a dog-bites-man story and barely draws attention any more. The impeachment story largely went dormant, as the House delayed delivering the articles of impeachment in hopes of negotiating an agreement in which Mitch McConnell’s Senate would do its duty and hold a trial.

I wrote two featured posts for this week. The first is a short note that outgrew the weekly summary: “Trumpist Evangelicals Respond to Christianity Today”, which should be out shortly. Last week I wrote a post about the Christianity Today editorial calling for Trump’s removal from office. This week 200 evangelical leaders responded, sort of. They skipped over the substance of the editorial and told their followers why they should pay no attention to it. It was kind of a microcosm of Trumpist non-defense defenses, which say nothing about the evidence against him, but rally tribal loyalties.

The other post is my end-of-the-Teens article. I usually proclaim a theme of the year around this time, but given that we’re about to enter the Twenties, I thought I’d proclaim a theme of the decade: the decline of democracy in the US and around the world. I’ll try to get that out around 10 EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Trump has been impeached, and now we wait to see what his trial will be like. Can Republicans really get away with simultaneously claiming that there isn’t enough direct evidence, and that the American people don’t need to hear witnesses with a clear view of what happened (like Mick Mulvaney)? Can senators like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner get re-elected while supporting a sham trial that acquits Trump without hearing any witnesses? We’ll soon find out.

The new NAFTA got through Congress, and the tensions in the trade war with China seem to have diminished. What does that say about the future of trade?

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Papers came out, painting a picture of cluelessness and lying that stretches through three administrations of both parties. And the NYT and the WaPo had separate scoops about the constant corporate surveillance Americans live with, as both our smartphones and our cars have become spies against us.

This week’s featured post will start with the Christianity Today editorial calling for Trump’s removal, and from there talk about the entire deal-with-the-Devil that Evangelicals have made — and why it’s not going to help them win the culture wars. That post should be out around 11 EST. Expect the weekly summary around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Impeachment has a way of swallowing up all the other news in the world. (The UK is having an election Thursday. Who knew?) But we really are reaching the only-two-episodes-before-the-series-finale point. The Intelligence Committee submitted its report on the facts of the Ukraine scheme, the Judiciary Committee reported on the constitutional basis of impeachment, and Nancy Pelosi gave the go-ahead to write articles of impeachment.

So this week’s first featured post is “Articles of Impeachment: Broad or Narrow?”. It will cover the discussion about whether Democrats should focus on the simple Ukraine story, or attempt to produce a complete list of all of Trump’s impeachable offenses. It should be out shortly.

The second featured post has nothing to do with impeachment and is mostly a book review. I read Sean McFate’s The New Rules of War, which got me thinking about the fundamental illusions at the heart of most of our defense and foreign-policy discussions. Let’s predict that to appear around 11 EST.

The weekly summary covers impeachment stuff that the first featured article missed, the NATO summit, a series of more-or-less unrelated stories about Confederate symbols, restoring the Voting Rights Act, Hong Kong protests, North Korea’s latest threats, why Katie Hill didn’t kill herself, the UK election, and a bunch of other stuff, concluding with how a dog helps out on Boise State’s kickoff plays. That should be out between noon and one.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m running behind today, so posts should come out a little later than usual.

The featured post is another one where I try to grasp what’s going on in the minds of Trump supporters. This time I’m looking at the ones who are well-educated, well-informed, and aspire to moral values, rather than the kinds of people who chant “Send her back!” at Trump’s rallies. I refer to them as the “Inner Party” and look at two Bill Barr speeches to see what the administration’s message to them is. The post is called “What Does Trump’s Inner Party Believe?”, and I’m hoping to get it out by noon EST.

The weekly summary will cover the progress in the impeachment effort, the import of the McGahn court decision, Thanksgiving, the threat of rising corporate debt, and a few other things. It should be out around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Unless new witnesses become available, the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings on the Trump/Ukraine extortion plot wrapped up this week. The featured post will pull together where things stand. It should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will include a few impeachment-related tidbits that aren’t directly related to the hearings, like reports that Devin Nunes was in Europe seeking dirt on Biden, and leaks about the Justice Department Inspector General’s report on the origins of the Mueller investigation. But mainly it will be about the rest of the world: Israel, Hong Kong, the Democratic president debate, Colin Kaepernick, and a few other things. It should be out by noon EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I have to confess failure this week: I should have watched the impeachment hearings for you, and I couldn’t make myself do it. My full confession is in this week’s featured post “Why Can’t I Watch This?”. It should be out shortly.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover. The impeachment hearings, of course, but also the Roger Stone conviction. The regime’s response to the Hong Kong protesters escalated. We got more explicit information about Stephen Miller’s role in promoting white supremacy. Pete Buttigieg grabbed the lead in the Iowa polls, while new candidates entered the race. Kentucky’s defeated governor Matt Bevin finally conceded, and Democrats held on to the governorship in another red state, Louisiana. Turkish President Erdogan came to the White House to make Trump’s Syria surrender official. There’s more, and then we close with a fascinating graph about the drastic decline in the cost of artificial lighting since 1300.

That should be out, say, around noon EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Today is going to be all brief notes without a featured post. The weekly summary should be out around 11 EST. It will review Tuesday’s elections, look forward to this week’s public impeachment hearings, discuss Mike Bloomberg’s (lack of) impact on the Democratic presidential race, reflect on Veterans’ Day, and link to a few other interesting articles.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Impeachment dominated the news these last two weeks. That’s appropriate in the sense that it’s important, but it’s also not the only thing happening. The world continues to be the world, and doesn’t stop to watch the Trump drama play out: California is burning again. We got economic news that can be interpreted as either reassuring or worrisome. Brexit got delayed again, and a new UK election got scheduled. Elizabeth Warren met the challenge to explain how she’ll pay for her healthcare plan, as Tim Ryan and Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the race. Katie Hill’s resignation from Congress raised all sorts of larger issues about sexism and revenge porn. Dahlia Lithwick wrote a deeply personal essay about why she hasn’t been able to bring herself to cover the Supreme Court in the year since the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

So anyway: impeachment. One featured post explains why I think impeachment is necessary, even if you accept the prediction that it will divide the country and leave Trump in office anyway. A more event-oriented view of the impeachment process will be in the weekly summary.

The other featured post is less timely, but does have a current-events hook: I’ve invented a hypothetical Christian denomination to test the notion that Christians’ religious freedom should allow them to ignore discrimination laws: What if some group took Psalm 90:10 — “The days of our years are three score and ten.” — as prescriptive, and its healthcare professionals insisted on their right to discriminate against those over 70?

The impeachment post should be out soon, maybe by 8 EST. The religious freedom post should follow around 11, and the weekly summary by noon.